Rovers' date with destiny

RICHMOND Rovers have set up a showdown with arch rivals Goonellabah in the Football FNC premier league soccer major semi-final with a hard-fought 2-0 win over Pottsville in the major preliminary semi-final at Nielson Park, East Lismore, on Saturday.

Rovers' ability to make the most of their limited opportunities was the difference between the sides in a torrid, fast-paced encounter.

It was Pottsville's first appear-ance in a semi-final and they began well against their more experienced opponents, pushing the ball around and forcing Rovers to drop back and defend in numbers at times.

But midway through the first half the Panthers' defence was caught napping when it failed to mark Scott Coster, who drifted forward for a Jacob Heffernan free kick.

Heffernan's cross found an unmarked Coster free at the far post and the big Rovers defender slotted home his fourth goal in three games from close range.

Neither side shrank from the physical side of the game, with some uncompromising tackles forcing Scott Crouch (Rovers) and Josh Taylor (Pottsville) from the field with injuries.

Rovers took a 1-0 lead to the break but Pottsville continued to press after the restart, with David Lonie looking dangerous and Josh Boag hitting the post.

It took Rovers until the dying minutes to wrap it up with their second goal, when a switch from Jonathan See found Tim Sheridan in space on the left flank.

Sheridan brought the ball down with a deft touch before unleashing a thunderbolt that billowed the side netting.

It was a fitting reward for the Rovers player-coach, who began the game on the bench with an injured foot and had to come on in the first half to replace Crouch.

“We've had a few injuries and had to shuffle things around a bit, so it was great to get the win,” Sheridan said.

“But Pottsville put up a good fight, they ran us around a bit and it's the most running we've had to do in a game for a long time.”

Best for the defending major premiers was hard working midfielder Aaron Heffernan, whose duel with David Lonie was a highlight of the match.

Adam Gray also had a strong game in defence and non-stop striker Jonathan See was a constant threat with his pace and ball control.

Rovers will now vie with minor premiers Goonellabah for the first grand final berth in the major semi this Saturday.

The Panthers' best were flanker Glenn Sheldrick, defender Jarrad Lee and Boag up front, but they now need to beat Thistles in the sudden-death minor semi to stay in the hunt for a first grand final appearance.

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