Guildford City 2 – 3 Raynes Park Vale

CITY played well in the first half of this match but failed to maintain their workrate in the second and were punished accordingly. Despite some good performances from Guildford’s forwards, the defence were yet again caught out by pacey counter-attacks from the visitors. The home side can take heart though from the quality they showed in the first half, however, and may well improve their prospects once the team’s fitness is fully up to scratch.

Hopes were high among the City fans – which included a number of students from the University of Surrey’s Football Appreciation Society – after the previous Saturday’s superb 3-3 draw away at Bedfont Green and the spirited performance against Molesey in the Premier Cup in midweek. With the promotion of Dave Tidy to caretaker manager, could City’s luck be about to change? There were certainly a number of new faces on the pitch for those of us who had missed the previous two matches, the question was would they gel together as a team this early on?

The opening moments of the match suggested the answer was ‘no’, despite City winning a freekick in a dangerous area a few minutes in, after some good work by Dave Jones. In the 6th minute, however, the Vale forward, Ross Chalke, beat the offside trap and went one on one with the keeper. His first shot was saved brilliantly by Tidy but he could not prevent the rebound being slotted home. The visitors now started to press home their advantage and Guildford were lucky 8 minutes later when Tidy once again had to be on top form to tip away a goal-bound shot before one of his back line beat the rebound away. Back came the home side though and in the 17th minute, Joe Loyza was put through on goal, shooting over the bar, much to the frustration of the fans, two minutes later he missed another chance. Just when heads were starting to drop though, a brilliant piece of individual skill by Dave Jones brought Guildford back into the game. The ball was passed to the City forward in the box and he twisted and turned, shaking off his markers before slotting the ball home clinically at the near post.

The floodgates really opened now but Guildford wasted most of their opportunities. In the 25th minute, Matt Rothwell was nearly one on one with the keeper but some excellent last gasp defending cut the ball out. Five minutes later, Rothwell was at it again, and what a goal it would have been if his overhead kick had found its way in. As it was though, it hit the bar and bounced behind for a goalkick. Luckily City got their deserved goal a minute later – the impressive Joe Loyza using his pace to beat his markers, before running into the box and pulling the trigger, his shot rebounding off a Vale player and into the net. Just when Guildford’s position couldn’t seem to get better, Rob Sheridan, the Raynes Park defender was sent off for foul and abusive language as play was about to be re-started. Now was the chance to score the killer goal and put the 3 points firmly in City’s grasp. Frustratingly this did not happen – a long range shot by Dave Jones in the 43rd minute being Guildford’s final attempt of the half before a suicidal backpass nearly allowed the visitors an equaliser. With nothing on, a City midfielder tried to pass the ball back to Dave Tidy but with far too little power, turning it into a wonderful through-ball for the onrushing Vale striker. The forward beat Tidy and then with the goal gaping struck the ball for what he surely considered was a sure-fire net-bulger. He reckoned without Paul Bartholomew though, who slid in to brilliantly save the shot with his feet before Tidy smothered it.

As the whistle blew for halftime, some frantic work was going on, on the tannoy which was making some very strange noises. Luckily ace-electricians Matt Brown and Matt Howell were on hand to sort it out with gaffer tape – the surefire solution to a range of problems!! Elsewhere there were other problems – the match officials toilet had started to leak, meaning poor Paul Milton and Eddie had to get to work with mops and a call had to be made to the Spectrum’s maintenance department. The new additions to the Guildford City fanbase seemed to be having a good time at least, although a few of the girls were looking a bit cold and bemused by the whole experience!!

The match kicked off once again with Eddie commenting that the referee, Terry Pusey, was none other than someone who had officiated at the highest level in the English game – the old First Division, now the Premiership. On the pitch the home side were giving a good account of themselves with Matt Rothwell looking lively but with frustratingly no end product. The home side had the ball in the back of the net in the 59th minute but it was ruled out for offside. The visitors were gaining in confidence though, despite their 10 men and started to put real pressure on Guildford. In the 62nd minute they nearly got their equaliser when the ball was fired like a bullet across the City penalty area, struck a defender and went just wide of the post for a corner. Two minutes later, an awful throw-in from the home side gifted Vale with another chance and Dave Tidy once again had to pull off a superb save and gather the ball. The pressure was really mounting now and it seemed only a matter of time before the Guildford defence was breached. The inevitable goal arrived in the 67th minute, a through-ball being played to Rob Harmeston. The City defender appeared to have it covered but slipped at the vital moment allowing the Vale forward the freedom of the City penalty area and he slotted home with aplomb.

It was all to play for now and both sides went for it hell-for-leather. In the 71st minute a Vale player popped up unmarked at the far post, attempting to connect with a cross, but luckily for City it went over his head and was hoofed to safety. Seven minutes later it was Guildford’s turn, Rothwell going through on goal and appearing to be tripped – the ref however waved play on and the resulting counter attack nearly resulted in a Vale goal. In the 80th minute Tidy pulled off yet another good save, palming a shot out which then ran along the line before being cleared. He could do nothing two minutes later, however, when Raynes Park scored yet another break-away goal, the substitute McGlashon being given far too much space by the City defence and punishing them accordingly. Having beaten the offside trap he smashed the ball home and ran the length of the pitch before being smothered by his team mates. Home side heads had really dropped now and Tidy once again had to keep them in contention for the point which at one point seemed the minimum City would get from the game – sliding in to clear a ball when his back four had again been beaten by a long ball. With clock ticking down, the Raynes Park keeper, Barry Andrews, stupidly tried to waste time by hanging onto the ball in his penalty area. The ref was having none of this and punished the visitors with an indirect freekick from inside the penalty area. Never an easy proposition with most of the team in the way and very little distance to play with, the ball was flashed just wide of the far post. Seconds later the whistle blew, signalling the end of the match and the end of Guildford’s dream of registering their first league win at home.

GUILDFORD CITY: D. Tidy; Paul Bartholomew; Scott Wadge (sub K. Philpott, 82); C. Moore; J. King (sub C. Duffell, 76); T. Ellis (sub Alan Smiley, 60); S. Sheppard; Anthony Vine; D. Jones; Matt Rothwell; Joe Loyza

Subs not used: S. Pothecary; D. Iliffe

RAYNES PARK VALE: B. Andrews; E. Taylor (sub R. Harmeston, 64); S. Phillips; R. Sheridan; J. King; E. Thompson; M. Skinner (sub J. McGlashon, 64); J. Murphy; D. Ellard (sub B. Kanyon, 89); S. Moore; R. Chalke

Subs not used: S. Richards; C. Wye