Abbey Rangers (0) 1, Guildford City (1) 1
Guildford won 4-2 on penalties
By Barry Underwood
For the second consecutive FA Vase tie Guildford City successfully came through a tough encounter and a penalty shoot-out. Abbey off the back of just one defeat in 10 matches played, and already having defeated Guildford this season, went into the match as favourites. But City were welcoming back goalkeeper Devon Gordon and player of the year Sean Mason after long term injury absences. Manager Chris Balchin had demanded a fast start and that’s what City provided. From the off Guildford looked dangerous down the flanks, and as early as the second minute there were appeals for a penalty as a right wing cross from Mike Coppinger struck a defender’s hand as he lunged to block Cyril Ocansey at close range. Whether it matters or not these days is a separate question, but it was clearly unintentional, and would have been a harsh decision. The home side soon responded when a lobbed attempt just cleared the crossbar. After 11 minutes City opened the scoring. A long ball out of defence caused confusion in the Abbey defence. With one eye on the fast approaching Cyril Ocansey a defender headed the ball past his approaching goalkeeper and Ocansey had the simple task of putting the ball into the empty net. Guildford dominated much of the first half and both Andre Smith and Cyril Ocansey blazed over from good openings. In the late stages of the half Abbey came very much into the game. Isy Nzelo cleared acrobatically off the goal line, whilst a sliced clearance gave Luke Robertson chance to shoot from an angle, but Devon Gordon was equal to the task. Minutes prior to the break Tom Neale’s powerful long-range effort zipped inches over the bar.
The home side maintained their momentum after the interval and saw them enjoying the majority of possession. Guildford still looked dangerous on the counterattack and soon after the restart Andre Smith’s cross from the by-line was cleared under pressure. For Abbey Kerry Kedze saw a long-range lob go wide, whilst in another counter an overlapping run and cross from Jimmy Odagi gave Mike Coppinger a toe poked shooting chance. City’s defence were impressive and dealt well with a succession of free kicks into the box. On 68 minutes Mike Coppinger’s free kick from wide evaded everybody in the box and went inches past the back post. Three minutes later Abbey equalised. For once City’s defence was caught napping and Luke Robertson was given the chance to shoot from long range over Devon Gordon’s head. Would one moment of brilliance, or a mistake now decide the match? Mike Coppinger’s 25-yard effort sailed desperately close, whilst Abbey struck the foot of the post from a right-wing cross. With tension building the Guildford skipper Theo Woodhouse was sent to the sinbin and so if the visitors were to win the game, they would do it with 10 players. During the closing minutes Abbey piled forward, and from a corner a header hit the crossbar and was cleared. But City defended like lions and the tie was destined for penalty kicks. Mike Coppinger, Andre Smith and Cyril Ocansey all netted from the spot, whilst Devon Gordon saved an effort brilliantly onto the post. Up stepped Isy Nzelo to take City into the first round, and he made no mistake from the spot amid scenes of jubilation from fans and players alike.
Team: Devon Gordon Jimmy Odagi, Isy Nzelo, Theo Woodhouse, Greg Haydon, Sean Mason, Cyril Ocansey, Jamie Higgins (Sonny Black 58), Andre Smith, Mike Coppinger, Athan Smith-Joseph (Kieran Williams 70). Unused subs: Nathaniel Williams, David Burton, Jerry Antwi, Jack Blatchford, Zack Basey.
Referee: Nigel Owen