Maturity and composure emerged once again as the dominant theme for the Edge Hil Tigers whose momentum is in full swing after a convincing three from three FFA Cup winning streak, the latest a 6-1 win over Innisfail United.
The victory sets up a meeting with the current NPL leaders FNQ Heat in the fifth round of the FFA Cup.
Edge Hill’s opponents along the way have fielded predominately young sides (Southside, Leichhardt & Innisfail) and despite the buzz and excitement that surrounds young footballers progressing the ranks, the experience of senior players working together has ultimately proved the winning play.
Innisfail United had the added obstacles of travelling 100km to Cairns on the eve of the Easter long weekend. Adding insult to injury, the visitors were delayed commencing Easter holidays after initial problems with the field lighting at Edge Hill meant a last-minute venue change to Stratford.
Kicking off 45 minutes late and battling through wet and stormy conditions, Edge Hill showed their dominance early and put three goals away within the first twenty minutes.
A deflection of player-coach Rob Wales from a long range shot opened the score line, only to be followed up after the re-start with Patrick L’Orange connecting a first touch chip over Innisfail’s keeper.
The visitors showed early promise with a cross-in from out wide rolling across the goal line; Josh Taylor and George Yagi just inches away from seeing the ball in. Yagi played a convincing role with good first touches, kick in attack and good movement off the ball; a strong contender for best on field.
Another close chance for the visitors came curtesy of a free kick taken by former NQ Fury member Lorenzo Sipi.
Despite their chances Innisfail appeared lost at times and failed to hold possession allowing the Tigers to pick up easy balls and press in attack. One such instance seeing Wales quick in attack intercepting a poor pass and putting it through for L’Orange who managed to get the ball around the keeper but failed to slot it home.
There was a host of further opportunities for the Tigers as they continued their offensive play.
Innisfail finally found some composure towards the end of the first half with some quick counter play and decent attempts on goal.
At 23 minutes in Innisfail netted their one and only goal for the game. Josh Taylor made a beautiful run off a well-executed through ball and deployed some sleek touches around Edge Hill’s defence to put a calm placement finish past Ciaran Church who charged prematurely.
Despite the hiccup, Church was again in solid form. The Tiger re-joining the team after being controversially sent-off in their round one FFA Cup fixture.
On the final minute for the first-half a 50/50 ball challenged by Greg Vanderpluym and the keeper with Vanderpluym toppling over the gloveman resulting in a penalty. Mick Lancini converted the penalty for a 4-1 halftime score.
The half-time lead meant star striker Michael Ortiz could rest a niggling ankle injury for the game, allowing for Jacob Lahai to cement some game time. After a stint with the Leichhardt Lions last season, Lahai returned to the Tigers and showed some early good form, moving the ball well and proving dangerous in attack.
There was no respite from the weather in the second half, but Innisfail were able to produce some better football with some strong defensive plays and good holding play by Yagi in the midfield.
When the gusty rain finally eased up, so did the play; both teams starting to tire and look flat for lengthy patches of play. Innisfail made their first substitute for the night in an attempt to rejuvenate their game. But despite some more passages of strong attack, no further result ensued for the visitors.
Edge Hill’s pass rate competition was ultimately stronger in the final third allowing for two more goals to see out the match; Vanderpluym bursting off the half-way mark to pull off an individual run down the left-hand flank before cutting inside the defence for a placement finish.
The final goal for the match came at the 90th minute from a cross in picked up again by Vanderpluym who turned with the ball and struck in full momentum to seal the 6-1 result.