Ballina pulls off Anzac ambush
By MARK ROBINSON
THIRTY-TWO years is a long time to wait.
But it made the celebrations all the sweeter for Ballina after breaking through for their first major trophy with a 2-1 win over Goonellabah in the Soccer Far North Coast Anzac Cup final replay at Oakes Oval, Lismore, on Wednesday night.
While success in the now-defunct Tursa Cup mid-week competition last year put some silverware in a previously bare Ballina trophy cabinet, it was one of the recognised major titles they really wanted ? a premiership or an Anzac Cup.
And now, thanks to the passion and commitment shown by the players on Wednesday night, the dream has been fulfilled.
Right from the outset, Ballina showed their hunger to win and their skills with a stunningly simple goal to Troy Percival after just three minutes.
Adam Izzard set up the goal, bringing down a long pass wide in the box before beating his marker with a clever dummy and putting an accurate cross into the path of an unmarked Percival to tap in from close range.
While Goonellabah were caught napping by the early goal, they soon began to create chances and should have equalised when awarded a penalty after 28 minutes.
But in-form Ballina goalkeeper Wade Spencer pulled of a diving save to deny Matthew Olley and went on to make several more vital saves in another sensational performance.
Izzard created a good chance to double the lead for Ballina just before the break, but put his shot wide to leave it 1-0 at half-time.
Early in the second half Christian Watson also had an opportunity to put the game out of Goonellabah's reach, but his header rattled off the cross-bar.
At the other end, Matthew Olley came agonisingly close to making up for his missed penalty, but his close-range effort deflected off 'keeper Spencer and trickled centimetres wide of the far post.
The decisive moment came when Ballina midfielder Cerys Hawkins stabbed in their second goal through a crowded box, triggering wild celebrations among his team-mates.
A late goal from Ben Andrews gave Goonellabah some hope in the dying minutes, but Ballina was not going to let the Hornets steal their glory and hung on for their historic win.