Trio sew up semi-final berths
Lismore Workers, Ballina and Bangalow are all but assured of semi-final berths in Soccer FNC's Anzac Cup, after backing up first-round wins with victories in their second leg encounters on Friday night.
Workers downed Italo Stars 3-0 with another ominous performance at Barrow Lane, while Ballina escaped with a 3-2 win over a dangerous Goonellabah at Weston Park, but Bangalow continues to look the dark horse after a 3-1 away win over Casino.
Workers and Stars produced an entertaining clash, but Workers' greater intensity and superior finishing proved the difference in their 3-0 win.
Lucas MacPherson capped a strong game with two goals, one a solo burst from half way, while Damien Keevers blasted in a 22m free kick for their third.
On early form the major premiers are firming as favourites to win their first Anzac Cup since 2001.
Ballina and Goonellabah produced an incredible opening to their match, with three goals in the first five minutes.
Ballina striker Troy Percival was felled in the Hornets box within 30 seconds of the start, allowing Daniel Haigh to slot in the ensuing penalty.
But Goonellabah ignored the early setback and stunned the seasiders with two goals within four minutes from Brett Anderson and Adam Holmes. Ballina equalised through Adam Izzard late in the half, and despite absorbing a lot of pressure in the second half, found a winning goal when a Danny Vincent corner was scrambled over the line by Clint Colless.
Bangalow had to withstand a strong start from Casino in their clash at Colley Park, but goals from strikers Brent Hosking and Aryan Frereisch late in the first half took the sting out of the Cobras.
Joel Rudgley made it 3-0 for the Bluedogs early in the second session, before a late consolation goal for Casino. Bangalow coach Peter Rologas praised central midfielder Iko Yamaguchi and defender Glen Hanigan for their roles in the win, but still sees plenty of room for improvement.
Two games were played yesterday, with Richmond Rovers edging Maclean 2-1 at Woodburn and Byron Bay downing Thistles 3-0 at the Bay.
Maclean conceded an own goal to Rovers before Nick Casagrande doubled their lead by half-time with a strong run and hit from the edge of the box.
Maclean striker Grant Nielson clawed one back with a second-half penalty, but the Bobcats were left to rue a missed penalty.
Byron Bay's goals came from Tim Bird, Tom Ruhl and Adam Bostock in their win over the Blues, but the reigning Cup-holders still need a win over form side Workers in their final pool game to reach the semis.