Ballina player David Betterridge on attack.
Ballina player David Betterridge on attack. Marc Stapelberg

Rovers sneak home in opener

RICHMOND Rovers escaped with a 3-2 home win over an unlucky Alstonville in the opening round of Football FNC premier league on Saturday with a late penalty.

Rovers, the reigning minor premiers, got away to a solid start and led 2-0 at the break after well-taken goals from Jake Heffernan and new signing Kurt Brewer Charles.

The home side wilted in the face of a strong resurgence from an enthusiastic Villa in the second half.

Villa captain Joel Perkins clawed one goal back from the penalty spot, before Danny Chatterton levelled the scores with a curling free kick from just outside the box.

With Rovers tiring badly in the face of Villa's relentless attacking raids the late spot kick, for a seemingly innocuous tackle from Jason Campbell on Rovers midfielder Matt Pratten, gave the Rovers the three competition points.

The trusty left foot of Russell Dent sent Villa keeper Sam Kerry the wrong way to give Rovers the edge, but still Villa almost snatched a draw in the closing moments, with Perkins rattling the crossbar with a late chance.

"We can't blame the ref for the late penalty, we shouldn't have let in two soft goals in the first half to be in that position to start with," said a philosophical Villa coach Troy Taylor.

"But I still think we played well enough to deserve a win and we've got a lot of improvement in us, so there are positives to take out of the game."

Rovers coach Brian Bugden was happy to concede they had been lucky with the penalty, admitting: "Had it happened outside the box, I don't think it would have been a free kick."

"I was pleased to see the number of chances we created, but they had us under a lot of pressure in the second half and we certainly need to work on our fitness," Bugden said.

Sodden fields at Casino, Lennox Head and Byron Bay forced the postponement of three matches, leaving only one other game to be played which resulted in an easy home 4-0 win for the Goonellabah Hornets over Ballina.

The Hornets dominated the match from start to finish with two goals apiece for Andrew Lewis and former Ballina player James Tomlinson.

While the major premiers showed flashes of getting back to their best form, a disjointed Ballina had little to offer apart from Blake Astley in attack.

The second Anzac Cup semi final will be played on Wednesday night to determine who meets Byron Bay in the Tursa Anzac Day Cup final at Oakes Oval.

Lismore Workers will take on Alstonville at Weston Park from 7pm with the Redmen favoured to move through to their first Cup final in 11 years.

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