Guildford City extended their lead at the top of the Combined Counties Premier Division despite being held to a draw by an unimaginative Horley Town side. An early goal-of-the-season contender from Ben Camara gave City a promising start but they paid the price for missed chances when John Eldred converted a controversial penalty in the second half. Despite visiting skipper Simon Cooper hitting the bar, there was to be no winner for City in a match that saw three players dismissed.
The hosts started brightly with Dave Brown launching a shot towards goal that was knocked away by Antony Hall in the City goal. But the match soon became dominated by the visiting side who carved out regular chances thanks to a creative midfield line-up. Ben Camara opened the scoring in the tenth minute with an exquisite strike. WIth his back to goal, a pair of neat touches brought the ball up and over his thigh before he volleyed past Horley keeper McLoughlin, who got a feint touch as the ball looped over him. The visitors came close to extending the lead soon afterwards following a goalmouth scramble, but the finishing touch couldn’t be found.
The second period continued in a similar vein, with City having two guilt-edged chances to extend the lead soon after the break. A powerful shot was blocked by a last ditch challenge before McLoughlin, who had been shaky all afternoon, sliced a clearance against Ben Rayner’s back. The ball span away from the pair of them, and the goalkeeper scrambled to stop it crossing the line. Having caught the ball his momentum took him perilously close to the goal line but the assistant referee ruled the ball had not crossed into the goal.
Matches between these sides have a history of being tempestuous, and the first red card of the afternoon came when Garald Manville launched himself at Elvis de Freitas. Within minutes the equilibrium was restored however. Antony Hall, who had been given a rough time by the Horley strikers, caught a high ball before the onrushing Dave Brown clattered into him and went to ground. Hall, standing his ground to keep hold of the ball under pressure, was bizarrely dismissed by the referee. A penalty to Horley was awarded but the officials refused to let either Elvis de Freitas, who had left the pitch for treatment, or substitute goalkeeper Michael Hall on to the pitch before John Eldred had smashed a low penalty to level for the hosts.
With Horley sensing a point and City piling players forward in numbers, the game reached a frenetic pace. Horley’s Liam Cox picked up his second caution after a clumsy, cynical challenge in the 76th minute. The hosts’ tactics can be evidenced by the fact that most of City’s chances in the closing period came from free kicks. The closest of these was hit by Simon Cooper, whose shot cannoned hard off the bar. With Guildford City committing men forward, Horley came close to nicking all three points with a free header from a deep cross but the forward couldn’t make contact and the visitors escaped.
News of Mole Valley SCR’s victory over title challengers Chertsey Town filtered through to a huge sense of relief in the Guildford camp. City now enter the final month of the season with their championship hopes firmly in their grasp, but it will be a tense month at the Spectrum.