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Miraculous comeback puts Cards back in play-off race

Adam White - 25th March 2015

Miraculous comeback puts Cards back in play-off race Woking 3 Torquay United 2
Vanarama Conference
March 24th 2015

A stunning second-half fight-back saw Garry Hill’s Woking side overcome a two-goal half-time deficit to claim an invaluable win over Torquay United. The victory catapults the Cards back into play-off contention as the Vanarama Conference season hits the home straight. A towering header from centre back Aaron Downes on 17 minutes and a neat finish from Louis Briscoe three minutes later had given the visitors a deserved lead. However, an unerring second half display saw Woking chase down and overhaul their guests. Yemi Odubade’s close range strike, Josh Payne’s driven half-volley and Scott Rendell’s composed finish rescued three priceless points for Woking and puts Hill’s side up to sixth, just a point and a place outside a play-off berth.

In a first period characterised by individual errors and lapses in concentration, the home side started poorly. Captain Mark Ricketts’ misplaced pass presented a shooting opportunity to Torquay forward Ryan Bowman, who failed to truly test Ipswich Town loanee keeper Michael Crowe, while a minute later a weak Joey Jones headed clearance gave Gulls’ captain Luke Young a sight of goal, but his shot from the edge of the penalty area was comfortably dealt with by debutant Crowe.

Torquay were clearly on top in the opening exchanges: only a close range block after a spinning volley from tireless Woking forward Yemi Odubade provided any real encouragement for Garry Hill in the opening quarter of the match. The warning signs were there and on 12 minutes Downes saw his header skid wide, largely unchallenged after the pacey winger Courtney Cameron had supplied the cross. Crowe was then forced into his first real save of the evening, getting down smartly to his right-hand side to tip Ryan Bowman’s 18-yard effort round the post after a neat exchange with strike partner Briscoe.

From the resulting corner, Woking found themselves a goal down as Downes again outjumped his marker, this time to nod home from six yards with what was virtually a free header. Less than three minutes later Brsicoe doubled the visitors' advantage. The bulky Torquay number 7, excellent in the first 45, found himself with the time and space to confidently sweep home from Bowman’s low cross after a swift counter-attack. It could’ve been worse for Garry Hill’s men as only four minutes later a wayward pass from Josh Payne put Bowman through one-on-one with Crowe, but the 19 year-old 'keeper was able to palm the eventual shot to safety, keeping Woking in the game.

As the half wore on however, the home side began to exert themselves on proceedings. On 30 minutes, Odubade was unlucky not to connect with Scott Rendell's touch in a dangerous Woking counter-attack before Odubade was again unfortunate to see his glancing header strike the inside of the post after a Josh Payne free-kick. Four minutes later Woking created their clearest chance of the half, but Rendell could only join Odubade in thumping his shot off the post after he was put through on goal by an incisive John Goddard through ball.

Despite Woking’s resurgence, the pace of Cameron on the left and Toby Ajala on the opposite flank continued to worry the home side’s back four in what was an increasingly open encounter. Cameron’s pace up against Ricketts, who lined up at right back with Joey Jones playing inside him at centre half, proved a fruitful avenue for Torquay going forward, although it was Woking who fashioned the most presentable chance as the half drew to a close. Persistence from the excellent Odubade resulted in low cross which found Kevin Betsy. His goal-bound effort appeared to strike a Torquay arm but Referee Amey was unmoved and the half ended without further incident.

Half-time: Woking 0 Torquay United 2

The second half started in much the same vein. Chris Arthur’s failure to clear at the first opportunity saw him squander possession, leaving the Woking defender stranded and Ajala through on goal but the winger could only fizz his shot wide of Crowe’s goal. A definite let-off for Woking. However, with 53 minutes gone, the match began to swing the home side’s way. Wide on the left, John Goddard jinked his way past James McQuilkin and into the area and, although his fierce shot was blocked, Odubade was on hand to tuck the ball home from the rebound, putting Woking back in the contest.

Buoyed by the goal, Woking continued to press. Keiran Murtagh’s powerful 25-yard effort was blocked and scrambled clear, while Kevin Betsy’s smart change of direction took him inside a defender but only resulted in the veteran Woking forward blazing over from just inside the penalty area. Cards fans wouldn’t have to wait long for a second, however. On 61 minutes Odubade shrugged off Downes on the left wing to work a speculative shot from a narrow angle, forcing the corner which led to Woking’s equaliser. An unconvincing headed clearance fell to Josh Payne, who was lurking wide on Woking’s left and he drilled a superb first-time half-volley under Martin Rice in the Torquay goal to bring the sides level again.

Woking dominated from here on in. Payne came close again three minutes later from a dipping 25 yard free-kick, which only cleared the bar by a matter of inches with Rice scrambling, while Odubade’s admirable hard work again proved fruitful as his chasing down of a loose Torquay header presented him with the chance to shoot from a tight angle. His deflected effort, however, was saved at his near post by Rice. Rendell was next to threaten when his shot from around the penalty spot was blocked after Ricketts’ clever reverse header had fallen kindly following a deep cross.

Torquay’s only real chance of the half came on 76 minutes when Arthur misjudged a through ball which might’ve been cut out, although substitute Liam Prynn could only shoot straight at Crowe when clean through on goal - a lucky escape for the Cards. Five minutes later, however, the comeback was complete. A looping Betsy cross from the right toward the head of Odubade spun into the path of the wide open Rendell who was able to calmly slot past Rice from close range. A miraculous turnaround which Woking’s rumbustious and intense second-half performance wholly deserved: an imperious response to what was a massively disappointing opening period.

The remaining ten minutes were played out largely free of incident. Torquay looked beaten after what turned out to be Rendell’s winner and the travelling side were unable to create anything to trouble Crowe in the Woking goal as the youngster completed a competent debut. In fact, it was Woking who should have extended their lead. Giuseppe Sole escaped down the left flank and with Betsy and Goddard for support it was momentarily three on one. Sole’s eventual cutback found Betsy in acres of space eight yards out, but with the goal gaping he could only scoop his effort high over the bar when he really should have sealed Woking’s win.

Despite the poor start to the match, Garry Hill will no doubt be delighted with the result and the all-action second half display, especially considering the position they found themselves in at half-time. The win puts the Cards sixth and just a point behind Forest Green, who occupy the final play-off spot. With just six games remaining and a relatively favourable run-in, Woking can realistically harbour hopes of stealing into the play-off positions and a first shot at League football for many seasons.

Attentions now turn to a trip to Chester this Saturday and with five wins in six games Woking are hitting form at just the right time. Could tonight’s inspired revival, and rousing second-half showing from the likes of Odubade, Payne and Rendell propel Hill’s men toward League Two?

Woking: Michael Crowe, Mark Ricketts, Brian Saah, Kevin Betsy, Keiran Murtagh, Josh Payne (Charles Banya 75), Chris Arthur, Joey Jones, John Goddard, Yemi Odubade (Giuseppe Sole 86), Scott Rendell

Unused subs: Andy Little, John Nutter, Lionel Stone

Bookings: Goddard 72, Sole 90

Goals: Odubade 53, Payne 63, Rendell 81

Torquay United: Martin Rice, Krystian Pearce, Aaron Downes, Olivier Gueguen, James McQuilkin, Aaron Dawson, Luke Young, Courtney Cameron, Toby Ajala, Louis Briscoe (Ashley Yeoman 84), Ryan Bowman (Liam Prynn 64)

Unused subs: Dan Lavercombe, Ben Harding, Courtney Richards

Bookings: Gueguen 64

Goals: Downes 17, Briscoe 20

Sponsor's MotM - Yemi Odubade

Attendance: 1,506
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