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Inspired Cards grab a lifeline

Brian Caffarey - 22nd March 2017

Inspired Cards grab a lifeline Braintree Town 1 Woking 3
Vanarama National League
21 March 2017

The Cards grabbed a lifeline last night with this superb display to earn a rare victory at Cressing Road. Garry bravely gambled in resting some key players but it paid off handsomely as the side played with skill and determination to notch three invaluable points, setting themselves up for another hugely important game, against Maidstone United, on Saturday. After undeservedly going behind to a fine Sam Corne strike, Delano Sam-Yorke hit back quickly with two excellent goals to give the Cards a 2-1 half-time lead, with Keiran Murtagh adding a third midway through the second half to seal only the Cards’ fourth league win on their travels.

Garry decided to go with Delano Sam-Yorke and Jamie Lucas up front, leaving top scorer Gozie Ugwu on the bench. Fabio Saraiva also found himself rested, with Joey Jones partnering Keiran Murtagh – fortunately fit enough to start – and Kane Ferdinand in midfield.

Garry’s gamble looked like paying off right from the kick-off, with the front two’s movement, pace and aggression immediately causing problems for the home defence, while Joey Jones and Keiran Murtagh rapidly assumed control of the midfield with some fine control and penetrating passing. Especially notable was Jones’s ability to win the ball, bring it down and pick a pass or drive forward to set up an attacking move.

Sam-Yorke might have got his name on the score sheet as early as the second minute as he latched onto a through ball, forcing the keeper into a good save by his near post. But, in an exciting beginning to the game, the Iron hit back immediately, Michael Poke being forced into a similar save.

Ismail Yakubu, worryingly, found his name in the referee’s book in the 6th minute for a body check but fortunately avoided any similar transgression for the rest of the game in what was also a good defensive display by the central trio in particular, with Jake Caprice much more in evidence as he provided his familiar attacking outlet down the right flank.

Sam-Yorke showed that he was intent on contributing to build-up play, too, as he found Caprice with a sweeping pass, with the latter putting a ball right across the goal shortly afterwards after a corner unnecessarily given away by a hesitant Ben McNamara, standing in for the injured Sam Beasant. Sam-Yorke then tested McNamara again as he aggressively turned inside a defender and shot low.

But Sam-Yorke’s attacking partner, Jamie Lucas, was equally impressive as he chased down balls and showed nice close control. He nearly profited in the 9th minute as he turned a defender in the box, only to see his shot blocked. Three minutes later, he was on the end of a ball slung into the middle, but seeing his shot deflected to provide an easy save for McNamara.

Woking continued to have the best of the attacking play as both strikers rattled the Iron defence, building on the control the Cards were exercising in midfield. But, out of nowhere, in the 21st minute, Braintree took the lead. Sam Corne, scorer of the Iron’s two goals in Saturday’s 2-0 win over Southport, seized on a loose ball about 25 yards out and fired a tremendous effort into the top corner.

Cards fans barely had time to reflect on the injustice of seeing their side go behind after such an impressive start when the side was back on level terms. An incisive move saw McNamara save Ferdinand’s effort on goal but it came out to Sam-Yorke, who rifled home to make it 1-1 with 23 minutes gone.

The excitement continued with Sean Clohessy, a minute later, firing in a shot from out on Braintree’s right flank, which rebounded off the foot of Poke’s far post and away. But that was immediately capped at the other end by a superb goal from the rejuvenated Sam-Yorke. Picking up the ball about 30 yards out, he turned to beat a defender, came inside and lined himself up for a tremendous shot which flew past McNamara to make it 2-1 to the Cards.

Sam-Yorke came close to grabbing a hat-trick a couple of minutes later when Caprice’s cross was headed out to him. He connected well but his shot was blocked, with the ball flying away for a corner. Next it was Lucas’s turn, as Sam-Yorke and Caprice combined, with Lucas flicking a near post cross just wide.

It was not all one-way traffic as, around the half-hour mark, Braintree applied some pressure from corners, the first of which resulted from what was nearly an own goal as a thrashed clearance rebounded off a Woking player, going narrowly wide.

But the Cards quickly regained the attacking initiative, with Lucas’s impressive pace pushing Braintree back into their corner before tussling in the box. As the half drew to a close the Cards applied patient pressure down the right – though Garry Hill was clearly irritated that the chance wasn’t taken to get the ball into the box at some point. Keiran Murtagh had a fine snap shot saved at the near post before a couple of Braintree attacks petered out, with Chez Isaac scooping well over.

The half ended with Woking fans having enjoyed an excellent display from their side but aware that a third goal would be needed before they could begin to feel at all confident of three points.

Half-time: Braintree Town 1 Woking 2

The Cards started the second half on the front foot with a nice move involving Murtagh and Caprice – a constant outlet on the right. Jones had a good chance to grab that third goal only two minutes later as he rose to connect perfectly with a Murtagh corner but, unfortunately, directing it straight into McNamara’s hands. The pressure continued as McNamara was forced to come out of his area to head the ball away as Sam-Yorke threatened. There was some anxiety at the other end as a Brian Saah miskick enabled Braintree to threaten down Woking’s left flank, with Chris Arthur eventually blocking a cross. A quick break out of defence saw Caprice and Murtagh combining again down the right before Lucas went down in the area. From a distance it looked as though he was tripped but the referee clearly thought otherwise as he added his name to his book!

The Cards continued to press, with Lucas cleverly winning a corner, which in turn saw Jones rise again, trying this time to find a team mate. Jones was soon catching the eye again in midfield as his excellent control enabled him to turn defence into attack after Terell Thomas had provided good cover to foil an attempted break by Braintree.

Around the 60 minute mark the home side had a period of pressure as they sought, more through persistence than any inspired football, to force their way back into the game. Midson, off target all night, headed over when he ought to have done better.

Garry Hill brought on Gozie Ugwu for Lucas in the 66th minute, with the latter receiving deserved applause from Woking fans for an impressive display. He was perhaps unlucky to be substituted but Ugwu almost immediately set up the third goal, pulling the ball back for Murtagh to calmly side-foot his shot out of McNamara’s reach.

At this stage of the game one noticed Ferdinand’s contribution in midfield as his harrying and tackling often prevented Braintree from initiating any sustained attacking moves as the Cards sought to defend their two-goal lead. But it was not a case of simply falling back and inviting Braintree to take the initiative. Woking continued to mount a series of attacks, especially down the right flank, with Sam-Yorke just foiled after linking up with Ugwu.

Garry Hill brought Charlie Carter on for Murtagh, no doubt resting the latter with Saturday’s game in mind. As the game moved into the final ten minutes of normal time, the home side pushed forward more. Midson headed wide from a deep cross and substitute Alex Henshall had a fierce effort saved low down by Poke, the ball squirming away for one of several late corners, all defended stoutly.

After another Midson header well over the bar, the Cards relieved the pressure with a fast break out of defence, Ugwu racing clear but preferring to run towards the corner rather than attempting to play the ball across to Sam-Yorke, still backing up energetically in this late stage of the game.

There was just time for Henshall to drive forward and blast well over before the referee signalled the end of four minutes of stoppage time and Woking management, players and fans alike could celebrate a terrific performance and those much-needed three points. With most other results going Woking’s way, the Cards moved up to 19th place, above Saturday’s visitors, Maidstone United, on goal difference but with the Stones having two games in hand.

Braintree Town: Ben McNamara, Sean Clohessy, Jerome Okimo, Christian Mbulu, Manny Parry, Sam Corne (Lee Barnard 77), Chez Isaac, Reece Hall-Johnson (Alex Henshall 59), Kris Twardek (Joe Maybanks 72), Jack Midson, Michael Cheek

Unused subs: Kyron Farrell, Frankie Musonda

Goal: Sam Corne 21

Woking: Michael Poke, Jake Caprice, Ismail Yakubu, Terell Thomas, Brian Saah, Chris Arthur, Keiran Murtagh (Charlie Carter 77), Joey Jones, Kane Ferdinand, Delano Sam-Yorke, Jamie Lucas (Gozie Ugwu 66)

Unused subs: Brandon Hall, Ben Morris, Fabio Saraiva

Goals: Delano Sam-Yorke 23, 25, Keiran Murtagh 69

Booked: Ismail Yakubu, Jamie Lucas

My MOTM: Hard not to give it to Delano for such a brilliant first half in particular but Joey Jones (pictured) gets my vote for an inspired 90 minute plus display in midfield.

Attendance: 527
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