Another week, another fish
Balmain’s march towards the semi finals continued with a crucial 3-0 victory over Sydney Cedars at the weekend. The legions of Tigers fans, many forced to queue outside the gates for the last game at Birchgrove for the season, had barely warmed their seats when Balmain’s resident salmon Dave “John West” Hardwick popped up yet again to score directly from a Grant Burgess hammer throw. The shocked Cedars threw everything at the Tigers in the following quarter hour, but their efforts proved fruitless with a stout Balmain defence preventing any decent shots on target. Better was to come from the Tigers as they scored from a move that started inside their own penalty area. Some quick passing in midfield released Jem Richardson on the right, who picked out Julian Bracewell at the edge of the opposition area. Bracewell then produced (in his own words) “a sublime piece of Bergkamp-esque ball control” to beat a would-be challenge before stroking the ball past the keeper to extend the lead to two goals.
Balmain killed off the game early in the second half from an Eric Lynch corner. With all defensive attention on the salmon, they were surprised to turn around and see goldfish Jem Richardson stealing in at the back post to plant a header past the stranded keeper. The frustration felt by the visitors boiled over shortly before full time when a Cedar with what those in the medical profession describe as a case of “acute sore balls” was sent from the field. They were so sore in fact that the poor player had trouble leaving the field after planting his studs square in the middle of Balmain captain Eric Lynch’s back. Balmain had outstanding performers all over the park, none moreso than Luis Soares and Dave Hardwick, with the latter taking home yet another Exchange Hotel man of the match award.
The victory ended the Cedars’ slim hopes of reaching the playoffs, and with other results going Balmain’s way, it would take a massive swing in form and goal difference for the Tigers to miss out now.
The U21s added to their recent catalogue of disappointment, letting slip a 3-1 lead to go down 5-4 in an entertaining lead up match. Tristan Aguire scored first for Balmain with a lovely header after some good lead up play. However the Tigers were well and truly embarrassed when the Cedars tried the old “shot from halfway straight from the kickoff” trick and keeper Andy Pye spilled it into his net. Not to worry though, because the Tigers hit back soon after through Paul Graham, who intelligently chested the ball over the line at the far post from an Aguire free kick. Then on the half hour, Keith “Napoleon” Agnew scored his first ever goal for the Tigers from the penalty spot. Shortly before half time, Balmain was well and truly robbed by yet another incompetent referee who awarded Cedars a penalty for high feet. He was seemingly oblivious to the laws of the game which state that dangerous play such as a foot high in the air should result in an indirect free kick. Anyway, Pye produced a tremendous save but a Cedar scored from the rebound to make it 3-2 at half time.
Balmain gave it away early in the second half, conceding after 5 minutes after some indecision at the back, and then conceding again two minutes later with an own goal from Alex Kaltenegger. In a game full of goals, this was probably the pick of the bunch, with Kaltenegger latching onto a hopeful long ball and producing a header reminiscent of Borgetti for Mexico against Italy at the last world cup. Too bad it was at the wrong end. Julian Junior equalised for the Tigers with 20 to go, and the Cedars appeared to self destruct, having two players sent from the field for accumulating a couple of yellow cards. Yet to their credit they stood up and fought for the points, and were rewarded when a shot from wide out on an impossible angle went in at the near post in the last minute of the game. Full time score Balmain 4 Cedars 5.