CITY unforgivably allowed this tie to slip from their grasp, in a pulsating 8 goal thriller. Having led their Sussex League opponents 4-1 with just 27 minutes remaining, the Surrey side conceded three times to force a replay at East Preston and the very real possibility of being eliminated from the FA Cup. It all started so well with City bossing the majority of the play and earning themselves a 1-0 lead courtesy of a Ben Rayner header. Gabriel Adesina and Jamie King extended the lead after the break before the visitors pulled one back. Lance Banton-Brown’s 63rd minute goal appeared to kill the tie off but Darwin, Saunders and Reilly had other ideas, their goals earning the Sussex side a replay.
No-one was predicting this would be an easy match – East Preston already had two scalps from higher leagues in the form of Camberley and Gosport and we were expecting quite a scrap. A decent number of visiting fans made it down, although one of them had a rude welcome from one of the Spectrum wasps, getting stung on the arm. Some of the Sweeney were there too, Lofty, Tom and new member Katy coming down to be later joined by Sir Lagerlot and his brother Colin. We tried to keep the cheering going but by the end of this game all we wanted to do was kick the nearest cat!!
City started well and within the first ten minutes had forged a good chance, heading over the bar after an excellent cross to the far post. East Preston gradually found their rhythm however and set out their stall to catch Guildford on the counter-attack, courtesy particularly of their hard working number 9, Terry Dodd. Both Adesina and Bridgeman made good runs into space but were quickly stifled by East Preston’s organised defence. The visitors’ first opportunity came from a freekick in the 22nd minute which was pumped into the box but claimed confidently by Anthony Hall. City responded and Bridgeman made two good chances a few minutes later, first unleashing a cross from the byline which Sean Rivers could only head into the mitts of the East Preston goalie and then running into the box and winning a corner which was cleared.
Back came East Preston though and won a freekick on the edge of the City area which was driven into the wall, before Guildford won a freekick for a foul on Thoroughgood. The frenetic pace continued – Graham Tydeman charging down a cross on the hour mark and appearing to be through on goal but having a foul awarded against him for handball – a fact the City fullback vehemently denied. All was forgotten a few moments later though as the ball rolled back to the East Preston keeper with Ben Rayner in hot pursuit. The keeper could have claimed it but the defender panicked and sliced the ball high into the air. Rayner out-jumped the keeper to head the ball and the still-spinning ball took a wicked turn off the pitch (much like a Shane Warne leg break) and nestled in the back of the net.
Predictably there was no sign of despair from East Preston and in the 35th minute the ever lively Dodds beat the offside trap, charged into the box but dragged his shot wide of the mark. Bridgeman responded with another lightning run down the wing, winning a corner which was well dealt with by East Preston. The final minutes of the half saw the home side soaking up some pressure – a throw-in level with the 6 yard box causing pandemonium in Guildford’s area before Hall finally managed to gather a cross, whilst Dodds nearly latched onto a neat through-ball which would have put him one-on-one with the City keeper.
We were taking nothing for granted at halftime – especially given East Preston’s finish to the half and took solace in some beer and the wisdom of Lofty. This being Katy’s first experience of the inimitable City man, I was keen that she wasn’t scared off from attending future games, to his credit though James was on (reasonably) good behaviour!! This despite the air horn which he insisted on blowing at every opportunity – something which particularly offended Jenny who was trying to lull the baby Pegman (not Chris, an actual baby) to sleep!
The entire second half was simply action packed, with the first fifteen minutes undoubtedly belonging to City. Lance Banton-Brown, who had been brought on at halftime for the injured Rivers had a chance in the first couple of minutes – a good cross being delivered which he couldn’t stretch his leg far enough to turn in. The visitors won a freekick which was easily cleared before Guildford made it 2-0. The impressive Gabriel Adesina, who had given East Preston a torrid time received the ball in the box with his back to goal; with a deft move, which shook off his marker, he turned and fired home clinically to give City some breathing space. Just three minutes later it was 3-0 – a corner from the home side being punched clear by the goalie but only as far as Jamie King who headed the ball first time over the head of the keeper and into the net. The visitors responded immediately and reduced the deficit just two minutes later, Hall spilling a shot and the ball being fired home off a despairing City defender who could only kick the ball over the line.
Could this be the start of a comeback? It appeared not as Guildford once again flew at their opponents, going close with a freekick and Adesina having a shot cleared off the line. In the 63rd minute Lance finally got the goal which seemed to bury East Preston. Receiving the ball on the left wing, he beat his man, wrong-footed the keeper and had a shot blocked before finishing on the second attempt. We didn’t care how it had got there, this appeared to be the clincher. Kevin Rayner obviously thought so too, as he took off City’s most potent striker and brought on midfielder Tommy Carter to try to stifle the visitors. Yet EP’s desire to get back into the game was indomitable and five minutes later, after the Guildford defence had been caught napping, the Sussex side reduced the arrears: Chris Darwin driving the ball home after it broke loose in the box. East Preston could have scored again in the 72nd minute – Antony Hall blocking a shot impressively and giving away a corner which was cleared, much to the relief of City’s defenders, although his back chat to the referee earned him a booking a minute later.
In typical Guildford style, the home side continued to pour players forward however and Lance Banton-Brown had more than one chance to put the game beyond the visitors. On three occasions he was released down the right wing and tore into the box unmarked, only to try to cross when a shot seemed (to us) the better option. On the third occasion, the ball was punted back up the pitch, being claimed eventually by Cory Knight in the City area. What followed next was a matter of dispute. A lurking EP forward tried to claim the ball and it went from Cory’s foot into the arms of Hall. Whether Knight had passed back or the ball had rebounded was difficult to see but the referee blew his whistle and awarded a freekick just feet from the goalmouth. The initial shot was cleared for a corner, much to our relief, but the resulting cross fell to Ian Saunders on the edge of the box who lashed the ball into the bottom corner. Complaints that a player had been blocking Hall’s view were brushed aside and from being 4-1 up, Guildford’s hold on the game was looking extremely tenuous.
By now no-one believed City could hold on and perhaps the Guildford players thought it too. Carnegie had a chance to bury the game in the 88th minute but he could only muster a weak shot to the keeper. All too soon the ball was back up at the City end and before we knew it, East Preston had a freekick in a dangerous position near the 18 yard box. The ball was pumped in and ricocheted to super-sub Neil Reilly who finished easily from close range. The final chance of the match went the way of City but, predictably, Harrison’s freekick failed to trouble the keeper. Let’s hope we can put this right on Tuesday.
GUILDFORD CITY: A. Hall; G. Tydeman; C. Knight; T. Penson; J.Thoroughgood; J. King; A. Bridgeman (E. Defreitas, 75); B. Rayner; S. Rivers (L. Banton-Brown, 46); H. Carnegie; G. Adesina (T. Carter, 65)
Subs not used: J. Turner; T. Arnold; L. Hirrel; D. Burnett
Booked: A. Bridgeman; G. Tydeman; A. Hall; T. Penson
EAST PRESTON: M. Rason; N. Dacosta; A. Nicholson; A. Holman (N. Reilly, 46); M. Windsor; I. Saunders; T. Paine (J. Huet, 46); D. Campbell; T. Dodd; K. Budge (J. Meeney, 75); C. Darwin
Subs not used: K. Clayton; P. Williamson
Referee: M. Taylor