CITY gave a good account of themselves in this entertaining encounter, especially in the second half where they dominated play. However they could not recover from conceding two soft goals in the first half. The Peacocks took the lead early through a poor piece of defending on Guildford’s part, before Guildford levelled the scores thanks to a goalkeeping howler from Lee Pearce. The visitors came back before halftime though, Carl Henry capping an impressive performance to finish a good move with aplomb.
The first thing to say about today’s match was that it was bitterly cold, although we were fortunate that the cold snap predicted for the weekend hadn’t quite kicked in on Saturday morning and the match was able to proceed. There was a good turnout from the regulars too, pretty much everyone with the exception of Matt Brown, who it appears has discovered girls and the fact that as a student he can sleep until early evening without anyone telling him off! There were a few new faces supporting City too so hopefully they enjoyed the match and will come back to cheer on Guildford again. Mr Plested, returned from university to take up tannoying/DJ duties, giving his usual inimitable display on the microphone – yet again plugging a ‘Mercury Music Prize nominated artist’ who he tipped for greatness and keeping the assembled multitude entertained with some ‘witty’ repartee!
Anyway to the match and it has to be said that from the off City were not cowed by their opponents who at the time of the game were sitting at the top of the league. Indeed, very much in the manner of their impressive 3-3 draw at Stag Meadow earlier in the season, they set about attacking their opponents with real vigour – Dave Tidy opting for an attacking 4-3-3 formation. And it was City who eked out the first opportunity as early as the 4th minute – Aneel Azeem playing a neat back-heel to Joe Loyza to put the Guildford striker through on goal. Unfortunately he shot a little bit too early and curled the ball well wide of the far post. This was certainly a missed opportunity and City were made to pay 3 minutes later – Kevin Cooper powering to the byline, beating his man and shooting at an impossible angle. Jack Smelt was unable to keep the shot out and the former AFC Wimbledon man peeled away in celebration. The home side seemed rocked by this and the league leaders took advantage – pinging long balls out to their dangerous winger Carl Henry who, time and again, ran the Guildford defence ragged. The Bedfont Green winger eventually found himself through on goal in the 12th minute but luckily shot well wide. Guildford started to come back into the game and for the next ten minutes or so enjoyed a bit more possession and started to threaten their opponents once again. An excellent chance arrived in the 21st minute when Aneel was put through on goal and powered down the right wing. With the keeper rooted to the spot, he could have probably taken his time a bit more but opted to blast the ball from the edge of the box inevitably seeing it sail over the bar. Minutes later the home side wasted a freekick in a dangerous position – much to the frustration of the home fans. Back came the Peacocks and in the 24th minute Russell Miner broke through the Guildford defence but, like Aneel a few moments before, he blasted the ball over. There followed some desperate defending from the home side before Aneel was released near the halfway line, but fouled – the referee opting frustratingly to blow for a freekick and not play advantage. Inevitably the set piece was wasted and the visitors started to pressurise again – the ever lively Henry shooting over on the half hour mark. The home side were keeping themselves in the game though and following a freekick in the 34th minute which John Hamsher was unable to cause any problems with, the City midfielder atoned for his profligacy with a spectacular (albeit very fortunate) goal. Running down the right wing he sent in a high, dipping cross which the Bedfont Green keeper inexplicably caught and then dropped over the line. There was some dispute as to whether a goal would be given but the linesman was in no doubt.
At last City had the equaliser they had been working so hard to create, however it was shortlived. Three minutes later, just as both fans and players were wondering whether the home side could kick on and secure their third successive home win, Bedfont Green took advantage of their host’s lack of concentration and breeched City’s defence yet again, allowing Carl Henry the simplest of finishes to put his team ahead once more. The half finished with a chance for each side – a goalmouth scramble in the Guildford penalty area being eventually cleared and then moments later Aneel heading wide of goal after a good cross from Simon Sheppard.
Halftime was spent desperately trying to warm up – Chris benefiting from sub zero temperatures to sell two scarves. Meanwhile Lofty was giving me a bit of stick for rather an embarrassing incident I had been involved in the previous Saturday – I had finished my pint and tried to do a ‘Tom Cruise-esque’ juggle with the glass but unfortunately (in my slightly un-coordinated state) dropped it on the floor! To his credit though, Lofty was on his best behaviour during this match owing to the presence of children in the stand – true he sang all the same vulgar chants but altered key words to make them safe for younger listeners!!
So to the second half and, despite Chris’s typically optimistic prediction that Bedfont Green (having toyed with us in the first half to make the match seem like a contest) would step up a gear and pulverise us 8 or even 9-1, Guildford started the better side and remained so until the final whistle. The passing became slicker and more accurate and City started to cause their opponents real problems – the pick of the moves in the first five minutes saw a wonderful pin point ball put through to Sheppard who beat his man and won a corner which was cleared. In the 55th minute another great move saw a City defender, no less, bearing down on goal – unfortunately he opted to shoot straight at the keeper. Five minutes later, a City and Bedfont player collided heavily going for a 50:50 ball and both required treatment before the match could restart. To his credit, the referee kept his cards in his pocket. Guildford picked up where they left off at the restart and in the 69th minute more neat passing produced another good chance – John Hamsher shooting over after a neat lay-off from his team mate. The Peacocks must have realised at this point that victory was in no way a formality for them and they lifted their game, yet again pumping balls out to the lightning quick Henry on the wing. He really should have made it 3-1 in the 73rd minute but as with so many games recently, Smelt had other plans. In almost a carbon copy of a save he made against Colliers Wood, the City keeper dived at Henry’s feet to push the ball away before he could shoot into the open goal earning cheers of appreciation from the Guildford fans.
City were not going to let their opponents run at them again and resumed their assault on the Bedfont Green goal. The chance to grab a point arrived in the 79th minute – Loyza skilfully shaking off his marker to fire towards the bottom corner. Somehow Pearce got his fingertips to the ball to turn it wide but in doing so injured himself (we discovered afterwards he had probably broken a bone in his foot). Another stoppage occurred while he was stretchered off, and with no goalie on the bench, outfield player Paul Merritt took his keeper’s place between the sticks – Billy Sentence taking his place at right back. Any hopes the new keeper would not be up to the job were swiftly dashed – Merritt competently plucking an otherwise excellent cross from Simon Sheppard out of the air in the 86th minute prior to the Peacocks having their final chance of the game – Henry yet again breaking through but shooting over with Smelt well and truly beaten. A City corner in stoppage time was the final glint of a point from the encounter but it was punched well clear.
GUILDFORD CITY: J. Smelt; A. Arnold; M. Burns; J. Hamsher; C. Saundercock; M. Beard; A. Smillie; A. Vine; S. Sheppard (sub Nathan Parkinson, 89); J. Loyza; A. Azeem (sub L. Farquharson, 76)
Subs not used: R. O’Sullivan
BEDFONT GREEN: L. Pearce (sub B. Sentence, 83); P. Merritt; L. Grant; F. Moore; R. Sherwood; J. Bates; G. Hart (sub C. McClusky, 89); T. McCarthy; R. Miner; K. Cooper (sub A. Samuel, 83); C. Henry
Subs not used: C. White