Torquay United 1 Woking 2
Vanarama National League
14th January 2017
It was same again for The Cards, a midfield five with wingbacks and a front two of Ugwu and Hall, as the match kicked off and they faced a wind blowing down the ground towards the away end. A vital game for the Cards, with what look like even tougher fixtures to come in the next four weeks.
An uneven start with no pattern to it for either side sprang into life inside ten minutes. Nathan Ralph’s first touch from Terrell Thomas’ sweeping diagonal ball right to left, looked to have run away from him with his first touch, but the full back did not take the hint and Nathan got in behind him. A covering player was too close and between the two of them down went the Cards’ wingback in the very corner of the box. Referee Barratt had no hesitation in awarding the spot kick for a trip. Fabio Saraiva despatched the kick into the far left corner with Brendan Moore diving the other way and Woking had something to build on.
Stung, the Gulls reacted and Sparkes had Michael Poke back-pedalling to tip over an acute angled swirling left wing cross, bending viciously in under the bar.
Cards countered with Keiran Murtagh’s slalom run past three defenders from midfield to send Dennon Lewis away on the right, but his cross was deflected out of Gozie Ugwu’s reach.
Another Cards build up and Kane Ferdinand joined it on the left wing deep and his cross found its way to Lewis inside the area on the right for a fierce shot that was blocked.
Cards control in these early stages was almost undone as a Torquay build up allowed Courtney Richards to slip in Shaun Harrad, only thwarted by Poke’s rush out and dive to snatch the ball at his feet.
Untidy defending by Woking with too many defenders round the ball let in United on the right and Thomas brought down his man just outside the right hand corner of the box. United dummied the free kick for Sparkes to swing in but too near the Woking defence and when the ball ran loose Connor Hall was back helping out to hammer away.
A sign of Devonian discomfort showed when a corner kick they won on the Woking left was ballooned way over both defence and attack into midfield.
Ugwu with Hall had disrupted Torquay’s play from the back and they benefited when the No. 9 was sent away into the penalty area on his own. At a wide angle right side, his driven shot thudded into the chest and arms of Moore. More Woking pressure forced a hurried clearance for Ralph to latch onto but his shot was well high and wide.
Much travelled home right back Lathaniel Rowe-Turner was making an overlapping impact now. He was set up for a swinging cross beyond the far post and the admirable Poke took no chances by leaping to collect even though he carried the ball over the by-line. The resulting corner was never properly cleared allowing David Fitzpatrick to pick up the loose ball and fire in a shot from outside the area, Poke saving crucially low at his right hand post to concede another corner that was ultimately cleared. Another dangerous break by the Gulls was only halted on the edge of his own area by Kane Ferdinand’s decisive block tackle and then clearance
It was a corner that proved decisive moments later, but at the other end. Lewis swung it in and Brian Saah got up high at the far post. Though there seemed a slight deflection, Moore was helpless anyway in goal, as the ball nestled in the bottom of corner of his net, 0-2; shades of a late Yakubu headed winner from a corner on this ground two years ago.
United were stunned. Murtagh joined another attack, weaving in along the left by-line to feed Ugwu, whose first touch was too heavy and his shot was blocked.
Centre back Thomas surged from the back though Torquay’s midfield cover and set up Ugwu to fire across Moore forcing him the scramble the effort away from his goal.
The home side rallied as the half closed, urged on by the promptings of captain Courtney Richards, who helped open up the centre for a moment. Fitzpatrick shot but his effort was saved low down by Poke. Then Reid was played in with Poke half out and it took a strong left hand low down to deflect the shot and Brian Saah sliding in to win goal kick in a pivotal moment in the game.
Woking slept on a throw in near their left corner flag and Torquay were free in the area momentarily, but the chance was smothered.
Half Time Torquay United 0 Woking 2
Woking were not prepared to be pinned back as the second half began. Lewis away from an Ugwu interchange and just inside the area, squared his man up and shot left footed but straight into Moore’s midriff.
At the other end a deflected header from Harrad after a run down the right from Fitzpatrick disappeared across the face of the away goal.
A Saraiva free kick swung in from the left of the area was met by Brian Saah to volley well wide.
Driven on by anxious home fans Torquay were at last making more headway in the second half. Reid fed Sparkes and his dangerous low cross fizzed across the Cards goal area without a touch. Saraiva found space for Woking in a counter attack but shot straight at Moore.
Murtagh drifted through the midfield and found space inside the right hand of the home side’s area but his cross was blocked with teammates arriving for it.
Just before the hour Sam Chaney came on for new loan signing from AFC Bournemouth Jordan Lee for the Gulls. Garry Hill countered it or had his own plans by immediately sending on Charlie Carter for Nathan Ralph, requiring Fabio Saraiva to drop to wing back.
United pressurised the Woking goal and earned a series of three successive corners. From one centre back Ben Gerring had a header deflected and from another and then in a good position but under challenge, headed over.
Hall broke clear for Cards from the half way line forcing Moore to sprint from his goal and tackle. The ball ran loose with the keeper stranded up field but Saraiva shot early with too many bodies back to block it.
By now Plainmoor’s Bristow Stand was baying for a change and calling for Brett Williams to come on. So he did, replacing Harrad.
Woking were still countering when they could. Saraiva worked the ball for Ugwu who back heeled from near enough on the by-line for Charlie Carter’s low shot to be deflected just wide.
Renewed home attacks followed in the closing tem minutes. A fast Fitzpatrick break, wide right, set up Verma’s shot, stopped by a body on the edge of the Cards’ area. Luke Kandi came on for a willing, but tiring, Hall. Another move, Ugwu for Carter and a chance for Saraiva, but he could not finish.
A Rowe–Turner shot was deflected wide. Then Sparkes ignited a move and his quick one-two freed him to lay on for Williams, of course, to fire in from a few yards. It was 87 minutes on the clock and game on again. Four minutes of added time and a right wing move by United set up a deadly cross with Sparkes arriving in the goal area. Only Joey Jones sliding block saved the day as Poke may well have been beaten.
Ugwu acted as foil for Murtagh and Kandi to run down the clock at the right hand corner flag till Kandi lost the ball out for a goal kick. Moore hammered it downfield and Sean McGinty had a drive from outside the area, well over.
Woking had won, a lifeline perhaps for the Cards, as they face difficult games on paper in the next four weeks. Get down to Kingfield (The Laithwaite Stadium) for the visit of high –flying Tranmere Rovers next Saturday with more vital league points to play for.
Torquay United: Brendan Moore , Jordan Lee (Sam Chaney 57), Ben Gerring, Shaun McGinty, Lathaniel Rowe-Turner, David Fitzpatrick, Courtney Richards (c), Aman Verma, Dan Sparkes, Jamie Reid, Shaun Harrad (Brett Williams 68).
Subs not used: Paul Rooney, Will Hancox, Jamie Robba.
Goal: Brett Williams (86)
Woking: Michael Poke, Joey Jones, Terell Thomas, Brian Saah, Dennon Lewis, Kane Ferdinand, Keiran Murtagh (c), Fabio Saraiva, Nathan Ralph (Charlie Carter 58), Connor Hall (Luke Kandi 80), Gozie Ugwu.
Subs not used: Brandon Hall, Jake Caprice, Ismail Yakubu
Goals: Fabio Saraiva (6, penalty), Brian Saah (35)
Bookings: Keiran Murtagh
Referee: Wayne Barratt
My MOTM: Terell Thomas was quick and decisive at the back and ‘everybody put in a shift’, but I picked Keiran Murtagh, for his guile and control, to lay a platform for a dominant Woking display.