A tough, tough night at the Rec grounds with the visit of Pottsville for a wet-weather catch up game.
In contrast to last Friday’s 8-goal thrashing of a hapless Ballina, it was a hard-fought battle as a spirited and relentless Pottsville made it a difficult night for Byron.
Bruce Morhaus, still carrying a thigh strain from the Ballina match, was replaced at the back by Ian Lennie – back from his red-card holiday. Apart from that, the starting line up remained the same as the last two outings, with Layton and Toby Barton, Nolan Pierce and Sam Robson in defence, Aaron Richter-Steers, Sam Owens and Corey Montgomery in the mid-field and Tommy Ruhl, Kazuhiro Tsukamoto and Jordy Campbell up front. The Rams were a little slow out of the blocks and a hard-running, hard-working Pottsville side made it difficult for the boys to settle, get the ball down and play their at-pace passing game.
Byron did, however, have the better of the early exchanges with numerous incursions into the Pottsville strike zone. As the Rams piled forward in numbers, the malaise of missed chances reared its ugly head. Montgomery and Owens were getting through a massive amount of work up and down the flanks and at least two crosses, one from the left and one from the right, deserved a finish.
The Rams took the lead in the 16th minute with a strike from Kazuhiro Tsukamoto – a neat finish that followed an equally clean and incisive passing movement.
In the 24th minute, Kazuhiro bagged his second goal of the night with another sharp delivery.
Still more chances went begging as Pottsville edged into the game with some quick and decisive moves. A strong Rams defence repelled all attacks, however, and Byron led 2-0 into the break.
For the second 45, Pottsville returned to the pitch fired up (as expected) and on the attack. In the 47th minute, a wicked deflection of a Dave Lonie free kick left Layton no chance as it ricocheted off Kazuhiro and into the bottom corner for a goal.
The Rams dug deep to hold onto the lead as Pottsville – a very good side – worked tirelessly for an equaliser.
Another Lonie free-kick brought a superb finger tip save from Layton and the points were secured.
While not as fluid and as exciting as the Ballina game, it was a gritty and entertaining clash. It was great to see the youngsters stand up to extreme pressure and come away with the points.
Lonie, Lee and Rodger were in excellent form for a very impressive Pottsville, while Ruhl, Tsukamoto, Robson and Owens playing well for the Rams.
The Byron reserves finally found form to dispatch the Pottsville number 2 squad 8-0 in the lead up match, Ryan Gray and Tim Knight each took two goals, with one each for Tane Meek, Korhan Ozakman, Herick Scheunemann and Kare Isaac.
Sunday sees the Rams defending their new top-of-the-ladder status at Goonellabah in what promises to be another tough, tough match.
The reserves kick off at 12.30 and the top squad at 2.30 p.m.