REIGNING major premiers Lismore Workers have set their sights on consecutive titles after recording a hard-fought win over Byron Bay Rams in Football FNC men's premier division semi-final action.
The 2-0 win maintained Workers' dominance over the Rams this year and gives the Redmen a chance to secure the first grand final berth when they meet minor premiers Lismore Thistles in the major semi next week.
The match began badly for Byron, with a sickening head injury for Todd Knauss following an aerial contest with Max Harlan in the opening minutes.
Knauss suffered a broken nose and fractured eye socket and will miss the rest of the season.
Both sides threw themselves into a tough contest with neither side able to hold the ball for long and limited chances on goal.
Just before the break Workers striker Wayne Mortimer marked his return from a long injury lay-off by slotting a well-taken goal from the edge of the box.
Byron were left frustrated by two penalty appeals being turned down and despite mounting substantial pressure in the second half, once again failed to break down Workers' stoic defence.
With just minutes remaining, Workers player-coach Daniel Kelly wrapped up the win with a dramatic cameo.
Coming on as a sub, Kelly pounced on a loose ball following a corner to smash a 30m volley into the net with his first touch.
"I get about one goal a year, so it was good timing I guess," Kelly said.
"The boys really lifted as they should for a semi, and we want to be at Oakes Oval again this year on grand final day."
After being promoted at the start of the year, Bangalow reached the semis for the first time.
But they came up against a seasoned Rovers outfit that showed no mercy to the new kids on the block.
The warning signs came early for Bangalow, with quicksilver Rovers striker Andrew Casagrande finding space to slot a clinical goal after just five minutes.
Once they managed to settle, Bangalow created a handful of chances.
The best of these fell to Joel Rudgley who forced an agile save from Rovers custodian Chris Jones.
The Bluedogs began to apply pressure with quick ball movement after the break.
Sweeper Mitchell Flower however kept the Rovers' defence well organised.
After weathering the storm, Rovers sealed the match.
A darting run to the line from Casagrande resulted in his cross being deflected in for an own goal.
"We had to grind it out, but I think our experience at semi final time got us through," Rovers coach Matthew Olley said.
Rovers will now meet Byron Bay in the sudden-death minor semi-final next week.
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