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Cards made to work hard for draw

Glen Harrington - 3rd March 2013

Cards made to work hard for draw Woking 1 Lincoln City 1
Blue Square Bet Premier
2nd March 2013

In what was an extremely physical and demanding fixture, Woking were made to work hard against a determined Lincoln City side anxious to slow their alarming descent towards the relegation zone.

A draw was probably a fair result as the Cards' rejuvenated and re-invigorated visitors, who had won only one of their last twelve league games before today, turned in a much improved performance under new manager Gary Simpson. Garry Hill’s side were much the better team in the early stages, taking the lead through Brett Johnson’s header after just 65 seconds, but the visitors grew into the game and levelled on twenty-five minutes when the dangerous Adam Smith picked out Vadaine Oliver in the area, who out-jumped Johnson and headed the ball past Seb Brown. A scrappy, end-to-end affair ensued in the second-half with Bradley Bubb’s spectacular overhead effort the closest either side came to breaking the deadlock.

Unsurprisingly, the hosts named an unchanged side from their outstanding performance against Forest Green Rovers earlier this week but, with Loick Pires having returned to Boreham Wood for a second loan spell, Josh Griffiths took the spare spot on the substitutes' bench.

The Cards started the game in the same fashion as they finished their last match, a clever move straight from the kick-off resulting in a Mark Ricketts shot being deflected wide of goalkeeper Paul Farman’s right-hand post. John Nutter then rewarded the home side’s fine start with a superb hanging delivery from the resulting corner, which Johnson confidently powered into the net.

Despite the early setback the Imps were clearly eager to impress their new boss, and almost levelled when Smith’s clipped shot from the left flank looped agonisingly onto the top of Brown’s crossbar, with the Woking stopper well beaten.Thanks mainly to their direct and combative style of play, Lincoln quickly gained a foothold in the match, with the towering figure of Oliver and the tricky wing play of Smith clearly the visitors' most dangerous outlets, causing numerous problems to the Woking defence. Inevitably, it was that link-up which brought about the visitors' equaliser, with Smith escaping the challenge of Adam Newton and launching the perfect cross for Oliver to head past a helpless Brown from close range.

Woking had the better of the limited number of chances that came about during the remainder of the first half, with Jack Parkinson particularly unlucky not to find the net – seeing a header from Nutter’s corner hooked off the line at the second attempt by a Lincoln defender, before he again burst into the Imps' penalty area, only to be tackled brilliantly by Tom Miller as he drew his foot back to shoot. Kevin Betsy also fired over while Andrew Boyce spurned the visitors' best chance, heading over captain Alan Power’s free-kick.

Half-time: Woking 1 Lincoln City 1

In an obvious statement of intent, the Cards brought on Gavin McCallum in a half-time re-shuffle, taking off goal-scorer Johnson while moving Mike Cestor, who had been operating on the left of midfield, into central defence to partner Joe McNerney.

As they had done in the first period, Woking started the second half on top, with Jayden Stockley heading over Nutter’s cross and Betsy firing his long-range shot straight at Farman. Meanwhile, McCallum quickly began to pose a threat to the Lincoln defence with his powerful running, cutting in from the right only to see his shot saved, before firing just over after a goalmouth scramble. But it was Bubb who came closest to finding a winner for the Cards, his ambitious bicycle kick looking destined for the bottom left-hand corner of the goal until Farman, at full stretch, managed to push the ball round the post.

Lincoln were not without their own chances, and Brown needed to be alert to save smartly from Smith after the ball fell kindly for the Imps winger inside the penalty area. Substitute Brett Williams squandered the home side’s final chance, collecting possession on the edge of the area after a fine, bustling run from McCallum, only to see his effort deflected well wide.

In a stop-start game with very few chances, it was a fixture that became the victim of two sides that somewhat cancelled each other out. The Imps successfully prevented Woking playing anything like their free-flowing best, often surrounding the likes of Betsy and Stockley with three or four defenders at a time to prevent them from linking up with the rest of their teammates.

Having had the better chances, Woking will perhaps be slightly disappointed not to have taken all three points and, in the process, reach Garry Hill’s 50-point target, but it was a result the Cards' industrious visitors probably deserved after battling hard from start to finish. Nonetheless, a third successive match unbeaten marks an excellent recovery for Woking after two disappointing defeats to Newport County and Barrow, and means that they have now taken 25 points out of a possible 36 in their last twelve league fixtures, a run that still has them inside the division’s top ten.

The games keep coming thick and fast and no doubt Hill, along with assistant manager Steve Thompson, will use Monday night’s Surrey Senior Cup tie away to Godalming Town as a chance to rest some key players before they welcome high-flying Mansfield Town to Kingfield on Wednesday.

Woking: Seb Brown, Adam Newton, John Nutter, Joe McNerney, Brett Johnson (Gavin McCallum 46), Mark Ricketts, Jack Parkinson, Kevin Betsy, Mike Cestor, Bradley Bubb, Jayden Stockley (Brett Williams 82)

Unused Subs: Elvijs Putnins, Josh Griffiths, George Frith

Goal: Johnson 2

Booked: Betsy 80

Lincoln City: Paul Farman, Tony Diagne, Andrew Boyce, Tom Miller, Nat Brown, Alan Power, Jake Sheridan, Paul Turnbull, Momadou Fofana, Adam Smith, Vadaine Oliver.
Unused Subs: David Preece, Scott Garner, Jamie Taylor, Craig Hobson, Colin Larkin.

Goal: Oliver 25.

Booked: Diagne 43, Turnbull 57, Miller 90.

MOTM: Mark Ricketts – Worked extremely hard against a physical Lincoln side that could easily have been allowed to bully Woking. Encourages everyone around him to do that little bit more.

Attendance: 1,766



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