Workers, Rovers in big rematch
THE 2012 grand finalists, Lismore Workers and Richmond Rovers, will provide a blockbuster start to the FNC premier league soccer season tonight when they renew their rivalry at Nielson Park, East Lismore, in the opening round of the 2013 prem-iership.
Workers won last year's decider 3-2 after Rovers had taken out the minor premiership, and both sides will be targeting further silverware this season.
While Workers have started the year well by reaching the Anzac Cup semis to give themselves a chance of consecutive cup titles, Rovers have struggled to recapture the form that has seen them win five of the past six minor premierships.
The East Lismore club has lost all three of its Anzac Cup games, with their new-look defence conceding 11 goals in the process.
Rovers coach Luke McWaide has been left bemused by their performances but is backing his players to produce under pressure tonight.
"The boys have trained hard and done a lot of fitness work, but after three losses it's time to start showing a bit of confidence in ourselves and get back to the old Rovers spirit," McWaide said.
"I think it's the first time Rovers have lost all three cup games, but we're bedding in a new backline and that will take a little while."
McWaide expects to have a full-strength squad at his disposal with strikers Jonathan See and Troy Matthews needing big games if they are to disrupt Workers' composed style.
Workers will have newly appointed coach Daniel Kelly at the helm, after he took over from interim coach Scott Creighton last week and steered the Redmen to a 5-0 win over Italo Stars on debut.
"There's no such thing as an easy game against Rovers, it'll be fast and physical, and we'll need to be up for it and put in a full 90-minute performance," he said.
"The midfield battle will be crucial. They have a lot of experience with Luke McWaide, Russell Dent and Brett Lane, so it will be a big challenge for our combination of Kurt Walker, Jay Keevers and Clint Willoughby."
Walker in particular has started in scintillating form and his ability to push forward to set up goals or score himself has been a feature of Workers' game.
The only bad news for Workers is a knee injury to veteran striker Wayne Mortimer that could rule him out for much of the season.
With both sides wanting to start their prem-iership campaign on a positive note, the clash promises to revive all the intensity of last year's grand final, which went down to the dying moments before Walker scored the winning goal.
The match will kick off at 8pm.
The rest of the opening round will be played over the weekend, with in-form Byron Bay hosting Italo Stars, Lennox Head at home to Casino and Bangalow on home soil against Goonellabah tomorrow.
The other game will be played on Sunday, with Thistles taking on Alstonville at Crawford Park.