Guildford City 2 – 2 Hartley Wintney

YET again City just could not keep their composure to close out a match and claim all three points. Whilst undoubtedly the better team as they sauntered to a 2-0 lead at halftime, City spurned several clear cut chances in the second half to kill the game off, allowing their determined opponents to snatch a share of the points. With the chance passed up once again to notch their first home league win and steal a march on another struggling side, Guildford must now make the tricky visit to Bedfont on Tuesday and hope to put things right.

This match was wet, very very wet. In fact when City were 2-0 up we half expected the ref to call off the game due to a waterlogged pitch, such is our luck this season (in retrospect maybe that would have been a good idea, we might have won the replay!) All the fans were thus crammed into the covered stand apart from Dave Sendall who was enthusiastically selling ‘Golden Goal’ tickets to the fans. His girlfriend ended up winning the jackpot – no fix there then Dave!!

As play started in the driving rain, the visitors made the better start, winning a freekick in the 6th minute which was initially cleared before a Hartley Wintney player shot over the bar. Two minutes later, the visitors won a corner but it was comfortably dealt with by the City defence. The home side must have realised this game was not to be a cakewalk against a side bottom of the league and they upped their play and started putting pressure on Hartley. In the 19th minute they carved out their first chance, Rothwell, who was to prove a handful all afternoon, shaking off his marker and shooting over from the edge of the box. A minute later he was put through on goal, but the ball fizzed along the surface, as it was to do for the whole game and ‘Mindy’, the Hartley keeper (who was to be outstanding between the sticks in this game) was able to claim it comfortably. Then it was Joe Loyza’s turn – after a good performance last week, he once again demonstrated his skill on the ball by dribbling into the box but was only able to shoot straight into the keeper’s arms. In the 26th minute, City once again had a chance, Mindy dropping the ball into Matt Rothwell’s path but he could not convert the chance, and worse still, Hartley counter-attacked – Dave Tidy having to be swift on his feet to come out and clear the ball. Four minutes later, Rothwell had another half chance from a throw in, while at the other end, the left back Andrew Sullivan tried his luck from the edge of the area, the shot beating the diving Tidy but going just wide of the post.

At last City got the goal their dominance deserved, in the 34th minute – Rothwell going one on one with the keeper and finishing emphatically in the top corner to send the long-suffering City fans into raptures. To their credit, Hartley came right back at Guildford, winning a corner which was cleared before, in the 39th minute, Rothwell struck again. Si Sheppard, working tirelessly as usual, crossed the ball from the right wing which was picked up on the other wing and crossed back in along the ground – it was an easy matter for Matt to tap the ball into the open net to establish a comfortable (so we thought) lead. The final action of the half saw a goalmouth scramble in City’s penalty area, the ball being finally hacked away after what seemed like an eternity.

So to halftime and perhaps the most obvious talking point (apart from Stoke being 1-0 up against Arsenal) was Sir Lagerlot’s witches hat – complete with crooked point – hilarious!! The rain was still coming down and those City fans with slightly more delicate constitutions (ie Lofty – the wimp!) decided enough was enough and headed to the Spectrum bar to warm up over a pint. A message was received some minutes later from Mr Lofting saying there were insufficient staff at the bar to meet his drinking needs and that he was off into town. Mr Pegman’s response is pretty much unprintable but I think you can guess the gist!!

The match kicked off again with no sign of the rain abating and City started strongly again, winning a freekick on the edge of the Hartley box but shooting over from the rebound. A minute later came the first of several defining moments in the game – Joe Loyza was put through and looked certain to score. He reckoned without Mindy though, who charged out quickly, leaving him with no option but to try and toe poke the ball into the net – inevitably the shot went wide. Hartley must have taken strength from this because a minute later they had a chance of their own, volleying over from the edge of the box. In the 55th minute the pressure they were starting to exert finally told – Martyn Williams trying his luck on the edge of the box and his shot fizzing along the ground and into the bottom corner, despite Dave Tidy’s despairing dive. Now the jitters really started – City had been keeping possession reasonably well but were now facing the customary doubts that they could close the game out, especially having failed to on several occasions before. In the 58th minute the home side won a freekick which unfortunately Craig Moore could only curl wide. Four minute later Rothwell tried his luck with a swirling, curling shot heading for the top corner – what a goal it would have been had Mindy not clawed it over the bar. In the 64th minute Rothwell had another chance, going one on one with the keeper once again but yet again he could not beat the superb Mindy who deflected the shot out of harm’s way. Five minutes later, Hartley finally notched an effort of their own – a long range shot which Dave Tidy was more than equal to.

The second defining moment of the game came in the 75th minute – again it was City that failed to take their chance. Dave Jones broke through on goal and with the keeper stranded and a goal an almost certainty, opted to pass to one of his team mates who was in an offside position. With a bit more confidence it is almost certain he could have finished from his position. Fives minutes later, inevitably, City were made to pay for their profligacy, although Hartley’s goal had a fair bit of luck attached to it. A piledriver was released on the City goal from the edge of the box and the ball thumped against the crossbar, straight to the feet of John Finnieston who had an easy job to tap the ball home. What were the chances? To their credit, the home side kept trying to snatch the goal that would win them the match – eking out two good chances, one from Dave Jones and the other from a freekick after Si Sheppard had been brought down near the Hartley penalty area. Unfortunately City could not clinch the winning goal, despite several good chances and the match finished all square.

GUILDFORD CITY: D. Tidy; P. Bartholomew; Wayne Noad; Matt Burns; C. Moore; Martin Beard; A. Smiley (sub A. Wylde, 60); A. Vine; M. Rothwell (sub D. Jones, 70); J. Loyza; S. Sheppard

Subs not used: J. Hamsher; J. King; A. Azeem

HARTLEY WINTNEY: K. Mindaugas; T. Shipman; A. Sullivan (sub J. Finnieston, 74); G. Hunt; J. Reeves; B. Burgess; M. Williams (sub D. Blake, 77); P. Zygiar; W. Cunningham; A. Meffett; K. Vallance

Subs not used: B. Goosen; D. Roberts; M. Scott