South Springvale hosts South Cardiff in the Westfield FFA Cup next Tuesday, Craig Mackenzie previews both teams ahead of the clash.
By Craig MacKenzie
South Springvale v South Cardiff, Westfield FFA Cup, Kingston Heath Soccer Complex, Tuesday July 29, 7.30pm.
Bill Lambropoulos was quick to claim underdog status ahead of next Tuesday night’s glamour Westfield FFA Cup home clash with Northern NSW flagbearer South Cardiff.
The cagy South Springvale gaffer claimed that his team is the minnow of the national knockout competition given its third-tier status within Victorian football.
“I assume that the Northern NSW standard would be higher than ours and we see ourselves as the underdogs of the competition,” Lambropoulos said.
The South Springvale players were initially hoping for an away fixture and were excited at the prospect of playing interstate but have switched their focus to Tuesday’s clash at Kingston Heath Soccer Complex and the importance of the task that lies ahead.
“The boys are really looking forward to it and from my perspective I’m really happy to play here and get some local support,” Lambropoulos said.
“We’ve got a pretty good mix in our squad. There’s definitely (VPL) experience there but there also are some youngsters that have the aim of playing at a far higher standard.”
Apart from home state advantage South Springvale goes into this clash refreshed having no match commitment during the catch-up round in the Victorian State Leagues.
There’s no such luck for South Cardiff which squares up to second-placed Lambton Jaffas on Saturday, has Sunday and Monday to recover then takes a two-hour bus trip to Sydney on Tuesday morning before flying to Melbourne.
“We haven’t had much luck with getting all our players available this season,” said Greg Asquith, in his first year as head coach of South Cardiff.
“We lost two of our First Graders to season-ending knee injuries early on, our captain missed half the season through injury and another key player was in Europe for six weeks.
“We had to introduce some of the younger players and they have done well and I think as we have got some of our players back you can see that our results have picked up.”
South Cardiff currently sits third last in Northern NSW’s NPL First Grade but only lost the final of the State Cup on penalties to First Grade rival Broadmeadow Magic two weeks ago and boasts one of the guns of the competition in striker Jamie Byrnes.
“I’ve watched some highlights of South Cardiff’s games and they’ve got a very, very good striker,” Lambropoulos said.
While Asquith mulls over whether or not to play young central defender Matt Darr against Lambton rather than keeping him fresh for the Cup match, Lambropoulos is relishing the prospect of having the weekend off.
“We’ve got a few boys nursing some injuries so the break is ideal. Ali Hameed and Billy Damianos should be right for Tuesday and Ricky Diaco should come off the bench at some stage,” he said.
Asquith is cautious when prodded about comparing standards between the respective leagues but he concedes that the travel and the pre-match hype could test his players.
“I looked at South Springvale’s (Dockerty Cup) game against Hume but the camera seemed very close to the action which can give the impression of the game being quicker than it actually is so it’s very difficult to judge between the leagues,” Asquith said.
“I know that the Victorian Premier League was very strong and I’d say that that level would be well above the level we are currently playing at but how that translates to South Springvale I can’t tell.
“I think it’s going to be an exciting experience for everyone involved and given the travelling and the high profile the game is being given, our players will have some adjusting to do.”
For most of the combatants it will be the most-hyped game of their careers complete with Fox Sports coverage.
The pay-TV giant plans a highlights package as well as crossovers for score updates during its live coverage on the same night of the Broadmeadow Magic v Brisbane Strikers clash.
When FFA contacted both clubs asking for a pronunciation guide of player names for Fox Sports it finally sunk in that this was the big time and they were about to take centre stage in the greatest knockout cup competition of any code in Australia.
“I don’t think anyone knew at first how spectacular and how serious this whole competition would be,” Lambropoulos said.
“It’s really lifted the profile of our club and the Herald-Sun plans to do a story about us the day before the game.
“Young kids looking to play at club level are definitely going to think about South Springvale in a more positive way.
“We never ever thought that we’d end up where we are right now and if things go our way then wow, what a big deal this is.
“It’s going to be a very proud moment in our club’s history on Tuesday night.”
Here are the South Springvale squad with shirt numbers and positions:
Goalkeepers: 1. Rani Dowisha, 21. Jordan Gifkins.
Defenders: 2. Keiran Fitzgerald, 14. Courail Nassim, 15. Thomas Brooks, 20. Ari Drakos, 22. Nick Katsamboukas, 23. Luke Burgess.
Midfielders: 5. Andrew Skledar, 6. Darragh Ryan, 7. Alex Florea, 8. Craig Metcalfe, 16. Billy Damianos, 18. Sotirios Dimitrakopoulos.
Forwards: 3. Ricky Diaco, 9. Damian Iaconis, 10. Dean Panagopoulos, 11. Ali Hameed, 17. Kon Daskalakis, 19. Colm O’Toole.
Here is the South Cardiff squad with shirt numbers and positions: