CITY were given a much needed boost from this comfortable victory over Sussex County Division 1 opponents, St Francis Rangers. Having lost their first two games, not scored a goal and conceded 6 times to boot, Guildford really needed to reverse their fortunes in this match. And reverse them they did, After a well worked first goal courtesy of Adesina, and a period where St Francis appeared to be getting back into the match, City scored again shortly before the break thanks to Carnegie. The second half allowed the Surrey side to extend its lead through impressive strikes from Bridgeman and Arnold. Not even a sloppy consolation goal for St Francis in the last minute of the match dampened what was easily City’s best performance this season (but then again that is not saying much!)
After the nightmare which was Wednesday’s game – both on and off the pitch – the City committee convened on the Spectrum intent on ensuring as trouble free a game as possible. Chris resolutely walked the pitch checking for any holes whilst Tim and I repaired holes in the football nets and made sure everything was opened up. After a while a small trickle of people began to arrive, although no sign of any away fans. We soon discovered this was due to congestion on the M25 and as a result the referee decided to start the match ten minutes later.
The game kicked off and for the first 15 minutes or so the play was fairly even. Graham Tydeman tried his luck from the edge of the box but saw his shot curl well wide of the post whilst St Francis went a little closer from further out, the ball going just over the bar. In the 19th minute, after City had moved the ball around nicely but to very little effect, Rangers went on the attack, forcing new Guildford keeper Danny Burnett to come out of the box and try to claim the ball. He just avoided handballing but in the process the ball was knocked beyond him. Luckily Dan’s defenders were covering and the ball was cleared. The home side then went on the attack, winning a corner which Jack Turner could only fire into the mitts of St Francis goalie, Simon Lehkyj. City maintained their momentum however, Anthony Bridgeman delivering a good cross into the box in the 23rd minute. A minute later Harrison Carnegie, outpacing his markers as he would do all game, flicked the ball over the advancing goalkeeper but missed the goal. For once however, Guildford did capitalise on their moral advantage and in the 25th minute, Harrison was released down the left wing by some good play from Anthony Bridgeman. Knight then overlapped to pick up the return pass on the byline, firing a slide rule pass across the face of goal and onto the boot of Gabriel Adesina who needed just the tiniest nudge to put the ball over the line.
At last Guildford had scored their first goal of the season but any thoughts that the match would now be a walkover were swiftly dispelled as St Francis threw the proverbial kitchen sink at their opponents. Particularly impressive was their captain Chris Maynard whose vision in picking out his team mates was exceptional. Around the half hour mark, St Francis won two corners which were cleared before Rangers forged their best chance of the game so far. Again Maynard was at the heart of it as he tore down the left wing, received the ball and then sent in an inch perfect cross which curled past the defenders but was just too fast for the waiting forward. Back came the home side though, a freekick being won some 25 yards out but delivered a little too quick for Adesina.
Rangers responded immediately, Maynard again causing problems down the left wing but City’s defenders stood resolute, clearing everything that came their way. In fact they were able to initiate a counter attack in the 41st minute, the ball being hoofed down the pitch with lightning quick Carnegie in hot pursuit. With no defenders back to cover, Lehkyj had to come out and head the ball clear but it fell immediately to Harrison who turned, beat his man and fired the ball home from 10 yards out. Carnegie had another chance moments later but fouled a player in the box.
The whistle blew for halftime and for me it was time to track down the winner of the Golden Goal competition. In fact it turned out to be a guy called John, a member of the St Francis committee. I hope the cash was some consolation for his side’s exit from the FA Cup. Meanwhile Lofty, at his first game of the season, was providing his usual entertaining patter as he moaned about his latest doomed accumulator bet!! Oh yes and Matt H was using his lyrical abilities once again, this time to make light of St Francis’s David Dickenson-esque orange kit: “we are red, we are white, Rangers’ kit is very bright!” Not one of his best but I’m sure there will be more ‘gems’ as the season continues.
The game re-started with St Francis making a double substitution in an attempt to get back into the game – the left and right backs being replaced, by attacking players Whetstone and Canon. Unfortunately for them it was City who notched once again in the 53rd minute and it was pure Route 1. A long ball was lumped up to Anthony Bridgeman on the left wing and he tore unopposed into the box – the keeper resolutely refusing to come off his line. Bridge, who had choked at a few moments in the previous two games when goal-scoring opportunities presented themselves, made no mistake this time, bravely beating the keeper at his near post. The match seemed to be well and truly won at this point, although as Tim B remarked, that would be the case for any other club but City!!
There was still plenty of the match to go but Rangers were finally showing the strain. In the 66th minute, St Francis midfielder Phil Gault was extremely fortunate to stay on the pitch after cynically kicking Bridgeman in the stomach and then making some insulting comments. As it was he was shown a yellow card and then, as if spurred on, started to cause the home side problems, firing wide of goal in the 70th minute. The visitors were well and truly silenced however, when recent substitute Tony Arnold scored a blinder. City were on the attack in the 76th minute and the ball was cleared by the Rangers defenders only as far as Arnold, lurking some 20 yards out. Without missing a beat he fired the ball low and hard, straight back from where it had come, beating the keeper all ends up and into the bottom corner of the net. In the 83rd minute Harrison had a chance to increase the lead after another powerful run into the box, but his snapshot on the turn was gathered by the keeper.
Even by Guildford standards the game appeared to be won at this point but there was a twist in the tale for anyone who thought City might keep a clean sheet. Rangers were unlucky not to score in the 87th minute when Callum Canon fired a shot from inside the area which lived up to his name – cannoning off the post before being cleared to safety. They got it right in stoppage time however – a mix up between Burnett and Penson as to who would claim the ball, allowing the villain from earlier, Phil Gault, to steal in and slot home from close range. Adesina was then booked for dissent and moments later fired over the bar after once again being put through on goal.
GUILDFORD CITY: Danny Burnett; G. Tydeman; T. Chaplin (E. Defreitas, 77); T. Penson; J. Thoroughgood; J. King; J. Turner; B. Rayner (C. Knight, 55); G. Adesina; H. Carnegie; A. Bridgeman (T. Arnold, 74)
Subs not used: P. Gough; K. Tracey; L. Hirrel; L. Bradnick
Booked: G. Adesina
St FRANCIS RANGERS: S. Lehkyj; R. Turpin (P. Whetstone, 46); M. Boutal (C. Canon, 46); E. Butler; B. Palmer; M. Carruthers; C. Cook (G. Pitcher, 71); P. Gault; J. Weston; R. Harris; C. Maynard
Subs not used: M. Duke; M. Gainey; J. Baker
Booked: P. Gault
Referee: A. Farrelly