Muratti comment: Time to throw away underdogs tag
THE visitors’ shirts were dressed with the Guernsey French slogan ‘Pus Brâve, Pus Fort, Pus Malin’ on Saturday afternoon – ‘braver, stronger, smarter’. Thankfully for Jersey, not one of those bold claims proved to be true in a steady Muratti Vase final won by a spot-kick from 12 yards.
It wasn’t the best of games, but following Jack Cannon’s early penalty the hosts did what was required against a poor Sarnian outfit to secure a third win in four years against their nearest rivals.
I think we can safely throw away the underdogs tag, along with the assumption that Guernsey FC’s inclusion in the UK leagues is the be-all and end-all.
The vocal travelling fans enjoyed jeering substitute Jay Reid off the field after he turned his Muratti return into a ten-minute red-card cameo, however their own players gave them next to nothing to get excited about (despite their supposed superiority through weekly tests in Bostik South as GFC).
Jersey were better from one to 11 without setting the game alight, but in football the result is rarely trumped by the performance. A close-cut, gritty win ultimately brings the same reward as a one-way trouncing, although Martin Cassidy will surely take greater satisfaction from the way in which his team ushered Guernsey back to the departures hall empty handed.
Cassidy was unable to prepare his players as he would have liked due to club commitments, but the Scot had quite clearly thought long and hard about tactics. He stood alongside former Aston Villa and Leicester boss Brian Little two years ago when Jersey won by the same scoreline, and that experience has certainly done the Island’s current leader no harm whatsoever.
Best-laid plans can wither away if not understood and welcomed, but Jack Boyle’s men were not guilty of snubbing their duties. They should have done better in front of goal – squandering two glorious three-on-one counter-attacks – but they did also run themselves into the ground ensuring Guernsey would not score.
Kamen Nafkha and Adam Trotter will be proud of their first Muratti appearances, while the efforts of Luke Campbell and James Quérée at the heart of the defence were outstanding.
Quérée, named man-of-the-match, said: ‘We all knew what we had to do today and there were 11 leaders, 11 match winners out there.
‘We knew what Guernsey would present and that it would require lots of hard work and togetherness. Guernsey were the favourites but we know we’ve got talent here and we’ve proved ourselves again.’
The anticipation and excitement surrounding that 100th Muratti in 2016 were never going to be replicated, but programme notes from both sides of the tunnel made no attempt to dilute the significance of the latest final.
As Guernsey player-manager Chris Tardif put it, the Muratti is ‘one of the smallest medals in football, but one that means the most’, while his counterpart Cassidy marked it as a day for his players to ‘show up and deliver’ on the biggest stage in Channel Islands football.
Show up and deliver Jersey certainly did.
The men in red dealt with the pressure-cooker situation inside the Springfield fences much better than their opponents in the first half, with Guernsey being forced to chase and defend rather than imposing themselves.
The Weir brothers – Michael and Calvin – flanked the midfield superbly with equal measures of pace and determination, and it was the latter who earned his side the penalty which proved the difference.
Frontman Russell may not have scored a Muratti goal in five years (I won’t mention his gilt-edged volley from seven yards which skewed out for a throw), but his experience, strength and work-rate were all crucial to the overall effort.
Guernsey improved after the break, though their fans remained frustrated. They mustered just one shot on target which Euan van der Vliet blocked with a leg, and could have had no complaints had Jersey been more clinical on the counter.
Cassidy said beforehand that he wanted an early goal. Something to cherish. Something to protect.
He got just that, and now has the Muratti Vase to treasure into 2019.
Comment from Jason Fox. JEP Match report in Monday's Final Whistle.