Godalming Town finally ended their barren run as a late Darren Wheeler penalty snatched all 3 points for the Gs in a scrappy game against 9 man Royston Town.
In the same fixture last season the game ended with 9 against 10, and remarkably history repeated itself at Wey Court – extraordinarily 2 of the players shown red in that match were given their marching orders again, namely Scott Bridges and Liam Roberts. The latter, however, could at least lay claim to a positive contribution to the game, drawing the foul that lead to Wheeler’s 6th goal of the season.
Following the departure of Will and Charlie Hutton, Jack Mazzone, and with Richard Ossai, Chris Wales, Tom Willment and Adam Cornell all unavailable it was a new look line up for the hosts, Ashley Lloyd making a welcome return as Chris Musgrove, Tom McGarry and new goalkeeper Danzelle St Louis-Hamilton featured in defence. Graeme Purdy, the only striker in the squad, skippered the side.
The visitors were also the table toppers, and they started well, Ryan Ingrey putting St Louis-Hamilton into some early action with a drive from 18 yards. However, the game would take on a new dynamic when Royston were reduced to 10 men just 14 minutes in. Skipper Bridges flew in two footed on Steve Laidler and following vociferous reactions from the hosts he was sent off, as the former Aston Villa trainee made it his second consecutive red card at Wey Court.
Despite the disadvantage the Crows continued to look the more threatening, Rhys Hoenes looping a header onto the bar moments after he felt he should have been given a penalty following a tug from Nick Hutchings. The hosts, more direct in recent matches, had their best opportunity of the half when Wheeler’s deep cross was nodded over the bar by Musgrove.
The Gs last league win, some 6 games previous, had been secured by 2 Wheeler goals and he looked the most likely to force the issue for the hosts, a volley over the bar and a shot at Ronnie Yates coming from the winger soon after the interval. Purdy glanced a George Frith cross wide as the second half became scrappy, with neither side able to create clear-cut chances.
Gus Scott-Morrise stopped a Wheeler shot on the line before Royston went close to taking the lead, Roberts reacting well to clear a Liam McDevitt header off the line following a corner. With 3 minutes remaining, however, the hosts were presented with an opportunity to snatch the victory as Scott-Morrise tripped Roberts in the box, and Tom Bishop pointed to the spot.
The reliant Wheeler kept his cool as he fired the ball home, despite Yates getting his gloves to the shot. Shortly after the somewhat prickly atmosphere to the match escalated when substitute Kaan Fehmi wildly swung out at Louis Hutton with his right boot after the Gs midfielder had blocked his attempt at a quick free kick. Fisticuffs followed, with Liam Roberts raising his hands to a Royston player, and he followed Fehmi down the tunnel.
In stoppage time another red should have been produced, the normally calm and classy George Powell losing his temper, repeatedly pushing Wheeler, but he was only shown a yellow. The visitors were clearly frustrated as lacking discipline cost them a result, but the hosts were more than happy to capitalise and claim a long overdue 3 points.
The Gs travel to Chalfont St Peter on Tuesday night before a weekend off, which is followed by another Tuesday away day, this time at local rivals Fleet Town.
Scorers: Wheeler 83’ (P)
Gs XI: St Louis-Hamilton; McGarry, Hutchings, Lloyd, Musgrove, Laidler, Hutton, Frith, Roberts, Wheeler (Lewington 90’), Purdy.
Not used: Beswick, Edwards.