Godalming Town’s long wait for a home win was finally ended after another impressive performance, and a 5th game unbeaten, secured 3 points over 7th-placed Royston Town in a fiery match at Wey Court which ended with 10 against 9 men.
After the Gs took a deserved 22nd minute lead thanks to Darren Wheeler the visitors saw Scott Bridges sent off following a clash with Steve Brown. The heated affair continued in the second half but Godalming continued to impress, George Frith doubling the lead with 22 minutes to go. Substitute Will Hutton and Liam Roberts then both saw red in the space of a minute as the game’s tensions boiled over late on.
With Marlow away postponed last weekend a fortnight had passed since the Gs secured the impressive win at Aylesbury and Andy Hunt made just one change with Tom Willment suspended. Nick Hutchings returned to left-back with Chris Musgrove, having spent 2 games at Cove to gain match fitness, pairing Ashley Lloyd in central defence as Godalming sought a first home victory since October 25th.
The hosts made a good start and could have taken the lead in the early stages. In the 2nd minute Mason Tewkesbury split a Wheeler free kick and Antonio Simeone edged the rebound towards goal only for Bridges to clear off the line. Ryan Lockett bent an effort wide shortly after for the visitors but it was Godalming who looked strongest going forward, and Adam Cornell failed to take advantage of a George Powell mis-kick in the 10th minute blazing his effort high over the bar.
In the 22nd minute the Gs took the lead as Roberts released Wheeler with a fine ball. Despite veteran Dave Theobald’s best efforts to scythe the winger down he stayed on his feet and eventually tucked away his 13th goal of the season into the far corner.
The game certainly had a physical edge to it with players from both sides flying into challenges. Ryan Ingrey, who enjoyed a loan spell at St Ives Town earlier in the season, turned and shot narrowly over shortly after Wheeler’s goal but whilst being played at a relatively competitive tempo few clear chances were being carved out.
With 5 minutes until the break the Crows were reduced to 10 men after Bridges received a relatively harsh red card. A Steve Brown challenge missed the former Aston Villa trainee by a couple of feet at least but he didn’t take kindly to it, squaring up to the Gs midfielder after play eventually broke up. Brown simply stood his ground but as the referee turned his shoulder Bridges moved his head in and, seconds later, the red was produced.
The visitors were reeling, and it was probably not worthy of a red, but regardless of the numerical advantage truth Godalming had been the better side with their new-found physicality combining nicely with some smart passing. They made a strong start to the second half too with Frith heading a Wheeler cross inches over before, in the 52nd minute, Cornell fired an effort off target.
Simeone then saw two efforts blocked before Royston began to show why they had been in and around the playoff places all season, and they started to push for an equaliser. Steve Castle had made a double substitution at the break and one of his replacements, top-scorer Kaam Fehmi, produced an excellent cross in the 62nd minute but Ingrey somehow contrived to mis-hit his shot onto the roof of the net from point-blank range.
Shortly after Richard Ossai made a good save from Chris Waters before making another important stop from the tricky Fehmi. However Godalming doubled their lead in the 68th minute after a flowing move was finished off by Frith for his second Gs goal of the season.
Brown passed to Simeone in the centre of the park and he elegantly turned Stuart Bridges before finding Wheeler out wide. The winger sent the ball in to Roberts who turned and shot only to be denied by Tewkesbury, but Frith was alert and first to the loose ball, firing home from close range.
The robust nature of the game somewhat calmed after Godalming put daylight between themselves and the visitors but just as the game seemed to be winding down the Gs were sent down to 9 men in the space of seconds.
Featuring for the first time following suspension for a red card in December Will Hutton was on the pitch for 12 minutes before receiving his marching orders for a reckless stamp on Stuart Bridges. Bridges had won the 50/50 tackle but Hutton appeared to jump on the midfielder’s ankle and the challenge sparked a mass melee among both sets of players. Amid the chaos Roberts raised his hands to Ryan Wharton’s face and he too saw red.
In truth Godalming saw out the remainder of the game with ease though substitute Spyros Mentis struck the post with a thunderous long-range effort in stoppage time before Jack Mazzone, on for Cornell in the 86th minute, went on a mazy run before firing wide.
The feisty encounter will be fresh in the memories of both sides when they meet again at Garden Walk on Tuesday February 24th. Before then Godalming host in-form Aylesbury United on Valentine’s Day before travelling to AFC Hayes on the 21st as they’ll no doubt aim to build on their unbeaten run.
Scorers: Wheeler 22’, Frith 68’
Godalming Town XI: Ossai; Wales (C. Hutton 46’), Hutchings, Musgrove, Lloyd; Frith, Roberts, Brown, Simeone; Wheeler (W. Hutton 71’), Cornell (Mazzone 86’).
Substitutes not used: Howard, Purdy.