Southport 2 Woking 1
Vanarama National League
13th August 2016
A goal in each half from Southport striker Louis Almond consigned Woking to narrow defeat at Haig Avenue. Almond, top scorer for the Sandgrounders last term, ensured that Garry Hill’s men emerged pointless from their trip to Lancashire, condemning Woking to a second defeat of the season.
Woking will be bitterly disappointed not to have come away with at least a draw from this tight contest, especially after taking the lead through Dennon Lewis, and controlling much of the possession for the majority of the match.
The Cards made just one change from the side that drew at Solihull Moors in midweek, on account of the injury sustained by Ismail Yakubu during that match. Fabio Saraiva slotted into the heart of the Woking midfield, with the versatile Joey Jones shifting to centre back alongside Brian Saah.
After Southport applied some early pressure, Woking began to assert themselves in the Southport sunshine with Jones and Jake Caprice looking composed on the ball across the backline, bringing the two widemen, Lewis and Nathan Ralph into play wherever possible. In the 9th minute, Woking carved out their first opening, good work from Lewis on the right finding Zak Ansah, whose effort forced a good right handed save from Southport’s on-loan keeper Tyrell Belford.
Woking’s bright early play was rewarded with a fine opening goal in the 13th minute, the ball breaking to Lewis at the edge of the box for him to fire home from the edge of the penalty area. Woking almost doubled their lead three minutes later when Saraiva played the ball into the inside left channel for the willing run of Ansah, whose early cross just eluded Gozie Ugwu. Ansah and Ugwu looked bright in the first half, Ansah a willing runner always looking for the ball, and Ugwu using his physicality to occupy the Southport defenders.
In the 18th minute Southport were gifted an equalizer. A throw in on Southport’s left side found the feet of Almond, and his quick feet drew a foul from Keiran Murtagh. It was unclear how much contact there was from the Woking captain, but Almond went down and the referee Tom Nield pointed to the spot. Almond dusted himself down to convert the penalty himself, blasting the spot kick down the middle whilst Michael Poke dived to his left.
Lifted by their equalizer, Southport began to apply some pressure on the Cards, and in the 22nd minute a long clearance from the keeper Belford found Almond, whose shot was well saved by Poke. James Caton tried to fashion a goal from the rebound, and a goalmouth scramble ensued, with Caton having a couple of efforts blocked by the combined efforts of the Woking rearguard.
At the other end, Zak Ansah created a chance for himself with good footwork in the 25th minute, fashioning a yard of space but not getting hold of his left foot shot on goal. Three minutes later Saraiva, who generally looked to offer some craft and guile into the Woking play, had a shot deflected wide. The resulting corner was cleared only as far as Ralph, who put in one of many good crosses for Saah to head goalwards, only to be denied by a fine save from Belford.
In the 39th minute came the first of two good chances for Ugwu. Saraiva looked to play in Ansah with an intricate through ball on the edge of the area. The through ball was intercepted but fell as far as Ugwu, whose first time shot was swept over the bar. Shortly afterwards, the best chance of the match for Woking fell to the same man. Fine work from Murtagh, tracking back in his own half, was added to by a fine 50 yard pass from the skipper to send Ugwu through on goal with only the keeper to beat. The striker’s finish lacked composure though, and he fired the ball into the Jack Carr stand behind the goal.
Following two minutes of stoppage time, the whistle blew to signify the end of a half that Woking largely controlled.
Half-time: Southport 1 Woking 1
Woking began the second half much as they began the first, in control of possession, but tending to be too hasty in terms of attacking decision making. Southport were generally content to sit back and keep Woking at arms-length with shots from distance. Ansah and Caprice had a couple of long range efforts that were deflected wide for corners, but in truth Woking struggled to create clear cut chances to retake the lead.
At the other end, Southport too struggled to establish themselves as an attacking threat, and it was ten minutes into the half before they threatened. A loose ball was struck superbly by the vastly experienced Southport captain Gary Jones, which whistled just past Poke’s post.
In the 58th minute, Saraiva, who had been neat and tidy on the ball, decided to take a more direct approach, with a strong run into the penalty box ending with a shot deflected wide for a corner.
Garry Hill made the first Woking change in the 61st minute, replacing Ben Gordon with Charlie Penny. This resulted in a tactical reshuffle by the Cards boss, with Ralph dropping to left back, Saraiva switching to the left of midfield and Penny appearing to play alongside Ansah, just behind the central striker, Ugwu.
Much of Woking’s attacking thrust came through Jake Caprice, the full back getting forward well in the 64th minute. Ugwu, met his cross at full stretch but failed to make proper contact with his header, which drifted wide. A couple of minutes later, and Ansah saw another long range effort go wide of the post.
In the 67th minute Southport boss Andy Bishop made his first change, and in a bid to take matters into his own hands bought himself on for James Gray, who had been a strong physical threat well marshalled by Jones and Saah. This substitution seemed to lift the home crowd, Bishop being prepared to put himself about and make some challenges. One challenge on Saah, on the halfway line, was particularly robust, and would have drawn a booking from many officials. Mr Nield kept his cards in his pocket, and Bishop was no doubt helped by the Woking defender not making a meal of it.
On 72 minutes, Woking broke threateningly, Ralph delivering a fine cross which Ugwu couldn’t quite get on the end of following close attention from the Southport defence.
Garry Hill made his second change on 74 minutes, Chike Kandi coming on to make his Woking debut for Gozie Ugwu. Both Hill and Steve Thompson could be seen to be visibly animated as they implored Woking to press higher up the pitch and push for three points.
Anthony Edgar replaced Zak Ansah in the 82nd minute to make his Woking debut, and he spent his time on the pitch on the left hand side with Saraiva reverting to play more centrally. Edgar was immediately afforded corner taking responsibilities, and his inswinging corner was unconvincingly dealt with by Belford, who fisted straight up in the air from inside his own six yard box. It looked as though the ball would land invitingly on the head of Kandi, however he was bundled to the floor to howls of protests from the travelling Cards fans behind the goal. The referee waved away the Woking appeals.
The game appeared to be petering out towards a draw when Andy Bishop got on the end of a long ball, created some space and then teed the ball up for Almond to calmly finish past the despairing dive of Poke two minutes from time. Woking will be disappointed to have failed to see the game out defensively having looked relatively untroubled throughout, but Almond showed the cool finish that the Woking strikers had earlier lacked when presented with similar opportunities.
The fourth official indicated four minutes of stoppage time, and the Cards pressed during this period. A driving run from Edgar into the box was foiled by a forest of yellow socked legs, and when the same players disappointing corner failed to beat the first man, the referee blew the full time whistle, to the audible relief of the home fans. Southport will be delighted to have chalked up their first win of the campaign.
Woking left Haig Avenue frustrated at squandering five points from winning positions in the space of five days, especially given the general composure and control in their display in the North West.
The team showed some encouraging signs of starting to gel following the influx of so many new faces in the side, and it is to be hoped that a positive result will not be far from coming. The team would clearly benefit from the increased confidence a good result would bring, which would no doubt help to improve the team’s decision making and cutting edge in the final third.
With back to back home games to follow against Forest Green Rovers and Dagenham & Redbridge, the team will be desperate to put this disappointing result in the North West behind them, starting on Tuesday.
Southport: Tyrell Belford, Andrai Jones, Neil Ashton, Liam Nolan, Josh Thompson, Ross White, James Caton (Keil O’Brien 90), Gary Jones ©, James Gray (Andy Bishop 67), Louis Almond, Jamie Allen (Ashley Grimes 74)
Subs not used: Ryan Crump, Connor McCarthy
Goals: Louis Almond (18, 88)
Woking: Michael Poke, Jake Caprice, Ben Gordon (Charlie Penny 61), Joey Jones, Brian Saah, Keiran Murtagh ©, Gozie Ugwu (Chike Kandi 74), Zak Ansah (Anthony Edgar 82), Nathan Ralph, Fabio Saraiva, Dennon Lewis
Subs not used: Charlie Carter, Brandon Hall
Goals: Dennon Lewis (13)
My MOTM: Joey Jones. Generally solid defensively and also showed composure on the ball, distributing the ball well from the back and initiating Woking attacks with his range of passing.