FFA Cup Round of 32 matchday 1. What you need to know

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Rafe Griffin (@griffofootball)

It’s back again on Wednesday night. It’s the stage of the FFA Cup where the A-League clubs join the competition ensuring nationwide attention for the clubs remaining.

Palm Beach v South Melbourne, Cbus Super Stadium, Robina

This match features the 2014 Champions of their respective competitions. Last year’s quarter-finalists, Palm Beach, aren’t the side they were during their 2014 amazing run but testament to the way that coach Grae Piddick has his side organised, they still figure in this year’s league NPL Queensland finals race.

The road to get to this point wasn’t easy, getting by in three extremely tight matches. Twice behind to Gold Coast Premier League side, Broadbeach, the Sharks forced the match to penalties in what could well have been the game of the Preliminary Rounds nation-wide. Penalties were needed again to claim a win against SWQ Thunder while they escaped against Noosa Lions who missed a late penalty that would have forced the match into extra time.

Their Cup talisman is Jack Boxell. He came on as a sub to score in the Sharks’ 1-0 2014 round of 16 win against South Springvale. He did the job again against Noosa Lions, with another super-sub performance in the 1-0 win against Noosa Lions securing back-to-back round of 32 appearances for his club.

Scoring has been an issue this year after the loss of last year’s league Golden Boot runner-up Chris Lucas to Bentleigh Greens. Sitting equal second-last in terms of goals scored, things have turned around in their previous four games where they have scored on eleven occasions.

Countering that, they boast the second best defence in the league, led by former A-League player Kristian Rees. Captain Justyn McKay is inspirational through the midfield and is his side’s leading scorer.

Their opponents South Melbourne are probably the biggest club in Australia’s ‘second tier’ and a former National Soccer League powerhouse. The players that the club has produced is as long as your arm, chief amongst them current Socceroos coach Ange Postecoglou. That status is likely to see them attract a large supporter base on Wednesday evening.

South Melbourne sit equal second in the NPL Victoria and are locked in a bitter Premiership race with Bentleigh Greens and Heidelberg but don’t enter this match in the best of form with only four points from their previous five matches.

The man to watch up front for South is Milos Lujic, currently second in Victorian Golden Boot and with two goals in his side’s previous three league clashes. At the other end, captain Michael Eagar anchors the defence. He may be familiar to local audiences as a part of Redlands 2012 Brisbane Premier League Premiership winning side.

Others to keep an eye on are Nick Epifano who had a recent trial in Scotland with Dundee United while Jake Barker-Daish makes a return to the glitter strip having been a part of the now defunct A-League club, Gold Coast United.

Here’s highlights from South Melbourne’s recent Dochety Cup (Victoria’s statewide knockout competition) win over Heidelberg.

Hume City v Brisbane Strikers. Broadmeadows Valley, Melbourne

The Strikers will be buoyed with confidence for this match after claiming a morale-boosting 1-0 against fellow NPL Queensland Premiership aspirants Olympic last Tuesday night. That result combined with Moreton Bay’s loss over the weekend sees them as the current league leaders.

Undefeated in their last six in the NPL, their Cup qualification saw them defeat fellow NPL clubs Brisbane City, Moreton Bay and Redlands.

Jheison Macuace looms as the main attacking weapon for the visitors, second in the league’s Golden Boot standings with a return of 14 goals including a goal in each of his last two games. Michael Angus will be the critical link in the midfield while Cameron Draper and Greig Henslee are arguably the best central defence combination going round.

Showing how serious that Hume City are treating this tie, they had members of their coaching staff on hand at Perry Park last Tuesday for the Strikers v Olympic match. Given the way it panned out, they were unlikely to take away too many worthwhile observations.

Hume City are in sixth place in the NPL Victoria and look assured for a place in the finals series on the back of a five-match unbeaten streak. Amongst that was a win against league leaders Bentleigh Greens. With one eye on the Cup perhaps, that streak came to an end on Saturday in a 3-1 loss to Green Gully.

Former Olympic and Brisbane Roar player Jai Ingham was replaced with 20 minutes to go in that match, perhaps to be rested for this encounter. Ingham has scored on seven occasions this season and his side’s second highest scorer. Also part of Hume’s setup is Daniel Clark, a mid-season transferee from Moreton Bay. While yet to appear on the scoresheet for his new side, he has impressed those in the know in his new surroundings. It’s probably no coincidence that since his Jets departure, his old club hasn’t been the dominant force that they were in the early part of the season.

Hume City will be keen to show off their new $12 million facilities with a playing surface that from all accounts is one of the best in Victorian football.

Highlights from Hume City’s recent win over Werribee City

Broadmeadow Magic v Heidelberg United. Magic Park, Newcastle

While this match does not feature any Queensland clubs, there is a ‘maroon’ tinge to this tie.

Broadmeadow were defeated by the Brisbane Strikers after extra time at this stage of the competition last year. Currently in fifth position in the Northern NSW competition, they come into this match on the back of two successive losses, including most recently to the bottom placed team South Cardiff 3-1.

Heidelberg’s squad features Queenslanders and former Olympic players Reuben Way and Jack Petrie. Way has netted for the club he joined at the beginning of 2015 on four occasions.

Another former National Soccer League club, they come into this encounter on the back of a 2-1 loss to Melbourne Knights on the weekend and are equal second on the NPL Victoria standings with South Melbourne, both five points adrift of leaders Bentleigh Greens. They have won three of their previous five.

Blacktown City v MetroStars. Lily Homes Stadium, Sydney

Blacktown City were last year’s NPL New South Wales Champions and currently lead this season’s competition by six points with three games to play. Amongst their charges is former Sydney FC player, Mitch Mallia who has contributed seven goals. They are currently on a thirteen match unbeaten run with their last taste of defeat back at the end of April continued in securing a 1-0 victory over Marconi on the weekend.

South Australia’s MetroStars qualified for the final 32 by virtue of winning last year’s National Premier Leagues Grand Final against New South Wales club, Bonnyrigg White Eagles. Stars are not faring as well this year, sitting seventh in their competition and at risk of missing out on the top six finals series. Former Adelaide United player Fabian Barbiero, who made 90 appearances with the Reds should feature heavily and he’ll be key to seeing the Stars turnaround their form, not having won in their last five.

Watch Palm Beach v South Melbourne LIVE on Fox Sports channel 505 from 7:30pm. The other matches will be LIVE streamed on http://www.foxsports.com.au, including our very own Brisbane Strikers in their tie against Hume City.

Queensland Soccer News will have updates during the matches on our Twitter account @QldSoccerNews with halftime and fulltime wraps on our Facebook page.

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