THIS was hardly a classic game and despite the scoreline, City really did not play that well. Still it was a case of forget the quality, feel the points as Guildford returned to winning ways and boosted their goal difference to boot. The first half was by the far the more entertaining as Jamie King bundled the ball home early in the match to give City the lead. Jamie Thoroughgood then added to scoreline with an easy header on the half hour mark. But it was the Trams who played the better football for the remainder of the first period, being unlucky not pull at least one goal back. The second half was a different story as Croydon appeared to run out of ideas, allowing Guildford to score twice more courtesy of Danny Elgar and another for King.
The rain had been falling steadily for most of the night and morning, causing some of us to look with a little concern at the pitch and hope it would be playable. As it was, a little forking and sweeping enabled the worst of the puddles to disappear and we were ready to go. Croydon started positively – John Gladwin heading weakly at Hall from a cross in the first minute. However City started to look the more dangerous and drew first blood in the 13th minute. Harrison Carnegie shredded his marker down the left wing and then unleashed a superb cross into the box. France (no not the country but the Trams custodian), fumbled the ball and Jamie King was able to head it over the line despite the best attempts of a defender to clear it. Goal of the season contender it was not and certain team-mates of Mr King were suggesting it should go down as “OG” – you owe me one there Jamie!
The Trams were not about to roll over and die (well not yet anyway) and had an excellent opportunity on the quarter hour mark. An good delivery from a freekick on the edge of the box had to be pushed over the bar by Antony Hall, who then easily claimed the corner. Guildford responded immediately through makeshift centre-forward Tom Penson. Perhaps he should play there more often as on the quarter hour mark he unleashed a screamer from 25 yards which France just managed to turn over his bar. Two minutes later it was Lance Banton-Brown’s turn as he ran onto a delightful through ball and was so nearly caught by France as he slid to claim the ball. Back came the visitors and in the 20th minute Michael Johnson let fly with a wonderful cross from the left wing which curled and swerved, evading Hall and the Guildford defence but not finding a Trams head to stick it in at the far post.
The match settled into a war of attrition at this point with both midfields battling it out in the centre of the park. The game sprung back to life in the 28th minute though, when Danny Elgar, after using his skills to evade several challenges, hit a powerful low shot which France could only push around his near post. It was from the resulting corner that Guildford got their second – Jamie Thoroughgood rising to head the ball home. Yet again though, City were given a reminder that the match was not yet won – the Trams winning a freekick some 25 yards out. The delivery was superb, beating Hall but smacking back off the post and being fired into “row Z” by an over-eager Croydon forward. City took their foot of the pedal a bit now and Croydon really should have pulled a goal back in the 35th minute when Hall came for a cross and missed – John Gladwin shooting wide from a good position. The visitors continued to edge the possession but without forging any more clear-cut chances. The half concluded with both Danny Elgar and Justin Hemmings slicing crosses behind, much to the annoyance of their team-mates.
The first 15 minutes of the second period were as boring a display of football as you are ever likely to see. Croydon’s body language (and perhaps the tiredness of playing two matches in the space of 48 hours) suggested they had already thrown in the towel whilst Guildford seemed content just to sit on their lead. Consequently it is fair to say that just about nothing of note happened until the Croydon manager shook things up a bit with a double substitution on the hour mark. All this seemed to do was revitalise City however, and suddenly chances started to flow again. In the 70th minute some impressive one touch passing saw Harrison Carnegie shank a shot horribly wide from a good scoring position. Minutes later, Carnegie was on the attack again, racing down the right wing before cleverly stopping the ball dead on the byline when we all thought it was a lost cause. His cross could not find a Guildford player however and the ball was cleared to safety.
The City striker made amends in the 79th minute however, making another blistering run down the right and unleashing an excellent cross which found Tom Penson. Danny Elgar arrived on the scene at the same time and for a moment it seemed like neither player wanted to shoot. Luckily Danny Elgar recovered first and fired the ball home at the far post. Two minutes later Kevin made his third substitution of the day and brought on the second Guildford City Youth player – Jack Holloway joining the impressive Shaun Carroway. And it was Shaun who notched the next effort on goal in the 83rd minute, turning and firing over the bar from an extreme angle with a decent effort. Jack for his part was getting stuck in but very quickly had a rude welcome to Step 5 football when a player lunged at him, nearly knocking him flying.
City made their dominance count a minute later when Jamie King rose to head home his second goal of the day from another pinpoint cross – the ball looping over the despairing France and nestling in the back of the net. Croydon had a good chance to pull one back almost immediately but Turgan Akli’s wild volley flew well wide.
Tempers started to fray a little at this point – both Cory Knight and a Croydon player being booked for a “handbags” encounter near the touchline – and City had several chances to increase their lead still further. A Simon Cooper freekick in the 88th minute lacked the defender’s usual accuracy and in the dying moments the centre half in Tom Penson came to fore as he raced down the left wing and with only the keeper to beat opted to pass instead of shoot. Still, with 47 points and no chance of relegation, City can now look to improve their league placing with real confidence.
GUILDFORD CITY: A. Hall; R. McCarry (T. Arnold, 77); C. Knight; S. Cooper; J. Thoroughgood; J. King; H. Carnegie; E. Defreitas; L. Banton-Brown (S. Carroway, 45); T. Penson; D. Elgar (J. Holloway, 81)
Subs not used: B. Cain; S. Elgar
Booked: C. Knight
CROYDON: A. France; J. Loyza; M. Johnson; O. Young; N. Sophonie; S. Pagett; J. Grant; J. Hemmings; D. Clayton (S. Thomas, 62); M. Smith (T. Akli 75); J. Gladwin (C. Phelps, 62)
Subs not used: D. Penfold; L. Goddard
Booked: N. Sophonie; J. Hemmings
Referee: M. Taylor