GUILDFORD chalked up their second home win in 3 days with this impressive win against high flying Epsom & Ewell. Their victory arrived in controversial circumstances however, the Es goalkeeper being sent off early in the second half for handballing outside the box after some argued the City player should have been flagged offside. The match was competitive throughout, the home side eventually making their extra man count courtesy of Jamie King. Epsom & Ewell equalised almost immediately through Robbie Burns but they could not keep out a fine Jack Guilford strike after a defensive lapse.
City were back to full strength for this game – Tom Penson returning from suspension to fill his usual fullback role. Despite their tame 0-0 draw against bottom-of-the-table Dorking on Monday, the Es quickly made clear to Guildford their ranking in the league was well deserved. For the first ten minutes City could only contain the visitors’ attacks without making any meaningful assault at the other end. Notice was served in the 5th minute when Es midfielder Kyle Hough used his pace to tear down the Guildford right wing and shoot inches over the bar. He was aided and abetted by his impressive strike partner Robbie Burns. Yet it was the home side who carved out the first good opportunity – Rob McCarry skilfully winning a corner in the 14th minute and Simon Cooper arriving late and evading his marker to head millimetres over the crossbar. A minute later Danny Elgar tried his luck, getting to the byline and advancing along it – his cross however was easily held by Paul Borg. Things were hotting up at the other end though and Jamie Rieve delivered a raking cross-field ball which was picked up by Ben Hayward on the right wing and culminated in a corner which Hall was able to claim. Moments later Hough was put through but the ball ran just beyond him, allowing Hall to gather.
The visitors were definitely starting to boss the game but as they pushed players forward, gaps appeared at the back. In the 20th minute a wonderful through ball found Luke Simpson and the Guildford striker had a clear path to goal. Many cried out for offside but the referee maintained afterwards that with Epsom’s back four sitting flat, Luke had skilfully run along the line before turning to latch onto the pass. With Borg advancing on him, Simpson tried a lob from 25 yards out which Borg just got his fingertips to. The problem was he was outside his penalty area and the referee had no option but to show him a red card. The visitors were lucky to have their reserve keeper, Neil Harrowing, on the bench and he came on at this point for midfielder Dennis N’Yarko.
The balance of power appeared to have turned irrevocably in Guildford’s favour but as so often with 11 v 10 situations, the Es upped their workrate making it difficult for the home side to make their extra man count. Still, City did have some good chances as the visitors adjusted to their new situation. Simon Cooper sent the freekick disappointingly wide but Jamie King went a lot closer in the 28th minute, chipping an excellent Danny Elgar pass over the bar. Two minutes later, the impressive Luke Bradnick nearly added to his recent haul after controlling a pass on the edge of the box, turning and firing just wide. Yet the Es responded strongly and Hough was so close to equalising in the 37th minute – his shot being blocked by some determined City defending. Chances continued to come Guildford’s way though and Jamie King really should have done better a minute later, shooting wide at the far post from barely 6 yards out with the net gaping. The remainder of the half belonged to the visitors with Burns firing over from the edge of the box in the 45th minute. An even better chance arrived moments later – poor Guildford defending allowing Burns to claim the ball inside the area – he hesitated just too long before passing to Hough however, and City were able to clear their lines.
The home side emerged after the break looking sharper and sure enough they dominated the early exchanges – Bradnick firing wide in the 49th minute after an impressive jinking run. King then continued his bid to earn the ‘miss of the season’ award, with a shot over the bar from close range three minutes later. He redeemed himself immediately though, driving the ball home through a crowded penalty area – a chance far more difficult that those he had missed!! This was the breakthrough and we all expected City to extend their lead and win comfortably. We should have known better. Just four minutes later, Anthony Bridgeman hit a very sloppy pass which set up Robbie Burns perfectly – the Es striker sprinting to the edge of the box before finishing with aplomb. It was all Epsom for the next few minutes and they won a corner on the hour mark from which one of their players inexplicably managed to slice over the bar from 6 yards.
Guildford had had a massive let off and Kev Rayner shuffled his pack, bringing on Guilford and Banton-Brown for Simpson and Bradnick. This paid dividends with Lance immediately stretching the Es defence. In the 69th minute came another contentious decision – this time in favour of Epsom. Tom Penson, tore into the box and seemed to be tripped but the referee ruled no penalty and booked the City defender for diving. Ben Rayner then went extremely close from a freekick. With the momentum once more with the home side, the strain on the Es started to show and they made a catastrophic error in the 74th minute. One of the Epsom defenders tried to dribble out of defence and was dispossessed. A pass fell to Jack Guilford who caught the ball perfectly, firing into the back of the net from the edge of the box to give City the lead once more. The home side then went extremely close from a corner – only Harrowing’s acrobatically punched clearance preventing the ball from crossing the line.
The visitors finished strongly as they threw everything into the mix to get the equaliser. They had a shout for handball turned down on 80 minutes and four minutes later Ben Hayward should have done better, shooting weakly into the mitts of Hall. In the 86th minute Epsom won a freekick on the edge of the box but Charlie West could not get his shot on target and the same was true of Dan Jackson a few moments later. The Es saved their best chance for last however – mounting a superb attack down the right with some one-touch passing. Hough sent in a peach of a cross but West had timed his run milliseconds too late and he could not connect with the ball to salvage a point.
GUILDFORD CITY: A. Hall; T. Penson; A. Bridgeman; S. Cooper; J. Thoroughgood; J. King; R. McCarry (H. Carnegie 79); B. Rayner; L. Simpson (J. Guilford 62); L. Bradnick (L. Banton-Brown 62); D. Elgar
Subs not used: B. Cain; J. Brown
EPSOM & EWELL: P. Borg; R. Webber (D. Jackson 86); J. Hatfield; A. Rodrigues; C. West; J. Reive; B. Hayward; D. N’Yarko (N. Harrowing 24); R. Burns; K. Hough; A. Amfo-Brobbey (A. McGregor)
Subs not used: P. Solomon; G. Dennis
Referee: J. Taafe