Banstead Athletic 1 – 1 Guildford City

GUILDFORD were ruing another poor first half performance as they failed to take all three points in this disappointing game.  Indeed for much of the first half City were second best as they failed to clear their lines and gifted possession to their opponents too easily.  It took a contentious penalty, taken by former player John Hamsher to spark the visitors back into life, well into the second half.  After penning Banstead in for much of the latter stages Guildford finally got the equaliser they deserved courtesy of Lance Banton-Brown’s first goal for the club.  They could not however steal the winner which would have given them the edge over their antagonists in the relegation scrap.

This was yet another game which had been postponed due to the weather earlier in the season – the huge snow fall back in February doing for this fixture at a ground which seems to have its own, permanently freezing, climate zone anyway.  Still despite the location a number of us convened on Merland Rise in time to catch the early kick off.  Mr Pegman was joined by his wife Jenny; Tony, Paul and Shahid were there as was Matt Howell.  For all his protestations over how he would definitely make it, however, Lofty had not managed to make the trip (he’d probably fallen asleep in Bar Med!) and neither did the students who had the more reasonable excuse that they had gone home for the Easter break.

One look at the team sheet was enough to know that this match would be a bit like a badly made version of “A Christmas Carol” – the ghosts of Guildford City past haunting the pitch at seemingly every step.  In goal was our former manager Dave Tidy whilst on the pitch were none other than his former management team of John Hamsher and Lee Passmore.  Darren Annon and Tony Arnold completed the set from the bench.  Aside from this there was a worrying lack of appearance from Joel Greaves, the hero of that match against Molesey – he had a crucial game with his other team and could not make it.

So the game kicked off and Guildford actually had the first chance – a freekick being won on the edge of the home side’s area in the 3rd minute but Craig Moore’s delivery being easily cleared by the Banstead defence.  Around ten minutes later Harrison Carnegie made his usual pacey run into the box before firing straight at Dave Tidy and then in the 13th minute Lance had an excellent chance to make it 1-0 – beating his man really well and tearing into the box.  However he did not pull the trigger at the crucial moment and ended up weakly passing the ball across the face of goal in a sort of half hearted cross/shot.  Would his luck never change?  Yet for all these chances, City were riding their luck somewhat – both in terms of pushing up too far and in terms of the long balls they kept trying to fire up to Harrison and Lance which invariably ended up being intercepted.  Tony was horrified: “this is the worst I’ve seen them play under Kevin” he moaned (he doesn’t get his nickname for nothing!)  The visitors wasted another freekick in the 18th minute before the home side forged their first really good chance of the game – Paul Hunt getting the ball and tearing down the pitch with panicked City defenders in his wake.  Luckily his cross went just behind for a goalkick.  Four minutes later it was Lance’s turn to do exactly the same thing for the visitors before Guildford had their first big let off – a forward breaching the City back line, beating Jack Smelt and firing towards goal – yet somehow Jamie Thoroughgood got to the line first to clear.

Banstead were gaining an ever stronger grip on the game at this point and City’s chances were few and far between.  Around the half hour mark, Craig Moore underlined the lack of opportunities by opting to shoot from long range on two occasions rather than pass.  Whenever the A’s got the ball they seemed a threat.  In the 31st minute Guildford were saved from an almost certain goal by another superb intervention from Thoroughgood, dispossessing the Banstead forward and preventing him going one-on-one with Smelt.  City at last started to come back into the game however – Carnegie beating two defenders to fire into the keeper’s mits and then weathering a dangerous freekick for the home side, well – Smelt punching clear.  In the 36th minute Harrison was at it again, tearing down the right wing and getting in a good shot which went behind for a corner (and as so often this season it failed to trouble Guildford’s opponents).  Back came the home side however and they could have gained first blood in the 39th minute had it not been for a crunching but immaculately timed tackle in the penalty area from Tommy Tydeman – “when he’s not getting sent off, that kid is really good” commented Chris Pegman sagely!!  There was time for Banstead to head wide of goal from a throw-in and for yet another Guildford freekick to be wastefully fired straight to the keeper before the half time whistle sounded.

By this point all of us were really cold – the stand we had been sitting in only seemed to enhance the bitter wind which swept every blade of grass at Merland Rise- and we were very glad to get indoors and have a nice pint of beer (via the burger van of course!).  By the time we got there Eddie, our Treasurer, was tearing his hair out watching Man United perform particularly badly against Porto – it was 1-1 at that point and the Red Devils would somehow contrive to draw the game 2-2 after conceding a goal with pretty much the last kick of the game!!  Meanwhile Matt was giving his honest opinion about some musical professional that he been working with who he termed ‘a dick’ and trying to persuade us that as he had now found out that a ‘Jack Smelt’ was a type of fish, we should try and think up some sort of fishy song for our keeper.  In addition we were all musing over precisely what our former manager had meant when he yelled to one of his players, ‘you should have gone there, sausage’!?  Reluctantly we trooped out for the second half and back to the freezing stand.

Banstead began the second half looking even more dangerous and they were helped by Guildford’s complete inability either to string passes together or to clear their lines.  Luckily the defence were on good form and while Banstead were finding lots of space in midfield they were generally being closed down by the back four.  In the 58th minute Guildford finally notched an effort, Carnegie going through and firing wide with just Tidy to beat.  A minute later the A’s had their turn to spurn an excellent chance – a player heading embarrassingly wide from a cross when totally unmarked.  The play then returned to the other end as Lance, displaying some excellent close control and power, beat two defenders and fired at the goal – his shot being punched out and the rebound put wide.

Things were starting to look promising but in the 64th minute Banstead won a freekick about 25 yards out, Tommy Tydeman earning himself a yellow card in the process.  The delivery went over the knot of players and behind for what appeared to be a goal kick.  However the referee had seen a push in the box and awarded a penalty.  Hamsher stepped up to take it, with Jack Smelt doing the traditional things goalies do to try and psyche out their opponents.  His shot went to Jack’s left but the goalie guessed correctly and pushed the ball behind for a corner.  Yet the linesman was waving his flag and much to our disgust the ref ordered the kick retaken as it appeared Smelt had been marginally off his line.  Not surprisingly Jack was furious and hurled his bottle into the back of the net, earning himself a yellow card for his trouble.  Hamsher made no mistake second time round and Guildford were staring down the barrel of yet another away defeat they could scarcely afford.

As so often since Kevin Rayner took over though, going a goal down was exactly the impetus his side needed.  Suddenly the home team were sitting back and City ran at them with real vigour.  In the 71st minute, Guildford would have scored had one player chosen to shoot in the box, rather than pass the ball to players in worse and worse positions as the defenders homed in on the threat from every angle.  Following a double attacking substitution (Kevin’s son, Ben, coming on for Tony Chaplin) City won three corners in a row as the clock hit 75 minutes, none of which troubled the A’s, before yet another freekick went behind for yet another corner.  Guildford just could not make the breakthrough and time was running out.  The frustration levels in the stand were getting unbearable but finally the goal came – an innocuous looking shot from Lance, about 25 yards out, taking a wicked deflection off a Banstead player, beating the wrong-footed Dave Tidy and nestling in the back of the net.  City now had the momentum to push for a win but the killer goal never came despite a decent header from Lance in the 88th minute and a call for a penalty in the 3rd minute of injury time.

So another two points dropped for our favourite football team but at least City managed to get something.  They are still in with a shout of survival but much could depend on the outcome of their next match – at home to Bookham.  Let’s keep everything crossed.

GUILDFORD CITY: J. Smelt; G. Tydeman; C. Knight; T. Tydeman; J. Thoroughgood; J. King; P. Gough (sub D. Elgar, 54); C. Moore (sub E. Massey, 74); L. Banton-Brown; H. Carnegie; T. Chaplin (sub Ben Rayner, 74)

Subs not used: T. Penson; S. Sheppard

BANSTEAD ATHLETIC: D. Tidy; L. Matthews (sub S. Windegaard, 45); R. Townsend; S. Murphy; J. Reine; J. Hamsher; L. Gay; L. Passmore; P. Hunt; S. Mitchell; J. Haniff

Subs not used: D. Annon; T. Arnold; L. Johnson