Rams fade again in 3-all draw
By MARK ROBINSON
BYRON BAY's mid-season stutter is threatening to derail the premiers' hopes of consecutive titles in the Football FNC Premier League after the Rams threw away a 3-1 lead to end up grimly hanging on for a 3-all draw with Goonellabah at the Bay on Saturday.
For the fourth week in a row the Rams led at half-time but failed to come away with a win and, after leading the comp three weeks ago, they have now slipped to third, four points off the pace.
As they have done so often this season, the Rams got away to a flying start with two goals in the opening 10 minutes.
Jonathan Pierce got behind the Hornets' defence to cross for Jordy Campbell to score after just two minutes, followed by a far-post header from Patrick L'Orange.
A free kick for the Hornets gave Adam Barnes the chance to drift forward and nod in their opening goal, but Byron Bay responded with some good build-up, setting up Jordy Campbell to complete a brace by half-time with a low drive.
Rams goalkeeper Kai Connell pulled off a penalty save from Ben Andrews to preserve their 3-1 half-time lead, but in the trend of recent weeks, it all fell apart in the second half.
The combination of Andrews and O'Neil caused plenty of problems for a Rams defence missing Aaron Richter-Steers and when O'Neil headed in an Andrews cross it was game on at 3-2.
The pair combined again for the equaliser, a 40m cross-field ball from O'Neil finding Andrews in space to produce a stunning first-time volley into the far corner, described by coach Brendan Logan as 'the best goal I've seen in this league'.
With the Rams losing stand-in central defender Matt Kelso and flanker John Bradbury to injury, they began to look vulnerable at the back in the closing stages and Goonellabah created two clear-cut chances that should have given them the game, but instead hit the woodwork.
Bobcats shoot down Stars ITALO Stars have surrendered top spot to Richmond Rovers after a 2-1 home loss to a fired-up Maclean at Barrow Lane, North Lismore, on Saturday night.
The result continued the Bobcats' good record at Barrow Lane and breathed new life into their season, lifting them to fourth.
Seasoned midfielders Kevin Crofton and Aaron Bylos were instrumental in the win, defending with gusto and combining well in attack to score both goals.
Crofton scored the opener with a typical 30m dipping drive that caught Stars 'keeper Trent Battistuzzi off his line, giving the Bobcats the edge at half-time.
Stars equalised from a classic example of counter-attacking play that came after they repelled a Mac-lean free kick just outside Stars box and was completed at the other end by Brenton Mumford.
With both sides in search of a winner the game opened up with chances at both ends, but it was Bylos who swung the game Maclean's way, being first to react to a loose ball in the Stars box to hit a sliding shot into the net.
Bangalow toughs it out BANGALOW has all but assured its future in the premier league for at least another season after grinding out a 2-1 away win over a lacklustre Lennox Head.
Ricky Small took only 15 minutes to celebrate his return to the Bluedogs camp with the opening goal, a diving header from a Carlos Argent cross.
Bangalow doubled their lead soon after when Aaryn Fresche used his strength in the box to shrug off his marker and drive a shot into the top corner.
The Sharks clawed one goal back with a penalty to Paul Kirkland just before the break, but the second half degenerated into a scrappy affair as both sides became desperate and panicky in defence. Ricky Small had a strong game in the unaccustomed role of striker, with good support from midfielders Sebastian Bell, Joel Rudgley and Carlos Argent, leaving coach Damon Bell buoyant.
Best for the Sharks were midfielders Rod Mallum and Peter Edwards, but the loss drops them to fifth.
Ballina's three-goal blitz THREE goals in a seven-minute purple patch midway through the second half was enough to deliver a 4-2 home win for Ballina in their clash with relegation favourites Lismore Workers.
Workers looked on track for an upset and took a 1-0 lead into the break thanks to a goal from Josh Law.
But midfield general Anthony Alvos succumbed to a groin injury and the Redmen sorely missed his organisation in the middle of the paddock.
The Seahorses' three-goal blitz began with Cerys Hawkins, before a penalty from Tyson Price and the third from Max Gurocah.
Workers hit back with a well-taken goal to Mick Oaten, but Hawkins' second sealed Ballina's win.
Just too easy for Rovers RICHMOND Rovers have returned to the top of the ladder after cruising to a 7-1 win over an outclassed Burringbar at Oakes Oval, Lismore.
The procession of goals began soon after the opening whistle with Troy Matthews (two), Ben Casagrande (two), Ian McGregor, Matthew Olley and Aaron Heffernan all getting on the scoresheet.