Eight sides remained in the Northern NSW Division after the previous four rounds of the FFA Cup. The top two sides of the eight would proceed to the round of 32, which could include A-League sides such as the Sydney Wanderers, Brisbane Roar. The staggering possibility that those prestigious football names could include Urunga FC seems bizarre yet this is the nature of the Australia wide FFA Cup, a chance for any club to mix with the big end of town and it starts with roughly 1390 sides across all states.
So the Urunga Raiders a long way from the Cabbage Patch now, drawn to play powerhouse club Edgeworth Eagles, who are currently second in the Newcastle Premier League, at the shiny new $2.5M Lake Macquarie Regional Football Facility.
To add a little extra interest - the sides have met once before in the 2014 Northern NSW Cup, a forerunner competition to the current FFA Cup. On that occasion when the dust settled it was the unlikely Raiders standing tall nudging out the semi-professional Edgy lads after a monumental penalty shootout won 9-8 at the Coffs International Stadium, oh the beer flowed at the OVH that night I can tell you!
Safe to say that there was a sense of - if we did it once, why not again, floating around the Raiders dressing room just before kick-off. The Edgeworth team had first use of the ball and were confident in their play, their structure and the unfamiliar artificial surface of the LMRFF, well unfamiliar to the Raiders anyway. The surface certainly added to the problems facing the Raiders who were under constant and unrelenting pressure in those early exchanges. Ex A- league player Daniel McBreen for the Eagles the architect for most of Edgeworth attack shadowed by the Raider’s Kale Hopper who did just enough dull most of McBreens brilliance. The Eagles had their first real opportunity on 23 minutes after Tim Ruprecht slipped on the surface and presented Chris Fayers a one on one situation with Raiders keeper Lee Kennedy who parried what looked certain goal past the near post mmm, warning signs here for the Raiders.
Now there are matches where players either rise or shrink under pressure and Kennedy was rising to this occasion like he’d just hoovered a few lines of yeast. The Fayers block one of several that Kennedy produced to keep the Raiders in the match but on 35 minutes the Edgeworth side went 1 up after McBreen steered a ball to Fayers who this time fired in from the top of the box to give to the only goal of the first half.
I can report that the Eagles head coach Damien Zane was apoplectic in the sheds at his team’s lack of penetration, I know this because we were in the next shed ha-ha. Raiders coach, Peter Tiberius Snow however, calm and made a couple of adjustments and suggested a decrease in the level of respect we were according them. The second half had certainly more sting in it with the Raiders pushing the Edgy boys and gaining a larger share of possession. Ex-Raider and now Edgeworth keeper Jim Fogarty tested early after Ben Dooley (ex-Eagle) combined well with Lachy Indian Manning on the right side ending with Dooley’s shot fizzing over the cross bar. The Edgeworth side though scored their second after a succession of corners, Kennedy again was absolutely catlike but not good enough to stop Keigo Moriasu’s shot from close range. A late goal to Edgeworth side had a final score 3-0 to the Eagles who on balance deserved the win they were composed, skilful and pretty much unrelenting.
The Raiders exit the competition and the prospect of duelling with an A League side, that dream will have to wait till 2017. They now look forward to the prospect of playing several deferred matches and marching back up the points table. This Sunday they take on the Orara Valley Dingoes back on the svelte surface of the Cabbage Patch kick off at 2pm, I’ll see you there.
Go you Raiders!