Tardif saves Lions from a mauling
Monday 21st October 2013, 5:00PM BST.
Video supplied by Guernsey FC in association with www.kings.gg
Guernsey FC 1, Billericay Town 2
ANOTHER week may have seen another milestone for Guernsey FC, but this time, it was a step too far in their quest for an FA Trophy upset at Footes Lane.
The Green Lions went into this clash with illustrious Billericay Town, who ply their trade a league higher, with plenty of confidence after their previous round demolition of Barkingside.
But if ever proof was needed in the jump in class between Ryman Premier and Ryman South, this particular afternoon emphatically provided it.
Not a single person among the 1,090 present would surely have the audacity to question the final outcome because, quite simply, it was fully deserved for the visiting ‘Ricay’.
They were better in every aspect compared to the hosts and had it not been for the brilliance of GFC keeper Chris Tardif, the margin of victory would have been far greater.
GFC did work hard to get back into it and fought to the last after Ross Allen’s sublime strike gave them a sniff, but come the end of a lengthy seven minutes of added time, the equaliser never looked like arriving.
There is certainly no shame for GFC in how the match panned out and it would be a brave man who bets against Billericay continuing their own highly-impressive run of form.
In their big striker, Joe Benjamin, who would grab what turned out to the winner, they have a real talent and a handful that GFC couldn’t get to grips with throughout.
Glenn Poole was another who shone in the heart of midfield for the visitors, although he came up against a home partnership that few would have predicted beforehand.
GFC coach Tony Vance made the bold call of leaving Ryan-Zico Black on the bench, preferring Tom de la Mare in alongside Dom Heaume, while Dave Rihoy and Alex Le Prevost were also among the subs.
All three would be called on in the second half as GFC fought to get back into the game, Black’s arrival pacifying some vocal thoughts from the crowd about his absence.
But by then, GFC were right up against it and, although it wasn’t quite a mountain to climb, it was still a hill of sizeable proportions.
Ironically, they had started off the contest in decent fashion, more than holding their own in the early exchanges, as both sides looked to get the ball down and play at pace.
Benjamin had already caused one or two problems in the early sparring, but GFC would have been more than happy to have restricted their opponents to half chances at best.
However, their one big flaw all afternoon was their rashness in diving in regularly when Billericay entered the penalty area and that became a big problem after 18 minutes.
Benjamin had already tried his luck in trying to win a penalty earlier when he dived over Jamie Dodd’s leg – and should have been booked for simulation – but this time, there was no debate about the decision.
He had already hared past home skipper Sam Cochrane and got a cross in that was half-cleared by Tom Strawbridge, but as Benjamin got to the loose ball first, Cochrane unnecessarily sent him tumbling.
It was a stonewall penalty and Poole made no mistake, sending Tardif the wrong way in style to break the deadlock.
Marc McGrath had a quiet afternoon up front for GFC as he was regularly muscled off the ball, but could have grabbed an equaliser when his fierce shot was well blocked.
But that was as close as GFC were to get for much of the time and, as the half wore on, Billericay took control and didn’t really let up for the remainder of the afternoon.
They were better in possession, more threatening, stronger and more cunning, albeit without creating too many more clear-cut openings until the 41st minute.
But they made the most of that opportunity, Isaac Layne pulling back to Junior Luke, whose shot was miraculously tipped onto the crossbar by Tardif, only for Benjamin to bundle home the rebound.
It proved to be a killer blow for GFC and it could have got even worse before the break, Tardif making another stunning stop to thwart Luke moments later.
That block just about kept them alive at the midway point, but his interventions weren’t over yet, as he had to be alert after the restart to superbly deny Luke and Layne respectively.
And then suddenly, out of nowhere, GFC had a lifeline and were back in it on 54min.
As a hopeful GFC attack broke down, Allen looked to be going nowhere out on the left-hand side but such is his class, he pulled something out of nothing.
Dropping his shoulder to beat his marker, he then curled in an absolute beauty of an effort from 25 yards into the near bottom corner past Billy Lumley to halve the deficit.
Not for the first time – and almost certainly not for the last – GFC’s talisman and best player almost single-handedly gained his side a foothold in the game.
But as it proved, it wouldn’t count for much, as, five minutes in the immediate aftermath of that strike aside, the leveller never really looked like happening.
Vance introduced his three big replacement names one by one, Rihoy, Black and Alex Le Prevost coming on for Glyn Dyer, McGrath and Tom Strawbridge respectively.
But whenever a rare attack on an excellent playing surface looked threatening, it invariably broke down through wastefulness on the ball.
Billericay had the chances to kill it off totally, the best being fired over by Sean Bonnett-Johnson, as they bent the rules to the full, particularly with their time-wasting antics.
There was one unsavoury moment in front of the dugouts when players from both sides clashed, after Black and Bonnett-Johnson had initially looked close to coming to blows.
But that was the closest GFC got to breaking up Billericay’s rhythm and, as the minutes ticked on, the outcome looked inevitable and was rubberstamped when referee Graham Kane finally blew for time.
Guernsey FC: Tardif, Mackay, Cochrane, Strawbridge (Le Prevost 79), Dodd, Loaring, de la Mare, Heaume, Dyer (Rihoy 59), McGrath (Black 63), Allen.
Billericay Town: Lumley, Imudia, Halle, Rogers, Beavan, Luke (Kouassi 70), Dunne, Poole, Layne (Robinson 76), Benjamin (Webber 85), Bonnett-Johnson.
Referee: G. Kane.