JERSEY’S under-16s exacted revenge on behalf of their U18 colleagues with a comeback 2-1 victory that was fully deserved.
Following a defeat for the U18s earlier this month, the younger age group levelled the scores overall for 2023 thanks to Casey Nixon’s calm conversion and player-of-the-match Tomas Goncalves’ high-flying header.
Jersey have now claimed 11 of the 15 inter-island contests for the U16 Nigel Gavey Trophy, as Guernsey’s wait for a win extends into a sixth year.
The hosts were forced to recover from a one-goal deficit at Springfield but, in truth, they were rarely second best at any stage. Guernsey’s second-half opener, through Emerson Nobes, had a hint of fortune about it and while the Sarnians did keep Jersey honest – battling in midfield and defending stoutly – Tiago Duarte’s goal was otherwise unthreatened.
Callum Gilroy, who opened the scoring in the 2022 U15 Star Trophy, was behind the first chance of the first official ‘Muratti’ contest between these groups of players – a neat attempt at a back-heel flick just spinning wide.
Jersey prodded and probed in the exchanges that followed and Conor O’Keeffe – the two-goal star 11 months ago at Le Boulivot – began to show what a talent he is.
The winger’s fancy feet twice left Guernsey dazed, creating two shooting opportunities either side of a ricochet striking Ollie Miller’s right-hand post off a Sarnian leg.
Jersey goalkeeper Duarte then made a crowd-pleasing save low to his left – a strong hand denying Jack Griffin as Guernsey settled.
For all of Jersey’s possession, and attempts on goal, it took until the 35th minute for them to force any kind of stop from Miller. And two arrived in quick succession.
Miller’s near-post collection from another O’Keeffe curler was routine, but he then did superbly well to scramble and swat a Max Stefanski header past the post, to keep his side level at the break.
Guernsey’s number one was at the centre of the action straight after the restart, too, with another impressive stop denying Nixon from 25 yards.
It would be an intervention that proved crucial, as the visitors then took the lead against the run of play – Nobes flicked on a free-kick from the right and it looped and spun inside Duarte’s right post.
Jersey’s response was excellent, and they were unfortunate not to equalise within 30 seconds. O’Keeffe again was the instigator, but his low shot hit the post and effectively wedged itself between woodwork and Miller’s back. The shot-stopper – a strong contender for player-of-the-match himself – also had luck on his side.
Nevertheless, the Caesareans did restore parity within three minutes of falling behind, as Nixon swept home a low cross from the left.
Jersey continued to spend large swathes of the second half on the offensive and Miller was, for the most part, all that stood between them and the lead. He made another superb save from Harry Mackenzie’s sweetly-struck effort from 18 yards, but he could do little from the resulting corner.
Goncalves climbed high and the centre-back’s header snuck underneath the crossbar.
Gilroy had a chance to add some icing in the dying embers of the tie, but Miller, again, got in the way.
‘’I’ve played in a few Murattis but for this one … it’s probably the most nervous I’ve been,’ said Jersey coach Jody Byrne, previously capped at U16, U18 and U21 level.
‘We’ve put a lot of time into working with the lads; we’ve spent three years with them and I was thinking about how proud it would make me to see them up there [lifting the trophy]. Seeing it come to fruition is amazing.’
Jersey: Tiago Duarte, Kyle Wilson, Harry Davy (James Thornton 77), Fergus Boyle (Y), Tomas Goncalves, Max Stefanski, Casey Nixon (Charlie Blair 75), Finley Thomson (Evan Lees 50), Callum Gilroy, Joey O’Toole (Harry Mackenzie 61), Conor O’Keeffe. Unused: Charlie Chow.
Guernsey: Ollie Miller, Gil Hunter, Sam Cooley (Henry Marsh 75), Harvey Migasuik, Zack Gilman, Mackenzie Duckworth (Y), Emerson Nobes (Ben Wilson 55), Harry Hodgson, Jack Griffin, Archie Le Huray, Leon Solano (Fin Patterson 75). Unused: Jimmy Montgomery, Louis Mayor.
Referee: Andy Norman.