Guildford City 2 – 2 North Greenford United

GUILDFORD kept their CCL Premier League survival hopes alive with this pulsating encounter against high flying North Greenford United.  Apparently dead and buried at half time after two clinical strikes from the visitors, City rallied impressively to fire two goals in two minutes in the second period and even came close to scoring a winner.

There was very much a ‘baby’ theme to this match as both Chris Pegman and Craig Moore had become fathers in the week.  So while they were watching/playing in today’s game, the Committee were furtively trying to get congratulations cards signed.  This game also marked Georgia’s last day in the snack bar where she has done sterling service for many years – again a card was doing the rounds and poor Georgia was suitably embarrassed by a presentation of a t-shirt and scarf in the club room after the match.  Thanks for all your help Georgia and best of luck in your new job.

This was not a match any of us expected to get anything from – hence the huge disappointment after the defeat to Bedfont in the previous game.  Having a game in hand is not much good when it is against a side as good as North Greenford.  They had comprehensively beaten us at their place a month or so ago although as someone mentioned to me before the game, their defence is not the most solid in the league – and so it proved.

In fact City started the game like a raging bull – tearing into their opponents and putting them on the back foot for the first ten minutes or so.  This culminated in Tom Penson’s impressive curling shot from the edge of the box which went just over the bar.  However the Blues weathered the storm and began to impose themselves as we all knew they could, although to be fair the City defence was soaking up a lot of the pressure.  This was not enough however and North Greenford got their breakthrough in the 15th minute, winning a corner which Michael Murray played to Dave Lawrence, who was lurking on the edge of the Guildford box.  The Blues striker drove the ball clinically through the crowded penalty area and into the back of the net, beating the unsighted Richard Stroud.  City, with much experience this season of coming back after conceding goals, were not down hearted and continued to press their opponents, eking out some half chances but nothing clear cut.  At the other end North Greenford were fairing a little better and were unlucky not to add to their lead when Andre DeLisser fired a freekick just over the bar in the 18th minute.  The stalemate lasted until the final minute of the half when the Blues won a throw-in on their left side, the ball being headed on by the exquisitely named Joe Sparrowhawk and finding Michael Murray.  We all expected either the keeper or a defender to throw himself in the way of the inevitable shot but City seemed rooted to the spot, allowing Murray to position himself and fire home from close range.  Moments later, the whistle blew for halftime.

At this point all hope of getting anything from the game had all but evaporated amongst the supporters – even the buoyant Sir Lagerlot was saying the match was beyond our reach – and we were contemplating a gloomy predicament for the club where our survival hopes were out of our hands.  This morbidity was compounded by the news that someone had nicked not only the onions but also the Top Secret City Burger™ relish from the fridge, meaning I was forced to make do with just a cheeseburger for my dinner – oh the injustice!!  Like turkeys bound for the dinner table we trooped back out onto the terraces and awaited the second half.

We will never know precisely what was said by Kevin Rayner to his troops at half time – perhaps he reminded them of just how precarious Guildford’s position was.  Maybe he gave them the hairdryer treatment and told them another display like the one against Bedfont would not do.  Whatever happened City went out onto the pitch for the second half fired up to the max and ready to play like banshees.  They had to weather some dangerous moves from their opponents first though, including a fabulous ball played to DeLisser almost from the kick off which ran just beyond him for a goalkick and a curling effort from Andy Myhill which went just wide.  Yet at the other end, things were starting to look more promising.  Lance Bantom-Brown was looking dangerous whenever he got the ball and in the 49th minute he fired a great effort just wide from the edge of the box.  A few moments later the home side won a freekick in a similar area but as so often this season, the shot was driven into the wall.  It was about this time that Sir Lagerlot suddenly perked up a lot.  “Don’t worry lads, I’ve seen the ending to this match and it is pretty good!”.  Spooky.

The momentum was now almost entirely with City and chances started to come thick and fast.  Around the hour mark, Joel Greaves breeched the Blues defence and tore into the box but he let himself down with a weak shot which bobbled wide.  A minute later and North Greenford were again on the back foot – the ball ping-ponging in their penalty area before Carnegie fired over from the edge of the box.  The same Guildford striker then had more opportunities, firing over once again after some impressive interplay with Lance and Joel, heading wide from a freekick in the 66th minute and then being booked for allegedly hanging off a player three minutes later.  The pressure continued but we still couldn’t see any prospect of the game being anything more than an heroic defeat.  Yet within the space of two minutes, everything changed.

A freekick was won by the home side on their left hand side, level with the penalty area, and the ball was curled beautifully onto the head of Carnegie whose effort was spectacularly pushed behind; Elgar duly curled in the corner kick and the keeper caught the ball briefly before dropping it out of the back of his hands and into the goalmouth.  The ball was hurriedly cleared but the linesman was already waving for a goal.  Suddenly there was hope and before the Blues could even catch their breath another freekick had been won in almost the same position to the one moments before.  The delivery again was perfectly flighted and Jamie King rose majestically above everyone else to head the ball into the back of the net.

Guildford had yet again turned a match on its head with a superb second half performance.  We knew they would press for the winner, even despite the threat posed by North Greenford’s lightening quick players, and so it proved.  In the 82nd minute, with Guildford committed in the Blues’ half, DeLisser got the ball and fairly flew down the pitch, he then unleashed a vicious shot from about 10 yards out which Stroud reacted to brilliantly and pushed over the bar.  Carnegie responded with his own solo effort, getting into the box but then firing into the mitts of Jallow, before in the 83rd minute North Greenford squandered another excellent chance – Jack Bennett shooting over with just the keeper to beat.  Back came Guildford though and a minute later they won yet another freekick which Craig Moore got his head to, the ball looping over the keeper but hitting the bar before a follow up cross from Danny Elgar was claimed by Jallow.  City had gone so close but nearly conceded moments later – some excellent last ditch defending preventing North Greenford from scoring and taking all three points.  The last action of the game was a freekick for Guildford which was held comfortably by the Blues keeper.

So City could not get the three points they so desperately needed but still have a valuable point.  With Chessington drawing against Epsom and Ewell, this result effectively keeps Guildford in the hunt although they must beat basement side Hartley Wintney on Saturday to keep their survival hopes alive.

GUILDFORD CITY: R. Stroud; T. Penson; C. Knight; J. Thoroughgood; T. Tydeman; C. Moore; J. Greaves; J. King; L. Banton-Brown; H. Carnegie; D. Elgar

Subs not used: A. Azeem; A. Simeone; E. Massey; S. Knight

NORTH GREENFORD UTD: B. Jallow; J. Hammond; S. Pearsall; J. Diston; C. Medler; M. Murray; A. DeLisser; J. Sparrowhawk; A. Myhill (sub R. Nelson, 78); D. Lawrence; J. Bennett

Subs not used: J. Lisi; S. Serbarwoe; K. McKenna