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Cards run out of steam against the Iron

Phil Batts - 23rd September 2015

Cards run out of steam against the Iron Braintree Town 2 Woking 1

The Vanarama National League

22nd September 2015

Woking were looking to bounce back from a narrow home league defeat to Cheltenham on Saturday with this midweek visit to Essex. Facing them, however, was a confident Braintree side under ambitious new manager Danny Cowley. He had steered Concord Rangers to three promotions in eight years to secure a berth in the Conference South, before taking up the reins at the Avanti Stadium at the beginning of the 2015-16 campaign.

The Iron were unbeaten in their previous four outings, culminating in a 4-0 away thumping of Altrincham at the weekend when they scored twice in added-on time at the end of the match. This had lifted them to seventh place in the league table, two points and two places behind the Cards.

Garry Hill had been happy with his side's overall performance against a physically strong and powerful Cheltenham team, feeling that there were plenty of positives to be taken from the game, despite the loss of three points. Braintree, however, has not proved to be a happy hunting ground for Woking, in recent times, particularly with its boggy and uneven playing surface, which has often hampered the team's free-flowing passing game.

The visitors made three changes to Saturday's starting line-up with Joey Jones, Godfrey Poku and Giuseppe Sole replacing Jake Caprice, Jimmy Keohane and Harry Cardwell.

In a fairly even opening half, the Cards had the better of the exchanges and played some attractive football but without ever looking as though they would break the deadlock. The home side came into their own after the interval, however, and although Keiran Murtagh (pictured) equalised with a fine header midway through the half following the dangerous Sim Akinola's opener five minutes earlier, the Iron ran out worthy winners as a result of Michael Cheek's strike with a quarter of an hour remaining.

Woking kicked off up the slope with skipper Murtagh making his 100th start for the club in all competitions. Despite my earlier comment about the normal state of the pitch, the playing surface looked excellent, apparently as a result of some recent remedial work.

The home side were first to show, forcing an early corner which was cleared before home captain Kenny Davis drilled wide from the edge of the area.

Woking were taking time to settle but John Goddard then picked up the ball wide on the left and his cross-cum-shot had 'keeper Will Norris struggling to claw the ball from under his crossbar before it was hacked clear for a corner. Dan Holman was then wide with a header from the resulting kick.

The visitors then had another good opportunity on ten minutes but Giuseppe Sole blasted a free kick from twenty yards out high over the bar.

Woking were now settling into their normal rhythm and passing game and a great crossfield ball from Murtagh found Bruno Andrade wide on the right in a promising position but the nippy winger muffed his lines and the chance was gone. Shortly after, another good passing movement presented Dan Holman with an opportunity but he shot weakly at home 'keeper Will Norris. Midway through the half, the travelling fans behind the goal voiced their consternation with the referee Mr Lugg as he waved away appeals for a penalty as John Goddard appeared to be bundled over in the box after a mazy run.

The home side were finding it difficult to get a foothold in the match as Woking continued to enjoy more of the possession. There was a wake-up call for the visitors in the forty-fourth minute, nevertheless, when Taylor Miles hit the top of Jake Cole's crossbar with a chip from just outside the area.

On the stroke of half-time, Davis was booked for a nasty challenge on the hard-working Poku, no doubt a bi-product of the frustration the home team was feeling at their inability to impose themselves on a composed and workmanlike Woking side.

Half-time: Braintree Town 0 Woking 0

Braintree made two substitutions at the interval but the Cards started the second half brightly as a good break saw Goddard slip the ball through to Holman. The Woking striker just failed to reach the ball but collided with Norris, who required treatment from the trainer before being able to continue. A somewhat dubious offside flag then denied Sole as he bore down on goal.

Following this early pressure, however, the home side gradually started to find their feet and gain the upper hand for the first time in the match. From a quick free kick in the fifty-fifth minute, Davis played in Cheek with a clever ball and his shot cannoned back off the far post.

It was now all Braintree and they took the lead just after the hour mark. A defensive error down the middle from the unfortunate Terell Thomas, who up until this point had had a solid night, allowed Akinola to steal in. The burly striker, who is clearly destined to play at a higher level, composed himself before lifting the ball over the advancing Cole into the far corner of the net.

Akinola almost grabbed a second soon after but just when the Cards looked to have their backs well and truly to the wall, they found an equaliser. They won a corner on the right and Andrade's delivery found Murtagh about ten yard out. He cleverly lost his marker and nonchalantly headed home into the far corner to give Cards' fans hope that there was still at least a point in the game for their team.

The match now started to open up but one sensed that there was really only one team likely to emerge as victors and that was Braintree. Sure enough, in the seventy-fourth minute they regained the lead. Again, it was defensive frailties to blame as a long through ball saw Cheek outpace and outmuscle Joey Jones before rifling his shot into the far corner for what turned out to be the winner.

The home side was now bossing the game but there was still a flicker of hope for the visitors as substitute Kadell Daniel's deep cross eluded Norris only to hit the crossbar.

Braintree had the final say, however, as Dan Sparkes almost increased the lead just before the end when his shot was deflected marginally wide for a corner before Sean Marks had a goal disallowed for offside, thus denying your correspondent the opportunity to comment on a smash and grab from Marks and Spark(e)s.

Despite his team's solid opening forty-five minutes when they were the better side, Garry Hill will have been bitterly disappointed with the second half performance as a stronger and seemingly fitter Braintree outfit gradually took charge to carve out a number of chances and run out worthy winners. Indeed, when talking after the game, the Cards' boss described the second half showing as Woking's worst forty-five minutes of the season so far.

The games are coming thick and fast at the moment, however, and the manager will now have to work his magic as he tries to motivate his players for another difficult away encounter in front of the live BT cameras at Crabble on Friday evening. No doubt the home side Dover Athletic will be full of confidence following their 5-2 demolition of promotion hopefuls Eastleigh on Tuesday evening so Garry Hill's men can expect another stern test as they try to avoid a third league defeat in a row.

Woking: Jake Cole, Craig Braham-Barrett, Terell Thomas, Brian Saah, Joey Jones(Ben Pattie 81), Bruno Andrade (Jimmy Keohane 74), Godfrey Poku (Kadell Daniel 73), John Goddard, Keiran Murtagh (c), Giuseppe Sole, Daniel Holman

Unused subs: Nick Hamann, Jake Caprice

Goal: Keiran Murtagh (67)

Cautioned: John Goddard (64), Brian Saah (90), Terell Thomas (90)

Braintree Town: Will Norris, Mitch Brundle, Sam Habergham (Daniel O'Shaughnessy 46), Chez Isaac, Matthew Paine, Kenny Davis (c), Taylor Miles (Dan Sparkes 46), Sim Akinola, Mark Phillips, Michael Cheek (Sean Marks 83), Alex Woodyard

Unused subs: Jordan Cox, Anthony Edgar

Goals: Sim Akinola (62), Michael Cheek (74)

Cautioned: Kenny Davis (45)

My MOTM: Keiran Murtagh – although the Woking skipper ended up on the losing side, he scored a fine goal and was a tower of strength throughout, leading from the front and driving his team on with an impressive performance

Attendance: 652
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