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With the previous Sunday’s Rams v Goonellabah clash rained out, Saturday’s Thistles match was the Rams’ first outing for two weeks.
A Tom Ruhl injury allowed a return to first team action for Shannan Maciejewski after a year out with a broken leg. Shannan has been training, building fitness and playing well in the reserves and deserved the call up.
The rest of the line up remained the same as the last few outings, with Layton barton in goals, Toby Barton at right back, Sam Robson at left back, skipper Bruce Morhaus and Nolan Pierce in the centre, Aaron Richter-Steers, Sam Owens and Corey Montgomery in mid-field with Jordy Campbell, Kazahiro Tsukamoto and Shannan up front.
The Rams started brightly and made early in-roads into Thistles territory down both flanks. Rams took the lead with Sam Owens’ first goal of the season – a well-taken strike from 15m out finishing a great move from Kazahiro. Byron continued to press and good work from Campbell should have seen Kazahiro finish, but the competition’s ‘golden boot’ leader scuffed the clear chance wide. Another chance went begging when Kaz opted to pass instead of shoot and Sam Owens’ shot also went wide.
Thistles’ equaliser came when a corner to an unmarked Brenton Parrish was headed home past a flat-footed Barton. Poor marking from the Rams unravelling their early dominance. Controversy erupted in the thirtieth minute when a seemingly innocuous challenge from Morhaus incited a furious attack from Thistles’ Matt Parrish. The ensuing melee took referee and linesmen a full two minutes to quell. Parrish was eventually dragged away and sent off. It was the second red in a Byron match for Parrish this season, following his head-butt on Morhaus in the ANZAC Cup semi-final. The referee’s decision to also red card Morhaus, however, caused some surprise and consternation.
The violence of that attack and the skippers’ baffling send-off seemed to unsettle the Rams and allow Thistles to finish the first half strongest.
A lack-lustre Corey Montgomery was replaced at the break by an in-form Jonno Pierce who’s spirited play lay down the left gave the Rams a good opening to the second half. Campbell and Kazahiro were a constant threat up front, Maciejewski worked tirelessly and with Aaron dropping into the back four to replace Morhaus, Byron again had the best of the play.
A good move down the right saw an Owens cross elude all and a bouncing, bobbling ball was not put away. The attacking Rams earned corner after corner but the Blues defended with grim determination.
A Thistles move in the 70th minute was well defended and the ball shepherded out for the goal kick. Layton then inexplicably played the goal kick straight to Parrish, 25m out, who calmly strode forward and stroked it home to give Thistles the lead.
Toby Barton cam off for Korhan Ozakman and the Rams switched to three at the back to chase the equaliser. Maciejewski, Owens and Tsukamoto worked tirelessly and Jordy Cambell hit the bar after powerful run. Another chance for Jonno Pierce blazed over the top and Ozakman opted for spectacular rather than pragmatic and missed an open goal in the last minute.
Same old story with chance-after-chance missed by the Rams and two individual errors at the back costing them dearly.
Next week sees the Rams back in State cup action against Workers in Lismore. The winner will progress to the quarter finals of the NNSWFF State Cup and be the first FFNC side to do so.
If the Rams make it, they’ll have done it the hard way, after three consecutive away games.
The consistent and enthusiastic support of the Rams supporters is much appreciated by players and staff and it will be great to get as much support in Lismore as possible. Please get there if you can. Kick of is at 3pm.
The reserves went down 4-2 after battling back to 2-2 from 2-0 down. Missed chances again left coach Shane Barton with a decent performance that did not bear fruit. The battling Byron Sixths remain unbeaten with a 1-1 draw against South Lismore after Ian McGlone missed a penalty.
The Fourths came away from Pottsville with a very creditable draw and, after a difficult start, remain unbeaten in their last 2 games. Well done to Nick Enter and the lads. Byron’s Thirds put in a much-improved performance but still went down 4-1.
First Division put on a great show in the day’s final, rain-soaked game but went down 1-0 to Ballina. Byron played all over the Ballina team and deserved the win but the poor finishing malaise seems to be widespread. This game also saw Rams Head Coach Sowter emerge from retirement to man the First Division goal in what was his 1255th game across five decades of senior football.