Guernsey FC 3, Walsall Wood 1 THEY may have had to wait long and hard for football this season, but it was worth it for the Footes Lane faithful after a blistering display put Guernsey FC within sight of Wembley Stadium.
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Guernsey FC 3, Walsall Wood 1
THEY may have had to wait long and hard for football this season, but it was worth it for the Footes Lane faithful after a blistering display put Guernsey FC within sight of Wembley Stadium.
Spennymoor Town and the toughest test imaginable now awaits, starting in just 12 days’ time, but 180 minutes more of this Green Lions performance and a FA Vase final appearance is not out of the question.
From back to front, the hosts were near their best at a rocking ground that saw 2,597 come through its gates and in terms of attacking displays, few have ever been better, particularly in the second half.
Once they weathered an early storm and came back from the blow of falling a goal behind after 16min., the Lions finally found form approaching, if not back, to their fluent best.
Dave Rihoy and Scott Bradford stole the show with magnificent displays, the latter his finest ever in a Guernsey FC shirt, as he was absolutely everywhere in the first half and quite possibly cemented his place for the semi-final.
He would play a part in the equaliser with an assist of breathtaking quality, but before that Ross Allen strike on the half-hour mark, there was already action worthy of the highlights reel.
Make no mistake, this was an excellent Walsall Wood side that have been eliminated and big futures surely await a number of their talented youngsters, as their willingness to play positive attacking football made for a cracking spectacle.
They showed their attacking promise as early as the first minute with a Danny Forrest blocked effort and those early moments were played at breakneck-pace, with tackles flying in thick and fast.
The key for GFC at that point was getting the ball to Rihoy, who would pick up the man-of-the-match award, as he looked
hungry and in the mood to hurt the visiting ‘Wood’.
Jamie Dodd’s long ball forward from centre-back was nodded down by Glyn Dyer into his path and after running at pace, he unleashed a beauty of an effort from 30 yards that crashed back off Dale Faultless’ crossbar.
Rihoy also drilled another long-range effort narrowly wide in a brilliant opening, but without yet creating a genuine out-and-out scoring opportunity, GFC were punished when Tom Evans broke the deadlock.
On a quick counter-attack, Evans was played in through a gaping hole on the left side of the home defence, via a well-weighted angled through ball, and beat an onrushing GFC keeper Chris Tardif to the ball.
After beating the now stranded home keeper, Evans coolly rolled home into the empty net for a goal that his two performances across the week warranted, such was his excellence on both occasions.
It seems to be GFC’s trademark to be forced to come from behind, though, and they set about trying to get back into the game, albeit without any clear-cut openings.
Drew Aiton could well have doubled the lead for the visitors when his shot was straight at home captain Sam Cochrane, while Aiton’s flashing ball across the area could easily have been turned in, too.
But had GFC gone 2-0 down, it would have been no reflection on the balance of play and it was a whole lot more accurate after 30min., when Allen netted his 40th goal of the season.
Bradford was regularly the man winning the ball and starting home attacks, but this was his coup de grace after his glorious ball forward ripped the visitors apart and set Allen away down the right.
There was only ever one thing in the number 10’s mind and he duly delivered, bearing down on goal and firing across Faultless into the far corner from a tight angle, before wheeling away in celebration.
It was a crucial blow after it looked as though Walsall Wood were more than capable of holding their lead and it was the first of three glorious home goals on the night.
The second came moments before half-time and would be the game’s turning point, changing the team-talks of respective coaches Tony Vance and Mark Swann in an instant.
It was Glyn Dyer who provided it with his own moment of magic, as he started to look like the player again that terrorised defences throughout 2010 and 2011, with a lively performance.
On 44min., he passed forward into Allen and when his colleague returned the favour, Dyer turned down the opportunity of shooting first time from some 25 yards out, despite the ball sitting nicely.
Instead, he effortlessly shifted past two defenders and curled an absolute beauty into the corner from the edge of the area, with a strike that had Fautless rooted to his position.
Allen could have clinched the game even before superb referee Craig Hicks had blown for half-time when he fired over in stoppage time after Rihoy had held the ball up well all alone.
But it simply meant that the job would have to be completed after the restart and it was in some style, with the green-and-whites absolutely dominating the second 45 minutes.
At times, it was virtuoso stuff with some wonderful two-touch football on the ground, and they could easily have had a hatful, their wasteful finishing the only blot on an otherwise faultless copybook.
Walsall Wood’s top scorer Ahmet Bilgimer screwed a great opening wide of the far post early on in those proceedings and that would be the best chance the visitors would have for the remainder.
Rihoy shot straight at Faultless’ legs at the other end after breaking the offside trap from Bradford’s delightful through ball, while Rihoy missed an absolute sitter at the back post from Dyer’s pinpoint cross.
There was a brief scare for the hosts on 65min. when Tardif had to be alert to make a superb sprawling stop from Aiton, after the visiting dangerman had gone past Sam Cochrane easily.
Moments later and Bradford’s race was run after being caught late, meaning an introduction for Kieran Mahon and a well-deserved rest for the best player on the pitch.
Dyer could only shoot straight at Faultless under pressure after surging through alone and with the score still at 2-1, there was always some element of doubt about the outcome, albeit with GFC well on top.
But those fears were alleviated in style on 74min. as, not to be outdone, Rihoy capped his own magnificent individual display with a well-deserved strike, his 12th of the campaign.
Dom Heaume and Mahon combined well in the middle of the park, with Heaume’s forward ball to Allen setting the top scorer away one-on-one with Shawn Boothe.
But he unselfishly slid across to Rihoy, who let the ball run across both him and the retreating Andre Gonzales, before firing past Faultless from 15 yards and sealing the contest once and for all.
Mahon was the latest man to have a one-on-one saved by the aptly-named Faultless, but with the game now won, Allen was given a few minutes off, with Vance able to use his subs bench to the full.
He will be only too aware of the challenges that lie ahead in the shape of the giants of step five football Spennymoor, but on this evidence, taking a first-leg lead up to the north-east is a real possibility.
The biggest test in GFC’s short history is just 12 days away, but for a spell on Saturday night at least, it was time to savour an extraordinary achievement and a stunning night’s work to boot.
n The Green Lions return to league action away at Bedfont Sports tomorrow night.