Seahorses give the Anzac Cup holders a few anxious moments
LISMORE Thistles opened their campaign for a third consecutive Tursa Anzac Cup soccer title with a tentative 3-1 home win over a fired-up Ballina.
The Blues went in as firm favourites after a comfortable 3-0 win over the seasiders in the FFA Cup two weeks ago but were forced to work a lot harder this time.
Ballina defended well in a scoreless first half before Matt Weir opened the scoring for the Blues early in the second half.
Young Seahorses winger Ben Lewis netted an equaliser soon after to set up a tense finish.
Thistles regained the lead with Jordan Nind slotting a shot from the edge of the box to ease their nerves.
But the game remained in the balance until the final seconds, when a Matt Armstrong goal completed the 3-1 scoreline.
"They gave us some nervous moments," Blues coach Rod Lees said.
"Our central defenders, Max Hospers and Matt Cramp, had to work hard, but our movement down the flanks with Jeremy Sullivan and Zac Wilson worked well."
Ballina coach Chris Layland felt they deserved more from a committed performance.
"We were unlucky not to share the points, but there were plenty of good signs for the development of the squad," he said.
The best news for the seasiders was the unexpected return of last year's top scorer Matt Jeffery.
The nuggetty finisher was cleared to play just minutes before the game and gave a typically wholehearted performance.
Goonellabah striker Batok Ring starred in the Hornets' 4-1 win over an inexperienced Bangalow.
Ring used his pace and deception to score a hat-trick by half- time and after the break robust striker Brock Spencer netted their fourth.
The Bluedogs scored a consolation penalty through Scott Fuller, but with half the side making their premier league debut, it was a steep learning curve.
With some players such as Noah Stokes as young as 14, Bangalow coach Neil Fuller will hope they adapt quickly.
Hornets coach John Eakin was happy with their performance, praising Ring, young defender Jared Morrow and hard-working flanker Matt Graham.
"It was comfortable for us, our attack is looking after itself, we just need to work on a few things with our defensive structure," he said.
A review of the three games played yesterday will appear in The Northern Star tomorrow.