Woking 1 Dartford 0
Blue Square Premier
14th August 2012
A Giuseppe Sole penalty ten minutes from time ensured the Cards claimed their first win of the season, as they saw off ten-man Dartford.
Both sides started slowly, but the game sparked into life when Darts’ winger Lee Noble picked up two bookings in four minutes, both for fouls on Kevin Betsy, and left his side with ten men.
The Cards dominated the remainder of the first half, coming close through Bradley Bubb, Lee Sawyer (pictured) and Brett Williams.
Proceedings retuned to being tight after the interval, and it took a clumsy challenge from Adam Green on Loick Pires, and Sole’s confidently taken spot-kick to separate the former Blue Square South title rivals.
With both teams coming into the game on the back of defeats, the Cards having gone down 3-1 at Wrexham while Dartford were losing 3-2 at home to Tamworth, the pressure was very much on to get points tallies up and running.
Garry Hill made just one change from his side’s loss, replacing Gavin McCallum with goal-scorer Bradley Bubb. The Darts were unchanged, with Tony Burman even being able to name nine of the starting line-up (in comparison with four Woking players), which last lost at Kingfield in February.
With skipper Elliot Bradbrook, returned from injury, and new signing Mark Arber the only additions to Dartford’s starting line-up, the game had an air of familiarity, as did the tense start to the match, where Joe McNerney’s mis-hit clearance was the closest anyone came to threatening either goal.
Each team slowly grew into the fixture, with half-chances coming for both the host’s Brett Williams, who shot wide, and the visitors’ Jacob Erskine, who forced a fairly routine save from Aaron Howe after being played through on goal by Noble.
Bubb then drew Louis Wells into action for the first time, latching onto a long ball from Adam Newton, skilfully turning his man and driving his effort towards goal – the Dartford keeper making a smart save.
The game's first and perhaps most decisive moment came just after the half-hour mark. A visibly frustrated Noble, who had already been pulled up by referee Dean Treleaven for several poor challenges, belatedly found his name in the book after tripping Betsy just inside the Dartford half.
A mere four minutes later, Noble again tripped Betsy, in almost exactly the same position on the pitch. Despite his teammates' protest, the officials were left with little choice but to send him from the field.
The Darts were briefly in turmoil, disorganised and frustrated, desperately in need of a half-time regroup. No doubt sensing their advantage, the Cards pressed forward, on four occasions forcing saves from Wells – Sawyer thrice striking from range, while Williams’ twisting and turning on the edge of the area eventually allowed him room to get a shot in. Bubb also saw an effort fly narrowly wide.
Half-time: Woking 0 Dartford 0
Dartford returned their organised and focused selves after the break, working hard to ensure Noble’s absence went almost unnoticed.
For long spells the home side were finding it no easier to break down ten blue shirts than they had eleven, Newton’s stunningly controlled half-volley on the hour, spectacularly saved by Wells, comfortably the closest either side had come to breaking the deadlock.
The home side replaced Williams and Bubb with Sole and McCallum mid-way through the second-half, bringing some much-needed fresh legs to Woking’s tiring forward line, who had endured a frustrating evening.
Meanwhile, Dartford introduced a second of their new singings, striker Harry Crawford, who had scored the second of his team’s goals at the weekend.
Despite these introductions, the game seemed to be winding toward a draw. That was of course until a five-minute spell of madness in front of the Leslie Gosden Stand.
Pires, who had been having a quiet night before he muscled his way through on goal with ten minutes remaining, advanced on Wells, only to be apparently hauled down by Green. Despite many seeming unsure as to whether the foul had been committed inside the box or out, Mr Treleaven had no such doubts, and pointed to the penalty spot.
Several minutes of protest raged, and eventually, excruciatingly, Sole confidently stepped up to take the kick. Having coolly dispatched the penalty high to Wells’s right, the striker screamed his approval toward the celebrating home supporters, drawing more ugly scenes as the Darts furiously continued to debate the situation that had befallen them.
Woking might have made the game safe, and prevented a nerve-jangling six minutes of added time, had McCallum had more luck in front of goal. Having found himself in oceans of space on the edge of the area, his turn and shot was well saved by Wells, who dived strongly to his left.
Equally, the Darts might have claimed a late equaliser, as Ricketts's attempted clearance looped agonisingly into the path of Crawford, only for the striker to find a sprawling Howe to be blocking his path, his effort thudding into the keeper’s midriff.
In spite of the late scare, the Cards held on and claimed a vital three points that gets them off the mark for the season, and moves them off the bottom, up to fourteenth in the table.
Although not at their fluent best, there were many positives to take out of the game, other than the result, with Lee Sawyer, Joe McNerney and Adam Newton particularly impressive. The Cards will also have a chance to build on tonight’s performance on Saturday, when they host Barrow.
Woking: Aaron Howe, Adam Newton, Mike Cestor, Joe McNerney, Brett Johnson, Mark Ricketts (Dean Sinclair 90), Lee Sawyer, Bradley Bubb (Gavin McCallum 67), Kevin Betsy, Loick Pires, Brett Williams (Giuseppe Sole 67)
Unused Subs: Sam Beasant, Jack Parkinson
Goal(s): Sole 81
Booked: Bubb 44, Cestor 69
Dartford: Louis Wells, Lee Burns, Adam Green, Tom Bonner, Mark Arber, Tom Champion, Lee Noble, Elliot Bradbrook, Jacob Erskine (Harry Crawford 68), James Rogers (Richard Rose 87), Danny Harris (Nathan Collier 78)
Unused Subs: Ryan Hayes, Jon Wallis
Booked: Noble 31 & 35, Wells 80, Champion 90
Sent-off: Noble 35
MOTM: Lee Sawyer – Had a productive game, definitely the bright-spark for Woking going forward, coming close from long range on several occasions and passing well throughout.