Balham played host to Guildford City for the last game before Christmas. Having taken a comfortable win at Guildford earlier in the season, the eventual 1-1 scoreline was a severe disappointment as Balham were unable to secure the hoped-for victory.
The game itself was certainly exciting even if it was ultimately frustrating, although it took until the second half for Balham to show what they are capable of.
Neither side started particularly strongly in terms of attacking prowess. Balham’s early attacks were all too often stopped by the offside flag, and Guildford didn’t threaten with any of their numerous crosses from the left.
Balham’s best chance of the half came a quarter of an hour into the first half. Guildford failed to deal with a cross properly and Anis Nuur was able to set up Ibrahim Olutade. Had he hit the target Balham certainly would have gone a goal ahead, but his powerful first time effort cleared the bar.
Still, both sides struggled to find their rhythm, not helped by a break in play for dog waste to be removed from the pitch. Once play was underway again, Guildford were in the ascendancy, and they started to threaten more often.
Around the half hour mark, the visitors broke the deadlock. The ball fell to Guildford in midfield and, receiving a perfectly weighted through ball, Dan Stewart raced ahead of the defence, rounded the goalkeeper, and slotted the ball in off the post from a difficult angle.
Fortunately for Balham, Guildford’s offensive efforts from thereon in were lacklustre. Balham had the last chance of the second half with a superb cross from deep, but nobody was quite able to provide the touch needed to divert the ball past the goalkeeper.
Although they remained a goal down, Balham’s strong end to the first half brought belief that they would get back into the game. Olutade had failed to convert his only real chance of the opening half. After the break, though, he proved a constant thorn in the side of the Guildford defence.
He was unlucky to be denied by the goalkeeper early in the second half, when a deflected clearance had fallen to his feet inside the box. The next chance he got, though, he made Guildford pay. A long range effort ricocheted off two defenders and bounced towards Olutade. He shrugged off one defender and scrambled the ball into the bottom right corner, although even he was not entirely sure if it had come off Guildfofd’s defender Beale last.
Regardless of how it had gone in, Balham had finally levelled. With another half chance for Olutade just moments later, it was clear that Guildford were there for the taking. Try as they might, Balham were unable to find a second goal, Marco Erriu coming the closest with a header from a corner.
The visitors became increasingly combative as they fought to regain their hold on the match. Stewart, Tancock, Gallagher and Simmonds all picked up bookings for the away side in the second half.
They did manage to create a number of chances late on, though. Stewart had a goal rightly ruled out for offside with 10 minutes to play, and Balham keeper Neish was forced to make a double save in injury time to deny Guildford. Neither side got the winner they were looking for in the end, though, as the referee called time on the game after a hard-fought second half.
In the end, it was a disappointing result for both teams who could argue that they each had chances to win the game. For Balham, ir was “decidedly frustrating”, as manager Greg Cruttwell put it afterwards.
“We could have won, but the most important thing after making that mistake in the first half was that we came back and won the second half, and we did that. We had chances, but sometimes you don’t get the rub of the green, just like last week.”