The Stags finally got a win under our belts last night with a hard fought game against a resilient Guildford City side.
Coming into the game off the back of six straight losses, the squad were eager to get a result in the first match of our defence of the Southern Combination Cup. Guildford haven’t had the best of starts in the Combined Counties Premier either and were also coming into the game without a win to their name, so it was always going to be an interesting game.
It certainly wasn’t one for the purists. A scrappy first half saw lots of challenges going in and the officials didn’t seem able to get a proper grip on the game. Sam Amure, making his first appearance, saw yellow for a trip right on the edge of the box and frustrations on both sides were evident as challenges went unpunished and some were punished that maybe shouldn’t have been. But both sides had chances. Dave Fitzpatrick went closest for the Stags with a well hit free kick from 25 yards which was met well by the Guildford ‘keeper who tipped it over high to his right. Shortly after, Jorell lost possession in our third and it took a good save from Alex to keep the scoreline at 0-0. Guildford themselves then ad a set piece which was headed just wide.
Cheyce Grant came back into the starting lineup and was causing problems down the left hand side right from the off. It paid dividends after 20 minutes as he fed Jude Mason who burst into the box and slammed the ball past the keeper to make it 1-0 and calm the nerves. Mano was showing some real determination throughout the half and saw yellow for a challenge in which he seemed to clearly get the ball, but tempers were calmed a few moments later as we doubled the lead. After furious appeals for a penalty from the Guildford players and staff (they may well have had a point), the Stags countered and Cheyce turned his defender inside out before lashing the ball past the keeper for 2-0, which is how we went in at the break.
Not long after the second half had started, we could have made it three. Steve Ward found himself through on goal but his shot crashed against the bar. Five minutes later Ward and bar combined again, the ball coming in from the right and the shot being struck well but just a tad too high. Rohdell then replaced Ward and it took less than ten minutes for him to make an impact. Rene Howe crossed from the left, Cheyce saw his effort blocked but the rebound was met by Rohdell who managed to poke the ball home for 3-0 and the game seemingly done and dusted with twenty minutes to go.
Guildford kept pressing though and were making us work hard and with 12 minutes to go they gave themselves a lifeline with a bullet shot from 25 yards from Dan Stewart which whistled past Alex into the goal. A couple of efforts from the Stags didn’t really trouble the ‘keeper and there were a few nerves as Guildford continued to push forward. As 90 minutes loomed, they scored again. A low cross from the right eluded everyone bar the Kieran Campbell who tucked it away first time, giving themselves three minutes of injury time to try and take it to extra-time.
The drama didn’t end there. Rohdell got into a tangle with a Guildford player on the left touchline and it seemed clear to most that Rohdell had been fouled. However the ref saw it differently and gave the decision the other way before pulling out a red card and sending Rohdell back to the changing rooms. Even now nobody is really sure what it was for, but off he went and we managed to see out the final few seconds. Guildford may count themselves unlucky following a spirited second half, but with the desire and application they showed yesterday they should be more than a match for a lot of teams this season.
We made hard work of it but it’s a win and we’re in the next round of the cup where we again play at the Hub, but as the away team as Walton & Hersham are our hosts. Fixture details will be announced as soon as confirmed.