Saturday’s referee baffled everyone
Balmain’s season came to a disappointing end on Saturday evening as they bowed out 4-2 on penalties after 120 minutes failed to produce a goal. A tactical reshuffle consigned striker Julian Bracewell to the subtitutes bench, making way for a six man midfield with Balmain looking to keep things tight in the opening period. However, the game started at a frantic pace and Balmain created all the early chances. Dave Hardwick swivelled and latched onto a bouncing ball in the box, but hit his shot over the bar. Eric Lynch had a close range effort saved by the keeper after Hardwick flicked on a Grant Burgess throw-in. The Hakoah keeper had to bravely punch clear a cross with three Tigers looking certain to put the ball away. Apart from a few corners and a couple of long range shots, Balmain keeper Charlie Sosa was left with little to do and as half time approached the game remained scoreless.
The second period saw the introduction of Bracewell early on, with Balmain looking to add a bit of spark up front. However Hakoah rarely looked troubled and were content to play their now familiar game of defending deep in numbers and trying to hit their forwards with direct balls from the defence. Hardwick looked to have scored with a header with half an hour remaining, but as the ball floated through the air the crowd rose from their seats and gasped and the intake of air seemed to pull the ball to the wrong side of the post. Jackson Gothe-Snape and captain Eric Lynch were forced from the field with injuries late in the half and, with both defences looking rock solid, the longer the game went on the less likely a goal looked. Well into injury time, Sosa kept Balmain’s season alive with a stunning low save after the referee had made a shocking decision to award Hakoah a corner after one of their strikers had clearly headed the ball out.
Scoreless at full time, the game dragged on into 30 minutes of extra time and then the late dramatics of a penalty shootout. Balmain won the small advantage of shooting first but quickly lost it by missing their first two penalties. Full credit to Hakaoh, they stepped up and gave Sosa no chance with four quality penalties that finally broke Balmain’s 660 minute clean sheet run and sent the Tigers out for season 2005.