Guildford City 0 – 0 Horley Town

THIS was very much a matter of two points dropped as City contrived to do anything but score against very lacklustre opponents.  That is not to say that Guildford were anything near their best in this game, indeed such was the lack of enterprise by both sides in the first half that we could have all easily retired to the clubhouse, cracked open a beer and watched the Grand National secure in the knowledge that we were not missing anything.  Still, a point at least arrests the run of two defeats in a row which had threatened to derail City’s progress in their fight against relegation.

The day began for the myself and the students, in Wetherspoons as Stu returned to Guildford for a short break from his year-long work placement in Denmark.  Having not drunk real beer for many months he was positively devouring his pint of T.E.A (and it has to be said a positively humungous burger containing onion rings, blue cheese and chips which disappeared in a matter of minutes – have you not been feeding yourself over there Stu?!)  In addition, Matt H had brought the Guildford City t-shirts he had printed up and very good they looked too.

Arriving at the Spectrum in good time we chatted to a Mr Pegman, somewhat bemused by Blackburn’s late revival against Spurs to overcome a 1-0 deficit and win 2-1 courtesy of a contentious penalty.  The ‘Toon’ were his concern of course and the gap between them and safety which had just been widened as they faced the prospect of a home tie against Chelsea.  This news did not make me particularly happy either as West Brom were due to try and keep their slender survival hopes alive against Stoke – a side we have recorded only one win against in 16 encounters.  Predictably we lost and will now almost certainly be playing Championship football in 2009/10.  Let’s hope City can at least manage to stay up, or this really will be a terrible season (unless you are a Man Utd/Liverpool fan – delete as appropriate come the end of May).

As Ian Plested did the honours on the microphone I studied the teamsheet and was concerned not to see Joel Greaves’s name – he will apparently return for the Banstead game – but relieved that our defensive talisman, Tommy Tydeman had returned to action after his suspension.  It was also good to see Simon Sheppard on the bench after his epic London to Paris cycle ride – almost certainly our player of the season after his loyalty and effort on the pitch.  Lance Banton-Brown however was ruled out through injury, and how we missed his ability to hold the ball up today.

As mentioned the first 45 minutes really was as dull a half of football as you would wish to see.  Horley started marginally the brighter, pushing Guildford back into their own half but to all intents and purposes the two sides were cancelling each other out.  The sum total of efforts in the first half hour amounted to two desultory Horley attempts from about 25 yards as first Michael Norris and then Luke Ragetti tried to test Jack Smelt without success; and a Guildford freekick, won after some good work by Harrison Carnegie, which was easily caught by the keeper.  The game came to life somewhat (and by that I mean lifted its head briefly before collapsing once again) in the 35th minute when Horley started to look a little more threatening, stringing a good passing move together which culminated in a superb save from City’s shot-stopper.  Predictably though, the linesman had already raised his flag for offside.  A minute later it was Guildford’s turn and they really should have done better – Tom Penson finally finding a bit of space behind the back four but shooting well wide with just Simon Lockwood, the Horley keeper, to beat.

The dubious honour of ‘best move of the half’ undoubtedly fell to the visitors, however, in the 37th minute as a wonderful curling cross-field ball almost picked out Horley’s on-rushing forward.  A goal would have been almost a certainty had Jack Smelt not seen the danger, run out of his box and controlled the ball with his chest before just getting his foot to it and clearing it away.  A minute later Carnegie had another chance, tearing down the left wing, bamboozling one defender, failing with the next but winning a corner.  Although Penson got his head to the resulting kick, the effort drifted well wide of the post.  There was time for Horley to win a freekick in a dangerous position, which was easily cleared by the City defence; and for Carnegie to try his luck unsuccessfully with two long range shots before the whistle blew for halftime.

Those of us that were still awake made our way to the clubhouse for some much-needed refreshment and a peek at the preparations for the Grand National.  Predictably Lofty and Eddie had some money riding on a few of the nags and they were keen to see the latest odds.  .  “Mr Masters” said Lofty “shall we just ‘watch’ the rest of the match from here? I’m sure the TV will be far more interesting than the football!”  Tempting though it was, both Mr Pegman and I realised our support would be needed on the terraces if City were to have a chance of getting anything from the game, and we headed back out.  (The eventual winner of the National as we all know was Mon Mome although we had to seek official confirmation on that as despite Lofty having watched the whole race, he could only remember the winner’s name as “Moo Moo Moo!!”)

The second half began and finally both sides looked like injecting some urgency into the proceedings.  In the 51st minute Harrison Carnegie made another superb run, got into the box and pulled the trigger, but his shot was blocked.  A minute later the Clarets had arguably their best chance of the game as an impressive cross was whipped in and met, unmarked, by the head of Ben Herdman.  The Horley midfielder could have scored by sending the ball in pretty much any direction but the one he sent it in and the ball nestled safely in the hands of Jack Smelt.  Back came the home side, Craig Moore wasting a freekick on the edge of the area by sending a shot well wide, before both sides won corners which they were unable to trouble their opponents with.  This was followed by wasted efforts from both Ragetti and Elgar.  A new spring was placed in City’s step however by the introduction of Simon Sheppard just after the hour mark and the pint-sized midfielder started to eke out some better opportunities for his team.

In the 75th minute City won a freekick on the edge of the Horley box and this time they opted to box clever by trying to roll it to Tom Penson (who had just returned to the pitch following a knock on the head).  It was a good idea but the delivery was over-hit and the ball rolled out for a goalkick.  Two minutes later Guildford could have been ruing their inability to score as recent substitute Shaun David powered down the pitch and nearly went one-on-one with Smelt.  Luckily the ever tenacious Tommy Tydeman was with him every step of the way and the forward, who resembled a tank more than a footballer, shot well wide.  Minutes later a red-faced Smelt was saved by some good defending after his goalkick hit the back of one of his players and nearly put David through on goal again.  Another freekick followed for the home side in a dangerous position before City’s first good chance of the game arrived – Carnegie beating his markers, tearing into the box and lashing a powerful shot towards goal.  Lockwood, however, was equally alert to the threat and he pushed the ball over the bar with an exceptional reflex save.  The corner did not trouble the Clarets and Guildford were back to square one again.

Yet suddenly City had the bit between their teeth and in the main, the rest of the game was a veritable siege of the Horley goal.  In the 81st minute Sheppard fired an exceptional cross-field ball to Carnegie who put Penson clear down the right wing.  Under the close attention of a defender, Tom did exceptionally well to put a cross in which nearly went into the net and had to be pushed over the bar.  Following the introduction of Aneel for Elgar, the corner was taken but Jamie King’s header was well held by Lockwood.  City were straight back on the attack though and a minute later another gilt-edged chance came their way – the ball being headed across the face of goal and Simon Sheppard, sliding in, just failing to make contact.  Horley realised their precarious position and once again David went on the attack, bludgeoning his way through the Guildford backline but just letting the ball run away from him enough for Smelt to dive almost suicidally at the forward’s feet and gather the ball.  In the 86th minute he was through again but his shot sailed well over.

That was it as far as the Clarets chances went but there was still time for Guildford to register two more excellent opportunities to take all three points.  The most frustrating of all came a minute from time when City won a corner and Tony Chaplin sent an excellent pass to Jamie King.  The midfielder saw the far side of the goal gaping and fired a chip towards the top corner, but his shot was millimetres off target and the ball hit the bar and was cleared.  Moments later after another attack Simon Sheppard displayed superb technique to fire a powerful and accurate low volley but Lockwood just managed to gather it.  The match concluded with another corner for the home side which the keeper managed to spill, however no-one was there to stick the ball in the net.

So some excellent chances spurned for City to create daylight between themselves and safety, let’s hope they can improve their terrible away record and get something against Banstead.

GUILDFORD CITY: J. Smelt; G. Tydeman; C. Knight; T. Tydeman; J. Thoroughgood; C. Moore (sub T. Chaplin, 73); E. Massey (sub S. Sheppard, 64); J. King; T. Penson; H. Carnegie; D. Elgar (sub A. Azeem, 82)

Subs not used: P. Gough

HORLEY TOWN: S. Lockwood; L. Forsdick (sub S. David, 67); T. Winsor; A. Jupp; D. Guscott; M. Norris; M. Smith; B. Herdman; J. O’Sullivan; J. Collewijn; L. Ragetti

Subs not used: J. Anglim; C. Weller