GARY FREEMAN is expecting ‘an exciting game between two of the best teams in the league’ when Jersey Bulls host Badshot Lea on Saturday.
The Surrey side are currently in second place in Combined Counties Premier Division South but have the best points-per-game average, with Bulls having the second best with a third of the season played.
And while the manager admitted that a draw would ‘not be the end of the world’, it is a match Bulls dare not lose.
‘In context, this is a big game,’ said Freeman. ‘The teams around us are not dropping points.’
Getting results against a rival challenger for promotion is also something that Freeman admits they need to improve upon from last season, in which Bulls finished ahead of Badshot in fourth place on goal difference.
The Islanders won only one game against the other four teams in the top five last season – away to Badshot in October – taking just seven points from a possible 24. And it was Badshot who dealt Bulls their first-ever loss in the league at Springfield in April, with the Island side losing 1-0.
‘I am not denying the impact this game can have on our season,’ Freeman added. ‘We didn’t take enough points off the teams at the top last year. but this season is a totally different one and it will be a totally different game.
‘They are on a good run of form and have been very consistent. They are physical and direct and I expect them to come out, play forward early and put us under pressure. But hopefully that will give us room to get behind them and attack them.’
Getting the first goal will be crucial, especially as Bulls have found it hard to break some of the teams down at Springfield so far this season – as evidenced by their loss at against Knaphill last week.
‘We didn’t start the game well and we were slow in the first 15 minutes,’ Freeman continued. ‘In the second half, we showed willing and desire and pushed them back but it was difficult and that is always going to be the challenge. You only have to see what has happened to Argentina and Germany in the World Cup this week. It’s not always easy.
‘We need to start a lot better; be compact and aggressive. But there will be a bit of caution. We can’t be too gung ho and get hit on the counter.’
Bulls are expecting a bumper crowd for the match to will Freeman’s team on. Ruben Mendes is unavailable having taken a knock in last week’s game, while Fraser Barlow is currently away. However, Jay Giles and Francis Lekimamati are both expected to be available.
Badshot have only lost one game this season – a surprise 2-0 loss at Camberley Town earlier in the month – but are also the division’s top scorers. Raynes Park Vale currently top the division by six points, although Badshot have three games in hand.