Balmain Rovers v Leichhardt Saints
King George Park, Rozelle
Sunday 26 June 2004
Reserves Kick-off 1pm
Firsts Kick-off 3pm
Reserves: Match Report by Agency Sources
Balmain Rovers made the long, arduous trek to the home ground of Leichhardt Saints (about 500 yards round the foreshore from Callan Park) to face the might of the current holders of fourth place in Reserve Grade. Manager Sergio was not happy even before the off, with a lineup limited by injury, commitment to a depleted Firsts squad and absences unavoidable or otherwise.
In any case, those present made a pre-match commitment to play strong, hard and for each other. Sadly, we didn't live up to this commitment, at least in the first half. Leichhardt, another one of those SASL teams dominated by Cockney and Midlands accents (they did have a token Italian, but then so did we), played the type of midfield-controlling, quick-passing, running-into-space, test-out-the-goalie-with-a-shot game that is commonly called 'football', and it left us gasping for air and grasping at straws.
Marshall Moir didn't do much wrong as a makeshift goalie - the first Saints goal came from a lightly toed and well-judged flick that caught him only slightly off his line and the second from a lacklustre piece of defending from a throw-in. The Rovers defence was disorganised and was too frequently pulled out of position, the midfield was unable to take control and the attack was limited to the occasional fruitless solo run. When we didn't have the ball, we couldn't decide whether to try to get it, and when we did have it we couldn't decide what to do with it. Ruben was probably the firts half exception, but one guy is not enough.
Half-time brought some home truths from Sergio and Nick, and things certainly did improve in the second half. Stew and Ricky took control in the middle at the back, Dean and Ruben started to take the ball wide and forward from left and right respectively and Pier settled into a more commanding midfield presence once he let himself try a few things. Jeff also tried it on a bit more and found himself gaining ground rather than losing it, and Morgan and Rick worked themselves into a lather winning the ball. Everyone was lifting, while Leichhardt seemed to settle into a mode of play more protective of their lead than seeking to extend it.
Two defining moments were reached when Marshall, having taken the ball cleanly yet again, stepped outside his (poorly marked) area to deliver it, a move spotted by the linesman and several Saints who took pains to point it out to the referee. However, neither this free kick gift nor a soon-to-follow penalty for tripping could be capitalised on by Leichhardt. Marshall's effort against the penalty kick was truly magnificent - a diving save above shoulder height to his right.
From then on, Rovers pushed forward with a real sense of being able to take control. Ricky pushed forward aggressively as Stew kept the last line of defence solid, Rick found an extra measure of speed and Sergio started getting some decent ball to take forward and trouble the keeper. Dan Higson, playing up front, also found he could wrestle the ball away from the Saints and into danger areas. Still, it took the injection of the Sheffield goalshark to put Balmain on the scoresheet, with a fairly typical Liney refusal to concede possession and a shot from a difficult position struck with surprising power.
There were corners, free kicks and opportunities aplenty coming our way as Leichhardt replaced forwards with defenders. Jeff came off and Ben came on, waving Ricky toward a midfield position where he threw himself about, even going on a run up the left as Rob pushed forward (no, Liney didn't pass). Sergio hit the post off a Liney free kick rebound, Pier flighted a delicious ball from deep left into the goalmouth, Rick sent a long lob from the right touchline just over the crossbar - but the equaliser would not come. Final result 2-1 to the home team, and a hefty measure of frustration for our intrepid manager.
You'd think Balmain Rovers Firsts would have learnt from the Reserves experience. Get to the ball first. Decide what to do with it, and do it. Back yourself, and back your team-mates.
Thankfully, Stew and Marshall (who swapped their Reserves defender/goalkeeper roles for the Firsts game) were the most awake to what was required and between them staved off several Leichhardt attacks. But the same midfield holes appeared, the same desperation in long easily-fielded clearances and the same failure to turn a good through ball into a meaningful attack. No doubt the absence of some key Rovers played its role.
Rob and Gotaro each made several brave forays into the enemy's defences, but each without the support of or thought for the other, making them easy targets for a bustling Leichhardt defence. They did each get some shots off though, which was a credit to them. Dave Hull made some penetrating runs down the left, but failed to find anyone in the middle. Dan Whaite seemed lost in midfield, his usual calm demeanour on this occasion rendering him ineffective. Ben did his increasingly usual thing of playing sweeper and sweeping up into attack when the opportunity presented (shades of Gary van Heugten!). However, it was once again the black-and-whites who opened the scoring.
Bruce was less effective than usual in defence - perhaps more rattled by his late arrival and the inexplicable disppearance of his shorts than he'd let on - and Glenn was too often outpaced. Matt was gutsy in the middle, but unable to do much with the ball he won, while Jeff seemed to feel the effects of his efforts for Reserves more than usual. Once again, Leichhardt didn't really capitalise on their opportunities and Balmain were stronger in the second half than the first, but 1-0 is ample to defend against a team that can't take a trick. Not even the late insertion of Sergio could do much to change things, other than rile a few Saints into some unsaintly behaviour. The sun went down, the temperature dropped, and the opposition eked out its second win of the day. Leichhardt certainly didn't look like prospective First Division challengers, but Balmain Rovers looked even less so.
2 - Stewart
1 - Rob
1 - Ben
1 - Gotaro
1 - Marshall
Rovers v Wear Dark, Thursday 24 June
Another tough game against Wear Dark. In what can only now be described as a tradition the bad guys once more opened the scoring against us. It took a while however and took a cracker to break our defence. 1-0 bad guys.
Wake up time once more. Enter Marshall who let rip a beauty to square it up. Rob however never likes to be out-scored and fired up to give us a slender lead before the end of the half.
The second half started with neither side getting a real advantage, Stew keeping very nicely keeping us ahead. Allan managed to find a pothole on the smooth surface and destroyed his ankle. It was at this point that Michael scored the goal of the match. Rob to Marsh a nice chest down with Michael following and cracking it past the keeper. 3-1 Good guys.
Wear Dark was not down and came back strongly, managing to confuse Marsh who deflected the goal into our own net. 3-2 everything to play for. Rob banged in another giving us breathing space follow up by Michael scoring again. Wear Dark got a late consolation. 5–3 good guys. A good game by all.
14 -- Ben Jones
9 ---- Rob Liney, Marshall Moir
8 ---- Chris Daley, Jeff See, Gotaro Uematsu
7 ---- Miles Martin, Dominic Salomoni, Stewart Shaw
6 ---- Sergio Fiorenza
5 ---- Simon Bush, Les Clarke, Dave Hull
4 ---- Ricky Onsman
3 ---- Steve Adams, Morgan Bowling, Brendan Coutts, Ruben Davis, Michael Penman, Richard Raward, Nick Vince, Dan Whaite, Kristian Wiles, Jim Wragg
2 ---- Dean Lenz, Radan Sturm
1 ---- Bruce Fackerell, Pier D'Angelo, Allan Frydman, Rick Currie, Dave Griffiths, Matt Linton
18 -- Rob Liney
8 ---- Sergio Fiorenza
4 ---- Jeff See
3 ---- Dave Griffiths
2 ---- Simon Bush, Dom Salomoni, Radan Sturm, Gotaro Uematsu
1 ---- Chris Daley, Dave Hull, Ben Jones, Marshall Moir, Kristian Wiles
Sunday 4 July 2004:
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