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Superior second half keeps Cards' play-off hopes alive

Malcolm Wyatt - 15th March 2015

Superior second half keeps Cards' play-off hopes alive AFC Telford United 1 Woking 3

Vanarama Conference

14th March 2015


Influential midfielder Keiran Murtagh reminded Cards fans of his worth with a fine display in Shropshire as Woking kept their slim play-off chances intact.

The Antigua and Barbuda international proved instrumental for Garry Hill’s side, setting up two goals that ensured victory over a determined but battle-scarred host side.

The game was only settled in the final 10 minutes, late strikes from seasoned campaigners Kevin Betsy and Giuseppe Sole leaving the Bucks closer to the drop.

The Cards not only stretched their unbeaten away league run to four games with a third successive victory, but also notched up a ninth win on their travels this season.

In so doing, they avenged a 3-1 home defeat when the sides met in mid-October at Kingfield, a rare highlight for the basement outfit in a troubled first term back in the Conference top-flight.

On that occasion, Mike Phenix scored twice for Liam Watson's side. But, by December, the Conference North title-winning boss had made way for current incumbent Steve Kittrick and the team is still chasing its first home league win since November's victory over Altrincham.

It appears on this showing that last week’s impressive win at Torquay was just another flash in the pan, although Bradley Reid, straight in after signing on loan from Wolverhampton Wanderers, soon proved a handful.

Murtagh started for Woking in place of the suspended Josh Payne, while Aswad Thomas and Adam Newton replaced Chris Arthur and James Clarke after last weekend’s defeat to Grimsby.

An early home attack ended with a poor strike from Adam Farrell, home pressure continuing with a deep Sean Clancy centre cleared by Thomas.

Woking won a free-kick as Betsy was upended, a typically-busy John Goddard’s centre headed out as a cold wind permeated around the New Buck's Head.

Pacy striker Yemi Odubade wasn't far off catching out Bermudan international keeper Freddy Hall with a cheeky back-heel in the area, while Telford’s Reid beat his marker and forced Jake Cole into his first stop.

The home end sang Cum on Feel the Noize in a bid to raise Bucks’ spirits, but Thomas showed his worth at the back as Telford struggled to find a way through on a boggy pitch.

The Cards remained patient as Reid struggled to stay onside, while Goddard won a corner on the break but his in-swinger was easily cleared. And after another home move broke down, Odubade and Thomas combined to win another corner, from which Joey Jones headed over.

A promising Bucks attack ended with another raised flag, while in the next raid Reid held off Jones, but his finish was too weak to trouble Cole. But the hosts kept at it, Jones making an important clearance as Reid tried to find a way in, the resultant corner quickly cleared.

As Woking countered, Betsy's cool lob was booted away by Burton Albion loanee Ian Sharps, while Odubade was denied again and Goddard and Betsy broke through but Rendell again struggled in the mud.

The Cards' defence continued to repel its hosts, and at the other end Betsy's trickery forced a visitors’ corner, although Goddard's delivery again came to nothing.

When Tony Gray, the hosts' 14-goal top scorer, won a corner, Woking again stood up well, Jones clearing before a poor follow-up signalled the last attack of a lacking first 45 minutes.

Half-time: AFC Telford United 0 Woking 0

The Cards were quick out of the traps after the break, Odubade and Rendell’s pace leading to another wasted corner, then Betsy having a cross cleared by Sharps.

But Telford looked shaky, and a foul on Goddard just inside the box led to the ref pointing at the spot, with little sign of complaint from the home side. Rendell stepped up, his subtle hesitation enough to unnerve Hall before he fired into the top right corner for his 17th strike of the season on 48 minutes.

Reid had a chance to quickly level, only to rush his chance and hit harmlessly wide, murmurs around the ground suggesting little home confidence. Jones had half a chance with a header from the next Woking corner, while Gray couldn't get a clean shot away as Telford countered, the action flowing.

Hall did well to deny Odubade as he tried to walk in from the left channel, the hosts stretched, while Reid was deemed offside on the break as Telford fought on, the first quarter-hour offering more excitement than the entire first forty-five.

Sharps swept up at the back after Odubade beat Hall and tried to tap home, but that seemed to galvanise the hosts, who were soon level after good work on the right flank by Godfrey Poku led to a Clancy corner, headed powerfully home at the near post by Rod McDonald on 64 minutes.

Woking poured forward again, a telling cross from sub Chris Arthur – on for the injured Thomas - met powerfully by Odubade. Hall got behind that, but Sharps became the third home player to be booked as Goddard was grounded in the next promising wing raid, newly-introduced Sole delivering the free-kick and Telford only half-clearing as Betsy crossed back in, Rendell unable to steer home.

After hopeful home calls for a penalty were waved away, Woking countered, Rendell looking odds-on to score but again struggling on a pudding of a pitch.

McDonald was next to try the ref's patience, ending up on the turf as another penalty claim was ignored.

A fourth booking followed as Cards skipper Mark Ricketts was pole-axed when Woking surged forward. Again, Sole's resultant free-kick was a relative let-down, the home wall twice blocking him. But then came a decisive moment as Murtagh put Rendell away.

This time the earlier scorer showed great timing to feed Betsy to his right, the veteran keeping his cool, advancing then firing powerfully beyond Hall from the right of the area in the 81st minute.

Mike Grogan thought he had levelled for Telford, a low ball beating everyone in the area and turned home by the defender. But the home roar was replaced by a groan - a flag raised for offside.

Pretty soon, that man Murtagh had provided a magic touch again, beating his marker then threading through to Sole, who showed similar poise to Betsy as he fired home the third on 86 minutes.

There was still time for Gray to rue a missed chance by the left post and for Danny Ventre to fire high and wide in added time, the hosts deflated as a sixth loss in seven games left them 14 points adrift with eight games left.

For their part, Woking – seven points off fifth-placed Forest Green - fully deserved this victory, the Yellows rightly lapping up the vocal praise of the travelling faithful in the Frank Nagington Stand at the final whistle.

Woking: Jake Cole, Adam Newton, Aswad Thomas (Chris Arthur 66), Joey Jones, Brian Saah, Mark Ricketts (c) (Charles Banya 88), John Goddard, Keiran Murtagh, Kevin Betsy, Scott Rendell, Yemi Odubade (Giuseppe Sole 72)

Unused subs: Andy Little, James Clarke

Goals: Rendell 48, Betsy 81, Sole 86

Telford: Freddy Hall, Mike Grogan, Ian Sharps, Rod McDonald (John Disney 84), Glenn Matthews, Danny Ventre, Godfrey Poku, Tony Gray, Bradley Reid, Adam Farrell (Ross Dyer 85), Sean Clancy

Unused subs: James Montgomery, Jordan Deacey, Josh Hancock

Goals: McDonald 64

Cautions: Matthews 13, Sharps 62, Farrell 72, Reid 79


Attendance: 1,265.

My MOTM: Keiran Murtagh – credit where credit’s due, showing the best side of his game after plenty of recent stick. Had a hand in the decisive second and third goals.
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