JERSEY BULLS returned to the ‘big smoke’ for the second time in a week with their promotion hopes hanging in the balance, after defeat against Farnham on Saturday.
But they left London with fire still very much in minds and bellies.
This was – in the end – a routine victory against a lively Croydon outfit, with first-half goals from the excellent Luke Watson and the tireless Robert Martins-Figueira giving Gary Freeman’s men the win which they so desperately craved.
They could, and should, have had more, Fraser Barlow spurning two gilt-edged opportunities in the space of five minutes but once Watson got them off and running, they never looked back.
The veteran midfielder cushioned in a header from a Jay Giles cross, the full-back his usual dependable self on his 100th appearance in Bulls’ colours.
And ten minutes later they had a second.
Luke Campbell’s towering header at the back post fell back into a crowded penalty area and while Barlow couldn’t squeeze his shot in, a ricochet off a Croydon leg fell into Martin-Figueira’s path. He coolly slotted past David Boorer.
The home side had their moments, Watson and Campbell both clearing off the line and Euan Van Der Vliet producing an outstanding save late in the first half from Michael Redfearn.
The Bulls, though, will have taken the points in whatever fashion they might have been won, given the fine margin at the top of Combined Counties Premier Division South.
With second-placed Badshot Lea thrashing leaders Raynes Park Vale, 4-0, the top three are now separated by just five points, Bulls and Vale still to meet twice in the final month of the season.
The ever-pragmatic Freeman was quick to downplay any notion that his side might still have their fate in their own hands, though. Instead, he opted to look no further than this weekend’s home tie against Colliers Wood – which takes place at the same time as Jersey’s Muratti Vase tie in Alderney.
‘It was a very good performance and I’m actually a little disappointed we didn’t get a few more, especially in that first half. But it’s all about winning now and given Badshot have also won, we couldn’t afford another slip up,’ he said.
‘I’m actually pretty surprised at the result between Badshot and Raynes Park, given how Raynes have been playing recently. We thought we might be able to catch Badshot and so the picture changes again.
‘Any mistake now in terms of results could cost you, so for us, it looks like we’ll have to be close to being faultless to be in the mix.
‘The immediate focus now is Colliers Wood on Saturday and we’ll need to work out how we sort things with Martin Cassidy and the Jersey FA to ensure both teams are competitive. The boys are really keen to do well for both, but obviously can’t be in two places at one time, so there’ll be a compromise.
‘What it will mean is opportunities for some of the younger lads, and the U18s have won this week [see report above] so confidence will be high. Lads like Leandro [Vieira] and Harry [Scott] are probably going to be in with the seniors and when you look at the reason this club was set up, it was to give talented young lads a pathway. And that’s what we’re doing.’
Jerseys Muratti semi-final squad features six Bulls regulars and a handful more, including Martins-Figueira, who have played bit-part roles for the club this term. However, Bulls’ defensive unit has been left largely untouched, with Van Der Vliet, Giles, James Querée and Luke Campbell all in line to appear against Colliers Wood [3pm kick-off].