Thistles throw down gauntlet
A FREAKISH late goal has given Lismore Thistles a dramatic 2-1 home win over reigning champions Goonellabah in the opening round of Football FNC Tursa Anzac Cup.
Last year's Cup finalists produced another high intensity contest that hung in the balance until Thistles were awarded a disputed corner, just three minutes from full time.
Blues' striker Jake Nind stepped forward to hit a curling ball that evaded everyone and nestled into the back of the net for the match-winner.
Thistles had earlier taken the lead through a penalty on debut from former Stars defender Matt Weir, before Hornets striker Dave Annetts equalised after chipping Blues' keeper Neil Baker.
The ability of Thistles to get the ball forward quickly and utilise the pace of strikers Nind and Ryan Parmenter gave them plenty of chances, but in the end it was two set plays that delivered the win.
"I'm reasonably happy with how we played, but our finishing let us down and we got a bit ragged in defence towards the end," said Blues coach Paul Parmenter.
"But I still think we finished the stronger and deserved the win, the boys played with good energy," he said.
The Hornets were left frustrated after feeling the crucial corner should have been a free kick their way, with coach Mark Ambler saying "it cost us dearly, but you've got to cop it and move on".
Alstonville has produced an ideal start to the new season, racking up a comprehensive 5-0 home win over Ballina last Friday night.
Finishing has been an issue for Villa in recent years but goals from Liam Giles (two), Joel Perkins, Rick Hanna and Josh Cole suggest they could be ready to put that behind them.
Three games were played on Sunday with no upsets as Byron Bay, Richmond Rovers and Lismore Workers all recorded comfortable wins.
Byron had a 4-1 home win over Italo Stars, thanks to goals from Yantra Whittling, Tom Ruhl and new Brazilian signing Victor Pires, who looked sharp on debut.
Stars scored a late consolation goal through Mark Maslen and despite the loss, will be encouraged by the return of Jamie Austen and Nick Harris.
Despite having only 11 players available, Rovers claimed a 3-1 away win over newly-promoted Lennox Head, with two goals from Russell Dent and one from Scott Flynn, before Aaron Gray scored a late goal for the Sharks.
After conceding an early goal to Cobras midfielder Dean Casey, Workers hit back to record a 3-1 away win over a youthful Casino outfit.
Defenders Jay Keevers and Max Harlam both pushed forward to find the net before Vinicius Leite slotted their third goal from the penalty spot.