Raynes Park Vale (1) 3, Guildford City (0)2
by Barry Underwood
It was newly promoted Raynes Park who came out winners in the stifling heat at Grand Drive. No side likes to come away from the first game of the season without any reward and for the first time in a number of seasons, this was the fate that befell City. It was a game of contrasting footballing styles. Vale favoured a direct approach whilst City looked to play their customary passing game. In fairness Vale were determined to make an impression and from the start their work rate was excellent, and in the early minutes, they pinned City back culminating in hitting the outside of the post. Guildford did soon show their ability on the counter-attack when Mark Watkins broke well. Michael Campbell received his pass in the box but his shot from an angle went wide. As the frantic opening continued Jordan Gallagher burst into the box and was clearly clipped, but managing to stay on his feet, the ball ran free and the referee turned away any claims for a penalty. Vale dominated territorially and Liam Beach twice saved well at the near post at the expense of corners. On the half hour, the home side took the lead. The ball was crossed from the right and was turned in at the near post with no defender in sight. The game continued without incident until stoppage time when within three minutes there was a spate of action. First Vale’s Nathan Chambers hit the post from a good position, whilst at the other end Dan Stewart’s effort was cleared off the line, followed quickly by a Bobby Dormer effort being deflected onto the post.
City enjoyed more of the ball in the second period but still struggled to break down a big and organised defence. The home side still posed a threat with high balls into the box and on 51 minutes a header at the back stick hit the post and the rebound was turned wide. Minutes later City were back on level terms. Michael Campbell found some rare space and his effort was parried by the diving Reece Turner. Mark Watkins was first to react and he converted acrobatically from eight yards. There was a hint that Guildford would turn the screws and go on to win the game, especially when on 65 minutes Vale’s Eion Fraser was dismissed for a second yellow card. Bobby Dormer saw a piledriver well saved, and Jordan Gallagher’s pass across the goalmouth just eluded Michael Campbell. Just when it seemed Guildford were gaining control they were knocked back on their heels conceding a poor goal from a straightforward pass down the centre of the pitch. Not that Byron Letts was worried as he chased the through ball and shot under Liam Beach. City had it all to do again. Evan Lopes had a chance to shoot but chose to find Campbell but the chance went begging. With 15 minutes remaining, Mike Campbell’s shot was brilliantly parried by Turner and Chris Tancock somehow put the rebound over the bar. A great turn by Dan Stewart in the box saw his goal-bound effort saved onto the post by Turner. On 81 minutes the pressure told when Dan Stewart converted a free-kick from 25 yards. City would have settled for a point on the opening day but poor defending from a corner gave Vale an 88th minute winner, and despite possession, the visitors were unable to draw the scores level for a third time.
Team: Liam Beach, Chris Tancock, Josh Burrowes, Bobby Dormer, Nemo Adams, Billy Irving, Mark Watkins (Evan Lopes 66), Bobby Webbe (Robbie Mundow 76), Michael Campbell, Jordan Gallagher (Courage Moda 87), Dan Stewart. Unused subs: David Burton, Ric Campbell.
Referee: Tom Simmons.