After a 16 year wait, and 25 years since last winning the Charity Cup, the men’s 1st Team finally lifted some silverware at Springfield last night after beating St Ouen in a thrilling final to the first cup competition of the season.
After an impressive start, with some smart, pacey movement and slick passing, it was Wanderers that made all the early running with Charlie Payn glancing a header over the bar in the opening minute and Kamen Nafkha drilling a low shot just wide.
Dan Birrell retuned in goal after missing the last two games due to injury caused by halting the flight of a passing cricket ball with his nose. Cummins, Daniels, Bennion, a late replacement for Jack McKenna who got stage fright (calf strain) during the warm up, and the impressive Charlie Johnson made up the defensive line. The towering Matt Dixon, a holding midfielder, made his second start for the club since arriving in Jersey to take up his new role at Victoria College, with Nafkha, Payn, Mourant and Sir Christopher Andrews providing offensive support for an ever improving Harrison Moon, leading the line.
A full bench of medal hunters was led by the injured, yet eager, Ollie Thompson, Brad Stratford, recently returned from the thrills of Las Vegas, James Murray who arrived at the ground in his helicopter, Sam Habin in his capacity of Matt Dixon’s agent, and Jonny Seller, who deserves special mention for standing in as a make shift keeper when Birrell had the sniffles, but took being dropped to the bench in the final for the good of the team with grace.
Despite Wanderers having all the play, it was St Ouen that took a surprising lead when a speculative clearance found its way beyond Daniels and into the path of the oncoming Dom Pougoelle. With Birrell slow off his line, Pougoelle calmly slotted the ball into the bottom corner.
But it wasn’t long before Wanderers were back on level terms when Pierce Cummins, looking forward to his imminent holiday, and it showed, clipped an inviting ball up the line for Andrews to nod into Moon’s path. Skipping around the St Ouen defender with just the keeper to beat and the ball bouncing on a lively surface, his audacious lob looked to be heading over the bar only to drop in time to find its way into the net.
With half an hour on the clock it was St Ouen who took the lead again. A whipped corner caused problems for the Wanderers defence and following an attempted clearance the ball fortuitously fell to the feet of Pougoelle to prod a trickling shot low beyond the outstretched Birrell. With plenty of time to go Wanderers continued to adopt a slightly more direct approach than we’ve been used to seeing, making good use of Dixon’s physicality and the trickery and pace of Mourant, Payn and Nafkha. Half time arrived with St Ouen leading by the odd goal of three.
Reacting well to the ‘discussions’ during the break, it was again Wanderers that came out of the blocks for the second half quickest. And it didn’t take long for the sustained pressure to pay off. The pace of tireless Nafkha allowed him to latch onto Payn’s measured pass. His shot was partially saved by Luke Duncan in the St Ouen’s goal only to fall into the path of Moon who coolly slotted home from the edge of the box. Game on.
The match then entered into a scrappy period with both sides intent on winning the midfield battle until a classy pass was played by Dixon out to Charlie Johnson on the left. After setting himself well, Johnson produced the ball of the game. His left footed knock curled behind the St Ouen’s rear guard and Moon was again in the right place to firmly side foot the ball home for his third goal of the game.
St Ouen, looking for an equaliser, pressed higher up the pitch but the introduction of Stratford for Dixon gave Wanderers a fresh set of legs to help repel the now oncoming waves of attack. That said, Wanderers were still dangerous on the counter and their fourth goal of the game came in this manner. After winning possession, Payn broke well down the right and after good interplay it was again Nafkha that managed to get himself beyond the last defender. With the keeper to beat his shot came back off the post only to bounce onto the shins of a recovering defender and into the goal.
Man of the Match, Harrison Moon, who was excellent throughout, was replaced by Murray and Cummins made way for Jonny Seller at right back in an attempt to kill the game and see the rest of the time out. But St Ouen weren’t finished just yet and during time added on, another long ball found Martin Sampson in space. Despite looking very offside, his finish from close range gave everyone in red and white a nervous couple of minutes to see out with the score at 4-3.
The final whistle eventually came to the delight of the Wanderers players, bench and supporters and Chris Andrews lifted the trophy to end the trophy drought.
Hat-trick hero, Harrison Moon, said after the game, ‘I’m obviously delighted to get three goals in the final and I suppose there isn’t a better time to hit a rich vein of form. I’ve worked hard on my game over the last couple of months and feel the penny has possibly dropped. Senior football is far quicker and more physical than what I was used to in the U18s but I’m learning to use my body positioning to protect the ball better, retain possession, and if I can get some goals along the way then great. The older lads keep telling me that I should also get my haircut, but its Jersey Live this weekend and I want to look reem for that, so maybe next week’.