Balmain secured three points on Sunday with 4-2 win over Auburn Star that was far more comfortable than the scoreline may suggest. Nathan Little made his debut for the Tigers, playing up front in place of Jules “Bergkamp” Bracewell, who is unable to travel to away matches due to his fear of long distance scooter voyages. Matt Mulhall also came into the side in goals after some impressive work on the training pitch. However, it was another returnee to the first team, back-from-the-wilderness swashbuckling-Swede Henrik Andersson, who put the Tigers in front, ghosting in at the back post and drilling Gavin Buddis’ cross past the stranded Auburn keeper. Little then scored on debut, timing his run to beat the offside trap and blasting the ball into the back of the net. Lorenzo Merlino, Eric Lynch, and Dave Hardwick formed a solid midfield partnership, Hardwick in particular putting to good use some fancy footwork honed in his childhood jazz ballet lessons.
Leading 2-0 with 20 to go, Balmain let their guard down for a second and were punished with a goal to the home team to make it 2-1. However the two goal margin was restored shortly, with Gothe-Snape and Richardson combining to tee up a shooting opportunity for Merlino. Well outside the penalty area, he hit a first time screamer that went into the top corner with the keeper clutching at air. He then lapped the field in celebration, personally informing every spectator present that he had used his left foot in the process. The fourth came when Andersson produced some left wing razzle-dazzle, beating a couple of would-be tacklers before playing the ball into Little, who turned and smashed a shot through about four pairs of legs. Balmain came close to adding to the tally, Danny Cremasco leaping like a salmon to head narrowly over the bar, and then managing to block Hardwick’s goalbound shot with what one spectator described as his “Van Damme left butt cheek”. Auburn knocked in a late consolation goal to add a smidgen of respectability to the scoreline, but it was far too little, far too late from their point of view. A move from centre forward to the centre of midfield showed Merlino’s versatility and he earned himself the Exchange Hotel man of the match award.
Unfortunately the win was soured somewhat by the disgusting post-game behaviour of an Auburn official. After refusing handshakes and trying his best to incite a ding-dong brouhaha with both insults he could think of, the “man” spat in Balmain youth team coach Anton Ivancic’s face. Fortunately, Ivancic had the good sense to wipe the garlic sauce off and walk off the field with his dignity intact, something this [censored] person looks to have lost a long time ago.
The U21s moved back into the top four with a convincing 3-1 win over Auburn. The home side scored within the first 10 minutes to silence the travelling support, but the Tigers were soon level through Steele Bonus. Bonus latched onto a ball bouncing free in the box and sent a half volley screaming into the goal like a wrecking ball. Balmain secured the points with second half strikes from goal machine Simon Roddy and Jeremy “Noel” Deasey. The architect of Balmain’s play was midfield General Louis Soares and he deservedly clinched the man of the match award, courtesy of Balmain’s finest establishment, the Exchange Hotel.
Balmain’s U19 team came within a couple of centimetres of snatching a late winner in an entertaining 1-1 draw. Sam McNeill could have given the Tigers the lead early on, but his shot rolled agonisingly wide with the keeper beaten. In a rare occurance for an U19 match, the first half ended scoreless with both sides fairly evenly matched. The game opened up a little in the second half and Auburn went one up with a quarter of an hour left. Not to be outdone, the Tigers hit back within seconds through Chris Grayson after Simon Roddy had flicked on a long ball. Minutes later, McNeill sent a cross over which Roddy headed past the keeper, only to see the ball shave the wrong side of the post, denying him the winner. Balmain had to play out the final 10 minutes with 10 players after Hugo Muecke fell awkwardly on the rock hard cricket square, injuring his arm. An x-ray later showed that he suffered a break in his wrist, and will be out for several weeks – get well soon Guti!