TOUGH STUFF: Frenchville striker Michael Freeman in the FFA Cup match against Whitsunday FC on Saturday night at Airlie Beach.
TOUGH STUFF: Frenchville striker Michael Freeman in the FFA Cup match against Whitsunday FC on Saturday night at Airlie Beach. Charlotte Lam

Frenchville beats Whitsunday in FFA Cup thriller

SOCCER: YOU couldn't have scripted a more drama-filled, knockout football match.

Frenchville Sports Club football team ground out a courageous 1-0 win over Whitsunday Football Club in an FFA Cup thriller in Airlie Beach on Saturday night.

Frenchville was reduced to 10 men late in the first half and played the entire second half a man down and under intense, constant pressure.

Frenchville coach Justin Kilshaw said it was an outstanding effort by the Rockhampton team who refused to lie down after taking the early lead and who had to adapt quickly to conditions, some confusing refereeing decisions and a massive momentum swing against them.

"To be perfectly honest the pitch was pretty ordinary," Kilshaw said.

"The Whitsunday Sports Park was small and very bumpy and that made it difficult for us to play the style of football we had planned," he said.

"As a result, we decided to play long for the first 10 minutes and see what Whitsunday were going to play.

"This worked well for us, because around the 10-minute mark Michael Cay launched a long throw-in, into the penalty area to our striker Michael Freeman.

"He was actually brought down in the penalty area but the ref played on.

"The loose ball fell to Paul Jackson who swivelled and smashed the ball into the bottom left hand corner."

After taking the early one nil lead, the game settled into a relatively even contest with both teams creating chances.

Kilshaw's confidence was growing because he believed his team's chances were more promising than the opposition. Then disaster struck.

"We were creating some gilt-edged chances," he said.

"Whitsunday also had some shots on goal, but nothing which troubled us much at that stage.

"Then, 10 minutes before halftime our centre back Daniel Trim reached out for a last-ditch tackle on their striker.

"As he did so the striker flicked the ball inside and it hit Daniel's hand.

"The ball was going in for a goal, so although it was completely inadvertent by Daniel, who had his arm outstretched as he reached out with his foot for the ball, the ref had no option but to red card him."

Worse was to come, because Whitsunday was also awarded a penalty. Twice.

"Their striker hit it hard and low to the right, but our keeper Robbie Day dived and made a fabulous save," Kilshaw said.

"But the ref ruled Robbie had moved early and the penalty had to be retaken.

"I couldn't believe it. It might have been justice, because the Whitsunday striker went the same way but he pushed it wide of the post."

Frenchville's number one striker Michael Cay was pushed back to central defender to cover for Trim, but the momentum was all with the home team.

"We were under intense pressure; our goal, our defence was under relentless attack," Kilshaw said.

"Everything was going their way and all we could do was try and hang on to half-time," he said.

Hang on they did and it was an emotion-charged Frenchville team in the sheds.

"Emotions were running high at half-time," Kilshaw said.

"I told the boys just how much hard work they were all going to have to put in to save the match with a man down.

"But we were confident we could do it. Our focus was firmly on continuing to attack and not sit back and just defend."

At the 15-minute mark of the second half, Michael Freeman was rested, Tim Hickey came on into the midfield and Jordan Miller pushed up into attack.

Still, Whitsunday's numerical advantage was telling and Frenchville was under constant pressure for the entire 45 minutes.

"But our defence was excellent, we held firm and our midfield worked very hard," Kilshaw said.

"So did our strikers, without touching the ball. Freeman, Jackson and then Miller worked tirelessly," he said.

"They spent the entire second half chasing the ball so Whitsunday weren't able to control possession for long periods."

Frenchville's attack created chances, with Jordan Miller hitting the post with a free kick from outside the penalty area and Whitsunday scrambling to clear the ball from its goal line.

"We showed in the second half we were able to create chances with 10 men that they couldn't create with 11," Kilshaw said.

"The sense of pride and achievement in what we had accomplished was overwhelming," he said.

"The players, the coaching staff, our supporters who travelled up, it was fantastic. To sing our club victory song on the field all together after such a match was an incredible feeling."

Frenchville SC is now in the last eight Queensland teams in the FFA Cup. It will play National Premier Leagues' team FNQ Heat at home next weekend.



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