Match Report: Guernsey 1-3 Whyteleafe
So The Leafe headed off from Gatwick on the 10am flight to Guernsey, with a 14-man squad and plenty of hope that they’d be able to address the poor run of results that has seen us take one point out of a possible eighteen.
With Guernsey struggling second from bottom in the league Leafe boss Harry Hudson was very hopeful of a good result.
However, on the plane mid-channel midfielder Bentley Graham urged caution, reasoning that the relatively easy 3-1 victory over Guernsey in the first league game of the season at Church Road wouldn’t be so easy to repeat at their place, as Guernsey are a different team at home, “They play a lot higher” he told his team-mates, some of whom hadn’t played Guernsey before.
At least Harry had his first-choice centre back trio of Ricardo Thompson (outside bet for player of the season?) Nathan Campbell and Corey Holder back together again; the latter two have been painfully missed while injured.
Come 2pm kick- off (early start to coincide with the flight times back to Gatwick), a healthy crowd of 587 packed into the neat Footes Lane stadium and that even included around eight Leafe diehard fans (you know who you are!), a brilliant effort and one much appreciated by management and the players.
A friendly bunch, the Guernsey fans, urged on by ‘Roary’ the club mascot (just where did he go in the second half, by the way??). There was a nice atmosphere pre-match.
Bentley’s prediction on the aeroplane seemed sound though as Guernsey totally dominated the first half as the Leafe just couldn’t get into the game and it was weird really, as despite Leafe keeper, Tyler McCarthy not really having too much to do, we were definitely losing the midfield battle, with big, busting Guernsey centre forward William Fazakerley causing problems with his hold-up play and clever flick-ons.
It was no real surprise when Guernsey took an early lead with a low shot on the edge of the box from talented central midfielder, Carlos Canha, with McCarthy unsighted through a sea of legs.
Possibly Guernsey’s big mistake was to try and defend their lead rather than press on when Leafe were on the back foot.
I noticed something quite charming though, as even the remotest effort on goal or clearance by a Guernsey defender was met with an almost rapturous response by their fans. One blazing effort that sailed at least 20ft over the bar springs to mind.
The first half, petered out, pushed along by the gale force gusts of wind. The old cliché ‘football is a game of two halves’’ certainly applied to this match.
The Leafe were a different side after the break, playing our usual style of entertaining football. Our one bright spark in the first half, left winger 17-year old, Adam Aziz, who had a great game last weekend at home to Herne Bay, had carried on with his trickery against Guernsey, giving his opposing right back a torrid time.
He was joined in the second half by right winger, Tre Daley, yet another product of Harry and Calum’s Kinetic Foundation, and making his debut here. To say Tre impressed is an understatement, with midfield pivot, Bentley Graham picking him out whenever he could.
No sign of nervousness at all, and with Aziz contributing his good work on the other flank, things were looking hopeful.
Centre-forward, Andre McCollin, was also now having his best game for the Leafe, thriving on the service he was suddenly getting and by the hour mark, it was clear that Whyteleafe were getting on top.
Frankly, the once assured Guernsey back-four were looking un-certain, they were enjoying no respite as the ball kept coming back at them. The breakthrough finally came in the 65th minute when the brilliant Matt O’Donoghue (he’s got my vote for player of the season) popped up in the box and buried the equaliser.
To be fair to them Guernsey then realised that they needed to get something out of the game and went looking for a winner. A smart move saw them score in the 70th minute only to be disallowed for offside. Leafe breathed again and didn’t let that near miss deflate them.
The decisive second Leafe goal came in the 89thminute when Andre McCollin found himself un-marked, with just the keeper to beat, but he still had a bouncing ball to deal with, which he did beautifully dinking the ball over the head of advancing Guernsey keeper, Callum Stanton. That broke Guernsey hearts and you could see their heads go down.
Huge relief abounded for the Leafe and nice to see the players make a beeline for Harry Hudson to celebrate joyously with him and Calum. This win had been a long-time coming.
The result was sealed in the 94th minute by Tre Daley, netting on his debut and perhaps the most deserved goal of the season.
The young man impressed everyone on Saturday and let’s hope that he carries on in the remaining games of the season, as do the good results, of course.
To their credit, the Guernsey fans gave Leafe a warm round of applause at the final whistle. Classy touch, that, and we thank them for their hospitality in return.
1 Tyler McCarthy 2 Emmanuel Mensah 3 Matt O’Donoghue 4 Nathan Campbell 5 Ricardo Thompson (sub 15 Trey Daley 46’) 6 Corey Holder 7 Brad Wilson 8 Bentley Graham (sub 14 Helge Orome 62’) 9 Andre McCollin 10 Marvin Armstrong (sub 12 Jamie McGeoghegan 71’) 11 Adam Aziz