After the heights of Wednesday’s cup semi final, Balham returned to league action on Saturday with a home fixture against Abbey Rangers.
Rangers went into the game just a few points off Balham in the table, but having played significantly more games so this match offered a chance for Balham to open a gap between them.
Balham looked set to seize that opportunity when James Adebayo scored the open in goal just nine minutes into the game. Despite being off balance, he found the corner from the edge of the box to put Balham ahead, the referee waving away claims of handball.
Rangers quickly responded with their first shot of the game, but with the visitors unable to find the equaliser, the game became more physical. Rangers were lucky not to be reduced to ten men, with midfielder Monteiro committing a number of fouls including one high tackle on Adebayo which could have seen red.
The only real talking point in the first half was the referee and his decisions. Another Rangers player, Hartlebury went in the book for dissent after mistiming a tackle. He was the only Rangers threat in the first half, but neither side caused much trouble, with Balham’s only shot after the goal came from Anis Nuur on the edge of the area.
The second half was far more lively from the beginning. James Adebayo had an early shot for Balham which forced a save at the near post, while Rangers had their best chance of the game, headed over by Sweeney.
The match took a turn on the hour mark when Rangers winger Hartlebury, who had been booked in the first half, was sent off for kicking Marco Erriu.
That should have allowed Balham to comfortably see out the game, but instead, Rangers were in the ascendancy. They brought on a substitute forward, Reynolds, and he had two glorious opportunities to level, looping a close range header over the bar and missing a first time effort when one on one with the Balham goalkeeper Read.
Not even the two let-offs woke Balham up, and they continued to give possession away consistently. With five minutes remaining, Balham needlessly conceded a corner, and finally they were punished, Reynolds turning the ball in after a flick-on.
After the equaliser came, Rangers thought that they had secured a well deserved point. With the game now in injury time, they only needed to hold out for a minute or two more to get the draw.
However, in the 92nd minute, Balham launched one of very few attacks of the second half Thomas Fosse picked up the ball in midfield, and sprayed it wide to Arsen Ujkaj on the right. He took one touch to set himself, then launched an effort at goal.
The goalkeeper was able to get a significant touch on the ball, allowing a defender to clear the ball away – but the linesman was adamant that the ball had crossed the line before the clearance was made.
The referee trusted his assistant, and so the goal was given, meaning that Balham took all 3 points. It was not by any means a classic performance, especially not considering the numerical advantage that Balham had for the last half hour, but it was ultimately a victory for Balham, and a third consecutive win.
Team: Read H, Frew, Erriu, Henry(capt), Fenlon, David, Ujkaj A, Savage, Nuur, Fosse, Adebayo
Subs: Gallagher, Garcia, Arbuckle
Goal Scorers: Adebayo, Ujkaj A