Unconvincing Rovers add Cup to trophy cabinet
The Ballina Seahorses played out of their skin on Friday night in the final of the Anzac Cup, producing a stirring and unheralded performance against the highly rated Rovers. Sadly for the men in sky blue they lost the decider in one of the longest penalty shoot outs in Football Far North Coasts living memory, 9-8, after the teams remained locked at 3-3 after extra time.
Rovers went into the game unbackable favourites but emerged from the game looking far from the invincible unit the pundits thought them to be.
The first half was a tight affair where close marking produced two clear appeals for a penalty at either end but both were turned down by referee Glen Gibbs.
Rovers did manage to sneak ahead before the first break, when a free kick from the edge of the box deflected back to Russell Dent, who laid off a square ball for big Tim Sheridan to drive a long low shot through a crowded box past a sprawling Lucas Wagland.
Although Sheridans shot proved the difference at half time his lethargic workup front undermined Rovers attacks andthe regular loss of possession proved vital early in the second term.
Ballina played inspired football after the break, scoring twice in quick succession, one to Phil Emery and the other to Troy Percival as Ballina suddenly sprang to a 2-1 lead.
Troy Matthew championed the Rovers comeback, setting up a tap in for Andrew Gray to equalise. However, Ballina werent to be put off so easily and they struck back quickly when Adam Izzard put away a cross from Percival to go ahead 3-2.
Behind again, Rovers fell back on the irrepressible Matthews, who pounced on a parried free kick to draw the teams level again at 3-3.
By this stage the teams were dead on their feet and the 20 minutes of extra time produced few chances as Rovers rested Matthews so he would be fresh for the shoot out.
The eventual win, after the exceedingly long shoot out, gave Rovers the only trophy not already in their possession, the Anzac Cup, but it left young Rovers coach Scott Coster looking harrowed.
Ill have pulled all my hair out by the end of the year, he said as he left the field after the presentation.