Big cats play out midweek FNQ thriller

fnq rd 7

Tom Orr – Leichhardt (left) and Michael Ortiz – Edge Hill in the lead up to a penalty decision. Picture credit : Tom Orr Senior

Rose Calvert

It was a game of missed opportunities and fighting spirit when the big cats clashed at Tiger Park on Wednesday night during their round seven makeup fixture in the Far North Queensland Premier Mens Competition.

The Edge Hill Tigers met feline rivals Leichhardt Lions with both teams clawing their way out equally to collect a point in the three-all thriller.

Coming off a humiliating 7-0 defeat to top-of-the-table Stratford, the fifth-placed Tigers were tasked with redemption duties, whilst the fourth-place Lions set out for the win in a bid to keep their premiership hopes in contention.

Both teams were without regular starters due to injuries and red cards collected during last round fixtures. Injured Lions goalkeeper Nathan Haydon was replaced by Jason Giddings, and a recent signing, Jordan-born Davit Davitadze bolstered Edge Hill’s attack considerably.

With mist stretching across Tiger Park making for slick conditions, the game kicked-off with fierce intensity; both sides setting the tone of the evening and moving the ball around quickly on the moist ground.

The first twenty minutes of play could have told a much different story for the visiting Lions who failed to put away a handful of chances in a host of open-goal opportunities.

It’s been a predominant theme for Premier Coach Stacey Fittock during his 2016 campaign with many a week resulting in the side reflecting on their failed chances.

It was ultimately an Edge Hill mistake that saw the visitors take an early lead; a poor pass back to goalkeeper Sam Ferguson allowed striker David Selby to win the ball in the box, hitting the post with his shot. Attacker Will Coulthard followed the shot in to net the ball home to give the Lions a 1-0 lead.

The game was almost levelled instantly as Edge Hill took off from the whistle in a counter attack that saw striker Michael Ortiz launch in attack and unleased a curled shot that just skimmed the outer post. But the equaliser didn’t take long with Ortiz providing a stunning back heel volley off a cross in that met the boot of Andrew Gaskell inside the six-yard box.

To add to the thrilling action, a controversial penalty was called against Lion Tommy Orr who was penalised for holding back striker Ortiz seemingly outside the 18-yard box; referee Michael Bozhoff initially played the advantage but with no result ensuing, the foul was awarded as a penalty.

Sweeper Scott White stepped up to convert the ordeal, giving his side a 2-1 advantage coming out of the first half.

The thrills spilled into the second half, with both sides showing no surrender. In the 59th minute skipper Daniel Mayne unleashed an unstoppable rocket from outside the 18-yard box to level the scoreboard once again.

It was Edge Hill’s turn next to gain an advantage from a backline error; a poorly executed punch from Lion’s keeper Giddings off an Edge Hill free kick opened up panicked, pin-ball play inside the box; Tiger White muscling through to give the Tigers a 3-2 edge.

The visitors were just moments away from defeat when Lion Orr found redemption from his earlier controversial foul, firing home the equalising goal in injury time, just in time for referee Bozhoff to wrap up the three-all result.

The draw leaves Leichhardt one place above Edge Hill in fourth spot.

Reserve Grade

The all-conquering Lions retained their undefeated status in their makeup fixture against Edge Hill, dismissing the home side 4-1.

In a surprising turn of events, Edge Hill took the lead early after midfielder Junichi Hirao finding the net off a free kick that powered through the hands and legs of fill-in Lions keeper Purna Monger.

Despite putting up a strong first-half fight, Edge Hill lost steam and were overcome by the dominant visitors who found their signature composure and passing game to find the net on four, well-executed occasions in the second half of play.

Leichhardt hold a eight point lead at the top of the ladder.