No one has to remind APIA Leichhardt Tigers FC about the perils of cup football.
There is no doubting that the Tigers are the huge favourites heading into their Westfield FFA Cup Round of 32 clash with Tasmanian outfit Olympia FC, but the favourites tag has done the Tigers few favours in recent months.
A Waratah Cup final loss at the hands of an impressive Hakoah Sydney City East FC was a blow, but the Tigers’ cup run to that final – and the national rounds of the FFA Cup – were almost halted by PlayStation4 National Premier Leagues 3 New South Wales Men’s outfit Southern Districts Raiders Football Club.
The Tigers needed 121 minutes of football to defeat the less-fancied Raiders in the final rounds of qualifying and defender Themba Muata-Marlow says it was a wake-up call his side won’t forget anytime soon.
“That was a bit of a scare, but we’ll have to learn from it,” Muata-Marlow said.
“On the night, we went behind to a dubious penalty and then they just put up a tough fight after that. They just wouldn’t let us back into the game.
“We thought the game was going to get away from us and then we got a penalty in the 93rd minute which we converted.
“Then in the 121st minute we got a break off a free-kick, Jordan Murray hit the cross-bar and Paul Galimi scored the goal off the rebound and there were absolute scenes after that. There were tears of joy, that’s how much it meant.”
The result is an away trip to Tasmania to take on Olympia, currently equal second in the NPL Tasmania.
“It’s good to get an away trip. I guess, if you can’t get an A-League side, you want an interstate trip,” Muata-Marlow said.
“We don’t know that much about them, but we know they’ve got a synthetic pitch and I think that will suit us because we’re used to playing on one at Lambert Park.
“We’re not underestimating anyone and we’ll treat them with respect.”
Aside from the spoils of victory, Muata-Marlow, said his team-mates are buoyed by the prospect of showcasing their talents to a national audience.
Muata-Marlow has A-League experience under his belt already after a spell with the Newcastle Jets and he hopes the FFA Cup shows a wider audience how much the NPL has improved.
“It’s my first full season back in the NPL since the Jets and it’s definitely picked up since when I first played in the competition under Branko Culina at Rockdale City (Suns FC),” he said.
“I think I’ve grown a lot as a player since then, but the level has gotten higher too.
“So many players come out of A-League clubs and end up in these leagues so it’s a high standard and the FFA Cup is a good place to show that.”
Should his side prove victorious, Muata-Marlow said he would love to have a chance to play against A-League opponents.
“I think everyone wants that chances to test themselves against the best and see how they stack up,” he said.
“But first we have to make sure we win this game against Olympia and go from there.”
Tuesday 1st August
Olympia FC v APIA Leichhardt Tigers
KGV Park – 7:30pm
-By Matt Galea