Goals: Batchelor 14’; Gayler 17’; Miller-Neave 86’ (pen) - Fazakerley 3’, 79’; Allen 6’.
For the second game in a row, a late penalty meant a 3-3 draw for Guernsey against East Grinstead Town on Tuesday night, but a role reversal meant this time the Green Lions were on the wrong end of it.
With Robbie Legg having kept his cool to net from 12 yards in the 96th minute against Faversham Town, it was the Wasps’ Karn Miller-Neave in the 86th at East Court that meant the points were shared.
But that means two exciting draws from two games and a positive start for Tony Vance’s side, even if they could have nicked wins in both fixtures. And they have suddenly become free-scoring again, with Will Fazakerley shooting up to double figures with consecutive braces – including two more stunning finishes in West Sussex.
Perhaps Ross Allen and Robbie Legg returning has given him extra motivation to stamp his authority on the side, and he looks full of confidence.
It was all action early on with four of the six goals coming in the opening 17 minutes of the match.
Guernsey are becoming accustomed to scoring from near-halfway. Matt Loaring and Charlton both lobbed then-Ramsgate goalkeeper Luke Watkins from way out last season, but Fazakerley’s effort to open the scoring inside three minutes topped the lot.
Intercepting a loose pass way from Curtis Gayler at least 10 yards inside his own half, Fazakerley took one look up and spotted Brannon Daly off his line and went for hit. The execution was perfect as the ball arced over the backpedalling Wasps stopper, dipping just out of reach of his outstretched arm as it dropped into the net.
It was the dream start for Guernsey, and it was to get even better moments later as Allen doubled the lead inside six minutes, his first goal since his return to mark his 200th league appearances for the club.
His original effort from Fazakerley’s knockdown was blocked, but GFC recycled possession back out to the right. Liam Mahon worked some space and hit a low, dangerous ball across goal, with Allen there to turn it in off the far post from six yards.
The euphoria didn’t last two long however as two quickfire goals from the hosts around the quarter-hour mark brought them swiftly back on level terms.
First, when countering from a corner, Jason Davis was able to break through the Guernsey midfield a little to easily and release Freddie Yao into space in the right channel. He drove forward and it an early shot across goal. Callum Stanton got down to it, but will be disappointed to have parried it straight into the path of Reece Batchelor, who tapped in the rebound.
Three minutes later, Yao teed up Gayler, who was given too much room to move into the box and drive the ball into the far corner.
That gave the hosts a new spring in their step as they enjoyed the lion’s share of the possession, with Frank Tobin required to make a timely block to deny Yao from the angle just after the half-hour.
But Guernsey still looked dangerous when going forward, and Allen drove at goal on the half-volley from another Fazerkerley knockdown, but it was too close to Daly, who was able to reach out from his grounded position and parry it away.
Fazakerley was then caught in two minds shortly before half-time as Thomas Dodds picked him out with a high cross, his left foot volley not having enough conviction to suggest it was a shot towards the far corner, yet had too much on it Paris Pereira running in at the far post. Dodds himself was off-target from distance after a good spell of possession from the visitors just before the interval.
The midfielder found himself high up the pitch five minutes into the second half, too, running into the box to collect Allen’s pass. He went for the low early shot with his left foot towards the bottom corner, but Daly got across to block it.
Yao was well off target from 25 yards on 53 minutes and Fazakerley’s looped header from Tom Strawbridge’s inviting free-kick was claimed easily by Daly, while a first-time effort as Jack Bray poked at goal from a home free-kick was kept out only by the post – although had it gone in it would have been ruled out by the offside flag with Guernsey having stepped out in the nick of time.
But overall, the half was relatively flat compared to the first – until the closing stages that is.
With just less than 20 minutes to go, Stanton did just enough to put off Yao, who headed Gayler’s free-kick narrowly over the bar.
All three of Fazakerley’s goals for the season so far have been pleasing on the eye, and his second of the night on 79 minutes was right up there with the best of them. Kieran Mahon backheeled the ball into his path on the left corner of the area. Faz shifted across the box and let fly with another belter into the top-right corner, giving Daly absolutely no chance.
Yao came very close to restoring parity instantly with a dipper from 25 yards that narrowly evaded Stanton’s goal as it whistled over the top, while the attentions of Frank Tobin prevented O’Shaye Giraud-Hutchinson from getting a clean shot on goal as his ran onto a through pass.
The Wasps did get the breakthrough they were looking for as Yao went down under Dodds’ sliding challenge near the byline as he entered the area. Dodds was adamant that he got the ball first but the referee dismissed his appeals having pointed to the spot. Karn Miller-Neave took it and calmly found the bottom right corner, sending Stanton the wrong way for 3-3 with less than five to play.
East Grinstead sensed there was a winner in it for them. Liam Mahon did just enough when chasing back to cover for his own mistake and put off Dan Pearse, who scuffed his low shot straight at Stanton.
Guernsey saw out stoppage-time with 10 men as Kieran Mahon chopped down Yao on the byline to earn a second yellow card. Luckily the delivery into the box was poor and flew well over the top.
The game got heated in the closing stages and there was a brief altercation between opposing players but after it had calmed down, the referee took no further action.
With the Sarnians having Saturday off due to the FA Cup action, they will head into August Bank Holiday Monday’s trip to Whyteleafe fancying their chances of keeping up their promising start to the season and breaking their run of bad luck at Church Road, if they can tighten up defensively.
Tuesday night’s other Isthmian South East results were as follows: Chichester City 2-3 Whyteleafe, Hastings United 2-0 Faversham Town, Haywards Heath Town 5-1 Burgess Hill Town, Herne Bay 3-1 Phoenix Sports, Hythe Town 2-0 Whitstable Town, Sevenoaks Town 1-1 Whitehawk, Sittingbourne 1-3 Cray Valley PM, VCD Athletic 4-3 Three Bridges.
East Grinstead Town: Brannon Daly, Ollie Boulding, Karn Miller-Neave, Dan Pearse, Brad Peters, Jack Bray, Curtis Gayler, Freddy Yao, Jason Davis (Kyle Woolven 87’), Reece Batchelor (Orlando Smith 56’), O’Shaye Giraud-Hutchinson. Not used: Robin Deen, Josh Stirman, Daniel Hogan.
Guernsey: Callum Stanton, Keanu Marsh, Jamie Dodd (c), Thomas Dodds, Frank Tobin, Harry Tobin (Tom Strawbridge HT), Liam Mahon, Kieran Mahon, Will Fazakerley, Ross Allen (Matt Loaring 77’), Paris Pereira (Robbie Legg 72’). Not used: Jordan Kelly, Seb Skillen.
|Shirt||Player||Yellow Cards||Red Cards||Goals|
|6||Harry Tobin (Tom Strawbridge 46')||-||-||-|
|10||Ross Allen (Matt Loaring 77')||-||-||1|
|11||Paris Pereira (Robbie Legg 72')||-||-||-|