Chertsey Town 3 Guildford City 0
It will remain to be seen how pivotal this top of the table clash eventually turns out to be but the result did hosts Chertsey Town no harm as they continue to claw their way back into title contention.
Guildford City will still be comforted with the cushion they enjoy at the top of the Combined Counties League table but it is looking increasingly threadbare as the last third to the campaign is entered.
Chertsey started 2011 with the efficiency of a two stoke lawn mower with a dirty spark plug, but in recording their sixth successive win, they are now purring like a V8 engine with all bells, whistles and even a hooter attached.
The transformation from crock to limo was again there to be seen and the Alwyns Lane outfit fully deserved their victory in front of a crowd of 210, making City look very ordinary in the process.
Taking an early lead boosted an already re-established air of confidence. It came in only the fourth minute from left wing movement culminating with Dan Bennett beating two defenders before rifling the ball with pace, square, at Guildford goalmouth where it was met with perfect timing by Phil Page who headed it home via the underside of the cross bar.
What might have been seen as the happy (half)hour on the Chertsey bench was paradoxically, one of frustration. The reason being that the score had not been moved on, come the thirty minute mark, despite creating chances galore.
Thoughts of this lost opportunity was in the forefront of manager Spencer Day’s mind as Town pummelled the Guildford City defence but without further finding the net.
Dean Papalli had a strong shot saved by the busy Anthony Hall in the City goal. Papalli also saw his 35 strike with Hall out of the position drift wide.
A Tom O’Regan lob at goal looked like being successful but dropped just over the top. Marcus Moody then had a clear header from a corner kick, and although he connected well, the ball also flew inches too high.
Fears of a fight back from the table toppers were almost realised with a headed effort at goal from Simon Cooper off a halfway line free kick that Craig Bradshaw worked hard to smother.
But it was the only clear cut chance of the first half afforded to the visitors. A second Chertsey goal acted as a calming agent.
It came on 31 minutes off the boot of Moody at close range. Papalli slipped the ball through to Bennett who toe poked on for the lurking Moody.
Guildford looked more solid going forward after the break. The substantial frame of Joel Greaves was always a threat but his prime marker Lloyd Boatang kept him on a short leash.
Simon Cox, also in the middle, blocked out all aerial threats as and when they arrived. Tireless work from the full backs again fashioned keystones for a vibrant attack force.
Hard graft on the flanks also gave an added dimension to Chertsey’s attack which still looked the more likely to find the net, even during Guildford City’s best period.
Bradshaw blocked Greaves who might have done better but it was Town that again created better penetration and just after the hour, went further ahead when Page rounded James Thoroughgood who then pulled the striker down by the arm as the trigger was about to be squeezed.
Thoroughgood was required by the referee to take the walk of shame while Papalli took the spot kick. From a long run up, Hall went early to his right and the ball was chipped, almost at slow motion, into an invitingly open net.
The same striker almost found the net once more with another 35 yard attempt with Hall out of position.
The goal gap allowed three Curfew substitutions to take place with Jimmy Norman, Jack Leighton and new face Aaron Leacock all able to stretch their legs with O’Regan, Bennett and Papalli being rested for the Tuesday encounter at Wembley.
City tried to put pressure back on to the Chertsey back line but to no avail and it was once more a blue and white shirt, again with Page, with a free kick that was stopped at the foot of the post, and Moody, who also almost increased the game’s goal tally but his curling strike did not fool Hall who this time bolted the door, but it was long after the Chertsey mustangs had sped into the distance.
Despite selection problems over the past few weeks, Chertsey Town have just won three successes over opponents in the top five to haul themselves back towards the title race. Guildford City and Molesey still have a statistical edge but less momentum. The pace is hotting up at the top!
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