Hornets through to Soccer grand-final

GOONELLABAH kept alive hopes for its first major premiership in 14 years by sealing a place in the grand final against Richmond Rovers with a thrilling 2-0 win over Italo Stars in the Far North Coast premier league soccer preliminary final yesterday.

In a fast-paced, entertaining clash at Weston Park, Goonellabah, both sides created their share of opportunities, but the Hornets made the most of their chances and kept their discipline, even when under enormous pressure from Stars in the second half.

Stand-in goalkeeper Brad Robertson made a sensational debut in the top ranks for Goonellabah with a string of quality saves, and was even involved in setting up their crucial second goal.

Robertson showed a glimpse of his skills early on with a fingertip save over the cross-bar from a stinging Zac Innes shot, but it was a moment of individual brilliance from Hornets striker Dave Arnett that gave them the edge with one of the goals of the season.

Receiving the ball just over the half-way line, Arnett set sail on a 40-metre solo burst, taking on and beating several Stars defenders on his way to the bye-line, where he cut back and steered the ball past Stars ’keeper Dallas Guthrie with an acutely angled shot to the far corner.

The extraordinary goal lifted the Hornets and soon after Ben Andrews had another chance that sailed just wide as Stars were forced to scramble in defence.

Matt Dorigo was finding room to move down the right flank while Andrews and Kale Hopper were looking dangerous in the centre of midfield in a torrid battle with the Stars combination of Max Latimer and Clint Willoughby.

Stars regained some composure late in the first half and Bill Latimer forced another good save from Robertson, who pushed his shot around the post with a diving parry.

With their season on the line, Stars lifted after the half-time break and within minutes Robertson was called on again to make another vital save, but Goonellabah also remained dangerous in attack, with Arnett and Andrews up front using their pace and ball skills to good effect.

Arnett skied a good chance over the bar and defender Paul Pomroy also came close with a header when he pushed forward for a corner.

But as the game wore on it was Stars who began to exert more pressure, with Max Latimer putting another chance over the bar as they became increasingly desperate.

Fittingly it was the Hornets’ debutant custodian Robertson who helped put the game beyond doubt in the dying minutes.

After making a clean catch from a Stars corner, he quickly launched a long ball for striker Ben Andrews to chase down.

Andrews shielded the ball from a close marker as he ran towards goal and coolly slotted his shot past the advancing ’keeper, clinching the Hornets’ first grand final berth in four years.

The hard-fought win reversed the 3-1 loss to Stars in the final premiership round, which had left many doubting the Hornets’ ability to perform under semi-final pressure.

“We identified things we had to do against Stars before the game and it was all about actions for us, not talk,” Goonellabah coach Brendan Logan said.

“And to those who doubt our ability to go all the way, please continue to do so,” he quipped.

After a 5-2 loss to Richmond Rovers in the major semi-final last week, there will still be plenty of doubters when they meet again the grand final, but the Hornets are starting to get a taste for defying the odds.

Workers celebrate

IT was a memorable day for Lismore Workers’ lower division sides on Saturday with the Redmen taking out the premiership double in third and fourth divisions.

The thirds were pushed all the way to a penalty shoot-out after a 2-all draw with Stars in their grand final, but held their nerve from the penalty spot to clinch the double.

It was consecutive premiership doubles for the fourths, who downed Dunoon 3-1.

The fifth division grand final was won by Goonellabah, which upset minor premiers Bangalow 3-0, while sixth division went to Tintenbar, which sealed the double with a tense 2-1 win over Nimbin Headers.

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