Chipstead 3 Guernsey 0

Saturday 16th October 2021 – Isthmian South Central – Church Road, Chipstead

Most Non-League clubs had to wait ten months before they could return to competitive action after the enforced end to the 2020/21 season in November last year, but for Guernsey that wait started in February 2020 and lasted until last weekend when they were finally given the go ahead by the island authorities for travel to recommence.

It has been a frustrating period, not being able to travel from the island, or welcome teams to the island without compliance with stringent local Covid-19 prevention rules, having to look on as other clubs in the Non-League game were able to start. There was a point in early September where only Arsenal and Guernsey had zero points and zero goals, a slight on the Gunners rather than the islanders.

Not withstanding the added complications of post-pandemic rules and regulations, the logistics of having to travel overseas for a Non-League club is problematic to say the least. Guernsey have now started their eleventh season in the English Non-League pyramid and have had their fair share of travel woes but that has allowed them to adapt their approach, such as a third strip, in a colour that would rarely clash, a Fiorentina-inspired lilac, being kept in the UK and a fully-stocked physio located in South London.

But it can still be a struggle for them to bring full-strength squads across. For a 12:45pm kick-off as today’s game was, the squad had to meet at Guernsey airport at 6am for their 7am flight and weren’t due to land back onto the island until close to 9pm. As amateur players, who play for the honour and not cash, work and a personal life means that Shankly’s maxim of football being more important than life or death certainly isn’t true. Sometimes, life has to come before football.

Of course, for Non-League fans who wanted to get in two games, especially when their own side isn’t playing, a 12:45pm kick-off was perfect. This was the Green Lions first competitive away game since a 2-1 defeat at Hythe Town on the 15th February 2020 and their fans had turned out on a pleasant afternoon in the English countryside at Chipstead, one of the most remote Isthmian League grounds, to see if they could remain the only club in the Isthmian League with a 100% record. Whilst Marlow’s run of six wins out of six had ended on Tuesday night, Guernsey’s 3-1 win last Saturday at home to Sutton Common Rovers had see them arrive in Surrey looking to continue that 100% win record.

Both of the sides now found themselves in the South Central Division after this season’s restructure, which now stretched as far west as Thatcham, with the core of teams based in the M4-M3-M25 triangle. Not that it mattered too much for Guernsey, arriving at Gatwick airport for this game which was one of their shortest onward journeys of the season.

The opening exchanges were fairly even. Guernsey looked to spread the play wide, with talisman Ross Allen already two goals under his belt this season, looking to play off the centre-back’s shoulder. The 40-strong Guernsey support, in a crowd of just under a hundred, were greeting each other like long-lost football fans, which they were, enjoying seeing their side finally back in action. But it was the home side that did most of the early running and had it not been for a swift linesman’s flag would have taken a lead early in the game.

But they didn’t have to wait too long to cheer as a break down the wing saw a low-ball delivered into the box and Andy Kabuikusomo was on hand to tuck it away. Five minutes later there was a lengthy stop when Guernsey’s young keeper James Walker, on loan from Bristol City, clashed with Anokye-Boadi and required lengthy treatment to a head injury. He carried on but was obviously shaken by the accidental clash and could do nothing to stop Tom Collins’ 45th minute penalty that doubled the home side’s lead.

Walker was replaced at half-time as Guernsey looked to get back into the game but Collins scored his second of the game just after the hour mark to put the game out of reach and bring to an end the final 100% record at Steps 1-4. The Green Lions are six games behind most other sides in the division and whilst they may sit at the foot of the league, with crowds of nearly 1,000 at Footes Lane and manager Tony Vance having a stronger squad to pick from, it will be their home form that will define their season.

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