PHOTO: Byron Bay goal scorer Aaron Walker does battle with Maitland’s towering centre back (Dogwhistle Creative)
Byron Bay FC met the highly fancied Maitland FC in a tough NNSW Westfield FFA Cup Preliminary Round fixture last Saturday (10th June) at the Lake Macquarie Regional Football Facility in Newcastle.
Despite heading into this clash without Joel Wood, Shaun Packham and Gianluca Bongiovanni, the Rams were confident of putting in a strong performance. The match that was played on a synthetic surface, was fast and very physical from the opening whistle, with Byron Bay making it evident that the side was not simply there to give the Maitland team a training run. The skill level from both teams was impressive and in a tough end-to-end battle for dominance Byron Bay more than matched their opposition, pressing hard on the Maitland goal from the kick-off.
A brutal tackle on 17 year old Byron speedster, Ronan Krarup early in the game would see the young lad later hospitalised, his badly broken leg requiring surgery over the weekend to re-attach ligaments and insert a pin in his ankle. Maitland found the net fifteen minutes in when a set play got through the Rams defence and while it would have been easy for Byron Bay to get deflated by these setbacks, the Rams played with even greater intensity. They responded a mere fifteen minutes later with a soaring cross from Quinn McDonald that found the head of Aaron Walker who directed the ball into the top corner of the net with a clinical finish.
The Rams then took the lead ten minutes into the second half when a smart ball from Walker found Sam Shepherd in full flight and his ambitious strike from 25 metres out gave the Maitland keeper no chance. Maitland were stung into action however and it was only three minutes later that a long cross into the Rams six-yard box gave Maitland the equaliser. With scores locked up at the end of 90 minutes and with players from both teams looking fatigued, 30 minutes of extra time was required. The deciding goal would come from Maitland with minutes left on the clock and the gallant Rams FFA Cup campaign was over.
Congratulations to Damon Bell and his squad for being such outstanding ambassadors for football in this region. Although the result was disappointing, EVERY player should be exceptionally proud of the manner in which they played. FFNC also acknowledges Coffs United FC for progressing to the Northern NSW semi-finals stage and while being defeated 3-1 by Broadmeadow Magic (Monday 12th June) the powerful North Coast Football side also confirmed the talent and purpose that exists in country zones.
We hope that the efforts of both Byron Bay FC and Coffs United FC will inspire other clubs to be motivated to nominate for the 2018 Westfield FFA Cup competiton.