With title ambitions quickly slipping away, Balmain journeyed to Auburn to face Roosters FC knowing that nothing but a win would be enough to keep them in the race. Roosters had only suffered one loss all season, going down 4-2 in the first round fixture against Balmain. Could they do it? Could they what!
Balmain welcomed back John Buonavoglia from injury, and he came in for the suspended Admir Smajovic in an otherwise unchanged lineup from the team that drew with Bathurst last week. Balmain began well, with Hardwick volleying athletically over the bar, and Richardson having a penalty appeal turned down after being smashed in the box. So it came as a surprise to all when Parelli jumped to win a good header in his own area, tumbled over a Rooster who ducked instead of jumping for the header, and got up to see the referee pointing to the spot in “yet-another-refereeing-baffler”. Sometimes you make your own luck though, and justice was well and truly served when Matt Cuthbert pounced like a tiger to deflect the spot kick onto the post and away to safety.
Energised, the Tigers attacked and were soon in the lead. Merlino looked to have scored but the referee pulled up play for an earlier hack on Buonavoglia and awarded a penalty instead. No problem for Johnny B, and it was 1-0 to Balmain. Thereafter, the players, fans, administrators, canteen workers, and anyone else of common sense were treated to, yes, you guessed right, “yet-another-couple-of-refereeing-bafflers”. Charging towards goal, Buonavoglia beat a couple with ease before being tackled, shall we say, “agriculturally” by the last defender with any chance of stopping him from scoring. In baffler part one, yellow card was the decision instead of the red that was so obviously deserved. Worse still was baffler part two, where Buonavoglia was red carded for swearing at a totally uninvolved opposition player who felt it necessary to run over and let the referee know that Johnny B was wearing a wedding ring and then try to physically remove it from the injured player’s finger. I kid you not.
Being reduced to ten men did not hamper the Tigers’ style though, and shortly after Gothe-Snape finished off a flowing move by beautifully popping the ball into the top corner with the outside of his foot to make it 2-0. Half time came and went, with Balmain holding onto the lead against an increasingly frustrated Roosters side who were unable to make any headway, even with the extra man. The game was well and truly over when Richardson got to Gavin Croall’s long throw and smashed it past the keeper for 3-0. And just to round off their dominance, Parelli and Hardwick combined for a breakaway fourth goal shortly before full time.
So a 4-0 win puts the Tigers right back in the mix for the top two places and a chance of promotion, not to mention doing wonders for the goal difference. But with other teams all having a game or two in hand, it is still vital that the Tigers keep collecting three points in every remaining match.