Hartley Wintney 0 – 3 Guildford City

CITY notched a crucial three points in this slightly flattering result against already relegated Hartley Wintney.  Playing on a pitch which sloped both up and down and side to side, Guildford struggled at times to deal with their opponents who were quick on the counter-attack and had some decent players.  Indeed were it not for some slightly fortuitous decisions which disallowed two Hartley goals, this match could have been a lot closer.  As it was though, Guildford went 2-0 up shortly before half time –courtesy of Craig Moore and Danny Elgar – before Elgar sealed the victory early in the second half with a fabulous finish from the edge of the box.

As usual there was good travelling support for this match – Ian Plested kindly offering to drive and ferrying myself, Matt Brown and Dave Sendall from Guildford.  We also picked up Matt Howell from Fleet station on the way, making sure we embarrassed him thoroughly by piling onto him almost as soon as he got off the train and hailing him as our ‘long lost son!’  Mr Pegman, with his new parenting responsibilities could not make it, although Lofty was waiting for us when we got to the clubhouse, complaining about being ‘robbed’ by the quiz machine!!  Hartley’s ground is very nice indeed – a spacious clubhouse with an enormous screen for watching football and a brilliant kitchen serving delicious burgers.  As mentioned, the pitch was slightly eccentric in its (lack of) flatness and there was no way of getting all the way round the pitch.  But these are minor quibbles, all in all a good day out and best of luck to Hartley for next season, whichever league they find themselves in.

Any thoughts we had that this would be an easy three points were quickly dispelled within minutes of the game starting – Hartley midfielder James Wills running at the City defence and firing a decent effort wide as the home side made the most of playing downhill to turn the screw on their opponents.  In the 5th minute City won the first of two corners, neither of which came to anything, before Lance Bantom-Brown made an impressive run and won yet another – the keeper bravely diving at the feet of Carnegie to gather the ball.  In the 9th minute City were again under pressure as Wills tested them once more.  Tommy Tydeman had to be at his best to get goal-side of the ball but then accidentally stopped it on the line, allowing Wills to cross into the box.  Corey Knight was on hand to clear but not before he appeared to handle the ball.  Not for the last time in the match, Guildford were lucky the ref ruled in the visitors’ favour.

The pressure continued with Smelt holding a powerful header from Zygier before City counter attacked and won a freekick – Carnegie shooting wide from an extreme angle after a rebound.  The home side went on the offensive once again winning two corners in the 22nd minute which they were unable to convert, and then firing an impressive cross into the box which their pint-sized striker, Kieren Thorne could not quite get to.  It was then Guildford’s turn to tighten the screw – Bantom-Brown, causing them real problems with his pace and power, winning a freekick near the byline which had to be punched clear.  Around the half hour mark came the first of the home side’s decent shouts for a goal.  Hartley won a freekick near the byline and sent the kick into the box, the ball being stabbed home by a forward, but the linesman was holding his flag up for offside.  Minutes later, they went close again – Smelt having to push a bullet header over the bar before the home side squandered the corner by getting in each other’s way.  Carnegie and Bantom-Brown then went close with powerful shots which were both saved by the Hartley stopper.

The match was proving far tougher than we had thought and we were starting to assess the consequences for their survival challenge if City drew or even lost.  Yet suddenly the breakthrough came.  A Guildford corner was curled into the box and not cleared properly by the defenders, allowing Craig Moore to steal in and fire home from 2 yards out.  Barely had the dust settled when the visitors were 2-0 up – the Hartley defenders paying the price for backing off from Danny Elgar as he made a powerful run to the edge of the area before firing home with an impressive shot.  The half concluded with no further chances for either side.

It’s fair to say we were all counting our lucky stars at half time and hoping we could extend our two goal lead in the second period.  It seemed inevitable that Hartley would score and I thought back to the impressive 2-2 match at the Spectrum earlier in the season where our team had contrived to draw the game having led by the same scoreline – heaven forbid that would happen again.  Matt Howell meanwhile was busy thinking up some amusing new chants which included such hits as: ‘Pegman’s got a baby’; ‘Who won the National? Moo! Moo! Moo-Moo!’ (to the tune of ‘Who let the Dogs out?’ – a reference to Lofty’s hysterical mispronunciation of this year’s Grand National winner); the new pirate sea shanty, ‘Ooh, ah, Danny Elgar!’ to the tune of Go West and ‘That ball – you’ll never see it again!’ – referring to the huge number of balls Hartley Wintney must have lost in other people’s gardens this season.

The second half started and my worst fears nearly came true from the kick off – the ball being played through to Thorne in the box, who fired home from close range.  We saw nothing wrong with the goal but somehow the linesman judged it to be offside.  Moments later both Moore and Lance had good chances – the latter being yet another fabulous long range drive, before at the other end, Zygier shot well wide.  The match appeared to be heading for quite a competitive contest when Danny Elgar scored once again to settle our nerves.  Receiving the ball on the edge of the box, he curled an exquisite shot over the keeper and into the top corner of the goal – it was another piece of exceptional skill and we road tested his new chant, much to the City midfielder’s amusement!  Yet there wasn’t time to sit back, the home side were far from beaten and is if to underline this Smelt was forced into an incredible save from Zygier in the 63rd minute – the ball heading for the bottom corner before Smelt dived to push it wide at the last moment.  The danger had not passed and City had to clear off their own goal line from the corner.

Kevin Rayner now decided to shuffle his pack, bringing on Simon Sheppard for Danny Elgar.  And the midfielder made an instant impact, working tirelessly in the centre of the park and forcing a good save in the 79th minute: Jamie King heading the resulting corner wide.  Two minutes later, Simon appeared to have won a stonewall penalty after being brought down in the box but this time the ref was not doing Guildford any favours.  Still the visitors pressed, gaining increasing confidence as the time ticked away.  In the 82nd minute it was none other than Tommy Tydeman who ran down the right wing and got to the byline before laying off to Aneel whose powerful shot went inches wide of the post.  At this point the visitors must have decided to sit on their lead and it was Hartley Wintney who had the remainder of the chances – Stewart Alexander making a good run and hitting a deflected shot into the mitts of Jack Smelt and then moments later firing a half volley onto the bar of the City goal in the 86th minute.  Substitute Nick Kingston then drove the ball over the bar from an extreme angle in the final minute.

So despite a few fortuitous decisions City now sit once again above the drop zone.  Much now depends on the Chessington result on Tuesday and of course whether they can beat Ash United on the last day of the season.  One thing is for sure, it’s going to be a white-knuckle ride – but this is Guildford City, why would we expect anything less!!

GUILDFORD CITY: G. Smelt; E. Massey; C. Knight; J. Thoroughgood; T. Tydeman; C. Moore; A. Azeem; J. King; L. Banton-Brown (sub S. Sheppard, 67); H. Carnegie; D. Elgar (sub P. Gough, 82)

Subs not used: T. Chaplin; S. Knight

HARTLEY WINTNEY: B. Fetzullahn; J. Minton; D. Perks (sub T. Lovett, 85); R. Deacon; J. Moran; P. Zygier; T. Shipman (sub N. Kingston); K. Vallance; S. Alexander; K. Thorne; J. Wills (sub M. Gartland, 51)

Subs not used: J. Medford; D. Higgs