Lions FC v Edgeworth Eagles
Saturday 15th September, 7:30pm at Lions Stadium
With the disappointment of last Saturday night’s NPL Northern NSW Grand Final defeat still fresh in Edgeworth minds, the challenge is now on to lift for the NPL Finals Series.
For their Queensland counterparts this weekend the mood is completely different though, as they come into this one on the back of a premiership-championship double in their first season in Queensland’s NPL.
Saturday night will be the first time that Edgeworth has ever come up against Lions.
In Edgeworth’s past three seasons in the NPL Finals Series, they’ve come up against sides from NPL Queensland twice before. They’ve been two unhappy encounters though: a 3-1 defeat to Moreton Bay United in 2015 in the quarter-finals, and a 2-0 defeat to Brisbane Strikers in last year’s semi-finals.
In comparison, it’s the first time that Lions FC have played in the nation-wide tournament. They earned their place, like Edgeworth, by finishing top of the league after beating out Olympic FC by a margin of seven points.
Both sides played Grand Finals over the weekend, and Edgeworth was beaten at the last hurdle for the second season running by a Broadmeadow Magic side which proved too strong on the night.
It brought an end to a magnificent unbeaten run which had lasted since the middle of June in all competitions, and since May in the league.
A proud side, Edgeworth will be stinging after their defeat to one of their closest rivals in Northern NSW NPL league but coach Damian Zane said his side is feeling good.
“They’re feeling alright, we would have liked to put in our best performance but they’re all good,” Zane said.
“We picked up a few injuries. Tyson Jackson is out, he won’t be back even if we were to win. Dylan Holz is very unlikely, and Dom Bizzarri is gone as well and he won’t play any part whether it’s one game or three games.
“It’s disappointing that we won’t be throwing our best at Brisbane, but we’ll still go up there with a good enough squad to win.”
Victory in the NPL Finals Series sees the winning club through automatically to the FFA Cup Round of 32, a prize which Zane firmly has his eyes set on.
“It’s massive. It’s a good chance to put ourselves up against the best around Australia. In 2016, we were one win away from an automatic spot in the Cup and last year we were two wins off,” Zane said.
“It’s important especially for the young guys to gain a bit more experience. They only get experience one way, and that’s by playing in these big matches. We’ll be treating it seriously. I know the Lions’ coach and I can guarantee that they will be treating it seriously too.
“I watched their Grand Final, I’ve seen a bit of them when they were in the Cup and it was pretty clear fairly early that they were going to be the winners of the Queensland comp.
“They’re a very good team, a massive club – Ex-NSL. They’ve got a massive licenced club behind them which is chalk and cheese compared to Newcastle clubs. At the end of the day, it’s 11 men against 11 men so we’ll give ourselves a chance.”
Lions FC had a much happier weekend – coming from behind against Olympic FC to win the NPL Queensland Grand Final 2-1 in extra-time and claim their first trophy since the Queensland State Cup back in 2004.
That result highlighted two particular areas for Edgeworth to be wary of this weekend. The first is Lions’ strength from set pieces – both goals in that grand final were from headers off corners, while the second is the strength of goalkeeper Luke Borean, who made a string of hugely impressive saves to keep Lions in the game and help earn them the win.
“We’ll go in with confidence and real determination to have a go, be brave and be positive and see where it takes us now,” Lions FC coach Warren Moon told club media after the win.
“It’s so much better going into it after a win, the boys will be high on emotion and probably ready to give Edgeworth a great game.”