NOT A MATCH for the football purist and City will have been disappointed with their performance today. In the first half, for all their possession, Guildford were very much second best to a hard working and well organised Raynes Park side struggling near the foot of the table. They finally woke up in the second half but could not do more than level the scores.
The evening was clear but cold, although there was a spectacular sunset to keep the spectators entertained. This was instead of any music as Matt Howell was installing a clever device which would remove the need to put the microphone next to the stereo system (as well as being the ‘Lennon and McCartney’ of football chants, Matt clearly is also a bit of a wiz with technology!) When the PA finally did crackle into life it was far too loud sparking fears of some sort of revolt from the Abbotsford Crescent folk – luckily no enraged locals were spotted advancing on the Spectrum with their pitchforks so all was well.
The two sides were quite evenly matched in the opening minutes and it became immediately clear this would not be quite the walkover that Saturday’s match against Dorking was. Dan Rice shot wide in the 12th minute while for Raynes Park, the awkwardly named (if you’re a PA announcer anyway) Alex Zieleniewski also went close two minutes later. City were finding it hard to find their rhythm and create space against a Raynes Park back line which defended deep and in numbers although they were getting a lot of possession. The chances they did have were squandered: Simon Sheppard shooting over the bar and wide of the post in the 24th and 25th minutes. Five minutes later, Aneel Azeem – one of Guildford’s more impressive performers on the night – surged forward and put a dangerous cross into the box which unfortunately none of his team mates could connect with. In the 31st minute he was fouled on the edge of the box but the resultant freekick was sent straight into the arms of Tim Roberts, the Raynes Park keeper. Minutes later another City freekick in a similar place suffered the same fate.
It looked like the match could well end up a goal-less stalemate with the home side unable to convert their chances and the visitors defending for their lives to scrap out a precious point. However it was the visitors who took the lead in the 35th minute – Raynes Park Vale catching City’s defence napping and sending midfielder Rob Harmeston through for a one on one with the keeper. Harmeston’s powerful shot could only be partially saved by Jay Gindre and it trickled past him into the net. Guildford looked a little shaken – it was clear they would have to work extremely hard to get something from this fixture. Aneel Azeem took up the challenge but could only shoot over in the 40th minute. Seconds later a Raynes Park Vale player should have done better in the City penalty area, sending a bobbled shot straight at Jay Gindre. They almost atoned for this miss two minutes later however, a good cross produced a superb, goal-bound header which Jay got just enough of his finger tips to, to deflect it onto the post. There was time for Guildford to squander yet another excellent opportunity (a wonderful cross by Aneel Azeem was headed wide by Dan May when he had the goal at his mercy) and some eccentric decision-making by the referee (Raynes Park players fouled to City players in quick succession without punishment and then won a freekick themselves on the edge of the box!) before the halftime whistle was blown.
Whilst there was not a lot for the home fans to cheer on the pitch, there was a lot to keep them amused off it. The University students had decided to bring down their own band – a trumpeter and a snare drummer to rival any encountered on trips to Reading Town(!) Throughout the match they would keep the atmosphere buzzing and help get chants going, although timing is something the Sweeney supporters need to work on! A few highlights were ‘Freddie give us a wave’ – a reference to yet another linesman with an amusing name – and ‘Danny May the new Gandhi’: for Dan’s chivalrous (but hardly Gandhi-like) throwing of the ball back to the keeper after it was put out for an injured player. In addition, Regan the Lion finally made an appearance. I interviewed him during the halftime break and, while he couldn’t tell me his views on the game (of course he couldn’t – lions don’t talk) he seemed very excited by the atmosphere and positive that City could get back into the match. I allowed him to roam the terraces and tossed him a few cheese burgers to prevent him eating any of the children….
The match kicked off again and the home side seemed to have a new purpose about them – doubtless Scott and Lloyd had given them a bit of an ear bashing in the changing room! Two minutes in, Paul Andrews should have done better, slicing wide from the edge of the box, then Aneel was nearly put through but couldn’t quite get to a ball which had been chipped over the Raynes Park defence. In the 55th minute City won yet another freekick on the edge of the visitors’ box but despite a powerful and accurate shot by Dan May, the ball still ended up safely in the hands of the keeper. Things were looking better however and City were rewarded with yet another freekick in a dangerous area in the 59th minute. Opting not to shoot for goal, the ball was chipped into the box and a goalmouth scramble ensued during which Rob Parrott was able to slide in at the far post and send the unguarded ball into the roof of the net.
It was all City now and it seemed a goal to ease them ahead was only minutes away. In the 66th minute Aneel pounced on a loose ball but could only shoot wide. A minute later Rob Parrott sent a dangerous delivery across the face of Raynes Park’s goal and Dan May, although in a good scoring position, could only skew the ball past the post. In reply the visitors mounted a counter-attack and their number 8 (Chaz Wilson) hit the shot of the game – an awesome rising volley which Jay Gindre did extremely well to hold on to. City continued to attack however and, in the 78th minute, Lee O’Donnell produced an impressive volley of his own which the keeper pushed wide of the post for a corner. The resultant set-piece ended up with the ball in the net but it was ruled out for offside. Raynes Park had one more chance to win the game, one of their players being brought down just outside the City ‘D’ but the freekick was blocked by City’s defenders. The home side’s last chance came in the third minute of stoppage time, an excellent curling cross which unfortunately caught one of the City players offside.
GUILDFORD CITY: J. Gindre; A. Jones; L. O’Donnell; M. Tomlinson; P. Andrews; R. Parrott; D. Rice; R. White; D. May (sub D. Peltohaka, 86); S. Sheppard; A. Azeem.
Subs not used: B. Thorne; A. Wylde
RAYNES PARK VALE: T. Roberts; N. Woodbridge; J. Diggins; S. Henry; D. Stevens; E. Thompson; M. Skinner; C. Wilson; D. Ellard; A. Zieleniewski; R. Harmeston.
Subs not used: E. Cornwell; T. Barge; A. Trefry; N. Turner.