Welcome to a new season, a new comp and enough new players to warrant calling Balmain Rovers a new squad this year.
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After a summer of soul-searching, recruitment, trial matches in very hot weather and administrative homework - we've reached our immediate goal: inclusion in the 2004 Sydney Amateur Soccer League. As opposed to the Canterbury District comp, this one ranges all over the Sydney metropolitan area, and involves a generally higher grade of football. In our first match, we were hoping to find out if we were in way over our heads or would actually be competitive.
We certainly realised it was a different scene. Change rooms - small, but they were there. A smooth, well-grassed playing surface. A ref and two assistants refs. Luxury - and exactly what we'd hoped would await us in this comp. All that remained was to play football. Read on.
Sydney Amateur League Round 1
Balmain Rovers v Sydney Pharaohs
Bark Huts Reserve, Belfield
Sat 3 April 2004
Reserves Kick-off 1pm
Firsts Kick-off 3pm
Reserves: Match Report by Ricky Onsman
We knew we had a strong Reserves squad, even without Pier D'Angelo and Rick Currie. Martin in goal; Lenz, Daley, Onsman and Frydman in defence; Wiles and Whaite in the middle flanked by Davis and See; Salomoni and Sturm up front. Your correspondent was captain for the day and promptly lost the toss. That would have been disappointing except that the ref turned it into a comedy by getting confused about who had the right to do what. "You've lost, so you've got the choice ... no, wait ... you've lost, so he's won, so you've got the ball, so the winner gets the choice of ends". Opposing skipper: "What?" Ref: "Which end, son? Or which way?"
Eventually, the match started and a few things became obvious. These blokes had some nice short passing moves, but not much more. When the tall young centre forward grinned at me nervously and said "It's my first game", my confidence rose. When Allan delivered a trademark solid tackle, came away with the ball and then ran forward with it unmolested, I felt much better. And when Dean and Ruben traded one-twos before sending Dan on a mazy run to feed a shot from Dom that blasted over the bar, I realised we could have a good day ahead of us.
There wasn't much wrong with the first half. The defence was pretty solid, the usual midfield hole was being filled with some sharp running from the young flankers, and Dom and Radan were delivered some good ball. On one occasion, Dom tested out a defender near the edge of the penalty box who was found wanting, ran the ball a bit closer and rifled in a sharply angled shot to put Rovers on the board. By 20 minutes in, Radan had accepted another through ball from the defence (ahem) to fake out a Pharaohs defender, turn neatly and slot the ball home. As Rob Liney likes to say, "It's a simple game, really".
Sweeper Chris Daley sauntered into the box for a Kristian Wiles corner and was probably as surprised as anyone to find himself right in front of goal, unmarked and with the ball dipping down nicely toward his head. You don't have to invite any defender twice to score - and especially not one who'd rather be a forward: another goal for Rovers.
My favourite moment of the half came when a Pharaoh who wasn't nearly as slick as he wanted to be tried to draw a free from Ruben by lowering his shoulder, faking a hit and then lifting his head to protest to the ref. Unfortunately, the last bit involved meeting Ruben's forehead (I think) with his nose, which promptly exploded with blood. He got the free kick, but couldn't take it himself as the ref ordered him off the field. He spent a few minutes punching a tree at the far end of the ground. It's a wonder the tree didn't "headbutt" him as well.
Pharaohs made regular forays into our territory, mostly repelled outside the box and otherwise wrapped up by Miles, but they did stumble on a useful strategy. One player ran the ball into the box and then away from Allan Frydman, who duly chased and probably brushed against some part of him. Attacker goes down in contrived heap and does indeed draw the penalty. "Brought down in attacking play inside the box, I've got no option", says the man in black. Aforementioned young centre forward takes the penalty and scores, although even then not terribly convincingly.
Half-time, and there's a general air of satisfaction. No-one's playing like a dog, and everyone's enjoying themselves. We're back on the field and waiting five minutes before the action restarts.
In the second half, Richard Raward made his Rovers debut, replacing Ruben on the right flank. It wasn't too long before Richard tussled with the opposition defence, almost had the room for a clear shot, but laid it off for Dom who smacked it home. Four-one, and plenty of breathing space. Radan also came off to rest his blistered heels before the Firsts game, giving Dave Griffiths the chance to show what he could do. Turned out that was quite a lot. The Welshman banged home Rovers' fifth goal and had a couple more goes as well. Dan Whaite took a rest, with Dean Lenz pushing into midfield and Dan Higson coming on at left back.
I suppose it's fair to say that we tired in the last 15 minutes, allowing a bit more pressure to be put on Miles. But it's also true that the drawbridge was successfully lowered and nothing actually penetrated our defences. Daley organised well, and while the old midfield hole reappeared, it's reasonable to say we had the game covered.
Dom (2), Radan, Chris, Dave G
3 - Dominic Salomoni
2 - Chris Daley
1 - Radan Sturm
Firsts: Match Report by Jeff See
Basking in the radiance of a fantastic 5-1 victory by the Reserves, the Firsts took the field looking to make it a great start to the season for
Which they did, with Simon grabbing an early goal from a well placed corner. However, as the Pharaohs settled they - with the help of some contentious
refereeing decisions - started to dominate the game. Only some good defending and keeping by Stew kept them out, although Rovers broke well and both
Radan and Rob had chances to add to the lead. Slowly though, Balmain fought their way back into the game and going into half time the match was fairly
The second half went in pretty much the same vein as the first (without the goal), until Ben won a rare free kick for the Rovers, which he flighted nicely behind the defence, giving Radan and Rob enough time for a lengthy discussion between them as to who was to take the shot. Eventually it was decided that Rob would, and he did the right thing and made it 2-0.
The goal seemed to settle everyone down, and it looked like being an easy Balmain victory until the Pharaohs managed to pull one back with 15 minutes
to go. There could have been a nervous finish for the Rovers, but for an instant reply from Radan. He nicely beat his man and slotted the ball home
to make it 3-1. At that point the crowd favorite Ruben came on for Serge, who had made several great runs down the left (I was going to say Serging,
but I just couldn't bring myself to). That's the way the game ended, 3-1, making it a great start to the season for the squad.
Simon, Rob, Radan
3 - Ben Jones
2 - Simon Bush
1 - Radan Sturm
3 - Ben Jones, Dominic Salomoni
2 - Simon Bush, Chris Daley, Radan Sturm
2 - Dom Salomoni
2 - Radan Sturm
1 - Simon Bush
1 - Chris Daley
1 - Dave Griffiths
1 - Rob Liney
Sunday 18 April:
Away to Melchester Rovers @ Easton Park, Rozelle