Balmain Rovers 4A Reserves v Five Dock Reserves
Nield Park, Rodd Point
Sat 4 May 2002
Report by Adam Freeman
Following last week's disappointing performance, it was important that Rovers not only win this game to keep in touch with the top sides but also play well to restore team confidence.
The Rovers team lined up with Michael Arthur in goal; a reshuffled backline of Neil O’Donnell at left back, Adam Freeman at right back and a new centre pairing of Kelly Baigent and John Pereira; a centre midfield of Phil Davis and Michael Badman with Sohail Dahdal and Jared Carter providing plenty of pace on the wings; and a strike force of Fergal Murphy and Darren Lynn. Richard Lyne, still sick with flu, and Darren Taylor carrying a rib injury made up the substitutes.
Of concern before the game was the Nield Park pitch, which not only was on a steep hill but also (as if we didn’t have enough dodgy ankle injuries in the team already) contained numerous holes and bumps.
The game kicked off with Rovers running down hill. The early exchanges of the match were scrappy with the Five Dock side playing a kick and chase game, while Rovers struggled to hold possession. Once the game settled down, the midfield of Michael B and Phil started to take control of the game, and Rovers could begin to play the short passing game for which the Thirds are becoming known. Both Michael and Phil did an excellent job of spreading the ball to the wide men and also bringing the fullbacks into the game.
After a period of sustained Rovers pressure Phil Davis opened the scoring flicking on Jared Carter’s well-taken corner. Jared’s pace and tricky running out wide (why are wingers always described as tricky?) caused the Five Dock defence plenty of problems, and on the other wing Sohail showed plenty of determination to win a lot of 50-50 balls, not to mention the pace to beat his man. Rovers were now creating numerous chances, which unfortunately we failed to take. However I felt if we kept playing this way the goals would come.
Finally the goals did come, with Darren Lynn rediscovering his scoring touch to add the second and third goals before half time. Whilst the defence were in the main solid throughout the first half, a couple of mix-ups in communication did provide Five Dock with the sort of chances that we will not be able to afford to give to the stronger sides in the competition.
A half time lead of 3-0 should have been a lot more, and with the task of running up hill in the second half, there was a worry that Five Dock may make us pay for our missed opportunities.
The second half began well for the Rovers with Fergal Murphy meeting a Phil Davis cross with a powerful header to score the fourth goal. This goal seemed to shatter the fragile confidence of the Five Dock side that now seemed to have no other ideas than to hoof the ball forward. The Rovers defence handled these long balls well. Kelly, Neil and Richard Lyne (on for the injured John Pereira), won everything in the air. Five Dock were restricted to few shots on goal, with Spoz pulling of a fantastic save when called on.
Sohail was rewarded for his efforts with the next Balmain Rovers goal, stabbing the ball through a crowded goalmouth. Late in the second half, Darren Taylor came on despite carrying a rib injury and, having spent most of the first half screaming at Fergal to take his chances, was presented with a clear opportunity to show him how it was done. Fortunately he would be provided with another opportunity later in the game.
By now Rovers were in full flow with the defenders eager to get on the score sheet. Richard Lyne’s late runs into the area caused havoc at set pieces and Kelly was unlucky not to score after a fantastic run.
The final two goals came from the two Darrens, Darren Lynn completed his hat-trick with a goal from a Darren Taylor cross, followed by Darren Taylor scoring from a Darren Lynn cross.
This was a much-improved performance with the hard work at training paying off, particularly the time spent on organising the defence. However, there is still room for improvement. Next week should be a tough challenge against what is, by all reports, a strong Enfield side.
The Pele points go to:
3 - Kelly B - strong in defence winning everything that came his way in the air, whilst in the second half making numerous attacking runs, unlucky not to be rewarded with a goal.
2 - Phil Davis - controlled the middle of field, supported the defence when the pressure was on and used the ball intelligently and well in attack.
1 - Neil O’Donnell - another strong game, winning countless headers and tackles. Once again the first to arrive and last to leave at the pub.