Fate lands Hornets a cruel blow
By MARK ROBINSON IN A tragic twist of fate, a successful appeal against suspension that allowed Football FNC's Premier League 2006 Player of the Year Ben Andrews to take the field for Goonellabah against Richmond Rovers on Saturday night turned into a nightmare, with Andrews suffering a badly broken right arm.
Andrews' season came to an abrupt end when Rovers 'keeper Andrew Marshall smashed into him at full pace in a sickening collision, just after Andrews had slipped the ball past Marshall into the net for the Hornets' opening goal.
Marshall was extremely lucky to escape with only a yellow card from referee Clive Owen, with the horrendous incident leaving the crowd hushed and casting a pall over the game that overshadowed the eventual result, a 3-2 win for league leader Rovers.
Rovers started well with two quick goals from strikers Matthew Olley and Troy Matthews, before Andrews last touch of the season gave the Hornets their first goal.
Peter O'Neil got behind Rovers defence to equalise as Goonellabah fought back in the second half, but a disputed goal from Troy Matthews late in the match gave Rovers a hard-fought but hollow 3-2 victory.
But few who remember the match will recall the score; the over-riding memory will be of a night of tragedy for one of the best players in the league.
Maclean is keeping the pressure on league leader Richmond Rovers, with the Bobcats' 4-1 home win over Ballina setting up a fascinating clash between the top two sides next Sunday.
A depleted Ballina got away to a good start with Shannon Maciejski latching onto a through ball from Tyson Price to score the opening goal.
But that was as good as it got for the Seahorses, with Grant Nielson finding space in the box to drill a left footer into the top corner for the Bobcats to equalise by half-time.
Maclean slowly wore down the seasiders' resistance in the second session, with goals from Travis Armstrong, a second from Nielson and another from sub Tom Usher extending their unbeaten run to seven games.
Central defenders Michael Piccoli and Gary Carmichael were solid at the back, while flanker Jeremy Walters continued his good form and ageless striker Grant Nielson put in a vintage performance.
Maclean is still five points behind Rovers, but could reduce the margin to two with a home win in their crucial catch-up game with Rovers next Sunday, which will go a long way towards determining the eventual minor premiership winner. Lennox reignited
Lennox Head has re-ignited its semi-final campaign with a confidence-boosting 2-0 away win over a depleted Italo Stars.
The Sharks had the better of a scoreless first half before slotting two quick goals after the break, with the first having a hint of off-side as Mario Tinning cut the ball back from the bye-line for sub Rameesh Kassim to tap in from close range.
But there was no questioning the second, as Troy Percival used his strength on the ball to ward off his marker and stab home a clean finish.
Down 2-0, Stars began to play some of their best football of the match, but it was too little too late and the Sharks ran out deserved winners.
Mike Raeburn and Tinning had big games in midfield for Lennox and which now shares fifth place with Goonellabah, while Stars drop to fourth after their third straight loss and are now out of minor premiership calculations.
The late withdrawal of striker Wayne Mortimer and the absence of Billy Latimer and Troy Williams hurt Stars, who were forced to start an injured Jeremy Pollard with Craig Wiblen picking up an injury early in the piece. Bangalow stay live
Bangalow has kept alive its slim hopes of squeezing into the top five at the expense of Lismore Workers' hopes of avoiding relegation, with a 1-0 home win over the Redmen.
Workers played without the injured Anthony Alvos and while they tried hard, they were out-played by the Bluedogs. The winning goal coming from a Robert Cooper free kick which was headed home by striker Aryan Freriechs midway through the second half.
Interchanging midfielders Ricky Small, Joel Rudgley and Sebastian Bell laid the platform for the win with their high work-rate, lifting the Bluedogs within three points of fifth-placed Goonellabah, who they play next week.
A win over the Hornets would put Bangalow into the semi-final mix, but the future looks bleak for Workers who now need to win their final four games while hoping Ballina lose all four of theirs to scrape past the seasiders and avoid the cut. Bandits relegated
Burringbar will be the first club relegated next season after the Bandits suffered a 3-0 home defeat to Byron Bay.
It's been a brief sortie in the top ranks for the Bandits, who became the the first Tweed club to reach the premier league at the start of the year.
Two goals from Jordy Campbell, who is now the second highest scorer in the league behind Ben Andrews, and another from Aaron Richter Steers ensured the Bandits will have nothing but pride to play for in their remaining four games.
The win lifts the Rams into third place, still with an outside chance of retaining their minor premiership crown.
PREMIER LEAGUE Richmond Rovers 32*, Maclean 27*, Byron Bay 25, Italo Stars 24, Goonellabah 21, Lennox Head 21, Bangalow 18, Ballina 17, Workers 6, Burringbar 4. * One game in hand.
PREMIER DIVISION Maclean 4 d Ballina 1, Lennox Head 2 d Italo Stars 0, Byron Bay 3 d Burringbar 0, Richmond Rovers 3 d Goonellabah 2, Bangalow 1 d Workers 0.