Balmain Rovers 3B Reserves v Sydney University Reserves
Timbrell Park, Five Dock
Sat 25 May 2002
Report by Ricky Onsman
I think we were all glad to see the end of the seemingly endless summer weather more conducive to sunbathing than football, but someone had perhaps pushed the weatherometer a little too far the other way. A blustery, showery day saw a cluster of early Rovers wandering around the flat expanse of Timbrell Park with umbrellas, testing the depth of the puddles and wondering why the pitch was marked out on the only part of the park that would qualify as a film set for I Can Jump Puddles.
Still, the opposition turned up, complete with nets and corner posts, so we set up and waited for the match officials to show. They didn't, of course, and we fell back on the time-honoured practice of "We'll ref the first half, you ref the second". In our case, "we" meant Sergio, taking time off from keeping the buses from running to schedule, and cajoled into the role with the promise of playing the second half at centre forward.
Using my Manager's discretion I put myself on the bench, foolishly thinking this would be more comfortable than running around in the rain. You'd think I would've learned by now that standing around in the rain is much more uncomfortable. Anyway, we had a good lineup, with Rob "I've not scored enough" Liney and Nick "I made a video for Triple J" Agafonoff up front, a midfield of Ally "No gardening today" Haining, Pier "I've sent the wife shopping" D'Angelo, James "Mine's in the car" Mackie and Ben "What, no pies?" Jones. A backline of Jon "No really, I'm fit" Drea, Bruce "Van Basten was a better striker than Pele" Fackerell, Mikee "What's with all these nicknames?" Sommers and Donny "I bet they mention my red card again" Nicholas was augmented by Ammon "Can we start at the dry end?" Mackie in goal.
Football in the wet is rarely pretty to watch, and this was no exception. However, Rovers knuckled down to the task at hand, with James and Pier doing some excellent work in the middle creating runs out wide for Ally and Ben as well as feeding Rob and Nick through the centre. The students resorted almost immediately to booting the ball forward for their handy strikers to run onto, and there were a few worrying moments as Balmain seemed to focus too much on looking for offside decisions. However, only ten minutes had passed before Pier took a corner and curled the ball into the box for James to rise authoritatively and head the ball powerfully into the net.
Ten minutes later, Rob was put through the centre and made no mistake to put Rovers 2-0 up and looking good. Sydney Uni kept up the long through balls and their striker did manage to latch onto one and push it through Ammon's legs to bring the score back to 2-1. The last 15 minutes of the first half gave each team chances to score without anyone taking full advantage. Ben and Ally continued to test the opposition defenders with strong runs, while Donny in particular made some excellent saving tackles in the backline. Referee Fiorenza had appointed me as timekeeper and I duly advised him that half-time had been reached, but he chose to interpret my signal as meaning "one more minute". Just as well, as the next passage of play saw Pier take the ball outside the Uni box and, given more room and time than he should have been, lined up and let go a superb drive that rose from the wet grass and gave the keeper no chance on its way into the top left corner of the goal. A definite contender for Reserves' goal of the season.
At the break, Rob was given the afternoon off to rest his ankle and give Sergio his promised run up front, while the midfield was given a bit of extra muscle with Bruce moving up, Pier moving across and Ben moving into the shelter to regroup before lining up for Firsts. I joined the fray in the usual centre back position.
I am undoubtedly biased, but I'm damned sure that Sergio was a much fairer ref than the Sydney Uni Firsts player who took the whistle for the second half. Foul throws went unpunished, crude tackles let go and offsides ignored, pretty much resulting directly in the students' second goal. This is not to take away from the commitment and skill shown by the handful of players who formed their core. In any case, Rovers continued to dominate the match. Jon fed Ally up the left, Donny fed Pier up the right, while Mikee and myself won the high balls coming from the opposition goalkeeper, who was under sustained pressure from Nick, Sergio and James. Bruce nullified the midfield control of Uni's playmaker.
Eventually, Balmain restored the two goal gap through the efforts of James Mackie, who collected the ball on the edge of the penalty area and hammered it home with another unstoppable shot. Uni did manage to pot another, but their desperate efforts to find an equaliser went unrewarded and Rovers emerged worthy 4-3 winners.
The Pele points go to:
3 - James Mackie - control, commitment and confidence as an attacking midfielder
2 - Pier D'Angelo - scored a great goal, set up another and ran all day
1 - Donny Nicholas - stout defence, penetrating forward moves and a great mudslide