NNSW NPL: Edgeworth shape up for strong return in home semi-final

UP AND ABOUT: Edgeworth captain Josh Evans gets over the top of Maitland striker Ben Martin last Sunday. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers
UP AND ABOUT: Edgeworth captain Josh Evans gets over the top of Maitland striker Ben Martin last Sunday. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers

EDGEWORTH will likely enter the second leg of their semi-final fully fit and definitely glad Maitland did not call their bluff and attack more last Saturday.

The Eagles led Maitland 2-0 after 31 minutes at Cooks Square Park on Saturday but the hosts levelled in the 69th and pushed hard late for a winner without success.

Edgeworth coach Damian Zane believed a stomach bug that has flattened his backline was a factor in the momentum change.

Centre-back Pat Wheeler pulled out the morning of the game, prompting Zane to ask Dom Bizzarri, who was due to rest because of illness, to take the field. Wide defender Aaron McLoughlin was also recovering, while skipper and senior centre-back Josh Evans was the first of the group to be struck down.

Zane was relieved to be heading into the home semi on Saturday from 2pm at Jack McLaughlan Oval all square.

“I just watched the replay and you could see we were really battling second half,” Zane said. “I watched Azza [McLoughlin] and he was battling. As a coach, when players do things for you, you respect them, but spectators don’t know and might say ‘he was poor today’.

“Josh was away for a couple of weeks, played against Adamstown and then missed training on Tuesday, so he’s only had one session in three weeks. His first thing after the game was, ‘we’ll have a good week of training and we should be right’.

“I was disappointed we gave up the lead but I’m pretty stoked we’re going home just needing to win. It’s a simple equation.”

With Edgeworth taking on Western Sydney Wanderers next Tuesday at Magic Park in the FFA Cup, Zane had said his side would be going all out to gain an advantage in the first NPL semi-final. He believed that statement helped them last Saturday.

“It probably made them sit a touch deeper, when they probably could have taken it to us a bit more if they knew the sickness that had gone through our defence,” Zane said. “If they called our bluff and came out and attacked us, they might have been rewarded.”

He added: “They were probably unlucky. They had a chance right at the end to win it 3-2, and we’d be up against it, but it’s 2-all, and just like a new game this week.”

At the attacking end, Zane expected Brody Taylor to return from an ankle injury.

As for next year, Zane said his squad, including 39-year-old Daniel McBreen and Japanese import Keigo Moriyasu, had all re-signed. He said the only question mark was over Keanu Moore, who is chasing deals at higher levels.

Meanwhile, tickets for the Eagles' FFA Cup clash are selling fast.  Tickets at the gate are $20 (adults) and $10 (pensioners), but pre-paid tickets are $15 (adults) and $10 (pensioners). Kids over five years old are $5. Tickets are on sale between 8am and 4pm at 16 Parker St, Carrington. For more information call 0417 419 402.