IN THE words of several officials afterwards, this game had 0-0 written all over it. Guildford, for the most part defended well but could not trouble the Croydon keeper, despite the Trams being forced to play one of their outfield players between the sticks. Croydon probably shaded the game in terms of chances but did little to trouble Guildford once they had gone 1-0 up. They took all three points, however, due to a silly misunderstanding between Elvis and Antony Hall which gifted the home side the only goal of the game.
This was a simple fixture to get to for the majority of City’s playing staff – although Slough-based Tony Chaplin did turn up later having got a bit lost. For the Guildford contingent (or at least those stupid enough to leave the M25 at junction 7 rather than 6) it was rather less straightforward. Lofty had posted travel advice on how to get to the Croydon athletics stadium prior to the match and recommended getting there by train and tram. Ha! I thought, I’ve tried that before – I’ll drive. Chris’s Pegman and Lucas (nicknamed Josephine and Pedro to avoid confusion) joined me and everything went well until we hit Purley Way and ended up in one traffic jam after another. With Josephine (Pegman) and Pedro (Lucas) map-reading we finally made it and I hurried to get the teamsheet to the referee. Lofty meanwhile, had been sinking pints in the clubhouse for the best part of an hour!
Croydon’s ground, an athletics arena like the Spectrum was quite impressive – largely due to the stand which enabled a good view of the action – and a narrower running track which allowed us to see the game at closer quarters. The committee were extremely hospitable and we enjoyed chatting to them after the match about the various irritations of using an athletics ground – not least recovering all the matchballs!
Both sides matched each other blow for blow for much of the first half. In the opening minutes, a good cross and a corner from the home side caused problems whilst City won a corner and freekick. Croydon looked dangerous going forward – their powerful forwards stretching the Guildford defence but not to breaking point. This was a match characterised by injuries – perhaps not surprising on a pitch with longer grass than usual and on which torrential rain had been falling all morning – and around the 10th minute, Trams midfielder Chincharo had to leave the pitch after an accidental knock in the face. The visitors responded after the substitution and Elgar as he always seems to, looked dangerous. In the 13th minute he beat his man and sent in a peach of a cross which both Rivers and Banton-Brown rose to meet but could not connect with. A cross from Tom Penson a few minutes later drew a similar blank. Elgar then turned villain with an ambitious cross to Elvis which was easily claimed by Croydon, allowing a counter-attack from which Cooper was forced to give away a corner. Luckily this flew over the penalty area and into touch. The defensive errors were not complete however as Tom Penson sent a clearance vertically into the air and then tried to head the ball to Hall with a Trams forward hanging off his shoulder. Thoroughgood saw the danger and averted a certain goal with a good block. Then in the 22nd minute came another let-off – Hall flapping at a cross allowing a striker through who very fortunately slipped at the point of shooting.
The visitors recovered their composure and started to look threatening again, although with little end product. Bridgey really should have done better on the half hour mark when he broke through, got into the box with the keeper advancing off his line but could only fire a weak, wayward shot. Lance did a little better a few moments later, running along the byline and winning a corner, however the set piece was cleared allowing a counter attack. Hall did well to come out and try to tackle the forward before getting back to his line in time to hold the shot. Lance then had a half chance – latching onto a goalkick but not quite beating Trams keeper Dean Cupit to the ball. Back came Croydon and Penson did extremely well to dispossess one of their forwards after he had bamboozled the normally excellent John Cooper. Guildford went on the attack once again – new boy Liam Harwood showing his ability with a fabulous through-ball to Elgar. Danny won a throw-in but Jamie Thoroughgood could only hook his shot over the bar.
The second major injury of the half occurred around the 40th minute – Dean Cupit turning to pick up a ball which had rolled behind him, slipping and then lying on the ground in obvious pain. It took 5 minutes to stretcher him off the pitch, bring on a substitute and for Croydon skipper Rob Bartley to take his place between the sticks. Far from being disheartened by the loss of their keeper, the home side pushed forward positively, scoring a disallowed goal from an offside position before catching the City defence flat-footed and crossing across the face of goal. On the stroke of halftime they went ahead – a long ball fell to Elvis who started shepherding it back to Hall on the corner of the area. The ball lacked pace however and a Croydon forward advanced quickly to intercept it – Hall realising the urgency and diving for the ball but missing. Tom Penson ran back to the goal-line but too late to prevent an easy tap in for Nigel Ikocodo. The half ended with a half chance for Bridgey – firing off the bar and behind from an extreme angle.
Guildford began the second half strongly – heading over from a corner in the 47th minute before Danny Elgar tried his luck with a good looking long range shot which went just over the bar. The match quickly settled into a bit of a stalemate however, as the Trams defended resolutely and Guildford found their opportunities limited. Both Jamie Thoroughgood and Croydon striker Junior Gyimah were booked before Ben Rayner tried an audacious long range shot in the 67th minute, again without success. Guildford kept up the pressure however, with Lance finally breaking through but having a foul controversially awarded against him. A freekick followed for the visitors and another good cross from Elgar but there was no City head on either of them. Bridgeman then appeared to have beaten the offside trap but the linesman thought otherwise.
Never a great game of football, this match was definitely taking a turn for the worse in terms of entertainment value. This was lifted briefly in the 80th minute when stand-in keeper Rob Bartley tried to score from a freekick deep in his own half. It was a good effort too – Hall having to get well behind the line and stretch his arms to catch it and prevent it creeping under the bar. There followed some desultory efforts from Gyimah – although he should definitely have done better when through on goal in the 90th minute. At the other end City failed to trouble their opponents from a freekick and a shot from the edge of a crowded penalty area from Adesina. Guildford could have played for the rest of the weekend and not scored and it was almost a relief when the whistle blew.
CROYDON: D. Cupit (L. Brett); L. Goddard; J. Gladwin; L. Headley; R. Bartley; N. Sophonie; B. Chincharo (R. Davis, 11); J. Grant; J. Gyimah; N. Ikocodo (J. Pitt); M. Shugaa
Subs not used: D. Babalolo
Booked: J. Gyimah
GUILDFORD CITY: A. Hall; E. Defreitas (T. Chaplin, 68); T. Penson; J. Cooper; J. Thoroughgood (C. Knight, 80); Liam Harwood; A. Bridgeman; B. Rayner; S. Rivers; L. Banton-Brown; D. Elgar (G. Adesina, 86)
Subs not used: H. Carnegie; J. Turner
Booked: J. Thoroughgood; B. Rayner
Referee: H. Achegenui