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Garry gets off the mark

Brian Caffarey - 2nd February 2011

Garry gets off the mark Woking 1 Thurrock 0
1 February 2011

Garry Hill and Steve Thompson got off the mark in their second game in charge with a hard-fought win over in-form Thurrock last night. In the end the difference came down to another superb exhibition of the striker’s art from Elvis Hammond on the half-hour mark.

The game also marked the debut of new loan signing Kieran Murtagh, who impressed with his skills on the ball in midfield. Although Garry, at the ‘meet the manager’ evening, had apparently expressed a general preference for 4-4-2, the Cards again lined up with three at the back. The only change from Saturday’s side, apart from the introduction of Murtagh for Jerome Maledon, was that Moses Ademola was switched to the right flank in place of Ricky Anane, who was on the bench, with Sam Hurrell taking Moses’s place in a central midfield role.

On a chilly, still evening, with hints of the fog to come, both sides started energetically but without making any significant inroads on their opposing defence. Indeed, the Cards didn’t manage a shot on target until Elvis’s winner. Early forays down the Woking left came to nothing as crosses were delayed or blocked and Ademola, on the other flank, found it hard to get past his marker.

On the quarter of an hour mark there was anxiety in the home defence as the ball was scrambled away after it had bounced around in the box. Swaine – yet another huge opposition defender – then headed wide from a free-kick.

The Cards’ first real threat came in the 23rd minute when Ademola slipped a nice pass through to Dave Gilroy. But, although the Woking striker was marginally ahead of the defensive line as he approached the area, he was quickly overhauled and the chance was gone.

Flynn tried a very ambitious volley from distance, which Andy Little was able to watch fly well past his goal before Hurrell got in the action down the Woking left. Unfortunately, a promising run fizzled out as he pushed the ball too far forward into the path of a defender.

The Woking goal, when it came in the 32nd minute, followed some brief concerted pressure from the visitors, as they gained a couple of corners in quick succession, with the Woking defence clearing its lines well. Gilroy made a good run towards the area. As he moved in from the Woking left, it looked as if he intended to shoot but instead he played a perfectly-judged pass to Hammond across the area. His strike partner instinctively made a bit of space and then hammered the ball back across keeper Woolley and into the net for yet another memorable goal.

The pace of the game quickened as the lively Bodkin nearly dribbled through the centre of the Woking defence, followed, almost immediately, by a snap shot from Ademola which came back off the bar, with Aswad Thomas then firing wide.

Joe McNerney uncharacteristically dawdled on the ball and was nearly made to pay the price but the initiative mainly lay with Woking in the last quarter of the first half as they sought to increase their lead. Hurrell’s cross-cum-shot was tipped over the bar and the midfielder then took several corners, ending the sequence by shooting well wide after he’d sped into the box.

After Thurrock had responded with two corners the next Woking chance fell to Ademola, nicely played in by Murtagh after a fine break out of defence, but his shot was deflected away for a corner. That was met by Mark Ricketts, side-footing a volley which, however, was cleared off the line by a defender. There was still time for Ademola to have another chance on goal as he seized on a poor clearance from Woolley but, with the keeper scrambling to get back, his first-time strike was way off target, ending up at the far touchline.

Half-time: Woking 1 Thurrock 0

Alan Inns came on for Reiss Noel at the break, with Joe McNerney moving to the right of the back three. With Noel cup-tied for Saturday’s Trophy game, it was no doubt an opportunity for Garry Hill to see the ex-AFC Wimbledon defender in action.

McNerney was quickly involved down the other end, taking a centrally-placed free kick after Gilroy had been fouled. But his effort cannoned off the wall. A Hurrell break led to good interplay with Gilroy on the edge of the area, with the move ending with a rasping right-footed strike by Thomas, which went narrowly wide.

Thomas was almost caught out a moment later as a high ball was picked up by his opponent, but the ball fortunately ran through to Little. Thurrock pressed hard for an equaliser, winning several corners and free-kicks and confining the home side to quick breaks out of defence. The visitors came closest to scoring when Little missed a corner kick but the ball was scrambled away.

Woking always looked as though they might grab a crucial second goal on the break but, frustratingly, they were unable to take advantage of some sizeable gaps in the opposing defence, as final passes or crosses went astray. In the 62nd minute Murtagh pulled the ball back for Hammond but it was a surprise to see Woking’s ace striker completely miss it. A sweeping move a few minutes later involving Murtagh and Ademola saw Hurrell hit a fine low shot from the right of the area, which Woolley saved at his near post,

With 69 minutes gone, Craig Faulconbridge came on for Gilroy, who’d been injured a few minutes previously in a clash with Woolley. Thurrock pressed once more and Little was forced to make a good block after Adam Doyle had failed to clear.

The pattern of the game continued, with Woking breaking forward every couple of minutes or so but not being able to produce a decisive finish. A Thomas chip into the middle was cleared before Ademola fired a ball virtually right across the area, and then Thomas and Hurrell combined well down the Woking left. Hurrell tried to let the ball run behind him and turn but a defender intervened.

Moving into the last ten minutes Garry Hill brought on Jerome Maledon for Hurrell, another player who won’t be able to take part on Saturday. The result continued to be in doubt as Little was forced to block at close quarters once more. Murtagh responded with a snap shot from the edge of the area, which drew appeals for handball.

By this stage of the game the fog had begun to envelop the ground: sitting in the LGS stand, it became impossible to see what was happening at the other end. It was reassuring, therefore, to see Murtagh making clever progress up the byeline but he allowed the ball to drift out of play before pulling it back to Hammond.

From the ghostly shapes at the other end of the ground, and the time the ball seemed to spend in the vague direction of the Woking area, plus the reactions of the supporters at that end, it appeared as though there was an almighty scramble in the Woking box, which was eventually cleared much to the relief of the home fans. When the ball came into view again Woking attacked through Hammond and Faulconbridge, with Ricketts putting an effort over the bar. Murtagh then drew some of the loudest cheers of the night as he demonstrated some clever footwork down near the corner flag, which not only wasted time but succeeded in gaining a corner and then a free-kick, plus a booking for a frustrated Harwood.

The Cards had to survive one more corner (I think!) before the referee blew for time. Had the game started later, it might not have finished, which would have been a bitter blow for Woking’s new management team after such a hard-fought encounter.

There was certainly no lack of effort or commitment on the part of the Woking players and all contributed to a morale-boosting win against a confident and determined Thurrock side. We must hope, though, that we can hang onto Elvis Hammond for as long as possible since we now seem to rely so heavily on him for creating and scoring goals. It would not be surprising either if Steve Thompson, seeing a crowd of only just over 700, had cause to reflect on the difference in atmosphere and expectation from the days when he graced Kingfield. Let’s hope this is the start of a revival in fortunes.

Woking: Andy Little, Noel Reiss (Alan Inns 45), Aswad Thomas, Mark Ricketts, Joe McNerney, Adam Doyle, Moses Ademola, Kieran Murtagh, Dave Gilroy (Craig Faulconbridge 69), Elvis Hammond, Sam Hurrell (Jerome Maledon 80)

Unused subs: Matt Pegler, Ricky Anane

Booked: Kieran Murtagh

Sponsors’ (Kenrico) MOTM: Elvis Hammond
Text calls MOTM: Moses Ademola (pictured)

Attendance: 707
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