Sting in the tail
By MARK ROBINSON
GOONELLABAH has regained the lead in Far North Coast Tursa Premier League soccer after a heart-stopping 4-3 win over Lismore Workers in one of the most thrilling games of the season at Richards Oval, Lismore, on Saturday.
Former leader Byron Bay had its home clash with Richmond Rovers washed out and will have the chance to recapture the lead when the match is played, either later this week or early next week.
In the meantime, the Hornets have the points on the board and are inching closer to their first minor premiership since 1998.
Goonellabah had to come from behind against Workers after the Redmen opened the scoring through Anthony Alvos early.
A sublime through-ball from Zac Crowley allowed Alvos to get behind the Hornets' defence and unleash a stinging volley for Workers' first.
The first half ended with a flurry of goals, started by Hornets flanker Jack Williamson.
Using his pace and close control, Williamson carried the ball wide into the Workers box and unleashed an audacious, angled chip that floated over goalkeeper Rhys Evans into the net.
Soon after a free kick allowed Will Marwick to drill a low shot that was only parried away by Evans, allowing the alert Ben Andrews to pounce on the loose ball and score the Hornets' second.
With Workers playing for semi-final survival, they had to keep on the attack and did so, equalising through a close-range finish from Jake McDonald.
But in the dying minutes before half-time, Goonellabah again took the lead via the deadly combination of Ben Andrews and Peter O'Neill.
Andrews chased down a long ball most players would have written off, beating the 'keeper and a defender to the ball close to the goal-line and then unselfishly laying off a square ball for an unmarked O'Neill to hit home.
Trailing 2-3 at the break, Workers came out fired up for the second half, but twice were denied penalty appeals.
Goonellabah then looked to have wrapped up the game when Andrews again burst down the flank and crossed to Williamson for his second goal, giving them a 4-2 lead.
Still Workers refused to concede and hit back with a goal from Sam Fernanado to set up a grandstand finish at 4-3, but Goonella-bah hung on.
To complete what would be a dream return to the premier league this season, the Hornets now need wins in their final two games against Maclean and Ballina, while hoping Byron Bay falter, to claim the minor premiership.
Workers face a more desperate situation after dropping out of the top five.
But they could recover with a win over Bangalow tonight and a good result against Rovers next Saturday.
Stars pinch point
ITALO Stars have sneaked back into the top five after taking a point from a hard-fought 1-all draw with Ballina on a sodden Saunders Park.
Stars conceded an early goal to Ballina striker Adam Izzard from a mis-kicked goal-kick, but went on to create several chances.
Wayne Mortimer scored the equaliser for Stars midway through the second half with a deflected 20-metre shot, but they were denied a late winner by some good goalkeeping from Lucas Wagland.
The draw leaves Ballina still in third place but almost certainly ends their minor premiership hopes, while Stars creep into fifth place, one point ahead of Workers.
Ready for the drop
EITHER Bangalow or Casino will be relegated following their final- round clash next week, after both lost at Oakes Oval on Saturday.
Bangalow went down 3-0 to Maclean, while the Cobras went down 4-1 to Lismore Thistles in the relegation double-header.
Bangalow played well in patches, but couldn't match the Bobcats' finishing in front of goals, with Aaron Bylos scoring twice by half-time and Kevin Crofton netting their third after the break.
Bylos, Matt Bryant and Kyle Sutton led the way for Maclean, which brought only 20 players for the two games.
They also won reserves 6-3.
While out of contention for the semis, Maclean can still have a major influence on the top-five rankings in its final two games against Goonellabah tomorrow night and Stars next Saturday.
Bangalow now face the prospect of needing an upset win over Workers in their home clash with the Redmen tonight to avoid a relegation derby against Casino next Saturday.
Casino conceded goals to Darren Beardow, Anthony Nind, Matt Parish and James Hay in their 4-1 loss to the Blues, with the Cobras' only goal coming from a deflected goal-mouth scramble.
Premier division: Goonellabah 4 d Workers 3, Ballina 1 drew with Italo Stars 1, Thistles 4 d Casino 1, Maclean 3 d Bangalow 0.
Premier reserve: Italo Stars 2 d Ballina 0, Goonellabah 3 d Workers 1, Maclean 6 d Bangalow 3, Casino 3 d Thistles 2.
First division: SCU 2 d Nimbin Headers 1.
First reserve: SCU 6 d Nimbin Headers 2.
Second division: Ballina 3 d Italo Stars 0, Goonellabah 3 d Workers 2.
Third division: Goonellabah 3 d SCU 2.
Fourth division: Goonellabah 3 d Thistles 2.