Croydon 4, Guernsey FC 7
Simon Geall interviewed by Matt Lihou. Video courtesy of GFCTV in partnership with Kings Life
Croydon 4, Guernsey FC 7
AS THEY romped into a 3-0 half-time lead after a devastating attacking performance, you could have been forgiven for thinking that Guernsey FC would cruise to three crucial league points.
But that just isn’t the Green Lions’ way and after 5-1 became 5-4 in virtually no time, they were sweating, as the most unlikely comeback imaginable looked possible for the ‘Trams’.
For the neutral, it was an incredible spectacle and another 11-goal thriller, but ultimately GFC were extremely grateful to their goal machine Ross Allen, as his importance to this team was again underlined.
His second five-goal haul for the Lions was somewhat overshadowed given the conclusion and Nigel Hutton’s two late goals, but it was Allen’s remarkable performance that once again dragged GFC back up the CCL Premier Division standings.
They are still a long way and a lot of games off the top spot they crave, but in the cold light of day, this was three points in the bag, even if it did send the heart rates shooting through the roof at the Croydon Arena.
And after the start they made, it should never have been that close.
The opening few minutes saw GFC try and feel out their opponents, although it was the hosts who were looking particularly dangerous on the counter-attack through striker Claudio De Almeida.
His predatory performance would eventually end with all four of his side’s goals, but he was excellently denied by GFC keeper James Hamon, in the game’s first real chance after 6min.
That save proved crucial soon after, when after 11min., GFC broke the deadlock in quite simplistic style.
Alex Le Prevost was at centre-back in the absence of captain Sam Cochrane and his floated ball over the top set Matt Loaring away, whose final touch was too heavy in his one-on-one battle with opposing keeper Francis Ameyaw.
The ricochet fell kindly for Allen, though, and he tucked away from close range to open the scoring.
It was made even better just moments later, as from the very next attack on 13min., Loaring’s delightful clipped ball set Heaume away and he unselfishly slid the pass across the area from the left-hand side.
Running onto it was Allen, who had the simple task of tapping into the open net and he duly obliged.
Scott Bradford also came close with a decent long-range strike, while Joe Alvarez fired over the bar from a well-worked short corner, as GFC looked like scoring on every attack.
Croydon’s sole effort in that blitz was a weak Karl Douglin shot and they must have thought that the game was all but over on 29min., as Allen completed his 18-minute hat-trick in style.
Loaring got to the byline and cut back for Allen, whose first touch wasn’t the best and resulted in him having his back to goal from 15 yards out.
But he recovered and hit a swivelled left-footed drive that flew past Ameyaw and into the corner.
That is how it stayed until the interval, although Hutton wasted a volley and Loaring also shot wide of the near post.
Within moments of the restart, though, it was 4-0 after Allen again broke through the home back-line and squeezed under Ameyaw’s body.
Despite their attacking brilliance that has been their trademark, GFC haven’t kept clean sheets too often in the recent past and so it continued, as Croydon got what looked like little more than a consolation on 52min.
De Almeida did well to bring the ball down and fire past Hamon from close range after a decent pull-back and suddenly the home side’s spirits rose, which was impressive considering they had now leaked 12 goals to the Lions this season.
Their joy was short-lived, though, as on 65min., Allen restored the visitors’ four-goal cushion and took his season’s tally to 37 goals and his total with the club to an incredible 94.
It was from the penalty spot after the hitman himself had picked up a Loaring pass and terrorised Jordan Binns down the left, before the Croydon man could do no more than bundle Allen to the ground.
Referee Peter Conn pointed to the spot and Allen dusted himself off to fire high and down the middle, giving the diving Ameyaw no chance.
That was the cue for Allen’s withdrawal, his reward for another match-winning show to be given the final stages off. Alvarez was also substituted off, although that was with an injury knock.
Tony Vance didn’t know it at the time, but that change nearly came back to haunt him, as within nine dramatic minutes, De Almeida would strike three more times and pull it back to 5-4.
Firstly, he made it 5-2 and grabbed his second with a tidy close-range finish after Hamon had turned away Joseline Goncalves’ effort, after 72min.
De Almeida thought he was pushed soon after, but Conn didn’t agree, while it could have been punished if Hutton hadn’t fired wide at the other end.
On 79min., it was 5-3 and very much game on, with De Almeida not needing the help of the officials to acrobatically volley home Goncalves’ half-cleared cross from close range through Hamon.
On 81min. De Almeida was left all alone at the back post to tap home a ball in that should really have never made it that far across.
However, one thing GFC have shown time and again is their bouncebackability and within seconds of the restart, they were 6-4 ahead, as the immediate attack was illustrated with the timing of Hutton’s goal, also 81min.
The North striker curled home well after being given space, after Jamie Dodd had taken the initiative to surge down the left-hand side, beat a man and then pull across brilliantly for the waiting Hutton.
Suddenly, the Green fans in the small crowd could breathe slightly easier again and the win was finally secured on 86min., as Hutton excellently steered a tricky header across Ameyaw and into the far corner.
Croydon did come close to making the scoreline ever more unfathomable in the dying stages, but Conn finally blew for time and with it, completed yet another flabbergasting Guernsey FC adventure.
Croydon: Ameyaw, Pratt, Douglin, Binns, Robinson, Fowler, Thompson (Hunt 84), Grant, Smith (Cornish 61), Goncalves, De Almeida.
Guernsey FC: Hamon, Geall, Le Prevost, Dodd, Alvarez (Zimmerman 65), Mahon, Bradford, Heaume, Hutton, Loaring, Allen (Wallbridge 70).
Referee: P. Conn.