Guildford City 0 – 4 Epsom & Ewell

AFTER the competitive draw against Chessington & Hook on Saturday, the City players will be disappointed with their performance in this comprehensive defeat – particularly during the first half. The pitch was awful but that cannot excuse the lack of application and concentration which allowed the visitors to open their account within a minute of kick off and then build an unassailable lead by halftime. The second half performance was a lot better but by then the damage had been done.

Being City’s first home game of the season, the pre match atmosphere among the fans was one of high expectation and excitement after a three month break. For members of the committee however, the moments before the game were spent in a bit of a panic. Firstly the pitch had been mown but all the grass cuttings left in neat rows across the pitch. Paul Milton and Colin Parrott dutifully got to work with rakes in an attempt to clear the debris but it would have taken hours to get the pitch fully cleared and the match had to proceed with piles of grass all over the playing surface. As if to compound this, the tannoy system then refused to work, the Sweeney tune sparking into life finally (and slightly embarrassingly), as the referee was about to blow his whistle.

Barely had the match kicked off than Epsom and Ewell were in the lead. Dale Marvell’s cross from the right wing found Robbie Burns who outjumped a City centre back and sent the ball into the net through a glancing header. The home side were visibly rocked by this early setback and really struggled to re-establish themselves in the game. This probably accounted for the ease of the visitors’ second goal as another attack appeared to carve the City defence open and leave Kyle Hough to expertly shoot through the legs of a City defender and past Jay’s despairing dive. There had been loud appeals for handball from the City players, however, as the ball appeared to strike Hough on the hand just before he scored (the ref waved play on). To be fair Jay would probably prefer to forget his first half performance as his usually rock solid decision-making deserted him on more than one occasion. In the 17th minute, for instance, he fumbled a straightforward claim of the ball and was forced to dribble it round the onrushing Epsom player and gather it, six minutes later he was again forced to take evasive action as he failed to hold a cross and the ball had to be hurriedly cleared for a throw. On the positive side however, Epsom weren’t having it all their own way and in the 27th minute, their keeper, Paul Borg, was forced into an excellent save to tip over a long range effort from Simon Sheppard. A minute later Joel Stevens shot over from a good position and then Rob Parrott skilfully dribbled the ball to the byline and forced a corner which unfortunately was claimed by the keeper.

This really was not meant to be Guildford’s day, however, and Epsom and Ewell stretched their lead even further in the thirty eighth minute. Robbie Burns had been an enormous thorn in City’s side for most of the half and he proved it once again, running into the box and getting brought down by the combined efforts of Jay and another City defender. The referee pointed to the spot and Hough sent Jay the wrong way to notch his second. Guildford managed to hold firm for the rest of the half, Jay’s confidence improving enough for him to hold a long range shot and pluck two dangerous crosses out of the air.

Half time was a frenetic affair as committee members struggled to work their way through all the people queuing at the refreshment kiosk – Georgia, it’s fair to say you were very much missed! Having sold out if burgers and frankfurters, the last customer was finally served some ten minutes into the second half.

On the pitch City were demonstrating a far more organised approach and greater resolve. Dan Rice took this a little too far in the opening minutes when he brought down an Epsom player and got booked but at least it was evidence the players really cared about putting up a decent fight. There were more chances too. On 75 minutes Dan Dunning headed just over from an excellent cross and in the 79th minute Aneel, who is always a handful no matter what opposition he seems to face, was brought down and curled a fabulous freekick to the far post which Rob Parrott was not quite able to get to. Back came the visitors though and they really should have scored in the 84th minute when a Jordan Ellis cross was flashed across the face of goal, missed the late attempt to head it into the goal by the first Epsom and Ewell player and was then headed wide from 6 yards out by an unmarked Chad Heuston. A minute later Aneel received a booking from the referee after a challenge which saw him get the ball but connect with the player’s leg as well (with the sound of the contact probably sounding worse than it was). On 87 minutes a Craig Duffell cross nearly crept into the visitors goal under its own steam but, in keeping with the game, it went just wide.

The visitors had two more chances to score before the final whistle, spurning the first chance when Dale Marvell shot wide with the goal at his mercy in the 91st minute and then converting the second when Heuston’s cross found Leon White in a (to us) very offside position in the dying seconds of the game, the Epsom player heading in at the far post. Minutes earlier Simon Sheppard had found himself through on goal but his long range effort, like so much of City’s endeavours in this match, had been unsuccessful.

GUILDFORD CITY: J. Gindre; D. Rice; R. Lunn (sub K. Philpott, 55); Steve Coyle; A. Jones; D. Dunning; R. Parrott; C. Duffell; S. Sheppard; J. Stevens; A. Azeem

Subs not used: S. Duffell; Ian Copp; Chris Peck

EPSOM & EWELL: P. Borg; J. Moran; J. Hatfield; A. Rodrigues; C. West; D. Marvell; B. Hayward (sub J. Ellis, 82); C. Heuston; R. Burns (sub G. Dennis, 80); K. Hough (sub L. White, 80); M. Rose

Subs not used: None