Guildford City came flying out of the traps in 2011, but were unable to capitalise on early pressure and soon found themselves in a tough match against a Cove side who hadn’t played since mid-November. Ben Rayner’s sweet strike put City ahead, but the visitors were made to rue a number of missed chances as Cove fought their way back into the game – Cardona’s equaliser in the second half salvaging a point for nine man Cove.
City started the livelier of the two sides, with Jaydon Gibbs rampaging down the left wing early on. Captain Simon Cooper hit the top of the bar with a long range dipping shot. In the 11th minute, Ben Rayner picked the ball up on the halfway line and dribbled round three players before planting a superb left footed drive off the far post and into the goal to put City 1-0 ahead. And minutes after that Joel Greaves saw his shot smothered by the goalkeeper as he went through one-on-one.
But that was as far as the one way traffic went. The hosts settled after quarter of an hour and had a number of chances themselves. First, a long range curling effort came back, rather fortuitously for City, off the post. Jamie Thoroughgood did well to stop a cross dead, allowing goalkeeper Antony Hall to pounce on the loose ball. Elvis de Freitas was alert to clear off the line after Cove broke the City offside trap once more, and the ball was scrambled clear.
City made it to half time one goal ahead, with Ben Camara hitting a rasping shot that was just pushed over by the fingertips of the Cove goalkeeper, drawing applause even from the referee.
City again looked sharp early in the second half but were soon on the back foot again. Having escaped a number of chances missed due to poor finishing, it was the time of the woodwork to deny Cove yet again. Gibbs and Greaves combined well a number of times but could not find the finishing touch to earn the visitors a second goal.
The referee then shortened the odds of City holding on for three points after dismissing two Cove players for, perhaps rather harsh, second cautions within minutes of each other. And Joel Greaves used his strength to shrug off the challenges of a third of Cove’s remaining players, but his shot was deflected just past the head of the lurking Joel Hughes. This signalled City’s best period of play in the second half as Simon Cooper nearly sneaked a Gibbs cross into the goal.
Guildford were punished in the 79th minute when substitute Cardona shook off Graham Tydeman’s challenge to net at the near post and level for Cove. It was no more than the hosts deserved in an end to end match.
There was still time for either side to snatch a winner. First, Will Heavey’s shot was headed clear as it looked to beat the goalkeeper, before Tony Chaplin managed to snuff out the danger of the counter attack.
So Guildford City retained their unbeaten league status in a match that could have seen many more goals for both teams than were scored. Hopefully the weather will be kinder to football as City hope to continue their end-of-2010 form into the new year.