The battle for the finals ...

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Jordy Campbell battling the Goonellabah defense

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Saturday July 30 saw a third against fourth clash at the Byron Rec Grounds, with the Rams taking on a Goonellabah side desperate to stay in touch with the leaders.

After three draws in four outings the Rams were eager to get back to winning ways and put some daylight between themselves and the chasing pack.

The Rams line up was: Layton Barton in goal, Mav White, Sam Robson, Nolan Pierce, Bruce Morhaus, Aaron Richter-Steers, Shannan Maciejewski, Sam Owens, Corey Montgomery, Kazahiro Tsukamoto and Jordy Campbell, with Yantra Whitling, Jonno Pierce, Tommy Ruhl, Toby Barton and Tim Knight on the bench.

Byron started brightly and a good move down the right saw an Owens cross brought down by Campbell, the lay off just failing to find Tsukamoto in support. Montgomery made headway down the left, but a well-organised Goonellabah defence coped well with everything the Rams had to offer. The back four were in control and Goonellabah posed little threat as an attacking unit, White, Pierce, Robson & the returning Morhaus coping admirably with everything they had to deal with.

A needless free-kick was given away on the edge of the Rams box to give Goonellabah a sniff of goal. A fairly ordinary effort bounced off Laytons chest and rebounded off the side of a Goonellabah forward’s head and into the net. It pretty much summed up Byron’s recent run of luck. While not exactly a fluke, it was unfortunate.

A hard working and organised Goonellabah mid-field made it difficult for the Rams to build any pressure and with all the Byron players working hard for openings the game settled into a rhythm with wave after wave of Rams attacks snuffed out in the final third.

A succession of corners late in the first half led to three good chances – all squandered – and Byron went into the break a goal down.

More of the same in the second half as attack after attack foundered on a rock-solid Hornets back line, with little threat to the Rams goal at the other end.

It seemed a Byron goal had to come but chances to Campbell, Tsukamoto, Owens, Richter-Steers & Montgomery all went begging.

Ruhl replaced Maciejewski as the Rams pushed three up front and further attacking potential was released as Knight replaced a tiring Owens down the right.

A great piece of control and turn from Campbell brought the save of the day from Robertson in the Hornets goal and with the goal at his mercy, Tsukamoto somehow managed to miss the rebound, hitting a prone Robertson. Another good save, tipped over from a Campbell free kick, led to 6 corners in short time, all handled well by the Hornets’ defence.

Tim Knight did what he had been sent on to do and ripping past a despairing full back whipped in a superb cross to the back post only for Campbell to head over the bar.

Jono Pierce and Yantra Whitling replaced Montgomery and Tsukamoto who were straining for impetus and inspiration but the changes had little effect and, despite a valiant effort, the equaliser just would not come.

With the Rams throwing players forward to desperately chase an equaliser, gaps inevitably began to appear at the back and Arnetts missed from close in when it seemed easier to score.

Another home defeat for the Rams and with another hard away game against Thistles next weekend, the Rams are desperately in need of a victory to get their season back on track.

The reserves went down 2-0 with a disappointing performance to leave their finals hopes all but finished.

Meanwhile, the Byron Women’s Premier Squad assured their finals spot with a fine 5-0 win over Lennox Head on Friday night.

John Sowter