Saturday, 4 July 2015

Jersey 6 v 0 Alderney

Sunday 28th June 2015
Island Games Group D
Springfield Stadium, St Helier
Admission: Free
Programme: N/A
Attendance: 1,200 (estimate)
Match Rating: 3

With the Island Games returning to the British Isles this year, but the following three editions taking place elsewhere in Europe, I decided to head for the opening two days of competitive football action on the island of Jersey. Arriving on the island at 9am this morning, and after planning what games I could take in during my stay, considering the attractiveness of fixtures, the logisitics of getting around the island by bus and making sure I would watch only men's games, for my first game I chose to head to the premier football venue on the island. Whilst it was a racing certainty the match would be a very one sided affair, this would be my only opportunity to watch the home island's men's team in action.

The Springfield Stadium is about a twenty minute walk north of St Helier town centre and features a large all-seater stand, with a good incline between rows providing plenty of legroom and generally good views of the pitch, although slight impeded with tall netting obscuring the view of the nearest corner. A cafe and bar area is available underneath the stand. Large mesh fencing behind both goals makes viewing not particularly easy from those areas, with hard standing available along the remaining length. Perhaps enhanced by the very warm and sunny conditions, Springfield had the feel of an urban Mediterranean ground, open and closely hemmed in by housing and busy roads. A 3G pitch has recently been laid here specifically for these Island Games. A little surprisingly, no football tournament specific programmes or team sheets were produced, unlike at the 2011 games on the Isle of Wight, although also unlike those games, entry was free for all football matches this time around. A glossy 44 page A4 sized programme was produced covering all sports and was very professionally produced and easy on the eye but only covered the tournament in very basic, general detail.

It would certainly be fair to say that Jersey started this game as favourites. Alderney play Jersey every other year in the Muratti Vase (the competition between the three main Channel Islands), and Alderney have lost every one of the 44 encounters, and the narrowest defeat in the last six encounters stretching back to 2004 being three goals. Jersey went into this tournament as one of the favourites to win Gold, and perhaps surprisingly regained the Muratti Vase this year by winning the final in Guernsey after losing the previous three finals. They have a good record in the Island Games, claiming a bronze in the last Games they competed at in 2011 on the Isle of Wight, won the gold medal two years previously, and will be looking to repeat their home triumph when they last hosted the games in 1997.

On a very warm and sunny day, an unsurprising pattern soon developed with Alderney defending very, very deep, being happy to soak up pressure and rely on hopeful, aimless punts upfield as Jersey passed the ball patiently around, trying to find a way through the defensive wall. The strategy worked well for the opening half hour. However, the inevitable occurred on 35 minutes when Jersey finally found their way through when Craig Russell swung in a super cross from the right, the ball was passed across goal from the far post, and Jake Baker swept the ball inside the near hand post. Jersey doubled their lead on 40 minutes when Jack Boyle struck a lovely powerful shot from the edge of the penalty arc into the roof of the net with the keeper rooted to his spot. The home side put the result beyond all doubt on 44 minutes with their third, when a ball from a corner was flicked on to the far post, landing at the feet of Luke Watson who stabbed the ball from inside the six yard area across the keeper and into the net.

With nothing to lose, Alderney did start the second half with a very slightly less defensive mindset, but still never looked like scoring, and they held out until the 70th minute, when Karl Hinds planted a header into the net from close range following a perfect cross from the left from close range, and they almost made it five within two minutes when, following a good drive into the box and pass along the area, the ball was smashed off the underside of the bar. Alderney's defending became ever more tired and eleven minutes from time, they had Jacob Olivier was shown a second yellow card for a horrible swipe-lunge. That foul was punished two fold when the resultant free kick was curled from the right of the penalty area, through a gaggle of players and into the far bottom corner of the net by Jack Cannon, and within a minute, Jersey scored their sixth, when some quick incisive passing found Cav Miley through on goal and although his first touch seemed to take the ball too close towards the keeper, he still managed to toe-poke the ball into the net. 

So, a convincing opening to Jersey's campaign, and although their next game, against the Western Isles, promised to be a similarly straightforward, after they lost 0-9 to the Isle of Man today, the final game of the group promises to be the decider for who claims the one semi-final berth from the group, against the Isle of Man.

In the subsequent games, as expected, Jersey beat the Western Isles (3-0) and Alderney lost heavily to Isle of Man (0-7), setting up a winner takes all final group game decider for who would qualify for the semi-finals. Somewhat surprisingly, Isle of Man won 2-1, to leave Jersey with a play-off decider against Ynys Mon, which they won 1-0 to finish seventh overall - not quite what Jersey had in mind leading up to the football tournament. Alderney lost their 15th/16th positional play-off decider 1-5 to Hitra, to be confirmed as finishing bottom of the 16 participating islands.

Video highlights of the goals can be viewed within the following link

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