THISTLES THE CUP CHAMPS
LISMORE Thistles claimed the first trophy of the Far North Coast soccer season with a 3-0 victory over Bangalow in the men's premier division Anzac Cup final at Crozier Field in Lismore.
The local version of the A-League's "Big Blue” on Saturday was a game of two halves.
The Bluedogs started powerfully and most of the first half was played deep in their opponents' territory.
Bangalow looked more likely to score, with Sam Ireland dangerous up front and mid-field general Joel Rudgley marshalling his players into regular attacking raids.
The return of reliable Thistles defender Max Hospers and player/coach Chris Hunt in midfield, however, were important influences, allowing the young Blues outfit to keep their composure when they could so easily have wavered.
A goal to Oscar Stahl came against the run of play after 35 minutes and Thistles took the momentum into half-time.
Bangalow toiled hard but coach Neil Fuller's men were under constant pressure in the second 45 minutes as Thistles found their mojo.
Goals to Nick Albertini and Jye Wilson sealed the club's third Anzac Cup title in six years.
Stahl was named player of the match and Hunt was exceptionally proud after seeing his side withstand huge pressure and turn the game in their favour.
Bluedogs coach Neil Fuller was disappointed but typically pragmatic.
"Today was not our best performance and Thistles took their opportunities,” he said.
The men's Open A went to Ballina when they defeated Thistles 1-0 in an exciting game, giving coach Richard Morgan his first title at the club.
Mullumbimby-Brunswick Valley responded to an opening goal by Shores United to eventually win 5-2 in Open B.
In the Grade 16 final, the talented Alstonville side dominated a gallant Mullumbimby Brunswick Valley team that did its best despite being unable to field a full-strength line-up.