GUILDFORD City progressed to the First Qualifying Round of the FA Cup in style with this convincing win over Ryman League Division One outfit, Ramsgate. Dismissed as easy opponents before the match, Guildford proved too strong for the visitors as again and again they got behind Ramsgate’s defenders. The excellent Anthony Bridgeman made it 1-0 within 10 minutes and Jamie King extended the lead half way through the first half, smashing home a rebound after a training ground freekick. Any worries that Ramsgate would come out all guns blazing in the second half were quickly dispelled when Bridgeman fired a spectacular third goal soon after the re-start. City then weathered some last minute pressure as the Rams snatched a consolation goal late on.
The City committee were anticipating another busy day and so it proved – 110 people coming through the gates in all. The Ramsgate fans by and large were a good natured lot and they certainly enjoyed drinking our beer and watching Sky Sports news!! A few of the older supporters were reminiscing about previous meetings with Guildford City in the Southern League and they were mostly sympathetic about our lack of a ground to call our own.
We had all anticipated a tough game and the very real possibility that City, having struggled against some of the CCL sides already this season, would succumb 3 or 4 nil. Yet from the very start this never seemed like a possibility. Within minutes of the start Harrison Carnegie had shredded his marker down the right wing, got to the byline and fired a curling cross, just missing two out-stretched City heads. Ramsgate responded but Anthony Hall was alive to a counter-attack in the 7th minute which caught out the Guildford defenders and he swiftly headed the ball to safety. A minute later City were ahead – Carnegie once again firing in an excellent cross which Anthony Bridgeman headed home. “Oh dear”, I remarked to Matt H, “now we do have something to lose!”
The visitors did not step up their game noticeably though – a freekick in the 10th minute being well cleared by the home side – and pretty soon they were forced to defend again, first Bridgeman and then Carnegie trying their luck from the edge of the box. It was another lightning quick run from Bridgeman which led to the second goal. The City winger was brought down near the edge of the penalty area and Harrison, instead of lofting the ball into the mixer or trying his luck, fired a daisy-cutter to the far post, catching out the Rams’ defence. The keeper belatedly tried to smother the ball but it bounced free allowing Jamie King to fire home from close range. The visitors were clearly rocked by this second setback and they promptly carried out a double substitution.
For a short while this gave the visitors some initiative and the Rams started to create more chances. On the half hour mark, Ben Rayner had to be fully alert to head a dangerous cross into touch. The resulting corner caused pandemonium in the City area as Hall punched the ball into the air only to see a Ramsgate player impressively (and accurately) bicycle-kick the ball back. Luckily a defender instinctively headed the ball off the line and before any more danger could be posed, Guildford had won a freekick. The Rams’ chance to get back into the game had passed and the match fizzled out a little for the final 15 minutes – the only highlights being an impressive punched clearance from Hall and an injury to Bridgeman, although the Guildford player was back on the pitch within a few minutes.
None of us were getting the champagne out quite yet, as the whistle blew for halftime. All of us predicted a fightback from the Rams and some nailbiting in the second half. Much time was spent trying to sort out the many chores and deal with some troublesome youngsters. “Tell my kids to get OFF the running track!” ordered an exhausted Ramsgate mum, “they won’t listen to me”. Matt Brown dutifully went to remonstrate with the little tykes and after some gentle persuasion (ie your team will be kicked out of the competition if you don’t go back to the stand) they duly complied. Elsewhere we were dealing with an unprecedented demand for badges from a big group of ground-hoppers who also stayed in the clubhouse and drank our beer so no complaints from us!!
The nerves were jangling as the whistle blew for the second half – 2-0 being a notoriously easy lead to lose. And although we would not have minded a trip to Ramsgate on a sunny Bank Holiday Monday , a trip to Bookham with a place in the next round seemed much more enticing. Ramsgate did indeed have the first of the chances, winning a freekick which they pumped into the City penalty area. As so often in this match though, they didn’t use their height advantage and the ball was cleared. Gabriel Adesina then made two good runs but could not notch an effort on goal. With the game appearing to peter out into stalemate, however, Anthony Bridgeman then produced a moment of magic. Running down the right wing and with nothing on, he checked inside and fired an unstoppable drive from at least 25 yards out, into the top corner of the net. No keeper could have saved a shot like that and suddenly City could look at closing the match out with real confidence.
The next twenty minutes or so belonged to the visitors as, awake from their lethargy, they realised a lot of goals needed to be scored to avoid an ignominious dumping out of the FA Cup. Yet their composure in front of goal was woeful to say the least. On the hour mark one of the Ramsgate forwards ran on to a through ball and looked certain to test Hall, his shot however went well wide. Ten minutes later came another good spell of pressure for the Rams, however yet again their shooting boots were not on and the ball was blazed over. Midfielder Liam Quinn went a little closer in the 71st minute, however, his shot curling just wide of the mark. At last City came back into the game, winning a freekick in a dangerous position in the 77th minute, but the ball whistled past the far post.
The match was going nowhere and tempers were beginning to fray : City players started to pick up yellow cards for stupid offences and the Ramsgate midfielder Gary Lockyer got sent off in the 77th minute for what looked like a terrible (and pointless) challenge on Jamie Thoroughgood. The Rams dug in however and finally got their goal – Anthony Hall miscalculating and missing a corner, allowing Quinn an easy finish at the far post. The home side still had a two goal cushion but we started to get a little nervous as Ramsgate threw everything at Guildford. Luckily the defence stood firm and an attempted lob and a powerful freekick did not trouble Hall. At the other end Adesina really should have scored in the final minute but with only the keeper to beat, he panicked and his shot went well wide.
So Guildford’s FA Cup challenge marches improbably on. Next up is another home tie on 12 September, this time against East Preston – lets hope City can match this performance.
GUILDFORD CITY: A. Hall; G. Tydeman (T. Arnold, 57); T. Chaplin; T. Penson; J. Thoroughgood; J. King; A. Bridgeman (Sean Rivers, 61); B. Rayner (L. Hirrel, 81); G. Adesina; H. Carnegie; C. Knight
Subs not used: J. Turner; P. Gough; L. Bradnick; D. Burnett
Booked: A Hall; T Penson; J. King; B. Rayner; T. Arnold; L. Hirrel
RAMSGATE: S. Mott; A. Hadden; D. Powell (O. Gray, 28); J. Dolby (T. Tsangarides, 28); W. Graham; B. Laslett; L. Quinn; W. Schulz; G. Mickleborough; J. Gregory; R. Lawson (G. Lockyer, 55)
Subs not used: C. Winnett; B. Brown; B. Mills; S. Pettit
Booked: J. Dolby; T. Tsangarides
Sent off: G. Lockyer
Referee: L. Forrester