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Cards clinch title

Brian Caffarey - 15th April 2012

Cards clinch title Maidenhead United 0 Woking 1
14 April 2012

‘Champions, champions!’ That was the cry at York Road yesterday afternoon as Garry Hill’s side clinched the BSBS title, and automatic promotion to the Blue Square Premier, with two games to spare. And it was fitting that the decisive goal should come from Gez Sole (pictured), claiming a Club record by scoring in nine consecutive league games, firing home after his first-half penalty had been initially saved by Magpies keeper Billy Lumley.

The match was not a classic: the hard, bumpy York Road pitch made it extremely difficult to get the ball down and play passing football, with players clearly having no confidence in the bounce of the ball. But the result never really looked in doubt once the Cards got their noses in front and, although a one-goal lead inevitably brought with it an element of frayed nerves towards the end, especially as the news had filtered through that Dartford were ahead at Sutton United, there was little to disturb the Cards’ almost serene progress to three points and the title.

Cards fans, far outnumbering the home support, were in celebratory mood well before the kick-off, confident that they were not going to see a third reverse at the hands of the Magpies this season. Garry made two changes to the starting line-up from Monday’s match against Tonbridge, with Jack King and Mike Cestor coming in for Dale Binns and Derek Duncan.

Although both sides had everything to play for, with Maidenhead desperately needing points to stave off a threatened relegation, the game started in a surprisingly low-key fashion and subsequently only rarely got the pulses racing, with goal attempts relatively infrequent apart from a ‘purple patch’ of some 20 minutes or so which Woking enjoyed after taking the lead in the 23rd minute.

The Cards had a shout for a penalty in the 8th minute when a Sole effort appeared to hit a defender’s hand, whilst the Magpies tested Aaron Howe with a couple of shots from outside the area and which only carried a threat because of the risk of a bad bounce in front of the Woking keeper, who nevertheless took them reassuringly cleanly.

There was little else to note before Cestor made a decisive run into the area, slipping the ball to Sole in the box. As the latter attempted to turn, he was brought down by Scarborough, with the referee immediately pointing to the spot. Sole’s penalty-taking record is excellent but even he must have felt the weight of the occasion as he placed the ball on the spot. It wasn’t a bad penalty but Lumley guessed the right way and parried the strike but Sole, following up, did well to fire home left-footed under Lumley to give the Cards a 0-1 lead.

For a while it looked as though the Cards would quickly extend that advantage as they launched a series of attacks on the home goal. Sole should have grabbed a second goal two minutes after the first as the lively Paris Cowan-Hall made a fine run down the right. But as the cross came over the ball seemed to get under Sole’s feet, only a couple of yards out, and a combination of the mis-hit and Lumley’s close attentions meant that a glorious chance went begging.

Shots then rained in from Moses Ademola, firing a fierce shot left to right, and Joe McNerney, with the latter’s effort producing a shout for a penalty, and then Lumley intercepted another testing cross from Cowan-Hall. Lumley was in action again as he clawed away an Alan Inns header. It was then Cowan-Hall’s turn to take centre stage, as he twisted to fire goalwards, only to see his shot deflected for a corner.

Interrupted only by a couple of efforts from Daniel Brown, which went comfortably wide, the Cards continued to dominate play with a succession of goal attempts. Cowan-Hall went close and there were further strikes from Ademola and Sole with a scissor kick which went narrowly over. But, as the minutes ticked away, it seemed increasingly likely that the Cards would have only a one-goal advantage to show at half-time for all the possession and chances they had enjoyed. And so it proved in spite of a couple of good runs down the right by Adam Newton, attempting to set up Sole and Cowan-Hall.

Half-time: Maidenhead United 0 Woking 1

The Cards seemed to find it hard to pick up the pace again after the break and, for a while, the home side gained more of a foothold in a midfield which the excellent Tom Davis, Jack King and Keiran Murtagh had largely ruled in the first half. Nevertheless, the best chance fell to Sole, picked out by an inch-perfect curling cross from Murtagh. A defender did just enough, though, to ensure that Sole’s lunging attempted strike went wide.

It wasn’t until the 65th minute that the Cards strung together a really fluent move as Sole and Murtagh combined well in the box. Murtagh swung the ball back to Ademola, who put an awkward left-foot volley wide. The same players, plus King, combined well again immediately afterwards but without testing Lumley. And then Sole was unable to connect with a difficult chance which came over his left shoulder as he ran into the box.

At this point Garry Hill decided to make a couple of substitutions, bringing on Elvis Hammond for Cowan-Hall and Dale Binns for Ademola. Hammond’s arrival in particular seemed to give the Cards a greater degree of control up front as he successfully held off defenders to retain possession.

There was yet another shout for a penalty in the 77th minute when a defender seemed to handle the ball, just in front of the line, in order to block McNerney’s goalbound strike, but the referee and linesman waved away the Woking claims.

Intermittent Maidenhead attacks caused a degree of apprehension as we moved into the final ten minutes of the game – subsequently extended by four minutes of extra time – but the only goal attempts were well wide or blocked by an efficient Woking defence, which protected Howe well all afternoon.

Alan Inns came within a whisker of wrapping things up in the 87th minute as he beat Lumley to a Murtagh free-kick, with his header looping onto the post, but, apart from that, the remainder of the game was played out uneventfully as the Cards fans, increasingly reassured that there were to be no last-minute upsets, noisily celebrated a famous victory at the end of a wonderful season. And when the final whistle went many of them surged onto the pitch to cheer Garry Hill, Steve Thompson and all the players.

Well done to everyone at the Club who has helped to achieve a thoroughly-deserved promotion. Let’s all celebrate it in style at Kingfield next Saturday when Woking play their last home game of the season.

Woking: Aaron Howe, Adam Newton, Mike Cestor, Keiran Murtagh (Derek Duncan 86), Alan Inns, Joe McNerney, Paris Cowan-Hall (Elvis Hammond 76), Tom Davis, Moses Ademola (Dale Binns 76), Giuseppe Sole, Jack King

Unused subs: Glenn Wilson, Andy Little

Maidenhead United: Lumley, Behzadi, Solomon, Brown, Nisbet (Semakula 90), Scarborough, Powell, McKain, Holgate (Tison-Lascaris 70), Barney, Pritchard (Williams 81)

Unused subs: Hippolyte, Opara

Booked: Scarborough 15; Solomon 80

Attendance: 1192

My MOTM: Very much a team performance but my vote has to go to Gez Sole on his record-breaking day
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