Crunch time for defending premiers

DEFENDING premiers Richmond Rovers are under early pressure as they find themselves in the unusual position of trying to avoid losing three consecutive games when they host Pottsville today (3pm) in Football FNC’s premier league soccer.

To add to that, groin injuries for Scott Coster and Adam Gray and a hamstring tear for Blair Smith have ruled out their three defenders, leaving player-coach Tim Sheridan facing a major re-shuffle.

Mitchell Flower and Scott Crouch will move from midfield into defensive roles, with some of Rovers younger players destined to come up from reserves and fill the gaps.

Sheridan is also dropping strikers Matt Olley and Chris Matthews after lacklustre games against Goonellabah, replacing them with Jessie Hartmen and himself.

After years of injuries and being forced to play off the bench, it will be Sheridan’s first start to a match in several seasons.

Ominously, the last time the two sides met was two years ago when an upset 3-2 win for Pottsville very nearly cost Rovers the 2008 minor premiership, which they went on to win by just a point.

Their other clash that season resulted in a draw, giving Pottsville the unique distinction of being the only club in the league that Rovers have never beaten.

With only one change to their line-up, Pottsville are expected to play an attacking game at high intensity and are not a side to shirk the more physical side of the game, similar to Rovers.

Player coach David Lonie will be a key figure for the Panthers distributing the ball from behind the strikers and is sure to target runs from dangerous finisher Josh Boag up front.

With one game played last night and two games deferred to Tuesday night due to the Solo Cup, only one other match will be played today, with Lismore Thistles hosting Bangalow (3pm).

Bangalow will be desperate for points after losing their first two games, but Thistles are always a tougher side at home and should take the points in a tight contest.


Solo Cup

AFTER big wins in the opening round of the Northern NSW Solo Cup, Anzac Cup finalists Goonellabah and Byron Bay will both be quietly confident going into their second round matches in the $10,000 knockout competition today.

Goonellabah blasted six goals past Norths United to progress to the second round and will take on Taree Wildcats at Maclean (3pm).

The Wildcats are the major premiers in the Taree competition, but the Hornets will be bubbling with confidence after winning the Anzac Cup last weekend.

Dangerous flanker Mario Tinning is unavailable but with an otherwise full-strength side, coach Mark Ambler has a good chance of guiding them into the third round.

“We’re not familiar with Taree and it’s a one-off game, so we’ll need to take a look at them for the first 10 minutes then make adjustments if we need to,” he said.

Byron Bay also rattled in six goals in disposing of Port Macquarie in their first Cup match, setting up a clash with Tamworth FC in Woolgoolga today.

The Rams will be forced to take some younger players in their squad after serious injuries to key players Ian Lennie and Sam Owens in their loss to Goonellabah in the Anzac Cup final.

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