A stiff test ... but Bulls prevail again
BIG. Strong. Organised. Tricky. A Handful. These are the words that were used to describe not Jersey Bulls but their opponents Walton & Hersham on Saturday.
If the Surrey side should feel flattered by the praise that came their way then Bulls should do too, seeing as they returned from this big away test with a 3-0 result in their favour.
Bulls also scored their 100th goal in their short existence. Fitting that it came from the boot of Fraser Barlow, the same player who scored the very first one in a pre-season friendly against League Two Stevenage last summer.
If the scoreline may have been generous the result was no less deserving. Walton & Hersham gave the Bulls their biggest home test back in October so they were never going to be munificent hosts. They are a tough team, ready to take the game to their opponents, neither daunted nor acquiescent to Bulls’ intimidating record and reputation. Only we are deceived because obviously they should be doing so much better in the league than they actually are. They do themselves a disservice, but not in this game. Yet Bulls still overcome. And they made their mark early on again, too.
It was an even-ish game for the most part but Bulls, being Bulls, got their goals at the right times. And nothing beats scoring an early goal to help you on your way. Two minutes in early. Midfield schemer Jonny Le Quesne’s Hollywood pass from the quarterback position – 20 yards inside his own half – found the forward run of Barlow perfectly. Barlow, coolness personified, rounded the ‘keeper and slotted home. Easy? Maybe? Not.
Walton & Hersham battled and battled hard. Their two nippy forwards made themselves a nuisance trying to find gaps between Bulls’ centre- and full-backs. For the next 30 minutes they were the better team. No one has been the better team against Bulls for anymore than five minutes before. Whatever. James Quérée and Luke Campbell, Bulls’ two sentinels in the centre of defence would never buckle and never did.
A signature of Bulls’ set up has been the swashbuckling adventure of the two full-backs, Jules Gabbiadini and Jay Giles and while Walton & Hersham tried in vain to find away past them, the double-G attack continuously countered from deep with overlapping runs. One foray forward may have led to a second goal if the crossbar could only have elevated itself a couple of inches. Giles, from all of 30 yards and more, smashed a shot that rattled the crossbar. It wouldn’t be the only time Bulls would hear the chink of ball against metal to deny them a goal. Zeljko Martinovic would later hit the upright too in the second half. Not that Bulls would need to curse their luck. A Sol Solomon tap-in made it two after 53 minutes, Le Quesne the creator again, while only two minutes later Karl Hinds would finish things off from the penalty spot for the eighth time this season after Barlow was upended.
It gave Bulls the win that they knew they had worked really hard for. The battle scars weren’t their only blemish either. Kamen Nafkha saw red after being given two yellows – the first, quite harshly when he was the victim of some rough treatment that led to a mêlée. The second quite deserving when he petulantly kicked the ball away after the referee had blown to stop play.
Nevermind. These things happen. Bulls got their 24th league win of the season and they push on. It wasn’t the first time a Jersey side had been here and won either. In April 1989, a Jersey FA team went over for a friendly and won 1-0 thanks to a strike from Simon Petulla.
Walton & Hersham, despite the defeat, can also be encouraged. They have a fine set-up and a fine pedigree. Former FA Amateur Cup winners, FA Cup giantkillers and punk influencers (Google Sham ‘69), one hopes that the old club will have their day in the sun again and our new Jersey heroes will have many too. They only need listen to the rallying cry of the terrace-style anthem that Sham ‘69 released in 1978 for inspiration, even if it sums up Bulls the best right now: ‘if the kids are united, they will never be divided’, lead singer Jimmy Pursey sang. And if these Jersey kids stay united, they will never be defeated either (at least for this season).
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