Guildford City effectively won the Combined Counties Premier Division after defeating local rivals 3-2 after a thrilling bank holiday derby match. Only a freak eleven goal loss would prevent City from lifting the trophy on Saturday, but they were made to work for the points by an Ash side determined not to bow down to the league leaders. In the end, a quick-fire second half brace from Joel Greaves secured the victory for the visitors after two goals from Damien Payter gave Ash a half time lead. Austin Gacheru had opened the scoring early on and both sides chances to score more, but few could deny that Guildford were worth their win.
Champions elect Guildford started brightly with Heavey and Greaves going close before Gacheru had an effort chalked off for offside – all within the opening ten minutes. Ben Rayner swung in a corner on to the head of Gacheru who nodded past former City goalkeeper Adlam in the 10th minute. But Payter made the most of a rare defensive lapse from Jamie Thoroughgood a minute later when he misplaced a pass back to Antony Hall in the City goal. The Ash striker shot past the stricken goalkeeper to level the scores. The hosts enjoyed a spell of possession and Stuart Woodhouse struck the post from a free kick minutes later. Ash’s top scorer Karl Dallaway headed wide before City captain Simon Cooper saw his clearance blocked in the Ash midfield. A neat lob played in Payter once more, who put the hosts ahead in the 36th minute.
City pressed harder in the second half, and Ben Rayner was denied a penalty when Ash substitute Mark Fifer pulled the City midfielder down as he was about to pull the trigger. Minute later, Ash themselves had strong claims for a free kick when Hall raced out of his goal and collided with the oncoming Dallaway. With a little over twenty minutes remaining, another Ben Rayner corner was lofted into the area and Joel Greaves jumped highest to head City back on level terms. Dan Moody, who had been unfortunate to miss some chances in the first half, squandered his best opportunity when presented unmarked with a zipping cross at the far post.
The magic moment was not long in coming however, when substitute Ben Camara flicked on a long ball from Antony Hall. Joel Greaves latched on to the ball, evaded a clumsy challenge, rounded the goalkeeper and slotted home with his left foot. The goal sparked frenzied celebrations amongst the City contingent and their strong away support. Ash were not going to lie down however, and Antony Hall was in good form to deny a pair of chances. Another goal for City would have killed off the game, and both Dan Moody and Ben Camara had chances – the latter having his shot cleared off the line.
At the final whistle, City’s players and supporters celebrated their (very probable) league title, and victory over local rivals Ash United. The match was a fitting summary of an exciting season for Guildford City, and the party will continue at Bookham on Saturday.