Tricky two-goal Carvalho casts Spel over Sports

Football Jersey Bulls v Spelthorne Sports Miguel Carvalho Picture: JON GUEGAN. (37941779)

THERE is a renewed flair around the Jersey Bulls camp, and the Springfield faithful were treated to a routine procession as their men eased past low-lying Spelthorne Sports to seal second spot and their highest-ever Combined Counties Premier Division South finish.

With it comes guaranteed home fixtures in the play-offs, firstly against AFC Croydon Athletic on Saturday, and with victory there, in the final against the winner of Knaphill and Tadley Calleva.

First-half goals from Fraser Barlow and a double from Miguel Carvalho practically ended the affair as a contest. Not that Gary Freeman and his charges particularly minded a quiet second period.

Many of Bulls’ duels this season have gone down to the wire, and with a play-off semi-final on the horizon, a second comfortable victory in succession was just the tonic the Caesareans craved entering crunch time.

The hosts made the dream start, as so often the scorer, Lorne Bickley, turned provider after five minutes.

The top-scorer found fellow forward Barlow in acres of space in the middle of the Spelthorne box and with ample time at his disposal, he settled himself and slid a left-footed shot beyond Bob Honey in the visiting net.

Barlow had an immediate chance to double his and Bulls’ tally a few moments later. Ruben Mendes found the forward deep inside the box, who had a chance to test Honey on his right foot.

But Barlow, chose to check inside onto his left and the opportunity passed.

The ball would eventually find Bickley moments later, but the forward was flagged offside with the goal at his mercy.

Despite their best efforts to venture forward, opportunities were few and far between for the visiting side.

Jersey looked much more the likely to add the next, as more chances fell the way of of the hosts.

Bickley saw a header drift wide and the industrious Barlow had a shot blocked before a Mendes strike suffered the same fate.

Freeman’s men would get their just rewards after 26 minutes, as once again Bickley proved he has more to his armoury than clinical finishing. The targetman showed supreme awareness to flick a head into the path of the on-rushing Carvalho.

With ample time at his disposal, the composed youngster fired right-footed beyond the helpless Honey.

Bickley, who sat just one behind Tooting and Mitcham’s Shay Brennan in the race for the golden boot, showed selflessness throughout, becoming the enabler for those around him to exploit pockets of space in behind.

It was the prolific goalscorer again at the heart of the third and final goal, his parried off-balance effort falling kindly for the opportunist Carvalho to fire a first-time shot into the net.

A case of right place, right time for the winger.

There was a buzz about this group. The side that looked somewhat stressed and flustered in the early stages of 2024 were enjoying themselves once again.

The 5-1 victory against Fleet Town last time out was backed up by an equally as assured performance in their last regular fixture of the campaign.

In all honesty, the second period proved slightly disjointed and jagged in parts. But those in red have a play-off semi against AFC Croydon this Saturday to focus on.

What was vital was to ensure no silly knocks or injuries were picked up and to see the game out with the minimum of fuss.

Spelthorne had a couple of early chances in the second period, but Pierce Roche was equal to them.

After withstanding the early pressure, it was plain sailing from then on out for Freeman’s charges.

Late opportunities fell the way of Jersey substitute James Carr and perhaps fellow replacement Francis Lekimamati could have fired at goal when instead attempting to square it to Barlow, but these were small bones to pick in an otherwise polished display from the Islanders.

For a team accustomed to an agonising drop-off towards the end of seasons gone by, this group have dispelled that tag.

With a second-placed finish in Premier Division South and a bucket load of momentum heading into post season play this weekend, there is an obvious excitement about the quality of football the local side are showcasing.

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