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Impressive Cards topple league leaders

Phil Batts - 28th October 2012

Impressive Cards topple league leaders Newport County 2 Woking 3
Blue Square Bet Premier
27th October 2012

Woking impressively saw off league leaders Newport County at Rodney Parade with a highly competent display which, with a little better concentration at crucial moments, might have resulted in a more convincing winning margin. Two early, well-taken goals from Kevin Betsy, who had an excellent first half, and a second-half strike from Bradley Bubb, shortly after his introduction as a substitute, were too much for County, who replied with a goal at the end of each half.

The Cards made one change from the team which started the previous match in the FA Cup against Ebbsfleet, Joe McNerney returning from suspension to replace Bradley Bubb, who dropped to the bench. Woking lined up with a flat back four of Newton (pictured), McNerney, Johnson and Cestor, a five-man midfield of Ricketts, Parkinson, Sawyer, Betsy and McCallum, and Pires on his own up front.

On a wide and bumpy pitch, seemingly not conducive to good football, particularly with a strong wind blowing, Woking made the perfect start after only six minutes. Gavin McCallum did well to control and keep in play a cross-field pass deep into the County penalty area. His clever ball inside to Kevin Betsy still gave the Cards' talisman plenty to do but he found the far corner of the net from the tightest of angles for an excellent goal.

This fine start settled any early Woking nerves, as they started to play some excellent football with Betsy, McCallum and Lee Sawyer all showing up well with some fine offensive play. As a result, it was no surprise when Kevin Betsy extended the lead on the quarter hour. From a Woking corner, he picked up the ball on the edge of the area and effortlessly beat two defenders before calmly drilling the ball low to the goalkeeper's right.

It was now all Woking, with County appearing to be short of confidence following their surprise midweek FA Cup defeat at home to lower league opposition. As the half wore on, however, the home team began to see more of the ball but, with Woking looking well-organised and working hard to deny their opponents space, it seemed as though they would see out the half with a comfortable two-goal lead. All this was to change on the stroke of half-time, however, when Joe McNerney conceded a free-kick twenty-five yards from goal. Up stepped Andy Sandell to blast home an unstoppable shot wide of Aaron Howe's right hand, leaving Garry and Steve to deliver a slightly different team talk from the one they had envisaged a few minutes earlier.

Half-time: Newport County 1 Woking 2

Not surprisingly, given the fillip of a goal in first-half stoppage time, County came out all guns blazing at the start of the second and forced two early corners, which were resolutely defended by the Cards' defence. The league leaders were now starting to enjoy much more of the play than they had done previously but without causing any serious threat to the Woking goal. Indeed, this pressure was allowing the Cards midfielders to impress with some swift counter-attacking. From one such break, Loick Pires found himself bearing down on goal. A desperate lunge from ex-Cards keeper Lennie Pidgeley had the Woking players appealing for a penalty but the referee, who had an excellent game, waved away the protests. Down at the other end, a mix-up between Mike Cestor and Aaron Howe almost led to the equaliser before the ball was scrambled clear.

It was clear at this stage, with the game opening up, that there could be more goals to come and, fortunately for Woking, they extended their lead on sixty-seven minutes. Another inspired substitution from Garry and Steve two minutes earlier saw a straight swap of Bradley Bubb for Loick Pires, who had worked tirelessly up front on his own all afternoon. Immediately, Bubb found himself with time and space in the County area and his low shot gave Pidgeley no chance.

The restoration of the Cards' two-goal advantage seemed to renew the team's belief and confidence as they continued to take the game to County and to knock the ball about with some sensible and stylish football. The excellent and vociferous travelling support was also starting to sense that the game was all but over. Woking fans should know from bitter experience that things are never that simple, of course, and out of nowhere County reduced the deficit with two minutes to go when Michael Flynn rose unopposed to head home a corner from eight yards. Fortunately, an uneventful last few minutes ensured that the Cards held on to their lead to complete a deserved victory.

In truth, for a team riding high at the top of the league, County were a little disappointing, seeming to be low on confidence and lacking ideas in the final third of the pitch. Take nothing away from the Cards, however. They scored three excellent goals and played some quality football in difficult conditions. They showed resolve in defence when required, allied with real team spirit, and could easily have come away with a wider margin of victory. This result lifts them to tenth in the league (and level on points with the team in eighth place). If they can steer clear of injuries to their key players, there would seem to be no reason why they cannot cement a position at the upper end of the table.

Woking: Aaron Howe, Adam Newton, Joe McNerney, Brett Johnson, Mike Cestor, Mark Ricketts, Jack Parkinson, Lee Sawyer, Kevin Betsy, Gavin McCallum (Adam Doyle 90) Loick Pires (Bradley Bubb 65)

Unused subs: Sam Beasant, Dean Sinclair, Brett Williams

Goals: Betsy 6 &1 5; Bubb 67

Cautions: Ricketts 24

Newport County: Lenny Pidgeley, Andrew Hughes, Tony James, Lee Minshull, Danny Crow, Andy Sandell, Jake Thomson (Jefferson Louis 71), Max Porter, Ben Swallow (Conor Washington 81), Aaron O'Connor, Lee Evans (Michael Flynn 84)

Unused subs: Jake Harris, Joe Perry

Goals: Andy Sandell 45; Michael Flynn 89

Attendance: 2088

MOTM: Adam Newton. Solid and reliable in defence at all times, particularly in the second half.
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