Guildford City exited the FA Cup at Thatcham’s Waterside Park on Saturday, but gave a good account of themselves against a side joint top of the Hellenic League. Thatcham were an adversary in our recent Southern League seasons, and they like us dropped out of the South & West division in 2014, but unlike us for financial reasons. Now though with the benefit of a new sponsor, Thatcham are ready to progress again and over the summer they have been able to considerably strengthen by signing no less than six established players from a higher level of football. City for their part have been troubled by injuries and it was a somewhat depleted squad that travelled into Berkshire. City though opened the match in confident fashion and from an early corner Anthony Baker saw the ball late and his header sliced wide. Shortly after the same player had the ball six yards out but with his back to goal and try as he might he just couldn’t find the space to turn and shoot. On 18 minutes City, to the joy of the travelling Sweeney, took the lead. An Andy Ottley free-kick wasn’t cleared and Rory Cornelius headed the ball on to Dan Stewart who turned a low shot past the despairing defenders on the line. The lead held for five minutes until the impressive ex-Marlow striker Marcus Mealing rose at the far post to power home a fine equalising goal. Getting on level terms galvanised the home side and the match changed at this point. City now struggled to string moves together and too often possession was lost cheaply and it was no surprise when after 35 minutes Thatcham scored a second following hesitation in the City defence.
Credit though to the visitors in the second half who despite being on the wrong end of the possession stats dug in deep and defended well, especially against a barrage of corners and long throws. On the hour in a rare foray forward City had a sight of goal when Miguel Anderson was brought down just outside the box, but Andy Ottley’s free-kick lacked the necessary pace to seriously threaten Rackley in the home goal. City were holding on and there was the feeling that whilst they were just the one goal behind there was a chance. However on 72 minutes Matt York was caught in possession and Marcus Mealing needed no second invitation to thump Thatcham into a 3-1 lead. Increasingly Guildford were able to press forward in the later stages and Andy Ottley shot inches over following a fine run by Anthony Baker. With ten minutes remaining City were very much back in the cup-tie when Matt York powerfully headed home a Jake Gill corner. With Jack Collins pushed forward for the final stages, City probed for a last ditch opening but in the end to no avail. Thatcham’s jubilation at the final whistle showed evidence of their relief at hearing the whistle; meanwhile City take stock and move on next week to the FA Vase.
Team: Liam Beach, Andy Ottley, Nurrudin Hanif, Jake Gill, Matt York, Jack Collins, Dan Stewart, Dan Akinwande, Anthony Baker, Miguel Anderson, Rory Cornelius. Unused subs: Connor Hall, Josh Drew, Stuart Searle.
Referee: Edward Henderson