Thistles' horror weekend
IT was a horror weekend for Football FNC premier league soccer semi-final hopefuls Lismore Thistles, with the Blues taking just one point from a possible six and losing inspirational captain Darren Beardow for the rest of the season.
Thistles had a humiliating 6-0 away loss to cross-town rivals Workers on Saturday, before desperately fighting back from 3-0 down to salvage a 3-all home draw with Alstonville yesterday.
The loss to Workers began with an embarrassing defensive error in the third minute that gifted a goal to Cameron Hyde, then went from bad to worse when Adam Buckley was sent off for dissent.
Beardow limped off just minutes later with a badly torn hamstring.
The midfield veteran had been nursing a groin problem, but his latest injury looks almost certainto end his season.
Reduced to 10 men and missing their midfield general, Thistles faded in the face of a disciplined Workers, who went on to claim their biggest win over any side in years.
Two goals from striker Jason Wilson, a second from Hyde and further goals to Dan Kelly and Robbie Tinning wrapped up an impressive performance from the Redmen, who jump to fourth place.
After such a difficult game, backing up against Alstonville was a big test physically and mentally for the young Blues and when they trailed 3-0 before half-time, another drubbing looked likely.
Well-constructed goals from Nathan Collins, Keiran Taituma and Sean Spencer had Alstonville well in control, but Thistles showed enormous character to claw back.
Jacob Arthur scored just before half-time and when Matt Parrish slotted home a dot shot minutes after the restart, the Blues were suddenly back in it.
Both sides lifted their intensity in a thrilling second half that saw plenty of chances created at both ends, but eventually Thistles were rewarded for their grit when Daniel Winkler-Maloney scrambled home the equalising goal.
While Thistles' stubborn resistance did earn them a valuable point, they have now slipped to fifth and with sides behind them having games in hand and Beardow missing, their place in the top five remains precarious.
Hornets' late scare
GOONELLABAH maintained its nine-point buffer on top of the ladder, but only after surviving a late scare from Byron Bay in their 2-1 home win yesterday.
The Hornets led 1-0 at half-time thanks to a well-taken goal from Shaun Dronfield and maintained their slim margin until three min-utes from full-time, when the Bay equalised.
A pinpoint cross from Rams flanker Tim Knight found Kazuhiro Tsukamoto at the far post and he slotted home a goal that should have secured the Bay a draw.
But with less than a minute remaining Goonellabah capitalised on a defensive error, allowing midfielder Kale Hopper to score adramatic winning goal.
Goalkeepers Kai Connel (Byron Bay) and Brad Robertson (Goonellabah) had outstanding games in an open match where there were plenty of chances created by both sides.
“We didn't dominate, but in the end we did just enough to win,” Goonellabah coach Mark Ambler said.
Byron coach Peter Ware was left with mixed emotions.
“Our errors cost us dearly, but I can't fault the guys' effort, they played with plenty of spirit and enthusiasm,” he said.
The heart-breaking loss drops Byron Bay out of the top five, but they can reclaim their place if they win their home clash with Italo Stars tomorrow night.
With the semi-finals just a month away, defending premiers Richmond Rovers are showing signs of getting back to their premiership-winning best, with a crushing 7-0 away win over last-placed Bangalow.
Player-coach Tim Sheridan led the charge with a hat-trick, bringing his tally to 11 goals for the season and making him the league's second highest scorer.
In a lopsided contest, he was joined on the scoresheet by Jacob Heffernan, Scott Crouch, Matthew Olley and Daniel Brown, as Rovers dominated possession to outclass the Bluedogs.
“Things are coming along well at the right time of year and we're starting to build some strength on the bench with good players who can't break into the side at the moment, so all the signs are good,” Sheridan said.
Italo Stars clawed their way off the bottom of the ladder with a dour scoreless draw against Alstonville on Friday night.
Both sides had periods where they were on top and created clear chances, but in the end a draw was a fitting result.
Stars are now a point ahead of last-placed Bangalow with a game in hand, but will be aiming to move at least three points clear before the two sides square off in the final round.
The closure of Saunders Park forced the postponement of Ballina's clash with Pottsville.