Manly Warringah Football Association side Pittwater RSL FC understand the magnitude of the task they face in hosting Wollongong Wolves at Cromer Park on Wednesday night.
The Northern Beaches outfit are one of two remaining association clubs in the FFA Cup Round 6, and require an upset for the ages if they are to bundle the National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s 1 ladder leaders out of the tournament.
Pittwater have enjoyed victories over Winston Hills FC, Ryde Saints United and Umina United to reach the penultimate stage of Football NSW qualifying for the National Round of 32.
They face their tallest order yet in the shape of Luke Wilkshire’s Wolves, who edged past Dunbar Rovers in Round 4 before comprehensively dispatching of local Football South Coast Community League side Coledale Waves 11-0 last time out.
Pittwater coach Adam Israel has relished their Cup journey and is confident his squad will treasure the occasion on Wednesday.
“We’ve had a fantastic time so far,” he reflected.
“It’s been nice playing against teams from different associations and different leagues.
“Certainly considering our current position in the bottom half of the league table, which is a bit foreign to us, the cup has been the complete opposite.
“The opportunity to play against some big teams the further we advance is a carrot that I’ve dangled to the boys, and sure enough we’ve drawn the leaders of the NPL NSW.
“It’s a fantastic opportunity for the boys and coaches alike.”
Israel is remaining grounded considering the logistical challenges faced by the amateur club in preparing for such a glamour contest.
It is fair to say that in this David vs Goliath battle, Pittwater are happy to play the former.
“With limited training and player availability preparation is a real challenge,” Israel revealed.
“All we can do is ensure the boys enjoy the night really; there is absolutely no expectations on them.
“The pressure is certainly all on Wollongong.
“One of the boys who is a Maths teacher worked out that they’re 59 places above us in NSW football.
“That was a bit of an eye-opener!
“I’ve said to the boys that you’re in an enviable position to play against an ex-National League Champion in a competitive game.
“That doesn’t happen very often.
“What we want is to stay with them in key moments; starting with the first ten, twenty and forty minutes.
“They’re not going to want to play their strongest eleven with a tough game against Manly United coming up, so we want to make them as uncomfortable as possible for as long as possible.”
On the other hand, Wollongong Wolves coach Luke Wilkshire is enforcing a professional approach within his highly fancied squad heading into the fixture.
“We are approaching this like any other game,” the former Socceroo revealed.
“For me and for the standards that we set at the club, it doesn’t matter who you are facing in front of you.
“We want to perform at the best of our ability no matter who we play.
“We are approaching this the same way we would playing an NPL 1 fixture.”
Round 6 has already produced some shocks with the elimination of last year’s Quarter Finalists APIA Leichhardt at the hands of St George FC, while State League side Nepean FC pushed defending NPL NSW Men’s Champions Sydney Olympic all the way to extra time.
Wilkshire is determined to avoid a comparable banana skin, even consulting a Fox Football colleague and Northern Beaches local for some valuable intel.
“I’m expecting them to put up a fight,” Wilkshire said.
“It’s the cup, and looking at yesterday’s results there have been some upsets already this week.
“Funnily enough I was able to get a little bit of inside info off Adam Peacock regarding Pittwater but that’s about as far as we’ve been able to go.”
Having won the FFA Cup as a player with Sydney FC in 2017, Wilkshire is eagerly anticipating the challenges that may lie ahead if his side can reach the tournament’s final 32.
“Obviously the first and ultimate goal of the club entering the FFA Cup was to reach the round of 32.
“I definitely believe there’s enough quality within the squad to really give it a good shake against an A-League club and I’ll love that test to come for the boys.
“But right now we go round by round, and all our focus is on getting past Pittwater.”
Pittwater are determined to spoil Wolves’ dreams, and Israel has extended an invitation to all Northern Beaches football fans to head down to Cromer Park and enjoy some midweek cup magic.
“We’re hoping the people on the Northern Beaches get behind a local association side,” he said.
“It’s pretty tribal out there at times, but anybody who would like to see a game of decent football should rug up and head down to Cromer no matter who they support!”
“We’ll give a good account of ourselves no doubt.”
Wollongong Wolves will return to Cromer Park for the second time in a week on Sunday when they face Manly United in Round 12 National Premier League Men’s 1 action.
Manly, the other remaining Northern Beaches club in the FFA Cup, lock horns with Sutherland Sharks at Seymour Shaw on Wednesday in an all-NPL encounter.
– By Football NSW Reporter Chris Curulli (Twitter handle @ChrisCurulli)