In the ongoing quest to break the strangle hold that Jersey Scottish and St Paul’s seemingly have on the top two league spots, the 1st team took a huge step towards achieving that with a convincing win at JTC Park on Saturday, leaving themselves 2 points behind the visitors with a game in hand.
With in-form goal scorer Harrison Moon still recovering from injury and with a clear intention of trying to nullify a usually potent Scottish attack, the team reverted to a back four after deploying three at the back in the previous couple of games. Dan Birrell (J) continued his run of games in goal, with Chris Andrews, Jorge Marques, Josh Daniel (J) and John Borg forming what proved to be a water tight rear guard. Declan O’Connell came into the side in the centre of midfield to join Jamie Mourant and Charlie Payn, while Pierce Cummins and Kamen Nafkha offered width on either side to support Arthur Illingworth up front.
In a fairly even opening period both teams demonstrated good quality play with some excellent possession football that ebbed and flowed at a healthy pace with the midfields working hard to win back the ball. Surprisingly, clear cut chances were few and far between with the respective defences comfortably foiling their attacking counter parts. Throughout the game, Chris Andrews and Jorge Marques in defence were nothing short of outstanding, with Daniel and Borg also posting impressive displays.
With both teams having only created half chances it was Wanderers that made the all-important breakthrough in the middle of the half but largely assisted by some sloppy Scottish defending. Pierce Cummins who provided a number of quality crosses during the afternoon, once again sent in a testing ball. Fletcher in the Scottish goal was unable to make a clean catch and after some goal line pin ball between him and Luke Campbell, Illingworth was on hand to toe the ball into the goal with an instinctive finish.
The game continued to half time with both sides not really creating anything of note other than difficult headed chances and long range efforts at either end.
Scottish started the second half brightly and looking for an equaliser brought the game onto Wanderers. But, with a clear plan to let Scottish have the ball in deeper areas and let them come onto a disciplined formation, the only real threat came from their signature long diagonal which Daniel and Borg dealt with. It was against the run of play when the ball broke to Mourant on the left hand corner of the Scottish penalty area with his back to goal. He smartly wrong footed his marker and after turning and getting the ball out of his feet despatched a curling effort into the top right hand corner of the net that Fletcher, despite getting a hand to the ball, couldn’t keep out.
Scottish had a great chance to pull one back when Campbell headed wide from close range. But as the game progressed, with Scottish very much chasing any slim chance of a comeback, the home team looked increasingly comfortable and after the introduction of the towering Matt Dixon and the experienced Terry Bennion, were able to see it out to the final whistle and collect a very valuable 3 points.
With some decent individual performances resulting in an encouraging team performance Wanderers deserved the win. A clean sheet speaks for itself in terms of the defensive display with Birrell growing in confidence with each game, Andrews and Marques flawless, Borg as reliable as ever and Daniel playing in a way and with a maturity far in excess of his years.
Nafkha and Cummins provided good energy and delivery from both flanks, Mourant showed flashes of what he’s capable of and Payn had his best game since returning to the club this season. Declan O’Connell had a ready effective game and his hard work and closing down of Calvin Weir in particular, was largely the reason for Scottish’s chances being kept to a minimum. Again, a very mature, disciplined display for one so young. Illingworth worked his socks off in leading the line without his new bessie Moon Pig and also had a very good game. Defending from the front and in possession holding the ball up and bringing others into play. Good shift.
Bennion and Dixon also played important roles after coming on from the bench and very much contributed to the clean sheet. And off course, a nod to Jonny Seller and Graham Dias who were unused subs but provided important cover on this occasion and give the side depth to the player pool.