Wednesday evening will be a historical night at JL Murphy Reserve, the home of NPL club Port Melbourne Sharks. It’s the night that the Sharks make their FFA Cup National Rd of 32 debut. Adding to the sense of an occasion of nationwide interest, the Sharks will be hosting high flying interstate visitors, NSW NPL club Apia Leichhardt.
For the neutral, it’s an opportunity to compare the relative strengths of football in different states. Apia are riding high in the NSW NPL at present, leading the league by two points from second-placed Sydney Olympic.
Last week, the reigning NSW NPL premiers added yet another piece of silverware to their trophy cabinet by winning the NSW equivalent of the Dockerty Cup (the Waratah Cup) with a comprehensive 3-0 win over Hakoah-Sydney City East.
In the league, Apia is averaging over 2.5 goals a game with young striker Jordan Murray attracting a lot of interest with his 19-goal haul so far this season. His partner up front, Japanese visa player Tasuku Sekiya, has also been finding the net regularly.
Sharks coach Adam Piddick has watched Apia play several games this season, both recorded games and live.
Speaking to Neos Kosmos ahead of Wednesday’s FFA Cup tie, he said of Apia: “They haven’t won the league last year and [are] sitting on top this year for no reason. So it’s going to be a big challenge. Obviously we’ve got to be at our best to compete because they’ve got some very, very good players.”
As well as the aforementioned Murray and Sekiya, Apia coach Bill McColl has an impressive roster at his disposal, including creative and experienced midfielders such as Adrian Ucchino, Howard Fondyke, and Sean Symons.
Piddick recognises Apia’s goal-scoring threats, and believes the Sharks will have to score more than one goal to win the game.
“Obviously they’re scoring goals for fun. They’re quite lively up top with Murray Sekiya causing problems for defences. We’re under no illusions that we’ll have to score more than one goal to win the game. So we’ll go out and put pressure back on them, really. We’ll be well organised and we’ll have our chance if we’re good enough. Cup football is always: make a mistake and you get punished. [At the] end of the day, we’ve got to be proactive. I’m not going to sit in and get pressure on us. We’re going to press, look to play forward where possible, and hopefully put the pressure on them, which hasn’t happened recently in NSW where they’ve dictated the play because they’ve scored first. So we want to score first and see how they react.”
Progressing to the Rd of 16 in the FFA Cup could also give the Sharks added impetus in their push to play finals football in the league. Currently sitting in fifth spot on the table, Piddick says the team’s long-term focus is to make the top six.
“First and foremost, we’ve got to get there and if we get there early enough, then we can push on to maybe a fourth position. The goal from the start was to make top six. I think, if you can make that, anything can happen from there.”