GUILDFORD succumbed to a third successive defeat on their travels in this frustrating game which was nonetheless closer than the scoreline suggests. The Surrey side just could not come to terms with the Vale’s style of play which enabled the home side to soak up the pressure and then hit them on the break. Guildford fell behind to a well taken goal on the half hour mark and were always playing catch up. But for the width of a post they might have levelled matters early in the second period. Ultimately though they could only ship two more goals in the dying minutes of the match as they pushed desperately for that elusive equaliser.
So another away game and that could only mean one thing – another afternoon of exploring the local drinking establishments of the away team. In this case we all converged on Raynes Park (yes The Vale actually play where their name suggests they do – unlike bloody Colliers Wood…) and supped up some excellent ales in the new Wetherspoons near the station. At this point we numbered just four – myself, my friend Tom (who is rapidly becoming re-acquainted with the joys of watching the City of a Saturday afternoon), Mr Pegman and of course Lofty. We were missing the students though – their absence being due to missing the train and then (which genius gave them this advice?!) getting off at Motspur Park in an attempt to take a short cut. Needless to say they got lost and finally arrived at about halftime. Anyway, those of us that were there finally stumbled into the ground some 10 minutes before kick off.
The visitors started the game well with Ziyaad Hussain again acquitting himself impressively down the left wing. This may have had something to do with City playing down the hill (no I’m not joking!) although the boggy pitch did make flowing football a little challenging. Anyway within the first two minutes Guildford had won a corner but were unfortunately unable to make the most of this early opportunity. Moments later though (in a taste of things to come) they were caught on the counter-attack with the home side putting the ball in the back of the net only to be flagged offside. City seemed to heed this warning and for the next 7 or 8 minutes were making cautious inroads into the Vale half. The match sprang to life in the 13th minute when the visitors finally got a shot on goal – Simon Sheppard breaking down the right and hitting a powerful shot which was well held by the keeper. Five minutes later City had another chance, this time it fell to Antonio Simeone who volleyed over the bar from a corner kick. Guildford were playing well and enjoying a lot of possession but without really testing the Raynes Park keeper. As if to underline the importance of quality not quantity the home side carved out the best chance of the match so far in the 22nd minute – a forward going through on goal and drawing an excellent one handed save from Smelt to give away a corner. Another corner followed but from this Guildford were able to counter attack – Hussain, powering down the pitch but ultimately shooting wide. This marked another purple patch for the visitors and yet again they started to make chances – Loyza breaking impressively but unable to find any support in the 25th minute and then Hussain shooting over the bar from a corner four minutes later after a nice flick by Leon White. Things were looking promising but all this pressure was leaving gaps at the back which the home exploited ruthlessly just minutes later – the ball being cleared up the pitch to the powerful Rob Sheridan who took the ball away from his marker with a deft first touch, bore down unopposed on Jack Smelt in the City goal and stuck the ball away clinically to put the Vale ahead.
City’s confidence was clearly dented and they nearly gave away another goal just two minutes later – luckily this time the ball ran just beyond the forward and Smelt was able to gather it. Simeone though was clearly not keeping his head and put in quite a reckless challenge in the 38th minute which fortunately only earned him a yellow card and a few minutes later a substitution – Dave Tidy clearly not being willing to risk going down to 10 men. Guildford were definitely on the back foot at this point and it took another excellent save by Smelt near the stroke of half time to keep them in the match. The visitors did however manage an effort moments later – winning a freekick 25 yards out which was taken short, crossed across the face of goal but flicked over the bar. Seconds later the whistle blew for half time.
The City fans all trooped into the club house where we were finally joined by the students, fresh from the exploration of Motspur Park! Whilst the Vale were not selling burgers (much to my disgust!) they were doing some very nice ham baguettes which I swiftly devoured. We then all stood watching Sky Sports News for the latest scores from the FA Cup 4th Round and discussing Guildford’s chances of getting something from the game.
We were still at the bar when the second half kicked off and within a minute Simon Sheppard had Guildford’s best (and unfortunately only) chance to get on the scoresheet. After breaking through with typical pace and skill he fell at the last hurdle, striking the post with a shot which had the keeper well beaten. A point would never appear so close again. The match now settled into a midfield duel, with occasional half chances presenting themselves to both sides – a City freekick being cleared in the 48th minute and The Vale shooting wide 4 minutes later. Gradually though the home side were taking control of the game and the Guildford chances became less and less. In the 58th minute Smelt was yet again City’s saviour when he was forced to advance outside his area and head clear a ball – the Vale player who got to it first must have been kicking himself for not trying to lob the Guildford custodian. In the 65th minute Mr Smelt was on hand again to clear the danger from a corner before, a minute later, pulling off yet another top drawer save. Guildford had a brief respite 15 minutes from time which allowed Darren Annon to try his luck unsuccessfully from distance however the chances kept coming for the home side – a freekick going just over the bar in the 82nd minute. There was time for Guildford to fashion one more half chance – Joe Loyza finally getting some space to run at the defence but there was no-one there to support him and before he could fire a shot on goal he was dispossessed. In desperation City began throwing more players up front and inevitably the home side benefited. On the stroke of 90 minutes the visitors were caught on the counter attack yet again, allowing super-sub Joshua Williams to go through on goal and score a deflected goal. A minute later Ross Chalke sealed the win with an easy tap in from 6 yards out. Let’s hope Guildford’s excellent recent home form does not desert them in the next couple of games – they need all the points they can get.
GUILDFORD CITY: J. Smelt; J. Rowley; M. Burns; A. Smillie (sub Nathan Farquharson, 72); D. Annon; A. Simeone (sub Charlie Saundercock, 40); S. Sheppard; A. Vine; L. White; J. Loyza; Z. Hussain (sub Ryan O’Sullivan, 60)
Sub not used: Anthony Arnold; Dan Drake
RAYNES PARK VALE: G. Ellis; E. Taylor; T. Diloway; D. Stevens; E. Thompson; J. Murphy; J. McGlashan; R. Sheridan; A. Zieleniewski; M. Skinner (sub J. Williams, 82); R. Chalke (sub S. Philips, 72)
Subs not used: M. May; D. Grobler; R. Harmeston