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'We were robbed!'

Brian Caffarey - 9th March 2013

'We were robbed!' Cambridge United 1 Woking 0
9 March 2013

That was the understandable feeling of Cards supporters as the home side netted an injury-time winner only a couple of minutes after Woking had been denied what seemed a certain penalty after Jayden Stockley had been hauled to the ground in the Cambridge box. In truth, probably neither side deserved to win a game which largely matched the drab weather on a typically cold Cambridge March afternoon. It was only in the last ten minutes or so that Woking really came to life as an attacking force and the home side, though they had started fairly brightly, laboured for much of the game.

Garry Hill made one change to his starting eleven, bringing in a rather subdued Lee Sawyer, with Mike Cestor slipping to the bench, where he was joined by Andy Little. The Cards started slowly, conceding the initiative straightaway to the U’s. Pushed back, Woking found it hard initially to make much headway further up the pitch, with Stockley looking very isolated at this stage. Cambridge created several decent chances in the opening 15 minutes or so without really looking as though they were going to score: a weak effort from Roberts, a header from Reed, a Dunk shot well blocked by Adam Newton, a strike from ex-Card Joe Anderson, which flew past the post, and, closest of all, a header from main threat, Nathan Blissett, which went narrowly wide.

The Cards began to get a better grip of the midfield from this point on but still lived a little dangerously, with a couple of corners scrambled away and another just gobbled up by Seb Brown. From about the 20th minute onwards, however, Woking started to take control of the game, with John Nutter and Kevin Betsy often combining well down the left flank. The first real chance fell to Bradley Bubb in the 22nd minute but he side-footed tamely to the U’s impressive debutant keeper, Pope.

The Cards won their first corner in the 25th minute but, as with later corners, this one was planted too close to Pope, presenting him with a fairly easy ‘take’. Woking’s growing influence was illustrated again shortly afterwards as Betsy struck a low drive, which Pope handled comfortably enough.

After surviving the second of two wrongly-awarded corners the Cards broke strongly out of defence, Stockley and Sawyer moving the ball out to the overlapping Nutter, who fired across the goalmouth. In the 37th minute a chance fell to Brett Johnson after Newton had returned a ball high towards the far post, but Johnson’s header looped over the bar.

As half-time approached, the home side created a couple of attacking opportunities but they were wasted as Jarvis shot weakly and Shaw crossed behind the goal. However, Reed’s cross was much more dangerous, Newton doing well to somehow glance the ball away for a corner.

Half-time: Cambridge United 0 Woking 0

The Cards again started slowly after the break, with some loose passing and hopeful balls forward too often conceding possession. Sawyer fired in a well-executed half-volley from a Stockley ‘lay back’ but Woking had to be grateful to Brown for two sharp saves in succession in the 55th minute- first with his legs and then grabbing a Blissett header.

As in the first half, the home side seemed unable to sustain their momentum, often being let down by some poor approach play. Woking briefly threatened as Bubb was brought down in a central position outside the box but Stockley’s free-kick, high over the bar, left the young striker hammering the ground in frustration.

In the 67th minute Garry brought on George Frith for Adam Newton, moving Mark Ricketts back to fill the right-back slot. The Academy graduate proceeded to impress, working hard and linking up well with team mates, making sensible use of the ball. But his side-footed effort in the 70th minute, as the ball was cleared to him just outside the box, was much too high. In the 75th minute Woking had their first penalty ‘shout’ as Betsy tumbled just inside the area but the referee clearly felt that he had been looking for a foul and had gone down too easily.

Gavin McCallum now came off the bench, replacing Bubb, and his appearance too seemed to give the Cards a bit of a lift, with his clever footwork posing some problems for defenders. At the other end, the Cards had looked pretty comfortable in defence, with a couple of timely interventions by Johnson and a punched clearance from Brown thwarting the main threats from sporadic home attacks.

As the game moved into the final ten minutes Woking looked much the more likely to snatch all three points and avoid the first goalless draw of the campaign. The best chance fell to Betsy as he met a cross just beyond the far post but he struck the side-netting. Then a nice move ended with Frith crossing for Stockley to volley over, immediately followed by a McCallum effort which fizzed past the far post. A respectable Jack Parkinson drive was then followed by the Stockley ‘penalty’ incident. Latching onto a ricochet a few yards out the young striker appeared to be hauled to the ground but the referee waved play on – much to the fury of the Woking players and Cards fans, who’d had a good view of the incident from behind the goal.

Cambridge nearly went straight up the other end and scored as McAuley glanced a header just wide. But then with virtually the last piece of action of three minutes of added time, Shaw stooped to head home after Brown had only been able to ‘bat’ down a deflected cross.

Garry Hill ‘had words’ with the referee at the end of the game but to no avail of course. The Cards now appear to be stuck in the football equivalent of cricket’s ‘nervous nineties’, not quite able to haul themselves up and over Garry’s initial 50-point target. Today was a good chance to have gained at least a point against a Cambridge side which looked a little out of sorts. Let’s hope the Cards have more luck on their trip to Macclesfield on Tuesday evening.

Woking: Seb Brown, Adam Newton (George Frith 67), John Nutter, Joe McNerney, Brett Johnson, Bradley Bubb (Gavin McCallum 76), Mark Ricketts, Jack Parkinson, Lee Sawyer, Kevin Betsy, Jayden Stockley

Unused subs: Andy Little, Mike Cestor, Adam Francis

Booked: Mark Ricketts (90)

Cambridge United: Nick Pope, Kevin Roberts, Joe Anderson, Tom Shaw, Jamie Reed, Harrison Dunk, Rory McAuley, Rossi Jarvis (Curtis Haynes-Brown 87), Liam Hughes (Andy Pugh 82), Nathan Blissett, Charlie Wassmer

Unused subs: Craig Ross, Luke Berry, James Brighton

Booked: Kevin Roberts (21), Tom Shaw (82)

Attendance: 2,054 (177 Woking fans)

My MOTM: John Nutter (pictured) – looking an increasingly good ‘capture’: calm in defence and working the left touchline well going forward.
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