Forest Green Rovers 4 Woking 3
Vanarama National League
25th February 2017
What a dramatic roller coaster of a game this turned out to be. The Cards deservedly levelling following a home goal against the run of play and leading for two minutes in the second half, before coming back to within a goal in stoppage time.
A late change to the team sheet – with, it seemed, a Connor Hall injury - had Kane Ferdinand retaining a midfield berth. With Macaulay in the side already it would have been an attacking 4-3-3 with Hall. As it stood the Cards started in a familiar 5-3-2 led by Gozie Ugwu. Nathan Ralph returned as left wing back for Chris Arthur, Macauley Bonne displacing Max Kretzschmar to the bench, from the home draw with Southport.
A brisk start by both sides saw home striker Christian Doidge have a shot blocked in the first minute, given a sight of goal from a slid pass into the penalty area. The Cards surged back, Jake Caprice and Bonne combining at a throw in for Fabio Saraiva to fire over his shoulder from the penalty spot, beaten by the high bounce of the ball.
Playing with a strong wind blowing down the ground the Cards were straining at the leash. Joey Jones swept a low ball across the goal area from one of many forward forays he would make. Pinnock caught Ugwu as he turned and was penalised. Moments later, a free kick awarded to Woking led to a Yakubu header back across goal and a scramble away. Keiran Murtagh was fouled and Saraiva’s free kick, at an angle from the right, was fired just wide of the far post.
FGR sprang the Cards defence on the counter, Marsh-Brown skipping round Michael Poke, only to find his shot blocked by Poke, back in position, and the ball cleared. Another sweeping FGR break down the right and low ball fired in for Marsh-Brown, saw him just to fail to control it, when had he done so he would surely have beaten Poke.
Woking would not relinquish control of the game, with the wind in their sails. A Caprice break led to successive corners, swung in from either wing by Saraiva. The first just cleared with Terrell Thomas arriving at the near post, the second superbly swung in from the right helped on its way at full stretch by goalkeeper Russell and the third just scrambled clear by the hosts. Within a few moments Woking raided once more, the ball being laid back for Bonne on the edge of the area but his shot was gathered in low down by Russell.
Wishart having fouled Murtagh, Carter unfairly stopped Ugwu and this time saw yellow. Jake Caprice somehow caught up with the ball to force a corner for Cards on another right wing raid. From it FGR didn’t clear and Ugwu’s overhead kick was well over with Bonne poised behind him.
Marsh-Brown, set free, hammered a diagonal shot inches over the far angle of post and cross bar. Doidge was played in and rounded Poke only to screw his shot well wide into the crowd. But FGR were clearly finding gaps. Doidge did have the ball in the net when Michael Poke didn’t deal with a left wing cross, but it was disallowed for a rebound off the striker’s arm, so probably unlucky not to register. A free kick from deep in the Cards off was right in the danger area by Liam Noble came off Poke straight to Marsh-Brown, who shot home, leaving Poke with no chance. A disappointing set piece goal to concede for the Cards.
Woking responded immediately setting up yet another right wing worked move. Murtagh having failed to create a one-two on the edge of FGR’s box, got back to get a foot in and disrupt the rapid counter, at the expense of conceding a corner from the halfway line.
After all their attacking intent it seemed Woking must go in at half time behind. Not so, Joey Jones strode forward with a couple of minutes of normal time remaining in the first half and unleashed a fantastic drive from way out. It sailed past Russell’s despairing right hand and into the top corner. A ‘worldy’ of a goal in modern language.
In two minutes of stoppage time Murtagh slalomed through three home midfielders but could not quite thread a pass through a retreating back line.
Half Time Forest Green Rovers 1 Woking 1
Attacking with the wind, the tables were turned in favour of Forest Green. Almost immediately Ferdinand, in trying to link with his back four, let in the home side. But a square ball on the edge of the ‘D’ did not find a green shirt. The Cards strove to counter and Murtagh found Ugwu to force a save low down by Russell. Jones and Caprice combined beautifully but the latter’s cross was held low down at his near post by Russell again.
Rovers were in the ascendancy. Poke was totally exposed one on one with Noble and then Ellis and forced to make a marvellous double save, the second with his feet, as FGR turned the left of the Woking defence to set it up. Back came Cards and Caprice drove down the right once more to hammer over a head high cross for Ugwu to fly upwards and divert it into the far top corner, for the lead, on 54 minutes. This proved short-lived. First Marsh-Brown got through yet again and Poke saved virtually one on one. Darren Carter curled in the right wing corner left footed and put on a plate for Doidge to head home at the far post to level the scores.
Doidge tried his luck almost from the restart, 25 yards out, but his shot was well over. Woking were on a knife edge at the back now. Ismail Yakubu deflected on a through ball he tried to cut out at full stretch and Cooper, in the area at an angle, also blasted over the bar.
Changes for the Cards in quick succession just after the hour mark as Garry Hill put on Charlie Carter for Bonne and then Dennon Lewis for Yakubu to go four at the back and five in midfield to try to stem the flow of attacks. It did not alter a concerted spell of possession and crosses from FGR. A ball into the area could not be dealt with by Thomas and Cooper ran in front of him, both taking a tumble running away from goal. Referee Rock gave a harsh but difficult to judge penalty. It was to no avail for Forest Green and Carter as Poke read his spot kick and took it comfortably to his left.
Back came the men in green. Ellis got up to a right wing cross at the far post and back across a beaten Poke but Joey Jones was running back and somehow hooked clear from under his own crossbar. Doidge did head home but a foul was given against him or another attacker for a second disallowed home ’goal’. Ultimately, they were not to be denied.
Marsh-Brown gave way to hefty German striker Omar Bugiel. Cooper’s cross forced Poke to tip away Carter’s header. FGR replaced Darren Carter with Bristol Rovers’ loanee Jake Gosling. Murtagh, running back to get a foot in tripped his man and got a yellow card despite his protest - possibly leading to a suspension - as Forest Green surged around the Cards’ rear-guard. He still put his body on the line by a sliding and horizontal block tackle of the ball, in front of goal, moments later. Caprice appeared to limp off with five minutes left, giving way to Max Kretzschmar.
As the clock ticked down Noble fed Wedgebury and his perfect right wing cross was bulleted in by a soaring Bugiel, above Jones, at the back post. The former Worthing striker was in again on the right hand corner of the Woking box in stoppage time, to fire across and round Poke’s despairing dive, for 4-2. He appeared to get a yellow card for the heaped celebration with his team mates.
The Cards were not done, with another pinpoint Saraiva corner being emphatically headed home by Terell Thomas to seal the excitement of a breathless seven goal thriller.
With results around them changing the table little Woking remain in 20th place, now only goal difference keeping them above the drop zone.
Woking face another test in quick succession against playoff chasing contenders, with the visit of Dover to Kingfield this Tuesday. Get down to the Laithwaite Community Stadium to boost the battle in the basement.
Woking: Michael Poke, Jake Caprice (Max Kretzschmar 85), Joey Jones, Terell Thomas, Ismail Yakubu (Dennon Lewis 65), Keiran Murtagh, Kane Ferdinand, Fabio Saraiva, Macauley Bonne (Charlie Carter 62), Gozie Ugwu.
Unused subs: Brandon Hall, Brian Saah.
Goals: Joey Jones 44, Gozie Ugwu 54, Terrell Thomas 94.
Booking; Keiran Murtagh
Forest Green: Sam Russell, Sam Wedgebury, Mark Ellis, Ethan Pinnock, Dan Wishart, Charlie Cooper, Rob Sinclair, Liam Noble, Darren Carter (Jake Gosling 78), Keanu Marsh-Brown (Omar Bugiel 75), Christian Doidge.
Unused subs: Drissa Traore, Dale Bennett, Kaiyne Woolery.
Goals: Marsh Brown 37, Christian Doidge 56, Omar Bugiel 88, 92.
Bookings: Darren Carter, Omar Bugiel.
Referee: David Rock
My MotM: Joey Jones’s goal was very special. He also contrived to clear a goal bound effort off the line, but I give it to Michael Poke. His heroics, one on ones and penalty save, kept Woking in it.