Sun-drenched Bedfordshire was the setting for Godalming Town’s 2015/16 season curtain-raiser but there was limited drama at Bell Close as hosts Leighton Town deservedly took a share of the points in a 0-0 draw.
After the final pre-season goal-fest against Bracknell last weekend Andy Hunts men failed to create many clear-cut chances despite some impressive ball retention, particularly in the first half. The hosts, much improved on last season, had moments in the second period but will likely be the slightly happier of the two teams, particularly given an offside call in stoppage time prevented a Godalming winner.
There were few selection surprises for the Gs, Lee Rushe and Steve Laidler making their debuts in defence and midfield respectively, with Graeme Purdy given the nod in attack. Tom Willment was a doubt before the match with a dead leg but he nearly gave the visitors an early lead, a trademark towering header from a Darren Wheeler corner being cleared off the line by Jordan Jenkins.
Leighton had a squad overhaul during the close season with experienced manager Mark Eaton coming in to a club with virtually no players from the Craig Bicknell era, and one such new signing Ben Gallant, albeit returning for his fourth spell at Bell Close, shot over in the 16th minute.
Louis Hutton headed another Wheeler corner over the bar before Will Hutton went close from long range as the Gs enjoyed a prolonged spell of possession without testing Aaron Bufton.
Purdy familiarised himself with the former Guildford City goalkeeper in the 40th minute, his foul drawing a yellow card, and with half-time approaching the stopper was called into action as he made a low save from George Frith to deny the visitors a well-worked goal.
Godalming had been on top but the hosts went close in the 62nd minute as former Aston Villa trainee Nathan Olukanmi broke clear, only to be denied by the legs of Richard Ossai. Shortly after Adam Cornell came on for Purdy and he almost made an immediate impact. A deep cross from Wheeler found Frith at the far post and he headed back to the striker but Bufton made a smart stop from close range.
Largely, chances were at a premium, and supporters could be forgiven for having their attention diverge to the adjacent cricket match between Leighton Buzzard and Brackley, and as the visitors passing became occasionally wayward they were nearly stumped by increasing counter-attacks from the hosts.
David Brown got clear on the left forcing Ossai into an important stop in the 75th minute before, with 10 minutes remaining, Willment produced a fantastic block to deny Gallant.
The introduction of Jack Mazzone added a different dynamic to the Gs attack, and after bringing a Louis Hutton ball down he shot wide from inside the box before Willment drove over from distance.
Godalming were ending the game on top and looked the more likely to sneak a winner but it wasn’t to be, despite the ball hitting the back of the net in stoppage time. A deep ball into the area was headed into the 6-yard box by Willment but Mazzone was offside, and his cushioned header was consequently chalked off.
The Gs first home game of the campaign takes place on Tuesday night with Uxbridge, who did the double over Godalming last season, looking to build on their impressive opening day win against Royston. Wey Court is again the venue on Saturday as Bedford Town visit.
Godalming Town XI: Ossai; C. Hutton, Hutchings, Willment, Rushe; Laidler, L. Hutton, W. Hutton; Frith (Mazzone 76’), Purdy (Cornell 65’), Wheeler (Roberts 84’).
Subs not used: Musgrove