Rams, Stars impressive
By MARK ROBINSON BYRON BAY and Italo Stars showed just why they are two of the leading contenders for premiership honours in the Football FNC Premier League this season, producing a fast-paced, high-intensity 1-all draw at Barrow Lane, North Lismore, on Saturday.
In a match full of cut and thrust, both sides displayed plenty of flair and enterprise. The scoreline could easily have blown out if not for some fine saves from goalkeepers Kai Connell (Byron Bay) and Dallas Guthrie (Stars).
Stars opened the scoring with a well-taken goal from livewire striker Brenton Mumford, who slotted a low shot past Connell midway through the first half. Stars?? pace and combinations threatened a Rams defence missing the talismanic Aaron Richter-Steers, but the defending premiers regrouped at half-time and equalised soon after.
Jonathan Pierce was consistently finding space on the right flank and when a Tom Ryzac ball put him behind Stars?? defence, he made no mistake with a well-controlled shot on the run.
Lively Stars midfielder Billy Latimer used his pace and guile to get on the end of a couple of good chances, but was denied by some fine saves from Connell, while Pierce continued to look dangerous for the Rams right to the end of an engrossing battle.
??We lost this same game last year and it??s always a tough, physical match at Stars, so we??re happy to come away with a point,?? Byron Bay coach Peter Ware said.
Shaun Packham did a good job filling in for Richter-Steers in the last line of defence and midfielder Tom Ryzac defied injury to play a key role for the Rams, while Stars?? best were Mumford, Wayne Mortimer and Billy Latimer in attack, with Rick Austen as solid as ever in defence.
The draw leaves Stars sharing second place with Lennox Head, with the Rams just a point behind.
Bandits run riot NEWLY-PROMOTED Burringbar was due for its first win, but few would have predicted it would come with such a devastating scoreline, as the Bandits smashed seven unanswered goals past a disspirited Lismore Workers at Burringbar on Saturday.
Josh Chapman scored the opening goal for the Bandits, before a penalty gave Steve Nolan their second and reduced the Redmen to 10 men, with Dauwn Hoare given his marching orders for a heavy tackle.
The second half turned into a procession of goals for Burringbar strikers Simon Hurcombe and Joel Davidson, with Hurcombe bagging a hat-trick and Davidson scoring two.
??It??s very satisfying to get our first win with such a big score, but we??re not going to get carried away by it; we still have a lot of hard work ahead of us,?? Bandits coach Grant Wilkins said.
The 7-0 scoreline is Workers?? biggest loss in their long premier league history, leaving the Redmen still without a point and isolated on the bottom of the ladder.
The prospect of relegation for the first time in the club??s history is suddenly a realistic possibility, leaving the players and coach Pedro Bezzera with a challenge they had hoped to avoid.
Lennox in 2-all draw BOTH sides led at different stages of the match, but in the end a 2-all draw was probably a fair outcome for Maclean and Lennox Head in their clash on the Clarence on Saturday.
The Sharks had the better of the first half an hour and took the lead when Adrian Zakaras crossed for Troy Percival to finish from close range, but just before the break Michael Piccoli blasted a 25-metre volley through a crowded box for the Bobcats?? equaliser.
Piccoli was again involved in their second goal soon after the restart, his through ball releasing striker Grant Nielson for a clinical, near-post finish.
But within three minutes Lennox Head had hit back, Adrian Zakaras on hand to tap in the scraps after a spinning ball was spilled by Bobcats ??keeper Graeme Courte.
Both sides were frustrated by clear-cut chances to win the game that went untaken, leaving the points shared.
Sharks defender Josh Campbell stood out in his first game back from injury, with Mike Raeburn and Troy Percival also putting in strong showings, while Piccoli and Travis Armstrong were the Bobcats?? best.
??We wasted the opportunity to wrap up the game early on and that cost us, as we dropped our intensity and concentration in the second half,?? Sharks coach Mark Ambler said.
Rovers?? fourth win RICHMOND Rovers have establish-ed a four-point buffer on top of the ladder after another comfortable win, this time downing Bangalow 4-1 on the Bluedogs?? home turf.
Rovers have capitalised on their relatively soft draw to open the season by notching four wins from four games, giving them their best start in many years and raising hopes for their first minor premiership since 2004.
Bangalow managed to hold Rovers scoreless for the first half, but had to replace several players at the break including hard-working midfielder Tom Inoue and simply didn??t have the depth to keep up with a free-running Rovers in the second half.
Rovers used the width of the wide Bangalow pitch well to put together one of their best performances of the year, with striker Troy Matthews having an outstanding game, bagging two goals.
Flanker Ben Casagrande also capped a strong game with a goal, while Russell Dent scored their fourth.
Bangalow??s solitary goal came from striker Aryan Frereisch on his return to the side, but the Bluedogs?? lack of depth is already starting to bite.
Hornets break ice A RELIEVED Goonellabah broke the ice for its first win after grinding out a tight 2-1 victory over a spirited Ballina at Oakes Oval, Lismore, on Saturday.
The Hornets played a patient game and held their shape well in the first half. They were rewarded with goals from Dave Arnett and John Eakin, but lost their concentration after the break as Ballina upped their intensity.
The seasiders clawed a goal back when a soft throw-out from young ??keeper Craig Attewell fell to Tyson Price, who beat two defenders before hitting a curling finish to the far post.
The goal spurred Ballina on and they almost equalised when a shot from Chris Schomberg hit the cross-bar, but Goonellabah managed to hang on to their lead for a less-than-convincing win.
??We showed what we??re capable of during the first half, but we didn??t respond well to the pressure Ballina put us under in the second and we need to work on that,?? coach Brendan Logan said.
New signing Kale Hopper was the Hornets?? stand-out player and the tenacious midfielder looks set to become an integral part of their line-up, while for Ballina goalkeeper Lucas Wagland was back to his best and Clint Colless did a good job organising the Seahorses?? defence.
In a nutshell Premier Division: Byron Bay 1 drew with Italo Stars 1, Burringbar 7 d Workers 0, Lennox Head 2 drew with Maclean 2, Richmond Rovers 4 d Bangalow 1, Goonellabah 2 Def Ballina 1.
Premier Division points: Richmond Rovers 12,?? Italo ??Stars 8, Lennox Head 8, Byron Bay 7, Ballina 6, Maclean 5, Bangalow 4, Burringbar 3, Goonellabah 3, Workers 0.
Premier reserve division: Byron Bay 1 d Italo Stars 0, Workers 1 drew with Burringbar 1, Lennox Head 1 d Maclean 0, Richmond Rovers 2 d Bangalow 0, Ballina 2 d Goonellabah 0.
First division: Alstonville 1 drew with South Lismore 1, Tumbulgum 5 d Woodburn 2, Thistles 3 d Pottsville 0, Tweed Heads 5 d Uki 1, Casino 1 d Murwillumbah 0.