Tadley win battle at Balham
Tadley came away from Balham with all three points to put last week’s defeat behind them. Goals from Arjgend Ahmetaj and Jack French gave Tadley the two nil victory but without the resilience, determination and tenacity in pressing all over the field, it could have been a different story.
With a makeshift centre back partnership of the returning Alfie Saunders & Scott Kinge coming in due to injuries, Tadley knew from the off they were in for a battle, and a battle absolutely ensued.
Tadley kicked off and immediately looked to open the scoring. Sheldon Wright ran aggressively at the Balham back line and into the final third, unfortunately the final effort from Jack French sailed over the bar. However, just a minute later Tadley were at it again, this time with a far greater reward.
Wright picked up the ball again on the right-hand side, he drove down the line, cut inside and laid the ball off to Ahmetaj on the edge of the box. The midfielder opened his body and let fly with a first-time effort that sailed beautifully past the goalkeeper and into the top right hand corner to give Tadley a very early lead.
Controversy hit almost immediately after. With Balham's Adebayo applying pressure on the Tadley back line, a mis-touch saw the ball bounce loose in the 18-yard box, Saunders and Adebayo Both went in strong, leaving both in a heap on the floor & the Balham players and support convinced that a penalty should have been awarded. The referee waved away what looked like a stonewall penalty.
The hosts, clearly frustrated by the earlier decision were facing an onslaught of chances from Tadley. A fantastic save to deny Connor Thorne and a missed chance moments after kept the score to just one nil.
Balham started to grow into the game, carving out some opportunities of their own through the ever-present Adebayo, who’s pace and strength were proving difficult to deal with as the half progressed.
Tadley had a golden opportunity to double their lead with ten minutes until half time when Alex Fragata weaved his way through the Balham defence. Fragata managed to beat one man, then two but seemed to be fouled on the edge of the box, despite this he continued with the ball and slotted a shot under the onrushing goalkeeper. However, a certain goal was denied by a last ditch attempt by the defender to clear the ball off the line and away to safety.
A physical, open first forty-five minutes saw Tadley take a slender lead at the break.
The beginning of the second half was largely uneventful, with half chances for either side resulting in nothing but some easy saves and clearances. That was until the fifty-fourth minute when another tenacious run from Fragata, battling with the Balham full back, allowed him to break to the byline and cut the ball back for an easy tap in. Unfortunately for Tadley, the Balham goalkeeper timed his sae impeccably and managed to get a strong hand to the ball, allowing his defence to clear the danger.
Whilst the possession stats will show Balham controlling much of the ball in the second half, Tadley were the more dangerous. A passage of play in which a patient build up from Tadley’s attacking areas resulted in a fine effort from Alex Miller who saw his effort saved well by the busy Balham goalkeeper.
As the second half progressed, the home side were throwing more and more players up the field in an attempt to snatch an equaliser and condemn Tadley to just a point. Adebayo, again the provider for Balham as he continued to make his presence felt, using his muscular frame to protect the ball, allowing his teammates to find space in behind.
The hosts were creating chances but with just two minutes of the ninety left to play, a shot from the edge of the eighteen-yard box was blocked well by Tadley and the ball fell to Jack French, who sprung an instinctive counterattack. Substitute Enow Ojong joined the attack, picked up the pass from French and drove, aggressively own the left-hand side riding multiple attempts to bring him down. Ojong continued his run, looked up to see French on his own in the middle and played him in for an easy tap in. Tadley punished Balham right at the death to secure a massive three points on the road.
Full time – Balham 0-2 Tadley-Calleva