Carl Robinson (left) in action for the Richmond Rovers against North Companions.
Carl Robinson (left) in action for the Richmond Rovers against North Companions. Northern Star

Mental toughness the key

BALLINA coach Dwayne Smith will be calling on his players to match the mental toughness of defending champions Richmond Rovers when the two Football FNC premier league title contenders square off tonight.
 
The rematch of the Anzac Cup final will be played at Nielson Park, East Lismore, from 7pm.
 
In April, in one of the most thrilling Cup finals in years, Rovers twice came from behind before eventually downing Ballina in a protracted penalty shoot-out, leaving the Seahorses with a point to prove.
 
That game taught us just how mentally tough Rovers are under pressure and that's what we have to match, Smith said.

Both sides expect to be at full strength and with the seasiders just two points short of top-of-the-table Rovers, Ballina are a chance to prove they are capable of breaking through for the club's first premiership.

With just four goals conceded in six games, Ballina boasts the best defence in the league and their battle to contain Rovers' multi-pronged attack will be vital.

At the heart of the Seahorses' defence are Dave Betterridge and Dane Seymore and, while they may not be the fastest defenders in the league, the robust pair play with depth, read the game well, tackle hard and have a good understanding.
 
Behind them, towering custodian Lucas Wagland is also in top form, leaving Rovers with one of their toughest tests so far, according to coach Scott Coster.

I think it'll be tight, like the Anzac Cup final, with limited opportunities, and possibly even scrappy at times, but the key will be making the most of our chances against a tight Ballina defence, Coster said.

The chances may well come from the flanks where the speedy Casagrande brothers, Ben and Tim, are expected to start, or from the league's second highest scorer and 2007 Player of the Year Troy Matthews up front.

Throw in noted goalscorers such as Tim Sheridan, Chris Matthews and Ian McGregor, and Rovers have a wealth of options in attack.


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