Balmain has assumed the top of the league position after Saturday’s 6-2 hammering of Lithgow at Birchgrove. The Tigers got off to the worst possible start when Lithgow banged in a long range effort only minutes after kick off. Balmain then scored one of the goals of the season when Eamon Byrne, making his first top grade start after the withdrawal of the Flower brothers through injury, got on the end of a towering 50 metre clearance and first time volleyed it over the keeper’s head. Unfortunately he was playing at the wrong end of the field at the time and the cries of “Sacre Bleu!” from interim coach Dave “Santini” Grill could be heard in Paris as Lithgow took a 2-0 lead. Balmain were handed a lucky lifeline just before half time when the referee awarded a penalty for Steve Lewis falling over a blade of grass. Lewis stepped up and struck his penalty straight at the keeper but the luck was with Lewis though as the rebound came straight back to him and he hammered it in to make it 2-1.
Santini got stuck into his troops at half time and the Tigers came out for the second half looking a different side. Henrik Andersson levelled things after taking a sublime Jackson Gothe-Snape pass around the keeper. Dave Hardwick then scored two almost identical goals, heading in two corners in succession to take the score to 4-2. The Lithgow side were thoroughly deflated by now as many of them had backed up from the reserve grade game, and Balmain began to tear them to pieces. Hardwick completed his hat trick with a well-placed finish, and Lewis added a second with a looping header to finish off the scoring. Coach Santini even had the luxury of bringing on Tony Merceides as a late substitute, who was straight up to the press box after the game making sure at least one journalist would include him in his match report.
The reserve team continued their unbeaten run with a comfortable 4-1 victory in the earlier fixture. Balmain took an immediate lead when Dylan Zammit headed in Paul Ritchie’s looping cross in the first minute. Balmain then squandered several good chances to add to their lead before Honza Capek smashed in a top corner shot from the edge of the area to make it 2-0 at the break. The second half saw Balmain play some more quality football that created many chances that unfortunately went begging. Capek scored his second goal after running onto Jem Richardson’s through ball and cleverly fooling the keeper before finishing. Lithgow then scored after a free kick fell loose in the box right in front of a Lithgow attacker who was faced with the easiest of finishes. However the Tigers had the final say when Jem Richardson scored with a first time shot after Capek cut back a ball from the byline. Balmain could have had another two or three after that with some better finishing, but all in all it was a comfortable victory against the league cellar dwellers.