Rovers are closing in
By MARK ROBINSON
DEPENDING on other results, Richmond Rovers could secure the minor premiership in Football FNC Premier League today if they win their away clash against a desperate Italo Stars at Barrow Lane.
Wrapping up the title four weeks early would allow Rovers plenty of time to prepare for the 2semis 1and a possible premiership double, something that surprisingly the big Lismore club has achieved only twice, way back in 1986 and before that in 1975.
Rovers have put themselves in a position to do it with their consistency, losing just one game under young player-coach Tim Sheridan.
Sheridan has used himself judiciously off the bench in crucial games, but is unlikely to make any more cameos after injuring ankle ligaments.
He will be joined on the sideline by in-form midfielder Aaron Heffernan after yellow cards caught up with him in their 3-1 win over Maclean last weekend.
But with an otherwise full-strength line-up led by deadly finishers Troy Matthews and Matthew Olley, Rovers will go in as favourites against a Stars side that has fallen into a slump.
Since Stars hit the top of the ladder a month ago, three straight losses have turned thoughts of premiership success into plans for 2semi-final 1survival.
With key players such as Wayne Mortimer, Rick Austen, Bill Latimer and Jeremy Pollard all doubtful starters or carrying niggling injuries if they do, it looms as a massive test for Stars.
"We've missed so many opportunities to score in the past three games it's ridiculous," coach Darren Cormick said. "It's time to up the intensity and show some passion." Rams back in form COASTAL rivals Byron Bay and Ballina will meet on neutral turf at Oakes Oval, Lismore, today and with both at full strength for the first time in six weeks it should produce a hotly-contested match.
Third-placed Byron Bay has bounced back from its mid-season slump with two wins and will go in as favourites, but Ballina will be trying to keep alive its faint semi hopes and has the potential to upset the defending premiers.
The Rams won their first encounter 3-1 and coach Peter Ware is looking to build some momentum leading into the semis, while his Ballina counterpart Dwayne Smith faces a simple equation.
"Draws are no good to us; we have to win all four of our remaining games to be any chance of the semis so we won't be sitting back to defend," Smith said.
Their last start was a 4-1 loss to Maclean, but Ballina haven't lost two in a row all season.
The return of goalkeeper Lucas Wagland and defenders Dane Seymore and Phil Emery will stiffen up a defence that conceded four goals to the Bobcats.
With Josh Jackson and Chris Schomberg also back, the Seahorses have more attacking options.
But with the Rams boasting quality players such as Aaron Richter-Steers, Shaun Packham, Bruce Morhaus and Kai Connell, along with a strong bench, their depth should prove the difference. Lennox favoured LENNOX Head has a great chance to get back into the top five when the Sharks travel to Burringbar to take on a Bandits side already confirmed as the first to be relegated.
The Sharks will take a full squad except for lively midfielder Mario Tinning, who has a week on the sidelines after a yellow card in their last start, a well-constructed 2-0 away win over Italo Stars.
Lennox showed some of their best form of the season in that win and with the Bandits playing for pride alone, it would be a major upset if they managed to disrupt the Sharks' semi-final plans.
Lennox won their first encounter 3-1 and coach Mark Ambler sees the game as a stepping stone.
"This is a big chance to consolidate our position and continue to try to improve our game for the business end of the season," he said. Bobcats hungry SECOND-placed Maclean lost for the first time on home soil to premiership favourites Rovers last weekend, leaving the Bobcats determined to get back to their winning ways at home when they host Lismore Workers today.
Maclean are expected to be at full strength, apart from defender Michael Piccoli, who was sent off against Rovers, and will be raging favourites against the Redmen, whose relegation will be confirmed if they lose this one.
The motivation for the Bobcats is a home semi if they hold on to second and their experienced squad should have little trouble getting their home record back on track. Andrews heads list WITH no points to be revealed over the final four weeks of competition, tension is rising before the Far North Coast men's and women's Player of the Year awards are announced at the annual presentation dinner on September 1.
In the men's award, 2006 winner Ben Andrews could still make it consecutive titles, despite being out for the rest of the season with a broken arm. The Goonellabah star has already missed two games and has a six-point buffer.
Meanwhile, the 2006 winner Martene Wallace is closing in on consecutive women's awards. Men: 20 Ben Andrews (Goonellabah) 14 Troy Matthews (Richmond Rovers) 13 Mario Tinning (Lennox Head) 12 Ben Casagrande (Richmond Rovers), Joel Rudgley (Bangalow) 11 Wayne Mortimer (Italo Stars), Jordy Campbell (Byron Bay) 10 Kevin Crofton (Maclean)
Women: 20 Martene Wallace (Lennox Head) 16 Gypsy Hechtl (Lismore Workers) 13 Rose Argent (Byron Bay), Abigail Allardyce (Lennox Head) 12 Christie Hopley (Byron Bay) 10 Samantha Walsh (Tumbulgum)