Taking on the best
GOONELLABAH and Lismore Workers face the daunting prospect of taking on highly-ranked NBN State League soccer clubs when they contest the quarter-finals of the $10,000 Northern NSW State Cup at the Coffs Harbour International Stadium today.
Goonellabah has the tougher draw, facing 2011 State Cup winner Broadmeadow Magic, which leads the State League, making them arguably the best side between the Hawkesbury and the Tweed.
Workers will take on Charlestown City Blues, who are ranked fourth in the semi-professional Newcastle league.
If either of the local sides can cause an upset, they will stay in Coffs to contest the semi-finals tomorrow.
Last year Workers reached the same stage of the knockout, only to bow out 4-1 to another NBN League side, West Wallsend.
But the underdog tag will suit both sides, with Workers coach Scott Collis optimistic.
"We're a better side this year, our younger players have gained experience and the addition of Clint Willoughby, Wayne Mortimer, Vinnie Leite and Billy Latimer gives us goal scorers across the park," he said.
With the premier league's top scorer Martin Kelleher also in form, the Redmen have a wealth of attacking options, but it's in defence they will be under pressure.
With goalkeeper Simon Clever missing and their second string 'keeper also unavailable, second division custodian Jake McDonald is thrust into the spotlight.
After making an accomplished debut in Workers' 6-1 win over Ballina last Monday, McDonald will now have to go up another level.
Goonellabah's clash with Broadmeadow Magic is a David and Goliath scenario, with Hornets coach Mark Ambler realistic about their chances.
"We've looked at some of their games on YouTube and they look a very athletic, physical side that's also capable of playing very good football, so we'll have to be at our absolute best to be competitive," Ambler said.
"But they are expected to win, not us, and will have to deal with that pressure, while we have nothing to lose."