Balmain Rovers v Enfield B: Henley Park, Enfield: Sat 27 May 2006
Match report by Brendan Coutts
Half of the season past, and yet so much about the competition in general, and Balmain Rovers’ rightful place in it in particular, remains unclear. Very little separates most of the teams on the ladder, and results have continued to be unpredictable.
Rovers’ own form on paper has been moderate - good wins mixed with disappointing losses. But beyond the results, there has been an undeniable sense that in the last few weeks we had really started to play some good football, and an emerging belief that we are at least a match for anyone in the competition.
This was the situation as we made our way to Henley Park, a venue where we traditionally (how many games does it take to form a tradition?) do well, to face the third placed Enfield B. Missing crucial players - Barry, Akin, Paul, and Justan - this game threatened to be a real challenge for the Rovers.
And so it opened. The first 15 minutes, our recent composure was but a memory and Enfield controlled the game. The pressure told, when a flicked on header bounced across the face of our goal, and as all watched powerlessly to see which side of the back post it was bound ... it bounced, rolled, hit the post, and went ... in. Enfield 1, Rovers 0.
But this was enough to re-spark the cohesion that had marked out recent performances. More than any game of ours I have seen, every player was contributing and winning their position. And through each line, we worked for each other, presented, and made options.
It’s almost redundant to say that Amir played a faultless and courageous game, as he does so every week, but once again he was ... well, faultless and courageous.
It was a superb game from our back four, with Al playing one of his best games, tackling hard, winning the ball, and using it creatively. He and Ricky (who also shut down Enfield’s only dangerous player) combined on many occasions to bring the ball forward and give great service to the midfield. Jason controlled the air, and the space, at the back, and for most of the game there was an air of futility about any Enfield attack. On the left, Dan re-staked his claim in the battle for left back with a terrific game - winning every contest and delivering the ball with precision.
Serdar was dominant in the centre of midfield, and took the game from Enfield. With he and Gavin continually carrying the ball through the centre of the park, Enfield were camped in the last third of the pitch. From my position in the centre, it was a pleasure to have Matt, Dave and Ere on the flanks – they were constantly exploiting the space and making position for us to continue to press forward. Ere troubled Enfield with his pace, and increasing awareness, and played the best game I have seen from him (I admit that I have only seen five games).
Ismet again worked tirelessly and ran harder than anyone out there – and importantly, kept his cool, despite constant niggling from the Enfield sweeper. Once again playing a lone hand in attack he was involved in both our goals. One, with Serdar breaking down the left, Ismet drew the Enfield defence out of the box and as the cross came in, Matt had space to outstrip his opponent, and tuck the ball away into the net. The second, Ismet dodged and drew three defenders before releasing Serdar to finish.
We dropped off a little for 15 of the last 20 minutes, perhaps protecting our lead and going defensive. Our only concern really is that we only won by one goal a game that we should have won by three, and for the amount of possession we had, perhaps we should be getting behind the defence more and making more chances. But for the majority of the game we were in complete control and it was really a pleasure playing out there.
Full time score Rovers 2 - Enfield B 1
Goals: Matt, Serdar
Pele Points: (Really, everyone could have been in the votes, but ...) 3 - Serdar, 1 - Al, Dan, Ere