Trent Battistuzzi in action.
Trent Battistuzzi in action. Northern Star

Injury is a big blow to Stars

ON the eve of their vital clash with Ballina, Italo Stars have been rocked by news that inspirational goalkeeper Trent Battistuzzi will miss the rest of the FNC premier league soccer season with a broken thumb.

His authority at the back will be sorely missed when Stars attempt to snatch third place from the Seahorses at Saunders Park, Ballina, today.

Battistuzzi broke his thumb in the first half of Stars' memorable 5-3 win over competition leaders Richmond Rovers last weekend, leading to replacement Brad Soul being thrust into the limelight after half-time.

After three years away from the game, Soul had only four weeks playing in the field for reserves behind him and within 15 minutes against Rovers had conceded three goals.

While Stars went on to win thanks to a big finish, Soul is sure to be targeted by opposing sides.

Ballina have won three on the trot and with only Chris Schomberg missing from an otherwise full-strength side, they have the potential to end Stars 10-game unbeaten run.

"If we stick to our game plan and maintain our intensity, I think the boys are strong enough mentally and physically to end Stars' run," Ballina coach Dwayne Smith said.

Stars striker Mark Maslen is in doubt, but with last week's hat-trick hero Max Latimer ready to move forward and Sam Little coming into form, coach John Essex has options.

"Ballina's always tough at home and they're in good form, so we know it'll be a tough one, but the boys are playing well and want to maintain the momentum," Essex said.

"While we know there'll be pressure on Brad in goals, he has plenty of premier league experience from a few years ago and I'm sure he'll take the opportunity to prove his worth."

The game starts at 3pm.

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