Island Games: Jersey end 14-year wait for men's football gold

Island Games: Jersey end 14-year wait for men's football gold
Jersey became the first side to win the tournament four times - photo credit Andy Dovey

Jersey battled back from falling behind twice in the first 20 minutes to beat Ynys Mon 5-2 in an action-packed Island Games final, celebrating men's football gold for the first time since 2009.

Elliot Powell's side were 1-0 down inside two minutes at Footes Lanes, when goalkeeper Euan Van der Vliet's punch from a corner somehow dropped agonisingly into his own net.

Adam Trotter pulled his team level in a frenetic opening, but Ynys Mon led again through Sam Gregson's half-volley. Substitute Karl Hinds slotted in a second equaliser before Toby Ritzema put Jersey in front for the first time with half-time nearing.

Lorne Bickley was sent clear just after the restart and fired in off the post to open up a two-goal lead, and there was no way back from there for Ynys Mon particularly when they were reduced to ten men with half-an-hour to go.

Luke Watson's left-footed strike wrapped up the win as Jersey became the most successful island in the tournament's history - the first to win gold on four occasions.

In recent years Jersey's men haven't quite hit the right notes when the Games came around. Following the 2009 gold and the 2011 bronze, they failed to make it out of their group at Jersey 2015, Gotland 2017 and the spin-off football tournament in Ynys Mon in 2019.

This time felt different though. Group qualification was secured without conceding a goal, whilst scoring 10 at the other end. They'd had to show real character to get over the line in the semi when 2-1 down approaching the hour mark, and that spirit was again required in abundance come the final.

Jersey were dealt a blow before the game had even kicked off when Sol Solomon pulled up injured in the warm-up. Things didn't get much better when the game started, with goalkeeper Van der Vliet's punch awkwardly bouncing over two colliding defenders and in. Just 82 seconds had been played.

There was no sign of panic though and Jersey weren't to be behind for long, Trotter bursting through down the left channel, showing great strength to beat his man, and side-footing in the equaliser.

Less than 24-hours on from the topsy-turvy semi-final win over the Isle of Wight, this was already shaping up to be another Island Games classic. After quarter of an hour Gregson put the Welsh side back ahead with a lovely half-volley from the edge of the area, but again Powell's side lifted themselves off the canvas.

Striker Lorne Bickley went close three times for the Channel Islanders, who were playing well despite the evidence of the scoreline and an injury to James Carr, who had started in place of Solomon. With Carr himself off, substitute Hinds entered the fray and wasted no time in getting on the scoresheet, knocking in the rebound from yet another blocked Bickley opportunity.

Jersey's previous finals: 1993 - Jersey 5-1 Isle of Man. 1997 - Jersey 1-0 Ynys Mon. 2009 - Jersey 2-1 Aland.

Jersey continued to push forward and just before half-time they edged ahead. Francis Lekimamati latched onto a short back-pass, found Bickley who set up Ritzema to fire in and give his side a narrow advantage at the break.

Bickley doubled that advantage just three minutes into the second-half, precisely slotting in Trotter's well-weighted through ball to provide a bit of breathing space. Six goals registered in the final and we hadn't reached the 50-minute mark.

The Ynys Mon task was made all the harder with half-an-hour to go when Sam Jones was shown red for a foul on Watson. A yellow would possibly have been enough. Jersey had been the better side against 11 men, and against ten they weren't about to let this one slip away.

Watson's left-footed strike with time ticking away made it 5-2, as Ynys Mon finished with nine men with Gregson sent off in stoppage time for a second yellow. By then, though, the destination of the gold had long-since been decided and it would be incredibly hard to argue that Jersey didn't deserve it.

Route to the final: Jersey 1-0 Gozo, Jersey 4-0 Menorca, Jersey 5-0 St Helena, Jersey 3-2 Isle of Wight.