Brian Caffarey - 13th December 2009
FA Trophy 1st Round
12 December 2009
The Cards made it through to the next round of the FA Trophy with a hard-fought, but deserved, win against a Forest Green Rovers side who were predictably difficult to break down but who offered little up front. In the end the tie turned on an opportunist strike from Nathaniel Pinney in the first half. The Cards couldn’t quite manage the crucial second goal but defended their lead in very determined fashion, with some great closing-down from Mark Ricketts and Harry Arter in midfield and a couple of crucial interventions from Ross Worner.
In the absence of the cup-tied Matthew Wright, Graham Baker gave a rare start to Luke Medley, who played through the middle, with Nathaniel Pinney and Moses Ademola in support. Tony Sinclair retained the right back slot, while Academy striker Ola Sogbanmu claimed a place on the bench.
The Cards took the initiative right from the kick-off and generally had the upper hand throughout the game, although Rovers had plenty of possession. An early curling free-kick from out right from Aswad Thomas produced a blocked shot at the far post from Gez Sole, rapidly followed by two corners. Woking looked to use the pace of Ademola and Pinney, and a useful flick-on by Medley almost put the Palace loan striker through. In the 10th minute Pinney threatened again on the edge of the area, wriggling free of defenders to make space before firing in an ultimately comfortable save for Rovers’ keeper, Terry Burton..
On the quarter-hour mark Rovers fashioned their first real attack, getting to the byeline as Jon Boardman misjudged his attempted interception. Fortunately, Tom Hutchinson was on hand to stick out a leg to thwart the pull-back.
Immediately afterwards, though, the Cards went up the other end and scored. A through ball from Tony Sinclair forced Burton to rush out of his area to block Medley. The ball spun out right to Pinney. He was the sort of distance from the goal from which players often miss when hurriedly aiming for an open goal but he steered it back deliberately and carefully into the net before Burton or any of the Rovers defenders were able to get back to cover the goal line.
The game become something of a stalemate for a while, with the main talking point being the erratic performance of the referee, who brandished yellow cards far too readily at Woking players while allowing Rovers’ Isaiah Rankine to get away with several equally serious transgressions.
The Cards’ defence kept Rovers comfortably at bay, with Worner only having a tame header and a shot from distance by Hodgkiss to deal with. Woking too found it difficult to create openings, although Ademola’s and Pinney’s pace always carried a potential threat.
The game came to life again in the last ten minutes of the half. A fine throw-out from Worner led to a some excellent attacking play from Ademola and Pinney down the Woking right, and then Medley had a great run down the other flank, outpacing the final defender to reach the area. His pull-back was met by the on-rushing Ademola, on the edge of the box, who side-footed his effort over the bar. Ademola was prominent two minutes later, as he beat his man on the right and crossed from the bye line but the Rovers’ defence scrambled the ball away.
Rovers finished the half quite strongly and came very close to equalising in the 42nd minute. A header down appeared to open the way for a crucial strike on goal but Worner did exceptionally well to make ground and fling himself in front of Rankine’s attempted strike.
Half-time: Woking 1 Forest Green Rovers 0
The Cards started the second half quite slowly, with only a sliced shot from Harry Arter to note. Not that Rovers created very much either, with Aswad Thomas’s smart tackle stopping Rankine in his tracks in the 55th minute. At the other end a promising break out of defence ended with a poor final pass from Medley. In the 63rd minute a slick move saw Ademola play in Sole but the assistant referee’s flag had been raised before Gez slotted the ball home.
Increasingly, it looked as though Graham Baker was content to concentrate on holding onto the 1-0 lead, hoping to hit Rovers on the break, rather than going strongly for the second goal. This seemed to be confirmed when Sam Sloma replaced Medley in the 64th minute, with Pinney then largely operating as a sole striker.
Harry Arter, as busy as ever in midfield, slipped Pinney through but he had gone too early and was caught offside, and then a fluent Woking move, on both flanks, led to an Aswad Thomas free-kick. The referee presumably didn’t see the blatant pull on Hutchinson’s shirt but the move continued as an intelligent ball from Sloma to Ademola opened the way for a cross and a Hutchinson header over the bar.
While never really looking incisive in front of goal, Rovers nevertheless fashioned the odd attack and, with the Cards still only a goal in front, there was always the risk that they might level the scores and force a replay. Worner, though, handled crosses safely and dealt, slightly awkwardly, with another long-range effort from Hodgkiss. He also had to rush out of his area to block Rankine’s attack after Hutchinson had misjudged a through ball, leaving the striker clear on goal.
The Cards came close to finishing off Rovers in the 76th minute when Arter picked up a loose ball and slid a pinpoint pass behind the defender and into Sole’s path. He steered the ball past the keeper but, agonisingly, the wrong side of the far post.
Graham Baker brought on Ricky Anane for Pinney at this point, with Ademola switching into the lone striker role but with some good support from Gez Sole, who was having one of his best games of recent weeks. However, Gez’s free-kick from a central position didn’t have enough power to trouble Burton. A great run from Anane down the right drew warm applause as the game moved into its final stages. As Rovers had to throw more men forward Woking had another chance to make the game safe, as Ademola broke, with players to his right and left, but his indecision led to the attack breaking down as he approached the area.
Powell’s appeal for a penalty as his strike hit Aswad Thomas from close range was, fortunately, ignored by the referee, but Platt’s subsequent free-kick was only likely to trouble passing birds.
It was good to see Ola Sogbanmu come on for the final five minutes or so and his physical presence helped the Cards to keep the ball largely away from danger areas, but there was a final scare as Worner and defenders had to combine messily to prevent Rovers gaining an undeserved equaliser.
So, Woking pocketed the welcome £5,000 in prize money and a passage to the next round. The display too, against an admittedly poor-ish BSP side, will have helped to build confidence at home, with solid performances all over the pitch.
Woking: Ross Worner, Tony Sinclair, Aswad Thomas, Mark Ricketts, Tom Hutchinson, Jon Boardman, Moses Ademola (Ola Sogbanmu 89), Harry Arter, Luke Medley (Sam Sloma 64), Nathaniel Pinney (Ricky Anane 76), Giuseppe Sole.
Unused subs: Nicky Nicolau, Jamie Hand
Booked: Nathaniel Pinney, Mark Ricketts, Tom Hutchinson, Aswad Thomas
Sponsor’s (Beggars Banquets) MOTM: Ross Worner (pictured)