Balmain Rovers 4A Reserves v Earlwood
Hughes Park, Earlwood
Sat 29 June 2002
Report by Adam Freeman
Hughes park is a ground that is nestled among some of Sydney’s most tasteful and understated homes. The ground has the usual standard fittings for a Canterbury Association ground: a nice slope to it, an astro turf cricket pitch and the odd patch of grass here and there.
Ridagal had decided to change the formation of the team a bit for this game, partially due to player availability and partially to give us numbers in the middle of park. So Rovers lined up with a 3-5-2 formation, welcoming back Spoz in goals, the three centre backs being John, Richard and Neil, two attacking wingbacks in Kelly and Michael Ward, a three man centre midfield of Michael Badman (back from his European tour), Adam B and Jared, with the strikers being Fergal and Sohail. On the bench we had Darren Lynn resting his hamstring and Adam F who due to work commitments may have been late to the game.
The sight of Balmain running onto the pitch to the uplifting sound of the theme from Z Cars really gets the adrenalin racing. Nobody else seems to hear it, but I always do.
Our attacking wingbacks were under orders to picture themselves as Brazilian fullbacks with Michael Ward to be Roberto Carlos and Kelly to be Cafu. The only problem in this plan was that Michael Ward refused to shave his head, which to me seemed a reasonable request.
From the kick off it became obvious that the Earlwood plan was to sit deep and belt the ball long to their lone striker, who was very quick with more than a little skill. Also obvious was that the Earlwood team was a lot more organised than on our first meeting. Rovers seem to take a while to get used to the new formation. In the early stages of the match we were perhaps too defensive, with the team playing too deep and players reluctant to get forward. This seemed to allow Earlwood to settle into the game and build confidence.
Earlwood did look dangerous when their long balls found their pacy striker and it was one of the striker’s runs that led to the first Earlwood goal. Worryingly, Rovers found themselves 1-0 down before really getting started.
Following the goal, Balmain started to get into the game. Michael Ward was particularly impressive on the left, getting into good attacking positions and delivering some great balls into the box.
When the ball was played along the ground Rovers looked a much more dangerous side. However, it was something we did not do enough. It was one of those few passing moves that put Fergal in a little space on the edge of the box, from which he hit a fantastic shot to bring us back in to the match at 1-1.
Minutes before half-time, disaster stuck with Fergal going over badly on his ankle. He limped on until half-time, but it did not look good. At half-time Rovers were forced to substitute the injured Fergal, bringing on Adam F in the unaccustomed role of striker. Hey, how difficult can this striking thing be?
Rovers started the second half quite brightly, stringing some passes together and placing the Earlwood defence under some pressure. While Earlwood continued their tactic of hitting the ball long for the striker to chase, in this half they were doing it with a strong wind at their backs, making it very difficult for our back three. Still, they coped well, especially Neil (who should be Carlos for the next game as he has - or hasn’t - the hair for it) with his usual strong headers. I guess growing up in Liverpool teaches you how to head things. I believe the technique is referred to as the Kirkby Kiss. Meanwhile, John P was doing a good job man marking Earlwood’s most dangerous player.
Unfortunately, Earlwood managed to score a goal on the break to take a 2-1 lead. Balmain kept trying to get back into the game with Kelly and Sohail swapping positions to give us a rather unexpected strike force. Jared really started getting into the game with some dangerous runs and Adam B continued to pass the ball around well. However it would be Earlwood who would score next, converting a penalty to bring the score to 3-1.
To the Rovers' credit, the team kept on trying to get back into the game and, whilst our play was below what we are capable of, the team still kept putting in the effort. This led to a free kick with Adam B breaking his ‘hoodoo’ to score a great goal - a strike worthy of a spot on the Channel 9 LG Golden Moments section, hit low into the corner. 3-2 and we were back in it. Neil had now gone off injured to be replaced by Darren Lynn.
As for the last few moments of the game I’d rather not talk about it. But I’ll let you pick from one of two endings, one of them true and one a complete lie.
a) Adam F took the ball from about halfway, dribbled round three defenders, chipping one of them - which reminded the crowd of Gazza’s effort in Euro ’96. He then launched a fearsome strike which was narrowly tipped over the bar by the keeper.
b) From all of about six inches out, Adam F hit the ball over the bar, finding out that being a striker is not as easy as it looks.
Next week we have probably the toughest game of the season against Balmain B.
There has been much post-match discussion and analysis of our mini form slump, but I’ll throw some more in. For this coming match let us concentrate on enjoying our football. If we play positive football the results will come.
The Pele points go to:
2 - Michael Ward - tireless in both attack and defence
2 - John Pereira - defended strongly throughout
1 - Adam B - a fine free kick, spread the ball well from middle of field
1 - Neil O - once again battled well at the back, dealt with high balls well in trying conditions
Also, congratulations to Neil and his team Noddy’s Nobblers for winning the World Cup Fantasy League.