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Grays Athletic 1 Woking 1

John Moore - 16th August 2007

Grays Athletic 1 Woking 1
15 August 2007

?We can see you sneaking out? is a popular refrain heard at most grounds towards at the end of a game. But such is the Cards? penchant for last-minute excitement, with this match being no exception, it?s surely fast becoming redundant in any game involving Woking. With five minutes remaining on the clock, this match turned from being a ?run of the mill? encounter to one full of incident and talking points, with the Cards being involved in giving a bizarre and controversial ?free goal? to Grays, and then missing a penalty with almost the last kick of the match.

Following Saturday?s encouraging performance against Rushden, it was no surprise that Frank Gray, on his return to Grays, retained the same line-up and formation. In the home side?s starting eleven was ex-Card Karl Murray, while another familiar face from last season, Craig McAllister, had to settle for a place on the bench.

The early exchanges were somewhat cautious, with both sides struggling to get to grips with the strong breeze. Slowly but surely, Grays began to settle down, with both Thurgood and Hearn winning the midfield exchanges and, at the urging of their coaching staff, being encouraged to get the ball out wide to Murray and Marshall.

Although the Cards? defence stood firm, despite Grays enjoying the lion?s share of possession, they were nearly caught out when a lofted pass on twenty-five minutes found O?Connor free and in space, and he really should have done better than drag his shot wide of the far post.

Almost immediately followed a rare Cards attack. Marvin Morgan, who was once again our most effective and impressive forward, found Sole with a flick-on, who ran at the heart of the Grays defence and from a reasonable shooting position somewhat scuffed his effort wide.

With the Cards tantalisingly close to holding out until half-time, there were two heart-stopping moments that almost undid all their resolute defending. However, on each occasion, Hutchinson, who was a tower of strength all night, came to the Cards? rescue. First, he got in a vital header after Gindre was somewhat exposed, having come rushing out of his goal and having failed to stop the attacker getting in a dangerous cross, then Hutch bravely flung himself at a point-blank shot from Kedwell that was goal-bound.

Half-time: Grays Athletic 0 Woking 0

Despite losing the influential Thurgood, who looked to have picked up another serious injury, Grays came at the Cards in even more determined fashion, with his replacement, the ever dangerous Oli, involved in most things.

With the Cards? goal virtually under siege at times, it was very much a rearguard action, with repeated instances from all the back four of last-ditch tackles and important blocks. Gindre too distinguished himself, making a fine save on fifty minutes from a close range header from Ashton. Next, it was Bunce?s turn to be a hero, by somehow managing to head an effort off the line from Kedwell, who?d shot low and hard from close range, and must have thought he?d opened his account for his new club.

A turning point in the match for the Cards came in the fifty-seventh minute with the introduction of Lambu for Gray, with Pattison dropping more into the centre of midfield, where he looked more effective in finding space and running at the opposition. Suddenly, with the lively Lambu operating wide on the right, the Cards had an outlet and were finally able to look more of an attacking threat and also retain possession better.

Lambu?s pace and determination began to pay dividends almost immediately and ask Grays some questions, and this resulted in a misplaced pass being seized upon by Morgan, who played in Sole, who hit a fierce drive that was deflected (even though the referee failed to spot this) just past the post. Following more good harassing from the Cards, who forced Flitney into a hurried clearance, Sole had a difficult chance from some distance, when he lobbed the ball wide, with the goalkeeper stranded way off his line.

With the match seemingly heading towards a hard-fought goalless draw, on eighty-five minutes, came the extraordinary incident that will probably have booked Woking?s next appearance on Question Of Sport?s ?What Happened Next?? round, following on from previous classics that have included Kevan Brown?s transformation from footballer to potholer against Hayes and Jason Solomon?s metamorphosis from stand-in goalkeeper to Brian Rix impressionist at Stevenage.

Following an injury to a Cards player, the referee, having stopped the game, instructed Pattison, as is standard practice these days, to return the ball back to Grays. This he duly tried to do, by nonchalantly chipping the ball back to Flitney from just inside their half, but to everyone?s amazement, the ball flew over the stranded goalkeeper and into the net. All eyes turned to the referee, who correctly signalled a goal and the Woking players? various responses were a mixture of incredulity, delight, confusion and, in some cases, embarrassment.

With tempers rising both on and off the pitch amongst the Grays contingent, Frank Gray sportingly intervened by instructing his players to immediately permit Grays to equalise from the kick-off by allowing one of their players an unimpeded run on goal. Accordingly, Ben Watson took full advantage of Gray?s magnanimous gesture, by equalising, even though one or two Cards players looked rather disappointed by the decision.

As if that wasn?t enough excitement for the evening, there was still time for a flare-up involving several players and a missed penalty. With the clock running down, Woking pressed forward and put the home side under some pressure and this resulted in a weak pass back being seized upon by Morgan, who tried to go round the goal keeper only to be pulled down in the penalty area. Up stepped a rather nervous looking Danny Bunce, and his weak effort was comfortably saved by Flitney, diving well to his left.

Although this was a disappointing end to the match, had the Cards secured all three points Grays would have rightly felt a great sense of injustice. Woking rarely threatened as an attacking force all night, and the fact that Pattison?s controversial goal was one of only a handful of shots on target rather tells its own story. But this shouldn?t detract from what was a superb hard-working defensive performance, with Ruby, Hutchinson, Gasson, Lorraine, Bunce and Gindre all distinguishing themselves.

Woking: Gindre, Ruby, Hutchinson, Gasson, Lorraine, Bunce, Quamina, Gray (Lambu 57), Pattison, Sole (Charles 76), Morgan. Unused subs: Worner, Green, Shin.

Attendance: 1,004

Booked: Hutchinson, Pattison

My MOTM: Although it?s perhaps a bit unfair to select one defender when they were all magnificent, my vote goes to Hutch, who led by example, showing great composure throughout, winning everything in the air, and also getting in many important blocks and tackles.
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