North Queensland Fury moved off the foot of the A-League ladder with a 2-0 away win over third-placed Gold Coast United at a deserted Skilled Stadium tonight.
Gold Coast United owner Clive Palmer decided to save money by limiting attendance to 5,000 and closed three of the four stands at the ground.
The move backfired badly with just 2,616 showing up.
That is the second worst attendance in A-League history, the record low being 1,932 for a New Zealand Knights match.
At one stage, a group of a couple of dozen Gold Coast supporters invaded one of the empty stands and protested against Palmer’s policy.
One supporter held a placard calling on Palmer to ask the supporters how to increase attendances.
After a goalless opening half, the Fury took the lead in the 64th minute through captain Robbie Fowler.
David Williams nutmegged a defender wide on the left and cut the ball back inside for Fowler to place a perfect left-foot shot low to the keeper’s right and into the net.
Fowler made it 2-0 from a penalty in the 76th minute after a hand-ball by Steve Pantelidis.
“We knew it would be a tough game,” said Fowler. “I thought tonight we were magnificent.
“The lads at the back were fantastic. It’s as good as I’ve seen them play, to be fair, and I think we fully deserved the three points.
“Shane Smeltz has been on fire this season, but we kept him quiet tonight, which was important for us to do.
“We said at the start of the season we just want to be competitive. I think we’ve proved a few people wrong because we have been competitive.
“Tonight, we showed how good we can be.”
The win put Fury in seventh place, just a point out of the top-six, while Gold Coast remain third.
“It’s not working at the moment, on the field and off the field,” said Gold Coast captain, Jason Culina.
“There’s just not a good mix, and it’s not going well.
“It’s fair to say that things do get talked about in the change-rooms and you can’t avoid that.
“At the end of the day, I thought we played some decent stuff in the first half.
“In the second half, I don’t know what happened. It’s just very disappointing.”
Culina said it was time for the coach to settle on his best eleven and concentrate on that instead of changing the line-up constantly.
“You need to do exactly that and give players a chance,” Culina said. “We’re trying to figure things out.
“It’s not going well, but, you know, we’ll keep working at it.”