Despite having eight First team players unavailable for various reasons, our depth of squad strength allowed us to still field a competitive side to face Val Rec in the Quarter Final of the Wheway Cup on Saturday (12th September 2015).
In Jamie Brewster’s absence, young Luke Duncan returned to the side in goal and Connor Maher stepped into the left back spot in place of regular Tommy Buchanan. Terry Bennion, Clayton Romeril and Chris Mallett made up the rest of the defence while Chris Andrews partnered Kamen Nafkha in the centre with Jamie Mourant and Francis Lekimamti also in midfield. Up front, youth was in abundance with Harrison Moon and Lorne Bickley, the usual U18s strike pairing, making their first competitive start together at senior level.
The game started brightly and, after good periods of possession by both teams, it was Wanderers who came closest to taking the lead when Maher’s speculative cross come shot and hit the Vale Rec post. Jamie Mourant also had two excellent chances to take the lead in the opening quarter of the game after good work on the right allowed him through on goal only to blaze high and wide respectively on both occasions.
A youthful, well organised Vale Rec, who make up most of the Guernsey U21 squad, battled hard throughout and they earned their rewards on the half hour mark – albeit as a gift. A pass back to the Wanderers keeper safely reached its intended target but, with less time than he anticipated, Duncan failed to get the ball out of his feet before the oncoming Seb Skillen, who was a handful all afternoon, managed to get in a toe and partially block the clearance. The ball broke kindly for Vale Rec and Nick Rumens coolly stroked it past the stranded keeper and into the empty net from 25 yards out.
With half time approaching, Wanderers increased the tempo of the game in search of an equaliser and, with Lorne Bickley’s effort rattling off the crossbar and successive corners that resulted in further near misses, the home support could be forgiven for thinking it was just going to be one of those days.
The second period brought more initial pressure onto the Vale Rec goal and Connor Maher’s excellent dead ball delivery was dangerous throughout. In particular, another pinpoint Maher corner found the head of Bennion under the Vale Rec cross bar and, although it looked harder to miss, the ball again smashed against the crossbar and to the safety of the field behind to the dismay of the on-looking cows.
Now chasing the game, with men committed forward, two goals on the break for the visitors essentially ended Wanderers chances of progression in the Cup that we have reached the final of in the last two years. Seb Skillen made it 0-2 with a well taken finish and although Duncan in goal could possibly have done better, Paris Pereira claimed the third as he ran onto a pass from deep to beat the off side flag and side foot home.
With 20 minutes left and the introduction of Romeril and Nobes for Moon and Lekimamati, Wanderers continued to press forward. Some resolute defending by the Vale rear guard and midfield largely thwarted further pressure but, with 12 minutes left on the clock, Nafkha’s shot was nodded inside the post by the diving Clayton Romeril, who had been thrown up front, to pull one back.
Further chances came and went and if Bickley’s far post header from another Maher corner had gone in with five minutes remaining, things could have become uncomfortable for Vale Rec. But it wasn’t to be and the game finished 1-3.
JTC Wanderers Captain Chris Andrews was gracious in defeat and said: “Having so many lads away is no excuse as we had more than enough on the pitch to win the game. A sufficient number of senior players were available and, with the talent that the younger lads that came in have, as they show us in training every week, we should have won. We just didn’t play particularly well today. We couldn’t find our usual passing game, we weren’t clinical enough in front of goal and we didn’t have that little slice of luck that you sometimes need. I think we hit the woodwork five or six and on another day some of those go in. Fair play to Vale Rec. They are a young, fit, well drilled outfit and they’ve done a job on us”.