Byron Bay’s Park Hotel Rams headed down the coast to Lennox Head on Friday evening for what was generally expected to be a comfortable win in both grades over their less-fancied neighbours.
Those expectations did not factor in the passion and determination of the very young Lennox squad not to go down without a fight.
Down seven players from their usual starting lineup – including both keepers – the Rams Reserves and Premiers both started slowly (once again), and neither seemed to find their rhythm throughout their respective matches.
Lennox employed a ‘kick and chase’ strategy, with keepers and defenders ‘going long’ at every opportunity and young legs in hot pursuit of every ball. Not the most sophisticated or attractive game-plan but it did succeed in unsettling the Rams and disrupting their usually fast and fluid passing game.
The frustrated Reserves struggled to put together passes and were often half a step behind the fired-up Lennox boys. Despite looking the superior footballers for much of the game, Byron never quite got it together and were lucky to come away with a 1–1 draw.
The Rams’ Premier team put in a better showing, but still struggled with Lennox’s long-ball strategy.
Striker James Tomlinson opened the scoring with a very tidy finish but the Rams had difficulty gaining any real edge. The Lennox boys showed great spirit and took the fight right up to the their more experienced opponents.
An equaliser came in the second half and the pressure was on the Rams to prevent a humiliating upset. On one of many runs at the Lennox goal, Connor Cannon was brought down about 30 metres out with a poorly executed tackle.
Heckling from the sideline inspired a superb strike from Cannon in the resulting free kick. As the ball cleared the wall and appeared to be heading over the bar, the Lennox defenders called it ‘over’ only to have it dip snugly under the bar for one very sweet goal.
With the score at 2–1, the Rams finally kicked into gear and produced wave after wave of attack on the Lennox goal. Some fine flanking runs and mid-field movements looked promising, but failed to crack the Lennox defence. The hard-charging Lennox youngsters also kept Shaun Packham’s defence on its toes.
Byron’s stand-in keepers (Rob Kempenich in Reserves and Damian Smith in Prems) put in outstanding performances that did much to preserve the Rams’ dignity.
Full credit to Lennox Head, whose speed, spirit and determination served them well but, with tougher opposition on the horizon, the Byron boys need to find consistent form.