Goonellabah goalkeeper Brad Robertson battles to prevent Pottsville scoring in the game at Weston Park, Goonellabah, last Saturday. The home team won 3-2.
Goonellabah goalkeeper Brad Robertson battles to prevent Pottsville scoring in the game at Weston Park, Goonellabah, last Saturday. The home team won 3-2. Jay Cronan

Rams out to make amends

ANZAC CUP finalists Goonellabah and Byron Bay will reignite their rivalry today in a game vital to both sides’ premiership hopes in Football FNC premier league soccer.

The Rams have the home advantage for the 3pm kick-off and will be determined to make up for losing the Cup final to Goonellabah last month in a penalty shoot-out.

Since then the Hornets are undefeated and have moved to the top of the premiership ladder, three points clear of the Rams, who share second place with Thistles and Workers.

Both sides will be backing up for their third game in a week after mid-week wins, with Goonellabah continuing their good form with a 3-0 win over Workers and the Rams downing Stars 3-2 despite fielding a depleted line-up.

The win over Stars has left Byron coach Peter Ware with some selection dilemmas.

Three players made their premier debut and with four 16-year-olds on the field and the winning goal hit by young midfielder Nolan Pierce, the Rams’ new youth policy this season seems to be paying off.

But with captain Tom Ruhl and striker Sam Owens both available again, Ware is grappling with who to drop.

“The young guys did so well against Stars, I don’t want to drop anyone,” he said.

Byron is sure to play their usual attacking game led by 2009 Golden Boot Jordy Campbell, who wasn’t available for the Anzac Cup final, but has since bagged four goals from four games.

Another player with four goals already, Thiago Priori, was a team-mate of Campbell last season but will run out for the Hornets today. The Brazilian striker has relished the move to Goonellabah.

Ballina will be out to prove their stunning 5-3 win over premiers Richmond Rovers last week was no fluke when they travel to Pottsville for a 5pm showdown with the dangerous Panthers.

“We don’t want to undo all the good work of last week by backing it up with a loss; we need to get on a roll now if we’re going to figure in things at the end of the season,” Ballina coach Rod Troughton said.

“We know Pottsville are physically strong and fit, but if we play as well as we did in the second half last week we can beat any side.”

Troughton will make just one change to the line-up that humbled Rovers with an ankle injury ruling out Dane Seymour, but replacement James Tomlinson has a strong attacking side to his game.

With strikers Troy Percival and Troy Cook starting to build an understanding up front and confidence on a high, the Seahorses will be slight favourites, but the Panthers are hoping the home advantage will give them the edge.

“We’re undefeated in three games at home so far and the crowd lifts the boys, so we’re hoping to extend the record,” Panthers player-coach David Lonie said.

“We know we can come home strongly in the second half but the key will be starting well and not conceding any soft goals early.”

In the past two weeks Pottsville have pushed leading clubs Goonellabah and Richmond Rovers and, despite losing both games, they have shown the pace and ball movement to trouble any side.

The only change to their line-up will be the loss of striker Chris Kolovos, who will miss the rest of the season after knee surgery.

Traditional Lismore rivals Thistles and Workers have started the season well, with each winning three of their four games to share second place, setting up a critical clash at Thistles Park today at 3pm.

It looms as a fast-paced, high-intensity contest, with both sides young, fit and in good form with a preference for ball movement rather than more physical play.

One of the highlights will be the midfield battle between the joint 2009 Player of the Year winners, Thistles’ evergreen Darren Beardow and Workers’ inspirational leader Anthony Alvos.

Two games will be played tomorrow with premiers Richmond Rovers getting the perfect opportunity to get their title defence back on track when they host winlessBangalow.

The improving Alstonville host Italo Stars, who are also looking for their first win but face a tough challenge without player-coach Rick Austen, who has a groin injury.

Both games kick off at 3pm.

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