Guildford City’s first season back in the Southern League culminated in a respectable 9th-place finish in the Division One Central. Having cruised to the Combined Counties League title in successive years, City’s first season at Step 4 (since reforming in 1996) was always likely to be a test of their mettle. The difficulties were obvious; stronger opponents, better financed opponents and longer journeys than they’d ever encountered before. So as the season began, Guildford City fought in the baking heat of Aylesbury to a 2-1 victory on the opening day of the season – new signing Junior Kaffo grabbing a late début goal to win the tie.
A trip to highly-fancied Slough Town followed – a team which went on to reach the first round of the FA Cup, only to be knocked out on penalties by this season’s Conference champions Mansfield Town. On a balmy evening, Tommy Tydeman’s superb rifled shot set City on the way to a deserved victory. Perhaps this Step 4 thing wasn’t going to be too problematic after all!
In September, Kingstonian inflicted City’s first defeat of the season, in the FA Cup. This could have been a banana skin for the visitors, but they were assured and comfortable throughout after taking an early lead. The only positive for City was a record attendance of 295 spectators enjoying the late summer sun at Spectrum.
The FA Trophy offered another exciting new competition for the club, and Guildford City were twice drawn away to teams from Gloucestershire. Cirencester Town were dispatched thanks to a Dan Moody penalty, Joel Hughes’ superb individual effort and Scott Todd’s first goal for the club. However, in the next round Shortwood United won out rampant 4-0 victors, due in part to difficult travelling conditions on the way to the match which were hardly the ideal preparation for City!
In the league, however, it had been seven successive victories. It wasn’t until ‘non-league day’ in October that City tasted league defeat, and what a way to do it. A bumper crowd watched Rugby Town thump us 6-1. And while form was patchier in the following months, wins against struggling North Greenford United, Chertsey Town and Northwood left City well-placed in the promotion mix.
A particularly barren spell followed, however, in which Guildford picked up two points in more than two months over December and January to more or less put paid to those promotion ambitions. It was probably the worst time to visit local rivals Godalming Town, and so it proved as City succumbed to a 2-0 loss on Boxing Day.
The side’s form flickered back into life at the end of January with a 4-1 defeat of Fleet Town, before Sean Rivers announced his return to the club with two goals against title-chasing Rugby Town. Goalkeeper Antony Hall stole the show though, saving a last minute penalty to secure all three points for City. The season’s biggest victory came with a swashbuckling defeat of Leighton Town – six different scorers contributing to a 6-0 win that could have been bigger!
Off the field, there were still improvements to be made to ensure City’s home ground met FA ground grading regulations – and to prepare for the possibility of Step 3 football in the future. Volunteer fans and committee members worked hard to meet the deadline, and can be justly proud of the facelift Spectrum has undergone this season.
Jamie Thoroughgood’s header wasn’t quite enough to ensure victory against Godalming Town in the Easter Monday derby at the new-look Spectrum, in front of a record league attendance. Guildford’s assured defensive display was eventually undone with three minutes of normal time remaining as the match finished 1-1.
The play-off dream faded further away as City struggled to find consistency and was effectively ended with a gutting 3-2 loss at Beaconsfield SYCOB, the winner scored mere seconds after Dan Moody – usually so assured in front of goal – spurned a chance to grab all three points for the visitors. Narrowly losing out to North Greenford in an entertaining nine goal thriller, City then drew with fellow Southern league debutantes, Royston Town – a result which ended Royston’s own hopes of reaching the play-offs.
As the season drew to a close league champions Burnham came out on top in a closely-fought match to effectively win the league, Biggleswade secured a play-off berth with victory at Spectrum, while the curtain came down on 2012/13 with Guildford City comfortably defeating Daventry Town in spring sunshine.
Kevin Rayner’s side can be rightly proud of a fine season at Step 4, in which they have acquitted themselves well and beaten some of the best the Southern League Division One Central could offer. The season’s 48 matches, which included Rayner’s 200th match in charge and took him to 126 victories as City manager, and a ground fit for promotion means Guildford City can enjoy their close season and prepare for hopefully bigger and better things in future.
Top appearances (all competitions):
48(0) Dan Moody
46(0) Antony Hall
43(1) Jamie Thoroughgood
23(20) Junior Kaffo
42(0) Ben Rayner
Top goal scorers (all competitions):
30 Dan Moody
9 Joel Hughes, Ben Rayner
8 Simon Cooper, Austin Gacheru
6 Sean Rivers
5 Jack Guilford