20th February 2011
19 February 2011
by Glen Harrington
A penalty from Moses Ademola and a smart strike from Elvis Hammond gave the Cards a comfortable victory at Kingfield today, but with visitors Staines Town providing several controversial talking-points of their own.
Garry Hill unsurprisingly named the same starting eleven that won so comprehensively at Bishop’s Stortford a week before. This allowed the trio of Jay Davies, Kieran Murtagh and Mark Ricketts to continue in the centre of the park, with wingers Moses Ademola and Ricky Anane supporting the lone front-man Elvis Hammond. However, this did mean that new signing Craig Dobson had to be content with a place on the bench.
The visitors, traditionally the Cards’ bogey team, having gone four without defeat in recent seasons, began the game just a place and a point behind their hosts with, like Woking, just one loss in their last six league games. Also in their ranks was full-back Simon Jackson, who appeared 85 times for the Cards between 2004 and 2007.
Woking started strongly, Aswad Thomas especially impressing as, after just seven minutes, an interchange of passes with Ademola almost gave him a shooting opportunity, the ball instead deflected behind for a corner.
Ten minutes later and the game dramatically changed. Following an innocuous tackle from Adam Doyle, Staines’ star striker and skipper Richard Butler, who hadn’t been involved in the incident, appeared to take issue with the linesman on the far side – apparently because he had failed to signal a free-kick for the challenge. Then, stand by stand, the ground sounded with ironic cheers, as the Cards fans started to notice that a distraught Butler had in fact been given his marching orders. A moment of bizarre stupidity on his part that would go on to cost his team dear.
Not long after, and the home fans seemed convinced the Swans were about to go down to nine men, Danny Gordon handling the ball as he slid across Ademola in an attempt to block his shot. The referee, enduring the incredulous heckles of the visiting support, appeared to deem the crime accidental and gave only the penalty. Good enough for Ademola, who made no mistake as he rolled the ball down the middle himself to give the Cards the lead.
Woking continued to press forward as the half wore on, gaining more and more control over a side that, following such a torrid half-hour, looked rattled and extremely deflated. Hammond, dangerous as ever, came closest to getting his name on the score-sheet before the break, a classy ball through the middle from Kieran Murtagh cutting the Swans’ defence in half, only for keeper Louis Wells to come to their rescue, sprawling at the feet of the Ghanaian.
Half-time: Woking 1 Staines Town 0
The start of the second period began in much the same fashion – the Cards on top and creating chances. Five minutes in and, picking up possession on half-way, Murtagh battled his way through the Staines midfield before picking out another timely pass, this time for Reiss Noel, who seemed to surprise everyone as he appeared, galloping towards the far post. Perhaps unused to having such time in front of the opposition goal, Noel snatched at his chance, desperately unlucky to see his effort rebound off the inside of the opposite post.
Staines simply could not get into the game, and despite those left on the pitch doing their very best to keep the Swans in the match, the resistance simply couldn’t last and, out of almost nothing, Hammond produced the piece of magic we all know he’s capable of. Collecting the ball from twenty yards, Elvis totally wrong-footed his marker and, left-footed, found the bottom corner with astonishing accuracy and efficiency. Hammond becomes the first Woking player to reach ten goals this season – fully deserved.
If anyone thought the Cards would ease off and take what they had already won, they were in for a surprise. Cue the arrival of new signing Craig Dobson who, in a twenty-minute cameo, looked to outdo Brazil in terms of step-overs, no doubt leaving the Staines defender, Rene Steer, with a large headache.
Countless times Dobson collected the ball from deep, and twice left his marker on the floor as he charged down the right-hand side. His fellow midfielders continued to impress – Jay Davies seemingly covering more ground than everyone else put together, while Murtagh’s passing ability and Ricketts’s tireless defensive effort allowed the Cards to finally begin producing the type of football Kingfield has been craving, working the ball around effortlessly as the visitors understandably began to tire.
There was still enough time for some stoppage-time drama. First, only the bar denied Dobson a debut goal, before an exasperated Ademola was halted by a point blank save from Wells and substitute Ollie Palmer shot just inches wide, looking for a repeat of last week’s screamer. Credit must go to Staines for the way they battled, a man down for so long, but without Butler they struggled to create chances – Andy Little without a notable save to make all afternoon.
Deservedly, if a little strangely, man-of-the-match was today shared between three players – Davies, McNerney (pictured) and Murtagh, who all made extremely worthy contributions in a good performance. Personally, I would like to mention Aswad Thomas, who has arguably struggled slightly to live up to his fantastic performances of last season. Today, however, his form once again improved, turning in his best display yet, dependable at the back and a threat every time he took possession going forward.
So, a very satisfying day for the Cards, who have now won four league games on the bounce, complete with an aggregate score of 9-0. More importantly, Woking close the gap again on the teams above them, still sitting in ninth place, but now within touching distance of the likes of Dover Athletic and Bromley.
Although both away from home, the Cards’ next two games look more than winnable – relegation-threatened Maidenhead United (20th) and Lewes (21st) the opponents. Maximum points must be taken from these two visits before the season-defining matches at the start of March – at home to play-off chasing Ebsfleet United and Farnborough.
Tougher games than today will come but, it is delightful to say, things are looking up for the Cards!
Woking: Andrew Little, Reiss Noel (Craig Dobson 70), Aswad Thomas, Mark Ricketts, Joe McNerney, Adam Doyle, Ricky Anane, Kieran Murtagh (Charlie Turnbull 87), Moses Ademola, Elvis Hammond, Jay Davies (Ollie Palmer 80).
Unused subs: Craig Faulconbridge, Matt Pegler.
Goals: Ademola 28, Hammond 69.
Bookings: Murtagh 73.
Staines Town: Louis Wells, Simon Jackson, Rene Steer, Danny Gordon, Richard Orlu, Andre Scarlett, Howard Newton (Warren Harris 81), Dwayne Lee, Marc Charles-Smith (Alex Duffy 78), Richard Butler, Dean Thomas (Scott Taylor 62).
Unused Subs: Dominic Sterling, Darty Brown.
Bookings: Lee 84.
Sent-Off: Butler 17.
Sponsors’ MOTM (Joint): Jay Davies – Was everywhere on his home debut, full of running and a constant thorn in the side of the visitors.
Joe McNerney – Solid and dependable at the back, ensuring Little had a comfortable and quiet day between the sticks.
Supporters’ MOTM: Kieran Murtagh – Another super display from the midfielder, exquisite in possession and always looking for the pass forward.