FOR nearly 20 years, Luke Watson had been the main man in Jersey football but his appearances over the last two seasons for St Paul’s had been sporadic at best and he ‘retired’ from Island selection in 2017.
When Gary Freeman started putting his squad together as Jersey Bulls approached their inaugural season as a club in 2019, Watson was nowhere to be seen.
So it came as a bit of a surprise when Freeman turned to the 36-year-old playmaker to help his side’s push for promotion. The decision has been a masterstroke.
Watson was in total control of this game from the first minute, showing exemplary movement, adept at always finding space and making himself available and displaying rare foresight to play probing one-touch passes at angles no one else on the pitch would consider.
Camberley Town could not get close to him for 52 minutes in the midfield. When he was pushed up front after Lorne Bickley had gone off with injury for the next 40 minutes, Bulls lost a little of their flow but Watson was still effective, dropping off into deep areas where his marker dare not follow or ruffling the feathers of the last man. He scored too – of course he did – the third and final goal of the game with half an hour still to play.
His calm composure spread to his team mates too and it made for a vintage performance, with Camberley left reeling from the motion sickness of riding Bulls’ dizzying rodeo carousel.
Typically, it was Watson who threatened first when his header in the early minutes was tipped over the bar and the veteran was in the heart of the move that opened the scoring nearly 20 minutes in.
Sammy Henia Kamau, who is less than half Watson’s age, picked up Jay Giles’ ball into the channel, cut inside and laid the ball to Bickley. He in turn played a delicious one-two with Watson and delicately lifted the ball over Camberley ‘keeper Harry Cawdron.
Watson has that uncoachable natural instinct of being in the right place at the right time at both ends of the pitch and while Camberley rarely threatened, when they did Watson was there to twice clear the ball off the line.
Again he was at the fulcrum of an intricate one touch passing move that led to Frank Tobin crashing a long-range effort off the bar, his first-half performance a master class in measured midfield play that allowed others to flourish with freedom too.
That was summed up by the second goal on the stroke of half-time when the impressive Francis Lekimamati’s whipped cross to the far post was headed in from close range by Giles for a rare goal for the full-back.
Lekimamati would later strike the woodwork in the final minutes of the match with a left-footed drive that arrowed across the penalty area but by then the game had been well won after Watson scored Bulls’ third.
Tobin marauded forward from the right towards the penalty area, played a smart one-two with Watson and made it a three when he laid the ball back for the player-of-the-match to skew an effort as far into the top left-hand corner of the goal as possible.