Anzac Cup hopes on line in Thistles, Rams Ewingsdale clash

LISMORE Thistles' hopes for a third consecutive Tursa Anzac Cup title will be in the balance when the Blues take on arch rival Byron Bay at Ewingsdale tomorrow.

The two sides have fought out the past two cup finals, but that is unlikely to be repeated this year with the loser almost certain to miss out on the semis.

"We've spoken about what we want to achieve this season and it would be something special to win three in a row, so it's a big part of our plans," Blues coach Rod Lees said.

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Lees will run out the same line-up that downed Ballina 3-1 in the opening round, but hasn't seen the Rams' new-look side yet.

"It's hard to know what to expect from them - they've had a lot of changes - but their 3-1 win over Rovers last week suggests they are still a very strong side," he said.

Byron will also field an unchanged line-up, with coach Jeremy Sutton looking forward to the challenge.

"Thistles are a strong side, they're well coached and they challenge some of our weak points, so we'll have to be at our best," he said.

While the Blues like to use their pace down the flanks, the Rams are strong up the spine with James Packham and Michael Kelly in central defence behind midfielders Todd Knaus and Herrick Schuleman, who will be looking to feed strikers Connor Cannon and James Tomlinson.

The Blues' three-pronged attack features Matt Armstrong, Nathan McCann and Matt Bale, while in midfield Darren Beardow will combine with Matt Weir and Josh Wraight.

But it's their back four that have quickly clicked into gear this season, with Max Hospers and Matt Cramp solid in the middle, while overlapping wide defenders Jeremy Sullivan and Zac Wilson have pace to burn.

With cup hopes on the line for both sides, a high intensity contest is assured, and with both sides also boasting strong defence, the key will be taking chances when they come.

Kick-off is 4.30pm.

In the other two games tomorrow, all four sides will be looking for their first win, with Ballina hosting local rival Lennox Head and Richmond Rovers travelling to Crawford Park to take on Alstonville. Both kick off at 4.30pm.


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