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Cards grind out Southport win

Matt Goldsmith - 9th March 2014

Cards grind out Southport win Woking 2 Southport 0
The Skrill Premier
8th March 2014

Second-half strikes from Scott Rendell and Kieran Murtagh saw off a stubborn Southport at Kingfield on Saturday. Garry Hill had used his pre-match programme notes to praise the side’s ‘professional performance’ in that 3-1 wonder win at The Hive last Saturday. And in a game where patience was a virtue for staff and supporters alike against a Southport side battling for their lives, the Cards executed another professional job here to record those first – and much-talked-about - back-to-back points since Kidderminster came to Kingfield in early December.

Woking took a point away from Haig Avenue when the sides met back in October; Scott Rendell again the man to open the scoring that day in what would ultimately finish a 1-1 draw. A draw which, as it transpired, proved symptomatic of a winless October for the Cards.

Both sides were moving in the right direction in the league table coming into this one; with 17th place Woking’s with their eyes on overhauling a clutch of clubs occupying mid-table, while John Coleman’s in-form Southport had hauled themselves four clear of danger in 19th place at kick-off with back-to-back wins of their own; the latest being a 3-0 home win over fellow battlers Dartford last Saturday at the Haig.

Both sides stuck with their winning hands for this one. Cards keeping faith with the same XI as up at Barnet, with ever-versatile skipper Mark Ricketts celebrating his 200th start for the club with a place next to Joe McNerney at the back.

Young Yeovil loanee Joey Jones took a place on the bench having served his three-game ban for a red at Aggborough against Kidderminster.

A tall, physical Southport set up in compact 3-5-2 formation, as they looked to cover every blade of the returning green Kingfield grass in their own half of the pitch.

With conditions set fair with blue skies overhead at Kingfield to match their sky-blue shirted visitors, it was the hosts who started the brightest.

Josh Payne, seemingly more used to the sight of that big yellow thing in the sky – having returned from playing an hour’s worth of Paul Fairlclough’s England ‘C’s’ 1-0 win in Jordan in midweek – was at the heart of the action. The 23-year-old sending in some delightful diagonals and curling crosses early on, whilst also relishing Southport’s physical stuff; one particularly booming challenge with defender Luke George causing the crowd to wince, although both players walked away intact and with wry smiles.

In-form John Goddard and Kevin Betsy were both making headway down their flanks as Woking were forced to shift the ball wide in search of some unoccupied turf. Goddard found the overlapping John Nutter who flashed in a fine cross from the left touchline which goalkeeper Danny Hurst flapped to safety with Rendell lurking at the back post.

Southport had fleeting moments in Cards’ territory on the break as the half wore on. Right wing-back John O’Sullivan dragged a shot wide with Cards 3 versus 3 at the back, before his opposite number Osayamen Osawe’s deflected shot from the left edge was well held by Aaron Howe in a packed penalty box.

But it was Woking who were knocking at the door the loudest in front of the Leslie Gosden stand. In fact Joe McNerney knocked twice as he powered a downward header onto the crossbar from another wicked Payne inswinging corner from the left, before the big defender sent a rebound looping goalwards with Hurst at full stretch to keep the scores level.

Howe had a scary moment of his own up the other end, with Southport screaming for red when the keeper came out to collect an innocuous looking through ball a couple of blades of white painted grass inside his 18-yard-line.

Speaking of paint, Kevin Betsy then struck almost the identical speck of paint on Hurst’s crossbar that McNerney had rattled five minutes previously. Collecting the ball from John Nutter on half-way the wily winger jinked past defender David Fitzpatrick before fizzing a fading left-footer onto the angle of post and bar with the keeper clutching hopefully at some of that blue sky.

Incredibly the left-side of Hurst’s charmed goal-frame was struck for a third time in added on time. Betsy started but couldn’t finish a lightening break, with the ball sticking under his feet with the goal gaping, but he did manage to toe the loose ball across to Goddard who stretched to strike one against the far post.

Half-Time: Woking 0 Southport 0

But having switched ends Hurst was finally out of luck as Rendell opened the scoring ten minutes after the break. Again it was Payne at the crux of it, twisting and turning sub Matty Challinor on the left by-line, before sending in a whipped cross-come-shot which Rendell stuck a glancing head onto to net into the far corner.

Woking sensed a second, and Betsy lead two swift saunters up field after the hour mark. The first, having ran from box-to-box saw the experienced campaigner run out of puff and scuff wide; the second saw the winger slip in lightening-bolt Jack Marriott who, finding a rare stretch of turf to speed into down the right, flashed a low shot a few feet past the far upright.

Marriott took his bow shortly afterwards, going down under a firm but perfectly executed Toto Nsiala block, with Gez Sole and Joey Jones introduced with the game hanging in the balance.

With sections of Moaners' Corner becoming slightly restless - with Kieran Murtagh feeling the wrath after a funny five minutes of stray passes - winger O’Sullivan almost silenced Kingfield with what would have been a contender for goal of the season; fluke or no fluke. Controlling a drilled diagonal from Brown in front of the dugouts, in one movement O’Sullivan expertly chest-trapped and flicked the dropping ball over Nutter before sending a slicing half volley a foot or so over a sprawling Howe’s far corner.

But the stage was set for Murtagh to turn those groans to grins as he put the game to bed with ten minutes left on the clock. With Southport penned into their 18-yard-box, Betsy calmly slipped in the marauding Murtagh down the right-hand side to flash a fine right-footer across the crowded area, with the ball nestling in the far corner of the net.

This win takes the Cards to the heady heights of 14th place and, depending on how your glass is filled, 15 points from Aldershot in the final relegation place or, incredibly, 9 points from Gateshead who currently occupy the final play-off spot.

The team have a nine day break now until their televised trip to champions-elect Luton Town on Monday 17th March. Next up at Kingfield come Wrexham on Saturday 29th March.

Woking: Aaron Howe, Adam Newton, John Nutter, Mark Ricketts, Joe McNerney, Kevin Betsy, Josh Payne (Anthony McNamee 83), Kieran Murtagh, John Goddard (Joey Jones 78), Scott Rendell, Jack Marriott (Giuseppe Sole 78)

Unused subs: Sam Beasant, Reece Beckles

Goals: Scott Rendell 55, Kieran Murtagh 80

Cautions: None

Southport: Danny Hurst, Aristote Nsiala, David Fitzpatrick, Luke George, John O’Sullivan, Osayamen Osawe (Richard Brodie 84), Matty Flynn (Matty Challinor 17), Karl Ledsham, Scott Brown, Jason Walker, Danny Hattersley (Vincent Mukendi 67)

Unused subs: Charlie Joyce, Alex Wimmer

Cautions: None

Sponsor’s MOTM: Scott Rendell – bagged his fourth goal in four games to break a stubborn Southport rearguard.

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