Balmain’s form continued
By Corinthian (Paul Green):
NSW PS4 NSW State League 1 Men – Round 13 Catch-up game
8:50pm, Thursday 8th July, 2015 – F.S. Garside Park, Granville
Balmain Tigers FC 3 (Ahmed Chandab 17′, Scott Tonkin 40′, Sergej Kunst 55′)
Western NSW Mariners FC 1 (Mitchell Rooke pen 43′)
This match from Round 13 was an interesting contest as it brought together two teams whose fortunes have changed dramatically since the early weeks of the season.
Balmain, who play their home games at a variety of venues these days and who will get to strut their stuff on Leichhardt Oval at the start of next month against Melbourne Victory, in an FFA Cup Round of 32 home game, have been in fine form of late, while visitors, Western NSW Mariners FC have fallen off markedly in recent weeks.
Their capitulation at the hands of bottom-dogs, Nepean FC, last Saturday on the Western NSW’s alternative home pitch at Glen Willow Stadium, in Mudgee, was a major shock, as the home side had previously picked up quite a few points, while Nepean had struggled for weeks to amass any at all.
Here, Balmain would have had half an eye on Sunday’s match at Arlington Oval against Stanmore Hawks.
Stanmore coach, Soteris Mavrou, ever the professional, was there to see the last hour of the match and should have been impressed.
A couple of wins would take the Tigers up into the top-three, despite six losses already this season, most of those incurred earlier in their campaign.
The teams began the game with only one point separating them, the ‘trendy’ inner-suburban side holding the advantage, largely thanks to their frugal defence, while the team from the Central West had been conceding far too many goals of late and that’d set them back somewhat.
But Balmain folk knew that their team of Tigers had already beaten the Mariners twice this season on their own turf at Proctor Park, so they held few fears of being beaten at home by the long-distance, midweek travellers.
It was against the Mariners some weeks back that the intrepid Tigers had become the first team through to the national round of the FFA Cup, when they beat the country team 3-0, thus securing, ultimately, that dream-tie against Melbourne Victory on Tuesday 4th August at Leichhardt Oval at 730pm.
They’d already beaten the visitors in an earlier State League 1 contest up there in the Central West and here they completed a league double and an overall treble, with a resounding 3-1 victory in their first home meeting against the Mariners.
Home in name only, however, as they’ve been playing their matches at a variety of grounds, some far from their Balmain heartland or even their training field at Birchgrove Oval.
This match was just three days before another critical match at Arlington Oval against Stanmore Hawks, a side on the way up again now.
Tigers’ coach Joe Di Giulio explained before the game that he had to be careful to manage his players, due to injuries, ahead of Sunday’s fixture.
“We’ve already lost one player for the whole season with a broken leg and we have two others playing their first game back in the 20s tonight,” he said.
“We’ll try to keep them fresh for Sunday.
He had to do some more re-shuffling just over an hour into the game when right-winger, Domenico Di Mento, asked to be substituted due to a tightening hamstring muscle.
And one of the team’s most impressive players on the night, Ahmed Chandab, who’d got on the scoresheet and created many problems for the Mariners, was replaced towards the end, as he’d been fasting during Ramadan and needed to conserve his strength ahead of the weekend’s engagement with Stanmore.
“We’ve done well defensively all season, but we haven’t been scoring enough goals, unfortunately,” he confided.
Given those limitations Balmain came out firing and after pressing hard for the opening minutes, won a few corners and went close to scoring before taking a 17th minute lead.
Nothing was going right for the Mariners, though, who were to go on to play their fifth game in succession without a win.
An early injury to central-defender, Josh Ward, brought an enforced substitution in the twelfth minute for Western NSW coach, Andrew Fearnley, who had to bring on Tim Porter, thus reducing his tactical options later in the match.
Ahmed Chandab was outstanding on the left flank for Balmain, carving his way past defender-after-defender and linking well with his other attacking partners.
He tried his luck from a tight angle in the 16th minute, volleying just over the bar, but soon had his team a goal up.
A threaded pass through from target man, Scott Tonkin, allowed Ahmed Chandab to finish well at close range in the 17th.
Balmain keeper, Antony Costa, was singled out for praise later by his coach, as the big man pulled off some key saves to deny the Mariners.
In the 28th minute visiting skipper, Adam Scimone, skipped clear on a swift counter-attack, leaving defenders trailing and exposing Costa completely, but the custodian spread himself well and got his hand to the ensuing shot, palming it around the left-hand upright.
The other keeper, not to be outshone, saved from point-blank range himself, six minutes later, from Domenico Di Mento, who’d been put through by his brother Giacomo.
The keeper, Chris Howarth was also responsible for denying Tonkin in the 36th, after Ahmed Chandab’s cross from the left had put the striker one-on-one with the Mariners’ man.
But that incessant pressure told again in the 40th when a well-worked piece of approach play from the brothers Di Mento set up Tonkin for what looked a simple tap-in at the finish.
That two-goal lead would have been handy going in at the break, but the visitors were determined not to let that lead stand too long.
Mounting pressure of their own yielded a penalty in the 43rd after a barrage of shots led to a handball by Tigers’ defender, Josh Karpes.
The reliable Mitchell Rooke planted the ball right down the middle, with some power and absolute confidence, to make Balmain, no doubt, think again during half-time about how they would approach the remainder of the match.
Indeed, the Mariners came out after the interval full of intent and it was that man Costa, again, to the rescue of his Tigers with two more vital one-on-one saves just two minutes into the second half.
Kane Hughes, who’d bagged a hat-trick the previous weekend in a 5-3 home loss to Nepean and scored five in two games already, loomed as the man to rescue his team’s chances here, but Costa beat his two efforts in succession away, before Balmain defenders gratefully scrambled the ball to safety.
Balmain then began to reassert their authority and won a couple of corners, ten minutes into the second-half.
The second of these, on the left, sent to the near-post by Gavin Wenyon, was met ferociously with a brilliant header by defender Sergej Kunst, who’d arrived from deep, with a superbly-timed run into the box.
That was possibly the best of the goals in a game that produced some quality attacking.
Three-one then, to Balmain, but even as Western NSW lost midfielder, Duncan Logan, to what was clearly an unnecessary double-caution in the 63rd and a subsequent red card, playing with only ten men for the last half-hour, it was the visitors who looked the more capable of scoring as the match wound down.
Costa had to make two rapid-fire saves in the 79th, as the industrious Mariners showed their ability to overcome adversity, but before that, their own man, once again, had to be at his best to thwart Tonkin again, using his legs to save in the 71st, after Ahmed Chandab had once again provided the lead-up play.
It had been a cold night and the match finished very late after the delayed start.
As soon as the players had left the field, a mist rose from the pitch, giving Garside Park an eerie feeling.
In the end it was a good win for Balmain, whose sights are now set on third place, though as the big day grows closer it will be no surprise if their concentration on matters State League 1 begins to waver.
“No, we’ll only be thinking about the next game,” insisted Tigers’ coach, Di Giulio, after his team’s latest win.
“Our season began sluggishly, but we’re playing well as a unit now and everyone is working hard for one another.
Only a shrug of the shoulders emanated from beaten Mariners’ coach, Andrew Fearnley, at the end of the game, as the one-time title-challengers begin to look for answers to their recent slump.
But Balmain will be trying to stay grounded, as they look forward to their game on Sunday, with essential recovery from the rigours of a late-night encounter at Granville leaving them drained.
As their date with destiny grows ever closer, they’ll be looking to keep confidence high in their domestic encounters, with Melbourne Victory a match that is sure to draw a crowd made up largely of new admirers, who’ll be keener to make the trip to Leichhardt if they feel that the NSW outfit can put on at least a decent show, if not bringing about an upset.
Crowd: Approx 75
Balmain Tigers FC: GK 23 Anthony Costa; 2 Thomas Hyde (C), 14 Sergej Kunst, 21 Gavin Wenyon, 22 Josh Karpes; 18 Domenico Di Mento (11 William Donato 64), 15 Giacomo Di Mento, 10 Andrew Casali, 13 Ahmed Chandab (7 Tatsuya Nakadai 74), 25 Scott Tonkin, 9 Jonathan Gowdy (3 Joel Cook 48)
Subs not used: RGK 17 Jehan Loke, 6 James Kiosidis,
Coach: Joe Di Giulio
Yellow cards: Nil; Red cards: Nil
Western NSW Mariners FC: GK 1 Christopher Howarth; 3 Nikki Spice, 4 Matthew Corben, 5 Charlie McDonald Bailey, 41 Josh Ward (8 Timothy Porter 12); 16 Duncan Logan, 6 Mitchell Rooke, 32 Stuart Bromley, 11 Adam Scimone (C) (21 Nathan Davis 68); 9 James Christie (23 Ricky James Guihot 74), 10 Kane Hughes
Subs not used: RGK 25 Brock Male, 18 Kenny McCall
Coach: Andrew Fearnley
Yellow cards: Nikki Spice 1, Duncan Logan 63, 63, Charlie McDonald Bailey 76; Red cards: Duncan Logan 63
Referee: Jerry Bitas
Assistants: Wayne Crabb and Dale Bromfield
Ratings and miscellaneous
Weather: Rather cold, but dry under clear skies and still conditions
Players noted: Ahmed Chandab (BT), Scott Tonkin (BT), Giacomo Di Mento (BT), Anthony Costa (BT), Mitchell Rooke (WM), Matthew Corben (WM)
Photo: BOTN archive from 2010 – FS Garside Park