Dave Hardwick – man or salmon?
Balmain held on through 14 minutes of injury time to defeat Fogolar Wanderers 1-0 on Saturday, putting the Tigers into a finals position for the first time this season. Captain Eric Lynch was ruled out with a sore big toe, and was replaced in the centre of the park by gutsy midfielder Jackson Gothe-Snape. Joined by midfield partner Lorenzo Merlino, they dished out some crunching tackles on the skillful opposition playmakers before Merlino had to be replaced by Eamonn Byrne following a knee injury. A first half of few chances ended without troubling the Birchgrove scoreboard attendant.
The second period sparked to life early when Gothe-Snape suffered an agricultural challenge on the edge of the six yard box. Julian Bracewell stepped up to take the penalty but his shot was saved by the Wanderers keeper, igniting a chorus of the Chilean version of “Aussie Aussie Aussie Oi Oi Oi” from the jubilant visiting fans. They were soon silenced though as Dave Hardwick leapt high above his markers to head home Jem Richardson’s corner kick for a 1-0 lead. The visiting keeper kept the scoreline respectable, producing a string of outstanding saves to deny what looked like certain goals from Luis Soares, Richardson, and Jean Claude Van Cremasco. The Tigers backline of Byrne, Buddis, Burgess and Trieste were magnificent, not allowing the opposition a decent attempt at goal as injury time ticked over, with the referee finally calling time due to bad light.
Dave Hardwick played an outstanding game and was rewarded with the Exchange Hotel man of the match award, narrowly edging out Gothe-Snape.
The woeful run of form from the U21s team continued in a 2-1 loss to Fogolar. The visitors grabbed a two goal lead inside the first half. The first came after keeper Justin Delaney was unable to keep out a stinging long range shot, and the second after a Fogolar attacker ran around five or six defenders like they were witches hats at a training session. Balmain fought hard in the second period and were rewarded when substitute Matt Coelho nipped in at the near post and cleverly chested the ball into the net. The Tigers dominated the last 10 minutes but it was too little too late and they ended on the wrong side of the scoreline.
Such has been the run of form from the U19s that they were bitterly disappointed with a 1-1 draw in the first match of the day. Missing goal machine Simon Roddy, the Tigers were forced to play Chris Grayson in a makeshift frontline against a team that lined up with only nine players at the start of the match. Grayson repaid the faith shown in his striking abilities when he scored aftert a fine solo run and shot. The Wanderers found an extra two players at half time and they earned themselves their first point of the season when they scored late in the game.