Rovers, Byron Bay deadlocked
THE three-year deadlock between Richmond Rovers and Byron Bay remains unresolved after the joint competition leaders battled out their sixth consecutive draw at Byron Bay on Saturday in Far North Coast premier league soccer.
In one of the best games of the season both sides produced an open, attacking spectacle that delivered four quality goals, several disputed goals and a frantic climax.
A fast-paced first half was evenly poised with the only goal coming after a rasping shot from Byron striker Jordy Campbell rattled the crossbar and bounced back into play for Yantra Whitling to finish.
Rovers' young flanker Jonathan See was one of their most dangerous players during the first half and 10 minutes after the break stamped his influence on the match with an equaliser.
But again the Rams took the lead, with Sam Owens carving his way past several Rovers defenders before blasting his shot into the top corner. With less than 10 minutes to go Rovers had to call on all their renowned ability to lift when under pressure and once again drew level through a Russell Dent drive that billowed the top of the Rams net.
Both sides threw everything into a thrilling climax with the crossbar rattled at both ends as a shot from Rovers' Ben Casagrande hit the underside of the bar and bounced down near the line and a free kick from Jordy Campbell deflected off the defensive wall onto the woodwork.
The result leaves the two sides still sharing the lead but with Rovers having a game in hand they cannot be denied their third straight minor premiership if they win their final three matches against Thistles, Italo Stars and Alstonville.
• GOONELLABAH has let a golden opportunity to move to the top of the ladder slip through its fingers after suffering an upset 3-2 away loss to relegation candidate Lennox Head.
Despite playing better, the Hornets paid what could prove to be a hefty price for a couple of key errors.
The first came after just four minutes, when goalkeeper Craig Attewell took an air swing at what should have been a simple clearance, allowing Sharks striker Sam Tancred an easy finish.
Unfortunately for Tancred and Lennox, he suffered a bad rib injury soon after and their top scorer will miss their crucial last two games as they look to avoid the cut.
The Sharks increased their lead to 2-0 after the break when the alert Rod Mallum managed to chip Attewell from long range, before Goonellabah got on the scoreboard with a rehearsed free kick from Chris Matthews.
With 10 minutes to go the game still hung in the balance, but it tipped in the Sharks' favour when Brendan Ferns chased down a through ball that had committed Attewell to a run outside his box and once he hesitated, Ferns hit a booming lob over his head into the goal.
Goonellabah managed a late goal from Sam Ireland, but there was barely time for the kick-off before the Sharks were able to celebrate one of the upsets of the season.
The result leaves Goonellabah still two points behind joint leaders Rovers and Byron and lifts the Sharks off the foot of the ladder, one point ahead of Bangalow.
• A DEPLETED Italo Stars has kept its hopes of a top three finish alive after doing just enough to scrape home for a 2-1 away win over a determined Alstonville.
Stars opened the scoring just before half-time when Zac Innes used his head to flick a long throw into the net and soon after the re-start Brentin Mumford hit a close range volley for Stars second goal.
But a gritty Villa stuck to their job as Stars tired late in the game, clawing one goal back through Sean Spencer and then being denied an equaliser by the woodwork, in a tense finish, but the loss leaves them on the fringe of the relegation zone.
• BALLINA has retained fifth place on goal difference from Workers, after a vital 2-1 away win over a 10-man Lismore Thistles yesterday.
Ballina can now guarantee their place in the semis if they win their remaining three games, while Thistles remain on the fringe of the relegation zone just three points off the bottom.
• LISMORE Workers have kept their finals hopes alive after racking up their biggest score of the season with a 4-1 away win over Bangalow.
Last season's player of the year Anthony Alvos starred with two goals and set up another for Jason Wilson.