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Apr 18, 2012

Nichols to bounce back from soccer shocker

Players rarely need motivation to get up for a grand final.

But if Brisbane midfielder Mitch Nichols needed any for Sunday's Brisbane showdown with Perth, he received it on Tuesday night with a forgettable performance in the Roar's 2-1 loss to Ulsan Hyundai which virtually killed off the club's Asian Championship League campaign.

A careless piece of play in the 11th minute, which created the opportunity for lightning-quick Colombian striker Juan Velez to rifle home a shot, was the start of a woeful night for Nichols which only ended after coach Ange Postecoglou hooked him in the 75th minute.

"I had a touch and I probably could have gone past him (Velez) but, instead, he tackles me and puts it (ball) in the top corner almost," said the fair-haired Nichols who was guilty of trying too hard to redeem himself.

"It was probably my worst performance of the year, to be honest.

"The effort and everything else was there but nothing was clicking."

The lethal combination of Johnny Warren medal winner Thomas Broich, who's showing signs of regaining his magical touch, and Golden Boot winner Besart Berisha, who's never won a title, will go a long way towards securing Brisbane another A-League championship.

But a lot hinges on skipper Matt Smith's ability to limit the opportunities presented to Perth Glory's goal-scoring wizard Shane Smeltz.

The New Zealand international who has easily passed Archie Thompson as the A-League's all-time leading goal scorer with 66 from 102 matches, has been on fire with eight goals from his past four games.

"From a personal perspective, I'm the person lining up against him," said Smith, aware of the need to deny Smeltz any space or time.

"I know over past experiences the way he plays, the runs he makes, his strengths and his weaknesses.

"Individually, I'll do as much as I can to ensure he doesn't get anything on grand final day."

Smith, who has taken the captain's armband from last season's inspirational skipper Matt McKay, admits he's living the dream leading Brisbane in a grand final.

"This is something I've always dreamt of doing and I'm really pleased it's with a manager and players with the desire to do well," said the English-born defender.

"I don't think I'll ever forget the last two years of my career in Brisbane.

"It's something that's come late in life for me but which I will always cherish."

Smith meanwhile dismissed concerns about the condition of the pitch, which will host a Super Rugby clash 48 hours before the grand final.

"The pitch will be what it will be on Sunday. It will be the same for both teams," he said.

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