The South Londoners were in for a rough ride. March 5th, 2022. Springfield Stadium, St Helier.
The CCL doesn’t allow for much travel so a flight over to Jersey for a game that The Bulls would have seen as a must-win at their home ground and where they have yet to lose, suggested the South Londoners were in for a rough ride. And so it proved to be.
A minute's applause in support of Ukraine in the face of attack by another state in contravention of international law was impeccably observed and all fans will be looking forward to the same in support of Palestine, no doubt, in the weeks, months and years to come.
And with that we were underway.
An uneven but uneventful first half saw breaks and counter attacks from both teams and some lively play that saw some controversial challenges from both sides that led, inevitably, to a flurry of cards from the referee who, by and large allowed the game to flow. Despite the insistence from the TV coverage that RPV were 'not looking to be particularly attacking' RPV saw some good attacking chances not least from Reece Bowers-Williams. A second half penalty appeal by Vale when Jordan Gallagher was brought down in the Bulls' box by the Jersey keeper was waved away and brought an almost unbelievable yellow to the Vale player for simulation (or 'blatant cheating' as the highly partisan TV feed described it!) much to the joy of the local fans.
Game suddenly came alive
Following a second-half midfield tussle (or a blatant elbow according to the 'commentary') and a wishful off-side appeal this game suddenly came alive when a Vale break saw a sweet, Downey/Harland-Goddard inspired move result in a lob across the Jersey area that was met with a perfectly timed header from Jordan Gallagher at the Bulls' back post that exposed the Jersey defence and left their keeper flapping aimlessly as the ball came back across the area and buried itself in the inside of the home team's goal.
Jordan Gallagher Raynes Park Vale's goal scorer
The second-half continued with a variety of cards and calls and with RPV looking for a second goal with which to put the game to bed. Instead the excellent Billy Bishop made sure that any Jersey attack came to nothing until a confused melee in the Vale area led to a Jersey player going down and the referee pointed to the spot. VAR might have wanted a look but here at the Springfield Stadium there was no hesitation and Luke Campbell duly accepted the gift and put a well-taken spot kick past Bishop to set the game up for a tense final 12 minutes. Despite more claims from the TV feed of nudges in the face and other alleged bits of foul-play, the South-Londoners survived some increasingly desperate Jersey attacks and an attempt by Solomon to extract a second penalty from the ref with what appeared to be a rather theatrical dive. The Bulls' player escaped the yellow card that Jordan Gallagher attracted and, with the Channel Islanders desperately seeking the winning goal in the closing minutes the whistle blew and Raynes Park were denied the win that that they had come for.
Jersey Bulls 1-1 Raynes Park Vale