26 Mar 2023
Well, what a cracking day that was. There’s a story behind how I ended up at Alton.
Report by first time visitor, 'The Wandering Tractor'
I had three possible fixtures for this Saturday and, being totally indecisive, I ran a Twitter poll to ask my followers which game I should attend. With Alton taking 45% of the vote, I travelled for my first visit to The Exclusive Networks Stadium for the Combined Counties Premier South match with Guildford City. The journey started with a bit of a blip as the bus broke down on the first leg but I’m happy to say that was the only mishap and all of the train connections went smoothly.
This match was a contest between two teams currently flirting with the wrong end of the table. Just two points separated the two sides with Alton sitting in 15th on 30 points and Guildford 18th on 28 points but having three games in hand on their hosts, so a win for either side here could push them away from the relegation zone. As this was on Non League Day, Alton had a special promotion on with admission being just £3, a superb 48 page printed programme for £2 and were offering £1 off your first beer among other promotions. A brilliant initative which looked to work with a decent attendance.
As per usual I had the biggest burger on offer, two quarter pound burgers with bacon and cheese slices for £4.50, and enjoyed a lovely pint (or two) of Henneys cider from a decent selection of bottled beers and ciders, definitely the best choice of the season thus far, at a very reasonable £3.50. Pre-match food and drink despatched it was time for a wander around the ground.
So onto the game, made a little more tricky for both sides by a keen wind blowing from the skatepark end (top middle picture). The first attack of note came after Archie Larkham, Richie Hunter and Louis Russell combined well down the right with the latter putting a dangerous cross into the six yard box where it was blocked by the Guildford defence and cleared. Alton managed to win the ball back to keep the pressure on, before crossing from the left where it fell to Hunter but his snapshot could only find the side netting.
Guildford broke away down the other end with Alex Body finding space inside the area and he managed to get a shot away but Lewis Mees narrowed the angle well to block away. It was pretty much end to end as both sides traded punches (not literally!) and made more interesting by the ball holding up in the wind. The visitors made the next opening with Leon Dadey and Alex Body linking up well down the left leading to a shot from the edge of the box which was well saved by Mees.
In the 20th minute Alton took the lead. A long throw from Guildford’s Jamie Pearce was won well by Ed Dryden on the halfway line and his header was well controlled by George Bowerman. With his back to goal and a defender behind, he managed to hook a delightful ball over his head and into the path of Luke Perkins who calmly slotted the ball past Stuart Norman in the visitors goal. 1-0
Guildford tried to respond straight away and won a free kick on the edge of the area where Body struck a shot under the wall but straight into the arms of Mees. Alton went hunting for a second and a decent diagonal ball found Bowerman in space on the left. His cross was well controlled at the far post by Perkins but he lifted his shot over the bar.
The visitors had the next chance with a break down the left. Shi Oconer cut inside to find space and hit a shot towards the near post where it just went wide. Alton had the final chance of an all action half with Jamie Phillips winning the ball in midfield and playing a nice through ball for Bowerman to run onto but Norman did well to smother on the edge of the area. H-T: Alton 1 Guildford City 0
The second half started with Alton very much on the front foot. They had an early chance where keeper Norman came out to the edge of the area and the ball was played goalwards only to be cleared by Dadey (if someone coming in at half time hadn’t been standing up in front of me in the stand I’d have been able to describe that better!). Moments later another surging run and cross down the right by Russell was met by a flicked defensive header which did just enough to take the ball away from Bowerman lurking at the back post.
Guildford won a free kick midway inside the Alton half minutes later, Thomas Brunton’s cross into the box was initially cleared but fell to Ashley Hitchinson whose shot from the edge of the area was gathered well by Mees. From a ball over the top Siph Mdlalose played Bowerman in again but Hitchinson managed to get back to clear before Bowerman could pull the trigger.
At the other end Alex Body nearly capitalised on a defensive error but Phillips spotted the danger and came across to cover well. In the 72nd minute Trevor Caborn came on as a substitute for Alton and a minute later set up their second goal. Caborn’s pace took him past the Guildford defence and into the area where he saw Mdlalose free on the edge of the area, he cut it back nicely for him to stroke the ball past the helpless Norman and double the hosts lead. 2-0
In the 80th minute Caborn was again in the thick of the action, finishing nicely across Norman into the far corner following a great run and through ball from the tireless Louis Russell. 3-0
Another run from Caborn found Bowerman in space but he could only watch as his shot drifted agonisingly wide of the far post, It was a shame as he deserved a goal for a very good all round performance. Guildford had plenty of the ball in the remaining minutes and added time but never really looked like scoring as the hosts saw the game out for a convinvincing and deserved win. Attendance: 302
F-T: Alton 3 Guildford City 0.
Another great day out and Alton are a cracking little club. Very welcoming and I’ll certainly be back at some point next season and not just for the burgers and cider! Thank you for your hospitality and the very best of luck to both sides for the remainder of the season.
Follow The Wandering Tractor on twitter and at wanderingtractor.co.uk.
And check out Alton 3 - 0 Guildford City, in pictures.
Alton are in HOME action again this coming Tuesday night, when Fleet Town will be the visitors to The Exclusive Networks Stadium, 19:45 kick off.