The Ballina boys faced their first game back in the premier ranks last Sunday against local rivals Lennox Head at Shark Park, Skennars Head. Based on the pre-season Anzac Cup form Ballina went into the game favouring their chances, however they suffered a disappointing 4-2 loss in front of a large (and at times) parochial crowd.
The Seahorses commenced at their usual high level of tactical play and Matt Jeffery scored a nicely placed shot past an advancing ‘keeper within the first minute. The Seahorses had the upper hand in the first 15 minutes of play by controlling possession; however their game began to unravel and they commenced a frustrated pattern of losing possession with rushed play and misdirected passing. Put simply no team can afford to sustain this style of the play in the premier division without being punished. And that’s exactly what happened.
The Sharks first goal was gifted after a botched back pass to the Ballina keeper which resulted in a scramble and an opportunistic goal. The wheels had not fully fallen off at this stage and Matt Jeffery released a nice through ball to Nick Key which saw Justin Stockham menacingly advance onto a well- directed pass and the Sharks obliged by doing their own version of a stuff-up and scoring an own goal. Ballina maintained the lead until five minutes before the break when a mistimed free kick effort in front of the Lennox goal resulted in a quick counter attack and a lobbed shot that floated over Lachlan Benton’s outstretched gloves. So it was a case of ‘even Steven’s’ at the half time break.
In the second half the Seahorses capitulated when they virtually decided to serve up a ‘seafood smorgasbord’ to allow two unanswered goals. Lennox dropped back and defended their lead in the last 10 minutes and this allowed Ballina back into the game and they managed several shots that went close, (but no cigar). Despite the loss there were several passages of classy play and with more discipline the Ballina players should achieve consistency throughout the entire 90 minutes. Coach Chris Layland was philosophical about the result saying “it is early days yet’ and acknowledging to his players that this was their first premier competition game since 2012. David Locke and Josh Jackson had solid games in defence and the forward combination of Matt Jeffery and Justin Stockham never stopped trying – however, there is room to improve in the midfield and the result will give the Seahorses plenty motivation to regroup. The reserves lost 3-2 in a close encounter of the piscatorial kind. They showed promise and they need to work on their combinations and transitions to become more effective opponents.
In summary if the Seahorses stick to their plan they could easily rebound in the next round to be played at Saunders oval next Saturday against Goonellabah at 3pm.