After six games without a win, the Rams travelled to Alstonville in desperate need of a win to confirm their finals spot and get back on form.
The disastrous home defeat by Casino was fresh in everyone’s mind but with challengers, Pottsville, having to face Champions Rovers the boys were not too concerned. Shannan Maciejewski sustained an injury against Casino and was ruled out but the return of Sam Owens, Tim Knight and Mav White to the squad was a boost after the disappointing mid-week defeat. Line up for the Alstonville clash was Layton Barton, Mav White, Sam Robson, Bruce Morhaus, Nolan Pierce, Aaron Richter-Steers, Jonnno Pierce, Corey Montgomery, Tommy Ruhl, Kaz Tsukamoto and Jordy Campbell, with subs Ryan Gray, Tim Knight, Toby Barton, Ian Lennie and Sam Owens.
The game started well for the Rams, with lots of possession and effective movement both on and off the ball. With Alstonville safe from relegation, the Rams certainly looked the hungrier side. Byron’s front three, Campbell, Tsukamoto and Ruhl, seemed to gel from kick off and with good support from Pierce and Montgomery, four opportunities were created in the opening minutes.
Richter-Steers held the mid-field and despite a numerical disadvantage, the Rams continued to rule the mid-field for the remainder of the half.
It took a surprising 28 minutes for the Rams to take a well-deserved lead – the goal finally coming with a thunderous Campbell free-kick from 28 metres out.
At 1-0, the half-time score was a little disappointing, as Byron had all the play and Barton had been a virtual spectator in the Byron goal. Owens replaced Morhaus at the break while Richter-Steers dropped back Owens took the holding mid-field position.
Tim Knight replaced an injured Montgomery at the 50 minute mark.
Ten minutes into the second half the Rams extended their lead with a shot from Tsukamoto from the edge of the box leaving the GK no chance. It was Tsukamoto’s second goal in consecutive games after his sweet volley against Casino earlier in the week.
A defensive lapse and a moment’s hesitation from Barton saw Villa get a glimmer of a hope as Rick Hanna finished well.
That hope soon faded as the Rams stepped up a gear and played some beautiful football. Tom Ruhl fired in the third for the Byron with a neat right foot finish after a good control and turn. Sam Owens blasted home the fourth from 22 metres to cap an excellent contribution from the bench.
Knight used his pace down the right to great effect and further chances fell to Campbell and Ruhl. Ryan Gray replaced a tiring but impressive Jon Pierce, Toby Barton came on for Tom Ruhl up front and both subs caused problems for the over-worked Villa mid-field and defence. With very little threat to our goal, all the play was in the Alstonville half. The lead should have been more with great chances missed by both Gray and Knight.
Campbell scored his second and the Rams fifth in the 79th minute with a good finish.
Ian Lennie come on for the impressive Tsukamoto and gave no respite to the Villa back four.
Campbell was Man of the Match with a special mention for Aaron Richter-Steers, in imperious form in both mid-field and at the back. It was a good performance by all players.
Last game for the regular season is at the Byron grounds at 3pm next Saturday against Lismore Workers. The Ram’s four defeats this season all came at home to leave us undefeated on our travels, so an away tie in the finals holds no fears for the Rams.
The reserves won their match 4-1, with goals from Knight, Owens (2 goals in 2 games on the day), Ryan Gray and Herrick Scheunemann. The win coming too late to secure a finals berth.
The Byron Women’s Prems went down 2-1 in a thrilling game on Friday night in the local derby v Bangalow, their probable semi-finals opponents.