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Cards Held in Season Opener

Glen Harrington - 10th August 2013

Cards Held in Season Opener Woking 0 Lincoln City 0
The Skrill Premier
10th August 2013

The Cards kicked off their Skrill Premier campaign with an intriguing goalless draw against Lincoln City.

Visitors Lincoln, who have been tipped by many to push for a play-off spot this season, showed themselves to be a well-organised and well-drilled opposition and provided a stern test for Garry Hill’s side.

In a keenly-fought encounter, where goal-scoring chances were at a premium, both sides demonstrated their fine defensive capabilities as the two matching 4-5-1 formations somewhat cancelled each other out.

Man-of-the-match Josh Payne came closest to finding the net for the home side, as his half-volley from the edge of the area was turned around the post by Imps keeper Paul Farman.

Payne was one of two new Woking signings handed league debuts, with former Hereford and Yeovil winger Gavin Williams also starting in a five-man Cards midfield.

The rest of the home team had a very familiar look about it. Adam Newton, Jack Parkinson, Brett Johnson and John Nutter made up the back four in front of goalkeeper Aaron Howe; captain Mark Ricketts played in his traditional holding role alongside Payne, with Williams (left) and Kevin Betsy (right) playing either side of Lee Sawyer and lone striker Gavin McCallum.

Gary Simpson’s new-look Lincoln side included six summer signings – defenders Nat Brown and Sean Newton, from Macclesfield and Stockport respectively, midfielders Jon Nolan, again from Stockport, and Preston North End’s Luke Foster, winger Ben Tomlinson, last with Altrincham, and striker Nick Wright, who last year earned promotion with Mansfield Town.

It was the visitors who started the game the stronger: comfortable in possession, while their closing and harrying of Woking players prompted a couple of sloppy hurried passes from the home side.

Despite being on top, Lincoln did little to trouble the Woking back-line, their most potent attacking moment coming when Wright skipped past Johnson down the right-hand side, only to see his attempted cut-back across goal deflected behind for a corner.

It wasn’t until just before the half-hour mark that the near two thousand strong Kingfield crowd was treated to an attempted shot at goal, Josh Payne striking his free-kick over the bar.

With Lincoln tiring somewhat as the half wore on, the Cards players were steadily allowed more time and space on the ball, and enjoyed one of their brightest spells of the game in the final ten minutes of the first period.

Almost predictably, Betsy was at the heart of the majority of Woking’s good play, as an excellent piece of skill allowed him to escape his man and get a shot in on goal. Soon after, it was Betsy’s cross that looked to have the Lincoln defence scrambling but, with Ricketts and McCallum waiting in the middle, Newton recovered to clear.

Sawyer also had his hopeful shot comfortably saved by Farman, while Parkinson and McCallum both saw their efforts fly wide of goal.

Half-time: Woking 0 Lincoln City 0

Lincoln belatedly had their first real sight of the Woking goal five minutes into the second half. A dinked cross from the left-hand side by Mamadou Fofana looked to have found Wright free in the heart of the Cards penalty area, but the striker could only glance his header wide.

The hosts quickly struck back with chances of their own. First, Sawyer collected the ball neatly on the edge of the area after an exquisite ball from Payne, only to shoot straight at the keeper, before Payne himself came close with a neatly struck effort that required Farman to get down well to his left-hand side and turn the ball round the post.

On the hour mark McCallum, who had endured his fair share of taunts and jibes from the Lincoln fans (having played for the Imps before joining the Cards), made way for Joe McNerney, which also signalled a change in tactics from the Woking management team.

Acting as a target man, McNerney was given the task of disturbing the aerial dominance the City defence had enjoyed against McCallum. It was a ploy that was almost immediately rewarded as the big man fought his way into the Imps penalty area and forced Farman into a save from a tight angle.

Woking continued to improve as the match wore on while Lincoln, who were perhaps fortunate not to be down to ten men after Tomlinson’s rash challenge on Betsy, began to drop steadily deeper as they looked to play in a more counter-attacking style.

Williams rippled the top of the Lincoln netting with another decent effort, before a neat interchange between Betsy and Sawyer came close to producing a further opportunity.

That was to prove Sawyer’s last contribution of the day as he was replaced by another of Woking’s summer signings – Anthony McNamee – while the Imps brought on Bohan Dixon, recently arrived from Accrington Stanley, in place of Wright.

Dixon’s impact was easily the more noticeable as he handed the visitors a new lease of life in the closing stages – volleying over himself from the edge of the area, before setting up Jon Nolan, who was only denied by a perfectly timed, last ditch saving block from Parkinson.

George Frith replaced Williams as the game almost inevitably wound down towards a draw, but there was still time for both teams to squander one final chance apiece: Farman shooting over for Lincoln, before Betsy surged into the Imps half and pulled the ball back for Nutter, only for the full-back to cross straight into the grateful arms of Farman.

Garry Hill and Steve Thompson will no doubt be pleased with their side’s efforts. Defensively, they looked very solid and the new-look midfield functioned well. The forward line will remain the biggest concern. McCallum worked hard during his time on the pitch, chasing every loose ball, while McNerney battled as strongly as ever despite playing outside of his favoured position. But even with Giuseppe Sole, today an unused substitute, still to come back, you can’t help but feel that the squad is still one striker short, a situation hinted at by the manager at the recent Fans' Forum.

In what was a tight and cagey affair from start to finish, a draw was probably the fairest result. Both sides had their chances to snatch it late on, but a point apiece represents a satisfactory start to the 2013/14 season for both teams.

Woking: Aaron Howe, Adam Newton, John Nutter, Jack Parkinson, Brett Johnson, Mark Ricketts, Josh Payne, Lee Sawyer (Anthony McNamee 72), Gavin Williams (George Frith 86), Kevin Betsy, Gavin McCallum (Joe McNerney 58).

Unused Subs: Sam Beasant, Giuseppe Sole.

Goal(s): None.

Booked: Payne 88.

Lincoln City: Paul Farman, Dan Gray, Nat Brown, Andrew Boyce, Sean Newton, Luke Foster, Jon Nolan, Mamadou Fofana, Alan Power, Nick Wright (Bohan Dixon 72), Ben Tomlinson.

Unused Subs: David Preece, Waide Fairhurst, Danny Rowe, Jake Sheridan.

Goal(s): None.

Booked: Foster 29, Tomlinson 64.

MOTM: Josh Payne – An outstanding league debut as he controlled things in midfield, combining well with Ricketts when needed defensively, while showing off his excellent array of passing going forward.

Attendance: 1,845


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