Cards falter again

Brian Caffarey
8:41pm, Sat 6th Feb 2010
Woking 0 Thurrock 1
6 February 2010

On a day when the Woking faithful – together with many representatives of non-League football – gathered at Kingfield to celebrate the life of Phil Ledger, it was a shame that the Cards were unable to produce the kind of display that would have brought a smile to his face. It was not for want of trying on the part of Graham Baker’s side but, once again, they failed to take their chances when on top and, like last Saturday at Braintree, were denied even a share of the points by a superb goal on the counter-attack.

The afternoon began with an impeccably-observed minute’s silence in memory of ‘Mr Woking’ on an afternoon which had some unaccustomed warmth to it before the sun went down.

Although, surprisingly, Mark Ricketts’s name figured on the team sheet, it was announced shortly before kick-off that, as expected, Jerome Maledon would take the injured midfielder’s place. Jamie Slabber paired Matthew Wright up front, with Moses Ademola dropping to the bench, and Gez Sole enjoying a fairly free role in midfield.
It was Sole who fired in the first real shot on goal in the 8th minute but, not for the last time this afternoon, the loose ball, following the keeper’s parry, wasn’t gobbled up, with Jamie Slabber nearest but on the ground.

The visitors responded with a turn and shot into Ross Worner’s midriff from Fola Oronolishe and then threatened as the ball was scrambled away near the post. But, although Thurrock were clearly looking to break quickly on the counter-attack, the defence looked reasonably comfortable at this stage in spite of the relative lack of pace of Jon Boardman and Tom Hutchinson.

It was Sole again, with two blocked shots, who tested the visitors’ defence before a Wright flick-on and a nicely-weighted pass from Nicky Nicolau nearly opened the way for Slabber, but the Cards’ new signing, still lacking match fitness, didn’t have quite enough pace to take advantage. Nicolau was the next to be foiled after Sole and Maledon had combined to give him a sight of goal near the far post but the extra touch – something the Cards attackers seemed to want all afternoon – allowed time for a block. The lively Harry Arter saw two shots blocked from the edge of the area before Wright spurned a presentable chance, shooting wide of the post after a good interchange with Sole.

Around the half-hour mark the visitors came more into the game but only threatened from a succession of free-kicks, most of which allowed Worner to demonstrate his prowess at plucking crosses out of the air. At the other end, a rebound seemed to give Slabber the chance to lob the advancing Thurrock keeper but he chose to try to make space to his right and was then foiled.

As half-time approached the Cards piled on the pressure in a final attempt to grab the lead their degree of possession certainly merited. Harry Arter, with some superb harrying and closing down, opened the way for a stinging shot from Sole, which the keeper did well to get his finger tips to but, once more, the Thurrock defence cleared their lines. From a Nicolau corner the keeper parried Aswad Thomas’s header. More tenacious play from Arter then enabled Wright to force his way into the right of the area but, instead of shooting, he attempted to cross the ball to his strike partner at the far post, with Slabber unable to make contact.

The Cards were then made to pay for their lack of clinical finishing as Thurrock scored with a classic counter-attack. The ball was played out to the right flank and a tremendous cross to the far post saw Oronolishe leaping like the proverbial salmon to thump the ball inside the angle of post and crossbar, with Worner helpless.

Half-time: Woking 0 Thurrock 1

The Cards began the second period with a flurry of attacks, giving confidence that the visitors’ lead would quickly be cancelled out, with Thomas glancing a header wide before going down in the box: the first of three penalty ‘shouts’ waved away in this half. But the attacking momentum soon faded and the successive substitutions which Graham Baker made seemed to make no positive impact. The first, Ricky Anane’s substitution for Sole, was greeted with much disapproval by the home crowd and the match sponsors rubbed this in by awarding Sole the ‘man of the match’ award.

More enterprising play by Arter almost brought an opening before Slabber, in another penalty appeal, was thwarted as he attempted to fire past the keeper.

Worner had a moment of madness, throwing the ball straight to an opposing player. Fortunately, some frantic defending prevented Thurrock from doubling their lead: something which they seemed increasingly likely to do as the half progressed, as the Woking defence became more and more stretched. It probably reflected too the Essex side’s growing awareness that their misfiring opponents did not look like scoring, as the home side’s game increasingly stuttered, with misplaced passes and a general lack of penetration.
There were concerted shouts for a penalty as Moses Ademola was knocked over and frustration increased as a quick Anane break down the right was wasted through indecision.

Things went from bad to worse in the closing stages as Anane, Sinclair and Arter were booked. The Cards resorted to throwing high balls towards Tom Hutchinson but either the keeper or the lumbering but effective Rob Swaine dealt fairly comfortably with most of them and when Woking got the odd sight of goal they wanted too much time or another touch to set themselves up. So, the game ended with the home side looking pretty disjointed and poorer than at any time in the match.

Woking: Ross Worner, Tony Sinclair, Aswad Thomas, Jerome Maledon, Tom Hutchinson, Jon Boardman, Giuseppe Sole (Ricky Anane, 57), Harry Arter, Matthew Wright (Moses Ademola, 72), Jamie Slabber (Delano Sam-Yorke, 64) , Nicky Nicolau

Unused subs: Joe McNerney, Billy Hussey

Booked: Ricky Anane, Tony Sinclair, Harry Arter

Sponsor’s MOTM: Giuseppe Sole (pictured)

Attendance: 1366

Cards’ next home league game: Woking v Welling United , 3pm on Saturday 20 February 2010

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