Balmain Rovers 3B Reserves v Marrickville A
Mackey Park, Marrickville
Sat 10 August 2002
Report by Ricky Onsman
It turned out to be a very fine equation. That Rovers entered this match fighting for fourth spot was perhaps not unexpected - we all knew we would pay for that 0-5 debacle against Lakemba. What seemed bizarre was that our rivals for the spot should be Marrickville B, whom we walloped 6-2 and 7-0. And so it seemed also natural that our opponents in the last match would be Marrickville A, top of the table and the season's minor premiers.
While one point would see us through, the pre-match Rovers talks focused on winning. There is a determination about this side lately, a sense of potential being realised. While we have admired the Firsts' teamwork all season, it's only recently that we've recognised our own ability to outplay our opponents.
The game started with only ten Rovers taking the field. Rob Liney, runaway leader for the Where's Wally award as well as the Golden Boot, was still finding a parking spot when the match began. As it turned out, Rovers scored before the Sheffield striker even took the field. Some straight ahead short play put Ben through for a shot that appeared to bounce over the goal-line. The rebound went only as far as Nick Agafonoff's head however, before returning to its rightful place in the back of the Marrickville net.
Balmain continued to dominate and played calm, sensible football to continue to press the Marrickville defenders. It wasn't long before Rob asserted himself, making it clear that he intended to add to this record-breaking goal tally before having a week off in the snow. With some excellent buildup play from the midfielders, he duly did so. In fact, by 25 minutes into the match, he had added another one to put Rovers into a 3-0 lead, which lasted until half-time.
We've been 3-0 up at half-time before this season. Against Concord - it finished 3-4, against Balmain A it finished 4-3. Hmm.
Nick advised that he only had 5 or ten minutes left in him. Given the absence of Sergio, Emrys and Mark, and Pier's reduction to bystander, not to mention the absence of Joey's ID card, the bench consisted of Brian, back from a hamstring injury. When Marrickville equalised 10 minutes in, Nick took his leave and Brian came on at left back, leaving Rob as sole striker up front.
From then on, Balmain soaked up the pressure at the back only occasionally releasing the ball to the midfield and further. Mind you, several of those moves did seriously threaten the Marrickville goal. But more of the action was near the Balmain goalmouth. Rovers keeper Johnny Barker well and truly played himself into the game. It seemed he was the most confident man on the field, calling loudly, gripping balls in mid-air, chewing dust to pull a ball back from the line, tipping a deadset certain goal over the bar and generally proving an absolute nuisance to the Marrickville strikers.
It took a penalty and some sloppy defence, but once Marrickville clawed their way back to 2-3, their confidence rose and they pressed Rovers hard. Balmain captain Ally Haining was playing his usual hard but fair game, but allowed himself to push a little too hard in one tackle for a yellow card, and then moments later push too hard again - in the Rovers penalty box. The sendoff roused Marrickville (although it was good to see a Red Devil commiserating with the misery-struck Scot), while Rovers defended in what numbers they could muster.
Despite the kind of defence that still looked like it could generate another goal for Rovers, it took only one more slip-up by the boys in orange to allow Marrickville to equalise. The referee blew his whistle soon after and the two teams cheered each other off the field. The minor premiers didn't lose, and Rovers got the point it needed.
Of the teams that finished above us, we lost to our nemesis Concord twice: 1-5 then 3-4, and lost to Marrickville A 2-4 then drew 3-3. Both the latter games saw Rovers hold a 3-0 half-time lead. Now we face Earlwood in the Minor Semi Final. They also beat us 2-4 followed by a draw in the second round: 1-1. Not only can we beat Earlwood, we can beat the other two as well.
The Pele points go to:
3 - Johnny - picked the right time to play his best match of the year
2 - Rob - always had them worried - "Don't let him shoot!"
1 - James - a midfield rhino capable of such subtle touches