Stockport County 2 Woking 4
Emirates FA Cup First Round
5th November 2016
Gozie Ugwu’s brace helped Woking on the way to an enthralling Emirates FA Cup win at ex-Football League outfit Stockport County, their first victory on the road this season.
In a cup tie that had everything, progress wasn’t assured at Edgeley Park until stoppage time, both teams having led but the Cards ultimately exhibiting superior finishing.
From the start the National League North hosts proved they were not over-awed by higher-flight opponents, winger Danny Lloyd and two-goal Jimmy Ball truly a handful.
Yet keeper Brandon Hall was in inspired form, and his spirited side rallied around him, providing plenty of game-saving defence.
The vibes were good on a cold afternoon in Greater Manchester, a sizeable away contingent making themselves known and Brian Saah and Ismail Yakubu deemed fit enough to feature in the heart of defence.
But the Cards were soon up against it, their hosts quick out of the blocks, showing plenty of panache, Lloyd soon picking out striker Ball, whose effort was clawed to safety with an element of elasticity by keeper Hall, who then collected under pressure from Ball again.
There was a caution for Frankie Sutherland as Woking rocked a little, but Garry Hill’s side started to find their feet, Dennon Lewis‘ promising run almost seeing Delano Sam-Yorke in.
The Hatters were quickly away again though, Lloyd feeding Max Cartwright, Hall putting away for a corner, the Cards failing to clear properly, a long throw from the left on nine minutes finding Ball, who fired home from the edge of the area.
Woking were now putting moves together but prone to counter-surges, and after a foul from subsequently-booked Yakubu, the wall had to snaffle a 30-yard Lloyd free-kick.
Several players were involved in Woking’s next move, a few half-chances begging before Sam-Yorke fired over.
An equaliser arrived on 18 minutes, Ben Jefford’s throw leading to Sutherland’s set-piece, Joey Jones losing his marker, heading down and home, making it three goals in three games - all from corners.
Stockport hit back, Yakubu clearing another Ball delivery, his keeper clattered. And when play resumed, Sam-Yorke had to block from Michael Clarke at the resultant corner.
Jones went close again from Sutherland’s next corner after good work by Nathan Ralph, while Josh Amis’ shot on the turn was just over at the other end in an entertaining clash.
Saah was next in the book, holding up Amis as Jim Gannon’s outfit looked to advance, while Ball struck wide.
But Woking silenced a vocal home support on 32 minutes, a swift raid started deep in the Cards’ half leading to Ugwu teeing up a run by Lewis, who laid back off to the big striker, the former Wycombe man losing his marker, keeping his nerve to fire past Ben Hinchcliffe.
Woking looked more assured at the back now, but Amis came close with a header, Hall saving well, the next corner leading to a Ball centre that flew across the goalmouth.
Amis also finished poorly from a Ball delivery. But just when we thought Woking might have reached half time in front, calamity struck.
Whether Jones was clipped or lost his footing is debatable, but Lloyd advanced down the left then crossed low to Ball for an easy side-foot finish.
Half time: Stockport County 2 Woking 2
Stockport carried on where they left off after the break, Lloyd busy down the flank, yet Hall collected from his next 30-yard free-kick, much of the action in Woking’s half. Yet for all their build-up, County couldn’t find the space needed to cause further damage.
From the next long-range Lloyd free-kick, Clarke fired over, while after another quick attack Hall denied Clarke from a corner and Lloyd - still full of running - fired wide.
Hall saved from Sam Minihan as the pressure continued, Garry Hill soon making changes and the Hatters’ fans soon silenced again.
This time, Jones played short to sub Charlie Carter, his superb 40-yard pass picking out Ugwu, who showed quality to keep a defender at bay and hit low past Hinchcliffe, finding the target via the inside of the left post on 59 minutes.
Fabio Saraiva was next on, the hosts struggling to respond, Minihan firing wide again and Woking stronger now, Lewis and Carter particularly promising.
Saraiva snuffed out one home attack, while Saah hooked away the next delivery, and as Woking countered, Saraiva drilled wide, his side living off scraps as home moves broke down, Ugwu alone beyond half-way.
Lewis was deemed offside after Carter’s cross-field pass, while as the Hatters harried there were key touches from Saah, Jones, Nathan Ralph, Lewis and Jones again.
With 10 minutes left Ball and Amis were replaced, but Lloyd and the subs still threatened, Ralph again standing firm to deny an attack, everyone doing their bit as time ebbed away.
A four-man wall absorbed Lloyd’s next free-kick, while after Ugwu struck over on the break, County surged back upfield, a touch from Saah denying them breathing space.
The Cards survived three successive corners before an added-time decider ensured that first win in 11 away days this term.
Carter and Lewis’ neat touches on the right saw the latter’s cross nodded back by Ugwu to Saraiva on the left, who drilled low into the corner from the edge of the box, met by stunned silence and resignation at one end, and delirious celebrations in the far corner.
Stockport County: Ben Hinchcliffe, Mark Ross ©, Max Cartwright, Lewis Montrose, Michael Clarke, Chris Smalley, Sam Minihan (James Hooper 66), Gary Stopforth, Josh Amis (Kayode Odejayi 80), Jimmy Ball (John Marsden 80), Danny Lloyd.
Unused subs: Courtney Meppen-Walter, Ian Ormson, Craig Carney, George West.
Goals: Ball 9, 45.
Woking: Brandon Hall, Joey Jones, Ben Jefford (Fabio Saraiva 61), Brian Saah, Ismail Yakubu, Keiran Murtagh, Frankie Sutherland (Charlie Carter 57), Dennon Lewis, Nathan Ralph, Gozie Ugwu, Delano Sam-Yorke (Terell Thomas 90).
Unused subs: Andy Little, Max Kretzschmar, Anthony Edgar, Chike Kandi.
Goals: Jones 18, Ugwu 32, 59, Saraiva 90+2.
Cautions: Sutherland 7, Yakubu 14, Saah 30.
Referee: Thomas Bramall.
My MOTM: Brandon Hall – while Gozie Ugwu’s finishing saw the Cards pull away, they might have been done for but for the keeper’s assured stops early on, giving a platform to properly organise and ultimately ensure a deserved victory.