Braintree Town 1 Woking 0
30 January 2010
Apparently, this game was very nearly called off. Unbeknown to Woking officials and fans, a pitch inspection had been ordered for 2pm and the referee narrowly ruled the surface playable. Given the eventual result, a few Woking fans may well feel that it might have been better if the match had been postponed to warmer times. As it was, the announcer was clearly far from certain that the game would reach its conclusion, with several reminders to fans to keep hold of their tickets in case the match was abandoned.
The two teams lined up on a rutted, bumpy playing surface, which was icier in the shadow of the main stand. The Cards side had a familiar look, with a defence of Worner, Sinclair, Boardman, Hutchinson and Thomas; a midfield of Sole, Arter, Ricketts and Nicolau; and with Wright and Ademola as the front two.
The first half was a pretty turgid affair if truth be told until about ten minutes before the break. Both sides found it hard to create openings, with most of the home side’s attacks falling foul of the linesman’s offside flag.
A rare fluent move in the 10th minute led a Woking free-kick but, though the sideways pass to Aswad Thomas was no doubt well rehearsed on the training ground, it resulted this afternoon in a shot which went embarrassingly high and wide.
With a quarter of an hour gone, a typically feisty tackle from Mark Ricketts left him limping and, although he tried to run the injury off, he soon had to give way to Jerome Maledon. But the Cards continued to struggle to make any real headway against a dogged and determined home defence.
With 35 minutes gone, the Cards suddenly sprang into life. A clever free-kick out wide to Tony Sinclair saw the Woking defender plant a header into the ‘mix’, with Matthew Wright then nodding over the bar in the ensuing melee. Moses Ademola then released Gez Sole down the left but his cross was blocked before it could reach the lurking Wright. From the resulting corner Harry Arter sliced the clearance wide of the post.
The Woking pressure continued with a fine Nicky Nicolau cross just beyond the far post. Gez Sole – no doubt with Graham Baker’s strictures about using his head ringing in his ears – headed wide when an instinctive boot might have diverted the ball back into the danger area. A Tom Hutchinson back header looked as though it had opened the way for Matthew Wright but the referee had blown for a foul.
On the stroke of half-time the Cards had their best opportunity to take the lead and, one felt, win the match. Moses Ademola did very well to pick up the ball to the left of the area and slalom across to the right, evading two defenders and setting himself up for a shot on goal, but his effort was pulled just wide of the far post.
There was still time for yet another Woking offensive when, following another corner, Matthew Wright nodded the ball down towards the penalty spot but a Braintree defender hoofed clear.
Half-time: Braintree Town 0 Woking 0
After a quiet opening five minutes, the Cards proceeded to batter the home defence, with only some excellent goalkeeping by Craig Holloway thwarting their obvious desire to claim all three points.
A long ball through just evaded Matthew Wright’s outstretched boot, with Holloway, distracted, just palming the ball to safety. It was immediately played back in, though, but Nicky Nicolau failed to connect properly and the chance was gone.
Harry Arter, increasingly taking centre stage, had a shot blocked after some clever footwork. Moses Ademola surged down the right flank to win a corner, which Holloway palmed away again. Harry Arter took charge once more, forcing Holloway to tip over a rasping strike from the edge of the box.
The frenetic action continued as Ademola mis-kicked, Wright’s shot was blocked and – perhaps the biggest surprise of the afternoon – Jon Boardman stepped up to hit a superb shot with the outside of his boot, which Holloway turned round the post. Arter was prominent again as he couldn’t quite get his feet round an Ademola cross before Holloway pawed the ball away from Wright’s head.
Braintree delivered a warning, however, as Purcell exploited a gap on the right of the Woking defence, only narrowly firing wide of the far post, and Power shot straight into Worner’s midriff.
A Gez Sole free-kick didn’t quite dip enough to trouble Holloway before, in the 67th minute, Graham Baker brought on Jamie Slabber for Matthew Wright. Jamie had barely got his breath, however, before the home side took the lead against the run of play with a fine goal. Purcell, with a defender at his back, turned and shot in one quick move, with the ball arrowing into the far corner of the Woking goal, giving Worner absolutely no chance. A dreadful blow to the Cards after they had had so much more of the game.
Graham Baker threw the dice again, bringing on Delano Sam-Yorke for Moses Ademola, but it was Harry Arter who took centre stage with a vociferous appeal for a penalty after he went down in the box. The referee, however, decided to add to Harry’s collection of yellow cards after receiving a tongue lashing from Woking’s midfielder.
As a sop, perhaps, Arter gained a free-kick five minutes later just outside the box. Gez Sole went low, with the ball just going past the post. With the Woking fans urging their team on, Graham Baker’s side tried desperately to fashion an equaliser. Holloway tipped a wicked cross away from the top corner, while Delano Sam-Yorke battled well to get a cross in, with Tom Hutchinson, now thrown forward, heading over the bar. Into injury time a similar move ended with a defender intercepting before the ball reached the makeshift forward. Jamie Slabber failed to connect properly when given a rare sight of goal, but the home defence held out, demonstrating why they’ve lost only three league games this season.
On the balance of play, the Cards should have come away with three points, let alone one, but, as Graham Baker has said on quite a few occasions this season, you have to make your periods of domination pay – and the Cards didn’t, leaving them open to a reverse in one of only a handful of threatening Braintree attacks.
Woking: Ross Worner, Tony Sinclair, Aswad Thomas, Mark Ricketts (Jerome Maledon, 25), Tom Hutchinson, Jon Boardman, Giuseppe Sole, Harry Arter, Matthew Wright (Jamie Slabber, 69), Moses Ademola (Delano Sam-Yorke, 74)
Unused subs: Ricky Anane, Sam Sloma
Booked: Harry Arter
My MOTM: Jon Boardman (pictured)