GUILDFORD took another small step towards securing their CCL Premier League status with this impressive win against fellow strugglers, Sandhurst Town. Despite spurning chances to increase their lead, City weathered a late onslaught from the Fizzers and held out to notch their second win in three games. A few more results like this and the Surrey side will hopefully be looking at a comfortable mid table finish this season.
Unlike the midweek game, the Sweeney turned out in force for this one, aware that a win was absolutely vital if City’s recent revival was to continue. Chris, Lofty and I turned up at around 12.30 to sample some of Sandhurst’s ‘cultural’ establishments – aka pubs! Following on our heels were the student contingent – Dan, Dave and Joe met us at the Wellington Arms and then Matt Howell turned up as well with Lucy in tow after another impressive pilgrimage from Middlesex. Thus fully assembled we descended on the exquisitely named ‘Bottom Meadow’ for the match. On arrival I grabbed a steak pie after being disgusted to find they did not serve vol-au-vents and then got into a conversation with a local supporter very het up about the fact that ‘meaty’ tackles in which some or all of a player’s bones get broken were no longer allowed in football!
The game kicked off and it was a very open encounter for the first half hour or so – City having a lot of possession but the home side being quick on the counter attack and carving out some good chances of their own. Indeed it was the Fizzers who had the first opportunities to get off the mark – Greg Stokes being put through in the 4th minute but being successfully hassled off the ball by Andy Wylde. A minute later Matt Hopton had a chance on goal but Dave Tidy was able to gather comfortably. The match then settled into a bit of a stalemate, with no clear cut chances being forged but the home side arguably looking the more dangerous. Finally though City began to get back into the game and notched their first attempt on goal in the 25th minute – John Hamsher trying his luck from distance but not troubling the keeper. And it was the visitors who took the lead, albeit rather fortuitously, in the 30th minute. Craig Moore received the ball on the edge of the box and with nothing on, hit a hopeful daisy cutter at the keeper. Somehow Sam Collier managed to fumble the ball and it rolled over the line to the surprise and jubilation of the City midfielder.
The home side responded robustly and four minutes later won a freekick on the edge of the Guildford penalty area. I’m sure that Sandhurst fan would have approved of the tackle that caused it. The ref certainly didn’t though and gave Lee Passmore a talking to but luckily no card. The City defence were able to deal comfortably with the kick and won one of their own moments later which was similarly harmless, Hamsher slipping as he kicked it and the ball being caught by Collier. Guildford had taken up the initiative again and went on to win two corners in quick succession – the first being perhaps the worst corner seen all season, trickling behind before it had travelled 10 feet but the second causing all sorts of problems – Martin Beard’s header having to be cleared off the line by some frantic defending. Back came the home side though and in the 40th minute it was none other than Simon Sheppard who saved the day, coming back to cut off the run of a Sandhurst forward and shepherd (no pun intended!) the ball back to Dave Tidy. Again the Fizzers pressed, heading wide of the goal a minute later before the game again settled back into deadlock. The half ended with a flurry of chances Sheppard going through a minute from time and passing to Loyza – his cross unfortunately had no one on the end of it and the chance to extend the lead was lost. A minute later the Fizzers should surely have scored – Dave Tidy pushing a shot onto the bar and an onrushing Sandhurst forward firing over from 6 yards out with the goal at his mercy. There was time for City to try their luck one more time – a long range shot from Sheppard over the bar – before the whistle blew for halftime.
It was a happy group of Guildford fans who congregated in Sandhurst’s very snug clubhouse at halftime. Lofty was showing of the new whistle he had brought along especially for the occasion, although it was pointed out to him that the ref might have a few ideas about him using it during the match. Meanwhile a group of 12 year olds had been throwing some very barbed comments at the Sweeney supporters and were gathering threateningly around my flag – ‘they’ve set it alight!!’ yelled Mr Pegman – yeah yeah very funny Chris. Not. Matt Howell was desperate to have a ‘rumble’ with them but he was luckily talked out of this by myself and his girlfriend Lucy telling him that they would probably kick his ass (and maybe his arse as well)!
Despite the lead there was some apprehension as the kick off for the second half approached – Guildford after all have not been terribly good at hanging onto leads this season. We needn’t have worried however as seconds after the whistle had been blown it was 2-0. With Lofty and I watching as we finished our beer in the clubhouse, City kicked off and advanced on goal. A shot came in from the edge of the area which the keeper parried but could not clear and Simon Sheppard was on hand to bury the ball in the roof of the net from barely 5 feet out. Cue pandemonium in the clubhouse which I don’t think was very much appreciated by the Sandhurst fans – not least the one I had become acquainted with earlier that day. ‘You haven’t won yet’ he muttered in low and bitter tones as he walked past us. Now the chances were there to make this a comfortable victory but typically City did not take them – two chances falling to Matt Graves a matter of minutes later but both being put wide of the goal. Inevitably Sandhurst came back at the visitors, winning a freekick on the edge of the box which was cleared easily in the 51st minute. Fizzers midfielder Neil Selby then made an impressive mazey run but his shot on goal was blocked and then gathered by Dave Tidy. At the same time Wayne Noad was on the turf doubled up with cramp, the referee sensitively told him to move his arse behind the deadball line so he could be treated!
The visitors responded to this pressure once again and should have made it 3-0 in the 59th minute when a Matt Graves piledriver was spilled by the keeper and Simon Sheppard’s shot hammered off the post from the rebound. A minute later the diminutive striker come midfielder was at it again, tearing down the right wing but his cross was caught at the foot of the post by Collier. The Fizzers seemed to take heart from their visitors lack of killer instinct and now forged some chances of their own – Greg Stokes volleying over from the edge of the box in the 62nd minute and Grant Nesbitt doing similar three minutes later. Craig Moore then responded for City, curling a shot just wide of the post from a throw in. This was a really open game now and chances were coming thick and fast. Danny Turner, the Fizzers striker, really should have done better in the 71st minute when through on goal, as it was his powerful shot was easily held by Tidy. Two minutes later City won a freekick in a dangerous area to howls of protest from the home fans who claimed their player had got the ball but Matt Burns could only shoot over the bar.
The home side now stepped up the pressure on City and it took all their reserves of strength and concentration to keep them at bay. In the 82nd minute they won a corner which luckily failed to trouble the City defence and then a minute later Dave Tidy had to be on top form to save a great shot from Hopton. It was pretty much all Sandhurst now as the Guildford players anxiously tried to run down the clock and predictably the defence was eventually caught out – Danny Turner beating the offside trap to go through on goal and slot past Tidy to make it 2-1 and cause a collective intake of breath from the Guildford fans. The visitors’ penalty area started to resemble the Alamo as a series of shots rained in – Tidy holding a deflectionin the final minute of normal time and then being only able to look on as a Fizzers forward headed wide in injury time. It was only when a long range shot just failed to creep in at the far post in something like the 5th minute of injury time that we all started to believe that this would be Guildford’s day and so it proved.
SANDHURST TOWN: S. Collier; J. Fisk; L. Parker; R. Hogston; G. Nesbitt; E. Hutchings; D. Wilde; N. Selby; M. Hopton (sub P. Browning, 90); D. Turner; G. Stokes (sub M. Farminer, 68)
Subs not used: J. Underwood; P. Mulvaney; R. Sutton
GUILDFORD CITY: D. Tidy; P. Bartholomew; M. Burns; C. Moore; W. Noad (sub A. Wylde, 73); M. Beard; L. Passmore; J. Hamsher (sub A. Smillie, 89); M. Graves; J. Loyza; S. Sheppard
Subs not used: J. Heather; A. Azeem; S. Wadge