Saturday 7th January 2012, Ko 13:00, Sheerwater Recreation Ground, Near Woking, Surrey.
Combined Combined Counties League Division One.
Entrance £4, programme £1.
Sheerwater 1-4 Guernsey, attendance 150.
One of the most interesting stories in non league football in 2011 has been the admission of newly formed Guernsey FC from the Channel Island of the same name into the English non league pyramid system. Guernsey have always been a strong Island team when competing in their annual Muratti vase match against bitter local Island rivals Jersey, and in the Island Games. But clearly there was a desire on the Island for a regular higher standard of competitive football, so the newly formed club made an approach to the FA, and an agreement was reached with the Combined Counties league for them to take part at Step 6 of the NL pyramid in season 11-12, which is at Step 10 overall at the National level.
The club secretary is Mark Le Tissier brother of former England star Matt Le Tissier, who is acting as club president. And apparently they have good strong sponsorship backing from Sporting Bet, and they and the teams paying a visit to the Island fly out of Gatwick airport, as most of the clubs in the Co Co league are within about 1 hours distance by road from there.
Clearly it has captured the imagination of the Island, as a record high of 1700 has attended this season with regular gates of 1400 or so, which most NL Step 1 Conference teams would be happy with!
This match appealed to me on two counts, a rare tick venue for me in the Co Co league, and also because pre match Sheerwater sat rock bottom, with only 2 wins all season, and Guernsey sat top, with only 1 defeat to their name, and having scored 85 goals in the process!
So this match had the potential for another thrashing, as the Guernsey Green Lions had already turned over Sheerwater to the tune of 9-0 on the Island at Footes Lane earlier in the season. This was the 3rd time I’d seen Guernsey this season, as I have been very fortunate indeed to be on a 5 night break with my wife in July when they announced their 1st ever game v AFC Wimbledon, which played out as a 5-6 defeat in front of 1400 very enthusiastic fans, a great start for them and to my season!
This game didn’t pan out as I expected. In front of 150, which included quite a large number of ground hoppers, and 20 or 30 so fans from Guernsey, Sheerwater gave a very good account of themselves indeed.
In fact the first 30 minutes of play were very even, and end to end. It looked like the deadlock would be broken in the 35th minute from the penalty spot, but SH keeper Tony Davis made a great save from Ross Allen’s penalty. Unfortunately for SH they didn’t take advantage of this and Matthew Loaring put Guernsey ahead in the 41st minute, and this was the score at HT in what had been to this point a very competitive game, with seemingly Sheerwater playing well above the standard they usually perform at.
The second half resumed in a similar manner, and it was no great surprise that Andy Matthews looped a great header over Guernsey keeper Paul De-Garis in the 61st minute to level the scores, the goal was greeted with cheers not only from home fans but from the hoppers present who sensed a shock result, hoppers in my experience always back the underdog, and like to claim, ‘I was there’ should something significant happen.
It didn’t! Sheerwater fell apart after they had scored, and Guernsey struck again in the 65th, 66th and 72nd minute to put the game to bed, scorers, Ross Allen, Matthew Loaring (again) and Ryan Zico Black (penalty). So, the inevitable march to the title in Guernsey’s 1st year as a club continues, much as Bedfont Sports do seem to want to hang onto their coat tails for as long as possible.
The Ground and the Day.
A soulless athletic stadium set amongst Sheerwater Recreation Ground, frankly, my least favourite type of non league venue. As usual the running track creating a large gap between the perimeter fence and the pitch, and immediately losing any sort of atmosphere. The only facilities were down the one side. A small covered stand with shallow seats near to ground level, and to its right a few rows of temporary uncovered seating, and that was it. The Guernsey mascot, ‘Roary’ was in attendance and took up a position at the top of starting gate ladder, he certainly seemed to have the best view in the house!
What I really did like was the effort Sheerwater FC had made for their visitors. They’d set up a barbecue outside their small clubhouse/room, and when I arrived some ladies were enthusiastically cutting up slices of cake presumably for the committee of their visitors. I doubt they went home hungry.
But, I shan’t be rushing to return to this venue, but I am glad I saw Guernsey here in their 1st season 🙂 I suspect in a few years time they will be playing at larger venues with much better facilities.