Sam Ireland in action during a stint playing for Urunga a few years ago. Ireland, who has also spent time with Goonellabah, will line up for Bangalow against the Hornets this afternoon before taking on his other old club when the Bluedogs tackle Urunga in the FFA Cup next weekend.
Sam Ireland in action during a stint playing for Urunga a few years ago. Ireland, who has also spent time with Goonellabah, will line up for Bangalow against the Hornets this afternoon before taking on his other old club when the Bluedogs tackle Urunga in the FFA Cup next weekend. Leigh Jensen

Focus on Hornets, Bluedogs in FNC soccer premiership

WHILE the top two clubs, Richmond Rovers and Byron Bay, have attracted most of the limelight so far, the battle for third place will take centre stage today when Goonellabah host Bangalow in Far North Coast premier league soccer.

Both have started well, with four wins from five games leaving them equal third and looking to keep pace with the top two.

But both clubs will have their depth tested with key players missing from their line-ups.

Goonellabah will be without talismanic captain John Eakin and striker Lloyd Howard, opening the door for some new faces.

Jai Cinnamond will replace Eakin alongside Matt Graham in central defence, while Will McAlman gets a chance up front.

Beware young striker ...

The teenage striker will make his debut start in the top flight after proving his worth by coming on as a sub last week and scoring the goal in the Hornets’ 1-0 win over Alstonville.

McAlman will partner Matt Armstrong and Kurt Stephens in a strong front line for the Hornets, while in central midfield Kaiden Powell and Anthony Wright will pull the strings.

While coach Brendan Logan is confident, he rates the Bluedogs as one of the sides to beat this year.

“A lot of people have been talking about Bangalow as a dark horse, but they’re more than that, I rate them as genuine premiership contenders,” Logan said.

Bluedogs shake-up

But the Bluedogs’ hopes today will not be helped by the absence of top scorer Josh Cole and classy midfielders Luke Wakefield and Ihsan Savran.

Coach Neil Fuller will be forced to shuffle his line-up, but still has plenty of quality players.

Sam Ireland will relish the chance to make an impact against his old club, while Rory Devlin is also dangerous in front of goals.

Captain Joel Rudgley will lead by example from midfield, while the seasoned Ricky Small will keep the backline well organised.

Kick-off is 3pm.

In other games today, league leaders Richmond Rovers will be expected to win their home clash with Alstonville, while second- placed Byron Bay will be hot favourites away to Italo Stars.

Both games will kick off at 3pm.

Tomorrow, Lismore Workers will look to stay in touch with the top five by winning their away game against Lennox Head at 2.30pm.



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