Balham (0) 0, Guildford City (0) 1
by Barry Underwood
On a fine but chilly day at Wibbandune, Balham dominated the match in terms of possession, territory and efforts on goal. But in one area Guildford topped the stat that mattered most; that is to say goals scored. Balham will understandably be gutted. Their performance deserved much more and for City this was a real smash and grab raid. Credit though to Guildford for an excellent defensive effort. Every player played their part and you have to admire the spirit that this City side had in abundance to repel attack after attack. Balham enjoyed good possession from the off and as early as the third minute a shot from the edge of the box had to be scrambled away. Much of the home sides play came from the left where they tried to give the speedy Khawo Savage as much ball as possible. City did have an early half chance following a corner. The ball fell to the edge of the box where Bobby Webbe met it on the half volley but his thunderbolt effort hit a City player as it headed towards goal. Balham had a glorious opportunity to take the lead on 22 minutes when from a deep cross James Adebayo missed the target from 10 yards. Guildford should have made Balham pay when a minute later Eli Ogunseye charged down the goalkeeper’s clearance. The ball was spun wide to Sean Mason whose teasing cross was missed in front of goal by Benga Ogunseye, and anyway just missed the far post. On the half hour City were fortunate to get away with what looked a certain penalty as Nemo Adams’s mistimed challenge seemed to bring down a Balham forward. Then in the closing moments of the half debutant goalkeeper Elgi Fejzo twice saved superbly. The first was with his leg at the near post following which Adebayo side footed a good chance wide. The second was an exceptional save from a half volley from the edge of the box which kept the scores level at the interval.
Would the momentum of the game alter after the break? The answer was largely no, as City failed to gain a toehold in the middle of the park. This placed the defence under considerable pressure, but full credit to the City backline who turned away cross after cross, and got their bodies where it hurt to block everything destined for goal. When the ball did get through Elgi Fejzo was up to the challenge and on 54 minutes he again saved well with his legs. The only goal of the game came on 58 minutes. In a rare attack Bobby Webbe got to Eli Ogunseye’s cross at the back of the goal. Webbe was facing away from the target but the advancing Balham keeper Haydn Read caught Webbe and the referee pointed to the spot. Up stepped Benga Ogunseye who safely drilled home a pressure kick. On the balance of play it seemed unlikely that City would hang on. But hang on they did. Balham saw a long range effort just clear the bar, and minutes later Fejzo saved low to tip an effort round the post. Guildford might have calmed nerves when for the first time all afternoon Eli Ogunseye’s pace took him goal side. Sadly his final touch was a little heavy and Read gathered the ball. With three minutes remaining Elgi Fejzo again saved brilliantly tipping a fierce effort over the bar. From the resulting corner a looping header was headed out from under the crossbar by Billy Irving. In stoppage time Balham’s skipper Jake Henry was distraught to see red for a foul, whilst Dan Band picked up a second yellow with almost the last kick of the match. The home side certainly impressed with their passing football, and certainly they will win far more matches than they lose this season.
Team: Elgi Fejzo, Sean Mason, Josh Burrowes (Isy Nzelo 34), Nemo Adams, Luke Beale, Billy Irving, Eli Ogunseye, Dan Band, Benga Ogunseye (Kyen Nicholas 81), Bobby Webbe, Evander Lopes (Nathaniel Williams 71). Unused subs: Alex Cooper, Jordan Hurlow.
Referee: Ahmad Rafique