GUILDFORD experienced a taste of their own medicine in this hugely disappointing encounter against fellow strugglers Wembley. Having deservedly taken the lead, albeit slightly fortuitously, after a comedy own goal from the Lions’ keeper, City made the same mistake as Molesey did on Wednesday and tried to defend their lead, allowing the home side to dominate possession. It was super-sub Oliver Lyons who made the breakthrough firing home after a contentious corner and then sealing the home side’s comeback with a fabulous strike from 25 yards.
Thoughts of defeat were a long way from our minds however as we confidently set off from Guildford. I had been talked into driving and my little Renault Clio was literally busting at the seams as I picked up Lofty, Mr Pegman; and students Dave and Joe. With England playing later in the afternoon, traffic was particularly bad and we had to spend at least half an hour in queues on the North Circular – Lofty getting cabin fever (and beer withdrawal symptoms) by the second and being glad of the calming music I put on the stereo to take his mind off things! Eventually we arrived, parked up and went for a drink in local pub the Swan before heading to the Wembley clubhouse.
There was a good contingent of City fans at Vale Farm although Paul and Moaning Tone, our secretaries had not been able to make it for a variety of reasons. “The Sweeney” gathered at the end of the pitch, unfurled a flag and tried to generate the noise to cheer Guildford to yet another victory.
The omens were not good even before kick off as one look at the team sheet revealed City were short of several key players. Lance Banton-Brown was nursing an injury from Wednesday night’s game, influential defender Tommy Tydeman was serving his suspension from the sending off against Chessington and Hook and the hero of the Molesey game, Joel Greaves, was playing for Holmesdale, the team for which he is dually registered with City. Luckily he will be available to play for the remainder of this season’s games.
The first ten minutes definitely belonged to the Lions as they started the game positively and put their opponents on the back foot. In the 5th minute Stephane Forbes beat the offside trap and found himself through on goal but with only Smelt to beat he spectacularly sent his shot into orbit. Two minutes later Jumo Mitchell was the offender, heading over the bar when completely unmarked. Guildford finally recovered and created their first effort on goal in the 10th minute – Danny Elgar scuffing a shot wide of the post from the edge of the box. A good move by the visitors saw another chance but Tom Penson could only fire weakly at the keeper. Back came the home side and in the 17th minute they had another chance – Jack Smelt pulling off one of his trademark saves to prevent Wembley taking the lead at the cost of a corner. Yet again a Lions player found himself free in the box as the ball came in but yet again the ball was headed over the bar. On the balance of play it was fair to say Wembley deserved to be ahead and even when City got the ball they were caught offside time and again by the Lions’ well marshalled defence. The half concluded with chances for both sides – Wembley contriving to miss a sitter in the 35th minute after a mix up between forwards while at the other end Tony Chaplin really should have done better with a free header from the 6 yard box a minute from the halftime whistle.
This was not what you would term ‘champagne football’ and to make matters worse the heavens now opened, bombarding the spectators almost horizontally with hailstones. The ref clearly decided where he would rather be, blowing the whistle having played no stoppage time and we all dashed for cover in the clubhouse. Committee members were treated to some excellent hospitality by the Wembley officials and we were able to have a look at some very interesting pieces of memorabilia on the walls. Most interesting were the signed football shirts – no doubt donated by sides visiting the national stadium nearby. The collection included German, Irish and English shirts from the 60s signed by players such as Danny Blanchflower and Jimmy Greaves. The German team had apparently trained at Vale Farm prior to playing England at some point in the seventies and had insisted on only training near the corner flags to save wear and tear on the pitch. Surprisingly for a side traditionally built more on Teutonic efficiency and organisation than flair, someone saw the players keep the ball from touching the ground for minutes on end. Another surprise was to see that legendary Manchester City coach Malcolm Allison had begun his managerial career at the Middlesex side.
The weather soon eased off and the match restarted with Guildford making a good start. In the 48th minute City won a corner but were unable to capitalise before losing possession – the Lions then counter-attacked and it took another good save from Smelt to prevent the home side going ahead. A minute later though it was the City fans who were celebrating after a Wembley defender inexplicably ducked under a corner delivery and caught his keeper Berkley Lawrencin by surprise. The ball hit the back of the shot-stopper’s leg and rolled into the net. Now Guildford had the initiative and the more optimistic among us were predicting yet another win which would lift City almost out of harm’s way. Yet uncharacteristically instead of pushing for the goal to kill the match off, Guildford started to defend deep in their half, allowing their opponents to run at them and their penalty area began to resemble the Alamo. A rare attacking move in the 54th minute saw Tom Penson go through on goal but his shot was comfortably gathered by the keeper. At the other end Jack Smelt was being kept busy, punching clear from a dangerous corner in the 61st minute, being left helpless minutes later after a good cross from the byline was sent just wide of his far post and then bravely gathering the ball after another breach of the Guildford back line by Wembley. The pressure did not let up and four minutes later the Lions really should have scored after Guildford desperately saved a shot off the line, conceded a corner and then somehow cleared a bullet header off the line – ‘that’s why you always put someone on the far post’ commented a clearly relieved Eddie. The chances kept coming though with Wbomir Guentchen firing just wide from the edge of the box moments later before Mitchell had a good effort well held by Jack Smelt. It is telling that Guildford’s final chance of the game came as early as the 76th minute – a spectacular long range effort from Harrison Carnegie just being held by Lawrencin.
It was Wembley’s substitutes which were to make the difference as the minutes ticked away and City’s hold on the game became ever weaker. First Kwame Sarpong rampaged down the visitor’s left wing in the 85th minute and looked to be going through but a superbly timed last ditch tackle from Corey Knight put the ball out for a corner which was eventually cleared. Two minutes later the ref controversially awarded another corner when most City fans believed it should have been a goalkick. There was confusion however in the box before the it was taken and the ref seemed to have awarded a penalty after booking Simeone for jostling his opponent. To our great relief he had in fact only asked for the corner to be retaken but this was short-lived as powerful forward Oliver Lyons latched onto the delivery and drove the ball into the back of the net. Just as we were adjusting to the possibility of not taking all the points Lyons struck again powering unopposed to the edge of the box before unleashing a drive which was a goal as soon as he struck it. The delivery dipped and swerved giving Jack Smelt no chance. City desperately poured forward in the closing minutes and won a corner but could not capitalise before the final whistle blew.
This match must serve as a wake up call that Guildford still have a lot to do before they can feel confident of their survival this season. Let’s hope we can get back to winning ways on Tuesday.
WEMBLEY: B. Lawrencin; J. Dalton-Brown; M. Black (sub S. Debbagh, 81); R. Manuwa; A. Rouse; K. Hale; I. Bates; A. Ewerse (sub O. Lyons, 85); S. Forbes (sub K. Sarpong, 73); W. Guentchen; J. Mitchell
Subs not used: O. Debbagh; E. Kuniqi
Booked: A. Simeone
GUILDFORD CITY: J. Smelt; E. Massey; C. Knight; G. Tydeman; J. Thoroughgood; J. King; P. Gough (sub S. Knight, 72); T. Chaplin; T. Penson (sub A. Simeone, 81); H. Carnegie; D. Elgar (sub A. Azeem, 67)
Subs not used: R. Wilson