North Greenford United 5 – 1 Guildford City

Though the scoreline reads 5-1, the result was an unfair reflection of how even this match was. Ultimately poor finishing cost City, who had as many chances as their opponents North Greenford Utd, but just couldn’t find the back of the net. Trailing 3-0 at halftime, City were all over the hosts in the second half, pulling one back. It didn’t last long as North Greenford scored twice more to finish the game off.

We travelled to west London knowing that North Greenford are the best team in the league, top of the division with a massive goal difference. It was going to be difficult, but a year ago to the day we pulled off a shock victory over league leaders Camberley – so the omens weren’t all bad.

City started the better team, forcing lots of half chances through wingers Elgar and Carnegie. After quarter of an hour, a speculative shot caught Hall by surprise but he managed to catch the ball, then drop it, catch it again, drop it once more before finally pouncing on it as a striker threatened to poke it home. Within a minute North Greenford had a decent penalty shout turned down.

Five minutes later a looping long ball drew Anthony Hall out of his goal mouth, where he and Tommy Tydeman tried to clear. Hall committed himself, but his momentum took him well out the area. An NGU player swept the ball into the box, and Jamie Thoroughgood managed to stop the attacking header on the line with Hall in no-mans land.

After this, City went on the attack again, most of the good work coming through Harrison Carnegie on the right wing. Indeed, for most of the first half it looked like we would score first – a number of good crosses going unmet in the area. But the inevitable happened in the 24th minute, a Dave Lawrence deflected shot found its way into the bottom corner to put North Greenford 1-0 ahead.

Almost immediately Gabriel Adesina’s good work created a chance as he ran into the penalty area. But the sheer numbers of defenders meant he couldn’t get his shot away, and North Greenford went on the break – and scored again. David Lawrence again found the net, this time with a quality finish from the edge of the penalty area.

Adesina had another chance soon afterwards, turning his man in the box but his shot was blocked, and then found himself given a very debatable offside after a stylish flick-on by Danny Elgar. For the rest of the half, the match was end-to-end, with half chances for each team.

In the dying minutes of the half, a free kick was crossed into the Guildford penalty area, only to be met by Simon Cooper, whose brilliant diving header unfortunately came at the wrong end of the pitch.  So NGU led 3-0 at half time.

City knew they had to pull something special out of the bag, and to say they bossed the majority of the second half is no exaggeration. In the 53rd minute, Danny Elgar’s mazy run got him as far as the penalty spot, but he couldn’t find space to pull the trigger. And just three minutes later, Adesina had a brilliant chance from a through ball. His shot was saved by the keeper’s out-stretched arm and fell to Danny Elgar. It didn’t quite sit up for him and his shot was blocked on the line.

The reward for the pressure came five minutes later in the 61st minute. A corner kick was swung into the area and the NGU keeper Warrington went up for it with Jamie King. The keeper couldn’t make it and a superb header from Jamie King went in off the post. 3-1, and although City had a lot of work to do, we were clearly worrying the league leaders.

After another period of Guildford pressure, Adesina had another shot saved by the keeper. Then came the sucker punch. A long punt from the NGU goalkeeper wasn’t dealt with by the City defence who allowed it to bounce. Ricky Pither latched on to it and fired home to restore the three goal lead. City were deflated and let the hosts back into the match. Moments later, a diving forward failed to connect his head with the ball and City escaped after a good cross from the right.

The final blow came in the 79th minute, Ricky Pither cutting inside form the right to bury the fifth North Greenford goal. Neither team looked interested after that, and despite a few vague chances for City, the final whistle blew.

NORTH GREENFORD UTD: J. Warrington; S. Hillier; A. Patterson; C. Meddes; J. Diston; M. Murray (J. Sparrowhawk, 70), R. Welsh (A. Mahmoud, 83), C. Hibbs (J. Lisi, 78), R. Pither, D. Lawrence, L. Kenny

Subs not used: N. Blanks; K. McKenna

GUILDFORD CITY: A. Hall; T. Tydeman (J. Turner, 45); T. Arnold; S. Cooper; J. Thoroughgood; J. King; G. Tydeman; B. Rayner; G. Adesina (L. Bradnick, 78); H. Carnegie; D. Elgar

Subs not used: A. Ducran; A. Bridgeman
Booked: S. Cooper; B. Rayner;

Referee: R. Simon
Attendance: 47