This weekend should have been the 2020 Close Finance Muratti Vase final, at Springfield Stadium, with Jersey hosting either Guernsey or Alderney.
Coronavirus has understandably put that on hold, although the Jersey FA is still optimistic the final will go ahead later this year. A postponement rather than a cancellation.
Jersey, under the leadership of manager Martin Cassidy, have won the last two finals and remain hopeful of making it three in a row. With no game to look forward to this weekend though, Cassidy has instead been looking back at the 2018 and 2019 Murattis.
Photos, some of which are previously unpublished, with thanks to Adrian Topley, Andy Dovey, Tim Pryor and David Nash.
Jersey 1 (Cannon pen 14) - Guernsey 0
It's a massive honour to lead Jersey in a Muratti. I love the role.
Losing the game in 2017 was a tough one because we dominated, but my biggest learning point from that was I needed to be more ruthless with my decision making and not so sensitive - I needed to make sure that I stood by my decisions and made tough calls going forward. I've done that for every game after that defeat.
Since that match we have hardly conceded a goal and this season we have added more direct play and goals. I wanted a team that were hard to play against first. The game plan following that defeat in 2017 was to make sure that we were solid at the back.
Some big names and experienced players, like Stuart Andre, had moved on and it was great to have a clean sheet in that 2018 game at Springfield because I felt we would always score at some point.
Jack Cannon was on penalties. He's very confident and very reliable in those situations. I do call it [name the penalty taker] before the game just to make sure it's clear and there's no confusion and Jack was on it. 1-0.
We felt that Guernsey were not going to score in open play. If it came we thought it could be from a set piece or long throw or those dangerous balls they put in the box.
I knew our boys would be tired and Jay Reid [the only Jersey substitute used that day] would come in and do a spoiler role in the last 15 minutes if we needed him. It turned out that's the way the game went. We were getting a bit leggy in the middle of the park and I just felt that he could sure things up. He was very good with his first few tackles and then he's obviously mistimed it [resulting in a straight red card]. It put more pressure on the defence but that's why I played Rusty [Craig Russell] as he is excellent with their long balls and throw ins.
I could have made more changes up front but Craig was doing such a great job at getting back and helping the defence, and I knew that in the last five or 10 minutes he would be valuable to support the defenders.
There was a lot of drama at the end [with Reid’s red card] but all Murattis are full of drama. I felt we deserved the win, the players had worked hard enough and played well enough. They did the right things, we got the ball down and played the right way and it feels really good when you play the right way and get the result. One-nil to Jersey started to become a bit of a theme - keeping a clean sheet, scoring goals and shutting up shop.
Euan Van der Vliet, Harry Curtis, Jack Cannon, James Queree, Luke Campbell, Kamen Nafkha, Michael Weir, Jack Boyle (c), Craig Russell, Adam Trotter, Calvin Weir. Substitutes: Karl Hinds, Jake Baker, Jay Reid, Jake Prince, Danny Birrell.
Alderney 0 - Jersey 2 (Martinovic 37, Cannon pen 50)
We were stuck on the plane for over an hour in Jersey that day. It started getting a bit frustrating and we weren’t allowed off. We thought it was a tactic from Alderney!
We got over there in the end, got the boys some breakfast, and managed to get the game put back a bit. The dressing room there is tiny, we knew time was tight, and when we got to the place for breakfast we had the whole of the upstairs area to ourselves so I felt it was a nice environment for the players to listen in and get their thinking caps on. I didn’t want to rush things in the dressing room with the team talk, so we ran through things there.
The Alderney dressing room, the pitch, the wind – it’s a leveler, it’s not a nice place to go. The people are really nice but the football side of it is not my favourite.
The previous time we’d been there, the weather, the wind, the pitch and everything was horrible. So we thought let’s just get there, get the job done and score early.
I felt that we would score through the wide players, cutting inside and having shots and that's where Zeljko got the first goal. He cut inside from the left and hit a nice low shot into the corner. The longer you go in Alderney not scoring the more they get confidence and the crowd get behind them. Once we got that goal it just settled us down, we still tried to play our football but it was a good professional performance.
Euan van der Vliet, Harry Curtis, James Queree, Luke Campbell, Jack Cannon, Kamen Nafkha, Jonny Le Quesne, Michael Weir, Jack Boyle, Zeljko Martinovic, Craig Russell. Substitutes: Danny Birrell, Jay Giles, Fraser Barlow, Kieran Lester.
Guernsey 0 - 0 Jersey (Jersey win 3-1 on penalties)
I was very proud of that performance at Footes Lane, going into the Lions Den.
What Guernsey are good at, is defending. They showed that in the 2-1 win that they had a couple of years before. As long as we could get at them early, and we had Jack Boyle playing in the number 10 role, then we could get some early chances.
We started very brightly. After 20 minutes in the last game that we had played there we were 2-0 down. We were on the front foot, we had most of the ball, moving it around the pitch well and we created a lot of good chances. We got Boyle into those areas that we wanted in and around the box to get shots away.
Then their left back had it and he was just looking to play the ball up the line. Jack came flying across to get a block in - he managed to get the block, but landed awkwardly and that was him, his ankle went (Jack is pictured below being helped off the field). That was disappointing because the game plan we had was working, and I could see that if we got one, we would have got more.
This is why you need a back up plan in these type of games. [Karl] Hinds came on and played well in the 10. But we lost Boyle’s drive from midfield. Although we lost a little bit of power going forward, Hinds still kept the ball really well and came in and linked up play well in that game.
I was confident going into the shootout, but I was mindful of who had missed the week before [against the Army in the Southern Counties Cup final]. Plus, with Euan in goal too, you always think he’ll save one. It was just about making sure that some of our experienced players stepped up. But then when you miss a couple you think "this isn't our day again".
You're quite helpless on the side once the penalties start, as a manager, you’re just hopeful that the luck is with us and the keeper makes a save or two.
That was the day my luck changed as a manager. I’ve always been hard-working but I’ve never really had much luck, but if I was due any that was the best time to get it. I’ve realised I’d rather be a lucky manager than a good one because you tend to win more things. For me it makes it three out of four Murattis (including the 100th alongside Brian Little) which I’m very proud of.
That’s one of the best feelings I've had at the end of that last year, I just didn't want to have that disappointment of losing again over there. The feeling was better after penalties but I'll take 1-0 in 90 minutes every day.
The momentum is certainly with us now for a third consecutive Muratti win. I’ve got a new fresh and hungry team that were ready and were performing well in the FA Inter-League Cup [the JFA Combination League had reached the semi finals when football was halted because of coronavirus]. Jersey Bulls have made an excellent start and have a winning mentality, week in week out, along with the local club teams being well-represented too. I just felt that this was going to be a really good Muratti and it still will be when it gets played. Hopefully it’ll happen before the end of the year and we can continue with our winning streak.
Jersey: Euan van der Vliet, Harry Curtis, Luke Campbell, James Queree, Jack Cannon, Kamen Nafkha, Adam Trotter, Michael Weir, Calvin Weir, Jack Boyle (C), Craig Russell. Substitutes: Danny Birrell, Jay Giles, Ruben Mendes, Karl Hinds, Sol Solomon.
No date has yet been set for the rearranged 2020 Close Finance Muratti Vase semi final or final. All tickets already purchased for the final at Springfield will remain valid for the rescheduled fixture.
Martin Cassidy was speaking to Tim Pryor