On Friday 10th February, a Guernsey FA Representative XI hosted the Royal Navy U23 squad. The match served as ideal preparation for the visitors ahead of participating in the U23 inter-Services competition against the Army and Royal Air Force, whilst also providing Guernsey FA’s Senior Men’s manager, Steve Sharman, with an opportunity to watch and review players as part of the selection process for Guernsey players wishing to be part of the forthcoming FA Inter-League Cup, Muratti and Island Games Squads.
The Royal Navy team started the match brightly and took a deserved early lead after creating a number of goal-scoring chances. However, the young Guernsey team began to work their way back into the match and created several opportunities of their own, and were only denied by some impressive defending at times. Shortly before half-time, Guernsey got the reward for a spell of pressure when Rory Moriarty equalised to take the teams into the break level at 1-1. In the second half, Guernsey continued to apply the pressure and had a great opportunity to take the lead, only to be denied following a goalmouth scramble. This proved to be unfortunate as not long after, the Royal Navy re-took the lead and went on to score a further two goals in the last ten minutes to claim a 4-1 victory.
Although disappointed with the result, Guernsey Manager, Steve Sharman, focussed on the positives when commenting that:
“The match against the Royal Navy u23’s was the perfect opportunity to challenge those players who have aspirations to play in a Muratti or Island Games against a very committed and physically strong opposition. I challenged the group to dominate the ball even if it meant that risks were taken. Under pressure I thought they performed outstandingly well when you add in the fact that they had never played as a team before. The last thirty minutes of the first half was a real pleasure to watch as the players enjoyed keeping possession and created numerous chances. Playing at such an intensity is alien to the majority of these players and after 70 minutes many were running on empty energy levels. It was a perfect way to show them that their personal levels of fitness need to be much higher to compete at such a tournament as the island Games where there are five games in six days. There is no doubt in my mind that the technical ability of this group of players and a similar number that couldn’t be involved due to injury or absence from the Island is such that they can move forward if they have that self-desire and work ethic.”
Whilst the next focus for Sharman will be to finalise the squad that will represent Guernsey at the 2017 Gotland Island Games, Guernsey FA Chief Executive, Gary Roberts was looking further ahead when commenting that:
‘This fixture, combined with visit of the RAF Officers team earlier this season, has provided an appropriately challenging games programme for this group of Guernsey players at a level that extends their opportunities to challenge themselves. We are hopeful that the matches against the RAF Officers and Royal Navy U23’s will become part of an annual Representative fixture program that continues to provide aspirational opportunities for players in Guernsey’.