Story & photos Dog Whistle
Billed as the ‘Match of the Season’, Sunday’s clash between top-of-the-table rivals, Byron Bay and Lismore Thistles was no disappointment.
The reserve grade teams were fairly evenly matched, with Byron looking the stronger early in the game. A couple of extraordinary defensive lapses from the Thistles saw Byron’s lead extend to 3–1 before the Lismore outfit rallied and clawed back two to finish the match at three all. Another strong team effort from the Byron Reserves, with outstanding performances from Tai Flanagan, Jono Pierce and Lucas O’Donnell.
The much-anticipated Premier-division match saw the Thistles (down two key players) take to the pitch with a very defensive mindset. The Rams, determined not to let this one get away, went in hard from the opening whistle.
A series of lightning-fast attacks from the Rams’ Kazahiro Tsukamoto and Connor Cannon kept the Thistles on the back foot and forced some spectacular work from the Lismore ’keeper.
Byron’s able midfield and back line had the Thistles’ counterattacks under control while the Lismore defence held back a sustained hammering from the Byron forwards.
Sixty minutes in, a soft red card for Sam McIntyre left Byron with a ten-man team and a fast and furious battle for the top of the table honours.
Far from wilting, however, the Byron attack became more resolved and relentless, forcing the Thistles into an even more defensive mode – repeatedly kicking the ball out of bounds under the mounting pressure.
The deadlock was finally broken when a corner from Connor Cannon was dropped by the Thistles ’keeper. Byron fullback Nick Baker pounced on the wayward ball to give the Rams a 1–nil lead.
The Byron attack continued right to the whistle, with only great saves from the Lismore ’keeper preventing a bigger margin.
Standout perfomances from the Rams were from the tireless Tsukamoto and Cannon up front, Michael Kelly and Lachie Dewar in the midfield and Nick Baker, the Packham brothers and ’keeper, Chris Jones.
Heading into the second half of the season, the undefeated Byron Bay is now a clear and deserving leader of the Football Far North Coast Premier Division and looking like a serious contender for minor and major premiership honours.
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