CB Hounslow United 3 – 3 Guildford City (Premier Challenge Cup First Round, 2-2 FT, Guildford City win on penalties)

GUILDFORD rode their luck in this epic encounter which reached its conclusion in an entertaining penalty shoot out. An early goal suggested winning the tie would be a formality but it turned out to be anything but with Hounslow from CCL Division 1 matching and, at times, outplaying their opponents. It took the introduction of Aneel Azeem, late in the game, to avert another catastrophic cup defeat and steer City towards a home encounter with Egham in the next round.

As might be expected, getting to Hounslow’s ground was a bit of a challenge. Matt Brown and I left Guildford, still with doubts as to whether the match would go ahead at all given the torrential rain storms we had been experiencing for over two days. We would be without several key members of the Sweeney – Lofty having had to cry off due to a friend’s birthday bash, Ian having other (girl-related) commitments and Dan being still in Gloucester [insert puddle jokes here!] As usual we got a bit lost but managed to find the ground and a nearby pub called The Plough for food (Hounslow appearing to have a fully operational snack van but with no-one to sell the food). We had arranged to meet Matt Howell at this pub but he somehow contrived to find another pub called The Plough somewhere else and we only caught up with him at the match!

Hounslow’s ground ‘Soldierfields’ is very much on the basic side, although it does have a truly enormous and labyrinthine clubhouse – I discovered this when I attempted to find the toilets and ended up wondering around the many corridors of the building getting more and more lost!! The stands must have been knocked together by a nearby carpenter but were perfectly adequate for the task (except for a gap in the roofing which caused Matt H to get a bit wet in the early stages of the game). There were also a very vocal set of supporters sitting on the balcony of the clubhouse and singing a variety of songs during the match which certainly spiced things up a bit. The pitch itself didn’t look too bad however the slightly long grass and soft turf meant the ball didn’t move well over the surface and this was further hampered by the winds swirling around Hounslow.

Guildford could not have started the game better. In the 2nd minute they breached the Hounslow defence and Simon Sheppard, in his now customary role down the right wing, sent in a peach of a cross to Craig Duffell who was brought down in the box. Greg Levene stepped up to take the spot-kick and made no mistake, sending the keeper the wrong way. Hounslow were lower league opposition but even the City fans hadn’t expected the first goal to come so easily. Maybe a big scoreline would be on the cards? The home side however were having none of this and, once the shock of the opening goal had worn off, started stretching City with their pacey wingers. Odin Phillips did particularly well in these early exchanges, beating Greg Levene at the byline in the 10th minute and floating a cross to the far post which neither of Hounslow’s forwards could quite divert into the net. Five minutes later Darren Potman, the Hounslow winger, curled a good looking shot at the goal but Jay was equal to it and gathered it safely. The warning bells had not started ringing with City yet but they did in the 17th minute. A foul was given away on the edge of the visitors’ area and Potman sent the resulting freekick into the penalty area. Jay came for the ball but missed it, allowing Anthony Bridgeman to tap the ball into the net.

The course of the match had taken its first twist and Guildford, to their credit, did all they could to restore their lead. In the 21st minute, Simon Sheppard made one of his trademark runs down the wing and crossed to Craig Duffell who, despite getting some of his head on it, could not stop the ball being caught by the keeper. Two minutes later Duffell again had a chance, curling a shot just wide of the far post from the corner of the Hounslow penalty area. Back came the home side though, Kadoo making an impressive run into the penalty area in the 26th minute before being dispossessed by some determined City defending. Dan Rice proceeded to shoot wide from the edge of the area whilst the home side, who only seemed to take short corners for the whole game, crossed a ball wastefully over the City penalty area and out for a throw-in. The next major chance fell to Guildford, a superb counter attack after a freekick on the edge of their box (Andy Wylde having brought down Potman) in the 31st minute. The ball struck the visitors’ wall and was then dribbled down towards the other end of the pitch with very few players left back to defend. Unfortunately Steve Coyle’s cross to Duffell wasn’t good enough and the keeper easily claimed it. Two further chances presented themselves to City, Greg Levene shooting powerfully straight at the keeper after some good work from Sheppard and Matt Martin sending in an impressive long range effort which almost lobbed the keeper but was just held. Ten minutes from halftime, however, Hounslow had an excellent chance to take the lead after sending a long ball into the Guildford penalty area which the defenders were unable to deal with. Anthony Bridgeman latched onto the loose ball and with only Jay to beat, blasted well over the bar. In the 38th minute City actually had the ball in the net after another brilliant piece of skill from Sheppard but it was ruled out for offside. A minute later City again went close, Charlie Emery forcing a brilliant save from Conybear after a superbly taken freekick from outside the area. The half concluded with a half chance from the home side – Kadoo shooting well over in the 43rd minute from a corner.

Discussion at halftime centred on how well the home side had played and what Guildford would need to do to beat them. There was also the factor of the wind which was preventing any sort of clearances for the side unfortunate enough to playing into it. Given City’s poor performance against Frimley earlier in the season, there was certainly anxiety that Guildford scalp was again about to be taken by lower league opposition. The food and drink were good though and we returned to the pitch for the second half.

The fears of another cup exit seemed certainly to have woken City up in the opening stages of the 2nd half and they set about the task of restoring their lead with real relish. Three minutes in, Coyle crossed expertly to Sheppard at the far post but he was unable to turn the ball in. Five minutes later Craig Duffell, who had looked a little off the pace at times, sent Sheppard clear with an excellently weighted ball but, lacking support, Simon was eventually dispossessed by Hounslow defenders. In the 54th minute the home side responded, Chris Bridgeman winning a corner after a shot deflected behind and Hounslow heading just wide from the resulting corner when they really should have scored. The momentum was definitely with Guildford though and in the 62nd minute the visitors finally got the goal their play had deserved. Andy Wylde received the ball on the edge of the box and curled a brilliant low shot through the crowded penalty area and into the net. There was some debate as to whether Emery got his foot to it but Andy claimed it.

To their enormous credit, Hounslow were not content to throw in the towel and they then set about their unsuspecting opponents with some excellent counter-attacking football. In the 66th minute Gary Franklin dispossessed Dan Rice and should have done better with his shot, scuffing it into Jay’s hands. Moments after a double substitution, the home side again had a chance, Chris Bridgeman hitting a tricky bouncing shot which Jay had to catch at his feet. Suddenly Guildford’s lead wasn’t looking that safe and as if to prove the adage that the best form of defence is attack, City started throwing more players up front – a fatal error. With 15 minutes to go, Guildford won a corner and sent most of their players up to Hounslow’s penalty area. Somehow the ball fell to the home side who broke at speed, and advanced on the two defenders Guildford had left back to defend. Beating them was easy and Anthony Bridgeman notched his second of the game with a straightforward tap in. Now the momentum had shifted to the home side and they started to play like they believed they could win. Three minutes after the goal, they were extremely unlucky not to take the lead when Bridgeman missed out on his hat trick by heading unmarked over the bar from a corner. Guildford were fighting back though and with the skills of Aneel Azeem now on display were starting to eke out some opportunities. The chance for City to kill off the game came with just four minutes of ordinary time to go when Dan Dunning found himself in the box with an open goal looming and chose power over placement, ballooning his shot over the bar from 6 yards out to the delight of the (increasingly vocal) Hounslow fans on the balcony. Time was slipping away now and for all Aneel’s skill at beating his markers and getting into the box, there was no end product and the referee signalled the end of ordinary time and the start of extra time.

Hounslow started the opening minutes of extra time in much the same way as Guildford had started the first half (man, that seemed a long time ago at this point!): by winning a penalty. Michael Hinkson was body-checked in the box and the referee pointed to the spot. Up stepped Potman but Jay was equal to his shot, diving brilliantly to his right to beat it out. Two minutes later the home side, now playing with real conviction, had the ball in the back of the net but it was ruled out for offside. Jay then had to pull off another wonder save, diving and getting enough of his fingertips to a shot to divert it away from the goal. This was thrilling stuff for the home fans but what had happened to City? Now playing like a beaten side, it was sadly inevitable when they conceded in the 8th minute of the half. The ball was given away on the edge of Guildford’s area and Hinkson finished clinically from 10 yards. As so often before, this was the kick up the backside City needed and they forged a reasonable chance before the end of the first period – Kieron Philpott, getting forward with some impressive passing, flashed the ball across the face of goal with Si Sheppard just unable to get to it. Back came the home side though and another save from Jay prevented Hinkson making it 4-2 and Game Over. The second half proved to be just as eventful as the first, but as it wore on, Guildford appeared to be gaining the upper hand and a growing belief that they could at least take the game to penalties. Charlie Emery was desperately unlucky to hit the post with another impressive long range freekick five minutes from time but when Dan Rice fired over the bar two minutes later, it appeared the home side had used up all their luck. No-one told this to Sheppard and Azeem though as they combined to score the equaliser in the final minute of extra time. Sheppard made another blistering run down the wing, got to the byline and crossed for Azeem to volley expertly in at the far post. All the City fans went wild and turned their chants on the Hounslow fans who had been taunting them for the last half hour.

So to penalties and after a coin toss, it was decided Hounslow should go first. Andrew Sterling stepped up to take the first spot kick and was fortunate to see his shot go in off the bar, however Steve Coyle was less lucky, having his penalty saved by Lee Conybear, the Hounslow keeper. The home side’s advantage was short-lived however as the goal-scoring hero, Anthony Bridgeman cannoned his shot off the post and Aneel made no mistake, stroking his kick home with almost laconic ease. The Hounslow keeper then tried his luck but Jay saved his shot brilliantly and Dan Dunning then put City ahead in the shoot-out for the first time. Chris Bridgeman restored parity and then City new boy Craig Moore stepped up – his shot, heading for the top corner, but being saved brilliantly. Nicky Ong finished his spot kick off with real aplomb whilst Charlie Emery lived dangerously, the keeper getting his fingertips to the shot but not enough to keep it out. It was now sudden death and Kadoo stepped up to take the next penalty which was saved by Jay. This left the Guildford skipper, Andy Wylde, with the job of winning the shoot-out which he did confidently.

All credit to Hounslow who played really well in spells during this game. Also big respect to their supporters who created a really good atmosphere and even wished us luck afterwards. They may have accidentally helped us win the shoot-out however, copying our chants of ‘Argentina! Argentina!’ while our Argentinean keeper Jay was standing in goal!!

CB HOUNSLOW UTD: L. Conybear; O. Phillips; K. Phillips; A. Roberts; A. Sterling; C. Bridgeman; G. Franklin (sub M. Hinkson, 67); H. Kadoo; A. Bridgeman; W. Simmonds (sub N. Ong, 67); D. Potman (sub C. Newton, 102)

Subs not used: None

GUILDFORD CITY: J. Gindre; K. Philpott; S. Coyle; D. Rice; A. Wylde; D. Dunning; S. Sheppard; C. Emery; C. Duffell (sub Liam Alleyn, 106); M. Martin (sub Craig Moore, 70); G. Levene (sub A. Azeem, 65)

Subs not used: Anthony Halliwell