Freeman hails big Jersey Bulls win

Adam Trotter brings the ball under his spell during Jersey Bulls' 2-0 win at Knaphill Picture: KNAPHILL FC

GARY FREEMAN doesn’t do excited. But after seeing his side outmuscle and outthink fellow play-off-chasing rivals, Knaphill, the normally relaxed Bulls boss was coursing with adrenaline.

Lorne Bickley struck twice in the second half to give the visitors a priceless three points, consolidating their position in the top five of the Combined Counties Premier Division South.

And Freeman was delighted with what he saw in Woking, citing it as the catalyst for a successful promotion push.

“There is no bigger compliment than when the opposition management says to you that you’ve ‘Knaphill-ed’ them,” he said.

“I don’t think there’s any side better than them at managing a game. They suffocate you, get you into an arm-wrestle and, defensively, give you nothing. So for them to say that about us, yes, that’s something we are pleased with.”

“A lot has been said over the last couple of years about them being our ‘bogey’ team but we haven’t seen it like that. We’ve played them three times this season before today and not beaten them, so we owed them one, let’s put it like that.

“Considering we only had 13 fit and available bodies, it’s some performance and some result. Given last week against Falmouth, it was the best possible response we could have asked from the players and now we need to build up a head of steam as we move into this final period of the season.”

After last week’s tame exit from the FA Vase – Falmouth leaving the Island with a 3-0 win and a spot in the quarter-finals – Freeman gave an insight into the week’s discussions, citing a change in attitude as being key.

“The Falmouth game was a missed opportunity, I think it’s fair to say. It’s no secret we were all in on a prolonged run in the Vase and to lose like we did, at home, hurt.

“What could very easily have happened, though, is for the boys to continue to lick their wounds in the days after but they came into training mid-week and it couldn’t have been more positive.

“We’re in a great spot in the league and we don’t just want to throw that away because we are feeling sorry for ourselves. And actually, it couldn’t have worked out better that it was Knaphill this weekend. It was the perfect carrot for us to remind people, ‘we’re still here, and we aren’t going away.’”

The post-match celebrations were significantly tamed, however, by an injury picked up by Bickley in the aftermath of his second goal.

The Bulls centre-forward alleged a forearm into his face by Knaphill’s Zac Hawker, but the officials didn’t spot anything untoward – Bickley’s bloodied-face clearly suggesting foul play.

And Freeman was left frustrated. While apportioning no blame to the referee and his assistants, his prized asset is now likely to miss Tuesday night’s trip to Fleet, next Saturday’s visit of Camberley and, potentially, the clash with champions-elect Farnham the week after.

“Something happened after that goal and it upset a few of the boys. And if you look at the nature of the cut above Lorne’s eye, it’s clear why. We’re just grateful it wasn’t a little bit lower, because then we are having a different conversation.

“Look, referees have a difficult job and they can’t spot everything, and I don’t blame them. But there’s a Knaphill lad who’ll be available for selection for their next game and we have our number nine requiring stitches and a period on the sideline. That isn’t right. We have a complex picture in the short-term in terms of availability with Luke Campbell, Francis Lekimamati and James Queree, among others, not around so this complicates things for us.

“But we are about opportunities and someone will have the chance over this next fortnight to stick their hand up and take on the responsibility normally shouldered by Lorne.”

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