Major Semi Final
Balmain Rovers 4A Reserves v Enfield
Beaman Park, Earlwood
Sat 17 August 2002
Report by Adam Freeman
Finals football - the business end of the season. Finally, Saturday has come, after I spent all week been thinking about it and in the process driving "her indoors" mad.
Got to the ground to find my fellow Thirsty Thirds all there nice and early. You could feel the tension building up, everyone keyed up to go out there and be the first Rovers team this season to qualify for the Grand Final. The atmosphere was added to by a large crowd of support on the terraces, some of whom had travelled from as far afield as Manchester, and the presence of TV cameras.
Our opponents, minor premiers Enfield, had managed to go through the regular season only losing one game. However this loss had been to us. Both previous meetings between the two sides had been hard matches and we expected today to be another hard game.
The game kicked off with Balmain playing well. The Rovers looked confident, passing the ball around nicely in the midfield with Adam B and Mike B running the show early on. From here on, reader, you will have to excuse my vagueness. My excuse is that it all happened so quickly I became swept up in the emotion of the game. I really can’t remember exactly how it all happened, but here goes anyway. The Rovers' strong start was rewarded with the first goal coming before the five minute mark. Darren Taylor opened the Rovers account after some good lead up work from the midfield. Shortly after that Rovers found themselves 2-0 up, Darren Lynn this time finding the net - his 22nd goal of the season. Not bad for someone who has played the last few weeks of the season on one leg.
By now young Jared was getting into the game, causing the Enfield defence all sorts of problems. With each run he beat his man and also delivered some dangerous crosses from wide positions.
The next Balmain goal must be a candidate for goal of the season. Adam Brzozowski, his "Sphere of Influence" extending to about 40 yards out, hit the ball on the volley, sending it rocketing into the net. The crowd couldn’t believe it, the Rovers couldn’t believe it, the linesman couldn’t believe it and Enfield certainly couldn’t. Around 10 minutes gone: Balmain 3, Enfield 0.
Enfield then showed that you can’t finish top of the Canterbury District PL4-R (by the way am I the only person who thinks that PL4-R sounds like the name of a character from Star Wars?) without being able to play a bit. Enfield, still shocked and more than a little narked, started to get back into the game, scoring from a failed Balmain clearance to bring the score back to 3-1.
It was also around this time that the referee’s influence on the game began to take effect, calling up Balmain for some fouls and booking striker Fergal Murphy for ... well, at the time I couldn’t work it out. There didn’t seem to be anything too untoward in Fergal’s challenge and if Fergal had said anything to the referee I certainly didn’t hear it. Later in the week at the judiciary we were to find out that it was for "deliberately obstructing an Enfield attacking movement", which seemed a bit strange as the incident occurred deep in the Enfield half.
Rovers, not to be shaken by the Enfield comeback, added a fourth goal, this time Fergal Murphy scoring. Enfield would still not give up though and managed to score to bring the game back to 4-2.
Next the game took another turn. With Balmain on the attack, Fergal and the Enfield ‘keeper went for a 50-50 ball. The ‘keeper dramatically went down. The referee produced a second yellow card for Fergal, sending him off.
The biggest strength of the Thirsty Thirds is the team spirit and unity within the squad. This was to come to the fore. The Rovers reaction to being reduced to 10 men was to score another goal, Jared once again tearing the Enfield defence apart.
So the halftime score was Balmain 5, Enfield 2, although even that was not without incident as the referee insisted that the score was Balmain 4, Enfield 2. After a bit of heated debate and an elementary maths lesson, it was decided that the halftime score was 5-2 after all. One substitution was made at halftime with Mike Ward coming on to replace the injured Neil "do these exercises and you’ll still be playing at 40" O’Donnell (Hmm, must have a look at those - Ed). Neil once again had played strongly, tackled hard, and covered plenty of ground wide on the left.
Enfield did manage to pull another goal back in the second half, as their one man advantage allowed them to pressure the Rovers. But the Rovers dug deep, with the defence being particularly impressive. Richard Lyne seemed to get in the way of almost every Enfield shot. John and Kelly both focused on keeping the Rovers two-goal advantage.
Darren Lynn - playing injured - was withdrawn, with Adam F sent on in a lone striker role with orders to chase down the ball and pressure the Enfield back line. If Adam F was to forget his orders, Darren T was certainly quick enough to remind him. "That’s yours, chase him down. What are you doing chasing that guy? You should be over here now!"
The level of effort from the Rovers midfield was immense. Michael B, Adam B and Darren T kept battling to the end. Although most of the remainder of the second half was spent with the Rovers repelling Enfield attacks, Rovers did fashion a couple of their own attacks on the break.
The final whistle came with Rovers hanging on for a fine 5-3 win and a spot in the Grand Final. The whole squad had great games, everyone played their part in the win. I would love to give everyone points but unfortunately I can’t.
The Pele points go to:
2 - Richard Lyne - once again seemed to block every Enfield attack. Also kept the team calm and focused
2 - Jared Carter - fantastic game in both attack and defence. Kept going despite being hacked down from behind on numerous occasions
1 - Darren Taylor - whole hearted display
1 - Adam B - scored a goal from a wonder strike and ran the middle of the field.
NOTE at Tuesday's judiciary meeting, a "half-innocent, half-guilty" verdict was given and only one yellow card recorded, allowing Fergal to play in the Grand Final.