Guildford City 1 – 0 Epsom & Ewell

CITY chalked up a second successive win to maintain their 2nd placing in the Combined Counties Premier League. In driving rain, the match was certainly not one for the football purist and the home side can consider themselves lucky to have won this one. Although they had the bulk of possession, time and again they ran up against a resolute and well organised Epsom & Ewell defence and it took a penalty, converted by Aneel Azeem, 12 minutes from the end, to ensure the points stayed at the Spectrum.

City put out very much a scratch XI for this game – their ranks having been depleted by the injuries of Tony Mukabaa; Sam Pothecary; Simon Sheppard and Mark Kleboe and without Dean Peltohaka, Andy Wylde or Warren Coborne to call upon. Newcomer Andy Jones sat poised to come on from the bench alongside Lloyd Wye and Dan Rice. Epsom & Ewell started the game well, heading just wide after an excellent cross in the 3rd minute, but they soon had to endure long periods in their own half as City used their pace-men to excellent effect. In the 7th minute Lee Allum embarked on one of the many rampaging runs he was to make during the game, beating his man and running to the byline only to lose control of the ball at the crucial moment. A minute later Rob Parrott couldn’t quite get his head to a wonderful cross into the visitors box and just before the quarter hour mark City had yet another good chance when a Barry McCoy header produced a great save from the Epsom & Ewell keeper. The visitors had the opportunity to get back into the game with a freekick on the edge of the home side’s box in the 17th minute but they wasted it and the ball went out of play.

Guildford again took control of play, a sublime Aneel Azeem cross-come-shot from an extreme angle in the 23rd minute, beating the keeper but drifting just wide of the far post. Ten minutes later, following a nervous few seconds when Gindre fumbled the ball and the City defenders had to hurriedly clear, the home side had another good opportunity, winning a corner which Paul Andrews headed just over. For all this dominance City could easily have been 1-0 down in the 34th minute when an Epsom & Ewell player powered into the box and crossed straight across the face of goal – luckily there was no-one there to turn it in. The final highlight of the first half came in the 36th minute when an awful miskick out of the visitors’ defence allowed Aneel Azeem to beat his markers and run into the box, only to shoot wide after appearing to be bundled over. The ref’s verdict? No penalty. Despite these chances, the home side were growing increasingly frustrated, a desperate Scott Cannie long range shot on 45 minutes demonstrating this.

In the stands, the City fans, wet and far from enchanted with the football on display had been consoling themselves by chomping through new and improved City burgers (with a tomato relish, expertly prepared with chillies to blow your head off!) and establishing a new terrace ‘idol’ – Rodney van Niekerk, otherwise known as the linesman. Time again, chants of ‘Rodney give us a wave’; ‘Rodney show us your flag’ and (when he appeared to get the decision wrong) ‘Rodney you plonker!’ echoed around the Spectrum providing welcome comic relief! Such was the (lack of) entertainment levels in the second half that a chant was organised with one fan on each step of the terraces singing in turn ‘I’m the 1st, 2nd, 3rd etc step, I’m the 1st, 2nd, 3rd step over here!’. Oh dear, lets hope they have a little more to cheer about in the next match.

The sides came out for the second half and it was more of the same siege warfare football with the home side dominating possession but finding the breakthrough goal hard to come by. In the 48th minute Lee Allum had the best chance so far with a sublime volley which brought an equally sublime save from Paul Borg: Epsom & Ewell’s well regarded keeper. Andy Jones then came close with an audacious bid from the edge of box before Allum tried his luck again in the 59th minute, firing a fabulous shot just over the bar from all of 25 yards. Yet again though this half produced an excellent opportunity for the visitors against the run of play – a defensive error in the 62nd minute allowing an Epsom & Ewell forward to power into the box, go one-on-one with the keeper but shoot across rather than into the open goal. City did not allow this to rattle them and were straight back into the fray, forcing a corner that they were unable to capitalise on, and another brilliant Aneel Azeem cross which yet again no-one could get their head to.

It appeared as if a 0-0 stalemate was on the cards (and the number of long-range shots being tried by the home side suggested this too) yet when all seemed lost, Guildford finally made their breakthrough. In the 77th minute, Scott Cannie was put through and raced into the box only to be brought down by the keeper. Aneel – who had successfully taken the last penalty awarded to City – confidently placed the ball in the spot, shimmied and fired the ball beyond the fingertips of Paul Borg. Despite a few close shaves in the remaining 12 minutes, the home side managed to hold on to their lead and record a second successive league win.

GUILDFORD CITY: J. Gindre; R. Parrott (sub A. Jones, 45); P. Andrews; M. Tomlinson; B. McCoy; S. Cannie; A. Azeem; R. White; M. Mercer; S. Steele; L. Allum.

Subs not used: L. Wye; D. Rice.

EPSOM & EWELL: P. Borg; O. Dicks; G. Dennis (sub S. Braggins, 86); A. Rodrigues; C. West; J. Ellis (sub M. Chapman, 83); B. Hayward (sub Z. Powell, 86); A. Pero; C. Heuston; K. Hough; G. McLaughlin.

Subs not used: R. Shoefield; N. Harrowing.