A job well done for Freeman

UUֱ Bulls manager Gary Freeman Picture: ROB CURRIE

A BITTER day in west London served up equally bitter fare as the Bulls squeezed past Harefield United courtesy of a Harry Curtis goal – but boss Gary Freeman was more than happy to take substance over aesthetics.

Curtis’ strike was the only goal of an FA Vase contest in which the Bulls never found any sort of rhythm, the centre-back delivering the game’s only moment of quality with an outstanding finish on the half-hour mark.

And Freeman was delighted with the youngster’s contribution, and even more so with a spot in the last-32 of the competition, equalling their run of last year.

“We weren’t great, were we? It didn’t look like us at all really, but there were lots of factors to consider today, which we had to overcome, and we managed to do that,” he said.

“We arrived at the ground just after midday, so 45 minutes away from kick-off, so we had to get into gear pretty quickly. But I guess luckily for us, we’re used to that sort of scenario and we know how to deal with it.

“The conditions and the pitch weren’t the best and when you throw in an opposition who I thought were much better than their league position suggests, it’s actually a job well done.

“I’m pleased for Harry because he’s so consistent, and you know what you’re going to get from him. And it’s a fantastic goal which any striker at this level would be raving about, and that’s capped off a memorable afternoon for him.”

With over half of the scheduled third round games on Saturday falling to the weather, the Islanders are currently just one of 15 sides to have confirmed their spot in today’s draw. And while Freeman does not have his eye on anyone in particular, a home tie at Springfield – and the excitement and publicity which would come along with it – was a preference.

“Obviously there are some very good sides left in the competition now and when you add in the fact that performance levels probably go up by ten to 15 per cent when you’re playing in a big knock-out game, every opponent will be tough,” he said.

“I guess for us, it’d be brilliant to get someone back to the Island and make an occasion of it. We’ve been on the road for these past couple of rounds, both with early starts, so home comforts certainly wouldn’t go amiss.

“There is a lot of talk around Farnham at the moment, and you can see why given the form they are in and everything they are doing off the pitch. Them coming over to our place would be a huge occasion, and that’s what it’s all about.”

With the calendar year coming to a close in a few weeks, the Bulls are well-placed in both the FA Vase and the league, currently occupying a play-off spot, both the result of a run of just one defeat in the past 15 games.

Freeman’s focus is already on next weekend’s visit of Abbey Rangers – just two points and one place below his side – before 2023 concludes with a trip to Cobham, who also confirmed their spot in the draw with a 4-3 win at Egham.

“Ever since the defeat at Tadley, there’s been a noticeable change of mood among the group and that’s been reflected in the form since then. Lots of the lads are delivering to an incredibly high standard when called upon, and you only have to look at young Will Byers today. When you consider we were able to leave guys like Jay Giles and Adam Trotter at home, our depth is coming to fore.

“We’re looking forward to the break, though we’ll be chasing six points before we can think about that. Abbey have whizzed up the table in recent weeks and Cobham is a tough place to go, so we know we’ll have to be as good as we have been over the previous three months.

“But you can put it on record – give me two 1-0 wins right now, and I’ll take them.”

Bulls will face the winners of Hamworthy Recreation and Wells City at Springfield in the fourth round of the FA Vase, scheduled for the weekend of 13 January.

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