Midfield battle will be crucial
LAST year’s grand finalists, Goon-ellabah and Richmond Rovers, are poised to deliver one of the games of the season in the Football FNC premier league soccer major semi-final today.
The game will be played at Weston Park, Goonellabah, from 3.30pm with the winner the first through to the grand final on September 18.
While Rovers completed a third straight grand final win with a victory over the Hornets last year, Goonellabah have since taken the minor premiership and the Anzac Cup from Rovers’ trophy cabinet and now have their sights set on a treble of their own.
Goonellabah lost just one game in storming to the minor premiership – a 2-1 loss to Rovers a month ago.
The Hornets will be fresh after having last week off, while Rovers battled to a hard-earned 2-0 win over Pottsville in the major preliminary semi.
Rovers will field an unchanged line-up, with player-coach Tim Sheridan still on the bench with a foot injury but expected to come on in the second half.
Experienced midfielder Brett Lane could even make an unexpected return from injury from the bench, with Sheridan expecting little will separate the arch rivalsin a close contest.
“It’ll be tight, there might be a goal in it either way, but we’ll need to contain their strikers and wide men as they’ve managed to get in behind our defence at times this year,” Sheridan said.
“Midfield will also be vital for us. Aaron Heffernan and Scott Crouch will be important and their battle with Kale Hopper and Matt Dorigo will go a long way towards determining the winner.”
Rovers’ elusive striker Jonathan See has had an outstanding season and is capable of turning the match, while Goonellabah will team Mario Tinning with Thiago Priori up front.
Both have tremendous ball skills and flair, but neither can match the finishing skills of injured striker Dave Annetts, who was named Player of the Year and Golden Boot at the FNC presentation last Saturday night.
His absence and the loss of injured defender Paul Pomroy leaves a question mark over the Hornets.
Without the two key players, Goonellabah was held to a 1-all home draw by sixth-placed Alstonville in the final round, but coach Mark Ambler remains confident.
“It’s up to us, we have a whole year’s preparation behind us so we just need to go out with a positive mindset, with each player confident in what job they have to do,” Ambler said.
“But Rovers are dangerous all over the park if you let them have the ball, so maintaining possession will be vital.”
The Hornets’ methodical build-up play will contrast with Rovers’ fast-breaking approach in a match that has all the ingredients to produce one of the most memorable semi-finals in years.