Balmain Rovers 4A Reserves v Balmain Tigers Reserves
Easton Park, Rozelle
Sat 6 July 2002
Report by Fergal Murphy
So this was it. Our rematch with Balmain Tigers, the team that beat us off the park in our previous encounter, would be the litmus test for how much Thirds have (or haven't) improved over the season. Considering the 8-1 demolition in our previous meeting, terms such as 'damage limitation' and 'containment' were prevalent at training. A poor run of form of late also meant long odds for anyone considering a wager on Thirds.
The usual Easton Park fare of no officials was added to with no-one being able to trace the keys to the clubhouse to get the nets out. Our big brother side in PL4A had at least predicted the ref situation and arranged for a buddy of theirs to ref their game. He was considerate and early enough to ref Thirds' game also - bonus!
Ridagal Lybrzphy, Thirds' homegrown manager, had been busy taking notes during the World Cup campaign and was confident of not repeating the mistakes of the last encounter and risking the David O'Leary treatment in the off season. Darren Taylor was still celebrating Ireland's glorious defeat in Korea and Fergal was nursing a badly sprained ankle from the previous game.
Thirds had 12 players available that were Mike Arthur, Richard Lyne, Kelly Baigent, John Pereira, Adam Freeman, Jared Carter, Neil O'Donnell, Mike Badman, Phil Davis, Adam Brzozowski, Darren Lynn and Sohail Dahdal. Ridagal's homework had produced a top-secret formation, that for security reasons cannot be published to a public website. This involved a change of structure for the team, who played the traditional 4-4-2 for most of the season.
Adam Freeman agreed to start from the sideline as cover for a few players with injury worries, where he joined Fergal Murphy who was designated coach (doing a good impersonation of Scolari), linesman and fourth official.
From the kickoff the game was very closely fought in midfield, with plenty of challenges going in as both teams attempted to exert some control on the game. Both teams fought for every ball so the game was very tight. Inevitably, Tigers got some early chances, primarily cutting in from the wings. The Thirds' workrate was such that there was always a player back covering to cut out the majority of the runs. At the back, Kelly Baigent, Richard Lyne and John Pereira were covering each other and, more importantly, Tigers' front men, effectively. Mike A in goal was also putting in a strong contribution, making some telling interceptions early in the game and coming off his line quickly to shut down a one-on-one with the
striker and saving Thirds from going behind.
When Thirds had possesion there was a very positive approach and very few long balls in hope. The backline combined well with the midfield and wings to work the ball out of defence without panic. Phil Davis, Mike Badman and Adam Brzozowski had a very high workrate, doing the simple but effective stuff in midfield. Jared Carter was all over the right wing in attack and defence and involving himself in plenty of moves.
Up front, Darren Lynn got involved by coming out to collect from the midfield and holding up the ball effectively before laying off useful balls to the advancing midfield, some of which ended in snap shots that didn't quite come off. Sohail Dahdal was having a mighty game beside Darren, particularly in his closing down of the Tigers playmakers who had been so effective in the previous encounter. Sohail succeeded in frustrating the defence to the degree that they found it difficult to clear their lines.
It was after a Thirds counter that Darren clashed with the Tigers keeper in a 50-50. The keeper came out of the challenge second best and had to be removed by ambulance to hospital with suspected broken ribs. Having replaced their keeper with a substitute, Tigers rallied and launched some strong and fast attacks on the Thirds defence, showing signs of breaking the deadlock. Thirds held firm and managed a few counter attacks, one of which saw Darren clash fairly with the replacement keeper who came out second best also.
The half time whistle brought an end to a tough first half with no goals. Thirds sensed there was a chance of going one better than a draw if we kept up the workrate. Mike Badman had given his all in the opening 45 and made way for Adam Freeman.
On taking the field to start the second half it was noticed that Tigers had yet again replaced their keeper through injury. Losing keepers seemed to drive on Tigers and they mounted a period of sustained pressure with many more attacks. Thirds were forced to make some desperate clearances at times and Tigers' best chance of the game came when Mike A lost the ball under pressure and the Tigers player missed a good chance from 15 metres.
This spurred Thirds to up their game and they immediately sent through wave after wave of counter attack. From a good buildup on the right Darren Lynn trapped the ball on the edge of the Tigers' box and slotted the ball home like a true marksman. Thirds could hardly believe they were a goal up but kept to the task. A couple more chances fell Darren's way shortly after this and with a bit more luck Thirds could have gone further ahead. Tigers heads were dropping and mistakes were creeping in, as well as some frustration vented verbally at teammates and the ref (who incidentally was doing a good job in what was a clean match). Kelly Baigent was making good runs from defence at this stage to relieve the pressure, and linked well with Neil O'Donnell on the left to mount a few strong attacks.
With the clock ticking down, Thirds gritted their teeth and spurred tired legs into action, with Fergal acting like a deranged orchestra conductor on the sideline in an attempt to help out.
And so the final whistle went and gave Thirds possibly their sweetest victory of the season. They raised their game to deliver an unlikely win and justifiably held their heads high leaving the pitch, having put Rovers back on the map in PL4R. Credit also to Tigers who played such a large part, leaving it one victory apiece for the season. Who knows, the derby decider could well be in the finals stage.
It would be unfair to attempt to pick individual players from this game, so the Pele points will be awarded one half each to the twelve players who contributed.
(Given the auspicious nature of the victory, the selfless attitude of the report writer and the fact that the points do add up to the six allowed, this Pele points allocation will be allowed - no half points from here on, though - Ed.)