Monday 13 May 2013

Jersey Unshore: Guernsey happy with favourites label for ‘biggest game of the year'

Toe-to-toe...this year is the 97th Muratti final
The 97th annual Muratti takes place in Saint-Sampson on Saturday where hosts Guernsey will be looking to secure back-to-back trophies for the first time since 1992. Jersey will be desperate to stop their arch-rivals who they've watched continue to rise up the English non-league pyramid this season after promotion to the Ryman Division One South for the Sarnians. Despite the creation of Guernsey FC and their seemingly unstoppable ride toward the higher echelons of the English semi-professional game national team manager Kevin Graham told us ‘although there's the club success this game remains the biggest of the year for our boys’. The success off the ‘Green Lions’ has been noted by Jersey and assistant manager David Kennedy explained ‘we know this will be a really tough game due to the consistency Guernsey FC have achieved’.

Champions...Guernsey ran out 2-0 winners in 2012
The hosts 19-man squad was chosen solely from players at Guernsey FC. With 2 previous Muratti strikes Ross Allen will be expected to lead the line after a staggering 40 goal haul for the club this season and with newcomer Mark McGrath’s fine end of season form for the Green Lions, as well as his overall season at Priaulx League level, the hosts are not short in attacking options. Nigel Hutton has been ruled out with a leg infection, described as a ‘blow after the season he’s had’ by Graham, and captain Sam Cochrane has a hamstring strain but the manager explained ‘he’s back to light training and he’ll have a fitness test as late as we can leave it’. However since speaking to Graham Cochrane has pulled out of the squad. Dom Heaume, who hit a brace in the 2-0 win on Jersey last year, is also in the squad. 

Guernsey have only won 3 out of the last 11 Muratti titles and their last meeting with Jersey saw a weakened team thrashed 3-0 in the FA International Shield in Gibraltar last summer but Graham believes his side are favourites after the successes of the club team ‘they are still on a high from promotion and that experience should actually benefit us’. The manager told us how the weather meant his players had played more often in the last few months than he would have liked but went on to say ‘we are confident we've got the players to get the job done on the day’.
Rivalry...Jersey will want to avenge the 2012 loss

Having cruised past Alderney in the semi-final Jersey will have seen their UEFA Regions Cup exploits as England as the perfect platform ahead of this Muratti. Wins over Ireland and San Marino sadly proved not enough as a late defeat to Northern Ireland saw Jersey exit at the intermediary round. ‘Our players were outstanding in the Regions Cup and are determined to produce that form in the Muratti’ explained assistant manager Kennedy and the visitors will select a similar squad who traveled to San Marino. Jimmy Styles is expected to return between the sticks after Craig Fletcher’s outing against Alderney, with key players Jack Cannon, Jamie Savory and Luke Campbell likely to start. Craig Russell, who scored against Northern Ireland and hit a brace against Guernsey last summer, could also feature on Saturday. 

Doubtful...skipper Luke Watson has a hernia
Stuart Andre missed the Regions Cup but the scorer of the winning goal in the 2009 Muratti could return to the defence, although the visitors might be without influential captain Luke Watson. The St Paul’s midfielder was also on target in San Marino and Alderney but has a hernia and manager Craig Culkin told the BBC ‘he's going to be very doubtful - it's going to be a little bit of a blow’. Culkin's words will perhaps go down as mind games with Watson later included in the squad. A 4-1 loss to Middlesex Wanderers last weekend, a team comprised mainly of players from the Ryman League Guernsey are set to enter, will not have helped confidence.  Despite the apparent shift in power towards Guernsey Jersey have lost only 2 of their last 14 meetings with their rivals, and Kennedy feels Saturdays match ‘has the potential to be one of the best Muratti’s for years’. 

Our report and photos from the match will be on the blog on Sunday. The match kicks-off at 13:00 on Saturday with tickets on sale for £5 or £10 from the Guernsey FA headquarters. 

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