Guildford City (2) 2, Balham (0) 1
by Barry Underwood
Guildford City progressed through to the last eight of the Combined Counties League Cup on an evening when the result was overshadowed somewhat by news of the death of club Founder and Patron John Woodhatch. On a cold evening both teams, John’s family and all spectators joined in a pre-match minute’s applause in memory of this special man. Facing a side from the division below is never an easy prospect, and certainly Balham lived up to that expectation. Having already beaten AFC Hayes from the premier division, the visitors were keen to add another top division scalp to their belt. The home side took the opportunity of resting one or two players, and both Luke Badiali and Jacob Lambe were cup-tied. In the early stages it was Guildford who enjoyed the majority of possession and were looking most likely to score. Despite that Balham’s Morgan Roberts-Watson got himself goal side and debutant goalkeeper Luke Edgecombe had to be alert to save with his legs. It was in fact a goalkeeping error that led to the evening’s first goal after 10 minutes. Balham’s Haydn Read miskicked a clearance that went straight to Tom Bingham whose first time effort found the net from 25 yards. The same player should have scored again after the best move of the match. After fine build-up Shawn Clement-Peter’s cross was met by Bingham some eight yards out from goal but somehow the City striker stumbled over the ball and the chance was gone. The second goal wasn’t long delayed though. On 16 minutes Mario Embalo cannoned a loose ball in the box onto the crossbar. Tom Bingham was on hand to repeat the exercise and also cannoned a shot onto the bar. Third time lucky Mario Embalo was on hand to make sure the ball finally crossed the line. Whether intentionally or not City went into something of shell after the goal and chances at either end were at a premium, although a great piece of skill by Jason Thompson on 38 minutes saw his sublime chip saved at full stretch by Read. From the resulting corner Thompson’s header again forced Read into a good save. Sadly for Jason Thompson though these two pieces of activity caused a groin injury that saw him leave the field before the break to be replaced by Will Hoare. In the countdown to the half-time whistle City had a good shout for a penalty rejected when new full-back Suleiman Djalo appeared to be tripped as he reached the by-line.
This author has often mentioned City’s propensity to concede goals immediately after the break and once again that was the result here. The home side had already had a warning when Luke Edgecombe saved well when the Balham attack was given too much time and space. Just a minute later from a corner Grant Goodband rose unchallenged in the six yard box to head home and the visitors could sense that another cup shock was a distinct possibility. City tried to hit back and Mario Embalo saw a precisely aimed effort curl inches wide of the post. On the hour Guildford twice came close. Shawn Clement-Peter found space to shoot from the edge of the penalty area which caused Read to save low down at the near post. The second chance saw Djalo’s cross from the left find Tom Bingham at the back of the penalty area, leading to a neat run and resulting powerful shot which cleared the crossbar by inches. Thereafter City barely threatened. There was little cohesion about their play and often their course of action was to hook the ball forward to clear any threat of conceding a second goal. Although there was a sense of holding on, City in truth looked in control and they now advance to the quarter-finals.
Team: Luke Edgecombe, Tom Booth, Suleiman Djalo, Darryl Siaw, Bobby Dormer, Dylan Ramazani, Jason Thompson (Will Hoare 38), Shawn Clement-Peter, Mario Embalo, Kiye Martin, Tom Bingham (Greg Haydon 73).
Referee: Scott Orchard
Attendance – 89