Celtic Crusade for Lismore soccer team
A SECOND season in the top grade has seen a committed South Lismore battle for top spot in Far North Coast men's premier division soccer.
The Celtics are set to face Lismore Thistles for the third time in a top-of-the-table clash on Friday at John Ryan Field, East Lismore, at 8pm.
South Lismore came back to the premier division last season after a 15-year absence from the top tier competition.
"We've had a fantastic start to the season and we didn't really know what to expect this year,” South Lismore coach Cameron Hyde said. "We definitely punched above our weight in 2018, finishing third. and I think we've exceeded most people's expectations.
"It has helped that most of the team stuck together when we were promoted and we've replaced guys we lost with younger players in their early 20s looking to get a start in premier league.
"I think that has definitely worked in our favour and we've got the best out of those players.”
The Celtics fell one game short of the grand final last year and look like a serious contender again with leading goal-scorer and likely Golden Boot winner Paddy Kable at the helm.
"Paddy has already scored 14 goals this year and it's a big effort for a midfielder,” Hyde said. "He has plenty of passion for the club and the younger guys are playing off the back of it.
"Each week is so important and we're not getting any easy games now.”
The Celtics outclassed Thistles 5-0 in their first encounter this season before a spirited Thistles forced a 1-all draw against them in a midweek catch-up game on June 11.
South Lismore battled out a 1-all draw with Richmond Rovers at the weekend while Thistles had a 2-0 win over Anzac Cup champions Bangalow.
Thistles striker Nick Cummins fractured his cheekbone in that game and they will look to the experience of Matt Parrish and Jye Wilson on Friday night.
"I take my hat off to Thistles, they're a young side and like us in a lot of ways,” Hyde said.
"Byron Bay, Bangalow and Rovers all have strong squads and it's better for the competition when we can keep up with them.
"Ultimately we want to keep our best players in Lismore and strengthen both teams.”
Alstonville was scheduled to play Goonellabah in a catch-up game tonight.
South Lismore 24
Lismore Thistles 23
Byron Bay 22
Richmond Rovers 20