WHAT an enthralling match this was – end to end and with some excellent goals thrown in for good measure. Either side could have won this really and Guildford’s second successive away victory did involve a fair amount of edge-of-the seat terror for their long-suffering fans. It did however go a long way to banishing memories of City’s abject performance against Banstead two days before.
Eleven-thirty kick offs on a Monday morning (albeit a bank holiday) don’t suit everyone and there was a distinctly makeshift look to City’s lineup for this game. One sub sat on the bench – a promising young defender called Whitaker – but otherwise the starting lineup would have to battle through the full 90 minutes. To add to the sense of despondency, City’s most recent visit to Cove had been a 3-0 drubbing as one of the best passing sides I saw last season tore them apart. Still there were some consolations to coming to Cove such as the clubhouse and the burgers – so excellent that I had two (although this also had something to do with a big night out the previous evening and not having had any breakfast!)
The gloom appeared to be confirmed when Cove scored an absolutely outstanding goal barely two minutes into the game. The ball was passed to Ashley Childs down the wing and he cut inside and unleashed an unstoppable 20 yard drive which curled, dipped and appeared to be laser-guided into the top corner – Jay Gindre in City’s goal had absolutely no chance. How many more goals would the home side score that day, we wondered as the chance of picking up anything from the game appeared to recede into the distance. This was the last thing on Guildford’s mind however and they deservedly equalised 6 minutes later. A freekick on the edge of area fell to Aneel in the box, he appeared to scuff his shot but Sam Pothecary was on hand to beat the keeper and chip the ball into the net. Game on!!
It was two-way traffic pretty much from now to the end of the match. City, having wrested the momentum from their hosts, nearly notched a second in the 13th minute but Andy Hunt (not the Baggies legend) in Cove’s goal was alert to the threat and gathered the ball. Two minutes later Jay Gindre had to pull of a point blank save to stop a Cove player blasting the ball into the back of the net. A freekick followed for City and then a corner for the home side, neither of which came to anything. In the 22nd minute Guildford won another corner but Sam Sheppard, rising unmarked, was only able to head the ball over the bar. This delicately balanced game now tipped in favour of the home side, helped by the visitors suddenly forgetting how to pass. One such lapse of concentration in the 27th minute nearly allowed Mitch While, the Cove striker, to slide in and stick the ball into the net. Two minutes later a wonderful cross was delivered into the visitors’ box by the home side but luckily for City, no one was there to connect with it. The inevitable goal came in the 32nd minute however, Jay impressively clearing a goal-bound header off the line but unable to prevent Ashley Childs sticking away the rebound.
This was the wakeup call City needed – a point would be a great result but they would have to risk going on the attack to earn it. Seven minutes from the end of the half, they won a freekick on the edge of Cove’s penalty area which Charlie Emery drove impressively just wide. Two minutes later, Charlie was again in the thick of the action, shooting over the bar after an impressive jinking run into the box by Aneel Azeem. Bringing City back on level terms was going to take something special and this was duly delivered in the 42nd minute. Craig Duffell latched on to a through ball down City’s right wing and with the keeper advancing on him and the angle getting ever more extreme let fly with a 20 yard drive some 20 feet from the byline. It was a top class finish. True to form there was time for Guildford to take their foot off the gas again and they were fortunate when a shot was flashed across the face of their goal in the dying seconds of the half.
Given the high tempo game, there was a surprisingly relaxed atmosphere in the Cove clubhouse at halftime, the Guildford fans thinking less about the half they had just seen than how their side could play so well away from home yet ship 9 goals on their own patch with not a goal to show for it. The pitch got the blame, both in terms of its quality and its size. Why oh why, I argued, do we not model the dimensions of our pitch on the one Arsenal used to have at Highbury – there was barely space to swing a cat but at least they didn’t concede many goals. Rusty didn’t seem interested in my plan but I will continue my campaign…. Halftime also allowed an opportunity to talk to Mr Plested’s dad (a resident of the area and probably a Cove fan!)
City started the second half the stronger and seemed the more likely to score. They passed up an excellent opportunity in the 53rd minute when Steve Coyle swung in a wonderful cross and Craig Duffell, unmarked at the far post, headed it over. The home side nearly punished them for this profligacy a minute later when another shot flashed across the face of the City goal and Mitch While, yet again, couldn’t quite slide it into the net. Guildford were really showing their resolve however and none more so than Dan Rice, breaking up the play and spraying accurate passes to his team mates. As with players of his ilk there were occasional mistimed challenges and Dan was booked in the 59th minute for taking out Tony Gray, the Cove fullback, much to the fury of the home fans who wanted him sent off. Gray took no more part in proceedings and was subbed a few minutes later.
There was still nothing to choose between the sides – like two dreadnoughts exchanging broadsides with each other yet unable to land the killer blow. Cove had another chance in the 64th minute but wastefully shot over the bar from 10 yards out, meanwhile 6 minutes later, Simon Sheppard was released down the right wing, skilfully beating players and eventually winning a corner. From the resulting open play, Craig Duffell skilfully set up Aneel but he could only sidefoot wide of the post. Back came Cove though and a minute later, Jay had to be on top of his game to claim the ball after a goalmouth scramble. This marked the start of more Cove pressure and in retrospect it’s difficult to see how they didn’t score. In the 73rd minute another shot went just wide of Guildford’s open goal and then a minute later came the chance that looked nailed on to put the home side back in front. The Cove forward was put through in the City box and with just Jay to beat he put the ball well over the bar from barely 6 yards out. What a let off! The home side compounded their error by wasting a freekick on the edge of the Guildford area a few minutes later.
The match looked to be heading for a highly entertaining draw (much to many City fans’ relief given the previous close shaves) however the visitors were not sitting back and there was still the possibility a winner might come. Indeed following Cove’s wastefulness in front of goal Guildford seemed to gain hope and attacked the home side with renewed enthusiasm. A freekick in a dangerous area, won by Aneel, was wasted in the 81st minute but two minutes later the winner came. Aneel and Craig Duffell linked up in the Cove penalty area and then rolled the ball across the face of goal to the onrushing Steve Coyle. The assistant manager made no mistake, banging the ball into the bottom corner from 10 yards out. The match was far from over and City fans had to endure some nail-biting moments in the closing stages of the match – not least Jay’s impressive tipping of a goalbound shot onto the bar a minute from time. Somehow they closed the game out though to record their second successive away victory.
COVE: A. Hunt; M. Blount; T. Gray (sub D. Perks, 61); M. Beale; J. Keith; D. Johnston; M. Girling; L. Passmore; A. Childs (sub A. Jeffers, 69); M. While; M. Brunt (sub A. Smilie, 79)
Subs not used: L. Beale; K. Hatton
GUILDFORD CITY: J. Gindre; S. Duffell; S. Coyle; S. Pothecary; A. Wylde; D. Dunning; S. Sheppard; C. Emery; C. Duffell; D. Rice; A. Azeem
Subs not used: James Whitaker