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Howes on fire as Cards carve out victory over League new boys

Malcolm Wyatt - 18th July 2019

Howes on fire as Cards carve out victory over League new boys Salford City 1 Woking 3
Pre-season friendly
Friday 19th July 2019

A late finish from fans’ favourite Paul Hodges rounded off a promising pre-season performance from Woking at Football League new boys Salford City on Friday, with plenty of reasons for optimism raised on the night.

There were committed displays from both teams, match decider Hodges having replaced the impressive Dave Tarpey, who put the Cards 2-1 up seven minutes after the break, the Cards finally pulling away from the National League play-off winners, a team on the back of four promotions in five seasons.

That came after an honours-even first half in which Ben Gerring’s (pictured above) 22nd-minute opener was cancelled out by former Brighton midfielder Richie Towell within four minutes.

It was the first of back-to-back weekend friendlies for Alan Dowson’s new-look squad, a further trek to the boss’ native North East following for an engagement at Dunston UTS the next afternoon.

It might not have turned out so well, the visitors taking seven hours to reach Greater Manchester and the game in doubt after a pre-match deluge, the heavens opening, kick-off put back 45 minutes.

But after a 3-2 midweek home defeat to Wycombe Wanderers, the Cardinals – decked out in blue against a side who also play in red - seemed undaunted by their North West hosts’ recent pedigree, giving as good as they got throughout.

And while the previous encounter involved two goals from a trialist who again started, the names on the scoresheet were more familiar this time, amid commendable displays across the pitch.

Keeper Sam Howes was on great form, making several quality saves before the game was wrapped up. And of the new boys, Shaun Donnellan showed some neat touches in midfield, the gap in club league status not so obvious.

With heavy rain beforehand, one stand was out of bounds, the players only running out – after The Pogues’ version of Ewan McColl’s love letter to Salford, ‘Dirty Old Town’ - at 8.15.

For those familiar with the BBC documentary series about the Ammies, it was difficult to equate the old Moor Lane ground with the Peninsula Stadium now sprung up in its place, and while there was no obvious sign of the club’s high-profile Class of ’92 backers, there was a commendable turnout.

The attendance included around a dozen Cardinals’ fans, who saw plenty to savour from the terraces, despite worrying moments as 2018/19 top scorer Adam Rooney and fellow forwards Jake Beesley and Danny Lloyd made early forays on goal.

Yet Howes saved with his feet from Beesley, with Gerring and new boy Manny Parry also making vital touches before visiting skipper Josh Casey headed away from another attack.

The Woking trialist who scored in midweek went close from the first of many Tarpey centres before a slip let in Rooney for what appeared to be an opener, but his overhead kick found the side-netting.

Jake Hyde was next to feed the trialist, the Cards ever closer to scoring, the breakthrough arriving at the midpoint of the half, Gerring with a fine volley from a Casey free-kick before Howes stopped with his feet to deny Towell.

But the visitors’ defence was breached on 27 minutes, Towell unleashing a mighty effort from just outside the area after another slip.

Salford seemed to step up the gears, but Woking held their nerve and stuck with them, home keeper Chris Neal punching away a Tarpey corner, the latter then drilling wide after a promising move.

Cardinal hero Joey Jones was putting in a good shift for his new side, but didn’t make it to half-time after a cut to the head, the final meaningful action of the half seeing Howes twice more deny the Ammies, with Beesley then Rooney thwarted.

Half time: Salford City 1 Woking 1

The busy Parry struck wide after the first telling Casey cross of the second half, the hosts having already made two changes but Woking battling on and regaining the lead on 52 minutes, Tarpey somehow staying on his feet during a mazy run, creating space to fire past Neal.

City reacted, Towell blazing over, Casey clearing up the next attack to stop Beesley while Towell struck over from a free-kick.

Just before the hour, Dowson made his first changes, a near-indomitable Moussa Diarra making way for Max Kretzschmar, the visitors holding their own, Howes down low to keep out midfielder Tom Walker next.

With 20 minutes spare, Hyde was replaced by a second trialist, Gerring tidying up the next home attack, the sight of seven more City subs warming up and set to join the action suggesting a late attempt to swing the match by former Burnley, Preston and Scotland defender and midfielder Graham Alexander.

But while all the outfield Ammies were replaced, it was the visitors’ substitutions that ultimately told, Hodges carrying on where Tarpey left off, creating headaches for the hosts.

Howes’ involvement remained crucial, the former England U23 and Watford goalie stopping one effort then from a close-range free header from tricky striker Rory Gaffney.

An even more impressive save followed, Howes diving to his right to again thwart Gaffney, before stopping midfielder Lois Maynard from another corner.

There were certainly no signs of fatigue from the Surrey visitors though, springing forward again, Kretzschmar squaring to his fellow sub, Hodges working his way past two defenders and administering a decisive left-foot strike with three minutes remaining.

Salford City: Chris Neal, Oscar Threlkeld (Scott Wiseman 74), Adam Rooney (Devante Rodney 74), Danny Lloyd (Rory Gaffney 74), Tom Walker (Ibou Touray 74), Richie Towell (Mark Shelton 63), Dan Jones (Alex Doyle 74), Nathan Pond (Liam Hogan 74), Joey Jones (Lois Maynard 37), Jake Beesley (Mani Dieseruvwe 74), Trialist (Danny Whitehead 46).

Goal: Towell 26.

Woking: Sam Howes, Jack Cook, Josh Casey, Shaun Donnellan, Manny Parry, Moussa Diarra (Max Kretzschmar 58), Dave Tarpey (Paul Hodges 74), Kane Ferdinand, Jake Hyde (Trialist 70). Trialist (Trialist 74), Ben Gerring, Unused substitutes: Craig Ross, Joe Morrison, Nathan Collier, Godfrey Poku, Jack Skinner.

Goals: Gerring 22, Tarpey 52, Hodges 87.

Man of the Match: Sam Howes: Impressive under pressure and a real presence among his defence, several fine saves helping the Cards finally pull away from higher-placed opposition.
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