Rovers still team to beat
DESPITE fielding a new-look side, defending champions Richmond Rovers showed they are still the team to beat after withstanding a spirited challenge from Alstonville to earn a 2-1 win on Saturday in the opening round of Football FNC premier league soccer.
Villa had the home advantage and went into the game determined to upset the champions, but Rovers’ experience, class and seasoned strikers Tim Sheridan and Matthew Olley proved the difference.
While neither have great pace, Sheridan and Olley possess great strength on the ball and their ability to find space and distribute created numerous chances.
Only tremendous games from Villa sweeper Kurt Stephens and goalkeeper Leyton Barton denied Rovers more goals.
Their telepathic understanding created the opening goal, with Sheridan passing wide for Olley, who crossed back for Sheridan to finish at the far post.
Villa’s defence was in disarray at times as they struggled to cope with the wily pair and they conceded an own goal soon after.
Rovers looked comfortable with a 2-0 half-time lead, but soon after the restart a shot from Villa striker Daniel Baxter spun out of the hands of usually reliable Rovers' keeper Andrew Marshall and into the goal.
While Villa played with good discipline and shape as they worked hard to find an equaliser, their smaller line-up was often muscled out of 50-50 balls and they lacked the occasional touch of individual brilliance under pressure that Rovers can produce.
Experienced midfielder Aaron Heffernan had a strong game for Rovers and Scott Coster settled into his new role at sweeper.