The Seahorses had a much needed one- nil win over local rivals Alstonville last Saturday on the ruddy soils of Crawford Park. Both teams were fired up for a win, Ballina needing to move up the table (away from the relegation zone) and Alstonville were keen to get the three points in order to secure a position in the top five. So the scene was set for an entertaining spectacle and the game lived up to this expectation.
Ballina have had the wood on Alstonville in preseason games and they again managed to get in behind the defence with some early attacking moves. Flanker Doug Bocking latched onto a through ball in the first six minutes and was brought down by the Villa ‘keeper in an awkward challenge. Fortunately for the Seahorses the defensive error occurred in the box and the referee awarded a penalty which Dave Bowder neatly slotted to the delight of his teammates. This was just the incentive that the Seahorses needed to restart their season and they held on throughout a rugged first half. Of note Ballina’s ‘keeper Lachie Brenton pulled off three brilliant saves in the final 15 minutes of the first half. These involved a mix of athleticism with two spectacular diving saves and another save that was pure grit with Lachie bravely diving at the ball which was connected to the feet of the advancing attacker.
The intensity lifted in the early stages of the second half with Ballina defender Ryan Seymour being issued a red card in response to a mild skirmish with his opponent. Ryan felt a bit hard done by as the referee did not witness the entire encounter; however his team mates maintained their resolve against a Villa outfit that desperately tried to breach the Ballina goalmouth. To add to the excitement the referee threw in a liberal dash of extra time and Villa hit the woodwork several times in the final stages. Lachie Brenton pulled off another series of match winning saves to complement his efforts of the first half.
Apart from the Ballina ‘keeper it is difficult to single out any of the Seahorses as they all showed a similar level of steely resolve. This may be a turning point for the Seahorses as they have possibly discovered that a high level of resolve is the one ingredient that they need to succeed in the premier ranks. Next Saturday’s game promises to be a real show stopper with the Seahorses hosting Tintenbar/East Ballina. This will be the first time that the two Ballina clubs have met at the premier level and the 3pm kick off should attract a large crowd at Saunders Oval. Come along and enjoy the atmosphere in what will be hopefully be a long tradition of local derbies for the two clubs at this level.