Chessington & Hook United 2 – 2 Guildford City

THIS WAS a very open game which either side could conceivably have won. City looked good going forward, taking the lead twice yet were unable on either occasion to consolidate and score the killer goal. The home side were a lot stronger after the break and Guildford’s defence did well to weather the storm and battle for a well deserved point.

The travelling turnout at Chessington and Hook’s Chalky Lane ground was a little lower than expected – partly due to a lot of students not having returned after the summer break and partly due to some of the male fans having prior commitments with lady friends (do these ladies not realise the new season has started?). Still those that were there made the most of it, the bulk of the City fans sitting in a section of the stand reserved for ‘Home Directors’ and braving the intermittent showers which bombarded the ground.

The opening exchanges of the match set the tone for what was to come – end to end stuff and no quarter being given on either side. Simon Sheppard felt the full force of this as early as the 7th minute when he was comprehensively taken out by a Chessington & Hook player only for the referee to wave play on because ‘he got the ball’ – not surprisingly a verdict which did not impress either the City fans or players. Seconds later, Joel Stevens had two chances to break the deadlock, catching the ball under his feet when he appeared to be through on goal and then having a close range shot blocked following an intelligent header from Sheppard. Despite the home side flashing a shot just wide of the post two minutes later, City managed to land the first blow in the 10th minute. Aneel Azeem made one of his trademark jinking runs into the box, got to the byline and then crossed to Rob Parrott at the far post. Rob’s header hit the stanchion but Sheppard was on hand to stick the rebound away. The visitors maintained the pressure in the following minutes and can be disappointed not to have increased their lead. Sam Pothercary drove a powerful freekick just wide after Aneel was brought down on the edge of the Chessington and Hook penalty area in the 12th minute and then Aneal sent a disappointing grasscutter into the arms of the keeper two minutes later. Guildford weren’t having it all their own way however, the home side testing Jay out on a few occasions and winning a corner in the 15th minute which was comfortably dealt with by the City defence.

Nevertheless, Guildford were having the best of it and underlined this four minutes later when a Joel Stevens header hit the stanchion after a superb cross from Craig Duffell. Five minutes later, after some neat interplay on the edge of the Chessington penalty area, Dan Dunning blazed a shot over the bar. As if to punish this profligacy, on 25 minutes the home side then had a copper-bottomed chance to level the scores when Jay came out of his penalty area to deal with the ball and uncharacteristically gave away possession. Darren Smith tried to roll the ball into the open goal from 35 yards out but luckily his shot went wide of the post. A minute later the home side again had an excellent chance after one of their forwards made a great run into the box but had their close range shot blocked by an excellent last gasp challenge from Dan Dunning. The initiative had definitely passed to Chessington and inevitably they finally levelled the scores on the stroke of thirty minutes. The ball was in the City penalty area and pin-balling around, with Guildford’s defenders unable to clear their lines. It eventually rolled to the Chessington fullback, Crowe, who drove the ball through the crowded penalty area and into the net from the edge of the area.

The home side definitely had the bit between their teeth now, although City were still creating half chances, the interplay between Simon Sheppard and Rob Parrott being particularly impressive. In the 36th minute, however, Jay had to dive bravely to smother ball at the feet of Dixon; seven minutes later the City defence again had to be on top form to deny Chessington when one of their wingers made a great run into the box only to see his strong shot on goal headed out for a corner. A minute later though, it was Guildford who could have taken the lead. Joel Stevens was put through on goal once more, was forced wide, yet still managed to send an incredibly accurate shot at goal which Mark Daniels, the Chessington keeper, only just managed to claw out. Simon Sheppard, who was following up, couldn’t quite turn the rebound into the net. At the other end of the pitch, the home side had the final chance of the half, Peters sending a 20 yard shot fizzing over the bar.

The half time break offered a chance to try out some of Chessington & Hook’s catering and to visit their clubhouse. It was definitely a building with character with the furniture seeming to have been taken from every conceivable source – I’m sure I spotted wicker chairs in there. Meanwhile at the bar, Moaning ‘Casanova’ Tone appeared to be trying his luck with the attractive blond who was serving the drinks. The conversation went something like this:

TONY: I bet your husband enjoys visiting here when you’re behind the bar
BAR MAID: I haven’t got a husband.
TONY: Well your boyfriend then.
BAR MAID: I haven’t got a boyfriend either.
TONY: You haven’t got a boyfriend or a husband, well I’m very surprised….

Sorry Tone, I’m sure it was a perfectly innocent conversation… Anyway just as some City fans were about to tuck into their pints and (in my case) a 2nd bacon roll, the players started trooping out for the second half. City came flying out of the blocks and within 3 minutes had taken the lead once again. Simon Sheppard turning provider to put Joel Stevens through on goal again. The keeper advanced to meet him some 15 yards out and it appeared from behind the goal as if Joel had panicked and spooned a shot wide. In reality he executed a beautiful lob which went over the keeper and into the net, to the joy of Guildford’s travelling fans. Suddenly it seemed as if the visitors could now take the game by the scruff of the neck and win by a decent margin. As if to underline this new found confidence, Craig Duffell hit the post from a corner in the 55th minute and Simon Sheppard then headed the ball narrowly wide. This was Guildford’s best scoring chance of the half and they would come to rue their lack of clinical finishing.

The match proceeded to ebb and flow for the next ten minutes or so, with neither side able to fashion a clear cut chance. Slowly but surely though, City were losing the psychological advantage of scoring so early in the second half. In the 68th minute, Jay had to pull off an excellent save to stop an onrushing Chessington player from chipping the ball into the net and barely a minute later, City’s one goal lead once again vanished. Possession was given away in the centre of the park and some neat 1-2s by the home side allowed Frank Dixon to dribble into the Guildford penalty area and drive impressively past Jay. The home side definitely had the bit between their teeth now and two minutes after the restart, Darren Smith sent a piledriver just over the bar, in fact it was so close to Jay’s outstretched hand that the ref gave a corner. The resulting set piece caused all sorts of problems in the City penalty area with the ball bouncing around like it was in a pinball machine. During this extraordinary passage of play, Dixon managed to hit the bar, with the ball then having to be cleared off the line twice by the desperate City defenders.

The stress was beginning to show now and in the 74th minute Lyndon Stevens was booked for a scuffle with a Chessington player (who for some reason wasn’t booked). Two minutes later, after such dogged defending at the other end, Guildford nearly got their reward with Aneel Azeem making a jinking run into the box and appearing to be brought down by the keeper. The ref’s verdict? No penalty. The home side had two more chances, Woods blazing over in the 77th minute and Smith shooting wide in the 82nd minute. Meanwhile for City, Aneal had a shot saved at the foot of the post in the 88th minute and Craig Duffell couldn’t quite turn in a ball sent across the face of goal in the dying seconds of the game. An exciting end to end match which doubtless provided food for thought for both managers.

CHESSINGTON & HOOK: M. Daniels; J. Crowe; T. Houton; T. Peters; A. Langley (sub L. Edwards, 51); G. Pucket; A. Heath; D. Smith; C. Prendergast (sub A. Muir, 66); F. Dixon; M. Ellis (sub D. Woods, 57)

Subs not used: K. Michael; M. Mann

GUILDFORD CITY: J. Gindre; D. Rice; R. Lunn; S. Pothecary; A. Jones; D. Dunning; R. Parrott (sub K. Philpott, 80); C. Duffell; S. Sheppard (sub L. Steven, 73); J. Stevens; A. Azeem

Subs not used: S. Duffell; C. Peck