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Cards make it hard for themselves

Brian Caffarey - 11th September 2011

Cards make it hard for themselves Woking 3 Eastbourne Borough 1
10 September 2011

It was great to see Garry Hill in the dugout after Thursday night’s health scare but the Cards’ second-half performance was probably not what the doctor would have ordered. At half-time the Cards were well in control thanks to a wonderful early strike from ‘man of the match’ Paris Cowan-Hall and a Moses Ademola close-range header, profiting from a goalkeeping error. But Garry Hill’s side struggled to impose themselves in the second half and the visitors, having pulled a goal back soon after the break, came within a whisker of equalising before a 90th minute Jack King penalty made the game safe.

Garry stuck to the side which started at Welling save for the return of Andy Little (pictured) in goal. It was clear from the kick-off that Eastbourne had not come to shut up shop and both sides displayed enterprise in the opening minutes, with the visitors firing in several useful crosses from the left flank. But they could do nothing to stop the Cards taking a 6th minute lead. Cowan-Hall, some 35 yards out, spotted the keeper off his line and executed a superb, dipping volley which cleared the keeper and hit the back of the net. It’s hard to believe we’ll see a better strike this season.

Woking haven’t always found it easy to build on an early lead but the signs were promising as an Adam Doyle header immediately went close. But the Sports were still looking threatening up front, with the ever-green Matt Crabb doing well to keep his shot down to test Little. For the most part, though, the central pairing of Doyle and Joe McNerney, ably assisted by Mike Cestor and Adam Newton, looked assured in dealing with the crosses coming in.

Moses Ademola, looking lively once more, was unlucky not to get on the end of an excellent cross from Dale Binns in the 13th minute. Unfortunately, the referee did not see the defender’s tug on his shirt, which was just enough to frustrate him. At the other end some good defending ensured that a second Crabb effort was blocked.

A lovely Woking move in the 22nd minute produced yet more skilful football from Ademola. Taking Cowan-Hall’s pass down in one move, he skipped past the defender and fired in a powerful shot which keeper Rikki Banks parried away.

But he didn’t have to wait long to get on the score sheet. A minute later Cowan-Hall did well to make space out right for a cross. It spun off a defender, looping down towards keeper Banks virtually on his line. But Banks fumbled the ball and Ademola just had to nod it into the goal to put the Cards 2-0 up.

I’m a bit of a pessimist when it comes to football, so I never feel comfortable with a mere two-goal lead – and, in my defence, I’d say that Eastbourne always looked as though they carried a threat up front, using the width of the pitch well. Elvis Hammond, in the 25th minute, nearly assuaged my concerns as he just failed to connect at the near post with another Cowan-Hall cross. This was followed a few minutes later by another cameo from Ademola. Controlling on his knee a raking pass out wide right from Jack King, he went past his marker before shooting fiercely into the side netting.

Although it was by no means one-way traffic – Eastbourne continued to test Woking’s central defence with some useful crosses – Woking were still seeing plenty of the ball and pressing around the visitors’ box as half-time approached, although there was a tendency to over-elaborate at times and not use the simple pass. In injury time Eastbourne went close as a free-kick was nodded on to Gary Elphick at the far post but the ball came at him so fast that he couldn’t react quickly enough to direct it goalwards.

Half-time: Woking 2 Eastbourne Borough 0

Woking started the second half very brightly and, for the first few minutes, had lots of play around the Eastbourne box. But the Cards conceded another free-kick – one of too many conceded in dangerous areas. Crabb produced a good delivery to the far post, where the impressive Elphick rose well to head back over Little and in at the far post. His defensive partner Rowe helped the ball home and was credited with the goal.

Not surprisingly, reducing the deficit so soon after the break provided a confidence boost for Eastbourne Borough and they went on to have much the better of most of the second half, seeming to gain more possession in midfield and to put considerable pressure at times on the Woking defence, which looked much less assured than in the first half.

Garry Hill responded by bringing on Wayne Gray and Gez Sole for Hammond and Binns in the 62nd minute. But the momentum still seemed to lie with Eastbourne as Little appeared to see the ball late from another free-kick. He wasn’t able to hold the ball but it was eventually scrambled away. The Eastbourne pressure was intensified with the introduction of Pulman, who proved quite a handful for the Woking defence. A goal seemed almost certain as another free-kick went over the Woking back line. Fortunately for Woking, Little was able to block the shot in a one-on-one contest before the ball was again made safe. And then the linesman’s flag foiled Pulman as he latched onto a pass slid into his path.

Garry Hill threw on Jay Davies for Ademola in order to try to gain more of a foothold in midfield and his introduction did seem to redress the balance a bit. A Davies/Sole/Cowan-Hall move won a corner. Doyle looked well-placed to get a header in but had his shirt pulled. At the other end, a wayward header from Newton to an Eastbourne attacker nearly provided the equaliser but Little blocked the shot and Doyle managed to smuggle the ball away.

The home crowd’s nerves continued to be frayed as passes were misplaced and clearances were returned with interest. As Eastbourne pushed men forward for the equaliser, a promising breakaway by Cowan-Hall and Gray was wasted as the latter pushed Davies too wide with his cross. Then Gray found the net with a low header at the far post, only to be ruled offside.

As the game moved into the final ten minutes Little was forced to push a Cole chip onto his bar, with Mike Cestor then clearing. A rare Woking free-kick in a good area presented Sole with a chance for one of his ‘specials’. He didn’t disappoint and was very unlucky to see his kick come off the inside of the post and then bounce across the face of the goal. But Woking’s late attacks paid off on 90 minutes when Cowan-Hall slid a nicely-measured pass into Sole’s path, with the latter then being bundled off the ball. King struck firmly into the bottom corner to give the Cards a somewhat flattering 3-1 margin. Inside the four minutes of injury time Gray might even have increased the lead but got his angles wrong as he profited from a Davies and Cowan-Hall move.

So, another welcome three points on the board, with some excellent football at times in the first half, but Garry Hill’s side will need to look for more consistency over 90 minutes if they are to continue to meet the high expectations which have been aroused.

Woking: Andy Little, Adam Newton, Mike Cestor, Mark Ricketts, Joe McNerney, Adam Doyle, Paris Cowan-Hall, Jack King, Moses Ademola (Jay Davies 72), Elvis Hammond (Wayne Gray 62), Dale Binns (Giuseppe Sole 62)

Unused subs: Nathan Koranteng, Aaron Howe
Bookings: Paris Cowan-Hall 40, Mark Ricketts 66

Eastbourne Borough: Banks, Baker, Cole, Smart, Rowe, Elphick, Brinkhurst, Johnson (Strevett 79), Hutchinson, Hart (Pulman 70), Crabb
Unused subs: Norris, Charman, Camara
Bookings: Johnson 55, Rowe 61, Strevett 87

Sponsor’s MOTM: Paris Cowan-Hall

Attendance: 1203

P.S. Don’t forget that the Cards are at home to Dover Athletic next Saturday.
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