Guildford City 1 – 3 Wembley

THE standard of performance was certainly a lot higher than in previous weeks, but City yet again failed to take their chances in this game, slipping to their third successive defeat. The scoreline certainly flattered a Wembley side who had, up until today’s match, not won away this season The visitors were gifted their first goal and followed it up with a glorious strike near the end of the first half. City for their part should have brought the scores level when Simon Sheppard missed a penalty at 1-0. The second half featured some really good football from the home side but they had left themselves with too much to do and conceded a third goal on the break.

The Spectrum was certainly a lot quieter than last week’s match against Selsey – many Wembley fans seeming to have decided to stay and home and watch the England match. Chris and I were also finding it quite difficult to sell scarves as the sunny weather caused people to swelter away in their winter clothing. There was a good turn out from City’s student contingent however and they kept the chanting going throughout the match as they willed Guildford to a victory which seemed increasingly unlikely.

As so often this season, City made the worst possible start to the match – an embarrassing mix up in the 5th minute between Andy Wylde, as he shepherded the ball, and Dave Tidy resulting in it trickling past the Guildford keeper and then being slammed home by the lurking Stephane Forbes. Five minutes later, the visitors could have made it 2-0, Andre Rous, the Wembley fullback shooting unmarked into the side netting from a freekick. This seemed to shock City into life and they started to put pressure on the visitors. In the 13th minute, Sheppard, using his customary skill and pace, beat his man and sent Dave Jones clear in the area. The City striker was then brought down and the referee had no doubt, pointing immediately to the penalty spot. Si Sheppard stepped up but his shot caught the keeper and was deflected onto the bar and cleared. This was a big psychological blow for City and they almost paid for it three minutes later – Paul Shelton shooting wide of goal from 10 yards out when he had only the keeper to beat. Back the home side came, however, and again started to move the ball around and create chances – unlike last week, the midfield seemed to be linking well with the back four and it really made a difference. Unfortunately they just had no teeth up front to finish off the opportunities that presented themselves and were lacking that component of all successful sides, a bit of luck. Case in point was the corner City won in the 24th minute which was curled beautifully towards goal but just cleared off the line by a last gasp effort from a defender. Wembley then broke and Paul Shelton nearly had another chance, just mistiming his run and failing to connect with a good cross from Wembley’s left wing.

The home side kept up their hard work and forged more chances for themselves – winning a corner in the 34th minute which was unfortunately cleared. There was nothing they could do five minutes later however, when Paul Shelton finally found his shooting boots, firing a glorious shot past Dave Tidy’s outstretched fingertips and into the bottom corner of the net, from the edge of the penalty area. This was hard luck on City, who could and should have notched at least one goal. In the dying minutes of the half, it looked like their lack of composure would continue: Si Sheppard’s pass to Craig Duffell being fired high over the bar from 6 yards out. However the home side finally got the goal their hard work deserved in the last move of the game, winning a corner which resulted in a goalmouth scramble. Craig Duffell then atoned for his earlier miss by tapping the ball home.

The whistle blew for halftime and there was something akin to hope for the some of the City fans at least (although Mr Pegman was predicting a 7-1 thrashing – no surprise there!) The team, with so many new players, appeared to be gelling and there had been some good performances from players like Michael Bolton and Dave Jones. Discussion turned to non football matters, including whether City should get a club cat which could prowl the corridors of the portacabin and come out onto the pitch on matchdays (I actually suggested a Guildford City baby but there were child welfare issues apparently). Some amusing new songs were also being sung thanks to the John Lennon of the football chants game, Matt Howell. ‘We all follow the City, (occasionally) on to victory’ was good and ‘where’ve your towers gone?’ (directed at the Wembley fans) was better.

Out came Guildford for the second half, with me audaciously predicting they would win the game 3-2 – well you can’t fault my optimism… It’s fair to say, the next 45 minutes was characterised by injuries – poor Steve Coyle being carried off, in visible pain and replaced by new signing Tommy Ellis, and later Aneel Azeem lasting only 3 minutes before feeling his hamstring start to go and being replaced by Dave Iliffe. Despite these setbacks, Guildford attacked the game well, putting real pressure on their opponents and (fatally) raising the hopes of their fans. The match ebbed and flowed for the first fifteen minutes, City having a lot of possession but, as with the first half, no penetration to cause the Wembley keeper problems. The first clear cut chance fell to the visitors – Paul Shelton looking to increase his tally by volleying on goal, luckily Dave Tidy was alive to the threat and caught the shot comfortably. In the 69th minute came City’s turn, Dave Jones shooting wide after some impressive movement and passing. Back came the visitors, trying a long range shot a minute later which went just wide. Two minutes later they tried their luck again, the ball rebounding off a City player this time and allowing Guildford to counter-attack and win a corner which was swung in by Michael Bolton. The first defender cleared but the ball fell to Dave Jones who unleashed a fabulous drive which the keeper almost certainly got his fingertips to before it skimmed the bar: the ref unfortunately saw things differently and gave a goalkick. In the 78th minute Wembley had another excellent chance to put the game beyond City’s reach – a corner was swung in and the ball was touched onto the bar and then headed against the bar before being lashed behind by a Guildford defender. Luckily the second corner was cleared.

Seven minutes from time, the home side again had a chance but the impressive Dave Jones’s cross after a good run down the wing was easily gathered by the keeper. It was sadly inevitable when Wembley notched their 3rd and decisive goal – Guildford had been leaving themselves increasingly exposed at the back and the visitors took advantage in the 85th minute. Bryan Marshe beat the offside trap to run unopposed into the City penalty area and slotted the ball past the stranded Dave Tidy. There was little more for the home side to but go through the motions and there were no further incidents of note before the final whistle.

GUILDFORD CITY: D. Tidy; K. Philpott; S. Coyle (sub Tommy Ellis, 49); Paul McCormick; A. Wylde; J. King; S. Sheppard; C. Moore; C. Duffell; D. Jones; M. Bolton (sub A. Azeem, 61, sub D. Iliffe, 64)

Subs not used: None

WEMBLEY: D. Croffie; A. Rous; M. Holian; M. Talbot; A. Walker; G. Dalton-Brown (sub L. Reid, 77); I. Bates; J. Mitchell; S. Forbes (sub K. Culley, 80); P. Shelton (sub D. Butler, 90); B. Marshe

Subs not used: E. Kuniqi; P. Edwards