Best yet for brilliant Jersey Bulls
LEARNING lessons is almost as important as picking up points in Jersey Bulls’ debut season – and they will doubtless have done both in a 7-1 thrashing of Bagshot FC at Springfield.
The lesson to be learnt came in the second half on Saturday, but the points were in the bag early, well before half-time in fact, with six cracking goals going unanswered in their sixth Combined Counties League Division I fixture.
That they would go on to retain their 100% record and stay top of the division was a given. Indeed, the odds against proud Bagshot, formed some 113 years ago, getting away without a double-figures beating looked exceedingly long. Bulls were that good.
Passing and moving like a dream they were, to a man, inventive, swift and determined, both in attack where they used the width well and also at the back where they again built an iron wall in front of goalkeeper Euan Van Der Vliet. Keeping their record of not having conceded a goal in competitive fixtures was something they worked hard to maintain – as hard as they strived to add to their impressive goals total, which stood at 19 before kick-off.
The second half, however, was the period that will probably serve Bulls more in the long run. Having royally entertained another excellent crowd of 654 – and that on a day when high-quality cricket, rugby union and hockey also called for the Island’s sports fans – for the first 45 minutes or so, the second ended as a one-all draw. The half could even conceivably have been lost had the visitors not squandered a fortunate penalty kick award and found Van Der Vliet in good shot-stopping mode.
Just how could that happened might well have baffled fans who had witnessed a massive gulf in application and skill levels. But it’s an age-old fact, in most sports, that a slight drop in concentration or work-rate can have massive effect on performance levels. That’s what it looked like and credit Bagshot for also coming to the party, albeit as latecomers. So, as simple as that, but it’s definitely better to learn that particular lesson when you’re six-nil up.
Yet it’s near churlish to dwell on the slight negatives, so let’s quickly move on to the many, many positives.
Bulls took little time in settling into their fluid passing game, pulling Bagshot around the pitch as they probed for an opening. Visiting goalkeeper Ben Roberts was soon to realise just how hot it can get at Springfield when Jersey’s newest club are the hosts.
The writing was already on the wall when Bulls took the lead on eight minutes, with Karl Hinds’ powerful drive blocked by Roberts, but only to the lively Cardwell who lashed it home from the right.
Two minutes later Hinds, the division’s top scorer, clipped home his seventh goal, delightfully lofted with his right foot, giving the exposed Roberts no chance at all.
Bagshot had no answer to Bulls’ movement and invention, with the wing-backs and midfielders opening them up at will. Kamen Nafkha threaded a beauty through the middle with the visitors’ defence in disarray and Fraser Barlow won a race with a team-mate to score number three. Wilson, already showing up well in leading the home attack, almost made it number four seconds later, but his close-range effort hit the side-netting.
Wilson opened his personal account when he timed his run onto a delicate lofted ball from Hinds to take it away from Roberts then crash it home on the left – 4-0. With just 24 minutes on the clock, this was heady stuff indeed.
It was all of 12 minutes before Bulls scored number five, with the increasingly impressive Wilson rounding the helplessly exposed Roberts on the left before slotting home.
Hinds and Wilson were again combining well, while Cardwell and Barlow were constant thorns in Bagshot’s flanks and it was no surprise at all when Wilson fed Jules Gabbiadini in on the right, with the impressive full-back crashing home a low drive.
Barlow was denied making it seven with a superb save from Roberts, at the expense of a corner, from which defender Luke Campbell’s back flick was cleared off the line. Few teams can have been as pleased to hear a half-time whistle as the visitors.
The second-half started with no changes in personnel and it initially seemed as though more of the same would follow. Bulls continued to move the ball around and wait for scoring opportunities to appear, but were shocked when a rather aimless bout of short-passing just across their own penalty area ended with a loose pass intercepted and the ball rifled high past Van Der Vliet’s flailing right arm by Bagshot striker Alex Jeffers. A scorcher.
That it seemed, would bring Bulls back to their best, but it’s difficult to get back into full stride when you’ve slowed even a little and so it proved, with Van Der Vliet having to block an effort from Ed Garden just after the hour.
Bagshot had new-found gusto, but Bulls still had plenty of possession and quality and that was rewarded, for the seventh and final time, when Ruben Mendes-Pestana’s teasing, inswinging, corner kick from the left was met by Barlow at the far post, with his header squeezing into the goal.
A move to freshen Bulls further came with Barlow and Hinds replaced by subs Zeljko Martinovic and Sol Solomon, but it was Bagshot who came closest, with Tommy Marshall’s powerful drive for the top corner beaten away brilliantly by Van Der Vliet.
Good work from Wilson and Cardwell down the right almost let Solomon in at the near post, but his flick failed to beat the ‘keeper ... and seconds later Bagshot had a gift of a chance to score their second when referee Phil Paine awarded what looked a soft penalty for handball. Bagshot’s Garden, however, blasted the ball over the crossbar.
A clearer-looking penalty appeal at the other end, when Solomon was sent tumbling, failed to impress the referee and the match ended with two yellows for the home side ... Wilson, having deservedly been named as man of the match, was booked, presumably for a verbal reaction to having been blocked off the ball, while Solomon, chasing back, also fell foul of the referee for a challenge from behind.
Bulls manager Gary Freeman said: ‘First half I thought we were excellent and clinical, but in the second I don’t think as a team we worked as hard; we got a bit sloppy. We’ve talked about wanting to keep possession in the right areas, further up the pitch, but we started being sloppy and doing that in our own third – I like us to go forward, not keep possession just for the sake of it. They won possession and scored a good goal.
‘We keep on at them about it, but at 6-0 up it’s easy to sit back – and that’s when you get sloppy. Hopefully we’ll learn from that.
‘But overall it was excellent. I’m delighted with the first half – I think that’s the best we’ve played.’
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