More cohesive, resilient Sharks ready for Rovers
THE only two sides that look capable of catching runaway leader Byron Bay will square off today when Lennox Head host Richmond Rovers in Far North Coast premier league soccer.
With defending minor premiers Byron Bay already five points clear of Rovers and the Sharks a further four points back in third place, a win for Rovers would likely reduce the premiership battle to a two-horse race between the 2104 grand finalists.
While the in-form Rovers have not lost since the opening round and smashed the Sharks 6-1 in their first encounter, Lennox have settled into a more cohesive side, winning their past four games.
The return of classy defender Ihsan Sauran is likely to push Joel Rudgley forward, and with the league's top scorer Byron Milne up front the Sharks pose a real threat to Rovers.
But it is midfielders Chris Burgess and Luke Wakefield - both with experience in the Brisbane premier league - who have laid the platform for their success.
"We've become a lot more resilient since our last game against them," Sharks coach Troy Taylor said.
"We're not switching off at all during games, the boys just keep on going, but there's no doubt Rovers are a class side so this will be a good test."
The Sharks' multi-pronged attack has scored more goals than any side except Byron, while Rovers have the tightest defence with just six goals conceded in their10 games.
Central defender Ben Morgan has played a leading role but Rovers will have to do without him for the next month while he is overseas.
Jeremy Perkins is likely to move into Morgan's role alongside Scott Flynn, in front of one of their quiet achievers this year, goalkeeper Andrew Marshall.
New signing Kurt Walker will start up front with either their top scorer Jake Heffernan or Matthew Olley, who is returning from injury, giving coach Bobby Bugden some tough decisions.
"We have plenty of options but the key will be a good start," Bugden said.
"If we can get an early goal or two it could break the spine of what is a pretty young Lennox side.
"We can't afford to let them play their game plan, we have to win the individual battles and that will allow us to use our speed."
Kick-off is 3pm
Elsewhere today, an out-of-sorts Lismore Workers have the chance to breathe new life into their flagging semi-final campaign with a home win over lowly Bangalow, while Ballina will look for their first win in a home clash with Goonellabah.
Both will kick off at 3pm.
Two games are set down for tomorrow, highlighted by Lismore Thistles' vital home clash with Byron Bay.
Alstonville will be favoured to take the points when they travel to Casino.
Both games kick off at 2.30pm.