Guildford City (1) 1, Walton and Hersham (0) 1
Walton & Hersham won 4-2 on penalties
by Barry Underwood
In an increasingly tense cup-tie, the visitor’s finally advanced to the fourth-round courtesy of a penalty shoot-out. With the country still in lockdown the match was played solely in front of officials of both clubs, with a smattering of journalists also present. Although Walton currently play their football one level below City they have recruited well and had been flying when Covid brought football to a premature end before Christmas. With a handful of players having left the club since Paul Barnes’s appointment on New Year, City’s matchday squad had a youthful look with five current U18 players in the 18.
The match opened evenly with both sides enjoying forays forward without creating a clear chance on goal. Indeed, the first clear opportunity saw City take the lead on nine minutes. Eli Ogunseye did well on the right and his low cross reached Andre Smith in the box who shot home from 11 yards. Gradually through the half the visitors grew stronger and on 30 minutes they had a golden chance to draw level. A defensive header was missed leading to David Burton bringing down Walton’s striker and a penalty was awarded. Up stepped Sean McCormack who didn’t hit it sweetly and City’s Stuart Norman saved low down. Minutes later an error gave Walton another sight of goal, but the shot went wide. Eli Ogunseye had a chance to double the lead on 37 minutes, but his touch let him down allowing the goalkeeper to snaffle the ball. In the final minutes of the half Walton struck the crossbar and then netted from a narrow offside position and they could have been forgiven for thinking that this just wasn’t their day.
Walton maintained their impetus after the break and early on Stuart Norman saved well at the near post. It wasn’t all one way though. A mistimed clearance fell to Jamie Higgins on the edge of the box, but his miscued effort was easily dealt with. A free-kick off of the training ground also gave Athan Smith-Joseph a chance from an angle but again the ball was cleared. On 57 minutes Walton finally got on the scoresheet for what was a deserved equaliser. Fine wing-play on the left led to an excellent low ball across the six-yard box and Sean McCormack was on hand to tap the ball home. On the hour Walton volleyed over from a good position and repeated the exercise minutes later. Again, City had chances with Mike Coppinger not quite getting his feet in working order on the edge of the box. In the final minutes Andre Smith blazed a difficult chance wide and with the scores level at 90 minutes the match moved straight to a penalty shoot-out. City had won their previous three shoot-outs this season but, on this occasion, they were comfortably beaten.
So, it is Walton & Hersham who go on to face Leighton Town next week. Truth be told they looked a good side and deserved their victory. But take nothing away from a Guildford side who were competitive throughout and gave their all for the manager. A special word of 17-year-old Ruairi Byrne who performed especially well on his first-team debut.
Team: Stuart Norman, Sean Mason, David Burton, Isy Nzelo; Ruairi Byrne, Josh Everard (Ryan Ferrari 81), Jamie Higgins, Kieran Williams (Harvey Kirk 71), Eli Ogunseye (Athan Smith-Joseph 52), Andre Smith, Mike Coppinger. Unused subs: Liam Maher, Cyril Ocansey, Harry Nicholas, Patrick Allen.
Referee: Tom Ellsmore