After multiple delays, Kempsey Saints Football Club played their FFA Cup opening round fixture against the Tuncurry Tigers on Saturday, losing in a penalty shootout.
The late notice meant the Saints were missing a few key players from their previous trial games and first grade coach Matt Baker.
The Saints depth was tested but they fielded a competitive starting 11 and were able to make it count on the scoreboard after their early defensive work was rewarded on the other end of the field.
“To Saints credit they withstood the early onslaught, well lead at the back by old-timers Troy Ward and Toby O’Brien, and stuck to their game plan,” Saints member Kevin Sinclair said.
A run into the box by Tristan Smith resulted in him being brought down by the Tigers goalkeeper and a penalty awarded.
Kurtis Smith made no mistakes from the spot as the Saints took the lead in the 27th minute.
Saints continued to apply the pressure and after failing to capitalise on their opportunities, Tristan Smith was able to find himself one-on-one with the keeper once again but this time he found the back of the net.
However, Tuncurry were able to grab one back to reduce the deficit to 2-1 just before the break.
The momentum continued with the Tigers into the second half as they dominated the possession, territory and created the better chances.
Saints showed great desperation in defence to hold onto their lead but it came undone with the Tigers equalising in the 85th minute to send the match to a penalty shootout.
Saints goalkeeper Mitch Clarke converted his penalty and saved another but it wasn’t enough to life his side over the Tigers who won the shootout 6-5, eliminating Saints from the national competition.
Sinclair said the Saints took a lot out of the match, with players performing above their expectations.
“There were real positive signs for Saints with several key players missing from the team on the day and we still went very close,” he said.
“Junior’s Kurtis Smith and Dimik Pilbeam showed their quality. It was also the first-grade debut for Caleb Foran who threw everything into his time on the field losing his jumper in the process.”
Saints now plan to play at least one more trial game and then get ready for the first round home game against Port United on Saturday April 22.