Date Posted: 10/03/2018
Guernsey’s wait for a win in 2018 is over as Sittingbourne were put to the sword in the Footes Lane sunshine on Saturday.
The confidence oozed through Tony Vance’s side, especially in the second half, as the club-record winless run ended on 14 games – although they have not lost just once in seven.
Normally, victory after so long would be a relief, but this result was more vindication of how much the Green Lions have improved over the last few weeks in carving out some hard-fought draws.
The Sarnians may have had Brickies stopper Muhammed Otuyo to thank for errors that allowed Dave Rihoy a second-half brace to add to Paris Pereira’s well-taken first-half strike, but that would be taking away from the free-flowing nature of GFC’s display in the second period.
It hadn’t been like that in the first half, though. A combination of multiple rugby and football matches as well as rain during the week took its toll on a heavy and thoroughly-sanded Footes Lane pitch, making it hard for both teams to really get a foothold.
GFC edged though and deserved their half-time lead – the Brickies goalmouth saw far more action – which they added to in style after the break.
Add to that Callum Stanton’s first clean sheet for the club and the fact Guernsey have now matched the total of wins they managed in the whole of last season with 10 games still to play – they are also just three points shy of last season’s haul – and it was a very satisfying afternoon.
Vance’ side started on the front foot and Ben Coulter dragged wide from the edge of the area within a minute, while Charlton Gauvain (twice) and Tom De La Mare saw shots blocked around the edge of the box inside seven minutes.
Stanton saw a speculative 25-yarder from Kane Rowland, who had scored twice in the return fixture in January – which was a night to forget for Vance’s side – fly past his right-hand post in the ninth minute.
A flowing move that started with the defence and went through Seb Skillen and Tom De La Mare saw Rihoy pick up the latter’s arrowed pass on the corner of the area, set himself up and sting the palms of Otuyo. Moments later, Paris Pereira headed Frank Tobin’s cross from wide of the near post after a high press had seen the Green Lions win the ball back high up the pitch.
Tom Loynes’ cross-come-shot was deflected wide on 17 minutes before Tobin, who had given Guernsey real energy down the right, broke forward and forced Otuyo to beat away a powerful low shot at his near post.
Rihoy dragged wide on 24 minutes, and there was a 10-minute quiet spell before the Sarnians took the lead.
Sittingbourne failed to clear their lines and Gauvain found Coulter just outside the area. The latter’s one-touch layoff allowed Seb Skillen to slip the ball into the area, where Pereira was able to run onto it and stroke it past Otuyo.
Stanton saw David Smith’s 30-yard free-kick comfortably wide shortly after, and Pereira could have added to his tally with just over five minutes to go when he was sent into the box, but opted to shoot early rather and poke it around Otuyo and the balled rolled harmlessly wide.
GFC kept up their pressure after the break and double their lead within six minutes. De La Mare turned well in a tight area and shot from distance. Otuyo flung himself to his right and got a hand to it, but only succeeded in parrying the ball down into the six-yard box, where Rihoy slid in to help it into an empty net.
The Brickies thought they had got themselves back into the game just before the hour when he ran onto Fabrice Blewordah’s scoops pass over the top and prodded past Stanton, but the flag had long gone up for offside.
Moments later at the other end, Otuyo’s poor kick out was seized upon by the Guernsey midfield. Skillen hit a powerful shot from range but Otuyo beat it away.
Shortly after their disallowed goal, Sittingbourne were gifted a glorious chance to halve the deficit as Stanton parried Harrison Hatfull’s low shot across goal back into the area. It fell to Smith right in front of goal, who should have buried it but completely scuffed it and dragged it across the six-yard box where the Guernsey defence were able to clear.
The Brickies didn’t give up and another ball that looped into the area and dropped to Smith brought another save out of Stanton, albeit a comfortable one.
But any hope they had of getting back into it was snuffed out on 75 minutes thanks to another gift from Otuyo to the Green Lions.
It was another poor clearance from him that dropped straight to Rihoy 25 yards out, and the forward had time to steady himself before lobbing the ball over the defence into an empty net.
That was the points secured, but to their credit Sittingbourne continued to seek a consolation. Stanton had to deflect Rowland's angled shot after near skill from Loynes put the number nine in. River Marsh also marked his home debut with an important block from Jide Okimeji, who had been found with a short free-kick.
Matt Loaring had been introduced and injected some extra pace on the counter-attack against a tiring Brickies defence. He almost laid on a goal for Skillen as he dashed down the line to meet Skillen’s header. He could have taken the shot on himself but opted to take the ball wider and pull it across goal, where it bobbled through the six-yard box, just out of reach of Skillen, who would have had an empty net to tap into had he got there.
Either side of that chance, Loaring pounced on an awful header back towards his goal by Germain Agyemang and shot from the angle, but Otuyo blocked, and then drove forward and hit one from outside the area that dipped just in front of Otuyo, who held.
One more wayward effort apiece from Rowland and Loaring proved to be the of end of the most satisfying of afternoons for Vance and his squad.
The Green Lions remain 20th in Bostik South but have caught up with some of the teams immediately above them. The rest of the weekend’s results were as follows: Ashford United 1-3 Lewes, Carshalton Athletic 5-0 Molesey, Corinthian Casuals 2-1 Thamesmead Town, Greenwich Borough 1-0 Faversham Town, Hythe Town 2-1 Cray Wanderers, Phoenix Sports 3-1 Herne Bay, Ramsgate 3-0 Chipstead, Whyteleafe 1-0 Hastings United.
Guernsey: Callum Stanton, Simon Geall ©, Jamie Dodd, Alex Le Prevost, Frank Tobin, Ben Coulter, Charlton Gauvain (River Marsh 71’), Tom De La Mare (Ryan-Zico Black 64’), Paris Pereira (Matt Loaring 75’), Dave Rihoy, Seb Skillen. Not used: Dominic Heaume, Glyn Dyer.
Goals: Pereira 35’; Rihoy 51’, 75’. Booked: Coulter.
Siitngbourne: Muhammed Otuyo, Chris Webber ©, Fabrice Blewordah, Charlie Allen, Josh Dorling (Harrison Hatfull HT), Lex Allan, David Smith (Germaine Agyemang 77’), Jide Okimeji, Kane Rowland, Tom Loynes, Rhys Bartlett (Kane Phillips 67’) Not used: Harry Brooks.
Highlights have already been uploaded to GFCTV, and the full 90-minute playback is available until the start of the next broadcast.