GUILDFORD’S chances of avoiding relegation into CCL Division One were looking worryingly slim after this lacklustre performance against fellow strugglers Bedfont. With the Middlesex side sitting in the relegation zone and a point worse off than City, a win would have given the home side a 4 point buffer zone over their opponents with just two games for Bedfont to play. Even a draw would have left City in the driving seat. As it was, the Surrey side didn’t even wake up until in the second half when they were already a goal down, courtesy of a well taken Justin Bailey strike in the 3rd minute. As so often in the last couple of months, whilst Guildford had plenty of possession, there was no-one to finish off the chances. Oh how we missed Joel Greaves today.
Compare this gloomy predicament with the start of the game where a heady sense of euphoria and optimism was being felt by pretty much all Guildford’s fans. One of our biggest contingents of students came down – including Dave Sendall, all the way from Cambridge! – and with them came a killer whale (inflated I should add – poaching of orcas from our oceans is illegal, apparently) which they proceeded to tie to the railings and chant ‘whales, whales’. No they had not gone insane (many of them already are to be fair!), they were responding to a thread on the Fans Focus message board which accused them of being soap dodging students who couldn’t be bothered to go out and get jobs and who just wanted to save the whales!!
There was barely time for the fans to settle in their seats before Bedfont had gone ahead. A good pass found striker Justin Bailey in acres of space and he advanced rapidly on the City goal with defenders frantically trying to get near him. Aware of the danger of being crowded out he took his shot quickly, beat Jack Smelt and the ball rolled into the back of the net. This was not how we had hoped the game might start but accustomed to Guildford recovering from far bigger deficits, we remained optimistic that the home side could get back into the game. City proceeded to pick up the pace but could not breach Bedfont’s solid back line. Moments after the goal, a weak Lance Bantom-Brown header was plucked to safety by keeper Justin Thomas, and then in the 17th minute a freekick in an excellent position for City was totally wasted when the player tried to roll it into the box rather than loft it. Minutes later another freekick was wasted, Elgar firing a curling effort into the keeper’s hands before Bedfont counter-attacked and could have scored had right back Alex Headland’s effort been better directed.
The home side continued to squander opportunities, Lance being the offender in the 25th minute when an excellent cross from Graham Tydeman found him between two defenders and with the opportunity to threaten the goal. Unfortunately his first touch was poor and the ball was cleared. A minute later Bedfont’s keeper made the first of several catastrophic errors, spilling the ball with Carnegie lurking, but the City forward could not quite keep the ball in play. The home side continued to toil away with very little end product. On the half hour mark, Lance, ever diligent up front, charged down a clearance and sent Harrison clear down the right wing. The City forward sent in a perfect cross onto the head of Corey Knight but it caught the left back by surprise and Corey headed the ball well over the bar.
Still Guildford pressed, winning a freekick after Bedfont fullback Ray Walsh barged Simon Sheppard off the ball (but somehow avoided a yellow card). The kick was well taken but caught Harrison offside. In the 34th minute another corner was won by City but yet again it didn’t clear the first defender, was itself cleared and allowed Bedfont to go on the counter-attack, an impressive flick finding Omar Bakali unopposed in the box but luckily Smelt was on hand to slide in and claim the ball before a shot could be taken. The remainder of the half continued on a similar theme – a header from Simon Sheppard going over the bar in the 36th minute after some good work from Harrison and minutes later another freekick in a promising position being comprehensively wasted – in effect passed to the opposition defence. The final five minutes saw a flurry of chances for the home side but inevitably and not surprisingly not one of them stuck – Carnegie shooting wide in the 40th minute from the edge of the box after a great run and then a few minutes later almost chipping the keeper but the ball being cleared by a back tracking defender. The half concluded with a terrible corner from Bedfont which went behind and another half chance for Harrison after a great cross field ball.
Despite City’s pedigree of coming back from deficits, there seemed a particularly forbidding feel to Guildford’s chances when the half time whistle blew. Many fans felt the side had not grasped the importance of the game and had been caught napping by a fired up Bedfont side with a new manager to impress. Still, there was time for the home side to put things right in the second half and for the Brian the kitman to discover he had managed to win the Golden Goal competition for the second time in the space of a month!!
The match picked up where the second half left off but with increasingly little to suggest that Guildford could get anything. Tommy Tydeman sounded a warning bell when he appeared to badly foul a Bedfont player and received a ticking off from the referee but no card…. yet. In the 53rd minute Guildford were fortunate to clear the ball after a goalmouth scramble but then went on the attack, the move culminating in Harrison firing over the bar with a snapshot from the edge of the box. A minute later Jamie King did exceptionally well to chase down a ball and put Lance through down the left wing. His cross was excellent, curling past the defenders but none of the City players in the box could connect with it. In the 57th minute Sheppard beautifully dummied a pass, allowing Harrison to latch onto the free ball and cross into the box, winning a corner from which Jamie Thoroughgood headed over. Bedfont then went on a rare attack, a raking long ball finding one of their wingers and the ball being headed straight into Jack’s mitts. Back came City though, Lance once again tearing down the left wing and winning a freekick which was, needless to say, squandered once again. In fact Lance came in for a lot of attention from the Bedfont defence during this part of the game, suffering two more fouls, the second of which we all believed should have resulted in the player being sent off as the last defender. The referee however had other ideas and the freekick on the edge of the area hit the wall and was cleared.
You can imagine the frustration levels in the stands at this point as we prayed to any deity we could think of to help us out. The stroke of luck nearly arrived in the 70th minute when the Bedfont keeper came for a freekick, taken from near the halfway line, missed it and the ball rolled inches wide of the post. A minute later he had to be on his toes to claim a decent header from Sheppard after another good cross from Lance. At the other end, Bedfont won a freekick near the byline after Tommy Tydeman brought down a player with a reckless challenge and earned himself a yellow card – the ball being easily cleared by the City defence. The play returned to the other end of the pitch and in the 75th minute the chance of the game arrived for City to level the scores, a well flighted ball being crossed into the box and met by the head of a City player. The ball flew towards the top corner but somehow Thomas pawed it to safety with his outstretched hand. Moments later Guildford nearly suffered their own goal keeping calamity when a back pass to Smelt was missed by the normally excellent keeper and intercepted by Bailey on the byline. Luckily for Guildford the angle was too extreme for him to do anything more than roll the ball across the face of goal and it was cleared. At the other end Simon Sheppard chipped the ball just over the bar from the edge of the box.
The match seemed to be heading inexorably towards a Bedfont victory and in a final throw of the dice, Kevin Rayner brought off Carnegie and Sheppard for Aneel Azeem and Steve Knight. Far from bringing new options however, this only served to remove City’s two paciest players and the chances seemed to dry up. Yet another good chance in the 85th minute was passed up through perhaps the worst freekick of the game (and that is saying something). As if things couldn’t get any worse, Tommy Tydeman then did what he had been threatening to do for the whole match (and indeed every match he plays in) and got a straight red card for throwing the ball at a player who had fouled him. Tommy has now earned himself the dubious distinction of being sent off in two successive home games and three times in just 12 games. He is an excellent defender but will be considered too much of a liability by most managers if he cannot keep his temper in check. This was pretty much the last action of the game and the referee blew his whistle to huge cheers from the Bedfont fans.
So are City doomed? You would have to say ‘probably’ after this performance. They now need to pick up at least a point against high flying North Greenford on Wednesday and hope to win both remaining games against Hartley Wintney and Ash United – both away. Bedfont face two tricky remaining games against Molesey and league champions, and bitter local rivals, Bedfont Green but safety is now very much theirs for the taking, especially given Guildford’s awful goal difference. One chink of light was Chessington’s defeat against Cove but they still have two games in hand over City despite being level on points. It’s going to be an extremely nail-biting last three games – let’s hope against all the odds that this saga has a happy ending.
GUILDFORD CITY: J. Smelt; G. Tydeman (sub E. Massey, 45); C. Knight; T. Tydeman; J. Thoroughgood; T. Penson; S. Sheppard (sub A. Azeem, 84); J. King; L. Banton-Brown; H. Carnegie (sub S. Knight, 81); D. Elgar
Subs not used: C. Moore; P. Gough
BEDFONT: T. Thomas; A. Headland (sub M. Ferran, 69); R. Walsh; J. White; M. Walker; S. Potter; O. Bakali (sub J. Mngodi, 61); S. O’Brien; J. Bailey; L. Craig (sub J. Nelson, 87); R. Bond
Subs not used: None