Cards suffer from lack of firepower

Brian Caffarey
6:52am, Wed 20th Jan 2010
Oxford United 1 Woking 0
FA Trophy 2nd Round
19 January 2010

The Cards put in a decent performance against a strong Oxford United side but, as some of us had feared beforehand, lacked the cutting edge to take advantage of a team who played a somewhat dangerous ‘holding’ game in the second half, having squandered several excellent chances in the first half to put the game beyond Woking’s reach.

The Cards lined up in a 4-4-2 formation, with Ricky Anane, Tony Sinclair, Jon Boardman and Aswad Thomas at the back; Harry Arter, Jerome Maledon, Mark Ricketts and Nicky Nicolau in midfield; and, in the absence of Jamie Slabber (injured in training), Gez Sole and Moses Ademola up front.

Cutting the train and bus journey too fine, I missed the first five minutes. I am reliably informed that the highlight was a good break and shot by Moses Ademola which was well saved by the home keeper, Clarke.

More Woking pressure down the flanks was spoiled only by poor crosses from Ademola and Harry Arter before Nicky Nicolau – splendidly defying those Woking fans who’d written him off on the basis of a handful of appearances – produced a ‘purple patch’. First, he slid in a pass to Ademola, who took one touch too many and saw his shot smothered by Clarke. He then produced an excellent cross, which Mark Ricketts headed over. Finally, he got in a rasping shot himself, which Clarke touched onto the post and away for a corner.

But the away fans’ optimism was punctured on the quarter-hour mark as the Cards conceded a sloppy goal. Tony Sinclair chose to let a ball, slid into the area, run on past him towards Ross Worner. The young Woking keeper is no slouch but Matt Green got there fractionally ahead of him and got the slightest of touches to divert the ball past Ross and into the net.

Gez Sole nearly levelled the score straightaway as he characteristically turned inside onto his right foot, forcing Clarke to parry smartly for another corner.

The home side then took charge, with their forwards spurning a succession of gilt-edged chances, with the Woking defence looking hesitant in the face of pace and the considerable aerial threat. Matt Green headed wide from a cross. Frannie Green put a shot wide after Jon Boardman had repelled the initial attack. On the half hour mark the Woking defence looked asleep as the Yellows took a quick free-kick, with Alfie Potter sliding the ball beyond the far post, with only Worner to beat. The litany of missed opportunities continued as Frannie Green seized on a through ball and put it wide, whilst Sandwith was allowed a free header from a corner.

With about five minutes to go till half-time, the Cards stepped up a gear, with a penetrating move down their left, with Arter thrashing the ball into the goalmouth and then playing a superb crossfield ball. But Oxford then contrived a miss of almost comical proportions as three forwards – all surprisingly deemed onside from a free-kick – found themselves three-on-one with Worner, only to put the ball wide.

It only remained for decent crosses by Nicolau and Thomas to remind us how different it might have been if the Cards had had just one of the clutch of powerful forwards at Chris Wilder’s disposal.

Half-time: Oxford United 1 Woking 0

It rather looked after the break as though the home side had decided to sit back and let a rather toothless Woking make most of the running, with Wilder no doubt thinking that his profligate forwards would get sufficient chances on the break to kill the game off. And Woking did indeed have a lot of possession, but much of the passing was well in front of the home defence. Early on, though, Sole did well to shoot on the turn as Thomas pulled the ball back into the danger zone.

Woking continued to see a lot of the ball. A couple of attacks saw Sole make a diagonal run across the face of the area but he was unable to produce a threatening cross or shot. Arter, especially impressive in this half, won a free-kick, which Sole took quickly, putting the ball way over the bar as he tried to catch Clarke off his line.

The Cards nearly equalised in bizarre fashion as Arter and Ademola blocked a defender’s attempted clearance in the corner after Clarke had made a hash of a kick. To the keeper’s horror, the ball spun wildly over his head and towards the goal, ending up bouncing off the crossbar and out of play.

With about 20 minutes to go, Graham Baker threw on Delano Sam-Yorke for Ademola but the young Woking forward reacted indecisively to his first couple of touches of the ball. Arter fashioned the next Cards’ attack as he careered upfield from a break out of defence, releasing Nicolau to his left as he reached the Oxford area but Nicolau shot rather wildly and the chance was gone. It was frustrating then to see no one attempting to get on the end of a superb cross from Anane into the six-yard area after he had skipped down the right flank.

The U’s, perhaps sensing belatedly that it was dangerous just to sit on a one-goal lead, then put together several dangerous attacks, which allowed Worner to show what a fine keeper he has become. He and Thomas combined to block the first attack. Worner did even better a minute later as he pulled off an impressive double save, followed by another decisive block.

In a final throw of the dice Graham Baker threw on Joe McNerney up front and Sam Sloma. With 90 minutes up, Woking fans’ hopes were raised as Sam-Yorke was fouled just outside the area. Sole’s effort went narrowly over the bar. Injury time saw Woking go even closer as Thomas headed into Clarke’s hands after a corner had been half-cleared and played back into the six-yard area.

So, a decent performance, with some fine football at times, and a respectable scoreline – thanks in part, though, to Oxford’s wasteful finishing in the first half and their lack of ambition in the second. With a little more firepower and self-belief up front, the Cards might have made Chris Wilder’s side regret both. Graham Baker’s team must now concentrate on their ‘six-pointer’ clash this weekend with Dover Athletic.

Woking : Ross Worner, Ricky Anane (Sam Sloma, 85), Tony Sinclair, Jon Boardman, Aswad Thomas, Harry Arter (Joe McNerney, 85), Jerome Maledon, Mark Ricketts, Nicky Nicolau, Giuseppe Sole, Moses Ademola (Delano Sam-Yorke, 73)

Unused sub: Matt Pegler

My MOTM: Harry Arter (pictured)

Attendance: 1581

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