Alstonville and Thistles start the soccer season with wins

ALSTONVILLE and Lismore Thistles showed plenty of promise in starting their soccer seasons with good wins in the opening round of the FFA Cup on Friday night.

Alstonville travelled to Skennars Head and returned with a hard fought 3-1 win over Lennox Head, while Thistles racked up a comfortable 3-0 home win over Ballina.

Villa took some time to settle against the Sharks, who started well and opened the scoring midway through the first half with a free kick.

Two new signings combined for the goal, with Ihsan Sauran delivering a dangerous ball that allowed striker Aryan Feresch to put pressure on the goalkeeper and bundle the ball over the line.

Unfortunately for the Sharks, the goal only served to spark Villa and they responded with three quick goals.

New signings again were in the thick of the action, starting with former Thistles player Jacob Arthur, who lobbed a well-judged header from a Joel Organ cross to score on debut for his new club.

Former Bangalow striker Reece Brambly also found the net in his first start with Villa, before busy midfielder Phil Francis dribbled through the defence to score the third.

A tight second half remained scoreless, leaving Villa coach Mark Ambler more than happy with their first outing of the season.

"It was a fantastic way to start the year against a Lennox side that will be very competitive this year," Ambler said.

Strong showings from Arthur up front and midfielders Joel Perkins and Francis highlighted a strong team performance from Villa, which looks like it could be even stronger than last year when it reached the semis for the first time.

Thistles could easily have scored more goals in their 3-0 home win over a rebuilding Ballina.

But goals from strikers Matt Armstrong, Nathan McCann and Jake Nind proved enough.

Wide defenders Zac Wilson and Jeremy Sullivan created plenty of space with overlapping runs, while central defenders Max Hospers and Matt Cramp also looked solid.

"Our ball retention was pretty good and we created plenty of chances that went untaken, so overall I was happy with the effort," Blues coach Rod Lees said.

"But Ballina showed plenty of heart and never stopped trying."

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