Guildford City 1 – 0 Chessington & Hook United

CITY took a small step towards preserving their CCL Premier League status with this convincing win against an unenterprising Chessington and Hook side.  Guildford withstood a difficult start to stamp their authority on the game, establish a 1-0 lead at half time and create enough chances in the second period to have comfortably won the game by a 3 or 4 goal margin.

This was the game Kevin Rayner had been building up to, stating beforehand that any points gained in his first few games were a bonus.  With Chessington being sucked towards the drop zone after a poor run of form (but it has to be said with three games in hand over most of the sides around them), this was the time for City to take advantage of their opponents’ misfortunes and start to claw back some desperately needed points.  The previous week’s 0-0 draw and the second half of the North Greenford United match (after that unfortunate lapse of concentration in the first half) undoubtedly gave this City side confidence they could get something.

There was a good attendance at the Spectrum as well with the new City players bringing a large number of family members with them and a pretty much full contingent of students, including Joe Pattison who was attending his first game of the season with his other half Iona.  The only significant member of the Sweeney missing was Lofty, but the fans tried to make the most of the game without his distinctive vocals!!  Added to the excitement on the pitch was the ‘roll over’ for the golden goal competition – £50 being won by none other than the referee’s assessor.

The whistle blew and it has to be said the visitors were the better side for the first 15 minutes or so.  Guildford were finding it hard to get into their rhythm and the Blues were matching them in most departments.  The visitors forged their first chance of note, in the 9th minute; one of their forwards going one-on-one with Jack Smelt but true to form, the City goalie pulled off yet another superb save to tip a powerful drive over the bar from point blank range.  This acted as a wake up call and at last Guildford started to put pressure on their opponents, winning, but failing to trouble Chessington with a corner in the 17th minute after some good play from Carnegie.  Particularly noticeable was some hard challenges being put in, by the Guildford midfield and it was a poorly timed tackle on Luke Wolland which gave the visitors a chance to open their account two minutes later from the edge of the area.  Unfortunately for them, the freekick was sent well wide.  Four minutes later Matthew Ellis was on the end of a crunching tackle which was completely fair but required him to be stretchered off the pitch; luckily he was able to rejoin the fray a few minutes later.

It seemed difficult to see where a goal would come from with both sides  apparently unable to forge any clear cut chances.  In the 32nd minute Chessington were unable to trouble their hosts from a corner kick but two minutes later came the moment which broke the deadlock.  Receiving the ball near the centre circle, Harrison Carnegie tore into the opposition defence, ran along the edge of the penalty area, before firing a powerful curling shot which beat the keeper at his near post and flew into the back of the net.  As this was the first goal scored at home since the end of January, it was not surprising that the home fans went crazy, albeit very aware that now Guildford would have to hang on to their lead, something they have not done too well this season.

The onslaught did indeed materialise a few minutes later but City were more than equal to it – Adam Shefield almost breaking through the home side’s thin red line but being dispossessed by some great defending.  Two minutes later Guildford were on the attack, Lance Banton-Brown using his strength to force his way through but having the ball expertly kicked from his path when he was about the pull the trigger.  The half concluded with opportunities for both sides – Chessington wasting a freekick and a corner after a foul on one of their players and a Guildford corner being overhit and cleared from the danger area before the referee blew for halftime.

No one was getting ahead of themselves during the break having watched Guildford surrender far bigger leads at other points this season.  From a non footballing angle, what was encouraging was the number of people responding to my invitation to have a drink in the club room at half time.  A clubhouse it ain’t unfortunately but by moving some of the tables about and setting the TV up you could just about imagine that it was.  As well as whether City would manage to close this game out, other topics of conversation included whether a song could be composed for Harrison Carnegie!!  True to form Matt Howell had managed to compose something along the lines of that famous opera which I can remember….

The second half truly belonged to the home side as they thrashed their opponents 0-0, getting into some excellent positions but failing to finish.  Just two minutes in and they had already laid siege to Chessington’s goal.  First Carnegie attempted to chip Mark Daniels, the Blues’ stopper, the ball being just dug out by the keeper, before substitute Ryan O’Sullivan tried his luck from the rebound, only to see the ball cleared off the line.  City had a third bite of the cherry but Banton-Brown headed over the bar.  Guildford as so often this season, continued to resist the temptation to sit on their lead and nearly paid the price in the 56th minute – Chessington counter-attacking after a spell of dominance by the home side.  Luckily Tommy Tydeman was able to intercept the threat albeit at the expense of a corner from which the visitors wastefully headed over the bar when unmarked.  There was no time to look to the heavens in gratitude as moments later the home side were back on the attack, this time it was Danny Elgar who powered into the box but he was only able to shoot weakly and Daniels gathered the ball easily.

Things were looking promising but suddenly disaster struck – Graham Tydeman was brought down near the Chessington penalty area by Matthew Ellis and Graham’s brother Tommy, incensed at the challenge, ran over the to scene of trouble from the other end of the pitch.  According to those a little closer to the action than I, the Guildford defender brought his head towards Ellis and earned himself a second yellow card.  Tommy was not happy about this and shouted at the ref before tearing his shirt off (much the delight of the female members of the crowd) and leaving the pitch.  This was not the end unfortunately as Ellis’s father started shouting at the centre half and had to be restrained by his friends.  Luckily things returned to something approaching normality a few minutes later.

We all expected Guildford to be fighting the Alamo for the rest of the game but the sending off acted as a spur and the home side upped their game.  After Chessington had curled a shot just wide in the 71st minute, City counterattacked and Lance Banton-Brown had a good effort put behind for a corner from which Craig Moore shot inches over the bar from 25 yards.  The home side continued to dominate and ten minutes from time Banton-Brown had another chance when he found himself free on the edge of the area.  With defenders pouring in on all sides, he made some space for himself and hit a wonderful dipping shot which beat the keeper but smacked against the bar before being cleared.  The chances continued to come and 5 minutes later Lance must have been kicking himself when the easiest tap in he’ll see in a long time, came his way after some good work from Carnegie.  Instead of firing it home from the edge of the 6 yard box, the Guildford striker could only side foot the ball into the keeper’s arms.  Moments later that miss could have proved very costly when Chessington won a freekick near the byline but as so often in this game, the visitors wasted their chance and balance of play passed over to the hosts once more.

Amazingly Guildford had three more chances to increase their lead in the dying minutes of the game and they all fell to Carnegie.  First the City striker beat the offside trap and chipped the ball over the keeper (and unfortunately just over the bar) in the 92nd minute.  Minutes later he fired a superb long range shot which may have been on target but Daniels just managed to push over the bar for a corner, before Carnegie headed wide with the goal gaping.

Some wonderful chances, some unforgiveable misses but Guildford will just be happy with the 3 points and a clean sheet.  Let’s hope it is the first of many in the closing stages of this campaign.

GUILDFORD CITY: J. Smelt; G. Tydeman; E. Massey (sub R. O’Sullivan, 45); T. Tydeman; J. Thoroughgood; C. Moore; J. King; T. Chaplin; L. Banton-Brown (sub S. Sheppard, 90); H. Carnegie; D. Elgar (sub K. Popovich, 80)

Subs not used: P. Gough; A. Azeem

CHESSINGTON & HOOK: M. Daniels; D. Heath; J. McShane; S. Langley; B. Ward (sub J. Crowe, 77); T. Houghton; M. Maan; M. Ellis (sub A. Muir, 68); A. Shefield; L. Wolland; A. Heath

Subs not used: L. Edwards; S. Sobihy