Veteran strikes blow as Thistles put bite on Bluedogs
VETERAN striker Steve Morrissey was the hero as Lismore Thistles regained top spot on the Football Far North Coast men's premier division ladder.
Morrissey's strike gave the Blues a hard-fought 1-0 away win over Bangalow on Saturday in an otherwise severely rain-hampered weekend of action.
It was Morrissey's first goal since rejoining his old club this year from Workers and served as a timely reminder that despite his years, his class remains and his career is far from over.
In their first game in almost a month, the Blues took time to find their rhythm against a fired-up Bangalow.
The Bluedogs were out to atone for losing top spot on the ladder midweek after they beat Lennox Head but then lost the points for using an ineligible player.
With the league leadership at stake for both sides, tension was high and five minutes before half-time it spilled over.
A heavy tackle from Bluedogs striker Taha Belaazziz on Blues defender Max Toovey led to a scuffle involving several players from each side.
Once the dust settled, red cards were shown to Belaazziz and Thistles' Nathan McCann, leaving both sides reduced to 10 men for the second half.
Slippery conditions made it difficult for both sides and meant limited chances but Thistles managed to craft the winning goal when Matt Armstrong used his pace to get to the byline and deliver a perfect cross to an unmarked Morrissey at the far post.
His clinical header proved to be the difference but the tiring Blues had to withstand a late flurry of chances from Bangalow before securing the vital win.
"It's a huge three points for us," Blues assistant coach Craig Kenned said.
"After a month without a game the guys really had to grind it out at the end.
"It was a gutsy effort".
Kennedy praised defenders Max Toovey and Jeremy Sullivan as their best while for Bangalow defenders Ricky Small and Thiago Priori shone.
Bluedogs coach Mark Shephard was left with mixed emotions after the loss.
"After a difficult week the boys still came out and played with good intensity." he said.
"I feel we finished on top of them but it was one of those games where we just couldn't get enough shots on target."
It was the third game in a row the Bluedogs have had a player sent off and their growing suspension list could impact their premiership hopes.
The remaining four games from the round were all washed out, leaving most clubs with a growing backlog of rescheduled matches to be played in the coming weeks.