Workers? opening stuns Rovers
LISMORE Workers ended Richmond Rovers' remarkable grand final winning streak with a tenacious 2-1 win over the minor premiers in the Far North Coast TNR premier division soccer decider at Oakes Oval, Lismore, on Saturday night. Rovers boasted a perfect record after winning all nine of their previous grand final appearances, but the Redmen put together a near flawless first half for a 2-0 lead at the break, before resisting a stubborn Rovers fightback in the second, earning their first major premiership title since 1990. Workers made their attacking intentions clear from the outset, hitting the woodwork from a corner in the opening minute. The Redmen settled into their pattern of play quickly and were the more enterprising side early, with striker Steve Morrissey almost opening the scoring with a shot that was deflected over the cross-bar. Rovers looked dangerous when they got the ball forward to striker Matthew Olley, who created a few half-chances, but Workers 'keeper Rhys Evans was solid at the back. Workers' speed down the left flank set up their opening goal after 16 minutes, with Lucas MacPherson driving a near-post shot past Rovers goalkeeper Andrew Marshall. The goal seemed to stun Rovers and before they could regain their composure, they conceded another ? six minutes later. MacPherson was again involved, hitting a far-post cross to Steve Morrissey, who showed great composure to resist shooting himself, instead laying off a perfect ball for his striking partner John Wraight to head home from point-blank range. Now playing with enormous confidence, Workers went on to control play for most of the rest of the half, but in a carbon copy of their meeting in the major semi two weeks ago, Rovers came back from the break a different side and forcing errors. One such error 16 minutes after the break saw a short back pass to 'keeper Evans put pressure on his clearance kick, which was charged down and fell to Olley, who clinically slotted the chance for a 2-1 scoreline. Bouyed by the goal, Rovers began to exert pressure on the Redmen, but Damien Keevers and Jeremy Wraight marshalled Workers' defence well, with a little help from the goalkeeper. Evans pulled off freakish reflex save from a headed shot from a corner late in the game to deny Rovers an equaliser. "It was simply a great performance from all the players," an elated Workers coach Kevin Keevers said. "Since the loss to Rovers in the major semi-final, all the boys have talked about was getting revenge in this game and it was sweet." Veteran striker John Wraight was named player of the match for a tireless performance. Others to shine included Anthony Alvos, whose ability to calmly dictate play from midfield helped maintain Workers composure; Rhys Evans, who was sensational in goals; and Steve Morrissey, whose silky touches and running off the ball made him a constant threat. Matthew Olley never stopped trying for Rovers but was starved of possession and had to drift back to midfield looking for the ball. Many of their other big-names failed to make an impact on the game as Workers' well-drilled team play gave them the lion's share of possession and kept Rovers on the defensive for most of the match.