Alstonville’s Kurt Stephens jumps for a header in the premier league game against Rovers on Saturday. Rovers won 2-0.
Alstonville’s Kurt Stephens jumps for a header in the premier league game against Rovers on Saturday. Rovers won 2-0. DAVID NIELSEN

Rovers win minor premiership

IN a final round of Far North Coast premier league soccer full of drama and controversy, Richmond Rovers have won a third consecutive minor premiership, Lennox Head has been relegated and Lismore Workers have scraped into the semi-finals at the expense of Ballina with a bizarre forfeit.

It was always going to be a dramatic final round, with the premiership and the last semi-final berth still undecided and four sides entangled in the relegation battle, but no-one could have predicted the curious course of events that unfolded.

While Rovers' premiership-winning 2-0 home win over Alstonville came as no surprise, what was happening in the vital clash between Workers and Lennox Head was extraordinary.

Workers were on home turf at Richards Oval and went into the game needing a win to protect fifth place from Ballina, while last-placed Lennox had to win or draw to have any chance of avoiding the cut.

But when the Sharks' reserve side arrived without a strip to start in, they were given the usual 15 minutes' grace.

About 30 minutes later their uniforms arrived, but the game was declared a forfeit by the referee and the two reserve sides played a friendly.

Unfortunately for Lennox Head, the rules state that any side that forfeits a reserve grade game must also forfeit the premier game.

“We were made aware of the situation before the game that technically it was a forfeit, but that we should still play the game and then wait for a final decision from Football FNC, so we went into it thinking we could still be playing for survival in the league,” Lennox coach Paul Kirkland said.

The match resulted in a 1-all draw, with Andrew Lundie scoring for the Sharks early in the second half before a hotly disputed late penalty allowed the Redmen to escape with a 1-all draw.

Had the draw stood, Ballina would have snatched fifth place from Workers on goal difference after they smash-ed Byron Bay 6-0 at Saunders Park.

FFNC quickly convened after the incident and confirmed the game as a forfeit, but an appeal from Lennox Head appears likely.

“Even though the draw wouldn't have saved us from relegation, we are still going to appeal the decision on principal; we feel it's just not a fair outcome,” Kirkland said.

While Lennox have nothing to gain from the appeal but a sense of upholding a principal, Ballina have a lot more at stake, with their coach Troy Percival obviously supportive.

“Under the rules we are not allowed to appeal as Ballina was not involved in the game and we accept that, but as we understand it the game was played as normal and the result should stand,” Percival said.

The bizarre scenario will be all the more frustrating for Percival and his Ballina teammates after their stunning 6-0 win over third-placed Byron Bay.

After drawing all eight of their previous home games, the Seahorses broke their drought in style with Matt Jeffery and Tyson Price each scoring twice and Adam Izzard and Ben Coulter also finding the net in their biggest win of the season.

In a tough, physical contest, both sides had a player sent off in the second half, with the Rams' Ian Lennie dismissed for a heavy tackle on Percival, who was also marched for retaliation.

The irony was not lost on Percival.

“It's a performance that's been coming for a long time, the boys just clicked, but it looks like it will be our last match,” he said.

FFNC general manager Steve Mackney has been a busy man fielding inquires about the circumstances of the unusual forfeit and will look at any appeal through the normal channels.

“Any appeal is first considered by the competition administrator, which is myself, before any further action is taken,” he said.

“So if Lennox do appeal, the basis of that appeal will be closely looked at.”

Half-way there

RICHMOND Rovers are half-way to a ground-breaking third consecutive premiership double after wrapping up the minor premiership with a 2-0 home win over a dogged Alstonville.

Villa made the prem-iers work hard for the win, but conceded an own goal in the first half, before Troy Matthews slipped through several defenders to set up Russell Dent for their second goal 15 minutes from time.

Rovers' defence has been the platform of their success all season and had to withstand periods of pressure from a spirited Alstonville.

But again they kept a clean sheet to finish the premiership rounds with just nine goals conceded in 18 games.

Rovers have now retained their Anzac Cup and minor premiership titles this season, leaving just the major premiership to complete consecutive trebles.

“We haven't finished the job yet,” coach Scott Coster said.

“The club celebrates its 50th anniversary next year and we want all three trophies sitting on the table when we do.”

Rovers will have next week off before playing the winner of the major preliminary semi-final between Goonellabah and Byron Bay for a place in the grand final.

Stars hit form

ITALO STARS will host Workers in the elimination semi after sealing fourth place with a 3-1 home win over Goon-ellabah.

Stars put together a strong first half, with Max Latimer and Brenton Mumford combining to set up Zac Innes for their opening goal, before the Hornets conceded an own goal to trail 2-0 at half-time.

The Hornets pushed men forward after the break and were rewarded when Chris Matthews found the corner of the Stars net with a curling 25m drive.

With Goonellabah pushing hard to equalise they became vulnerable to the counter-attack and when Clint Willoughby burst from defence to combine with Latimer, he capitalised with a stinging drive.

“We've been up and down this year but I think the boys are ready to make an impact in the semis now,” Stars coach John Essex said.

Willoughby was among Stars' best, along with defenders Rick Austen and Craig Wiblen, their unsung hero at the back this year.

Goonellabah remains second and will host Byron Bay in the major preliminary semi.

Two survive

BANGALOW and Thistles dodged the relegation bullet after the Bluedogs came away from Thistles Park with a 2-1 win over the Blues.

A Joel Rudgley penalty gave Bangalow a half-time lead, then they doubled their advantage when a strong wind turned a Cale Johnstone cross into a far post goal.

Thistles hit back with a late , but the Blues ended a disappointing year a just point off the foot of the ladder, while Bangalow jumped to seventh after two wins to finish the season.

FINAL POINTS: Richmond Rovers 42, Goonellabah 37, Byron Bay 33, Italo Stars 30, Workers 28, Ballina 26, Bangalow 15, Alstonville 12, Thistles 12, Lennox Head 11.

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