GUILDFORD returned to winning ways in style with this comprehensive victory over table-topping North Greenford United. The home side matched their opponents completely in the first half before putting them to the sword in the second. Ben Rayner gave City the lead straight after the break with an easy finish after a nice move down the left wing. Simon Cooper then headed home a cross a few minutes later before Jack McLeod put the icing on the cake, firing into an open net after a goalkeeping error. A Ricky Pither header ignited hopes of a North Greenford recovery but the home side easily held on for the remainder of the game albeit with another stupid sending off – this time for Lance Banton-Brown. If a performance this good doesn’t get the crowds returning to City and backing our ground bid then nothing will!!
This was the first free home game ever tried by Guildford City and it was a resounding success. 162 people came to watch, 50 short of beating the record, but an encouraging sign that there is support for this club in Guildford. The match also marked the official launch of our ground bid and we were extremely pleased to see so many councillors and prospective Parliamentary candidates turning up and discussing our ideas. A long way to go yet but the initial signs are encouraging.
The first half of the game was a patchy affair with Guildford shading the possession but the visitors arguably having the better of what chances there were. Indeed the match could have gone in a totally different direction had a little bit of luck not been on City’s side in the 3rd minute. A United forward beat the offside trap and advanced on the City goal. Antony Hall was quick off his line but his attempted clearance cannoned back off the North Greenford player and span inches wide of the post. The game quickly settled down after this and both midfields worked hard to restrict service to the strikers. On the quarter hour mark Guildford won a freekick which was curled just beyond the heads of several players in the United box and then moments later an excellent pass found Carnegie who could only shoot straight at the keeper. The visitors responded in kind but a long range shot was so wayward it went out for a throw in and in the 19th minute midfielder Michael Murray half volleyed a shot well over the bar.
The home side were starting to look comfortable in midfield and, if nothing else, anyone new to Guildford City could see the quality of the passing and movement of Kevin Rayner’s side. In the 22nd minute a clever backheel by Carnegie found Danny Elgar whose shot caught a defender and was deflected into the keeper’s mitts. A minute later Elgar did a little better, forcing United keeper Jallow into a superb reflex save from a freekick – the ball being pushed over the bar. More Guildford possession ensued but with very little end product until Jack McLeod was released in the 32nd minute – the City striker was one-on-one with the keeper but opted to cross the ball to the far post instead of shooting – with no-one there the ball went out of play.
Back came United – an excellent cross being forced behind for a corner. The set piece was cleared but the ball returned to the Guildford area – ping-ponging about until it was cleared for a throw-in. The pendulum swung back in favour of the home side however and in the 37th minute Jack McLeod was put through again – this time United’s defence back-tracked quickly and managed to dispossess him. The final chance of the half fell to the Guildford striker in the 42nd minute – a good shot being held by Jallow.
The game was evenly poised and it appeared this match would only be decided by a single goal. My pre match prediction of a high scoring draw seemed extremely unlikely but how different the second half was from the first. Guildford started brightly again and, with many fans still in the clubhouse, they pulled ahead just two minutes after the break. An excellent run down the left wing resulted in the ball being crossed from the byline into the path of Ben Rayner. The City midfielder made no mistake firing into the roof of the net with Jallow completely wrong-footed. The home side definitely had the bit between their teeth and more chances followed – a great cross from Rayner flying just wide of the far post in the 53rd minute.
The second goal followed soon after, an excellent cross being swung in and finding the head of Simon Cooper who rose above the crowded penalty area to nod the ball home at the far post. City were completely dominating by this point and a deft flick into the box led to a shot being held at point blank range by the United keeper. North Greenford began to commit more players up front and in the 62nd minute Jack McLeod, finally with his shooting boots on, took full advantage. The ball was punted hopefully up the pitch with McLeod in quick pursuit and Jallow advancing to meet it from the other end. McLeod got there just in time, beat the keeper, stumbled and then slotted home just before a defender could tackle him. It was a scrappy goal but it all but sealed the match for City.
Or did it? Because just two minutes later, North Greenford pulled a goal back, heading home from extreme close range at the far post after an Alf Patterson cross. Suddenly pulses quickened and the spectre of East Preston began to hover over the Spectrum. United went for broke with a double substitution and we feared the Guildford penalty area would be like the Alamo. We needn’t have worried however as City did not sit back and started forging more chances. In the 67th minute Carnegie demonstrated superb skill in the box to beat his marker and then pass to Rayner who blazed over. Three minutes later Hall was fortunate to escape after spilling a cross but the ball was immediately cleared up field to Jack McLeod whose shot was saved and then hurriedly cleared.
The visitors continued to strive to reduce the deficit and tempers were starting to get frayed: Hall and a Greenford striker facing off in the 81st minute, luckily without incident. A minute later the visitors won a freekick in a dangerous position, the resulting delivery flying like a missile a foot wide of the far post and thumping into the discus net behind the goal. More pressure followed and United won 2 corners in succession, the City goalkeeper catching a routine header on the line from the second before the home side finally cleared their lines – James Brown curling a delightful shot which was only just saved by Jallow.
The final minutes of the match were eventful. First United went extremely close – a cross missing the head of a completely unmarked Dave Lawrence by millimetres – and then seemingly out of nothing Lance Banton-Brown was sent off for swearing at the referee. We had no idea how much time was left and things could have got extremely tense had Ryan Welsh’s powerful drive not been superbly saved by Hall in the 93rd minute. As it was though, City held on to record another famous victory – let’s hope we have a few more down to support us in the weeks to come.
GUILDFORD CITY: A. Hall; E. Defreitas; T. Penson; S. Cooper; J. Thoroughgood; J. King; J. Brown; B. Rayner (A. Bridgeman, 88); J. McLeod; H. Carnegie (L. Banton-Brown, 87); D. Elgar
Subs not used: C. Knight; T. Arnold; L. Bradnick
Booked: E. Defreitas
Sent off: L. Banton-Brown
NORTH GREENFORD UTD: G. Jallow; S. Hillier; A. Patterson; N. Turner; C. Meddes (K. McKenna, 65); M. Murray (J. Sparrowhawk, 65); A. DeLisser; C. Hibbs; R. Pither; D. Lawrence; R. Welsh
Subs not used: A. Mahmoud
Booked/sent off: None
Referee: W. Davis