Seahorses can sniff a soccer upset

BALLINA is determined to start making waves in Football FNC premier league soccer by becoming the first side to beat runaway leader Goonellabah when the seasiders host the Hornets at Saunders Park today at 5pm.

The Seahorses have been hot and cold this year, slipping down the ladder to seventh place, but could still resurrect their season by surprising the Hornets today.

Apart from Goonellabah, the seasiders are the only side still unbeaten on home soil, raising the hopes of Ballina coach Rod Troughton that the home crowd will spur them on again.

“We’ve had a lot of disruption this year, but we can still make the semis and we want to make a point to the other clubs that if we do, look out,” Troughton said.

Their hopes of an upset win will not be helped by further disruption to their defence, with Dane and Liam Seymour missing, along with Todd Jones.

With James Tomlinson also sidelined as he recovers from a broken collar bone, the Seahorses’ depth will be tested, with Ryan Seymour, Phil Amery, Adam Izzard and Matt Jones coming into the line-up.

Goonellabah have only one change to the side that escaped with a 2-1 win over Byron Bay with a late goal.

Reliable goalkeeper Brad Robertson is unavailable, opening the door for Craig Attewell to resume the role he lost to Robertson late last year.

The Hornets downed Ballina 3-0 in their first-round encounter and will start favourites, but coach Mark Ambler will not tolerate any complacency.

“We will treat Ballina with the utmost respect, they have a lot to play for and haven’t lost at home all year, so we’ll need to produce a good performance,” Ambler said.

“It will also be heavy conditions so we’ll need to adapt to that – it won’t be a day to play around at the back.”

Striker Dave Annetts will be the Hornets’ main weapon in attack as he looks to build on his remarkable tally of 17 goals from 12 games, while Ballina will hope their key striker Troy Cook can rekindle the form that made him the third highest scorer in the league last season.

Rovers’ revival

RICHMOND Rovers’ ominous form will see them start as hot favourites in their home clash with Lismore rivals Italo Stars today at 5pm.

The defending premiers have amassed 19 goals in winning their past four games and will run on the same line-up that racked up the biggest win of the season, a 7-0 demolition of Bangalow.

Coach Tim Sheridan has the luxury of sticking with his in-form younger players, leaving players the calibre of Adam Gray, Matthew Olley and Chris Matthews on the bench.

Such is Rovers’ depth that even 2007 Player of the Year and dual Golden Boot winner Troy Matthews can’t even get a seat on the bench.

“We started the year a bit slow as usual, but the boys are now playing with confidence, holding possession well, timing passes well and getting behind defences, so we’re happy with our form at present,” Sheridan said.

In contrast, Stars have had a disastrous season and have scored only three goals in their past four games to remain just a point off the foot of the ladder.

A depleted Byron Bay faces a huge challenge to snap its six-game winless streak and get its semi-final campaign back on track when the Rams travel to Lismore to meet Thistles at 3pm.

With Thistles clinging to fifth place and Byron just a point behind, it looms as a vital clash for both sides, but the Rams’ player shortage could hand the advantage to the Blues.

Byron have only 16 players available for the two games, sofor the fourth week in a row the Rams will have to call on second division players and also start players in the premier side that have already played reserves.

Thistles are still without Darren Beardow and Adam Buckley, but will be able to run on the same side that showed plenty of tenacity to come from 3-0 down to claim a 3-all draw with Alstonville last weekend.

After stringing together consecutive wins for the first time this season, a confident Lismore Workers will look to make it three in a row against Alstonville at Crawford Park at 3pm.

A hard-fought win over Byron Bay and then a 6-0 mauling of Thistles have lifted the Redmen into fourth place, while Villa remains four points adrift of the top five, but could still move into semi-final contention with a win.

Both sides play a disciplined, fast-paced game and, with Villa also finding some form lately after going three games without a loss, it looms as a close contest where taking chances in the heavy conditions will be crucial.

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