Video – Wembley dream becoming ever more a possibility
Monday 11th February 2013, 5:00PM GMT.
Highlights courtesy of GFCTV in partnership with Kings Life
Spalding United 1, Guernsey FC 3
TIME and again they have done it the hard and nerve-racking way in this FA Vase run just about to keep their Wembley dream alive.
But on Saturday in their most northerly test to date, Guernsey FC produced arguably their greatest performance ever to reach the quarter-finals of a competition of which no other Sarnian side has ever threatened the latter stages.
They had to endure a poor opening half-hour where Spalding’s big money signings gave an illustration of what they were made of and led for much of that period through Gary King’s tremendous strike.
But once they found their feet and began to relax against quality opposition, they were superb from back to front and after Ross Allen levelled matter moments before half-time, they took complete control.
Strikes from Matt Loaring and the magnificent Allen followed soon after the restart, which combined well with a fine defensive display that, in truth, never looked like conceding a goal that would have made life interesting.
Nobody can question the magnitude of this achievement from the Green Lions and in a noticeable compliment, it can easily be suggested that not one of the 12 GFC players used on the day had a bad day.
Allen enjoyed a sensational display leading the line to prove his worth yet again, while in midfield, Kieran Mahon shook off illness to play an important role in front of the ever-dependable Jamie Dodd and Sam Cochrane.
And a note too for right-back Simon Geall, who produced possibly the performance of his ‘island’ career to nullify the threat of Dan Cotton, who looked particular tricky down the hosts’ left wing.
It was a similar story on the other side of the pitch where coach Tony Vance’s biggest selection decision paid off in playing young Joe Alvarez against Spalding’s new signing, Lee Beeson, who struggled all afternoon.
However, it did look ropey for GFC in the early stages, as a cagey encounter threatened to swing decisively in Spalding’s favour.
They were by far the better side at that point, as ex-professional Tony Battersby regularly proved himself a thorn in GFC’s side with his excellent hold-up play, allowing team-mates Beeson and King to try and get into the game.
King’s flicked on header nearly created an opening after 5min., before the danger was just about cleared, while Beeson also fired an ambitious effort over the bar from distance soon after.
That was about as threatening as Beeson looked, because he never really came close to justifying the reported £5,000 price tag that the club spent on him recently, one of a number of new faces in the ‘Tulips’ team.
But during this time, GFC themselves were not looking threatening, as their counter-attacking game was not proving effective against a well-organised and resilient home defence.
And after 16min., the Lions fell behind to stunning strike.
Former Chelsea trainee and Spalding captain Lee Canoville put a decent cross into Battersby and the striker’s header across to King presented an opportunity for the new striker, albeit some 20 yards out.
King obliged with a great half-volley with the outside of his right foot that saw the ball bend beyond GFC keeper Chris Tardif and find the top corner in style.
It was King’s sixth goal in just his third game since his own signing for the club and, considering the lack of joy GFC were having in an attacking sense, it looked like it could already prove crucial.
And with a team that has reportedly spent in the region of £25,000 in recent days alone, the brilliant GFC away support may have feared that the hosts would have a bit too much.
But that goal settled GFC as much as it did Spalding and the remainder of the early stages continued without major incident, as the match was proving to be a slow-burner of a contest.
Allen showed his first sign of danger on the half-hour mark, as he turned his marker inside out in the area, but could only find the legs of Spalding keeper Lee Drury, who was playing his last game for the club.
That was as close as either side got to the decisive second goal until a flurry of activity just before the interval, with Rihoy’s looping header from range having to be cleared off the line.
And seconds later, seemingly out of nowhere on 44min., the equaliser actually arrived and the face of the tie was changed completely.
Dodd’s long throw proved a weapon again and when it was flicked on by the brilliant Heaume into the feet of Loaring, the young striker did brilliantly to tee it across on the volley into the path of Allen.
It was left to GFC’s deadly marksman to steer home from close range past the helpless Drury and the Lions had a half-time lead that they perhaps weren’t expecting, but that was nevertheless the turning point.
And after watching Spalding having to withdraw both Canoville and Miles Chamberlain through injury knocks at the break, they took full advantage with a blistering spell that effectively put them through.
On 52min., an Alex Le Prevost deep free-kick was cleared only as far as Alvarez, who expertly steered a volley out to Allen on the left touchline.
After turning Cotton he did well to stretch and keep the ball in play on the byline with a left-footed cross back into the danger area.
On hand was Loaring to steer a header home and, despite the initial confusion by the stadium announcer, it was definitely the tireless Loaring who got a warranted strike.
That changed the mood around the ground and on 58min., the decisive blow was struck and GFC put one foot into the quarter-finals with an excellent team goal.
Tardif’s long kick forward was flicked on by Heaume into the path of Dave Rihoy, who eluded the attentions of substitute Kieran Doherty and fed in Allen.
After leaving new higher-level signing Michael Jacklin on his backside, he slotted across Drury into the far corner and the level of celebrations showed the importance of the goal.
It was now one-way traffic as the Lions broke repeatedly at speed, with Loaring unable to seal the match when he shot straight at Drury, after Allen’s
breathtaking chest-and-volleyed swivelled through ball on the halfway line.
Spalding threw on their one remaining hope, TJ Nightingale, who had been left on the bench because of the influx of new names to the club.
But he couldn’t help make any inroads and Tardif’s goal was generally not threatened in the latter stages, bar one fine reaction stop from King’s cross-goal header.
The home side’s impressive left-back Jamie Thurlbourne challenged with a low free-kick, but after Tardif’s initial parry, the danger was cleared once again in a no-nonsense approach from the GFC backline.
At the other end, Le Prevost’s low cross in a rare foray forward for the holding midfielder caused problems, again emanating from the brilliance of Allen, who gave replacements Glen Fuff and Doherty a torrid time.
King did force a save out of Tardif from Cotton’s cross in the last few minutes, but it was the GFC front three of Loaring, Rihoy and Allen who constantly looked more dangerous.
With this performance, Allen has taken his individual tally to 11 goals in seven rounds in this season’s Vase and once again made a claim to climb up the pantheon of Guernsey’s all-time great strikers.
With a record as good as that – 89 goals in total for GFC – it is perhaps worthy of gracing the Wembley final in May, which GFC are getting closer to by the round.
And after quite possibly the defining all-round performance in this modern day Sarnian side’s era, they should fear no-one, as their argument as the island’s greatest ever team grows stronger every week.
Spalding United: Drury, Canoville (Doherty 46), Chamberlain (Fuff 46), Jacklin, Thurlbourne, Beeson (Nightingale 65), Steadman, Hall, Cotton, Battersby, King.
Guernsey FC: Tardif, Geall, Cochrane, Dodd, Alvarez, Mahon, Le Prevost, Heaume, Loaring (Hutton 82), Rihoy, Allen.
Referee: A. Young.