GUILDFORD emerged on the wrong side of a 9 goal thriller in this exciting but ultimately unsuccessful encounter with Bedfont. With perhaps some hangover from Tuesday City went behind early on but equalised courtesy of Lance Banton-Brown. Bedfont quickly pulled ahead however and extended their lead to 4-1 at the break thanks to a hat trick from former Chelsea star Mark Nicholls. The visitors never gave up however and goals from Jamie King and Danny Elgar pulled the lead back to 4-3 before a sloppy breakaway goal was conceded. King scored again but City could not get the equaliser.
This was another ground on which Guildford’s recent experiences had been less than happy – 2 defeats in the last two trips to The Orchard. Still, the trip up was extremely straightforward thanks to a quiet M25 and we were supping pints in the Bedfont clubhouse in good time for kickoff.
It was clear from the start that this was going to be an open game – Danny Elgar going close with a whipped cross-come-shot before, much to our bewilderment, we fell behind in the 4th minute. Mark Nicholls, used his skill and experience to get goalside of Tom Penson down the right hand side and then fired an inch-perfect pass to the far post for George Benn to shoot and then score from Antony Hall’s parry. Guildford responded immediately, finding space behind the back four but could not capitalise from two freekicks on the edge of the box. In the 9th minute a long ball over the top found Banton-Brown but with only the keeper to beat he fired wide of the post. Luckily he was able redeem himself just two minutes later. Ben Rayner unleashed an exquisite through-ball into the path of the City striker and Lance pulled the trigger, seeing his initial shot saved but poking home the rebound.
City seemed to have steadied the ship and with more possession, we were now looking for them to take the lead. Harrison Carnegie proceeded to go close in the 15th minute after a great run, but with Anthony Bridgeman totally unmarked down the right hand side he opted to fire a speculative shot from long range. It was Bedfont though who restored their advantage in the 22nd minute – a forward being released down the middle and Antony Hall bringing him down. The City goalkeeper was given quite a fortunate yellow card and Mark Nicholls stepped up, waited for the keeper to commit and slotted the spotkick home confidently.
The City players appeared to suffer a crisis of confidence at this point. Bedfont midfielder Julius Mngadi was allowed to volley over at the far post when completely unmarked and then in the 27th minute, Jamie Thoroughgood seemed to scythe down a Bedfont player in the box. We were expecting at least a penalty and perhaps a red card but no, the referee pointed to the corner and the delivery was held by Hall at his near post. With this unbelievable let off still in their minds, the City players started to play with more composure and Carnegie made another blistering run down the left wing a minute later. He reached the byline and unselfishly cut the ball back to Bridgeman who saw his shot deflect behind for a corner which was cleared to safety. The City pressure continued and it seemed only a matter of time before the equaliser came – despite a booking for Cory Knight for a rash challenge on the half hour mark.
It was Bedfont however who extended their lead a few minutes later. A throw-in of truly Rory Delap-esque proportions was hurled into the box and who should be there at the far post but Nicholls. His header was half parried by Hall but the City keeper could not prevent it crossing the line and suddenly the Middlesex side were looking strong favourites to win. More mistakes started to creep into Guildford’s play – both Bridgeman and King making errors which nearly allowed a one-on-one in the 38th minute – and with three minutes of the half remaining, Bedfont made it 4-1. Danny Elgar was on the attack down the left wing and was fouled but stayed on his feet. The referee signalled the advantage but Elgar lost the ball almost immediately. With City fans screaming for the freekick, Bedfont then put together a wonderful passing move which culminated in Nicholls slotting home from close range to complete his hat-trick. This was now getting extremely worrying and the home side tested Hall twice more before the break with Simon Cooper trying a desperate long range shot at the other end which flew well wide.
We could see the annoyance in Kevin and Roly’s faces as the lads trooped off at the break but could only see avoiding an absolute whipping as the best to be hoped for. The impressive James Brown was brought on at half time for the out of sorts Bridgeman but otherwise Kev kept faith with his side. Sure enough City pulled a goal back in the 47th minute. A freekick on the edge of the box was not properly cleared, allowing Jamie King to fire home the loose ball. City were fortunate not to concede immediately when Hall came and missed a corner a minute later but in the 54th minute the visitors scored again to cut the deficit to just one. Danny Elgar, who was starting to give Jack Clarke a torrid time down the left wing, cut inside, rode a few challenges and then fired into the back of the net from the edge of the box to give the City fans behind the goal some hope of an unlikely comeback. It was short-lived however as another defensive mix-up allowed an innocuous through ball to be headed beyond Hall by Julius Mngadi to make it 5-3 to Bedfont.
Surely this was the final twist of the game but no, City managed to claw their way back into contention again. A Guildford freekick on the edge of the box ricocheted off a few players, smacking off Jamie King’s head and hitting the back of the net to once more give hope of something being salvaged. The next ten minutes or so belonged to the visitors as Bedfont clung on. Carnegie went agonisingly close in the 64th minute, firing over the bar after a nice lay-off from Danny Elgar and five minutes later Lance missed the best chance of the half. Carnegie ran to the byline and crossed to the near post but Lance wasn’t ready and instead of sidefooting the ball into the open net he could only kick the ball back towards Harrison.
Guildford won several more freekicks but it was too much to expect the remainder of the half to match those magical first 25 minutes and the game pretty much petered out at this point. Bedfont cleverly ran down the clock while Guildford tried everything in their power to get the equaliser which would have signalled an amazing comeback. The last chance of note came in the 76th minute when Tom Penson cleverly released Harrison but the City striker’s cross was held. Let’s hope we can get back to winning ways against Chertsey on Wednesday.
BEDFONT: R. Preedy; J. Clarke (J. Shipperley, 55); L. Harrington; G. Benn; L. Hind; D. Bennell; C. Drake (S. O’Brian, 24); J. Mngadi; A. Morgan (S. Hinds, 80); M. Nicholls; L. Clarke
Subs not used: A. Kpunpamo; M. Charman
Booked: L. Clarke; L. Harrington; M. Nicholls
GUILDFORD CITY: A. Hall; T. Penson; C. Knight; S. Cooper; J. Thoroughgood; J. King; A. Bridgeman (J. Brown, 45); B. Rayner; L. Banton-Brown (G. Phillips, 88); H. Carnegie; D. Elgar
Subs not used: Jack Holloway; S. Elgar; Sean Carroway
Booked: A. Hall; C. Knight; S. Cooper
Referee: G. Collins