Epsom & Ewell 2, Guernsey FC 0 AFTER doing well enough to hold their own for over an hour, Guernsey FC’s resolve was finally broken last night as their distant dreams of a treble were deservedly ended by Epsom & Ewell.
Epsom & Ewell 2, Guernsey FC 0
AFTER doing well enough to hold their own for over an hour, Guernsey FC’s resolve was finally broken last night as their distant dreams of a treble were deservedly ended by Epsom & Ewell.
But with a fixture pile-up looming in the CCL Premier Division and FA Vase, something had to give and with a number of new Green Lions appearing, it was ultimately the less-coveted CCL Premier Challenge Cup.
Saying that, the rampantly in-form ‘Es’ were frustrated for much of that opening 60 minutes or so and, with the visiting Lions looking threatening at times, hopes of keeping alive their defence of the trophy for another round looked feasible.
However, it was Kyle Hough who put paid to those hopes with 63rd and 75th minute strikes, both crucially aided by deflections, but there were still many positives to take from GFC’s work last night.
Four debutants were on show and the quartet of Charlie Pinsard, Sam Hall, Naro Zimmerman and Jonny Coates all put in sterling shifts and suggested that they may have more than just a fleeting future with the Lions.
Throw in a superb display from 17-year-old goalkeeper James Hamon, who was the visitors’ best performer, and a decent performance from striker Nigel Hutton, and the future is looking rosy.
After just about surviving the opening 10 minutes at High Road, they looked comfortable for the remainder of the first half, which was played in torrential rain throughout.
Dale Marvell and Mark Jarman both came close for the hosts in those early stages, with Jarman’s miss particularly fortunate for GFC as he pounced on a Pinsard mistake to skip past Zimmerman and fire wide of the far post.
After the visitors settled, they did not look in too much danger and were well marshalled by centre-back Jamie Dodd, who took the captain’s armband, and formed a good partnership with Zimmerman, while Alex Le Prevost did well in front of them.
But with star strikers Ross Allen and Dom Heaume both left on the bench, attacking potency was not coming from Tony Vance’s men, despite the perseverance of Carl Wallbridge and Hutton up top.
Hutton wasted one good opening by over-hitting a cross, while he could only get studs on a Matt Loaring pass while stretching at the end of a quick counter-attack and the effort went wide.
Pinsard did make a magnificent sliding block to deny Hough at the other end, while Hamon produced a save from a header just before the break that was nothing short of world-class.
The whistle had already gone for a push on Dodd and the effort wouldn’t have counted, but it was still the first of a number of excellent Hamon interventions.
The game did open up after the break and GFC looked more threatening, with Hutton poking wide from 15 yards out after Wallbridge had done well to break down the right and square.
Hamon turned behind the lively Marvell’s long-range effort at the other end, while a combination of defensive bodies denied Alex McGregor’s subsequent powerful goal-bound effort.
But that Epsom pressure was beginning to tell and it got its reward just after the hour, albeit in fortuitous circumstances for the side who have won eight successive league games.
Hough’s shot from an angle just inside the area took the slightest of nicks off Dodd and it edged the ball too far away from Hamon, who could only use his fingertips to push it onto the inside of the post and into the back of the net.
The home side were ecstatic and that strike prompted Vance to ready both Heaume and Allen on the sidelines, but just as they looked poised to enter the fray, the Lions fell 2-0 behind.
Hamon had only just denied Carl Downs with a superb tip over the bar when, from the resulting corner, Hough was played in with a short corner and entered the box from an angle.
His effort flew across goal and although it took a nick off Le Prevost, it was still a magnificent strike that left Hamon grasping at thin air, as it nestled in the top corner.
That appeared a fatal blow for the new-look Lions and although their big-name duo did join proceedings, it was just slightly too late to make a decisive impact in the final 11 minutes.
However, Allen did do well to set up Wallbridge at the back post with a fine cross, but Epsom keeper Joe White smartly denied the attempt, while another couple of promising counter-attacks broke up short of the area.
Hough had a glorious chance to seal the game and complete his hat-trick in the dying stages, but his shot was straight at Hamon and well turned away by the man who is looking every inch a future GFC first-choice number one.
The full-time whistle sounded soon after and signalled Epsom’s progression to the quarter-finals, but on a night where Vance and Colin Fallaize had a glimpse of both the future and their squad options, they will have been pleased with what they saw.