Joel Rudgley in action on Sunday. Rudgley scored the only goal of the game to clinch an important win over Byron Bay.
Joel Rudgley in action on Sunday. Rudgley scored the only goal of the game to clinch an important win over Byron Bay.

Win puts Rovers in the box seat

THE Football FNC premier league soccer minor premiership race will go down to the wire in the final round after defending premiers Richmond Rovers snatched the lead from Lismore Workers witha torrid 2-1 away win on Saturday.

Rovers can now wrap up their fifth minor premiership in six years with a home win over Italo Stars, while to steal the title Workers would need an away win over Byron Bay and for Rovers to lose or draw.

Both sides attacked from the outset in the game on Saturday, forcing the goalkeepers to pull off quality saves as Workers' Simon Cleaver denied Jonathan See before Andrew Marshall thwarted Workers' Bill Latimer.

It took the league's top scorer to break the deadlock, with Martin Kelleher finding the net for the Redmen following a corner.

But within two minutes Rovers showed their renowned fighting qualities with striker Troy Matthews getting behind the Workers defence to equalise.

Workers were left frustrated by a suggestion of hand-ball leading up to the goal, but there was no doubting Rovers' second goal just before the break.

A short corner led to a cross from Luke McWaide that found the head of big defender Joel Saye on the burst and his powerful finish gave Rovers a 2-1 lead at the break.

The second half developed into a physical affair at times, including an incident where McWaide was lucky to stay on the field.

His right foot appeared to stomp on Latimer's head while he lay on the ground after a heavy tackle, but the officials took no action.

While Workers mounted plenty of pressure, Rovers' defence remained resolute right to the final minute when Marshall made a stunning save to guide a deflected shot - that seemed destined for the net - around the post.

"We got the bounce of the ball, but we also took advantage of it," Rovers coach Brian Bugden said.

Bugden praised striker Kurt Brewer-Charles for his work rate and midfielder Russell Dent for some crucial defensive work.

Workers' best were flankers Kelleher and Max Harlan, along with Clint Willoughby in midfield and defender Sam Sharkey.

Striker Wayne Mortimer had a quiet game after being ill through the week.

The relegation battle will also be decided in the final round after Casino kept their survival hopes alive with a nil-all away draw against Goonellabah.

The Cobras showed more spirit than the Hornets, with veteran sweeper Stewart Coughran putting in a player-of-the-match perform-ance to help set up a relegation showdown with Ballina.

Ballina lost 3-0 away to Lennox Head, with the Sharks' goals coming from Adrian Zakaras, Paul Kirkland and Brad Jones.

As a result, Casino can now avoid the cut with a home win over Ballina, handing relegation to the Seahorses.

The struggle for fifth between Alstonville and Thistles has taken another twist, with the sides level going into the final round after Villa's nil-all away draw with Stars and Thistles' 1-0 home win over Byron Bay yesterday.

An early goal from Joel Rudgley was enough to give the Blues the edge, putting them just one goal behind Villa on goal difference.



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