Guildford City surrendered a two goal lead to be taken to extra time by Guernsey, with the islanders going on to score twice more to win 4-2 and progress to the final of the Premier Challenge Cup. Simon Cooper scored two superb free kicks in the opening 11 minutes leaving the hosts shellshocked. Guernsey recovered in the second half, levelling thanks to goals from Dom Heaume and Ross Allen, despite the latter also missing a penalty. Three games in seven days appeared to take its toll on City who were under almost constant pressure in extra time, and that told when Heaume struck again to put the Combined Counties Division One side up in extra time. Substitute Dave Rihoy made sure of victory when he slotted home to give Guernsey a 4-2 lead in extra time.
With Guernsey somewhat of an unknown quantity, especially given the ease with which they have won the CCL Division One this season, this was always going to be an intriguing match. City were without several first team players but still boasted a strong squad, albeit one that had played out a tough match with Croydon just 48 hours previously. The visitors came out strongly and made the most of their start thanks to two Simon Cooper free-kicks – both from the edge of the area but dispatched into opposite sides of the goal, leaving home keeper Tardif no chance (the first of which is pictured above by Fran Torode). Guernsey looked shellshocked but began to settle into the game, enjoying plenty of possession but struggling to break down a resilient City defence to create a real goal scoring opportunity. The travelling City fans were in good voice despite being significantly outnumbered – with “we drunk the ferry dry” echoing around Footes Lane (a claim later backed up by the sight of Condor Ferries employees taking the empties down to the local scrap metal yard) and chants of “red army” seeming only slightly ironic! Simon Cooper failed to complete a first half hat-trick of free kicks, but City could well have gone further ahead when Austin Gacheru and Joel Hughes saw headed efforts cleared valiantly off the line within seconds of each other. Ross Allen, at the other end of the pitch, had an effort ruled out and City went in two ahead at the break.
The two goal lead was never going to be enough, and the hosts came flying at City in the second half. It didn’t take long for it to pay off, with Heaume (whose brother had been serving pints to the Sweeney just a few hours beforehand) netting in the 58th minute to reduce arrears. The game was being played at a frantic pace but Guildford were struggling to make any further inroads themselves, and by the 70th minute it was clear that the effects of a game so soon beforehand were beginning to show. Antony Hall (enjoying the collective abuse of Guernsey’s teenage population!) brought down Ross Allen in the penalty area in the 81st minute but Guernsey’s leading score failed to convert the penalty, instead sending it flying off towards Alderney. He did better just five minutes later – slamming the ball into the top corner to equalise. City weren’t out of it though, and very nearly snatched victory in the dying moments but Lance Banton-Brown was denied by a fine save from Tardif.
Extra time beckoned and it didn’t take long for the hosts to take the lead – Heaume finding space in the middle to poke past Hall and put Guernsey in front for the first time in the match. Chasing an equaliser was almost beyond City now, who were clearly struggling to keep up with the pace of the game, but who battled on heroically. Rihoy scored the goal of the game in the second extra period to spark celebrations among 1,745 members of the 1,758-strong crowd. Guernsey fully deserved victory and it will certainly be a warning to the Combined Counties Premier Division for next season, although Guildford City will cite fatigue and a not-entirely-full-strength side as reasons contributing to the loss. And if City had taken one of their chances to add to the two goal lead, the result could have been much different. If there was one lasting impression left for Guildford City to give the Channel Islands, it was of a topless Will ‘Speedo’ Heavey removing his shorts and throwing them into a delighted crowd (click the photo for a video!).
Antony Hall, Will Heavey, Tom Penson, Simon Cooper [capt.], Corey Holder (Moses Spencer 45), Tony Chaplin (Luke Bradnick 99), Dan Moody, Jack Guilford, Austin Gacheru, Joel Hughes (Lance Banton-Brown 70), Jaydon Gibbs.
Unused substitutes: Ryan Wallis, Bruce McPhail
Cautioned: Antony Hall, Simon Cooper, Jaydon Gibbs, Jack Guilford
Referee: J. Ryan