SOCCER: Rovers' hopes hinge on win over Alstonville tonight

RICHMOND Rovers faint hopes of chasing down runaway leader Byron Bay to claim the minor premiership title, hinge on an away win over Alstonville in Far North Coast premier league soccer tonight.

With only four rounds remaining Rovers are the only side capable of catching the Rams, but if they lose to Villa tonight and the Bay beat Lennox Head tomorrow, Byron will wrap up consecutive titles a month early.

Kurt Walker in a pre-season trial for Murwillumbah against Rovers. He is now a key part of Rovers march toward the finals
Kurt Walker in a pre-season trial for Murwillumbah against Rovers. He is now a key part of Rovers march toward the finals STEVE MACKNEY

Villa is also under pressure to perform, with their tenous grip on fifth place under threat from both Goonellabah and Thistles, who each have winnable games this weekend.

Villa will run on the same side that downed Thistles 1-0 in their last start, with their bench being strengthened by the return of Rick Hanna, Josh Cole and Phil Francis, who could all play key roles in the second half.

Villa coach Mark Ambler will stick with their attacking 4-3-3 shape, with top scorer Jake Arthur up front with Andy Collins and Zac Illife, but is well aware of how tough Rovers will be.

"We respect Rovers, but don't fear them and if we perform to our potential we can win it" Ambler said.

"Last year we finished strongly to make the semis and I believe we can do the same again this year, even a top three finish is still possible."

Rovers will also be at full strength, with striker Kurt Walker and defender Jeremy Perkins returning to boost the lineup that had a 6-0 win over Ballina in their last start

With the tightest defence in the league and unbeaten in their last 13 games, Rovers will be favoured to repeat their 2-0 win over Villa in the first round, but coach Bobby Bugden remains wary.

"Villa's a good side and it'll be a testing game for us, we're still not at our best but I think we're building towards it at the right time of the season" Bugden said.

With both sides using an attacking format and capable of quick ball movement, it looms as a fast-paced, high intensity contest when they kick off at 8.00pm.


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