THIS was a pretty ordinary match played on a rock hard pitch in the stifling heat of a Bank Holiday weekend. Yet City showed great character to emerge with all the points, despite missing some key players and clearly still recovering from the exertions of Saturday. After an uneventful first half which was shaded by the visitors, City pulled ahead early in the second period – Harrison Carnegie converting from the spot after being held in the box. Ben Rayner then sealed the victory after a period of concerted pressure from the home side.
As might be expected there was very much an ‘after the Lord Mayor’s show’ about this game, with only a small number of City supporters able or willing (in the case of Lofty!) to take the trip to Dorking. Those who came enjoyed bright sunshine and a pint in Meadowbank’s spacious bar – that is except for Chris’s nipper, who declined my offer of a pint!! Meanwhile we were a little worried to hear neither Anthony Hall, Graham Tydeman nor Tom Penson had been able to make the game due to injury or work commitments – luckily there were some able replacements among City’s squad and Kevin was reasonably confident.
The first half was very much a tale of wasted chances. The first decent opportunity fell to the visitors in the 15th minute – a City freekick being partially cleared to Carnegie whose shot was deflected onto the post and behind for a corner, which Bookham handled comfortably. Minutes later, after Guildford had soaked up an attack, Harrison turned provider, his cross just missing the run of Cory Knight. The Guildford forward was in action again in the 22nd minute, beating his marker and running into the box but firing into the side netting. A City corner and a good chance for Adesina followed as the visitors started to dominate possession.
The home side at last started to come into the game on the half hour mark – Michael Fowler trying his luck with a volley from the edge of the box, which was well wide. Guildford responded – Harrison slicing a shot well wide and Jack Turner delivering a good cross to the far post but missing the head of Bridgeman. The half however ended with two good chances for Bookham. First the impressive Martin Smith finally found some space and advanced into the Guildford penalty area, shaking off his marker but shooting weakly at Burnett. Then in the 44th minute James Piercy delivered a peach of a curling cross from the right wing which seemed lazer guided onto the foot of at least one of the incoming Bookham players. Burnett saw the danger though and brilliantly blocked a shot at the far post to keep the scores level at half time.
The break was a chance to sample some cake courtesy of the Bookham committee and to try to repatriate a bright pink towel I had found in the Spectrum changing rooms. The odds were that no Guildford player would admit ownership and I had to wait until the final whistle before the true owner (culprit?) was revealed as Tony Chaplin! I had to inform the disappointed City defender that it was not washed but it was dry and mould free!!
Bookham started the second half on a more positive note and Julian van Gelder made an early statement of intent, firing wide of the near post in the 53rd minute after some good approach work. This followed an amusing incident in which Harrison feigned outrage at a foul given against him. “You know you pushed him in the back Harrison… and so would I” yelled out the ever vocal Moaning Tone! Guildford responded to the pressure and a minute later Harrison once again was tearing into the box. With the keeper advancing to get the ball it seemed 50/50 as to who would get there first, however defender Russell Hartt tried to improve the odds a little more by holding Harrison by his shirt. The ref was in no doubt, instantly blowing his whistle and pointing to the spot. Hartt was undoubtedly the last defender but somehow got away with a yellow card. Carnegie stepped up and fired low into the left hand corner, Warren Aburn diving the wrong way and Guildford at last had the lead.
City now needed to make the most of their moral advantage and a minute after the goal, Gabriel Adesina broke through and tried to lob the advancing keeper, his shot drifting well wide. Yet the balance of play now tilted towards the home side as they desperately tried to equalise. It should have arrived in the 59th minute – a freekick from near the byline being heading over the bar when Burnett failed to claim the ball. They had another chance in the 68th minute – Burnett advancing out of his box but sloppily passing to a Bookham player. Luckily the attempted lob was headed clear by Rayner. Two minutes later the City keeper redeemed himself by blocking a shot at the near post after all the visitors had waited for an offside flag which never came.
The home side continued to turn the screw, shooting into the side netting in the 80th minute after a swift counter-attacking move. They saved their best till last however, a forward finally flat-footing the Guildford defence and advancing on the helpless Burnett. A goal seemed a certainty but somehow the keeper dived and blocked the ball at point blank range – the follow up sailing high over the bar. City finally had some breathing space now and new signing Sean Rivers tried his luck from the edge of the area, the shot just missing the target. The nerves were well and truly settled in the 86th minute however when Keno Tracey beat his man, ran down the right wing and dragged a pass back to the edge of the box and the waiting Ben Rayner who finished with aplomb. Bookham once again turned up the heat, courtesy of a few dubious freekicks but it was too little too late and the exhausted Guildford players held on to take the three points.
GUILDFORD CITY: D. Burnett; T. Arnold; C. Knight; T. Chaplin (L. Hirrel, 84); J. Thoroughgood; J. King; J. Turner (S. Rivers, 60); B. Rayner; G. Adesina (K. Tracey, 73); H. Carnegie; A. Bridgeman
Subs not used: A. Hall; L. Bradnick
BOOKHAM: W. Aburn; S. Currie; J. Van Gelder; S. Padgett; R. Hartt; D. Carnota (S. Broslin, 63); J. Piercy (D. McCann, 63); M. Fowler; M. Smith; C. Woodward; B. Loney
Subs not used: G. Mandeville; B. Ramsay
Booked: R. Hartt
Referee: A. Connor