Guildford City departed North Hertfordshire pointless, but fully having played their part in this fully entertaining top of the table clash. On a gloomy, dark, dank day a large crowd had gathered at Garden Walk, including a large Sweeney contingent. Royston, themselves in their first season at this level, opened the more brightly, and indeed within minutes of the start had taken the lead. Ross Collins from the left eluded the markers in the goalmouth and Carl Edwards converted from eight yards with just three minutes on the clock. City immediately counter attacked and a fine move involving Austin Gacheru, Ben Rayner and Joel Hughes saw a last ditch tackle snaffle out the danger.
Royston though were looking extremely lively going forward, and were giving City’s defence plenty to think about, especially from the wide positions. Regardless The Crows were not having it all their own way, and as the game developed Ben Rayner, and Joel Hughes both had good efforts well saved by Will Norris in the home goal. On 20 minutes Dan Moody drove a fierce effort across goal, but four minutes later the visitors deservedly got back on level terms. Joel Hughes won possession after chasing a rather hopeful ball into the right channel. Dan Moody then swung over a teasing cross, and the ball fell kindly to Ben Rayner who drove in left footed from 15 yards. After being in the ascendancy, City were stung by the classic counter-attack. Luke Robins crossing brilliantly for Ryan Lockett to slide the home side back into the lead. On 35 minutes City were forced into a reshuffle when Corey Holder left the field having suffered a cut to the head; Junior Kaffo joining the action. As the game approached half-time The Crows streamed forward and only an exceptional Antony Hall save from Robins shot on the break; and a glaring miss from Lockett in stoppage time saw City go into the interval just one goal down.
Both sides had chances early in the second period. Firstly Dan Moody’s powerful effort was well parried by Norris, and moments later the ball was given cheaply away and Robins headed wide from a good position. With the game flowing end to end in exciting fashion, it was Royston that took an all-important two goal lead. A long ball through the middle saw a split second of indecision in defence, and eventually home skipper Ross Collins shot home. City therefore had all to do to salvage something from the match, and nobody could fault their effort as they piled forward in the heavy conditions. Dan Moody was increasingly influential on Guildford’s right, and on 68 minutes he was brought down in the box following Austin Gacheru’s slide rule pass. Referee Avent, to his credit, consulted his assistant, and awarded the spot kick. Up stepped Dan Moody himself to drive the ball home and with 20 minutes remaining there was all to play for. Royston still looked dangerous on the break, but City were determined not to give up top spot without a fight. Moody low cross through the six yard box just eluded a sliding Jack Guilford, and minutes later Moody’s goal bound effort was miraculously saved at full stretch by Norris. With the Sweeney in lung-busting full voice behind the lads, Guildford just couldn’t quite fashion the equalising goal. Hopes rose for one final time in stoppage time, when after a smart turn Austin Gacheru’s low drive eluded the far post by inches.
Antony Hall, Tom Penson, Ben Rayner, Simon Cooper, Jamie Thoroughgood, Corey Holder (Junior Kaffo 35), Dan Moody, Tommy Tydeman (Jack Guilford 51), Austin Gacheru, Joel Hughes (Bruce McPhail 90), Dammy Bada. Unused subs: Mike Hall.
Cautioned: Tom Penson, Tommy Tydeman, Jack Guilford.
Referee: David Avent