Alderney 1, Guernsey 2
A CRACKING header from Alderney captain Simon Benfield was the highlight of a scrappy Muratti semi-final. The result was 2-1 in Guernsey's favour, but it was Alderney's day at Mount Hale.
Benfield's equaliser in the second half came from a swinging free kick from midfielder Angus Macdonald.
Alderney piled men forward and in the crowded box it was the skipper who rose at the back post and met the ball just before keeper Jody Bisson could claim it. As it bounced inside the right post and into the net, Benfield was duly mobbed by his teammates.
The watching supporters also went delirious.
From the outset, Alderney made their intentions clear to get men behind the ball and catch Guernsey on the break, setting up a 5-4-1 formation.
Immediately Guernsey displayed superiority with more possession and more attacks that resulted in a succession of corners for the
These proved fruitless as
Alderney keeper Paul Williams dealt well with the crosses.
The player-manager delivered a performance he can be proud of.
He was only really tested in the first 20 minutes by a hard drive from the edge of the area delivered by forward Paul Nobes. Williams caught the ball with a dive to his right.
The dry, bumpy pitch and resulting bouncy ball made life difficult for the Sarnians in the initial stages - they failed to settle into any
pattern, with attacks wasted by rushed passes and lack of control.
Sensing that a calming influence was required for Guernsey, midfielder Tristram Morgan started to keep his foot on the ball and looked to retain possession.
Yet he couldn't convert his good play into goals, either, and a couple of shots from his favoured left foot sailed high over the bar and into the thickets on the hillside behind the goal.
After 30 minutes Guernsey manager Steve Ogier tried a new ploy by switching wingers David Rihoy and Dominic Heaume.
The desired effect of creating more chances worked as five minutes from half-time,
Morgan scored with a hard, low drive from the edge of the area after receiving the ball from left back Ollie McKenzie.
Morgan was nearly on the scoresheet again before the break as he struck another low effort.
This time he was
slightly wide of the mark.
Come the second half, the realisation that another goal was still needed to take them clear of an Alderney upset started to cause friction among the Guernsey team and they started to turn on one another.
Alderney turned the pressure up, changed to two strikers up front and started to string some play
together for the first time in the match.
The outcome was Benfield's goal.
But Guernsey responded.
As the hysteria died down, Steve Ogier's men seemed more purposeful in their play and, from a corner four minutes later, Stuart Polson nodded on a John Nobes header that beat goalkeeper Williams at his left post.
It was a well-deserved goal for the veteran Polson who put in
a towering performance at centre half.
Guernsey took the upper hand and started to exert more control with the lead restored.
In the dying moments of the game the Alderney crowd, sensing a repeat of their goal, got behind the team as they were awarded a free kick midway into Guernsey's half.
But it didn't produce the same outcome. Guernsey cleared the ball with ease.
After referee Russell Barry blew his whistle for the end of the match, the Alderney team stayed in the centre circle for a team hug to reflect on an outstanding
Guernsey walked off to a chorus of three cheers from the Alderney
supporters - it was a truly special
gesture to cap off a special day.
n?Both teams wore black armbands and observed a minute's silence in honour of the missing Alderney fishermen, Tim Smart and
Jean-Paul Dupont, and for former GFA president Les de la Mare who died recently.