The national football spotlight will shine on the ABD stadium in Broadmeadows on Tuesday night when Oakleigh Cannons take on fellow NPL club Hume City in the FFA Cup quarterfinals.
Cannons’ coach Arthur Papas believes that his team goes into the game as underdogs but “it’s a game which both teams feel is able to be won. It gives us some optimism that we can hopefully get to the semi-finals”.
Papas is not concerned by his team’s underdog status. He says no-one gave the Cannons a chance in Adelaide in the previous round against the Metro Stars.
“In the end, we came away with a very strong performance and result.”
The Cannons and Hume have met previously in knockout competition this season when Oakleigh won 2-0 in the Dockerty Cup semi- final. In the league, Hume have had the edge, winning 1-0 at home whilst the other match was a draw.
“If we perform at the correct level, we can beat them,” Papas says of the upcoming quarter-final. “You need a lot of things to go right on the day. The preparation also has to be conducted in a way that allows the team to go into the game with confidence.”
The coach says that trying to maintain match conditioning after the end of the regular NPL season is the biggest challenge in training for the cup. But on a positive note, he says the absence of regular competitive matches has given him the opportunity to make structural adjustments to the team which he didn’t have time to do during the season.
“I think you saw it against Metro. We were a lot more organised, a lot more fluent in the way we played.”
He also welcomes the return to the squad of three key players who were unavailable for the Metro game. Zippy forward Goran Zoric returns from an overseas trip, whilst midfielder Ross Honos and defender Johnny Black return from injury.
“We’re at the strongest point we’ve been since I’ve been at the club. To have these players available gives us a lot of depth and the option to be able to change the game from the side as well.”
Hume City, Oakleigh Cannons and Heidelberg United are the only three NPL teams nationwide remaining in the FFA Cup. According to Papas, “it says a lot about the NPL in Victoria being the number one competition across the country outside the A- League”.
Papas believes that, for a club like Oakleigh, which was not an old NSL club, but one that’s come up through the ranks, “the club has never had a bigger opportunity to be on the national stage” than with this FFA Cup competition.
“I think the game in Adelaide is the biggest win in the club’s history. We’re on the national stage in front of the whole country. So from that point of view, even to get to this point is a huge achievement considering it’s been a very tough NPL season.”