ON THE BALL: Alstonville’s Daniel Baxter-Wright in action against Goonellabah.
ON THE BALL: Alstonville’s Daniel Baxter-Wright in action against Goonellabah. STEVE MACKNEY

Premier league soccer: Hornets break into top five

GOONELLABAH has forced its way back into semi-final calculations after grinding out a dour 1-0 home win over Alstonville in Far North Coast premier league soccer.

The win allowed the Hornets to take Villa's place in the top five, thanks to a second-half goal from Dave Annetts after a darting run from Batok Ring pulled the Villa defence out of shape.

Annetts' close-range tap-in was one of the few highlights in a game that never rose to any great heights, but the Hornets' watertight defence was the key for them and they have now conceded just one goal in their past five games.

Matt Graham was a tower of strength alongside player-coach John Eakin in the centre of their backline, while mobile midfielders Jack Lyons and Kurt Stephens were heavily involved and lively striker Ring posed a constant threat up front.

"We had two late withdrawals in Matt Weir and Dane Muldoon and half a dozen guys playing with the 'flu but there was plenty of effort from the boys and even though it wasn't great football we're happy to win ugly when we have to," Eakin said.

The Hornets will now back up for a home clash with Lennox Head tomorrow night, where a win would suddenly catapult them into third place.

Meanwhile, the vast gulf between the top and the bottom of the ladder has been shown again with top sides Byron Bay and Richmond Rovers recording resounding away wins over lower-ranked opposition.

Byron remains undefeated on top of the table after crushing Casino 8-2, with hat-tricks to Connor Cannon and Tyson Kaye supported by goals from Sam Owens and Jordy Campbell.

Second-placed Rovers cruised to a 6-0 victory over last-placed Ballina, with a vintage performance from Matthew Olley, who also scored a hat-trick, while Jake Heffernan bagged two goals and Russell Dent one.

Lennox Head remains the biggest threat to the top two after a 2-0 home win over Bangalow kept them in third place.

Goals from Byron Milne and Gus McDonnell ensured a comfortable win for the Sharks, while Bangalow remains winless.

Thistles' semi-final hopes have taken a nosedive with a 4-1 away loss to Workers in Lismore yesterday.

The Blues led early after a Workers own goal but the Redmen were more constructive in possession, with goals to Bill Latimer, Jay and Matt Keevers and Guillaume Bwerthier lifting them into fourth place.

Thistles slip to seventh.

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