Guildford City (1) 2, Hartley Wintney (3) 5
by Barry Underwood
This seasons CCL champions elect were in town last evening and left the Spectrum well satisfied after claiming another three points in their march to the title. Guildford for their part were disappointed at the final score line as they certainly gave a great deal and were equal to their league-leading opponents in many aspects of the game. It was Sam Argent, the visitor’s prolific goal scorer, who was the difference between the sides. Argent had scored four times on Saturday against Colliers Wood, before adding another four goals yesterday at the Spectrum, making 32 league goals in total this season. He may have added more to the total but mindful of their busy Easter programme Argent was withdrawn from the fray with half an hour still to play. Hartley came out of the traps at the start of the match with all guns blazing and Argent clipped the crossbar when given too much space at the back post. City weren’t overawed and just minutes later Jack Battie accepted Matt Anton’s inside ball to pick his spot for his first goal in City colours. Hartley’s speed of passing and off the ball running was proving a challenge to the home defence but nevertheless the equaliser came in an unfortunate manner for City keeper Nic Taylor. Taylor, who has been in fine form of late, rose to catch a high ball under pressure from Sam Argent. The ball came out of Taylor’s hands and dropped down just over the goal line. On some occasions a referee might have judged that the goalkeeper was impeded in his attempt to catch the ball but in truth it was just one of those unfortunate moments. Darryl Siaw had a shooting chance blocked whilst up for a set-piece but for the remainder of the first half it was the Sam Argent show. After 22 minutes a long throw into the City box was deflected off the head of a City defender into the danger area where Argent took the ball on his chest, swivelled and fired low into the net. The lesson was clear. Give the man too much space and he will make you pay and he came agonisingly close to another on 33 minutes. He wasn’t delayed for long when he appeared unmarked in the box to head home a cross from the right after 38 minutes.
City fans were still buoyant at the interval. Two goals down they might have been but their side hadn’t played badly but had been given a masterclass in finishing. Just five minutes after the break Argent claimed his fourth touching in from a free-kick and it seemed it would be game over. City boss Dean Thomas had made a tactical change at the interval, moving to three at the back in an attempt to get back into the game and playing through the middle or spraying the ball wide they played some good football. On the hour they pulled a goal back when Tarome Hemmings curled a free-kick past the wall and into the top corner. There was just a chance that City could make up the deficit and seconds later Matt Anton was set free by a delightful pass but to his frustration he couldn’t get the bobbling ball fully under control and his final shot lacked power. It was with a quarter of an hour remaining that Hartley scored their game clinching goal. And what an extraordinary goal it was. Nic Taylor acting as sweeper out near the right touchline delayed launching a long kick downfield. Seeing the delay substitute Shane Hollamby rapidly closed Taylor down and Taylor’s belated clearance cannoned off Hollamby at 45 degrees and rolled agonisingly into the net. Late in the game James Davies shot wide from a good position, and Tom O’Connor forced Maddock into a fine diving save from another free-kick just outside the box. But neither Taylor nor City at large have anything to be ashamed about in their performance. Time and again in recent weeks they have shown what a good squad of players they are. This was another stage of the learning curve for which they will benefit in the future.
Team: Nic Taylor, Tom Booth (Darren Caesar 46), James Davies, Darryl Siaw, Harry Mills, Chad Goulter, Sanchez Benali, Jack Battie, Matt Anton, Tarome Hemmings, Tom O’Connor. Unused subs: Martin Dynan, George Patterson, Callum Sexton.
Referee: Sam Gregory
Attendance – 107