Balmain Rovers v Concord B: Callan Park, Rozelle: Sat 22 April 2005
Match report by Ricky Onsman
With a narrow loss and a hard-fought draw under our belts, we now faced the bottom-placed team coming off two losses with a combined goal difference of 0-7. On the other hand, we could only field the bare minimum of 11 players, while our opponents had a full bench. We also knew that one of their losses was when they only had nine men.
Callan Park was, as usual, in need of a trim but otherwise in relatively good nick. We again had the northern non-cricket pitch field and started with the sun at our backs and a proper ref. We actually started with a great deal of confidence, Barry and Brendan controlling the ball well in midfield and setting up several strong forward movements to test the Concord keeper. Akin and Ere were useful out wide, and Paul and Ismet troubled the opposition defence regularly. Our backline was less settled, with Dave and Allan putting plenty of energy into their work, but Ricky and Serdar not really clicking in their centre back roles. Nevertheless, even when Concord's midfielders did build a few attacks, their strikers weren't allowed much of a look at our goal and if they pushed the ball too far forward, Amir was onto it in a flash.
The referee kept reasonable control and was happy to give free kicks, although only the most obvious offsides could be given due to the absence of any linesmen. All of this suited the Balmain game, and we kept cool heads, won the ball through sheer effort and built intelligent attacking moves. This was made easier when Serdar stayed in the middle and pushed forward into midfield rather than drifting away from the defence, and it was no coincidence that 20 minutes in it was Serdar who played the ball through that led to Ismet outmanoeuvring two defenders and the keeper to calmly slot in the first goal.
There were more opportunities to score before the break, with Paul crafting some classy passages of play and Barry also sending team-mates wide and long to threaten the goal but, despite quite a few fumbles by the Concord keeper, the ball stayed out of the net. At the other end, Ricky won most of the high balls, Serdar won the low balls and Allan and Dave blocked any flanking moves. Amir dealt confidently with any long range efforts to see us up 1-0 at half-time.
Concord were much more assertive after the break, and as the match went on Rovers discovered that there is a definite disadvantage to playing into the lowering sun on the new east-west field axis, especially for defenders. As they had all game, Concord kept rotating players on and off the field while 11 increasingly weary Rovers kept them at bay. It couldn't last, and it didn't. At times Concord had four players invading the Balmain penalty area and their numbers finally told. Amir made some remarkable saves, making them look easy when they were actually very classy efforts, but finally Serdar's attempt to dribble the ball out of defence allowed Concord to avoid Amir and slide the ball in from about a metre out.
To our credit, heads didn't drop and our grafting quality came out. On the left, Ere consistently tackled and dispossessed players nearly twice his height, while Dave and Akin combined well on the right to turn defence into attack. Brendan won plenty of ball despite some vigorous attention to his back and ankles, Barry jinked around midfielders at will and Paul kept pushing forward. Ismet was released several times, and was fouled in the penalty box at least once without compensation and Serdar made intelligent use of some free kicks to keep the pressure on.
The increasingly ragged Balmain defence was also under frequent assault, but their resolve held firm. Amir continued to frustrate his opponents and Allan did a lot of organising as well as keeping their flankers out. Ricky didn't have enough wind left to shout anymore, but threw himself into tackles and stymied the Concord strikers.
In the end, I think Concord was probably the more frustrated of the two teams. Even with their numbers advantage they couldn't overpower a determined Balmain Rovers side. It really felt like we could have won if we'd been able to put our best team on the park, but everyone was pretty happy that we didn't roll over and lay down.
Full time score Rovers 1 - Concord B 1
Pele Points: 3 to Amir (his class is matched only by his courage) and 1 each to Paul (creative all game), Barry (another captain's knock) and Ismet (probably surprised a few with his determination, rewarded by a well-taken goal).