‘It’s going to be huge’

Bulls captain James Quéree believes his side are more than prepared for their play-off semi-final clash with AFC Croydon Athletic at Springfield Stadium tomorrow Picture: ROB CURRIE. (37971535)

THE time is nigh for Jersey Bulls to embark on their season defining play-off campaign, welcoming AFC Croydon Athletic to Springfield Stadium for a mouthwatering duel.

After a superb second-placed finish in the Combined Counties Premier Division South, the Islanders booked their place in a crucial home semi-final and, if successful tomorrow, a home final too.

Bulls finished their league campaign in dazzling form to prise second spot away from Knaphill, who finished just one point back in third.

“This is a cup final for us,” said Bulls captain James Querée.

“We performed extremely well to finish the league campaign as well as we did. The draw of the home play-off tie was massive for us, but to also come to the season-end with a style of football we want to play is just as pleasing.”

Gary Freeman’s side concluded the league campaign with six wins from six, scoring 19 goals and conceding just one. Their excellent defensive record is an aspect the captain is particularly proud of.

“We finished the league with the second best defensive record, which is an outstanding achievement,” he added.

“For us as a club, we have such a small player pool and have to play so many games away from Jersey. We’re unique in that respect.

“I think it highlights even more what an achievement it is for us to have reached this stage.”

AFC Croydon Athletic, owned by global rap superstar Stormzy, have had a remarkable run-in to the end of the campaign themselves,

A run-in of three wins from their final four games saw them repel rivals Redhill, finishing four points clear to seal what looked like an unlikely fifth-place finish at Christmas.

Both sides shared the spoils in their two league meetings, with Bulls snatching a last-minute winner through Lorne Bickley back in September, before Croydon reversed the scoreline in October at Springfield, Olalekan Nosa Osideko getting the winner that day.

The goalscoring prowess on display tomorrow is clear to see from this season’s statistics.

Bulls are set to be led once again by star marksman and the league’s second highest goalscorer with 29, Lorne Bickley.

However, Croydon have scored 93 goals themselves this season, the second highest, with both Louie Theophanous (18 goals) and Pierrick Brandon Keutcha (17 goals) among the top ten league goalscorers.

Quéree continued: “Croydon are a really good team who have also had an excellent season.

“It’s just as massive for them to have reached this stage. Everything that’s gone on for them as a club this season, being bought out by such a big name, they’re in a fantastic position.

“But when the whistle blows tomorrow, it’s just another game of football for both us and them. Yes, the pressure is always heightened in the play-offs, but we have to remain calm and play the way we know we can.”

Even as one of the more experienced members of the side, the Bulls skipper admits that he still feels nervous and excited about these occasions.

“Absolutely, I still get nervous, it’s going to be a huge game.

“We have guys like myself, Luke Watson and Luke Campbell who are well into our thirties, but also have some lads still in their teens, even still in school like Fergus [Boyle].

“We’re all just as excited as each other and it means everything to every one of us. We have an incredibly tight group which has only strengthened throughout this season.

“We know some of our performances earlier in the campaign were not quite up to the mark, but we have worked hard on implementing a new more attacking style of play and it’s been satisfying in the last few games to have really shown our fans what we can do.

“We have proven we can score goals at one end, and keep them out at the other. If we play like we know we can, then tomorrow will hopefully take care of itself.”

If successful against Croydon, the Bulls face the prospect of a home play-off final against either Knaphill or Tadley Calleva. However, Quéree is trying not to look too far ahead.

“We all know what a win would mean for all involved,” the skipper added.

“But we can’t get too forward with our thinking. We have a job to do tomorrow first and foremost and we’re all completely focused on the task at hand.

“Our fans will be out in full force and we know they will be right behind us all the way, which gives us massive confidence.”

Bulls against AFC Croydon Athletic is scheduled for a 3pm kick off tomorrow.

Jersey Bulls squad to be selected from: Euan Van Der Vliet, Pierce Roche, Fergus Boyle, Harry Curtis, James Quéree (c), Jay Giles, Luke Campbell, Will Byers, Adam Trotter, Ben Le Rougetel, James Carr, Joe Kilshaw, Jonny Le Quesne, Kamen Nafkha, Luke Watson, Ruben Mendes, Francis Lekimamati, Fraser Barlow, Lorne Bickley, Miguel Carvalho

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