Balmain Tigers back up for win over Hawks

By Corinthian (Paul Green):

NSW PS4 State League 1 Men – Round 16
3pm, Sunday 11th July, 2015 – Arlington Oval, Dulwich Hill

Stanmore Hawks FC  0
lost to
Balmain Tigers FC 2 (Ahmed Chandab 27′, Joel Cook 48′)

This could have been a tough one for big improvers, Balmain Tigers, who were engaged as recently as the previous Thursday night at Garside Park against Western NSW Mariners in a Round 13 catch-up game.

Stanmore Hawks, the home side, were coming off an impressive 1-0 win the previous weekend up at Hawkesbury City, so they’d had the extra days’ rest, as well as the morale-booster of that much-needed win, as they make their slow ascent away from the danger zone.

Balmain, it could be argued, are also in a confident frame of mind, having earned a last-32 spot in the FFA Cup, with an exciting game against A League Premiers, Melbourne Victory, to come at the start of next month at nearby Leichhardt Oval.

As things transpired, however, the Hawks were never really in this contest and were a little flat, allowing the Tigers to dominate the game for long periods.

This was put down to the absence of midfield linchpin, Sam Awad, who was unavailable this time and a positional reshuffle could not disguise the team’s usual reliance on the veteran player to provide their creative, as well as sometimes their destructive, impetus.

Balmain, by contrast, are a team on a high, looking every inch a top-three contender now, though even they may have overdone it a little in backing up from Thursday and playing their strongest team, including one or two players who played through the pain barrier, such was their motivation to give their all for the team.

Coach Joe Di Giulio was certainly aware of this after the game, though he hadn’t known until it was all over that some of his team may have played on in the game, when they probably should have been replaced.

“We had one coming off with a tight muscle again and one who played the whole 90 minutes, with a groin strain, which was getting worse towards the end,” he disclosed.

“If I’d known I’d have made the changes, as it could hurt us in the long term,” he said.

While he was pleased with the performance and the team’s winning vein of form, he was naturally cautious and concerned about having a fully-fit team ahead of the Tigers’ next game at Wentworth Park on Sunday against unbeaten competition leaders, North Shore Mariners.

One special moment was recorded here, as club captain, Tom Hyde, led his team to a 2-0 win on the occasion of his 100th appearance for the club.

“It was good for the lads to win this one for me,” he quipped, after the game.

“Seriously, though, we’ve been playing really well lately and I hope it continues.

“It seems that as soon as we got the FFA Cup draw out of the way and knew we were playing Melbourne Victory early next month, everyone has been extra enthusiastic and really lifted their game.

There’s still a few more matches to go before the Tigers take on Kevin Muscat’s men at Leichhardt Oval, not only the coming game against the Mariners from Northbridge, but more State League 1 fixtures to face as well.

It’s going to get harder and harder to focus on the domestic competition when the national FFA Cup looms closer and closer.

Here, though, Balmain looked like a team in the mood to win, right from the start.

Defender Josh Karpes, who’d scored a brilliant header three days earlier, got forward after only seven minutes, hoping for something similar, perhaps, but his header was claimed by the Stanmore keeper, James Webb, low, near his goal-line, the first of many Balmain attacks Webb needed to be alert to

Six minutes after this first effort, a cross from the right by Domenico Di Mento intended for the head of Jonathan Gowdy was plucked out of the air by Webb, who did well to get there first.

Pressure continued to come from the visitors, though, and after a few arguments which led to a show of yellow cards to players from both sides in the 25th minute, after a free-kick had been awarded on the left of the goal area, the deadlock was broken.

The Stanmore keeper, Webb, blotted his copybook at last, having caught a ball played back to him by his captain, Yorgi Mavrou, which clearly looked an intentional pass, something referee Steven Ellsmore was in no doubt about and punished the goalkeeper for the infringement, though it did take some time for the kick to be taken.

When it was dispatched, however, Balmain had a trick up their sleeve.

Stanmore players were not spread out along the goal line, as often happens in such situations, rather, they were waiting for a cross from the free-kick taker, Joel Cook, six yards to their right.

Instead, Cook played the ball back along the ground to the waiting Ahmed Chandab, who was standing back, on the arc of the penalty area, right in front of goal and completely unmarked, as all the Stanmore players were on or near their own goal-line.

The skilled midfielder picked his spot perfectly, with a low drive that caught the Hawks napping completely.

By then 27 minutes had elapsed and after that opening goal Balmain began to take full control, though Stanmore admittedly had seldom been in the game up to that stage.

Hawks’ captain, Steve Liavas, did try a long-range shot in the 42nd, but the Balmain keeper pushed the effort around the post and apart from that Stanmore’s best first-half chance had been when Philippou headed over from a corner.

Three minutes into the second-half Balmain made it 2-0.

A rare mistake by Stanmore veteran, Angelo Petratos, allowed Joel Cook to gain possession close to goal and the Tigers’ man’s finish was a polished one.

There were a few more pleasing attacking moments from the visitors, with substitute William Donato having little luck in front of goal, after good work from Gavin Wenyon and Scott Tonkin in the 85th and there was also an earlier effort by Donato in the 69th, while Ahmed Chandab had looked like scoring his second in the 61st, but Stanmore keeper, Webb, raced off his line to boot clear.

In each of those cases it had been the keeper denying the Balmain men and he was one of the few in his team to shine on this occasion, despite his earlier indiscretion that cost his team the first goal.

All eyes will now be on Sunday’s game at Wentworth Park, a ground with its own unique history and not lost to the sport, at least, unlike the way some of the other old grounds have been.

Maybe playing on the famous old Arlington Oval and again at their Wentworth Park home base will give Balmain that extra drop of pride needed to become the first side to lower the colours of North Shore Mariners on Sunday afternoon.

Back of the Net will be there to see if they can do it, coincidentally seeing the Tigers for three matches in a row, as it happens.

North Shore Mariners, however, have also played a few games there and know the pitch and surrounds very well.

They certainly won’t be lying down against Balmain, as they proudly aim to protect their unbeaten record on Sunday.

Match details

Crowd:  approx 75

Stanmore Hawks FC: 26 James Webb (gk); 23 Peter Theodosi, 4 Angelo Petratos (43 John Sotiropoulos 74), 5 Yorgi Mavrou, 14 Thierry Huet;  6 Costa Bakoulis, 7 Steve Liavas (C), 19 Dean Mugridge (11 Christian Ekwerike 50), 17 Daniel Doritis, 41 Heo Wookbum (2 Foday Kamara 60);  9 Neil Philippou
Subs not used: RGK 31 James Adams, 3 Neil O’Sullivan

Coach: Soteris Mavrou
Yellow cards:  James Webb 25, Yorgi Mavrou 27; Red cards: Nil

Balmain Tigers FC: 23 Anthony Costa (gk);  2 Thomas Hyde (C), 22 Josh Karpes, 13 Sergej Kunst, 34 Jehan Loke;  27  Domenico Di Mento (18 Scott  Tonkin 70), 21 Gavin Wenyon, 12 Giacomo Di Mento, 9 Ahmed Chandab (42 Tatsuya Nakadai 90+2); 31 Jonathan Gowdy, 30 Joel Cook (11 William Donato 60)
Sub not used: 10 Andrew Casali, 39 James Kiosidis

Coach: Joe Di Giulio
Yellow cards: Jonathan Gowdy 25; Red cards: Nil

Referee: Stephen Ellsmore
Assistants: Darrin Richards and Darren Allett

Ratings and miscellaneous

Match 7/10
Pitch: 10/10 (Synthetic)

Weather: Cool and sunny with a moderate breeze

Players noted: Neil Philippou (SH), James Webb (SH), Jonathan Gowdy (BT), Ahmed Chandab (BT), Domenico Di Mento (BT), Gavin Wenyon (BT)