Last Saturday heralded the fourth round of the men’s premier division soccer competition. The Ballina Seahorses were defeated 3-1 in a close encounter of the ‘thistly’ kind at Saunders Oval. The extreme wet weather at the end of last week resulted in a sodden pitch which impeded both team’s efforts to play at their best.
Following a lengthy break, and a humiliating loss against Byron in their last game three weeks earlier, the Seahorses were at underdog status against an undefeated Lismore Thistles outfit that won the Anzac Cup the week before. Despite their hot favouritism Thistles were unable to get the upper hand in the early play. The Seahorses were resolute in defence and they gradually worked their way into the game with a series of counterattacks. At the midway stage of the first half a draw looked on the cards; however, evergreen Thistles stalwart, Darren Beardow scored before the break to give Thistles the advantage. The Seahorses lifted a notch in the second half and they scored in the first ten minutes. The goal came from a through ball to flanker Nick Key who got in behind the defence to smash a precise cross to the far post which an advancing Dave Bowder despatched to the back of the net. This lifted the Seahorses and they run amuck, trampling all over the Thistles, for the next 15 minutes and again a draw looked a likely outcome.
As if often the case in such arm wrestles the pendulum swung the other way and Thistles capitalised on some simple lapses of concentration in the Ballina defence to score two successive goals. The Seahorses threw everything at the Thistles in the last ten minutes and Justin Stockham and Dave Bowder had two close chances at goal. Best for Ballina were Dave Betteridge, David Bowder and Matt Jeffery and despite conceding three goals ‘keeper Lochie Benton was impressive.
Coach Chris Layland will be relieved that his charges have regathered some momentum. The Seahorses have the potential to make the final five, providing that they can stay focussed for the whole ninety minutes, (something which has eluded them to date). As they approach the midway point of the first round Ballina need to secure important competition points. Next week will be the litmus test against Richmond Rovers who are coming off an 8-nil flogging at the hands of Byron.