Abb it! Brace from Bickley sinks Rangers

Lorne Bickley (right) added two more goals to his collection at Abbey Rangers, while Jonny Le Quesne (left) in forming quite the rapport with his striker Picture: DAVID FERGUSON (37815109)

Abbey Rangers 0

Jersey Bulls 3

Bickley 19, 85 (pen); Watson 38HT: 0-2Attendance: 61JEP MoTM: Jonny Le Quesne

AS the business end of the season starts to take shape, the Bulls are very much in the black.

On a surface which was more suited for spin bowlers in the sub-continent and against an opposition who unravelled physically and mentally over the course of the afternoon, this was a fine performance from the visitors, all but mathematically sealing a play-off spot.

Lorne Bickley’s terrific opener, lashing home from 25 yards, got the Bulls up and running as they weathered a physical opening 20 minutes against an overly combative Abbey side, before Luke Watson’s header just before the break killed off the content.

The veteran midfielder continues to defy his onsetting years with another typically serene showing, capped with a fine goal. Jay Giles’ inswinging free-kick landed in the spot, to carry on the cricket analogy, that no batsman (or in this case goalkeeper) likes to venture – namely, the ‘corridor of uncertainty’.

With Rangers keeper Sam Gray opting to stay on his line, Watson emerged from a clutch of bodies in a packed penalty area to smash home with his head from six yards, from which moment there was no way back for the men from Woking.

A largely nondescript second half followed, with Pierce Roche largely a spectator bar a spectacular one-handed save from a Jack Carrod header but, in the main, the Bulls were always in control.

Giles had endured a difficult afternoon in the draw at Redhill, but he was at his biting, bitty best here and Jonny Le Quesne, right, covered every blade of grass – not that there was much on show.

Despite ten minutes spent in the sin-bin for some choice words directed at the man in the middle, he was at the heart of all Bulls’ work going forward and is beginning to form an excellent partnership alongside Adam Trotter and Watson inside him, and Bickley ahead of him. His versatility offers boss Gary Freeman a range of options.

That he was one of the best full-backs in the division just 18 months ago and is now arguably the best winger on current form, is testimony to Le Quesne’s ability to turn his hand to most positions – and do them incredibly well. An ‘all-rounder’, so to speak.

Bickley added a third late on from the penalty spot, at the second attempt, having seen his first effort saved by Gray, only to be afforded another opportunity given encroachment into the penalty area by Abbey’s Dale Burnham.

Luke Campbell had an effort ruled out by the assistant referee and a Ben Le Rougetel piledriver was kept out by a sublime save from Gray as Abbey hung on – this result putting a significant dent in their own play-off ambitions.

With the Islanders and Knaphill almost certain of home draws in the semi-finals, two from Abbey, Alton, Balham, Redhill and AFC Croydon Athletic will make up the quartet for the end-of-season finale.

For the Bulls, though, it is now all about getting the maths sorted, with two more wins likely to get the job done. It’ll be a case of getting ‘runs on the board’ early at Tooting next week, and then shutting up shop, one would imagine.

Abbey Rangers – Sam Gray, Ryan MacLean, David Orisatoki, Aidan King, Michak Stanic-Stewart, Dale Burnham, Jack Watts (c), Jack Carrod, Ferrell Danso, Daryl Cooper-Smith, Ross Murdoch. Subs: Roje Grant (for Orisatoki 64), Spencer Maw (for McLean 64), Yahaya Kamara (for Cooper-Smith 46), Olly Woolgar (for Watts 90+4), Luke Robertson (for Danso 78).

Jersey Bulls: Pierce Roche, James Querée (c), Jay Giles, Harry Curtis, Luke Campbell, Kamen Nafkha, Jonny Le Quesne, Luke Watson, 9 Lorne Bickley, Adam Trotter, Fraser Barlow. Subs: Ben Le Rougetel (for Nafkha 70), Francis Lekimamati (for Barlow 86), Will Byers, Ruben Mendes, Fergus Boyle.

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