Byron Bay Rams 2 v Ballina 2
Many say too much Premier League football is never enough.
However, it has certainly taken its toll on battle-weary Byron Bay. With a horror stretch of five games in two weeks, the top-of-the-table Rams players have all had to deal with fatigue and minor injuries.
Key playmakers John Bradbury and Jed Wright have been sidelined with major injuries as well.
So the clash with fifth-placed and untested Ballina Seahorses on Saturday was never a sure thing.
Ballina have one of the strongest defences in the competition, having conceded only 13 goals.
However, they have suffered all season from having no prolific strikers up front, scoring only 15.
Byron, on the other hand, has scored a whopping 45 goals. However, they have conceded a worrying 23. The fans have been happy though, with every game guaranteeing plenty of scoring action.
Saturday’s match started on track for the home team with the Rams slotting two first-half goals.
The first came from a Sam Owen corner curving in to the Ballina keeper who couldn’t hold it, with Yantra Whitling able to put away the loose ball.
There were telltale signs of the Rams’ fatigue all over the park and the league’s ‘Golden Boot’ front-runner Jordy Campbell uncharacteristically missed an easy goal from in front soon after.
However, he made amends just before half- time with a cracking goal from a Whitling cross.
It was a tough game with some spiteful moments and plenty of yellow cards to both teams. However, the referee didn’t help the flow of play, by stopping the game every few minutes for the slightest of tackles.
In the second half a flat Rams outfit made a few chances, but seemed to miss the flair of the injured Bradbury and Wright.
In the end two free-kick set plays from the Seahorses made the difference.
In the first Cerys Hawkins scored with a scorching curved ball into the bottom right-hand corner. In Ballina’s second free-kick play, Ben Coulter pounced on a ball that had hit the upright to even the score.
In a tense last few minutes both teams did what they could to score the decider.
However, they had to settle for a draw and only one competition point each.
It keeps Ballina in fifth spot and Byron Bay a little more precariously in top place on the ladder.
With only four more games before the semi-finals things are really starting to hot up and get interesting.
Byron Bay travels to Lismore to play Thistles on Saturday while the Seahorses will have a tough encounter at home against Goonellabah.
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