Horley Town (0) 0, Guildford City (0) 1
by Barry Underwood
Guildford City’s season got back on track at the New Defence in impressive fashion, with their first victory in nine matches and first clean sheet since 3 October. Whilst the home side will feel aggrieved that their first half dominance failed to yield a goal or two, City’s battling defensive performance and then second half dominance deserved rich recognition. The previous day had seen monsoon like rain that had caused the CCL programme to be decimated. The Horley pitch however showed little sign of the inclement weather and the match proceeded in near perfect conditions. Guildford had an early sight of goal when on four minutes Jack Battie’s pass found Jordan Gallagher who cut in from the left but saw his shot go wide. Horley enjoyed a territorial advantage and several times from set pieces looked to break the deadlock. On 21 minutes Leyton Regan volleyed a difficult chance over the bar and minutes later Kornel Ziobrowski in the City goal saved spectacularly from a close range header. In a generally scrappy first period Ziobrowski again saved well from a Horley header. City’s best chance of the half saw George Pilbeam create space for himself to fire in a low effort that George Hyde saved well low down. That was Pilbeam’s last involvement in the match and he departed the action victim of a recurring leg problem. There was still time in the half for Ziobrowski to save low down in what was deemed a man of the match performance. No score then in the first period and Guildford will have been satisfied still to be on level terms.
City had an early scare at the start of the second half when a deep Horley cross was volleyed over at the back of the goal. But manager Chris Balchin had made a tactical switch at the interval and the result was soon evident as the visitors were a side transformed after the break. Guildford were altogether livelier and the threat moved towards the home side’s goal. Jack Battie saw an opening for a long range effort that was comfortably saved but that set the scene. On 54 minutes City nudged ahead when Dan Stewart showed great strength to hold off opposition defenders to bear down on goal and rifle home a low effort for his 20th goal of the campaign. Two minutes later the same player came close to repeating the exercise when he burst through again on the left after a great feint opened up the space, but this time his left foot effort zipped wide of the post. In a period of dominance, and with Horley’s defence audibly rattled, Sanchez Benali curled an ambitious effort wide when others were better placed in the box. Horley still threatened in forays forward and Chris Tancock and debutant Kieran Wright were both outstanding in central defence to ward off the threat. On 73 minutes Dan Stewart held the ball up well in the box and then unleashed the overlapping Jordan Gallagher whose first time effort blazed wide. Horley responded in kind and their overlapping full-back Scott Robson shot wide on a similar basis. With five minutes remaining, and from one of several scampering runs from Evan Lopes, Jordan Gallagher saw a close range effort blocked at full stretch with Nathaniel Williams shooting the rebound over. In stoppage time Dan Stewart again burst into the box but his effort was saved low down. There was still time for a hearts in mouth moment when from a long throw into the box a Horley header hit the top of the crossbar. Lifted by their win City now move on to their Easter Monday derby clash against Godalming Town (11.30am at Spectrum).
Team: Kornel Ziobrowski, David Opoku, Will Kouadio, Kieran Wright, Chris Tancock, Robbie Mundow, Jordan Gallagher, Jack Battie, George Pilbeam (Evan Lopes 42), Dan Stewart, Sanchez Benali (Nathaniel Williams 60).
Referee: Andrew Connor