ANOTHER home game, another hammering for luckless City. This match was not as one-sided as the scoreline suggests – the real damage being done after Greg Levene missed a penalty when the scores were 2-1 – however it does bring into sharp contrast the areas in which Guildford must improve if they are to avoid a disappointing season.
This was only Guildford’s third home game of 2008/09 and after 4-0 and 5-0 thrashings in the previous two matches, hopes were high that City could reverse their fortunes – especially given their impressive away form. The conditions couldn’t have been much better either: bright sunshine and a reasonable playing surface. The tannoy team arrived at the Spectrum a little later than expected, having watched Liverpool dispose of Man United 2-1. An exultant Mr Plested, all prepared for a pirate-themed 30th birthday party later that evening, turned up in a tricorn hat, much to the amusement of many of the spectators!
The visitors started well, pressurising City almost from the off but in fact it was Guildford who had the first chance to open their account. Simon Sheppard beat the offside trap in the 9th minute and went through one-on-one with the keeper. All the City fans expected the back of the net to bulge but it appears Si lost his nerve at the last minute and passed to Joel Stevens who was in an offside position – much to the frustration of the home support. The visitors responded and in the 16th minute Jay Gindre was forced to punch clear the ball after a goalmouth scramble. Two minutes later City had another chance, Greg Levene going one-on-one with the keeper, however with defenders gaining on him rapidly he was forced to shoot from long range and put the ball wide. This wastefulness appeared to energise Badshot and they now started to exert some real pressure on their hosts. In the 21st minute one of their players sent a speculative effort sailing over the bar (‘Bad shot’ yelled Mr Plested – ho ho ho!) and two minutes later they won a freekick near Guildford’s corner flag from which Maurice Gregory shot into Jay’s arms. Guildford had another chance moments later, Si Sheppard shooting straight at the keeper but they struggled to contain their opponents who were now dominating possession.
The visitors’ first goal should really have come in the 27th minute, Lee Champion rising unmarked at the far post but heading wide from a corner kick. A minute later Jay was forced to push a wildly spinning ball over the bar, clattering into the post in the process and requiring medical assistance – luckily he recovered within a few minutes. Still the chances came for Badshot, Michael Harper (no – not that one!) shooting over from the edge of the box in the 33rd minute and James Hinchin straight into Jay’s arms a minute later. For their part Guildford were trying to pressurise their opponents but with no end product, the ball either being given away or players caught offside. Inevitably Badshot finally got on the scoresheet in the 42nd minute – Bradley Smith sticking the ball away from a freekick near the edge of City’s penalty area. The half petered out after this, ending with another Badshot freekick being plucked to safety by Jay.
It is fair to say that the City fans were disappointed but not disconsolate at half time – a situation helped considerably by the weather and the consumption of vast quantities of City burgers which Ian Plested and myself had been plugging shamelessly on the microphone! Discussion focussed however on the alarming lack of mobility at the back to handle the pacey opposition forwards and the lack of link up between City’s midfielders and strikers.
The home side began the second half positively, Si Sheppard and Greg Levene going close with shots but at the other end Badshot could have notched again, a ball being flashed across the face of the City goal but with no-one to turn it in. Finally though Guildford got some luck: another good move saw the ball cleared from the visitors’ penalty area where it fell to new signing Liam Alleyne, who had been impressive as a substitute in the previous match against CB Hounslow. From the corner of the area Alleyne hit an unstoppable drive into the bottom corner and sent the home fans into raptures – finally a goal for City at the Spectrum! If they thought this would signal a turning point they were sadly mistaken however as Badshot Lea pushed forward with renewed determination. A minute after the goal Michael Smith was put through but couldn’t quite get to the ball before Jay. Moments later Joel Stevens tried an audacious chip over the keeper at the other end (a la his goal against Chessington and Hook) but this time the ball went wide. Still the visitors pressurised, Jay holding a point blank shot and Dan Dunning having to put in an excellent last ditch tackle to dispossess a Badshot forward who would have been through on goal. Inevitably City’s rearguard could not hold out for ever and in the 58th minute, after a frantic goalmouth scramble which involved two clearances off the line, Michael Smith drove the ball through a congested penalty area and into the back of the net.
What were the chances of Guildford clawing their way back into this game once again? They appeared to be pretty good just a minute after the goal, a Badshot player handballing in the box and the ref awarding a penalty. Unfortunately Greg Levene’s spotkick was well saved by keeper John Ashwood and City once again had a mountain to climb. One would shrink from saying the home side gave up at this point but their morale seemed to noticeably crumble and the pressure only increased. Just two minutes after the miss, Jay was forced into two excellent saves, holding a header brilliantly after a superb cross and getting just enough on the ball to dispossess a player who had been put through moments later. He couldn’t hold out forever however and in the 64th and 66th minutes was beaten by two carbon copy goals: both headers from Michael Harper. The home side had run out of ideas at this point and Badshot were breaching the City defence with apparent impunity. They put the seal on the match in the 74th minute with a goal which summed up Guildford’s day – the ball being cleared but taking a wicked deflection into the path of Maurice Gregory who stuck it away from 6 yards. To add insult to injury, one of City’s star midfielders from last season, Reece White, then joined the field of play for the opposition.
There was little to do now but run down the clock and try to prevent any more goals going in. Badshot appeared to take their foot off the gas and seemed content to defend out the rest of the game. Guildford did at least push to give the scoreline some respectability, especially with the introduction of Aneel Azeem, but the best move of the closing minutes saw Joel Stevens drive the ball wide after a good cross from Aneel. The home side left the pitch with more than a little food for thought. This Spectrum hoodoo needs to be sorted out quickly.
GUILDFORD CITY: J. Gindre; K. Philpott; A. Halliwell (sub S. Coyle, 81); C. Moore; A. Wylde; D. Dunning; L. Alleyne (sub M. Martin, 68); C. Emery; S. Sheppard; J. Stevens; G. Levene (sub A. Azeem, 68)
Subs not used: S. Duffell
BADSHOT LEA: J. Ashwood; J. Short; B. Hill; L. Champion; D. Griffiths; M. Griffiths; M. Smith; B. Smith (sub L. Walker, 54); J. Hinchin (sub R. White, 75); M. Harper; M. Gregory (sub D. Bailey, 81)
Subs not used: B. Stewart; A. Payne