Horley Town 1 – 1 Guildford City

CITY fans left this game feeling that their side should have done better. The first 10 minutes were the best Guildford has played all season, as their smooth passing game pretty much blew their opponents off the pitch and it was no surprise to see them 1-0 up at halftime. Yet a more attacking approach to the 2nd half could and should have seen all the points wrapped up. Instead Guildford sat back on their lead and paid the price.

It took me a little longer than expected to get to Horley’s ground, The New Defence. First there was the 2 mile walk from station which actually wasn’t too bad in the sunshine (although I was flagging a bit by the end); then there was the inevitable stop for food –a kebab on this occasion which was excellent, although I was afraid the slightly menacing 13-year-old kids nearby were going to steal it. The biggest problem though was the maze of roads around the ground and the poor signposting. Luckily Mr Pegman was on hand to issue directions. When I finally got there I was awe-struck with the amazing clubhouse; looking more like a leisure centre it had a brilliant bar on the upper floor where you could see the whole pitch. It might have been possible for Lofty and I to have sat in there for the whole game, supping our pints and cheering the odd goal, but we eventually relented and sat in the stand with Moaning Tone in the baking heat. ‘The summer’s finally arrived!’ shouted more than one person.

So to the game and as alluded to, City really controlled the game in the opening minutes of this encounter. Dan Rice appeared to be at the centre of everything, firing a 30 yard freekick into the box in the 4th minute and shooting just wide 2 minutes later. His team-mates were also on top form with the passing and movement off the ball harkening back to some of last season’s most impressive clashes. And this was without Aneel Azeem, rumoured to be on trial with Woking although no-one was able to confirm. In the 11th minute Greg Levene, playing on the left wing this time, tried his luck from long range but it went wide and as if on cue, the home side finally woke from their slumber to register an effort on goal. Kieron Philpott gave away a freekick which Davis, the Horley striker, was able to flick with his head but luckily only into the hands of the Guildford goalie. This signalled the start of a period of pressure from the home side. In the 17th minute, Adam Pullin volleyed over the bar from the edge of the box; then six minutes later Dan Dunning really had to be on top form to put in a last ditch tackle on the edge of the box and prevent a Horley player going through on goal – the resulting corner just missed the head of the unmarked Charlie Adsett. This had given City the wakeup call they needed and they began to re-assert themselves on the game, Charlie Emery firing accurately, if a little weakly, at the keeper in the 31st minute and then, a minute later, Dan Rice releasing Simon Sheppard with an inch perfect ball down the right hand side, resulting in a corner. A perfectly delivered kick was met by the head of the City skipper Andy Wylde and City finally had the goal their early dominance deserved.

You would have now put money on City to win this game. Now was the time for them to extend their lead and tie up the three points but, sadly, it was not to be. It could so easily have been 2-0 just a few minutes later when Simon Sheppard was put through, but there was absolutely no-one for him to cross the ball to. Then the referee appeared to lose the plot, booking Dan Rice for a supposed foul on James Clarke near the halfway line and then, three minutes from halftime, awarding a freekick to Horley for no discernable reason. ‘How many decisions is he giving your way?’ joked Andy Lunn to his opposite number Ali Rennie, ‘five in a row to one team and then swapping over!’ joked back the Horley manager. One more chance presented itself to both teams before the break: a minute from time Kieron Philpott made a fabulous run up the pitch, beating several players, before passing to Sheppard whose cross was just beyond the head of Craig Duffell. Finally, in the dying seconds of the game, the home side headed wide of goal from a throw-in.

Halftime was spent back in the clubhouse drinking beer and marvelling over how such a small football club could have afforded such a magnificent building. I was happy because West Brom appeared to not be losing to Bolton and even Chris seemed reasonably cheerful. His happiness was to be severely curtailed later on when Arsenal gave his beloved Newcastle a bit of a spanking but he did at least raise I smile when I downed a ladle full of fried onions following a challenge from a Horley fan! As with before kick off, the temptation was to stay in the clubhouse but we finally summoned up the motivation to return to the pitch for the second half.

Guildford really did not do themselves justice when play commenced, appearing to be struggling to retain possession almost from the moment the whistle went. Three minutes in, Jay was in action, holding a powerful long range shot and a minute later, at the other end, Dan Rice shot straight at the keeper from the edge of the box. The home side were bossing a lot of the play with their only failing being the final ball. Still, in the 53rd minute City had a chance to increase their lead, Simon Sheppard putting in a wonderful cross to Greg Levene, who unfortunately could only shoot at the keeper. Back came the home side, and in the 57th minute were unlucky not to put their striker through on goal, the pass beating the offside trap but also the Horley player. Two minutes later the visitors had another chance, winning a freekick on the right hand side, a few feet from the box but unfortunately Dan Rice’s perfectly flighted shot missed everyone and rolled behind for a goalkick. The home side now really turned up the heat, forcing a good save from Jay in the 61st minute which had to be hurriedly cleared from the danger area and volleying wide moments later. Amid this dominance though they made what Guildford fans considered to be a puzzling move by taking off Adsett and replacing him with the much shorter Rhys Brown. Jay continued to be tested, holding a point blank header in the 66th minute before City finally managed an assault of their own – Levene finding some space on the wing, beating his marker and crossing to Craig Duffell, who could not quite connect with the ball.

It did seem only a matter of time before Horley got their act together, in the meantime though, they squandered some excellent chances, the best coming in the 71st minute when the City defence were once again breached but Gary Tomlinson, sliding in, just missed the ball and the open goal. The visitors responded and Simon Sheppard, adapting well to an unfamiliar role playing down the right wing, beat the offside trap and put in another excellent cross which Charlie Emery couldn’t quite connect with. City’s luck was running out. They had a fortunate escape in the 75th minute Jay was nearly lobbed by an onrushing forward but could do nothing to stop Gary Tomlinson beating the offside trap, rounding Jay and tapping the ball into the net, seven minutes later. Guildford were now in danger of leaving The New Defence with nothing. Two minutes after the goal, another Horley freekick in a dangerous area was plucked to safety by Jay, then, moments later, Adam Pullin headed wide. A further chance presented itself three minutes from the end but luckily Jay was on hand to gather the ball before the forward could get to it. Guildford managed to rally in the closing stages, winning a freekick, but Dan Dunning could only put the ball over the bar in a congested penalty area.

HORLEY TOWN: S. Lockwood; L. Cox; B. Herdman; C. Weller; A. Jupp; J. Marquis; A. Pullin; J. Clarke (sub A. Curtis, 38); R. Davis (sub R. Jones, 53); G. Tomlinson; C. Adsett (sub R. Brown, 62)

Subs not used: T. Winsor; D. Roffey

GUILDFORD CITY: J. Gindre; K. Philpott; S. Coyle; D. Rice; A. Wylde; D. Dunning; S. Sheppard; C. Emery; C. Duffell; M. Martin; G. Levene (sub Kevin Broad, 86)

Subs not used: P. McCubbin