Play-off clash for vacancy
By MARK ROBINSON TAKE a large slice of history, add a generous dose of controversy and mix it with one of the traditional giants of Football FNC's Premier League and the result is Lismore Workers momentous showdown with first division side South Lismore at Weston Park, Goonellabah, tonight at 7pm.
The two clubs will become the first to contest a play-off match to fill a vacancy in the premier league, created by strict new geographic FFA regulations that have forced Maclean to move to the Coffs Harbour-based North Coast association next season. ]
Despite a long and proud history that can be traced back more than 50 years through their former guise as Eastwood, Workers finished the premier league season in the relegation zone on Saturday and their only hope of ma-intaining their unbroken record in the top ranks is through the play-offs.
FFNC called for nominations to fill the gap and initially Workers clash was one of two matches set down for tonight, with first division rivals Alstonville and Tweed Heads nominating to contest the other, before the two winners play off next Tuesday.
But the sudden withdrawal of Tweed Heads has gifted Alstonville a forfeit, leaving Workers facing the prospect of having to beat two clubs ranked fourth and sixth in first division to stay in the premiers.
The top two first division sides, Pottsville and Thistles, have already earned automatic promotion, with third-placed Tweed Heads claiming an 'inability to field a competitive side on Tuesday night' for dropping out of contention.
FFNC General Manager Matthew Kelso was left in damage control by the short notice.
"It's a very disappointing decision from Tweed Heads and we're not happy about it," he said.
"But nominations were called for, the draw has been scheduled and we can't suddenly change things now."
On paper, Workers should be able to beat a South Lismore side that failed to even reach the first division semis, but the Redmen played a tough 1-1 draw in heavy conditions against Goonellabah just three days ago, without resting any key players.
In contrast, Souths' young and enthusiastic squad will be fresh after not playing on the weekend and after years of battling in the second tier, will relish the chance to force their way back into the top ranks through the back door.
While Workers have won numerous premiership titles over the decades and only three years ago won their last premier league grand final, tonight the Redmen sit just 90 nervous minutes away from losing their seemingly perennial place in the premiers.