Video – Tardif’s heroics keep Wembley dream alive
Monday 4th March 2013, 5:00PM GMT.
Highlights courtesy of GFCTV in partnership with kings.gg
Walsall Wood 0, Guernsey FC 0 (AET)
ALTHOUGH not the outcome they were hoping for, another notable milestone in Guernsey FC’s history was achieved at Oak Park on Saturday – their first goalless draw.
With this cracking FA Vase quarter-final tie at the excellent Walsall Wood being their 70th game, that is some going and sums up the brand of football the Green Lions have produced.
But for all their attacking options, it was a defensive trio that ensured GFC have a second bite of the cherry under the Footes Lane lights on Saturday.
With their regular back four available again, the returning Jamie Dodd was superb at left-back and Alex Le Prevost was colossal at centre-back in his finest display for the club.
But even with those two performances, it was the visitors’ last line of defence that prevented Walsall Wood a victory that few of the 661 spectators could have begrudged them.
Chris Tardif was magnificent between the posts and made a number of crucial stops, two of them breathtaking, the latter from Andrew Aiton – match-saving late on in normal time.
Although the Lions were vastly improved on their last two displays, particularly from their midweek defeat, they were still some way short of their fluent best.
In an opening half-hour spell when they were a yard off the pace, particularly in their movement of the ball, Walsall Wood threatened to gain a crucial advantage.
But for all of their neat and intricate build-up play, the ‘Wood’ could not create many clear-cut openings early on, although bodies did have to be thrown in the way of two powerful Aiton efforts.
The same man wasted a good opening when he shot straight at Tardif, while GFC’s sole attack of note saw Lee Stretton’s tackle deny Ross Allen a run at goal.
Allen was feeding off scraps for much of his birthday, but nobody could fault his desire, as he regularly dropped deep and put in an unyielding shift for his team.
His and his colleagues’ cause was not helped when, after just 18min., Matt Loaring had to be taken off with a suspected hamstring strain, another injury for the Lions to contend with.
He was replaced by Nigel Hutton, meaning Vance had used his sole attacking option from the bench early, after Kieran Mahon’s illness withdrawal left him with just four substitutes.
But with their rearguard superb, GFC grew into the contest and began to look more threatening going forward, although in a similar vein to Walsall Wood, the chances did not present themselves.
There was clearly mutual respect and considering some of the bizarre scorelines witnessed in this Vase run, it was actually refreshing to see an old-fashioned nip-and-tuck cup tie.
The hosts were causing problems with set-pieces, particularly from corners, with Scott Bradford having to hook Aiton’s glancing header off the line.
Bradford was involved again on 34min., when a passage of play brought the game to life and led to a pulsating conclusion to the first half.
GFC got the ball down and moved it around at pace, with Bradford’s excellent through ball only a matter of inches too far for Allen to be in.
Allen’s surging run moments later brought about another opening, this time Dave Rihoy’s shot deflected behind for a corner, which came to nothing.
But on 41min., GFC used their first get-out-of-jail card, after a ponderous Glyn Dyer was twice dispossessed and Lewis Taylor-Boyce’s through ball put Ahmet Bilgimer through.
Walsall Wood’s top scorer was one-on-one with Tardif and after the GFC number one did not go to ground, Bilgimer went for a chip.
It beat Tardif and looked a certain goal, but the scurrying Le Prevost superbly hooked off the line, with team-mate Simon Geall in close attendance.
That was a major let-off and GFC got another in first-half stoppage time, Tardif the hero in the last incident of the half.
After denying Tom Evans’ searching run into the box, a low cross was sliced backwards by Le Prevost and dropped for Evans.
He hit powerfully from a tight angle and at point-blank range, only for Tardif to stick out an arm and make one of the finest reaction saves you will see.
The timing was vital and ensured that GFC were not chasing the game after the break and although Walsall Wood continued to shade it, the third quarter went by without note.
On 63min., Allen nearly created a moment of magic when despite being alone, he turned Shawn Boothe inside-out and his cross-goal effort was only denied by Dale Faultless’ fingertips.
Allen and Boothe had a nasty clash of heads soon after, but thankfully, both players were OK to resume.
By this point, it looked likely a single goal would settle the contest and Walsall Wood nearly grabbed it on 78min. through the lively Aiton.
A quick GFC attack halted when Bradford slipped and with Aiton running at goal, Dodd’s sliding tackle missed everything and made the route simpler.
But again, Tardif was the hero with a sensational one-on-one save around the post, when most of the sizeable crowd were expecting the net to bulge.
That was Walsall Wood’s big chance, with the remainder of the 90 minutes passing by pretty incident-free, until a frantic five minutes of stoppage time.
Rihoy was close to getting on the end of Le Prevost’s deep free-kick, although the game ended with Evans spurning a glorious chance from 15 yards out, all alone in the box but only scuffing straight at Tardif.
As GFC coach Tony Vance later admitted, it was he who was the happier of the two coaches to make extra-time against a side who amazingly play their football a division lower.
Rihoy had an excellent chance moments into the extra half-hour, but neither he nor Hutton could quite get a clean shot away in a frantic scramble from Allen’s through ball.
At the other end, substitute Jacques Isaballe was beaten by Taylor-Boyce and when he pulled across to Bilgimer, it looked certain to be 1-0.
Yet again, though, it was Tardif to the rescue as he was quick off his line to smother the low effort.
GFC’s backline changed its look again when an exhausted Dodd joined Geall in the dugout, replaced by Naro Zimmerman.
His first contribution was to be booked for a tackle on Evans within seconds of coming on, with Jamie Hawkins’ resulting free-kick flying in front of everyone, when a touch would have sent it goalbound.
Faultless lived up to his name in the Walsall goal in the single minute of added time, when his brilliant reactions stuck out a foot and prevented Rihoy’s close-range effort from Allen’s swivel-and-cross.
That chance was good, but nothing like Rihoy’s in the 113th minute, which would have won the tie.
Attacking at pace and with three-on-three, Allen slid in Rihoy, who broke the offside trap and was all alone, one-on-one with Faultless and with progression at his feet.
But the man who has already scored crucial goals in this Vase run could only rattle the underside of the crossbar and somehow, Heaume put the rebound over the bar from all of five yards out.
Had it gone in, it would have been incredibly harsh on Walsall Wood, who could well have won it themselves with the very last attack, 122min. now on the clock.
A ball that pinged around the GFC area demanded to be buried from close range and probably would have been, only for Tardif to bravely jump on the loose ball.
It was apt that Tardif should have the last input into a gripping quarter-final, after his man-of-the-match display means the dream of Wembley Stadium lives on – just.
Walsall Wood: Faultless, Deakin, Boothe, Stretton, Evans, Forrest, Hawkins, Gonzales, Taylor-Boyce, Bilgimer, Aiton.
Guernsey FC: Tardif, Geall (Isabelle 80), Cochrane,
Le Prevost, Dodd (Zimmerman 100), Bradford, Dyer, Heaume, Loaring (Hutton 18), Rihoy, Allen.
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