CITY finally halted a run of six defeats in a row with this well deserved draw against a lively Cove side. Indeed the visitors were very much holding on for much of the second half and on another day Guildford could have taken all the points. New manager Kevin Rayner will be pleased with a solid start to his management career at City and will hope his team can now start gathering the points they need to preserve their CCL status. For the home supporters there are encouraging signs that their club’s defence – horrendously porous this season having conceded the most in the league and with the worst goal difference – is looking better organised and more effective than at any point this term.
After the heartbreak of Wednesday’s incomprehensible 1-0 defeat, hopes were not high for City’s chances against a side placed 6th in the league. Nevertheless there was a good turnout for this game and the Sweeney were actually singing again which hasn’t been heard for a good few games. For me it was imperative that Guildford got something from the match as my other team, West Brom, had just been cruelly beaten by Everton. Having outplayed the Toffees for much of the game the Baggies had fallen foul of an offside goal and a typically superb finish from Saha out of nothing. It was impressive that Lofty was not in too triumphal a mood however when he arrived at the Spectrum.
It’s fair to say that Cove had the better of most of the first half – their pace up front causing problems for the City rearguard. To counter this, there were some tasty challenges going in and not surprisingly one of Guildford’s defenders, Graham Tydeman earned himself a booking in the 11th minute for a badly timed challenge. Three minutes later the visitors set up their first chance of the game after Tom Penson brought down one of their forwards and earned them a freekick on the edge of the box. Luckily for City the delivery was poor and the ball was cleared from danger. A minute later Jack Smelt, as always looking reliable between the sticks, held a close range shot comfortably. This balance of play continued for the next twenty minutes or so, although City’s back four seemed to be generally containing the waves of attacks coming at them from their opponents. In the 37th minute Ashley Childs, one of Cove’s strikers, had to be carried off the pitch for treatment after a heavy but not malicious challenge and was replaced by Guildford old boy, Rob Parrott and true to form, he began to test Guildford’s defence with his pace and skill.
Yet, as if a switch had been flicked somewhere, the home side started to grow in confidence. After comfortably dealing with a corner in the 39th minute they finally started to string together some decent passes and put their opponents under pressure. In the 41st minute, after some good play down the City right, Aneel Azeem sent a dangerous cross into the box which Bantom-Brown was not quite able to get to and then a minute from time Craig Moore had an excellent chance when a rebound fell fortunately into his path. However the City midfielder sent his shot over the bar. The half concluded with Bantom-Brown beating his man down the left wing and winning a corner which the home side were unfortunately unable to exploit.
Not surprisingly there were some positive noises being made during the break but as I had so disastrously done on Wednesday, no-one was talking about Guildford getting anything from the game just yet. With all the new faces on the pitch, the Sweeney were having some trouble working out which of their favourite players were still playing and which not – a situation not helped by the distance the stand is from the field of play. I had to tell them (tactfully) that although they had been giving sterling support to Joe Loyza during the whole of the first half, he was in fact now playing for Banstead 26 miles away!! Never mind, there were certainly new candidates for chants from among City’s ranks after this performance.
The second half kicked off and the visitors seemed determined to re-assert themselves on the home side. They came close to scoring after just a couple of minutes, breeching the City rearguard and one of their number firing a powerful drive which Jack Smelt could only push clear to Rob Parrott. The Cove midfielder then fired an equally powerful shot which was heading for the top corner before the Guildford custodian plucked it from the air. In the 53rd minute the home side forged a chance of their own, winning a freekick just outside the visitors penalty area but the delivery was cleared and Cove counter attacked through Rob Parrott. Rob did extremely well to ride several despairing challenges but was eventually dispossessed by Craig Moore who was doing extremely well to mop up some of the attacks. In the 58th minute the visitors came close again, an extremely dubious freekick being awarded to Cove near the City penalty area and the ball being curled delicately round the wall to the onrushing Matt Brunt. With the goal at his mercy he somehow poked the ball wide, much to the home fan’s relief. Their best chance came three minutes later after an uncharacteristic defensive mix up between Smelt and one of his defenders allowed a Cove forward to steal in fire a shot on goal. Somehow Smelt got his fingertips to the ball to deflect it across the face of goal where it bounced with no-one to stick it into the net before being cleared.
This was the last chance of note for the visitors for some time as once again that switch seemed to be thrown for City and they started to put their opponents on the back foot. In the 66th minute Chris Foster, the Cove keeper inexplicably spilled a routine ball, allowing Craig Moore to fire an impressive shot from the edge of the box which was put out for a corner. The set piece was delivered and once again the ball fell to Moore who fired a good effort inches wide of the far post. Six minutes later, after a double substitution by the visitors, City earned themselves a freekick near the byline and then a corner. The ball came in and was stabbed at goal, a Cove defender just managing to clear it off the line. Bantom-Brown then went through but the defenders had stepped up and he was caught offside. The Guildford striker had another chance in the 75th minute and surely should have scored after receiving the ball in the box, unfortunately his control was poor and the ball was cleared. The visitors finally got their act together and a minute later a fine raking ball found one of their players about ten yards out. He fired a powerful header at goal but it drifted well wide of the far post. Back came Guildford though and once again started to cause problems. Three minutes from the end came the chance of the game. A corner was won and a superb delivery found Craig Moore at the far post unmarked and with the goal at his mercy, yet somehow he headed wide.
Knowing City only too well there were many of us who were certain we would concede in the dying moments of the game and when Mitch While received the ball in the box in the second minute of stoppage time it seemed that moment had come. His shot was excellent but so was Jack Smelt and the Guildford keeper somehow held the tricky drive at his feet.
GUILDFORD CITY: J. Smelt; G. Tydeman; Elliott Massey; Tom Penson (sub Karl Popovich, 81); J. Thoroughgood; T. Chaplin; A. Azeem (sub R. O’Sullivan, 63); C. Moore; L. Bantom-Brown; S. Sheppard; D. Elgar (sub Paul Gough, 86)
Subs not used: T. Tydeman
COVE: C. Foster; T. McGarry; A. Millerick; K. During; M. Blount; D. Johnston; J. Milletti (sub M. Murrells, 68); A. Vine; A. Childs (sub R. Parrott, 37); M. While; M. Brunt (sub M. Barrett, 68)
Subs not used: None