Epsom started their pre-season campaign a week earlier than usual with a short tour to play two matches against Guernsey. The Guernsey island side is made up of the strongest players from the channel island’s six team league and they are a strong outfit who regularly reach the latter stages of the HA Trophy in England. Missing a few regular players Epsom knew this would be a tough assignment against hosts who had already been in training for their annual “Islands” tournament over in the Isle of Man.
Epsom: 5 (Midmer 3, McNamee, Hugo)
Friday night’s fixture, played mostly under lights, was fast, fun, frenetic and turned into a mini classic. A well drilled Guernsey predictably piled on early pressure and took a 1-0 lead through their lethal Kiwi striker Steve Waldrom. Against the run of play, Epsom then took a 2-1 lead as James Midmer struck two goals from virtually Epsom’s only two early visits to the Guernsey half. Guernsey continued to press, with Waldrom a constant danger, and the hosts raced into a deserved 4-2 lead which could well have been more as the hosts missed a few chances and corners. Epsom were always under pressure, but again clinical when it mattered and Midmer deflected home Mike Atkinson’s cross to reduce the deficit to 4-3 at half time. The second half was almost the reverse of the first, with Epsom starting to relax and spray the ball around nicely but then starting to miss a number of chances, Midmer thumping the best of them over the bar on the reverse. Conversely, Guernsey did not match their levels of the first half but became much more clinical, with the hosts scoring twice making it 6-3 midway through the second half, Waldrom completing a deserved hat-trick. Epsom continued to press and eventually got some reward when Andrew McNamee and Jonny Hugo both finished smart, almost carbon copy, finishes off crosses from the right. The final result was probably fair with Guernsey and only held from scoring more by a titanic man of the match performance from Epsom sweeper James Harris.
Following the game Epsom recorded probably their proudest moment on international soil by winning a 10 man boat race that bookmakers had comfortably predicted to go to Guernsey, whose team contained several dangerous looking drinkers in the prime age group of 18-25. Following this, several more practise sessions were held for future boat races at both Guernsey’s clubhouse, the Epsom team hotel and local nightclub Follies D’Amour.
Epsom: 3 (Midmer, McNamee, Barton)
Saturday’s fixture had always looked like it would be the less constructive of the two and so it proved. A tiring night had left its mark on both sides and the game was played at almost half the pace of the previous evening’s fixture. For the record, Epsom actually competed pretty strongly up to half time, reaching the break level at 3-3 after strikes from Midmer and McNamee were followed by a wonder goal from Scott Barton, who in one movement came on as a substitute, received the ball on the right touchline, beat three players before firing home a bullet backhand strike. The second half saw Epsom again start fairly well, but they missed a number of good chances and started to get picked apart on the break by a Guernsey side who are very clinical counterattackers. Guernsey eventually made it 7-3 although a number of those goals did come in the closing stages.
The remainder of the tour saw a trip down memory lane for Epsom and ex-Guernsey defender Roger D’Abreo, who led an entertaining pub crawl through the centre of St Peter Port before another trip to Follies. Sunday saw a slightly broken group of players catch a flight home and get some well earned rest. Epsom continue their pre-season campaign with a trip to Woking on Saturday, as part of a series of friendlies between all sides at the two clubs.