AFTER the travesty of justice at Badshot Lea, City fans were hoping their team would get back to winning ways against a team in the lower reaches of midtable whom Guildford had already beaten twice this season. Sadly yet again City were the victims of a frankly puzzling refereeing decision to give a penalty when no-one appeared to have set foot in the penalty area for at least five minutes! The tragedy was City had been the better team up until the decision and but for the skill of the keeper and a slice of luck for the visitors should have been at least 1-0 up.
To add to the drama on the pitch, one look at the teamsheet for this match revealed that City were about to experience yet another change of regime. Although it hadn’t been announced at the time, the management team of Dave Tidy, Lee Passmore and John Hamsher had decided to call it a day and had suggested the current reserve team manager at Croydon Athletic, Kevin Rayner as a replacement. Consequently, whilst Dave Tidy was nominally still in charge, there were a host of new names on the pitch and subs bench which suggested Kevin was already getting to work. There was drama on the sound system too – or more accurately a complete lack of sound! Matt H and I finally managed to get it crackling into life but it was far from perfect. Never mind, maybe The Spectrum will get a brand spanking new system next year….
The game kicked off and the opening exchanges set the tone for the rest of the half as first City wasted a good chance to score, shooting wide of the post in the 3rd minute and then 5 minutes later Egham did the same as Michael Burton, their pacey number 9, beat the offside trap and let loose a powerful shot which Jack Smelt did well to turn round the post for a corner. The resulting set piece led to a scramble in the box but fortunately for City the ball was eventually cleared. The home side responded and Craig Moore should perhaps have done better, shooting well over from distance in the 14th minute when holding the ball up may have been a better option. Whilst City were forging some half chances, the visitors always threatened with their pace up front and in the 22nd minute Smelt had to be quick on his toes to gather the ball from the feet of the advancing Jamie Houghton. Eight minutes later the Sarnies threatened again, this time it was Kian Siabi whose shot was saved from the edge of the box after Guildford carelessly gave away possession. Back came the home side though and on the half hour mark Tony Chaplin was brought down on the edge of the box to earn the home side a corner. Unfortunately the delivery was poor and although it was hooked back into the box, the ball was easily cleared by the Egham rearguard. The remainder of the half was too tight to call with neither side quite able to break the deadlock and Egham in particular caught offside on a number of occasions. The match went into the break at 0-0.
Even though The Sarnies had probably just edged the first half, this seemed a promising start for City’s new management team and there were appreciative voices raised at halftime for some of the new faces on the pitch – in particular Danny Elgar, the left sided-midfielder who seemed to have similar attributes to Aneel Azeem in terms of taking on and beating players. Having stood with Matt and Sir Lagerlot on the balcony for the first half thinking no-one else was about I suddenly espied Mr Pegman sitting on his own at the back of the stand. He may have been trying to avoid us (in fact he probably was) but we all decided it would be best to give him the benefit of our company in the second half. Although he looked quite grumpy at the thought I could tell he was secretly thrilled!!
The second half kicked off and suddenly City were all over the visitors, having found an extra gear from somewhere. Five minutes from the restart a sublime cross was put into the Egham box with Joe Loyza not quite able to get his head to it. The Sarnies responded however and a minute later had a good chance of their own, going one on one with the advancing Smelt. As usual the City keeper was calmness personified and advanced out causing the Egham forward to shoot wide. The visitors won a freekick moments later which was headed over. Guildford started to get back into their stride after this however, winning a freekick near the byline in the 65th minute. Whilst the delivery was good, no-one could get on the end of it and the shot was eventually hooked over the bar after a scramble in the penalty area. A minute later City were on the attack again, another perfect cross being delivered from the left wing and Clarke Gooding being forced to pull off a top drawer save from a Joe Loyza effort at the far post. Egham went on the offensive immediately, Anthony Oaks tearing down their right wing and shooting over from distance under pressure from Guildford debutant Jamie Thoroughgood before Burton again went through on goal and shot wide when he should at least have got the ball on target. Once again the match swung in favour of Guildford though as the home side went on the attack, an impressive 70 yard ball finding Elgar on the wing but the move eventually broke down. “That lad is ‘conducting’ himself well”, joked Chris Pegman to a slightly perplexed audience!
An impartial observer would have backed Guildford to score and possibly win the game on the balance of play in the 2nd half. As so often happens, disaster followed quickly on the heels of potential triumph. In the 77th minute City won a corner which was superbly delivered into the box, beating the Egham keeper and smacking against the crossbar before falling to Elgar whose shot was just cleared off the line. That was the chance of the game but it still seemed likely Guildford would get a well deserved point for their efforts. With barely 10 minutes to go, an innocuous ball found Simon Sheppard on the edge of the centre circle, under pressure all he could do was propel the ball towards the touchline, some 20 feet from the cornerflag for a throw in to the visitors. The Egham player took the throw in but the referee blew up after looking at the linesman who was holding his flag across his chest. ‘Foul throw’ I thought, my knowledge of flag gestures not being particularly good. But no the referee pointed to the penalty spot. None of us had even seen anyone set foot in the area, much less bring anyone down but the penalty stood and Charlie Muldowney stepped up to fire the home side into a lead which they barely deserved. Afterwards it was confirmed that some pushing and shirt pulling might have happened on the edge of the area but the decision seemed particularly harsh and totally incomprehensible. To make matters worse I had been complementing the linesman involved for most of the second half: ‘he’s getting every decision right’ I gushed earlier in the game. Knowing the power of tempting fate Chris had tried to silence me immediately but to no avail. Oh how I wish I had kept my mouth shut.
There was little more to do but watch the clock run down as City, their morale once again in tatters tried without success to get themselves a point. As with so many sides on the downward slope, we have not had the rub of the green recently. Let’s hope the worm turns against Cove on Saturday.
GUILDFORD CITY: J. Smelt; S. Sheppard; A. Arnold; Tommy Tydeman; Jamie Thoroughgood; Tony Chaplin (sub Graham Tydeman, 74); R. O’Sullivan (sub Neil Parkinson, 78); C. Moore; Lance Bantom-Brown; J. Loyza; Danny Elgar (sub Nathan Parkinson, 90)
Subs not used: A. Vine; A. Azeem
EGHAM TOWN: C. Gooding; A. Oaks; J. Galbraith; T. Martin; T. Bentley; W. Noad; J. Houghton (sub M. Graves, 56); K. Andrews; M. Burton (sub C. Muldowney, 76); K. Siabi; A. Foulser
Subs not used: J. Taylor; P. Bartholomew