Cup finalists still undefeated
GOONELLABAH and Ballina continue to set the pace in Far North Coast Tursa Premier League soccer, with the Anzac Cup finalists extending their unbeaten records on Saturday.
Despite backing up after the gruelling Cup final replay on Wednesday night, both sides resumed their premiership campaigns where they left off by producing hard-fought wins over tough opposition.
The Hornets were tested to the limit in a fast-paced home encounter with Byron Bay but came out on top 3-1, while the seasiders edged out a dangerous Lismore Thistles 1-0 at Saunders Park, Ballina.
Goonellabah and Byron Bay produced a thrilling, non-stop, end-to-end succession of chances that could have resulted in a much higher scoreline if not for some wayward last shots and good keeping from the Rams' Kai Connell and the Hornets' Brett Chaplin.
Despite the litany of chances to both sides, the scoreline remained untouched until 10 minutes into the second half, when Goonellabah striker Ben Andrews used his pace to burst into space on the left flank.
His curling pass forward split the defence and fell perfectly into the path of striking partner Peter O'Neill, who finished with a clinical first time strike.
The Rams responded with a goal from Bruce Morhaus following a corner and had another controversially disallowed, but began to tire in the closing stages, allowing the Hornets to take control.
O'Neill scored his second with a spectacular high lob over the advancing goalkeeper, before sub Tom Duncan found space at the far post following a corner to hit home a deflected shot for the Hornets' third.
Ballina got the better of the Blues thanks to goal from Brendan Davis late in the first half, but had to withstand a big finish from a 10-man Thistles to clinch the points.
The Blues had defender Anthony Nind dismissed for two yellow cards midway through the second half, but still managed to cause the seasiders some worrying moments.
Stopper Dane Seymore and midfielder Cerys Hawkins had strong games for Ballina, along with striker Troy Percival, despite being a target for the Blues defence.
The return of talented young striker Joel Gosper helped Lismore Workers rediscover their scoring touch in a 3-0 home win over Casino.
After a stint with Palm Beach in the XXXX League, Gosper looked sharp and struck up an immediate understanding with striking partner Steve Morrissey.
After just five minutes a clever interchange of passes led to the opening goal for Morrissey and he scored again before the break, heading in a far post cross from perennial playmaker Anthony Alvos.
Gosper capped his fine return with a spectacular diving header for their third goal, again from an Anthony Alvos cross.
"It was good to return to form after two poor games and Joel certainly made a difference up front," Workers coach Kevin Keevers said.
"It's the first time our two strikers have both scored in a game."
Richmond Rovers returned to their best form with a 6-1 demolition of Maclean at Bill Harris Field, East Lismore, on Saturday.
The minor premiers posed for their team picture with the Northern Premiers Cup before the match and then proceeded to play like a side worthy of the title, unleashing an unstoppable assault on the Bobcats.
Rovers broke in numbers when attacking and at times during the second half streamed forward almost at will through a fragile Maclean defence.
All their goals were well taken with Brett Lane, Russell Dent (two), Ian McGregor, Adam Gray and sub Chris Simmons sharing the spoils.
Kevin Crofton scored the Bobcats' consolation goal, but their timid performance was a stunning reversal in form from a side that gave major premiers Workers a 5-1 lesson the previous week.
A late goal from Jeremy Pollard allowed Italo Stars to survive a serious scare from Bangalow in their 3-2 win at Schultz Oval, Bangalow, on Saturday.
Two goals from marksman Wayne Mortimer had Stars cruising towards a comfortable win, before the Bluedogs fought back with two quick goals late in the game from Sathis Sthapit and Brent Hosking.
Pollard saved Stars blushes when he pounced on a loose ball in the box after Bangalow failed to clear from a corner, hitting the winning shot off the 'keeper, before it dribbled over the line.
The result keeps Stars within three points of the leaders, but leaves Bangalow languishing on the bottom of the ladder without a point.
But if the Bluedogs continue to play with the same spirit, it wont be long before they upset one of the high-flyers.