Vance played a real blinder

A GREAT day – but don’t get carried away, folks.

New skipper Ross Allen worked himself to a standstill. (Picture by Andrew Le Poidevin, 30070761)
New skipper Ross Allen worked himself to a standstill. (Picture by Andrew Le Poidevin, 30070761)

Sutton Common Rovers arrived at Footes Lane as a team on the slide and looked like one. There will be much, much tougher tests for the Green Lions in the months ahead, probably starting at Chipstead this coming Saturday.

But, for now, it is right to highlight some positives, not least the outstanding work of the manager.

If it was not a hard enough task to prepare a team for battle at such short notice, he ended the afternoon having played a blinder in diplomacy, answering a succession of questions relating to the first-ever instance of alleged racial abuse stemming from a home supporter.

Vance certainly did not duck the issue, both at the time and after the match.

Many a coach would, perhaps, have stayed well clear of the touchline fuss, but Vance took it upon himself to play the role of peacemaker and did so with calm efficiency to the extent that by the end of the afternoon the visitors were praising GFC for the way the matter had been handled.

On reflection, and this is in no way a defence, it is somewhat remarkable that it has taken 10 years for some form of verbal discrimination to rear its ugly head at a GFC game.

It was deeply embarrassing for the island and a serious matter would have been made worse had Sutton Common Rovers, who were understandably upset, chosen to walk off. Some of their players were noticeably unhappy about the incident.

It will be tricky for the Green Lions in how they act on this particular incident, especially if the league and even the law seek to get involved.

On the pitch, there was much to admire in the performance.

Vance’s men went for the jugular and Dracula would gave been proud at the way they succeeded in finding their target to take control of the game.

Those first two goals were of the highest class and there cannot have been too many better crafted GFC goals this past decade than the opener.

A classy long diagonal crossfield ball by Ben Le Tocq switched the play and Charlton Gauvain skilfully controlled it before finding the space to deliver a dangerous cross to his captain.

Ross Allen might have briefly considered a spectacular strike of his own, but against his instinct chose to lay the ball off with a volleyed pass to a better-placed Kyle Smith.

And, just as Sylvans supporters have become accustomed to in the past couple of seasons, Smith despatched a spectacular finish high into the net.

Allen was, as we have come to expect, outstanding, but both exhausted and diminished himself with his first-half work-rate.

As captain, he cannot try to do everything which, for a while, he appeared to be attempting.

In defence Ben Le Tocq made a highly-encouraging debut and Tom Strawbridge’s leadership values stood out.

But we are short on inches at the back and if the on-loan James Walker is to remain the keeper, we will be susceptible to balls into the six-yard box against inevitably bigger teams than Sutton Common Rovers. The free-scoring Tom Collins lies in wait this weekend at Chipstead, who lie ninth.

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