Blues bag final berth
IT was joy for Bangalow but anguish for Alstonville as the Bluedogs won the battle for the fifth and final semi-final berth in Football FNC's men's premier league.
Both sides were chasing a debut appearance in a finals series but Bangalow emerged triumphant with a 2-0 home win over Villa.
The win caps an historic season for Bangalow, the surprise side of the competition since being promoted last year.
The match was a fast-paced affair but tight defence from both sides meant limited chances until late in the game.
The breakthrough goal finally came for Bangalow from an unexpected source, with teenage defender John Minetta latching onto a pass into the box and beating the 'keeper for his first goal of the season.
Joel Rudgley then chipped over the last line of defence for Korhan Ozakman to burst through and score their second goal, triggering wild celebrations.
"It was a great comeback from the boys after where we've been the last month," Bluedogs coach Mark Shepherd said.
"They've got their self belief back.
"As far as the semis go, it's a new competition that's there for the taking and we fancy our chances."
For the fourth year in a row Villa will finish just short of the semis in sixth place but shattered coach Troy Taylor was philosophical.
"Bangalow were very good and our third game in a week took its toll on us but we wish them well in the semis," he said.
Bangalow's win sets up a fascinating final round of matches next week, as they vie for third place with Lismore Workers and Richmond Rovers.
Workers continued their push to the finals with a 4-0 home win over Lennox Head while Rovers crushed Goonellabah 5-1.
Workers' goals came from Max Harlan and Kurt Walker while Craig Bateman and Ben Sharkey contributed their first goals at premier level
Rovers' striker Jonathan See continued his good form with two goals in their dominant win over the Hornets, with Russell Dent, Brad Bugden and Luke McWaide also finding the net.
The battle to avoid relegation between Casino and Italo Stars will go down to the wire after the two sides played out a scoreless draw at Barrow Lane.
The stalemate means Casino must produce a home win over Bangalow next weekend while hoping Stars lose the away clash with Lennox Head.
Minor premiers Lismore Thistles suffered their first defeat, a 3-2 home loss to Byron Bay.
The Rams piled on three goals in an inspired 10-minute spell in the first half, with Lucas O'Donnell, Seb Bell and Sam Owens all scoring.
But when Rams striker Bruce Morhaus was stretchered off with a possible career-ending knee injury, the complexion of the game changed.
Thistles hit back through Matt Armstrong and an own goal but the Rams held on to earn a valuable psychological edge over the Blues before the semis.