Jersey Bulls 4 Swans 4

Saturday 6th November 2021.   Cherry Red Combined Counties League Premier Division South.

Jersey Bulls 4    Walton & Hersham 4.

Trailing 4-1 with just six minutes of normal-time remaining, Swans proceeded to put on an astonishing last ditch performance, scoring three goals and becoming the first club to come away from the island unbeaten in a league match. The band of loyal supporters who had made the trip over could not quite believe what they were witnessing as the rest of the 913 strong crowd were stunned into silence. As well as Swans ending The Bulls’ 100% home league record, they also became the first side to not only score three goals against them, but to then make it four, and all this coming in an amazing spell of a final eight minutes of play. Those last few minutes were all the more remarkable, as up until that point it looked as though a three goal margin of defeat was the best that Swans could hope to come away with as they were still under pressure from the home side. They had only in spells shown the composed possession and close passing game that had taken them to top spot in the table this season, and any drop-off in their high standards was always going to cause problems against an excellent side that would invariably punish the slightest of errors. But it is credit to this current Swans’ management and squad that they will not readily accept defeat or a fall-off in the high levels of performance they have set themselves, and when they do get it together they are more than a match for any other side at this level. And in those final minutes the trigger of a fine goal from top-scorer Palace Francis was enough to give them the belief that they could still salvage something from the match, and they did so as their game clicked into place. The home side possibly thought they had the win secured and made several late substitutions, including the withdrawal of the impressive and influential Sol Solomon, but whether this influenced the eventual outcome is unknown.

Unfortunately the injury sustained by Harry Mills a week earlier resulted in him missing the game, but Reece Brewster’s back problem had cleared up sufficiently to allow him to start for Swans.

The home side went close to taking the lead after just four minutes when some casual play by Swans conceded a needless corner on the left. Solomon swung in a superb kick and the ball was just kept from entering the goal at the near-post. Another corner was won on the right, and this time a header came in that Swans’ goalkeeper Liam Allen kept out with a terrific save down by his right-post. Allen then made a comfortable catch when Jay Giles sent in a free-kick from the right.

Swans had been slow to settle, with The Bulls exerting early pressure, something that paid off after just ten minutes. Jonny Le Quesne took a throw-in on the right and Lorne Bickley and Fraser Barlow combined to find Solomon on the edge of the box. Solomon’s clever pass got Bickley in on the left to slot past Allen.

Swans were only behind for three minutes however. Jacob Munting drove the ball in low from the right to force a corner on the same side. Alec Fiddes played the kick short to Francis just inside the box and close to the byline. Francis got past Kamen Nafkha, who was then judged to have bundled him over and a penalty was awarded. Swans had failed to convert their last four spot-kicks, none of which had affected the eventual outcome of the match, but this one was far more crucial and carried considerably more pressure. Joe Pratley-Jones accepted the responsibility this time, and he confidently slotted the ball to Evan Van Der Vliet’s left, with The Bulls’ keeper going the wrong way.

Errors continued to creep into Swans’ game and a stray pass in the middle of the pitch enabled Solomon to drive forward to just outside the box, but his low shot was confidently taken by Allen.

Swans put their best move together so far with a good, patient build-up, but Munting’s shot from 35 yards lacked any real power as it went wide of the left post.

Midway through the half Jersey had a free-kick deep on the left, but Solomon’s delivery went straight into the gloves of Allen. Another free-kick sent into the box from deep by Giles caused more problems and a corner was won on the left. From Solomon’s kick Luke Campbell glanced a header wide, but another corner on the left led to the home side regaining the lead after 28 minutes. Solomon sent the kick to the far-post, where Allen failed to gather under pressure from James Queree. The ball fell to Le Quesne, who drove the ball across the 6 yard-box, where Bickley was able to poke it past Allen for his second goal.

Nafkha had escaped a booking for his foul that had resulted in Swans’ penalty, but he was shown the game’s first yellow card after half an hour for a crude tackle on Alex Kelly. Francis was judged to have not been tackled unfairly in the middle of the pitch, and when play was allowed to continue Solomon was played clear, but Allen made a fine save, coming out to block the ball with his feet. Swans were again guilty of giving the ball away, enabling Solomon to get forward to just outside the box, but his low shot was wide of the left-post.

As the half entered the final five minutes Francis won the ball in the middle of the pitch and drove forward before being brought down just outside the box, giving Swans’ a free-kick in a good position.  Munting took the kick, but the ball dipped just over the goal.

The Bulls had a free-kick opportunity of their own when Swans looked to be harshly penalised 40 yards out, but when Solomon sent the ball into the box the referee blew up for a foul.

Jersey forced a corner on the right straight after the resumption, but Allen was fouled as the kick came in. Swans responded with Pratley-Jones making a good run on the right before finding Francis, who was just closed out.

Pratley-Jones was soon making a fine tackle in the left of the box after the home side had threatened to get in after building-up a good move. A corner was won on the left, but Solomon’s kick dipped onto the top of the net.

A terrific run forward by Kelly for Swans took him into the home box, but he was just closed out. It was Jersey however who increased their lead after 57 minutes. Francis appeared to have been fouled but play continued, allowing the home side to get forward through Barlow. Barlow was fouled by Louis Collins, but the referee played advantage as the ball broke to Le Quesne on the right, and The Bulls’ right-back drove a first-time shot past Allen.

On the hour mark Solomon almost got in on the left for Jersey, and Allen was forced into a fine block at his near-post. Barlow became the second yellow card recipient for the home side for a foul on Munting out on the left that led to a brief shoving match, and this almost got Swans back in the game. Brewster delivered the free-kick to the edge of the 6 yard-box, where Joe Hicks sent a glancing header just wide of the right post. Collins then got down the left before playing the ball over, and Eddie Simon volleyed over from outside the box.

The first substitution of the match was then made, with Darren Simpson replacing Brewster for Swans.

Jersey won a free-kick in a good position by the right corner of the box, but Allen made a good take as the ball was played in.

With just over a quarter of an hour remaining Fiddes was fouled on the right giving Swans a free-kick. Fiddes took the kick himself, delivering the ball into the box for Pratley-Jones to get in a glancing header, immediate claims coming from Swans’ players that there had been a handball offence.

But it was the home side that were awarded a penalty, which gave them a three goal lead with just over ten minutes remaining. Swans lost the ball close to halfway, allowing Barlow to get forward before playing Solomon through into the box, where he was judged to have been brought down by Hicks as Swans’ players converged on him. The Swans’ skipper was booked before Campbell drove the penalty low into the left corner with Allen going the wrong way, and at 4-1 up it looked done and dusted for The Bulls.

Swans soon went close to reducing the deficit when Pratley-Jones launched a long throw from the right, and when the ball fell to Kelly on the edge of the box he sent a clever lob just over the goal. Things almost got worse for Swans as Adam Trotter got forward for Jersey, but his low shot was wide of the right post.

The home side took off the influential Solomon, and just a minute later Swans scored a fine goal that appeared at the time to be just a further consolation. Fiddes played the ball in from the right to Simon, who then picked out Francis wide on the left. As he has done so often this season, Francis made a run inside that took him to the left edge of the ‘D’, from where he drove the ball low into the far corner.

Allen then made a great block, coming out as Jersey got clear, a save that was to prove so crucial. With just two minutes of normal-time remaining the Swans’ keeper rolled the ball out to Max Hustwick, who then fed Pratley-Jones. Pratley-Jones sent a fine ball down the right to Fiddes, who got forward to force a corner. Fiddes took the kick himself, delivering the ball to the far-post, where Simon leapt to send a fine header into the top of the net.

Swans now sensed they could bring off a sensational comeback, and two minutes into stoppage-time they had a throw-in on the right. The long throws of Pratley-Jones have not been utilised much this season, but the decision to use another on this occasion was to prove crucial. The right-back delivered the throw to the near-post, where Hicks got his head to the ball to knock it back. The ball was played around the edge of the box before Fiddes slipped it forward to Simon on his left. Swans’ new signing dragged the ball wide of a defender, and was on the ground as he drove a left foot shot past Van Der Vliet.

As the goal went in the small band of travelling Swans’ supporters standing in the persistent rain by the right corner of the pitch now really had something to cheer, as every player and member of the dugout raced there to celebrate the most astonishing of comebacks with them.

Swans’ Team: Liam Allen, Joe Pratley-Jones, Louis Collins, Reece Brewster ((Darren Simpson 66’), Max Hustwick, Joe Hicks, Alec Fiddes, Jacob Munting, Eddie Simon, Alex Kelly, Palace Francis. Subs. not used: Zach Dainkeh, Harry Pointing, Will Kouadio, Billy Rowley. Scorers: Pratley-Jones, penalty (13’), Francis (84’), Simon (88’ & 90+2’). Cautions: Hicks, foul (78’), Pratley-Jones, foul (86’).  

Jersey Team: Van Der Vliet, Le Quesne, Giles, Queree, Campbell, Nafkha (Hinds 77’), Barlow (Lester 86’), Kilshaw, Bickley (Wilson 72’), Trotter, Solomon. (Weir 83’) Sub. not used: Griffin. Scorers: Bickley (10’ & 28’), Le Quesne (57’), Campbell, penalty (79’). Cautions: Nafkha, foul (30’), Barlow, foul (62’).