Villa just misses out – again
FOR the third year in a row, Alstonville has finished just short of a debut appearance in the FNC premier league soccer semis after losing their battle with Thistles for fifth place.
Their 4-1 home loss to Goonellabah allowed the Blues to clinch a finals berth with a 3-0 away win over Lennox Head.
Villa trailed Goonellabah 2-0 by half-time after goals from Batok Ring and Toby Barton, but gave themselves a chance when Rick Hanna clawed one back early in the second half.
But in a welcome return to form for the Hornets, they responded to the challenge with further goals from Dave Annetts and Luca Bonesi to wrap up a confidence-boosting win.
Thistles also look well prepared for the semis.
Matt Weir and Max Hospers both scored from the penalty spot against Lennox, with Darren Beardow netting the third.
Casino avoided relegation with a tense 2-0 home win over the Seahorses.
Despite sitting on the foot of the ladder for much of the season, the Cobras' final-round heroics lifted them one point clear of Ballina, condemning the Seahorses to the cut.
There were few chances and no goals in a scrappy first half but Cobras coach Matt Kenny made some changes at the break, allowing them to exert more pressure in the second half.
Veteran John Wraight broke the deadlock with the breakthrough goal for the Cobras, before the seasiders' season was summed up by an own goal.
Ballina will be replaced by Bangalow next year after the Bluedogs clinched the first division minor premiership with a 9-0 win over Richmond Rovers.
FIRST WEEK OF THE FINALS
Saturday, September 1
Major preliminary semi-final: Lismore Workers v Goonellabah at Richards Oval, Lismore, 3pm
Minor preliminary semi-final: Byron Bay v Lismore Thistles at Byron Bay Recreation Ground, 2pm