GUILDFORD bowed out of the EL Records Premier Challenge Cup with this disappointing performance against Horley. The Clarets took the lead courtesy of some poor goalkeeping and managed to contain City effectively for the remainder of the half. Things got worse when a freekick took a wicked deflection and nestled in the back of the net and the match was all but won with 20 minutes to go – John Eldred pouncing to capitalise on more poor handling in the box. The Guildfordians responded immediately from a Cory Knight shot but a Danny Elgar spotkick was saved. A further stonewall penalty appeal was waved away before Cooper fired home in stoppage time, but it was not enough to take the tie to extra time.
After the euphoric victory against North Greenford on Saturday, hopes were high that City could win this tie and keep themselves in the hunt for the only realistic silverware available this season. Lining up against them however were Horley, a side City had drawn with 4 times out of the last 5, and lost to 5-2 in the league cup last season. Extra time and possibly penalties seemed a real possibility.
Guildford’s confidence was quickly dispelled as the home side made an excellent start to the game. A Horley shot flew wide of the post in the 1st minute and Antony Hall had to be quick on his feet to hold a Michael Smith shot a few minutes later. City’s first attack saw Horley keeper Stewart Devlin smother the ball during a goalmouth scramble but they could not prevent the Clarets taking the lead in the 13th minute. Simon Cooper brought down Jamie Risebrow when the home side were on the break, earning a yellow card for his troubles. A innocuous delivery was dropped into the box which Antony Hall seemed certain to catch but he fumbled it and midfielder Clive Piller was on hand to smartly head the loose ball home. You could see the confidence surging into the Clarets and they promptly went on another attack but Hall was able to hold onto Adam Pullen’s attempted lob.
The match settled down a little with Horley’s reliable and physically robust defenders soaking up pretty much everything Guildford could throw at them. A City freekick in the 23rd minute offered a chance to test Devlin and Simon Cooper’s low shot had to be cleared off the line. However Horley were not in the mood to defend their lead and continued to take pot shots from outside the area – an Anthony Jupp lob beating Hall but just clearing the bar and a freekick being saved at the second attempt. At the other end, City were struggling to carve out any clear cut openings. Simon Cooper tried his luck in the 35th minute but his shot flew just wide of the post. More half chances followed for both sides – a long range shot from Piller going wide and a City freekick in the last minute of stoppage time being comfortably cleared off the line by Jupp.
Much alarm was caused during halftime when it emerged that the Guildford City whale, sorry ‘orca’ had been kidnapped by the Horley fans – incriminating pictures of Michael Death astride the fine beast being subsequently found on their website – but luckily “Horace” was quickly restored to his rightful owners.
Guildford made a much better start to the second half, winning a freekick just three minutes after the restart when Lance Banton-Brown was comprehensively taken out. A corner followed for the visitors – Simon Cooper curling a shot wide after the keeper had punched clear in the 53rd minute. Horley were still posing a threat however and Piller had been unlucky to see his shot fly over the bar a few minutes earlier. With the game evenly balanced, Horley notched their second goal courtesy of some luck in the 58th minute. A City player handballed on the edge of the box and the resulting freekick deflected off the wall and nestled in the back of the net with Antony Hall totally wrong-footed.
Things were starting to get desperate now and Kev Rayner made a double substitution – Bridgeman and Knight replacing Penson and Brown. This seemed to lift City’s play and a good move in the 65th minute culiminated in Danny Elgar firing over. They could not avoid conceding a freekick on the edge of the box a few minutes later however, in an almost identical position to where the first goal was scored from. Once again Ragetti stepped up and fired a shot over the wall to the far post – Hall was ready for it this time but inexplicably could only palm the ball into the path of John Eldred who finished easily. This was surely Game Over but to their credit, the Guildford players refused to lay down and they reduced the deficit just two minutes later. A shot from Cory Knight appeared to be pushed out by Devlin; the linesman knew otherwise however and he flagged that the ball had crossed the line. With echoes of the Liverpool European Cup victory in 2005, City were so close to making it 3-2 just a minute later when Lance Banton-Brown was brought down in the box and a penalty awarded. Danny Elgar never looked confident with his spotkick however and his weak shot was easily saved.
Time was ticking down but Guildford could and should have been awarded a second penalty in the 78th minute. The ball was crossed into the box and a Horley player clearly handled it in front of the City fans and the referee and linesman. Perhaps because he had just awarded a spotkick, the referee waved play on but his decision enraged the Guildford bench – Roly being sent off for yelling abuse. Horley could have put the match beyond any reasonable doubt a minute or so later – a Pullen cross falling to Ragetti whose header somehow missed the net which was gaping in front of him. City had nothing to lose by this point and started pouring men upfield and exerting some real pressure. In the 82nd minute, Devlin did well to palm away a dangerous Guildford corner before at the other end, Hall caught a header smartly on the line.
City finally got the goal their efforts deserved in the dying moments of the game. A freekick some 25 yards out being pumped in and Simon Cooper firing home from close range. It was not enough however to prevent Horley going through to the semi finals and a winnable tie against Bedfont.
GUILDFORD CITY: A.Hall; E. Defreitas; T. Penson (C. Knight, 63); S. Cooper; J. Thoroughgood; J. King; J. Brown (A. Bridgeman, 63); B. Rayner; L. Banton-Brown; H. Carnegie; D. Elgar
Subs not used: G. Phillips; L. Bradnick; T. Arnold
Booked: T. Penson; S. Cooper; J. Thoroughgood; J. King; B. Rayner; L. Banton-Brown; H. Carnegie
HORLEY TOWN: S. Devlin; A. Jupp; D. Medhurst; S. Manning; D. Guscott; J. Eldred; M. Smith (J. Mills, 75); C. Piller; J. Risebrow (D. Tidey 90+6); A. Pullen; L. Ragetti
Subs not used: L. Bryant; M. Death
Booked: A. Jupp; M. Smith; C. Piller
Referee: I. Kitchen