Justin Stockham scored a sizzling hat trick in the blistering heat at last Saturday’s premier division soccer match at Saunders Oval. Stockham’s efforts helped secure an important 5 – 3 win for the Seahorses against Goonellabah and both strikers shared honours with Matt Jeffery grabbing a brace to complement Stockham’s ‘hot hatty’.
The conditions were extremely oppressive warranting drink breaks at the mid-way point through each half. The strong northerly wind was another climatic influence on the game. During the first half Ballina played into the wind and the wily Goonellabah Hornets used the conditions to keep the Seahorses defence under pressure. However he Seahorses looked to counter attack and at the 15 minute mark the elusive new import, ‘T.J.’ Houston, knocked a well-placed cross which Ben Presbury laid off for Justin Stockham to despatch to the back of the net. Goonellabah maintained the full pressure of the wind and soon after Ballina committed a defensive error from a misdirected pass that lead to an equaliser. Five minutes later Ballina were fetching the ball from the back of the net due to a clumsy own goal from David Locke. With a 2-1 half time deficit the Seahorses weren’t worried as they would soon enjoy the benefit of a strong wind at their back. However the second started abysmally for the home team, and in the first few passages of play, a back pass to the keeper from Ryan Seymour resulted in a third Goonellabah goal and at this stage the situation looked dire for the Seahorses.
Enter left stage the dynamic Seahorse striking duo. Matt Jeffery scored a goal in the 5th minute of the second half after running almost half way to Tintenbar and back to slot a nice weighted through ball. The next 20 minutes of play was a real arm wrestle as Goonellabah tried to defend their lead against a crafty Seahorses outfit that were throwing everything at the Hornets. The equaliser came in the 30th minute when Matt Jeffery headed his second goal, a nicely driven cross from the sensational Seb Tolson following his withering run down the right flank.
The goal excited an emotional crowd which (as is usually the case) seemed to motivate the Seahorses and dishearten the opponents. The effervescent Justin Stockham followed Matt Jeffery’s lead 5 minutes later with a nicely weighted diving volley/header from a cross Nick Key. This really got the crowd going and the referee seemed to oblige their appetite by adding in a sizeable portion of extra time – technically this could have allowed the Hornets to equalise but it was the Seahorses who took advantage with Stockham chipping the keeper at the 99th minute of play for his completion of a rare hat-trick. A great effort with not much room left on the field for Stocky’s ego after such a dazzling performance.
The result is a welcome return to the premier ranks with an all important home win. The Seahorses travel to Byron next Saturday in what will be their first real test this year. Coach Chris Layland will be working to further hone the nice attacking transitions as well as repair a leaky defence which has conceded 7 goals in two games.