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Bluebirds have their wings clipped by Woking’s fifth win in seven

Ben Musgrove - 9th March 2019
Woking 2 Chippenham Town 0
Vanarama National League South
9th March 2019

The last time that Woking and Chippenham met was something of a watershed moment in Woking’s season. A fantastic August had given way to an autumn in which points were proving slightly harder to come by, with September and October passing without Woking securing consecutive wins. A very comfortable win on Tuesday night against Hungerford had given way to a frustrating Saturday away-day in which the Bluebirds found themselves 2-0 up after an hour. A brace from debutant loanee Jamar Loza would steal a point for the Cards late on, but Woking fans found it hard to celebrate a draw in a league that they felt they should be competing for.

Whether it was the late equaliser or the general frustration, the result was a catalyst for Woking to kick on at the top of the table. The club wouldn’t drop points in the league again until January 19th, and indeed have only dropped eleven points of the fifty-one since available to them. With just eight games to go, Woking fans will be hoping that this result heralds similar fortunes; the Cards find themselves joint-top of the National South thanks to a brace from Jake Hyde, passing up a number of chances to put the gloss on a professional performance in which the visitors’ only clear-cut chance pulled one of Kingfield’s saves of the season from home keeper Craig Ross.

Woking’s starting XI saw two changes from the team that somehow failed to take all three points at Hungerford, with Dave Tarpey’s return to Barnet necessitating a recall to the side for Reiss Allassani. Max Kretzschmar (picture) continued his recovery from injury with a return to Conference South football, replacing Paul Hodges in attacking midfield. The visiting squad included Karnell Chambers, who scored both goals against Woking earlier in the season, on the bench; Nathaniel Jarvis, who has averaged more than a goal a game since joining Chippenham last year, would lead the line in his stead.

Woking fans would have been hoping for a fast start to settle the nerves, and could have been ahead within a minute through Greg Luer. A spillage from keeper Will Puddy would drop to the striker very early on, only for a crucial block to deflect his effort away for a corner. Woking would have several corners within the first few minutes, but would fail to capitalise as Chippenham looked to hit on the break; Jarvis looked to exploit counter-attacks by leading the line high, with Josh Smile supporting him from a deeper central position.

The visitors would scrape a chance or two in the early stages, with Dean Evans nodding a tame header at Ross and Smile looking dangerous on the ball, but Woking would still take the lead within the opening twenty minutes. After Woking fired a warning shot across the bows with a wide Diarra header from a Kretschmar corner, another set piece would open the scoring. A ball deep into the box from the right saw Gerring head back across goal, and Kretzschmar’s flick would present a chance to Hyde that the poacher couldn’t fail to take, nodding the ball into the inviting net in front of him.

The goal wouldn’t slow the Woking charge, with continued pressure threatening to double the home side’s lead. Hyde would waste a chance for a brace with a tame looping header after good work from Casey, and two minutes later Kretzschmar would waste a sitter of a second from close range, tapping a reactionary shot into the keeper’s arms with the far side of the goal gaping.

Just a minute later a fizzed cross was lumped clear from the six-yard box with Luer looking to tap home, and the save from Puddy was brave; the keeper would spend several minutes on the floor in recovery, even warranting attention from the stretcher bearers. After it became apparent that Chippenham hadn’t included a keeper amongst their substitutes, Puddy returned to the pitch and would complete the game, shaking off the effects of a severe knee injury suffered earlier this season.

The delay would take the wind out of Woking’s sails, but their first major chance following the delay would seal the game. After an elongated spell of possession for Chippenham, Kretzschmar did superbly well to rob Evans. Rather than waste the ball elsewhere, he dribbled the ball moved the ball forward from the edge of his own box to the edge of the Chippenham area, before rolling in Casey on an overlapping run to his left; the left-back’s cross found Hyde, who flashed the ball past Puddy with composure. A sucker-punch just before half-time was exactly what Woking were looking for, and as the whistle blew moments later, the home side knew that one more goal could kill the tie.

Jake Hyde celebrates the second of his brace of goals; pic: David Holmes

Half-time: Woking 2 Chippenham Town 0

Only one change was made at half time – for the third time this season, Jake Hyde was taken off on a brace, replaced by fellow striker Harvey Bradbury. Chippenham would hold on to their changes, but look to go more direct, with Smile finding himself alongside Jarvis more often.

For all of Woking’s dominance, the deficit could’ve been halved within a few minutes of the restart; Jarvis found himself rounding Ross for a tap-in prior to the offside flag being raised. Within five minutes of that chance, Diarra had nodded two awkward headers wide of Puddy’s goal; both sides looked to kick on after the break with a view to changing the balance of the game.

The fifteen minutes after that would include relatively little action, but also the best chance of the game for Chippenham. The removal of Callum Guthrie for Chambers was made with a view to getting more crosses in from the right hand side, but it was a cross from the left that gave Jarvis Chippenham’s most glaring opportunity; the striker found the ball planted on his foot less than twelve yards from goal, but his drive towards the bottom right was superbly predicted and beaten away by Craig Ross; the Bluebirds wouldn’t have a better opportunity in the last half an hour of the game.

Jarvis’s chance would prove the last clear-cut chance of the ninety; both sides would make changes with a view to tipping the balance, but their efforts would do little to alter Woking’s dominance of possession or Chippenham’s inability to threaten the Woking goal. Jolley entered the field of play after a nasty tackle on Armani Little, who should still be ok for Tuesday night’s clash with Oxford City.

Chippenham’s switch of Klukowski for Evans did little to change their mindset in possession. The visitors struggled to hold on to the ball for extended periods, with both starting players and substitutes thumping the ball out for throw-ins across the pitch. Woking looked comfortable in possession, with both wide-men running the clock down effectively by taking advantage of Chippenham’s inefficiency on the ball.

The last fifteen minutes would present little to change the balance of the game, and final whistle was soon blowing for Woking’s fifth win in seven Conference South games. Two late goals from Torquay would keep them on top of the pack on goal difference, but every game now counts for a Woking side looking to capitalise on the Gulls’ first slip-up; the Cards can only win every game they have to stay level (and maybe above) of their title rival’s efforts to return to the National Premier at the first time of asking.

Woking: 1. Craig Ross, 2. Nathan Collier, 3. Josh Casey ©, 4. Moussa Diarra, 5. Ben Gerring, 6. Olu Durojaiye, 7. Greg Luer, 8. Armani Little (16. Christian Jolley 86’), 9. Jake Hyde (14. Harvey Bradbury 45’), 10. Max Kretzschmar, 11. Reiss Allassani

Unused subs: 13. Jack Cook, 15. Paul Hodges, 18. Sam Mason

Goals: Hyde 17’, 44’

Bookings: None

Chippenham Town 1. Will Puddy, 2. George Rigg ©, 3. Rhys Davies, 6. Will Richards, 7. Tariq Ossai, 8. Callum Gunner (17. Karnell Chambers 57’), 9. Nat Jarvis, 14. Kieran Parselle, 15. Dean Evans (Yan Klukowski 81’), 16. Adriel George, 19. Josh Smile

Unused subs: 10. Jack Compton, 11. James Guthrie, 18. Nick McCootie

Goals: None

Bookings: None

Referee: Wayne Cartmel

Attendance: 1,728

Man of the Match: Armani Little. The young midfielder was one of several standout performances in a match that never let Chippenham seriously threaten the Cards’ winning position, showing great work ethic and composure as part of the Woking press.