Epsom & Ewell 2 – 0 Guildford City

CITY began the new CCL Premier League season with a defeat but there were plenty of positives to suggest that they should not struggle this season.  Indeed, but for better finishing and a bit more belief from some of the players, Guildford could have made their hosts’ lives a lot more difficult.  The first 20 minutes arguably belonged to the visitors as they startled Epsom and Ewell with the fluency of their passing and made some half chances.  Unfortunately the Es made the most of a counter-attack half way through the first half to punish City’s adventurous play, adding to their lead in the second half.  Guildford were less fluent in the final 45 minutes but could and should have notched a goal.

After bombing round the M25 with Matt H and Joe, we arrived at Merland Rise in good time.  Matt and I then got to grips with the team sheet under the expert eye of former secretary Paul Milton.  Milts must have loved being at a Guildford game without having to worry about all the Committee duties.  His will be difficult boots to fill but Matt and I managed ok – especially when we found out that the burly Scotsman who was Epsom’s match secretary, was brand new to the job as well!  After frantically filling out the form, the three of us took our place behind the Epsom goal for the first half.

Guildford were not at full strength for this game.  As well as missing red card specialist Tommy Tydeman, new signing Terry Lineker and Lance Banton-Brown were injured, Elvis DeFreitas was unavailable and the influential Jamie King was at a wedding.  On the plus side, Jamie Thoroughgood was making his debut as captain of the side – a role he has recently started fulfilling for the Surrey Under 18 side.  At 17 years old he must surely be one of City’s youngest ever skippers.

As alluded to, Guildford were definitely the stronger team in the opening minutes, belying their label as relegation favourites.  The visitors won a corner in the 4th minute and the impressive Jack Turner fired in a good shot which was turned behind: the second set piece ending in a goal kick.  Minutes later, Harrison Carnegie, with the confidence of 9 goals in pre season, tore down the wing but ran out of space and passing options and was dispossessed.  The home side eventually recovered, but their first effort in the 9th minute was a tame cross into the mitts of new goalkeeper Anthony Hall.  Two minutes later City had their second chance of the game, Anthony Bridgeman shredding his markers but being forced out towards the corner flag and shooting over the bar from an extreme angle.  The Es, having realised this match would be far from a walkover, responded and should have scored in the 15th minute, their forward beating the offside trap and going one-on-one with the keeper.  Amazingly however, his shot cannoned back off the post and was cleared to safety by Guildford’s relieved defenders.

The visitors responded and Bridgeman should have tried a solo effort in the 17th minute when he found himself on the edge of the box with only a defender and the keeper to beat.  As it was his slide-rule pass fell easily to Epsom’s defenders and the ball was cleared.  He did better a few minutes later, however, crossing from the byline towards Cory Knight who couldn’t quite get his head to the ball.  Guildford won themselves another chance in the 23rd minute with a freekick near the byline, however Turner sent the ball wide of the far post.  Minutes later Ben Rayner tried his luck from the edge of the box but his well struck shot flew straight into Paul Borg’s arms.

With so much momentum behind them it was a real shock when City fell behind – the Es beating Guildford’s rearguard with some smooth passing and allowing Dale Marvell to break through and slot clinically past Anthony Hall.  The next ten minutes were all Epsom as they finally found the space they needed to cause their guests problems.  In the 27th minute a well struck cross just missed the head of an Epsom forward, before the home side won a freekick in a dangerous position.  Luckily for City, Hall was equal to the delivery and he held the ball comfortably.  The visitors recovered, however, and Bridgeman went on the attack, beating the offside trap and getting into a good shooting position.  Yet again though, his shot flew over the bar.  The City forward then got injured but instead of kicking the ball out, both sets of players continued playing and a scuffle developed between Tony Chaplin and another player which quickly escalated.  To his credit, the ref quickly restored order and gave Tony Chaplin and the Epsom player a (very lenient) yellow card each – both players having hit out at each other.  The half concluded with chances for both sides – an Epsom freekick in a good position being cleared and an impressive sortie down the right wing by Graham Tydeman culminating in a good cross which was nearly put into the Epsom net by one of the home side’s defenders.

The whistle blew and after all the hard work and stress of the close season, it was time to finally reap the rewards of being a CCL committee member, as myself and the rest of the Committee were treated to tea and cake in the Epsom and Ewell board room.  I got a lot of stick for my hat: an Australian bush hat, a la Tony Shaw (although of course, only Tony’s hat is magic!)  When I asked where the toilet was, surprise was expressed that I didn’t just use my hat!!  The Scottish fixtures secretary was particularly amusing – I never did ask him whether he approved of having a player in his side called Robbie Burns!

The second half kicked off and the home side quickly started to boss the game and pose problems for their opponents.  Within three minutes Hall had to get his mitts to a well struck shot from the edge of the area and moments later Epsom fired a shot narrowly over the bar.  City finally responded, Bridgeman yet again carving out a chance but firing into the mitts of Borg from the edge of the area.  Guildford could not stem the tide however and in the 54th minute the Es scored again – none other than the Scottish bard himself finishing off a well worked move to give the home side what would be an unassailable lead.  Clearly shell-shocked, the visitors could have conceded again when an Es forward yet again went through a few minutes later – somehow though, he fired his shot wide of the near post when it seemed easier to score.

Back came City though and Bridgeman again went close before new signing Keno Tracey and Paul Gough joined the fray, replacing Turner and Chaplin.  The next 15 minutes or so were largely uneventful, a City freekick being well held by Borg, while at the other end a corner failed to trouble Anthony Hall.  The game once again came back to life in the 75th minute when Borg caught a cross but the ball appeared to be knocked out of his hands by a defender, allowing Keno Tracey to slide the ball into the net.  Controversially the ref ruled that the keeper had been fouled and disallowed the goal – much to our and the players’ disgust.  Three minutes later the action switched to the other end with Hall pulling off an outstanding reflex safe at point blank range to prevent the Es notching their third – this even gained the admiration of the home fans.  New midfielder Liam Hirrel then joined the action and immediately started putting in some tasty challenges.  He was extraordinarily fortunate in the 85th minute only to get a yellow when he appeared to go in two-footed on an Es player.  The crunch could be heard around the ground but the ref gave Hirrel the benefit of the doubt.  There was time for Epsom to flash a header just wide of the mark and for Guildford to try a few speculative efforts from distance, before the whistle blew for full time.

EPSOM & EWELL: P. Borg; M. Smith; J. Hatfield; A. Rodrigues; P. Soloman; A. McGregor; B. Hayward (J. Ellis, 79); R. Bedj Bedj (S. Sinclair, 72); R. Burns; D. Marvell (M. Jarman, 84); R. Shoefield

Subs not used: N. Harrowing; L. White

GUILDFORD CITY: Anthony Hall; Graham Tydeman; Tony Arnold; Tom Penson; Jamie Thoroughgood; Ben Rayner; Jack Turner (Paul Gough, 68); Tony Chaplin (Liam Hirrel, 75); Anthony Bridgeman (Keno Tracey, 68); Harrison Carnegie; Cory Knight

Subs not used: Luke Bradnick

Booked: L. Hirrel; T. Chaplin

Referee: L. Reed

Attendance: 106