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Armadale edge ECU in FFA Cup thriller. Photo by FotoEnzo

Armadale edge ECU in FFA Cup thriller

Report by Peter Simcox

Armadale have moved into the FFA Cup Round of 32 and booked a place in the Belt up. State Cup final after a thrilling 3-2 win against ECU Joondalup at a packed Alfred Skeet Reserve on Monday evening.

John O’Reilly’s men will face Division One Gwelup Croatia in the final at Dorrien Gardens on July 14.

Billy Quinncroft gave the home side the lead early on, before Gordon Smith levelled for the visitors before the break.

Skipper Nathan Costello regained the lead for Armadale from the penalty spot, before the NPL WA’s leading scorer Chris Jackson added a third. Smith grabbed his second late to set up a tense finale but the Reds hung on.

Armadale coach John O’Reilly struggled for words after the game, the Irishman leading the Reds to their first ever State Cup final.

“I’m probably the proudest man in the world at the moment, the players put in a great performance tonight and I thought we deserved the win,” he said.

“The win really hasn’t sunk in yet, but putting us on that national stage, I’m absolutely delighted for the president Ken (Madeley) and everyone involved in this football club.”

Armadale edge ECU in FFA Cup thriller. Photo by FotoEnzo

Skipper Costello, who was outstanding, said: “It’s a great for the club and the supporters. We’ll celebrate tonight but it’s back to the NPL action next weekend.

“It’s not just reaching the State League Cup final, we’re in the last 32 of the national competition and it will be great to get our club on the national stage.”

With the rain was falling at kick-off, it was Armadale who went close to the lead early when Ryan Haslett’s low shot was cleared off the line by the alert Cian Hirrell.

But the visitors hit back and the lively Daryl Nicol raced down the left before his shot well saved by Sam Hutchings.

Nicol was in again moments later, sent clear by a clever pass from Smith, but Hutchings stood tall deny the Scotsman again.

But on 18 minutes the home side hit the front. Former ECU assistant player/coach David Annall’s cross picked out Quinncroft who lost marker and headed home.

Jackson went close to a second on the half-hour after a great through ball from Charlie Kenna sent him racing clear, but the English striker failed to find the target.

Then six minutes later the visitors levelled. Sam Pollard’s cross was dropped by Hutchings, under pressure from Paddy Doyle, and Smith smashed the rebound home  to send the sides in level at the break.

The visitors dominated early in the second half, Doyle’s effort was well saved by Hutchings, before the Armadale keeper was out bravely to clear off the foot of Smith.

But against the run of play Armadale regained the lead when Jackson was bundled down in the box and referee Michal Jasinski pointed to the spot. Costello stepped up and sent Jack Nunn the wrong way to the delight of the home faithful.

The Army supporters were on their feet again five minutes later, when they added a third. Jackson made a darting run down the right channel and finished with aplomb across Nunn.

Armadale edge ECU in FFA Cup thriller. Photo by FotoEnzo

ECU went for broke and went three up front and substitute Adam Tong saw a first time shot well saved by Hutchings, before the Armadale keeper produced the save of the night pushing Smith’s shot on the turn around the post.

The visitors setup a dramatic fianle when they pulled one back in the final minute after Tong’s deep cross was headed home by Smith at the back post.

With four minutes of stoppage time ECU pressed for an equaliser and extra-time, but they couldn’t find it and at the final whistle it was the Armadale players and supporters celebrating a famous victory for the club.

ECU coach Dale McCulloch admitted: “We defended really poor tonight and you don’t win matches defending like that.

“I thought we dominated in the first half and they had one attack and scored. The same in the second half, dominated early and gave them two goals.

“This is a huge blow for me and the club but we now have to concentrate on the league to get something out of the season.”

Armadale 3 (Quinncroft 20min, Costello pen 57, Jackson 62)
ECU Joondalup 2 (Smith 37, 89)
Monday, June 4
Alfred Skeet Reserve
Kick-off: 5.30pm
Referee: Michal Jasinski
Assistant referees: Arvin Shanmuganathan, Julian Serra
Fourth Official: Steven Gregory

Armadale: GK Sam HUTCHINGS, 2 Joshua KUSER, 3 Delan DE SILVA, 4 Nathan COSTELLO (C), 5 David ANNALL (15 Ali GHOLAMI 94), 7 Charlie KENNA, 9 Billy QUINNCROFT, 10 Chris JACKSON, 12 Dannie RICHMAN, 21 Beau RAHIM, 22 Ryan HASLETT (11 Michael RIZIDIS 82)
Substitutes not used: RGK Duncan LENNON-BLACK, 13 Hasan EL YASSIRI
Yellow cards: Jackson 33, Quinncroft 44, Kenna 95
Red cards: Nil

ECU Joondalup: GK Jack NUNN, 2 Cian HIRRELL, 4 Steve MCGARRY, 5 Shane CASSIDY, 8 Josh WHITMORE, 9 Daryl NICOL, 10 Gordon SMITH, 11 Andy HIGGINS, 12 Samuel POLLARD (16 Lukas DE LIMA 82), 13 Tom HOUGH (17 Adam TONG 70), 14 Paddy DOYLE (3 Ross MILLARD 62)
Substitutes not used: RGK George JACKSON, 18 Declan HUGHES
Yellow cards: McGarry 20, Doyle 47, Smith 78
Red cards: Nil