Woking 1 Aldershot Town 2
Vanarama National League
1 January 2017
The minimum requirement for Woking FC management and fans alike this afternoon, following the Boxing Day fiasco, was a committed, gutsy performance. We certainly got that but football can be a cruel game when you are ‘down’ – and Woking had to swallow a very bitter pill in added time as the Shots scrambled a winner to deprive Garry Hill’s side of a thoroughly deserved point. Having quickly equalised Scott Rendell’s headed opener in the 63rd minute – Max Kretzschmar lifting the ball deftly over Jake Cole two minutes later – the Cards looked the more likely winners as an absorbing contest came to a close. Anthony Edgar had a gilt-edged chance in the 89th minute to claim all three points but fluffed his lines – immediately followed by a cruel blow as Jake Gallagher poked the ball home in a melee at the far post.
The Cards lined up with Michael Poke back in goal; a central defensive three of Joey Jones, Terell Thomas and Brian Saah, with Nathan Ralph and Dennon Lewis as wing backs; a midfield of Kane Ferdinand, Keiran Murtagh and Fabio Saraiva; and Gozie Ugwu as the lone striker, with Max Kretzschmar playing in the ‘hole’ just behind him but often getting ahead of him as the ex-Wycombe Wanderers midfielder sought to pressurise the Aldershot defence. Of the players omitted from the Boxing Day side, there were no places on the bench for Ismail Yakubu, Charlie Carter and Frazer Shaw, while Brandon Hall and Jake Caprice did at least make the team sheet. The Shots were unchanged.
On a dull, gloomy afternoon, to which heavy rain was soon added, it was soon clear that Woking were playing with more ‘bite’ than on Boxing Day, as Nathan Ralph and Keiran Murtagh amongst others got in telling tackles. The Cards also showed some early attacking intent as Lewis’s cross just eluded Saraiva and Ferdinand, and Ugwu threatened to break clear. Indeed, Garry Hill’s side ought to have taken an early lead after the visiting defence had made a hash of clearing a Kretzschmar cross, with the ball falling to Saraiva. Only a few yards out and with just Cole to beat, he hammered it with his favoured left foot but it was too close to the ex-Woking keeper, who blocked it for a crucial save.
In a match which frequently fluctuated, as first one side and then the other seemed to have the edge, Aldershot then began to put their short passing game together. However, Mensah’s horribly skewed effort was not the finish they wanted. Worse was to follow for the former Watford winger in the 17th minute. Rendell managed to get the better of Thomas and pulled the ball back perfectly to Mensah, but with most of the goal gaping the latter managed to drag his shot wide of the far post.
The away side’s pressure continued as Fenelon fired in a shot from outside the area, with Poke fielding the greasy ball cleanly. The Aldershot striker tried his luck again a few minutes later, connecting first time with an Alexander cross but missing the target. Ralph then made a vital interception to foil another dangerous attack.
Woking re-grouped, Kretzschmar winning a free-kick to the right of the area. Saraiva tried to beat Cole from distance but the latter dealt comfortably enough with his well-struck shot. Cole was in action again shortly afterwards as he came out to foil a quick counter-attack, Lewis having set Ugwu on course for goal. The Woking striker also attempted an overhead kick but the Shots’ defence held firm.
Next it was Woking’s turn to defend as Kanu got round Ralph, forcing Thomas to clear awkwardly with his chest – with predictable appeals from the massed ranks of Aldershot fans on the Chris Lane Terrace and in their section of the Leslie Gosden Stand.
Woking attacked again, Ugwu doing well to bring the ball down on the edge of the box but seeing his shot blocked once more. Ralph’s deflected cross ballooned up by the near post but Ferdinand could not take advantage.
Ralph’s name then went into the referee’s notebook as he brought down Kanu, who was threatening to break clear. Conroy’s very deliberate free-kick was only a whisker away from going in – with some Aldershot fans celebrating in vain as the side netting was ruffled.
As half-time approached there was a concerted appeal for a penalty as the ball reared up to apparently hit Thomas’s hand before the pressure was relieved by Ralph with a couple of useful runs down the Woking left flank.
As the players trooped off, both sides could reflect on crucial misses: Saraiva’s for Woking and Mensah’s for Aldershot.
Half-time: Woking 0 Aldershot Town 0
The Cards, first out, started the second half in positive fashion, largely carrying the game to their opponents. But, although several free-kicks and corners were won, shots by Ralph and Saraiva were blocked by the Shots defence; Jones headed over from a corner; and Saraiva’s free-kick went straight into the defensive wall.
It was something of a surprise when Aldershot took the lead in the 63rd minute. Straker’s cross was in the right area for Rendell but it was well-telegraphed and not from a particularly difficult angle and the Cards defence had looked reasonably comfortable till that point dealing with crosses. But Rendell stole a march on his markers and expertly guided the ball past Poke.
The game had barely re-started before Woking equalised. Ralph made another enterprising run down the left, slipping the ball through to Kretzschmar, who lifted the ball superbly over the advancing Cole and into the far corner.
With both sets of fans in full voice, the Shots had an early chance to regain the lead as Fenelon blasted over the bar.
The Woking defence induced palpitations as it endured a jittery few minutes of its own making as they played each other into trouble instead of clearing the ball swiftly.
Both managers began to ring the changes, with Edgar coming on for Saraiva, followed soon after by Frankie Sutherland for a tired-looking Kretzschmar, who was given a big hug by Garry Hill as he left the field.
As the game moved into the last fifteen minutes or so it was the Cards who seemed to have the attacking edge, with Lewis making a couple of fine runs down the right and firing in decent crosses, from one of which Ferdinand mis-kicked. Edgar then broke down the other flank but undid all his good work with an awful pull-back. The Woking pressure continued, with Murtagh prominent in pulling the strings.
In the 89th minute Edgar suddenly found himself clear in the middle. As Cole advanced a goal looked odds-on if only Edgar could just dink the ball over him but, instead, he ran it tamely into Cole’s hands.
The home fans were still rueing this miss when disaster struck. Already a minute into the three added minutes, the Woking defence allowed Straker to get in a low cross. In the confusion it was hard to see precisely what happened but it seemed that a shot from Rendell was blocked. The ball ended up by the far post and as bodies flew in from all directions Gallagher got the decisive touch, poking the ball over the line. The linesman’s flag waved furiously but only to signal that the ball had crossed the line and that the goal should stand.
All credit to the Woking fans who, in spite of this grievous blow, warmly applauded Garry Hill’s side at the final whistle for a hugely committed performance which deserved at least a share of the points. Garry Hill’s team selection looked pretty much ‘spot on’, with Thomas having a good game at the back. Ralph and Lewis both figured prominently, with the former also impressing defensively; and Kretzschmar made a nuisance of himself as well as scoring an excellent goal. But the two holiday defeats now leave the Cards in the relegation places again. It will take many similarly committed performances – allied to a greater threat in front of goal – if they are to claw themselves away from the drop.
Woking: Michael Poke, Dennon Lewis, Joey Jones, Terell Thomas, Brian Saah, Nathan Ralph, Kane Ferdinand, Keiran Murtagh, Fabio Saraiva (Anthony Edgar 71), Max Kretzschmar (Frankie Sutherland 75), Gozie Ugwu
Unused substitutes: Brandon Hall, Jake Caprice, Chike Kandi
Goal: Max Kretzschmar 65 (pictured)
Booked: Fabio Saraiva, Nathan Ralph, Kane Ferdinand, Frankie Sutherland
Aldershot Town: Jake Cole, Anthony Straker, Shamir Fenelon (Matt McLure 70), Scott Rendell, Bernard Mensah, Cheye Alexander, Jake Gallagher, Dion Conroy, Idris Kanu (Will Evans 90), Kundai Benyu (Jim Kellermann 77), Callum Reynolds
Unused sub: Mark Smith
Goals: Scott Rendell 63, Gallagher 90
Booked: Cheye Alexander, Idris Kanu
My Woking MOTM: Good performances from Nathan Ralph and Terell Thomas but Keiran Murtagh edges it with a typically imperious and skilful display
Attendance: 3224 (including 1117 away fans)