Balmain Rovers 4A Reserves v Earlwood Reserves
Hughes Park, Earlwood
Sat 20 April 2002
Report by Richard Lyne
Even before kick off on Saturday I had a feeling it was going to be one of those games, I just hoped Thirds could get through it unscathed. On the Thursday before the game we had too many players, but by Saturday morning we only had 13 and this included our star striker (who would not be turning up until half time) and the dynamic Mr Pereira (who would be leaving at half time to attend a wedding - what kind of an excuse is that?). Our keeper had damaged his back and was unable to play. Our second centre half was claiming to be unwell (the big girls blouse) and the mystery man named Jeremy was apparently getting married, perhaps that was the wedding John was attending?
On arrival at the ground we found our star striker in attendance and keen to play, if only for the second half, This was the best news all day. Problems then presented themselves: Hughes Park was a difficult ground to find and the players, when they found it, had all forgotten their socks - unusual but true.
The referee added to the dilemma in the pre-match briefing when she asked to have my card for the remainder of the match! Had she not noticed the wedding ring? Didn't she realise my home number was NOT on the card? For the good of the team I decided that I would let her down gently AFTER the match, she was young, inexperienced and I did look fetching in my red shorts!
Well, the game kicked off and unusually for Thirds we started playing football. It normally takes a good 15 minutes before we realise the game is on. Playing against 10 men we immediately went into attack and within a minute Sohail was clean through with an open net ... how the defender cleared it off the line I will never know, but he did.
10 men changed into 11 and the game was level in all respects, but not for long! Earlwood had a couple of decent young players who were fast and fit and played aggressively up front (How glad was I to be on the sidelines? No comment). The defence of Adam F, Kelly B, John P and Neil O would have their work cut out today.
After 15 minutes of sustained pressure Earlwood was granted a corner, a dubious decision but still a decision. The practice on Wednesday evening would come in useful, surely? It did: we had two men on the posts and had even marked a couple of their forwards - but unfortunately not the one that scored! For the first time in season 2002 - the premiere season of this ragamuffin team - Thirds were behind! Would this be the end of the road? Would the wheels come off the bandwagon?
Surprisingly, they didnít and this reflects the team spirit that Thirds has built. Heads didnít drop and instead a spirit that we would not lose arose.
Neil the terrier decided the big number 5 was going to leave the pitch knowing he had been in a game and John P put equally strong challenges in. What a defensive pair! The big girls blouse may find it difficult to split such a pairing! Adam B and Phil begin to find each other in midfield and the stage was set for the Thirds' traditional romp to victory.
Unfortunately, somebody forgot to tell the forwards that we had woken up and had kicked off. Fergal was put clean through by Darren T and missed. He then had an open net from 6 yards out and went for 3 points!
Realising the forwards would need to be shown where the net was, Darren T obliged and scored our opener. We were back in business. Having been shown where the goal was, Fergal soon showed what a fast learner he was and scored two in rapid succession. From 0-1 down we had recovered to 3-1 in a matter of minutes.
Earlwood was shell-shocked. Their backline was unable to cope with the pace of Sohail and Fergal which, coupled with the quality of the balls being supplied from Adam, Phil and Darren T, was causing them real problems. Their response was to pull their big number 5 into defence to cope with the pace. Neil's frustration at having his challenge removed was clear for all to see! For a time this worked and, save for a second Darren T goal, we didn't score again in the first half. At half time the score was 4-2.
Mike B was having a decent run as reserve keeper but his goal kicks left something to be desired. At one point John P had to point out that passing the ball to their forward was not the preferred option. Like the rest of the team he only needed telling once.
At half time we rearranged the back line due to Johnís departure. Joey would slot in at left back and Kelly would move into the middle. Joeyís sole job was to man-mark their number 15, who was causing problems due to his pace. As expected, Earlwood came on strong at the beginning of the second half and quickly grabbed a goal back. Once again, the game was on.
Thirds however rise to a challenge and Saturday was no exception. Fergal scored a tremendous volley to mark his hat-trick and then got a fourth. Despite the 6-3 scoreline, the game still felt close. Earlwood seemed to play in fits and starts but when they did play they always looked dangerous. After 25 minutes of the second half and after much abuse from Darren L (Fergal was scoring too many goals and was Thirds' leading scorer now!), our former star striker was brought on. Not wanting to rearrange the defence or midfield again, Sohail made way for Darren.
Darren too appeared to have forgotten where the net was. He was put clean through on the keeper with acres of time and space to ... gently pass the ball to the keeper who gratefully dropped like a sack of spuds at Darrenís feet.
Darren L had obviously not been on the pitch when Darren T had given the forwards the lesson on where the goal was. This lesson was promptly repeated for his benefit by a combination of Jared and Phil. Jaredís thunderous shot bounced off Philís back (as he desperately dived out of the way) and ended up in the back of the net. To be fair, Darren learned the lesson well and scored with a beautiful lob over the keeper.
The game ended 8-4 and Thirds' winning streak continues. Lessons have been learned throughout the team and a further small step was taken. When you consider that this is only our third real game together, I think to have put three wins together is a huge achievement and reflects well on each and every member of the squad. WELL DONE THIRDS.
As for me, the referee didnít ask for my number. Perhaps she had seen the ring after all.
The Pele points go to:
1 - Fergal
1 - Darren T
1 - Neil
1 - John
1 - Adam B
1 - Phil