Rams advance to Solo Cup quarter finals

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Solo Cup: Jordy Cambell v Vinicius Leite

Saturday, June 4, Byron Rams met Lismore Workers at Lismore’s Oakes Oval for the third round of the Solo sponsored NNSWF State Cup.

It was the Rams third away game on the trot in the Solo campaign and, despite another wet week, the game kicked off in bright sunshine. The Rams line up was Layton Barton in goal, Toby Barton, Sam Robson, the returning Ian Lennie and Nolan Pierce in the back four, Aaron Richter-Steers, Sam Owens and Bruce Morhaus in mid-field and Kazahiro Tsukamoto, Tom Ruhl and Jordy Campbell up front. Byron had the better of the early play with incursions down both flanks and dangerous crosses from Owens and Morhaus.

Disaster struck in the 15th minute when Sam Owens handled the ball in the box. Former Byron player Baitok Thoingkol calmly slotted home the resulting penalty.

The Rams kept their composure and continued to press, dominating the game with the majority of possession.

A hamstring injury picked up in training saw Owens replaced by Corey Montgomery in the 18th minute. Injury struck again moments later when Tom Ruhl suffered a recurrence of a calf injury. Yantra Whitling, returning from his own injury spell, filled the vacancy. With two of the three allowed substitutions used up, the Rams were walking on a wire.

As play flowed from end to end, an equaliser was inevitable. A Pierce through-ball was superbly controlled by Campbell, who stormed through the defence and calmly drove it home. Several more chances went begging at both ends and while Byron looked the more threatening team, we went into the break at one each.

The second half continued in much the same vein. Workers played some pretty but ineffective football in their own half while Byron took a more direct and threatening route to the goal. Workers relied on the pace of Baitok and their Brazilian import Vinicius Leite but the Rams defence coped well with everything they had. Pierce and Lennie were superb at the back and, when Workers did break through, Laton, in imperious form, never looked troubled.

After a defensive error, Layton did well to shepherd a Workers’ forward wide and was fortunate when Baitok missed the cross from a metre out.

This proved to be the turning point of the game, with Morhaus, Montgomery, Whitling, Campbell and Kazahiro overwhelming the young Workers backs. The Rams reverted to a more traditional 4-4-2 to combat Workers’ extra midfielder and the switch worked well with Yantra Whitling back to form after a long injury lay off.

Strong penalty appeals wer twice turned down by the referee after two apparent hand-balls in the Workers box. The Rams again maintained focus and a great through ball from Kazahiro sent Jordy through for a calm and clinical finish in the 74th minute. Montgomery went down injured in 75th minute and was replaced by final substitute, Shannan Maciejewski who slotted straight into central mid-field while Yantra moved wide.

Byron kept up the pressure, forcing six corners in rapid succession, but failed to capitalise on some good deliveries. The game was sealed with a third goal in the 86th minute when the Workers’ goalkeeper half-parried a Whitling shot into his own net. It was a goal Whitling thoroughly deserved after a tremendous performance off the bench.

The Rams displayed maturity and composure in overcoming the early goal and the loss of Ruhl and Owens.

All players put in a tremendous effort. Campbell led the line well, worked hard and was rewarded with two goals. Kazahiro was his usual tireless self, Nolan Pierce and Ian Lennie were excellent at the back and Aaron Richter Steers was – as always – cool, calm and collected in the hole. Sam Robson played well down the left and Toby Barton was steady on the right.

A great achievement for the Bay, the first FFNC team to reach the last quarter finals of the State Cup.

John Sowter

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Solo Cup: Aaron Richter-Steers v Workers

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Solo Cup: Byron Bay v Workers