Ten-men Bulls fight back to earn deserved victory

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SHOULD Jersey Bulls claim the league title next April then they may well look back at Saturday’s game as the season’s most pivotal moment.

Playing with 10 men for over an hour and going a goal down to visitors Knaphill, Bulls found a way to win the game with patience, perseverance and bloodymindedness.

After the 2-1 win, assistant manager Kevan Nelson paid tribute to ‘a phenomenal unit’.

In truth, the hosts dominated despite the numerical advantage, maybe because of it. They were slowly softening up their opponents when Euan van der Vliet became the protagonist in the first real flashpoint in the game midway through the first half.

There was no real danger from the long ball that headed his way but when it skipped off the surface it took the Bulls ‘keeper by surprise and he instinctively lifted his arm to stop it. In his usual domain that wouldn’t be a problem but Van der Vliet found himself outside his area and, after a lengthy deliberation, referee Maros Valko gave him his marching orders.

Fraser Barlow, who had scored in the last four games, was sacrificed so that reserve ‘keeper Robbie Scott could take his place inbetween the sticks. Unfortunately for him, one of the first things he did was pick the ball out of the net.

Knaphill’s free-kick was taken by Timmy Taylor and he curled a superb effort that hit the post, rebounded off Scott’s back and found its way across the line.

If fans felt that it was going to be one of those days when fate would conspire against them they need not have worried. Knaphill instantly regressed into survival mode and the wounded Bulls instantly applied the pressure. Sol Solomon’s own curling free-kick heading to the top left-hand corner brought out a decent save from Jos Barker. From the resultant corner Bulls found their equaliser, their 200th in competitive matches, scored via the back of a Knaphill defender, Youcef Azzouz, under immense pressure from Luke Campbell.

Bulls continued to probe patiently in the second half as Knaphill – all the more looking like they were a man down – seemed content to settle for the draw.

The home side were immense, led by captain James Quérée at the back and man-of-the-match Adam Trotter, full of steely resolve, Karl Hinds finding pockets of spaces inbetween the lines, Knaphill were struggling to contain the onslaught.

Hinds had a great chance to find the winner from six yards out but a slight delay allowed Barker to smother his effort. Another corner, another goal. Knaphill failed to clear and the ball dropped to Jonny Le Quesne, whose goalbound header was helped over the line by Lorne Bickley.

Bulls seemed keen to find another and they nearly did after a long marauding run by Le Quesne on the right flank that led to Solomon hitting the bar. After that, Bulls curbed their enthusiasm for any more glory to comfortably see the game out for a deserved win that pushed them up to the giddy heights of second place and extend their unbeaten run to 15 league games.

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