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Cards still searching for that elusive league victory

Phil Batts - 10th April 2016

Cards still searching for that elusive league victory Woking 1 Gateshead 1
Vanarama National League
April 9th 2016

Having failed to notch a league victory since way back on January 9th, Woking were looking to do the double over the Tynesiders following one of their best performances of the season, a resounding 5-1 victory at the International Stadium in December.

On paper, this was always going to be a tough 'ask', however, with the Heed boasting an away record this season bettered only by the top two sides in the division Cheltenham Town and Forest Green Rovers.

In a closely contested encounter of few clear-cut chances, a deflected goal from Matt Robinson for the home side just after the half-hour was cancelled out by a penalty from Ryan Bowman deep into added-on time at the end of the first half. Woking looked the more likely side to nick the victory in the second half with Neil Aspin, the away manager, probably happiest to settle for a draw.

Garry Hill made one change to his starting line-up from the previous Saturday at Southport with Joey Jones replacing Joe Robinson in defence. Talisman John Goddard was still missing as a result of the hamstring strain he picked up a few weeks earlier at Welling.

On a deceptively chilly spring afternoon Woking, in a 4-5-1 formation, kicked off playing towards the KRE and had slightly the better of the opening exchanges as they put together some promising moves down the right flank. Soon after, Keiran Murtagh released Robinson and his dangerous cross was headed behind. From Alex Smith's resulting corner, Jones headed over. Unfortunately for the young midfielder, who had made a bright start, this was to be his last meaningful action of the game as he limped off shortly afterwards with what looked to be a hamstring injury and he was replaced by Bruno Andrade in a like-for-like swap.

The home side continued to make the running with Matt Butcher in particular getting through some good work in central midfield, his confidence no doubt boosted by his two fine goals the previous week.

A good turn from Murtagh saw him fire over but this seemed to finally spur the visitors into action as they responded with a free kick and a couple of corners, none of which caused the Woking defence any undue bother, however.

In the twenty-fifth minute, the home side served notice of what was to come as an excellent curling effort from Robinson was punched away by the Gateshead 'keeper Sam Russell before his defensive colleagues managed to scramble away the ensuing corner.

Woking then took the lead with fifteen minutes of the half remaining. Robinson found himself with a little time and space on the edge of the area and his firmly struck left-footed effort beat Russell's right hand with the aid of a slight deflection.

There followed a lengthy break in play as a result of an accidental clash of heads between Jones and Alex Whitemore midway into the Woking half. Although it first appeared that the latter had come off worst, both players were forced to leave the pitch looking decidedly groggy and were immediately substituted.

It was now imperative that the Cards keep their concentration and hang on to their hard-earned lead until the break. It was not to be, however. Deep into four minutes of stoppage time, Jake Cole clawed away an effort from Matt Pattison but from the corner which followed, Brian Saah was adjudged to have pulled down James Curtis at the back post. Ryan Bowman stepped up to confidently slot home the penalty for the equaliser to take the wind out of the home team's sails.

Half-time: Woking 1 Gateshead 1

Woking were out early for the second half and made a positive start as Daniel Carr broke free down the right and his attempted cross was bundled behind for a corner. An Andrade free kick then found Murtagh in front of goal but the midfielder was unable to guide his stooping header towards the target.

As the home side continued to make the running, they then had one of their best opportunities of the match as the ever-industrious Robinson crossed well from the right only for Carr to see his goal-bound strike deflected over the bar.

The game was now starting to open up as the final quarter approached. Good build-up play on the edge of the box saw Murtagh rifle in a shot which Russell gathered at the second attempt as Carr bore down on him.

This is not to say that it was all one-way traffic as the visitors responded twice in quick succession. Firstly, and alarmingly for the Woking defence, substitute Daniel Johnson found himself through on goal down the left channel but his shot from about twelve yards out was well held by Cole. Soon afterwards, Johnson again found himself in the clear but Chris Arthur raced back to shepherd the striker wider than he would have liked and this time Cole gathered his effort with ease.

It seemed like the Cards' defence had not learned its lesson, however, as the visitors then carved out their best opportunity of the match from open play with just five minutes remaining. Having sprung the offside trap, it was Johnson again who scampered down the left and his precision cross found Bowman unmarked in the middle. In trying to open up his body and side-foot home, however, the Heed striker, to the relief of the home crowd, failed to make contact with the ball.

There was still time for the home side to counter deep into the game. A fine cross-field ball from Andrade found Robinson and his shot from the edge of the area brought a smart save from Russell, which proved to be the last goalmouth action of the game.

As in the previous two league matches which both yielded a point for the Cards when in a winning position, there were positives to be taken from the match, not least the performances of Matt Butcher and Matt Robinson in midfield. Once again, however, and despite the enthusiasm and raw potential of Daniel Carr up front, there was insufficient cutting edge in the final third of the pitch to carve out many real, goalscoring opportunities and turn the draws into three points, although it has to be said that defensive frailties were more to blame for not seeing out the match at Southport last week. On the plus side, three successive draws, whilst frustrating for all concerned, takes the team to fifty-two points and virtually guarantees Vanarama National League status for next season, which in itself is no mean feat.

Next up, a tough trip to the Cotswolds this coming Saturday to take on play-off certainties Forest Green Rovers, followed by an equally difficult home encounter on Tuesday, 19th April against Grimsby Town, who are pushing strongly for a return to the Football League.

Woking: Jake Cole, Jake Caprice, Chris Arthur, Mark Ricketts (c), Brian Saah, Joey Jones (Cameron Norman 44), Keiran Murtagh, Matthew Robinson, Alex Smith (Bruno Andrade 10), Daniel Carr (Giuseppe Sole 76), Matt Butcher

Unused subs: Nick Hamann, Godfrey Poku

Goal: Matthew Robinson (31)

No bookings

Gateshead: Sam Russell, Craig Baxter, Matthew Pattison, James Curtis, Ben Clark (c), Jamie Chandler, Jon Shaw (Daniel Johnson 34), Gus Mafuta (Meshack Kanda 68), Ryan Bowman, CJ Hamilton, Alex Whitmore (Michael Onovwigun 43)

Unused subs: Darren Holden, Shaun MacDonald

Goal: Ryan Bowman (pen 45+4)

No bookings

MOTM as selected by match sponsors Stadia Solutions: Mark Ricketts (pictured) a typically solid performance from the Cards' captain

Attendance: 1,005
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