Guildford City 2 – 1 Egham Town (Premier Challenge Cup Second Round)

CITY finally broke their home duck in this impressive cup win which propels them into the third round of the Premier Cup and keeps alive the dream of some silverware this season. The match itself was your archetypal cup tie – frantic and displaying some exciting end-to-end play. In truth the result could probably have gone either way – the sending off of the Egham striker Steven Loveridge perhaps tilting it in City’s favour.

Having lost all three of their home games in pretty spectacular fashion this season, hopes were not high for this cup tie among Guildford fans. Being a superstitious lot, the players had even decided not to play in their red and white stripes, opting instead for the yellow kit which had served them so well away from home. In addition they had the help of the Guildford City ‘dog’ – a strange looking soft toy with a purple body, yellow ears and a red, white and black waistcoat knitted for it by City Burger supremo Roz! According to folklore, the toy had been present at all City’s wins this season and would provide Guildford with the luck they needed to win, as it ‘watched’ the match from its vantage point in the snack bar window. On the pitch, Guildford welcomed new keeper Dave Tidy to the starting lineup – Jay Gindre having now moved up to London to continue his architecture training. After the disastrous match against Badshot Lea, Simon Sheppard was moved back to the right wing, a position he has really impressed in this season.

It seemed the referee had scarcely blown his whistle before City were ahead. The home side won a freekick near the opposition penalty area and the ball was flighted in beautifully, allowing Craig Duffell the slightest of touches with his head to guide the ball into the back of the net. Wow! An early goal – definitely a good omen. Guildford now had the bit between their teeth and started to carve out more chances, Aneel Azeem shooting into the keeper’s arms after some excellent work down the wing by Sheppard in the 5th minute. The visitors finally started to get into the game however and could have been through on goal after a dodgy clearance from Kieron Philpott, luckily Kieron then went from zero to hero by expertly cutting out an Egham cross and clearing. In the 13th minute the visitors were controversially awarded a freekick after Andy Wylde was deemed to have brought down an Egham player near the edge of the box – a fact he (and us!) vehemently denied. Luckily the Guildford defence were able to clear without too many problems. Two minutes later however, City’s defence were caught napping, allowing Steven Loveridge to steal in and shoot just over the bar from the edge of the box. Craig Duffell then beat the offside trap from a clearance and powered into the opposition half, his first touch however was poor and the ball ran behind for a goalkick as he and Egham custodian, Clarke Gooding, slid to retrieve it. Egham were certainly not throwing in the towel and it was some poor marking which gifted them their equaliser. A well flighted cross was sent in from the right wing, allowing Tom Bentley to rise unmarked and guide a header into the goal.

In previous matches, this might have been a signal for City to collapse, but to their credit they kept taking the game to Egham. Four minutes after the goal, Simon Sheppard just failed to get onto the end of a good cross into the box from Aneel Azeem, however at the other end, Egham wasted a good chance in the 27th minute when Loveridge shot wide on the turn from 6 yards, after the visitors had beaten the offside trap. This really was shaping up to be a pulsating encounter yet two minutes later, the balance tilted in City’s favour when Loveridge, arguably Egham’s most potent threat, was sent off. All most spectators saw was the linesman wildly flagging for a foul on the far side of the pitch but apparently, an exchange had occurred between the Egham striker and a City player culminating in Loveridge shoving his opponent. The visitors did not seem too phased by their depleted ranks however and, a minute later, could have grabbed the lead Artim Sakiri style (remember England v Macedonia in 2002?) Egham won a corner after an excellent saving tackle from Dan Dunning, the kick was swung in and would have gone into the back of the net had Dave Tidy not been alive to the threat and tipped the ball onto the bar.

The home side now started to make their extra man count, putting their guests under real pressure but frustratingly without any end product. Their frustration was compounded in the 39th minute when Dan Dunning went down with a bad injury and had to come off – an ambulance arriving a little later to check him out. This was swiftly followed by a booking for Craig Duffell, presumably for back chat. Still City pressed and Aneel Azeem really should have done better in the 41st minute, being put through on goal but taking too many touches and being dispossessed. Egham responded and fashioned two decent chances – Muldowney being just beaten to the ball by Dave Tidy two minutes later and then Tom Martin heading wide from a freekick in the 45th minute. With so much injury time to play, there was still time for City to fashion two half chances – Aneel being put through once again but firing into the arms of Gooding from long range and then volleying over from a freekick seconds before the whistle blew for halftime.

None of the home fans were getting ahead of themselves at this point, indeed there were many expecting Guildford to somehow throw away a match which was there for the taking. While they were mulling all this over however, there was the opportunity to try some cheesecakes from the cheesecake factory run by Greg Levene’s dad – absolutely delicious!

City started the second half well, winning a freekick in the 50th minute with Egham’s defender, Anthony Oaks earning himself a yellow card for back chat seconds later. Aneel opted to shoot, however, and his delivery went well wide. Five minutes later Craig Moore curled a good looking shot towards goal but Gooding was on hand to gather it. Back came the visitors and Dave Tidy had to be quick on his feet to smother the ball moments later and prevent it falling to the onrushing Egham midfielder Tom Bentley. On the hour mark, City finally got the goal that their persistence deserved – Matt Martin firing a low shot on goal from the edge of the box which the Egham keeper could only parry, allowing the waiting Dan Rice to pounce on the rebound and slot it home. The visitors still weren’t beaten and wasted a freekick in a dangerous position five minutes later, the delivery drifting just wide of the goal. In the 67th minute the home side fashioned another chance, Aneel as usual showing great skill to beat his man, power into the box and cross to Simon Sheppard who was not quite able to get to the ball. Egham responded yet again – a long range shot being gathered by Tidy a minute later and then in the 70th minute, a superb counter-attacking move needing Tidy to smother the ball just before Muldowney got to it. Two minutes later it was Guildford’s turn to show their counter-attacking skills – the ball being cleared from the City box and falling to Greg Levene who made a rampaging run towards the Egham penalty area, only being stopped by a last gasp clearance by a defender. Si Sheppard then had two chances in quick succession, shooting across the face of goal in the 73rd minute and then opting to pass when shooting would have been a better option when one-on-one with the keeper some 5 minutes later.

Egham really piled on the pressure in the closing minutes of the match, counter-attacking well from a corner in the 85th minute and winning a corner of their own which ping-ponged around the City penalty area before being cleared. In the 90th minute Tom Bentley shot over from the edge of the box before Craig Duffell was put through at the other end but tackled just before he could pull the trigger. As with the first half, the ref played a lot of injury time and this gave both sides good chances to score – Levene beating several players but skying the ball over, in the 48th minute while at the other end Egham shot wide from a freekick on the edge of the box. Si Sheppard had the final chance of the game, chipping just wide of the far post after going one-on-one with the keeper.

GUILDFORD CITY: D. Tidy; K. Philpott; S. Duffell; D. Rice (sub G. Levene, 69); A. Wylde; D. Dunning (sub M. Martin, 39); S. Sheppard; C. Moore; C. Duffell; C. Emery; A. Azeem (sub L. Alleyne, 83)

Subs not used: None

EGHAM TOWN: C. Gooding; A. Oaks; B. Sentence; M. Smith; T. Bentley; T. Martin; D. Souyana (sub M. Scotchford, 73); A. Faulser; S. Loveridge; C. Muldowney; L. White (sub L. Phelan, 73)

Subs not used: J. McKinley; J. Houghton; A. Walker