GUILDFORD were simply outplayed in this sobering encounter between CCL strugglers and wannabe champions. The Curfews struck twice in the first half to all but tie up the points and then weathered a period of City dominance just before the break which never really threatened a goal. The visitors were lucky not to have their deficit increased in the second half with Jack Smelt impressively saving a Pomroy penalty and the home side hitting the post.
This was yet another midweek away trip although a lot less tricky to get to than North Greenford or Wembley. I opted to drive again and gave a lift to a veritable posse of students including Dave, Dan, his girlfriend and the ever amusing Joe. In fact it was Joe’s 20th birthday and when I picked him up from the university car park, he was still scoffing his birthday cake from a paper plate!! During the journey I asked the birthday boy, precisely what he meant when he said he had ‘done the Duke of Edinburgh’, ‘well you see it’s this award scheme…..’ he replied. He’s so innocent I just want to hug him! Anyway, after an otherwise uneventful journey, albeit one where we comprehensively failed to get the hang of Chertsey’s one way system and dead end roads, we arrived at Alwyn’s Lane just in time for kick off.
It was clear from the start that this was a very different Chertsey side to the one Guildford had drawn with 2-2 at the Spectrum back in November. In the lineup was one John Pomroy, whom Moaning Tone rates as the best striker in the CCL and he was soon causing City lots of problems as they struggled to cope with the home side’s impressive one touch football and movement. In the 6th minute Guildford were unlucky not to go behind after a defensive mix up allowed Aaron McLeish to go through on goal but yet again City’s stopper Jack Smelt was there to save the ball and clear it from danger. The luck could not last however and seven minutes later the visitors went 1-0 up after a truly breathtaking piece of skill (and a bit of luck it has to be said). Pomroy was powering down the wing and then without warning let fly with a lofted shot from around 35 yards. Smelt, who was only marginally off his line, had no chance as the ball cleared his fingertips and nestled in the back of the net. Guildford started to get a bit more space after this but a few promising moves were easily broken up by the Curfews well marshalled defence. The home side then went on the attack, winning a freekick from which Paul Brooker blasted over the bar, much to the City fans’ relief. Chertsey however were an unstoppable force and they increased their lead in the 21st minute – the impressive centre half Stuart Bamford slotting home after a corner from the home side caused confusion in the box.
Just when we were all convinced our team were about to be dealt a thorough thrashing, the home side suddenly took their foot off the pedal and allowed City back into the game. Suddenly it was Chertsey who were on the back foot, although the quality of their defence meant there were few periods of real danger for them. In the 29th minute Aneel Azeem, running down the right wing, found Carnegie, who swiftly put Lance Banton-Brown through near the left byline; unfortunately with no support, Lance could only fire a cross-cum-shot over the bar. As if to compound City’s profligacy, the home side then went on the attack, another defensive error putting McLeish through but luckily there was no-one in the box to connect with his cross. Guildford were not about to change their style of play however and in the 36th minute a well judged cross from Danny Elgar found Lance in the box. The City striker, who is still in search of his first goal for the club, did well to get behind his marker and shoot twice – the first rebounding back off a defender and the second winning the visitors a corner which unfortunately was delivered too long and cleared. Two more chances presented themselves before the halftime whistle. The first fell to Chertsey, Pomroy once again powering down the pitch and firing a powerful drive just wide of the post. Then City had the last (and perhaps best) chance to reduce the deficit in the final minute of the half – a good cross being met by a header from Carnegie which was cleared off the line by a Curfews defender.
There were some crumbs of hope at halftime but despite Sir Lagerlot’s upbeat assessment (why he is always so darn optimistic?!) I think we all knew that it would take a miracle of biblical proportions for City to dig themselves out of this hole. The students had kindly bought me a cheeseburger in the first half but, still hungry, I decided to get a hot dog as well, partly to take my mind off the plight of the team! Big respect to the girl in the tea bar who worked her socks off on her own to serve about 25 people during the break with the aid of a 1970s cooker!
Guildford made one change for the second half – Lance, who had started to limp badly at the end of the half being replaced by the star of the Molsey game Joel “Jimmy” Greaves. Yet again the young striker had been unable to get to the match on time due to traffic. We were all pleased to see him on the pitch though amid renewed hope that our luck might change.
That hope quickly evaporated once the game restarted, the home side once again stepping up their workrate, determined to put the game beyond the visitors’ reach. Chertsey won a flurry of freekicks and corners in the first ten minutes of the game, partly due to the somewhat eccentric whims of the referee who seemed to think the match was not all about football, but all about him! City just managed to clear their lines on each occasion but in the 56th minute, disaster struck when a powerful shot was adjudged to have been handled and a penalty was awarded. ‘Jack hasn’t saved a spot kick this season’ muttered a despairing Dave Sendall as Pomroy stood over the ball. Yet the striker’s shot was weak and Jack guessed the right way, diving to the right and pushing the ball to safety. This did not herald any sort of turning point however as Chertsey maintained their pressure. In the 65th minute they earned another copper-bottomed chance, a forward going through, beating the keeper but hitting the post; the rebound shot was then well saved by Smelt.
Guildford were struggling to make any headway but did eventually start to eke out some half chances, Jamie King wasting a good chance to score in the 76th minute when he scuffed a shot whilst one-on-one with the keeper. Back came the Curfews though and Pomroy had two good chances to increase their lead in the 81st and 82nd minutes, missing the target on both occasions. By this point the match was all but won and there was a sense of inevitability when Danny Elgar was put through and failed to chip Michael Lidbury in the Chertsey goal. A minute from time came an even better chance, Greaves powering into the box, wresting the ball from one of the defenders and passing to Carnegie who would almost certainly have scored. Unfortunately the ref had already blown for the foul which no-one (not even the Chertsey goalie) thought had been committed. There was time for the home side to notch one more effort – Steve McNamara firing well over from a freekick and for Greaves to fire over the bar from the edge of the box before the final whistle blew.
“We could have won 5-0, you lot couldn’t score in a brothel’ jeered one of the home fans as we made our way out. I just resisted the temptation to ask him how many points the richest side in the league were from the top spot (18 if you’re interested!) Guildford will hope they can get back to winning ways against Horley on Saturday.
CHERTSEY TOWN: M. Lidbury; S. Gibson (sub L. Muldowney, 77); S. McNamara; M. Moody (sub G. Graham, 71); S. Bamford; M. Waters; P. Brooker; G. Bamford; J. Pomroy; A. McLeish; D. Dobinson
Subs not used: M. Holley; H. Bettinson; J. Williamson
GUILDFORD CITY: J. Smelt; T. Penson; C. Knight; G. Tydeman; J. Thoroughgood; J. King; A. Azeem (sub C. Moore, 55); T. Chaplin (sub A. Simeone, 73); L. Banton-Brown (sub J. Greaves, 45); H. Carnegie; D. Elgar
Subs not used: P. Gough; E. Massey