Premiership hopes hang on Byron/Bangalow knockout clash

THE local derby between Bangalow and Byron Bay will carry extra importance when the arch rivals clash at Bangalow tonight in Far North Coast premier league soccer.

With Bangalow sec-ond and the Rams just a point behind, the winner will keep alive its hopes of catching leaders Thistles, while the loser will bow out of premiership contention.

With so much at stake for both sides, a fiercely contested game is expected, with Bluedogs coach Mark Shephard using their first- round loss as motivation.

"The premiership is not really on our minds, but revenge for losing our first clash when they scored at the death is," he said.

Shephard has solid defender Ricky Small out, but has a ready replacement in Josh McInerney and will move their top scorer, Joel Rudgley, from midfield into a striking role, probably alongside Batok Ring.

With Victor Pires and Tom Ryzak in midfield, Bangalow has a well- balanced side that will be bubbling with confidence after a 4-0 win over Lennox Head in their last start.

In contrast, Byron Bay will field a reshuffled line-up, with Lach-lan Dewar suspended and top scorer Seb Bell still injured, along with Layton Barton and Herrick Schuleman.

Coming in to fill the gaps will be Tom Inoue, Bruce Morhaus and possibly Todd Knaus, with coach Damon Bell calling on his side to play an error-free game.

"In recent weeks we've made some silly mistakes that have cost us dearly and if we keep doing that, we'll throw it away," Bell said.

The Rams looked vulnerable in defence at times in a 4-2 loss to Villa last weekend and will need to quickly rediscover their best form as the season approaches the business end.

Kick-off is 8pm.

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