Hornets hot as Panthers fall
GOONELLABAH have shown why they remain hot favourites to take out the minor premiership by becoming the first side this season to beat Pottsville on the Panthers’ home turf with an emphatic 4-0 win in Football FNC premier league soccer.
Despite not playing for more than a month due to washed-out games, the league leaders picked up where they left off, retaining their undefeated record with another polished performance on Saturday.
After such a long lay-off the Hornets understandably started slowly, but still went to the break with a 1-0 lead thanks to an opportunist goal from Brazilian striker Thiago Priori.
The longer the game went the more Goonellabah began to take control and eventually they ran away with the match with three goals in the final 18 minutes.
Substitute Cameron Rippon rewarded the faith shown in him by coach Mark Ambler, scoring two goals, before the league’s top marksman Dave Annetts netted his 14th of the season.
“It took us a while to get going, but we managed to control most of the second half,” Ambler said yesterday.
Pottsville badly missed striker Josh Boag and defender Blaze Coles, exposing their lack of depth, but they retain a comfortable grip on third place and will still be a threat to any side in the semis.
“We’ve had a good run, but this was a real wake-up call for us and we know we have to work harder to threaten a side like Goonellabah,” Pottsville player-coach David Lonie said.
RICHMOND Rovers remain the only threat to Goonellabah taking the minor premiership with a comfortable 4-0 home win over Ballina.
It took less than 10 minutes for Rovers player-coach Tim Sheridan to stamp his influence with the towering striker working a one-two with Jonathan See to get behind the Ballina defence and head past goalkeeper Lucas Wagland.
Wagland was again picking up the ball from the back of his own net soon after, when he spilled a shot from Shane Scicluna into the path of Sheridan, who tapped in his second goal.
Rovers made it 3-0 by half-time with Jacob Heffernan cutting through some flimsy defence from the Seahorses.
Another goal from Heffernan in the second half wrapped up the emphatic win, with Rovers starting to show signs of getting back to their best form.
In another promising indicator for the premiers, it was their younger players who stood up and produced big games, with Heffernan, Scicluna and Jessie Hartman making important contributions.
Rovers are still six points behind Goonellabah but with the Hornets having a game in hand, the prem-iers’ hopes of a fourth straight title remain slim.
LISMORE Workers lived up to their reputation as Byron Bay’s bogy side with a late goal from Cameron Hyde giving the Redmen a crucial 3-2 away win over the Rams.
Workers had not won a game since beating Byron in their first-round encounter and again proved to be the Rams’ nemesis.
Byron Bay flanker Tim Knight continued his good form with the opening goal, but Workers equalised by half-time when a cross from Andreas Lauvaas found an unmarked Steve Morrissey at the far post.
Morrissey was also involved in their second goal, with his cross setting up striker Jason Wilson, before the Rams equalised with a penalty from Tom Ruhl.
But with just two minutes remaining, Cameron Hyde latched on to a cross from Zac Crowly to slot home a sensational winner.
The return of talismanic captain Anthony Alvos lifted the Redmen, with Wilson also having a strong game up front alongside veteran Morrissey, who might have lost some pace but has not lost his instinct for goals.
After ending their long slump, Workers are now back within a point of the top five, while Byron clings to fourth despite going five games without a win in their worst run for years.
Back in top five
LISMORE Thistles moved back into the top five after coming from behind to snatch a dramatic 2-1 home win over Italo Stars.
Stars had the better of the first half and led 1-0 at the break after Jake Pratten and Jeremy Pollard combined to set up Pratten for a well taken goal.
But they also lost player-coach Rick Austen early with an ankle injury, forcing Clint Willoughby to drop back from midfield into central defence.
The second half developed into a tough, physical and at times spiteful affair, with a touch of controversy involved in both Thistles’ goals.
Both came from their top scorer Matt Parrish, with the first appearing to cross the bye line in the move before Parrish finished, and the second coming from a disputed penalty.
The tense win gives Thistles a share of fourth place with Byron Bay, but leaves Stars facing a crucial week in their attempt to pull away from the foot of the ladder.
Stars will take on Goonellabah tomorrow night and Alstonville on Friday night.
ALSTONVILLE eased relegation fears at the expense of Bangalow’s hopes of survival with a 4-2 home win over the Bluedogs yesterday.
The two sides went into the match sharing the bottom rung on the ladder, but Villa’s young side kept its composure well.
The Bluedogs scored early through Simon Burn, but Villa equalised just a minute later through Sean Spencer and then took a 2-1 lead into half-time thanks to a penalty from Daniel Baxter Wright.
Villa striker Keiran Taituma made it 3-1 with an angled finish, before a cross from 14-year-old Toby Barton set up Ricky Hanna for a brilliant volley, stretching the lead to 4-1.
A late consolation goal from Christian Brown restored some pride, but the Bluedogs remain on the foot of the ladder and the most likely club to face the cut.