Easts Leave it Late in Westfield FFA Cup Thriller

Match report from last night’s 4th round Westfield FFA Cup tie

Source: Football Brisbane
Words: Ian Judd
Image: Ian Judd

North Star 0  Eastern Suburbs 2  (Close 111′; Heath 114′)

(After Extra-time)

HT 0-0
FT 0-0

Venue: O’Callaghan Park
Referee: Nathan Scott

North Star: Hori (gk), Brooks, Crawford, Embrey, Grainger, Head, Kellaway, Thompson, Umme, Wilson, Yule.  Subs: Aldred, Brunet, Shore, Turner.
Eastern Suburbs:
Carroll (gk), Abbey, Barnett, Boyd, Close, Heath, McMullen, Mulder, Rahman, Ryan, Stenhouse.  Subs: McIlwain (rgk), Amano, Grogan, Robinson.

Easts were given a huge scare in their Qualifying 4th round Westfield FFA Cup tie away to Capital League 1 side North Star on Wednesday evening, requiring extra time before they finally breaking the deadlock in the second period to deny the gutsy O’Callaghan Park side.

Easts have struggled in recent Trophy Superstore Premier League games to recapture the scoring touch they had during the pre-season BLK Silver Boot tournament they went onto win, and on a chilly evening in Zillmere, they again struggled to carve out clear cut opportunities for much of the game.

Both sides endured a scrappy first half on a field not overly conducive to flowing play, with the highlight of the opening term being the almost full head bandage that North Star’s Adam Wilson was forced to wear after a clash that left the midfielder bloodied. The best chance of the half falling to Easts’s Ramone Close in first half injury time who’s close range effort was deflected and saved well by North Star keeper Keigo Hori.

The second half saw the game open up and both sides saw chances come and go as proceedings developed into a physical contest with Referee Nathan Scott allowing a few hefty challenges to go unpunished.

The hosts went closest to breaking the deadlock just before the hour mark when speedy forward Caleb Embrey beat Easts’s custodian Tom Carroll to a long through ball, chipping the ball over Carroll but seeing his effort clip the top of the crossbar.

Daniel Abbey forced a good block from Hori midway through the half with a close range effort that looked destined for the back of the net as both sides began to see more space open up across the park.

Carroll was called upon to produce a fine one handed save to prevent Allan Kellaway’s deft effort from the edge of the 6 yard box from going in. Carroll tipping the ball just around his left upright as everyone looked on as the ball went agonisingly close for the best chance of the game to that point.

With around 15 minutes remaining of the game, it was North Star who were looking the more likely to score. Impressive Englishman Brad Thompson, who’d been a handful throughout the contest, had a clear header on goal but could only direct his effort straight at Carroll who gathered comfortably.

Easts’s skipper Ryan Stenhouse then tested Hori again in the final 5 minutes with a rasping effort towards the top left corner that Hori did superbly to guide away with a full length dive, ultimately saving his side form defeat inside the 90 minutes.

Thompson was perhaps fortunate to see the full time whistle with a late scything tackle from behind on Easts’s Buddy Rahman which would see the Tigers defender depart soon after. Thompson only receiving a caution for what was clearly a cynical challenge.

With both sides locked scoreless after the full time whistle, a further 30 minutes was needed. The home side’s fitness began to tell a little with a couple of players suffering cramp after working hard to contain their higher division opponents.

North Star threatened early in the first period though, with Embrey seeing his effort saved by Carroll whilst Matt Heath, who was perhaps Easts best player on the night, doing well to stay on his feet after a couple of efforts to bring him down failed and from just inside the box, got a shot on target that Hori had to deal with. Heath went close again moments later when a cross wasn’t dealt with by Hori but the number 7 couldn’t quite get the final touch at the far post to guide the ball in.

Hori was then called into action again, with the Japanese keeper doing superbly to first deny Close and then Heath on the follow-up.

Thompson’s earlier indiscretion eventually caught up with him close to the end of the first period of extra time. Already on a yellow card he inexplicably slid in late on Carroll when the Tigers keeper had control of the ball. Referee Nathan Scott consulted with his assistant and the result was a second yellow for the North Star midfielder and subsequent dismissal.

It proved costly for the hosts as Easts began to dominate the second period of extra time and just over a minute in they took the lead. Toru Amano who replaced Justin McMullen at the end of normal time, exploited the extra space before delivering a cross into the box where three Easts player were lurking. Ramone Close was hand however to fire home from close range to finally break North Star’s resolve.

Two minutes later, another sub, Nick Robinson smashed a fierce drive against the upright which would have sealed the game for the visitors. They didn’t have to wait long however when Heath was put into space in the box with Star’s defence stranded, firing high passed Hori into the net on 114 minutes to secure Easts place in the 5th round.

Star pressed for a reply but with two goals in three minutes they were finally a beaten side.

It was a gallant display from North Star however and perhaps with a little luck they may have taken the scalp of the Trophy Superstore Premier League side. Easts will count themselves fortunate to have progressed and had Thompson not earned himself an early shower, the game may well have required penalties to decide the outcome.

Toru Amano’s contribution also had a significant impact when coming on, having teed up the opener and boasting an impressive 18 possessions in his 30 minute spell with 17 completed passes.

If North Star can replicate that kind of performance and determination in Capital League 1, they could well find themselves challenging for a top four spot.

FBMedia Player of the Match: #15 Philip Umme – North Star.
Was an influential figure at the heart of Star’s defence and equally as impressive with his distribution from the back.
FB Media Match Stats.
Corners: 8 – 8
Off-sides:  3 – 5
Shots: 6 – 21
Shots on target: 4 – 9
Yellow Cards:  3 – 1
Red Cards:  1 – 0