National Premier Leagues (NPL) Northern NSW clubs, Edgeworth Eagles and Maitland FC, have progressed as Northern NSW Football’s (NNSWF) two teams in the FFA Cup Round of 32 national stage following wins in their State Qualifiers, Round 7 contests.
Tuesday night saw Maitland and Hamilton Olympic given the first chance to proceed in the cup as they took on one another at Cooks Square Park, the home of the Magpies.
The visitors were the one who grabbed the early lead though as Scott Pettit’s cross-turned-shot caught goalkeeper Matt Trott napping, nestling its way into the side of the goal just minutes after the kick-off.
Trott moved on from his earlier error though to keep the hosts in the match, pulling off multiple strong saves against the Olympic attack, particularly from Reece Papas’ and Kent Harrison’s shots.
Early in the second half, Maitland would make Hamilton pay for their missed chances when a corner kick was dropped by Tyler Warren in goals and was bundled across the line for their opening goal.
Isn’t wasn’t long after that the vital, winning goal came for the Magpies after Carl Thornton was fouled inside the penalty area.
Their prolific striker, Joel Wood stepped up to the spot and calmly slotted it home, while down the other end, Trott continued to shine pulling off a remarkable save to deny Jarryd Sutherland from an equaliser.
The hosts were able to keep Olympic at bay through a nail-biting stoppage time, sealing their spot in the Round of 32 for the first time ever.
Another team who were looking to stake their name in the FFA Cup history books were Valentine Phoenix as they met the NPL NNSW defending premiers, and a team who had already been to the national stage on three occasions, Edgeworth Eagles at the Lake Macquarie Regional Football Facility (LMRFF) on Wednesday night.
Despite entering the match as major underdogs, Valentine looked as though they had managed the first goal of the match when Luke Willard headed home a Josh Carroll cross, but the assistant referee’s offside flag halted their celebrations.
The Eagles began to pose their dominance with the majority of possession and turned that control into chances as both Keanu Moore and Tyson Jackson both hit the crossbar within a matter of minutes of one another, but neither crossed the goal-line.
Finally, the opening goal came from Edgeworth’s clinical man up front, Oliver Smith, after latching himself onto the end of a pinpoint Keanu Moore through ball just minutes before the half-time break.
Chasing the game, the Phoenix got off to the worst possible start in the second half as a neat Will Bower flick lead Moore to a goal of his own, before Smith found his brace to put the Eagles firmly ahead.
Fans at the LMRFF were then treated to a stunning strike from Jackson as his long shot belted its way past Perry Budden in goals, and as the match neared its conclusion, a penalty kick from Bower would put the icing on the cake for the Eagles as they steamrolled their way onto the Round of 32 once more.
Zach Thomas (Maitland FC) and Keanu Moore (Edgeworth) were both awarded the TAFE NSW ‘Game Changer’ – Player of the Match, proudly sponsored by NNSWF’s Major Partner in Education and Training, TAFE NSW, for their brilliant efforts in their respective matches.
With this year’s addition of Maitland FC, a total of six clubs have now represented NNSWF on the national stage over the six years of the competition.
The draw for the Round of 32 is scheduled to take place LIVE on Fox Sports on Wednesday 26th June, with the corresponding 16 fixtures scheduled to begin on July 23rd.
Maitland FC and Edgeworth Eagles will both have the chance to play other progressing teams from across the country including ten (10) Hyundai A-League clubs and twenty (20) fellow Member Federation clubs.
Match details and scores can be found on theffacup.com.au.