Aldershot Town 1 Woking 2
Saturday 24th October 2020
Contrary to the Sky Sports highlight reels and wistful recollections of years gone by, one of the appeals of the FA Cup is the grittiness that characterises many a tie. Aldershot manager Danny Searle suggested after the game that people want to see desire and passion â€œperhaps more than anything else.â€� Itâ€™s not about the quality of the game, but the qualities of the people that want to win it â€“ and this afternoon delivered that in spades.
In a game played in conditions that would make a polar explorer wince, a freak goal from Max Kretzschmar would secure Wokingâ€™s first win over their local rivals since January 2016 and put to bed a streak of five successive losses against the Shots. An early goal from Mo Bettamer threatened to keep the record rolling, before debutant Josh Davison and Kretzschmar put the gloss on a determined, driven Woking performance to flip the tie in their favour.
The Woking side saw two debutants, with Davison â€“ only announced an hour or so before kick-off â€“ and fullback Tyler Reid making their first competitive starts for the Cards. Matt Jarvis also made his first start of the campaign. The opposition squad included a familiar face in Toby Edser, a stalwart performer for Woking in the clubâ€™s successful 18/19 season.
The first five minutes threatened to fall Wokingâ€™s way, with a couple of long Jack Cook throw-ins claimed by Mitch Walker despite a crowded box. New signing Davison also put pressure on the Shots keeper, running down a sixty-yard clearance to block a clearance.
But the first real opportunity of the game opened the scoring, and it wasnâ€™t in Wokingâ€™s favour. Aldershot would enjoy their best spell of the tie in the first twenty minutes, with left fullback Shadrach Ogie causing problems down the Cardsâ€™ right-hand side. It was Ogie who was given the opportunity to cross following some great recycling of possession by the Aldershot midfield, and forward Mo Bettamer was the man eluding both Shotton and Cook to bundle the ball past Ross.
The Shots continued to threaten down the left-hand side without carving out clear opportunities. The 451/433 system of the home side made the most of McCormackâ€™s hold-up play and the superb passing range of James Rowe, who dropped deep to protect his defenders while dictating much of Aldershotâ€™s play. The Cards for their part were superb at drawing free kicks but lacked the delivery that has been a cornerstone of Wokingâ€™s good form so far this season, despite Aldershotâ€™s inability to effectively defend them in their opening fixtures.
The early substitution of John Goddard for an injured Malachi Napa (pictured above) â€“ with the former appearing on crutches at the end of the tie â€“ did indicate a change in Wokingâ€™s attacking fortunes. A deflected header from Davison couldâ€™ve opened the scoring, while Charlie Cooper wasted a direct free kick from close range.
Aldershot had their turn too, with Craig Ross making great saves from Craig Tanner and Ross McCormack. McCormack, Aldershotâ€™s highest-profile summer signing, was the second to be substituted before half-time, replaced by ex-Card Chike Kandi.
But it would be Woking who scored next, moments before half time. An Aldershot goal kick fell into midfield, with Cooper doing superbly to hold of his marker and adjust his body to an awkwardly bouncing ball. His clever header brought out the England international in Matt Jarvis, with the wide man slotting a first time through ball into Josh Davison almost in on goal. The Charlton loanee had a lot to do and did it superbly, shielding the ball from two markers before slotting past the onrushing Walker.
Half-time: Aldershot Town 1 Woking 1
Josh Davison scores on his debut; pic: David Holmes
Aldershotâ€™s lead was nearly re-established with the first attack of the second half. Having failed to make the most of a veritable surfeit of set pieces in the first half, a long-range free kick from Craig Tanner was knocked through to substitute Chike Kandi to bullet a header past Ross â€“ only for the goal to be ruled offside.
Following Jack Cookâ€™s attempt do the same â€“ bulleted past the post with Walker beaten â€“ the game fell victim to the weather and to the evenly matched sides on the day. Possession was sacrificed in order to go long and win territory, with biblical wind and rain eliminating short passing moves and driving up the foul count. Goddard, Ben Dempsey and substitute Max Kretzschmar all picked up yellows in a fifteen-minute spell, with Kandi lucky not to see the same for a messy aerial foul on Josh Casey.
With that said, it was the Cards who began to wrestle some sort of control of the game. Barring a dangerous header from Whittingham, Aldershot wouldnâ€™t enjoy a shot in anger in the last fifteen minutes of the tie.
And then we experienced one of those bizarre, slightly surreal FA Cup moments. A long ball from midfield picked out Max Kretzschmar on the right wing, just about ahead of his marker and attempting to burst in on goal. His headed touch, trying to bring the ball down in front of him, was clearly too close to the goalkeeperâ€¦ only for both Mitch Walker to slip, and the ball to stick in the soaked turf. Walker half-rose to his feet, only to slip for a second time, and Kretzschmar was able to bullet his finish past the sprawling keeper as he attempted to recover. 1-2
Having dominated the early periods of the game only to find it slipping away from them at the death, Aldershot didnâ€™t really recover. The introduction of Toby Edser threatened a disappointing narrative for Woking fans, but the midfielder contributed little more than a cheap yellow card with moments to go; fellow sub Franck Nouble, who terrorised some defences in pre-season, was introduced as an outball on the left wing but barely managed a touch.
In an empty stadium, the final whistle brought audible screams of delight from the Woking players, and a session of â€˜handbagsâ€™ between Woking and Aldershot players and staff that absolutely represented a breach of social distancing. But thatâ€™s not what the tie will be remembered for; rather, it represents a milestone for a Woking team that, under Alan Dowson, has consistently improved and developed. The first defeat of local rivals in almost five years is indicative of that.
13 Craig Ross; 19 Tyler Reid, 2 Jack Cook, 6 Saul Shotton, 3 Josh Casey Â©; 4 Charlie Cooper, 18 Ben Dempsey, 8 Kane Ferdinand; 20 Malachi Napa (John Goddard 23â€™), 11 Matt Jarvis (Max Kretzschmar 60â€™), 25 Josh Davison (Slavi Spasov 84â€™)
7 Dave Tarpey, 12 Nathan Collier, 21 Tommy Block, 31 Mark Smith
Davison 44â€™, Kretzschmar 77â€™
Goddard 47â€™, Dempsey 59â€™, Kretzschmar 65â€™, Spasov 84â€™
1 Mitch Walker; 25 Shadrach Ogie, 4 Jamie Sendles-White, 6 Kodi Lyons-Foster, 2 George Fowler; 7 James Rowe (Toby Edser 82â€™), 8 Josh Rees, 12 Alfy Whittingham, 27 Craig Tanner (Joel Nouble 84â€™), 9 Mo Bettamer; 44 Ross McCormack (Chike Kandi 40â€™)
13 Ryan Hall, 18 Reece Wylie, 23 Killian Colombie, 29 Joe Rabbetts
Lyons-Foster 84â€™, Edser 88â€™
Man of the Match: Josh Davison
. The debutant forward was a hard-working outlet for Woking at all times, winning headers he had no right to win, stealing balls from the toes of his marker and slotting home a superb equaliser borne out of hard work and composure.