Balmain?s last game of the competition ended in a 3-1 win at Birchgrove Oval against Gladesville Ryde Magic, but they didn?t have it all their own way.
Despite Andrews putting the premiers in front as early as the third minute, Hanimyan restored parity for Magic with a goal on 14 minutes.
Andrews made it 2-1 for Balmain in the 22nd minute with his second of the day, and that?s the way it stayed until the final minute, when Tucker put the result beyond doubt, scoring Balmain?s third goal of the afternoon.
No-one could deny Balmain the minor premiership, finishing first on 41 points, boasting the best defence, the best goal difference, and in Johnny Buonavoglia, the competition?s leading goalscorer. They only lost the one game all season, beaten recently by Hawkesbury, and will prove a real threat for promotion in the upcoming finals.
It will remain to be seen whether Balmain can carry their season form into the finals series, starting with a major semi final next week against the Southern Conference League champions.
As stated in the main report, Roosters FC edged outHawkesbury City with a win on the last day of the season, finishing runners up on 35 points, and boasting the best attack with 56 goals, no doubt delighting their demanding and exuberant fans.
Bathurst 75′ pushed up into 4th place on the competition ladder, courtesy of a last day forfeit victory against bottom placed Luddenham United. The three points meant they finished on 21 points, but well behind the leading pack.
Ian Hunter?s Springwood finished the season on a winning note, coming from behind to beat Penang FC 3-1 at Summerhayes Park. Cohen put the visitors ahead on 26 minutes, but Davies equalized for Springwood within a minute. Haberman then put the home side in front in the 34th minute, before Small finished off proceedings with Springwood?s third and decisive goal just seven minutes before the end.
Prospect United?s season finished a week early, last week, given they had the privilege of a last round bye.
Match of the Round
?ROOSTERS THUMP HAWKS TO SNATCH FINALS SPOT?
The temperatures at 5pm on Saturday evening at Benson Lane Field at Richmond were starting to get close to single figures, but once the action got underway, things warmed up considerably to keep the fans on their toes.
Hawkesbury cITY played host to Roosters FC on the final day of the Conference League North, with the equation very simple to decipher. For one of these clubs, the 2008 season would end tonight. A win to the Hawks, or a draw, would keep the home side second on the ladder and into the finals. A win to the visitors, Roosters FC, and they would hurdle the Hawks into second place and snatch that remaining finals spot behind Balmain.
Hawkesbury went into the match confident in front of their home support, but not at full strength, with Chircop (wedding) and Carle (injury) missing from their line up.
Roosters FC themselves had undergone a real shuffling of their staff recently, parting ways with their coach (Turan) and burly striker (Hatipoglu), and were missing Karaman (suspended) and Rashid (illness) from their starting line up.
But do not underestimate the value of the visiting Roosters FC fans, who?s vocal cheering and support throughout a match can provide a real lift for the Roosters FC players, almost as valuable as having a 12th man on the field. And they were here in numbers to brave the cold and cheer on their team to what they hoped was a victory and a spot in the finals.
The Roosters FC almost took the lead as early as the 4th minute. Topal turned inside Hawkesbury?s skipper, Hartge after receiving a throw-in, and his weighted cross into the box was met perfectly by Serdal, whose snapshot was brilliantly parried by Hawks keeper, Alvarez.
The dual in the middle of the park promised to be a mouth watering one, with the fierce and energetic Hartge up against the silky creativity of Topal, and the clash did not disappoint with both players stepping up on the day.
Hawkesbury had their first real chance on 12 minutes, when a long free kick was lofted deep into the Roosters half. Hawks attackers, George and Sluiter, exchanged flick headers, putting George through in behind the Roosters defence. He got to the ball first as it entered the penalty area, but the onrushing Roosters keeper, Gurbuz, raced out to save bravely at his feet and keep the match scoreless.
Again a throw-in on the right, and again the Hawks were caught napping, this time on 16 minutes. Serdal spun as he received the ball in the middle of the half, and he proceeded to hit a left footed piledriver from 25 yards that was heading for the top corner. Hawks keeper, Alvarez, was ever alert to spring up and tip the shot around the post for a corner.
The breakthrough came in the 30th minute, and it was the Roosters that took the lead with a deserved goal. Celik picked up a square pass, and took a touch as he entered the corner of the penalty area. Unchallenged, he hit a thunderous drive into the near roof of the net with Hawks keeper, Alvarez, well beaten.
You could feel and see the relief of the Roosters players, as Celik raced off towards the bench to celebrate, to be mobbed by Roosters players, substitutes and officials alike.
They should?ve made it two on 37 minutes, Celik this time the provider as he threaded a pass through for Girgin to run onto and face Hawks keeper, Alvarez, in a one-on-one. But Alvarez was having nothing of it, racing off his line to thwart Girgin with a brave save.
As the minutes and final seconds ticked away and half time approached, both coaches already thinking about their motivational speech at the break, came what turned out to be the turning point of the match. Right on 45 minutes, Roosters midfielder Topal, played a high ball into the box, more hopeful than anything else. The ball bounced high near the penalty spot, and Roosters striker, Sevgin, challenged the Hawks keeper, Alvarez, who ended flat up on his back.
The referee, Mr Villaroel, saw nothing wrong with the clash, and despite the home team?s protests, allowed play to go on. Sevgin stayed composed to collect the stray ball, calmly waltz around Hawk defender, Larnach, on the edge of the six yard box, and stroke the ball into an empty net to send the Roosters fans into a frenzy.
So the teams went in at the break with the Roosters in front at 2-0, and deservedly so. Hawkesbury had showed some grit and determination, especially down the centre of defence with Ballantincz and Larnach, and in midfield with Hartge and Cooper. But they lacked any creativity in the attacking third, missing the skills of Carle, and leaving their strikers without much service.
On the other hand, Roosters had technical ability in abundance, with their midfielders, especially Topal and captain, Avsar, working feverishly to win possession, and often setting up many opportunities for their frontline.
Hawkesbury coach, Gary Lewis, must have fired up his troops at the break because the opening 15 minutes of the second half produced an increase in tempo from the home side. The tackles were fierce and were flying in as the Hawks tried valiantly to upset the Roosters pattern of play, showing that the game was far from over.
Referee, Mr Villarroel, did very well in controlling this period, as it could easily have turned into a slugging match as the Roosters refused to take a backward step to Hawkesbury?s physical approach.
Hawks skipper, Hartge, had a wonderful opportunity on 51 minutes, when his volley from just inside the box sailed past the posts, after Roosters keeper, Gurbuz, had cleared a cross with clenched fists.
Gary Lewis then made a tactical substitution, bringing on the club?s top goal scorer, Jones, in an effort to throw more men forward and salvage the game.
But that idea came unstuck as speedy striker, George, was injured in a fifty-fifty challenge, and off he came within minutes.
Sturdy Hawks defender, Ballantincz, was lucky to stay on the park minutes later, when a late tackle following a yellow card in the first half caused palpatations for the Hawkesbury fans.
Nevertheless, Hawkesbury kept at it, and on 70 minutes, Vanderburg picked up a punched clearance by Roosters keeper, Gurbuz, but his volleyed effort from 25 yards was blocked by a desperate Gogebakan in the Roosters defence.
Pushing men forward in desperation for a goal would inevitably free up some space on the counter attack for the Roosters, and Topal almost put the game beyond reach on 74 minutes when he picked up a long pass near the left touchline. He then cut in, and weaved in and out of a bewildered Ballantincz, before hitting a snapshot from an acute angle. Hawks keeper, Alvarez, was doing everything to keep his team in it, and was on hand to parry the shot away for a corner.
The match was all but over in the 77th minute when the Roosters were awarded a penalty after a great passage of play. Roosters midfielder, Guven exchanged passes with Celik down the right flank, before picking up the return ball as he waltzed into the penalty area. He was immediately tripped, leaving the referee, Mr Villarroel, no option but to award the spot kick.
It was time for the Roosters number 10, Topal to get his rewards for a wonderful performance, and he duly converted the penalty, low to the keeper?s left. Before he could race away to celebrate, the referee called it back due to encroachment, and Topal showed great calm to repeat the dose, again shooting low to the same bottom corner, this time sending Alvarez the wrong way.
Five minutes later, and the Roosters fans went delirious with a fourth goal. On a swift counter attack, Topal received the ball in the middle of the Hawkesbury half. He showed to pass towards the right wing, where Sevgin was unmarked, before turning inside his man, and hitting a left foot cracker from 25 yards that looped over the stranded Alvarez and into the net.
The result was over, but there was still time for another chance for each side before the final whistle.
Substitute Jones pulled a goal back for Hawkesbury right on 90m minutes, smacking in a cross shot at the far post that had eluded everyone from both sides.
And finally in injury time, Sevgin showed his pace by dissecting the Hawkesbury defence one last time, his left foot shot flashing past the post and out to safety, with Alvarez beaten.
The full time whistle went, and it was fantastic to see the passion in the Roosters fans, as they invaded the pitch to engulf their heroes. The 4-1 win had moved Roosters FC to second spot on the ladder, and into an elimination semi final next weekend against the Southern Conference League runner up.
Hawkesbury on the day did not show enough creativity in their opponent?s half, working tirelessly in midfield, and doing their best defensively to thwart the Roosters many attacks. But the Roosters just wanted it more, as evident in the all round team effort all over the park. Losing their coach and important players recently seemed to work to bring the Roosters together, bonding them closer, and their energy and determination was rewarded with a comprehensive victory.
Hawkesbury coach, Gary Lewis, was philosophical in defeat, happier with the season rather than the day itself ? ?We came into this match understrength, and despite a fairly even first half, to go in at 0-2 down made it so hard to get back into the match?, lamented Lewis.
?We have come a long way since last year, and have developed further, and with the strong performance of our 2nd grade, our future is looking brighter still?, said Lewis.
Roosters? man-of-the-match, diminutive little midfielder, Topal, was understandably ecstatic with his team?s performance ?. ?We trained really well this week, and despite losing our coach and a couple of players, we pulled together and played for each other and our fans?, said a beaming Topal.
?If we continue to work together as a team, there is no reason why we can?t go all the way?, predicted Topal.
For Hawkesbury, best on the day were ; goalkeeper Alvarez, who despite conceding four goals which he could do nothing about, kept his team in the game at crucial stages with some acrobatic saves ; central defender Larnach, who did well to repel many Roosters attacks with his anticipation in the tackle ; and skipper Hartge, who just never stopped working, covering every blade of grass from box to box, often putting his body on the line and leading by example.
For the victors, Roosters FC, best performers in a truly strong team performance were; the entire defence of Omari, Gogebakan and Semerci were solid in the tackle, and quick in their distribution of the ball, keeping the Hawks attack at bay ; captain Avsar was effective in the midfield, working hard to wrestle possession off Hawkesbury and setting the Roosters attacks underway ; right wing back Celik, who had a strong game down the right flank, tough defensively, and offering support in attack with his marauding runs, being rewarded with a great goal ; and the number 10, Topal, who rode through the tough early stages, coming into the game more and more as the spaces opened up, scoring two goals, and whose skills and creativity provide the Roosters with the perfect playmaker to turn their efforts into opportunities and goals.
Footnote ? congratulations to Hawkesbury City stalwart, Dean Burtenshaw, who broke the club record with his 386th appearance as a second half substitute.
Conference League ? Northern
Saturday, August 2, 2008
Benson Lane Field, Richmond
Referee ? Mr.L.Villarroel
Referee?s Assistant ? Mr.D.Richards
HAWKESBURY CSC 1 (Jones 90?)
ROOSTERS FC 4 (Celik 30?, Sevgin 45?, Topal 77?/82?)
HAWKESBURY CITY: 1. Alvarez, 2. Vasiliou (15. Baker 78?), 3. Knight, 4. Balantincz, 5. Larnach, 6. McGregor (12. Jones 52?), 7. Hartge ? , 8. Vanderburg, 9. Cooper, 10. Sluiter, 11. George (14. Bertenshaw 58?).
Subs not used :16. Smith, RGK. O?Connor.
ROOSTERS FC: 1. Gurbuz, 16. Omari, 11. Avsar ? , 10. Topal (8. Ugur 83?), 7. Gogebakan, 23. Semerci, 12. Guven, 15. Celik (27. Aksu 85?), 13. Girgin, 44. Sevgin, 20. Serdal (39. Bokten 71?).
Subs not used :55. Orhan, RGK. Gunalp.
Conference League Northern
19 ? BUONAVOGLIA (Balmain)
18 ? DOWLING (Bathurst 75′)
12 ? TOPAL (Roosters FC) & MERLINO (Balmain)
10 ? GATT (Gladesville Ryde Magic)
9 ? JONES (Hawkesbury) & COHEN (Penang FC)
8 ? GEORGE (Hawkesbury City), SLUITER (Hawkesbury City), RASHID (Roosters FC), WOODBRIDGE (Penang FC), & HATIPOGLU (Roosters FC)
Congratulations to the golden boot winner for the 2008 Northern Conference League, Johhny Buonavoglia, of Balmain SC who finished the year with a total of 19 goals. The ex-A League star showed his class and experience, scoring consistently and being a major reason his side finished the season as minor premiers.
Dowling of Bathurst ?75 deserves a mention as runner up with 18 goals, scoring almost 50% of his team?s goals in a strong personal performance.
Equal third in the goal stakes with 12 were Roosters FC general and number 10, Ergin Topal, a fantastic effort from a midfielder, and Balmain?s big target man, centre forward Lorenzo Merlino.
-By Frank Speranza