IN their first hit out for the 2015 season the TFFC Tigers travelled to Omaru Park in Taree on Saturday to take on FMNC Premier League stalwarts the Club Taree Wildcats in the first Preliminary Round of the Westfield FFA Cup.
The FFA Cup is a nationwide tournament that all football clubs are eligible to enter, and after completion of the preliminary rounds can pit local amateur sides against A-League professionals. In their last encounter at Premier League level the Tigers were comfortably beaten by the Wildcats, but from the outset of Saturday’s match it was clear that the margin between the two sides had closed considerably.
It was the Tigers who opened the scoring after just eight minutes when excellent pressure applied to the Taree defence saw the ball run through to Jack Yeates, who made no mistake from close range. Yeates has an excellent scoring record in the Tigers Cup matches, with three goals from three appearances. Taree responded well though, with their midfield wrestling the advantage from the Tigers, and some fairly impatient defence from the visitors allowed Taree’s fleet footed left winger into the box, and he made no mistake finishing low past Curtis Jones’ dive to level the scoring.
The rest of the half saw chances at both ends, but the score remained level at the break. The Tigers started the brighter in the second half, with excellent play from Dylan Nash in the middle of the park sparking some very promising attacking play from the Tigers front four.
Debutant Cody Chick was impressive alongside Pete Goonan in the Tigers’ defensive engine room, keeping Taree’s opportunities to a minimum. At around the 60 minute mark, some good combination play between Nick Chapman and Jake Camilleri saw Chapman get clear in the box, and he finished calmly across the Taree keeper to restore the Tigers lead.
The Tigers’ superior fitness was beginning to take its toll with several Wildcats cramping up, but generously being allowed stoppages in play by the referee, even though cramp is not an injury. This disrupted the Tigers’ momentum and allowed a quick counter attack which resulted in a shot that deflected wildly, looping up and over Jones and into the tigers goal to level the scores once again. From then on it appeared as if there would be only one winner as the Tigers ran the Wildcats into the ground, but squandered chance after chance to finish the home side off.
To their credit though the Wildcats were defending desperately, and never gave up, sending the game to a penalty shootout.
Despite no practice of penalties at all, the Tigers penalty takers (Chick, Kianou, Croker and Aquilina) were super cool in their execution, with Taree’s third penalty taker clearing the crossbar and Curtis Jones diving wide to his left to keep out the Wildcats’ fourth.
The win (2-2, 4-2 on penalties) sees the Tigers advance to the second round of the cup for the first time in four attempts, and was nothing more than the Tigers deserved on the day.
Skipper Jason Ward said: “it was clear from early on that we were the fitter side. Our football conditioning program is already having an effect, even though we are still very early in our pre-season.”
Coach Jonathon Newman said: “I was really happy with the way the team played today. There are obviously many areas that we need to work on, but we deserved the win and I’m looking forward to the next tie.”
The Tigers now take on Macleay Valley Rangers in the second round, with the winner to play against the victor of the Northern inland Football pool.