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Combined Counties League Premier Division South
Saturday October 16, 2021, 1:30 pm
Combined Counties League Premier Division South
Jersey continued to catch up on their league matches with a visit to Balham. More correctly a visit to A.F.C. Croydon Athletic in Thornton Heath, with whom they ground share. Balham started life as Balham Blazers (Youth) in 2001 and grew to the extent of starting adult sides in 2011 in order for their “graduating” players to continue playing for the club in adult football.
They swiftly moved up the leagues with five promotions in six seasons before being held back by their own ground facilities. Therefore, they gained admittance to the Combined Counties League by sharing with Cobham. They finished third in Division 1 and went up to the Premier Division and have since shared at Colliers Wood United and to continue the “C” trend they are now at A.F.C. Croydon Athletic. The F.A. moved them sideways in to the South Eastern Counties League for 2020-21 only to move them back again this season.
This season they are lying 17th with a 2-2-6 13-19 record, flirting with relegation as they did in the last completed season of 2018-19. They won through two rounds in the F.A. Cup before losing to Merstham and went out of the F.A. Vase to Tower Hamlets. Bulls, with three or four matches in hand on all the teams above them, were lying 7th and needing a win to keep in touch with the top three.
A wet morning gave way to a dry afternoon as the Bulls made three changes to their starting line-up with James Carr, Jack Griffin and Jake Prince making room for Kamen Nafkha, and two who been on the bench at Farnham, Fraser Barlow and Kieran Lester. Prince became a substitute, along with Ruben Mendes-Pestana and Jay Giles, albeit that Giles would only come on in an emergency. Joe Kilshaw, normally in midfield, moved to the unfamiliar position, for him, of right of the back four.
Balham were still missing their top scorer, Tom Read, as well as their captain Dan Dadd. Additionly they gave a debut in goal to the young Sam Riley, their third ‘keeper in as many games.
Despite the rain, the pitch could still have done with the “heavy roller”. It was rather “bobbly”, as Jersey found out. Nevertheless, nothing like as uneven as the notorious approach road to the ground.
Jersey kicked off attacking the verdant Cemetery End but Balham started well and could have been two or three up in the opening ten minutes. A defender’s disastrous cross field ball only managed to play in Luke Hedges but Euan Van der Vliet managed to parry his effort. A minute later Andre Cruz-Rosa blocked a clearance which rebounded high, but fortunately wide, of the Jersey goal. Sirak Negassi and Sam Pagano also had worthy efforts in these early stages.
Lorne Bickley led the Jersey riposte with two efforts before Adam Trotter and Sol Solomon both managed to give Lester scoring opportunities.
The match changed complexion significantly midway through the first half as Jersey scored twice in two minutes. Firstly, a Solomon corner on the left was well met with a firm angled Lester header. Two minutes later a lay off by Bickley gave Barlow a glimpse of goal and he drilled a low shot home from twenty yards.
Hedges had another attempt just before the half hour which Van der Vliet pushed away for a corner before the Jersey’ keeper made a tremendous reaction save to his left from Cruz-Rosa, only ten yards out.
The half ended with a near own goal by a Balham defender. Cutting out a low cross from the right the ball ballooned up and over Riley, but fortunately for Balham, landed on the roof of the net.
Balham again started well with a pinball situation in the Jersey six-yard box eventually being deflected just wide. At the other end Bickley reached the right by line and sent in a cross which Solomon, hurtling in, was defeated by the surface, and the ball flew well over the bar. Shortly afterwards, Bickley had a chance himself. Meeting a Lester flick-on his header hit the top of the bar and over.
Just after the hour, Nafkha pulled up after a tackle on the sideline. After treatment he briefly hobbled on but hamstring pulls are unforgiving. He was shortly replaced by Prince, with Barlow moving back to Nafkha’s position in midfield
Prince was soon set up by Bickley but he like Solomon before him, was beaten by the conditions. Balham substitute, Nuno Costa, had a shot blocked by a defender, only for it to run conveniently to Pagano. Probably seeing Van der Vliet bearing down on him he put his shot wide from ten yards.
A flurry of substitutions with a quarter of an hour remaining included Ruben Mendes-Pestana replacing Solomon. Prince blocked a clearance which almost rebounded in before Lester in the penultimate minute scored the third. He dispossessed a dilly-dallying defender on the edge of the box and fired home from twenty yards before Riley had an opportunity to re-position himself.
There was still time for Mendes-Pestana to try an audacious forty-yard lob and in the last minute of added time Van der Vliet maintained his clean sheet with a low save to his right from a Balham free kick. Balham must have left the field wondering how they had failed to score but a fifth successive league win sees the Bulls move up one place to 6th.
Balham 0; Jersey Bulls 3 (Kieran Lester (2) 25 & 89, Fraser Barlow 27)
Attendance – 78
Programme – £2, 16pp colour
Balham -Sam Riley, Erick Arias, Tomasz Wocial, Luke Hedges, Marco Erriu, Jake Henry (c), James Adebayo, Ash Snadden, Andre Cruz-Rosa, Sirak Negassi, Sam Pagano
Substitutes – George Marsden (for Adebayo 72), Nuno Costa (for Cruz-Rosa 57), Kojo Kyei (not used), Julian Fuller (for Pagano 72), Jack Noctor (Sub GK, not used)
White (black trim)/Black/Black; GK All Orange
Greg Cruttwell (Manager), Ebrahim Seedat (Coach), Emil Kot (Coach), Dare Jean-Pierre (Coach), Seneye Morrell (Physio.)
Jersey Bulls – Euan Van der Vliet, Jonny Le Quesne, Joe Kilshaw, James Queree (c), Luke Campbell, Kamen Nafkha, Kieran Lester, Adam Trotter, Lorne Bickley, Fraser Barlow, Sol Solomon
Substitutes – Jake Prince (for Nafkha 64), Ruben Mendes-Pestana (for Solomon 77), Jay Giles (not used), only three substitutes
Red/White/White; GK All Yellow.
Gary Freeman (Manager), Kevan Nelson (Assistant), Dan Seviour (Coach), Jason Carpenter (GK Coach)
Referee – Joseph Kasper (Sutton) – his first Bulls match
Assistants – Richard Marus (Worcester Park) & Gareth Mays (Tadworth) – lines for the Bulls matches at Redhill and Beckenham Town respectively, Jersey had not scored in either but that run was broken today.
Cautions – Trotter (JB) 86, Arias (B) 88, Queree (JB) 90+2
Corners – Balham (2) 3; Jersey Bulls (6) 11
Player of the Match Award (commentator) – Kieran Lester (JB)