Boz's Fruit & Veg

Woking Playing the Wright Stuff

Glen Harrington
9:32pm, Fri 1st Jan 2010
Woking 2 Havant and Waterlooville 0
1st January 2010

On a chilly New Year’s afternoon Woking were finally able to shrug off the shackles of the usual long ball game plan and overpower opposition, Havant and Waterlooville, with some slick, passing football. Tension was rife at the start of the match after a fiery affair between the two teams just six days earlier, ending in nine-man Woking coming away with a 1-1 draw.

It was Havant who started the game brightest, with ex-Cards striker Manny Williams looking lively with a good turn of pace. It was then Williams who produced the first chance of the game, shooting wide inside the first minute.

However, Havant were unable to maintain either possession or pressure and this allowed Woking to come into their own. After four minutes Harry Arter fed the flying Aswad Thomas down the left, whose flat cross was fired just wide by Nathaniel Pinney in a strong flowing move.

The home team continued to press and fashioned several half chances as they looked for a way through a usually solid Havant back line. The goal came on the quarter-hour mark. With defender Sam Pearce off the field receiving treatment, the visitors were made to pay for being a man short at the back. An excellent parry from goalkeeper Aaron Howe left the ball at the feet of Giuseppe Sole. Looking certain to score, the ball was instead played back by Sole across the goal line. Just in time Matthew Wright (pictured) arrived to smash the ball into the empty net from close range, and save his teammates’ blushes.

Woking continued to dominate the majority of possession following Wright’s breakthrough. Seemingly having regained the back four security that has been recently lacking, Havant were only able to fashion small chances without troubling keeper Ross Worner.

Meanwhile, midfield masters Arter and Sole continued to find openings, producing a continuing flow of chances. Only Howe’s brilliance in goal denied first Pinney, diving low to his right, and then smothering Sole’s cross-box shot with Ademola and Wright looming.

Despite looking a vast improvement on the team that struggled to overcome relegation candidates, Weston-super-Mare, four days earlier, the Cards seem to have developed an unwelcome habit of surrendering cheap goals. Midway through the first half the umpteenth long throw from Jon McDonald, which had previously been comfortably dealt with, was flicked onto the hands of Tom Hutchinson for a clear penalty. Up stepped Luke Nightingale. The penalty was delayed as Hutchinson received a booking and the home support did its best to put off the Havant striker.

Seconds later it was Nightingale’s turn to hang his head in shame as he fired his penalty high over the bar and half way up the Leslie Gosden Stand. A truly terrible effort as three-quarters of the ground exploded with delight.

Spurred on by their opposition’s misfortune, Woking pressed forward once again. Despite constant heckling from the Cards fans for his part in the controversial dismissal of Nathaniel Pinney on Boxing Day it was Howe who kept his side in the game with two more good saves before the end of the half.

Half-time: Woking 1 Havant and Waterlooville 0

Manager Shaun Gale sent his disappointing Havant side out early before the second half. Nevertheless, they continued to struggle, with few chances being created. McDonald’s monstrous throws remained the only major threat. However, these were dealt with expertly by experienced and ever-reliable centre half pair Hutchinson and skipper Boardman.

Only on the hour mark was Ross Worner finally forced into a save as he narrowed the angle quickly to deny Steven Walker as he charged through one-on-one, pushing the ball back off the striker’s toes for a goal-kick.

Havant’s misery was compounded a minute later by another flowing Cardinal move. Moses Ademola’s perfectly-floated cross was met by the head of Matthew Wright, a mirror image of his two goals in the previous game. This time, however, Howe completed a fantastic acrobatic save, only to see the ball drop at the back post for Giuseppe Sole to knock home a simple headed tap-in and double the advantage.

Shortly after, in possibly his last game for the club before returning to Crystal Palace, Matthew Wright was replaced by debutant Jamie Slabber to loud applause throughout the ground - his four goals in seven games an excellent contribution.

Slabber almost introduced himself with a goal minutes later. Another good save from Howe rebounded, only for the new signing to fire just over.

Throughout the closing stages Woking looked far the more likely to find the next goal, with Arter and ‘man of the match’ Sole full of running throughout. Havant grew increasingly frustrated at their own inability to keep the ball, instead resulting to long pumps up the field from the back four, which were, as ever, easily dealt with.

At the final whistle the displeasure of the opposition supporters was clear as their side was, slightly harshly, booed from the field. However, this could not take away from a both confident and efficient performance from Woking where the three points never really looked in doubt. But for an outstanding goalkeeping performance from ex-Academy keeper Aaron Howe there might have been several more goals.

All in all, the Cards should have every right to be happy with a Christmas period of 7 points out of 9 and a move up to second place in the league!

Woking: Ross Worner, Tony Sinclair, Aswad Thomas, Mark Ricketts, Tom Hutchinson, Jon Boardman, Moses Ademola (Luke Medley, 75), Harry Arter, Matthew Wright (Jamie Slabber, 65), Nathaniel Pinney, Giuseppe Sole (Sam Sloma, 83).
Unused Subs: Ricky Anane, Jerome Maledon
Goals: Wright (15), Sole (61)
Booked: Hutchinson, Wright, Slabber
Man of the Match: Sole
Attendance: 1,703

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