Soccer snakes and ladders

By TANIA PHILLIPS

THEY may be neighbours, but for the second year in a row, the fortunes of the Pottsville and Burringbar soccer teams could not be more different.

Pottsville, near the bottom of the ladder last year, is on its way to the Football Far North Coast Premier League, while last year's highflyers, Burringbar, are heading back to First Division next year.

After a disastrous season, Burringbar's fortunes plummeted further after they were thrown out of the Football Far North Coast Premier League play-off competition for forfeiting to Goonellabah in last week's third-last Premier League game of the season.

The club had been hoping to stave off demotion, despite finishing last, by participating in the play-off to replace Maclean, which is headed south to play in the Coffs Harbour league next year.

But a meeting of the board of FFNC on Tuesday night rejected that application. Instead the place will be decided by a four-team play-off, with Tweed Heads playing Alstonville at Bangalow at 7pm and Workers FC playing South Lismore at Goonellabah.

The winners of each game, to be played in Lismore on August 28, will then play off for the Premier League place for next year alongside Pottsville and Lismore Thistles. The final is on Tuesday, September 4. Pottsville Panthers, who under the coaching of Ron Taylor have catapulted up the First Division ladder this season, take on Murwillumbah Saints today at Les Cave Oval, Murwillumbah.

The Panthers will be looking for a victory in the final match of the home-and-away series to finally secure the minor premiership ahead of Lismore Thistles, who will finish second, just two points behind if they beat Woodburn Wolves this afternoon at Woodburn. Thistles will still hold second even if they lose.

Pottsville will be without striker Ben Blair with an ankle injury, but will otherwise be at full-strength. And despite Saints still searching for their first win of the season, senior Pottsville player Glen Taylor said his side was not complacent.

"We aren't taking it lightly," he said. "Ben is our main strike weapon and he is missing, while coach Ron Taylor is also away for personal reasons." The team has plenty to play for today with the minor premiership on the line. It's hard to believe that just 12 short months ago, Burringbar was in the same position as Pottsville. Now it is playing its last two Premier League games for pride.

The Bandits made history last season, becoming the first Tweed side in the Premier League after a spectacular First Division season.

After last week's forfeit, Burringbar was fined $220, with the money going to Goonellabah to cover losses incurred by not playing the game.



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