One goal enough for Lennox Head
LENNOX HEAD is one game away from its debut appearance in a grand final thanks to a tense 1-0 home win over local rivals Ballina in the Far North Coast premier league soccer major preliminary semi-final on Saturday.
A solitary goal from veteran striker and former Ballina player Justin Stockham was enough to earn the Sharks passage into the major semi, where they will vie with minor premiers Richmond Rovers for a place in the decider.
Stockham capitalised on a defensive error from the Seahorses that gifted him possession, allowing the wily finisher to catch 'keeper Lucas Wagland off his line with a deft chip.
The goal came after just 15 minutes and soon after Ballina suffered another blow when wide defender Jake O'Grady had to be subbed due to a shoulder injury.
The Sharks also lost a key player at half-time with Peter O'Neill forced off with a corked thigh, adding to the loss of captain-coach Paul Kirkland, who was ruled out after tearing a quad at training.
Without two of their main attacking players the Sharks created only a handful of opportunities in the second half, while Ballina lifted and came close to equalising several times.
But their hopes of fighting their way back into the game were dealt a final blow when striker Chris Schomberg incurred his second yellow card.
In a bizarre twist, referee Josh Noble allowed Schomberg to stay on the field for another eight minutes before an assistant referee drew his attention to the oversight, and he was eventually sent off.
With the numerical advantage Lennox dropped back to defend their lead and while they hung on for the win to achieve a new high for the club, it was an unconvincing performance.
Central defender Luke Guidice was strong at the back for the Sharks, with flankers Andrew Lundie and Rameesh Kassim also having good games, along with Stockham up front.
But with Kirkland and O'Neill expected to be unavailable against Rovers next week, Lennox Head will need to lift their intensity a couple of notches if they want to play in their first grand final.