FNQ Heat goalkeeper Kevin Ward can’t wait to make his Westfield FFA Cup Round of 32 debut tonight against Edgeworth FC.
The current PlayStation 4 NPL Queensland league leaders have home ground advantage for the first time in the Round of 32 when they host the Eagles, who are currently second in PlayStation 4 NPL Northern NSW.
The fixture marks Heat’s third foray in as many years to the national stage of the competition where they were eliminated by Victoria’s Oakleigh Cannons and New South Wales’ Sydney United 58 in the corresponding round.
However, Ward was reduced to spectator for those fixtures from the substitutes bench and he is now ready to step into the national spotlight in the Heat goalmouth.
“There is a great vibe around the dressing room when it comes to the cup games and I can’t wait to get on the pitch. I’m sure I will get nervous come kick-off but I’m also excited,” Ward explained.
“This time we’re going to really go for it by the sounds of it, whereas in previous years we have held back a little bit.”
Ward’s emergence this year as Heat’s first choice goalkeeper saw him rested through his side’s progress in the preliminary rounds as back-up gloveman Joshua Wilson was given game time.
It was a role Ward himself filled in the previous two qualifying campaigns and, while he said he was grateful to contribute in those prior cup runs, it didn’t offer the same sense of anticipation as the national stage.
“In the first year I got ten minutes against Mackay Magpies and last year I played against (Cairns community club) Stratford FC,” he recalled.
“But for me that was like playing a local league game and there wasn’t much excitement and this game is much bigger.”
Ward’s contribution in goal and marshalling the back four will be key to Heat’s chances against Eagles, who boast former Hyundai A-League striker Daniel McBreen and dynamic Japanese attacker Keigo Moriyasu in their travelling squad.
“(Moriyasu) has been scoring a lot but I don’t know if that’s because McBreen has been taking all the defenders’ attention away from him.”
“McBreen is going to be good, and is obviously going to be a class above the rest, but I think we can contain him.”
“Take nothing away from our defence because we’ve been pretty strong this year. We’ve stepped up and done the task when we’ve needed to.”
Heat also boast a raft of attacking outlets including PlayStation 4 NPL Queensland joint leading goalscorer Jamie Carroll, the versatile Kieran Sanders and long-range midfield threat Jamie Gosling.
However, Ward is also adamant that should the sides cancel each other out on the night he holds no fear of the possibility of a penalty shoot-out.
“I don’t mind penalties and, at the end of the day, there’s really no pressure on the goalkeeper in the shoot-out.”
“If it comes to that I am quietly confident. But anything can happen in a penalty shoot-out, so let’s hope we can do it in ninety minutes and it won’t come to that,” he concluded.