RICHMOND Rovers have breathed new life into their semi-final campaign in battling fashion.
Rovers secured a hard-earned 2-1 away win over Alstonville in their Football FNC men's premier division match at the weekend.
The reigning minor premiers went into the game knowing a loss could end their hopes of reaching the semis and responded with a typically gritty performance.
Villa began well with quick ball movement and were rewarded when striker Liam Giles opened the scoring with a breakaway goal.
But within two minutes Rovers hit back when Brett Lane struck a 25m thunderbolt that gave Villa keeper Sam Kerry no chance.
The game remained in the balance as both sides created chances but it was set-play specialist Russell Dent who scored the winner, with a quickly taken free kick that caught Kerry napping.
The win allowed Rovers to leapfrog Villa into fifth place but the two will continue to vie for the final berth in the semis with the results from their final four games crucial.
"It was a vital win but Villa are still breathing down our necks so every game is still like a grand final for us," Rovers coach Matt Olley said.
Experienced trio Lane and Dent in midfield and Mitchell Flower at sweeper were outstanding for Rovers, laying the platform for the revival.
Lismore Thistles have tightened their stranglehold on the minor premiership after a late penalty from Matt Weir gave the Blues a tense 2-1 home win over a spirited Italo Stars.
An early goal from Matt Armstrong gave Thistles the edge until Stars hit back through Shaun McDonald.
Weir handled the pressure to drive home the winning dot shot with 10 minutes to go.
"It was an ugly three points," relieved Thistles coach Craig Kennedy said.
"We'll have to improve on that performance before the semis."
Thistles now need to win just one of their remaining three games to earn their first minor premiership in 21 years.
Byron Bay looks the only side capable of catching them after defeating second placed Bangalow 1-0 away win in the derby clash.
The Rams scored a late goal to clinch a tight contest, with George Martin finding the net.
A late send off for defender Lucas O'Donnell was the only downside for the Rams, who now need to win all four of their remaining games to have any hope of catching Thistles.
Casino is running out of time to avoid relegation after suffering a 6-0 away loss to Lismore Workers.
The Cobras remain isolated at the bottom of the ladder and will need to win at least one, but more likely two of their remaining three games, to have any hope of staying up.
Workers controlled most of the game with Jamie Hill and Max Harlan scoring two goals each. Matt Keevers also added his name to the scorers' sheet as did keeper Chris Singh, who stepped up for a penalty.
The Redmen can now snatch third place from Bangalow with a win over Goonellabah in their catch-up game at Weston Park tomorrow night.
Goonellabah and Lennox Head fought out a scoreless draw at Weston Park.
- Lismore Thistles (PL15, 39pts),
- Byron Bay (14, 29),
- Bangalow (15, 27),
- Lismore Workers (13, 26),
- Richmond Rovers (14, 22),
- Alstonville (14, 19),
- Goonellabah (14, 22),
- Lennox Head (14, 11),
- Italo Stars (14, 9),
- Casino (15, 6).
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