Cards dominate but gain only a point

Brian Caffarey
8:44pm, Sat 6th Mar 2010
Woking 0 Staines Town 0
6 March 2010

The Cards went into this match without a win in their last five league games, including the humbling 5-0 reverse at the hands of Welling United in their previous home game. Having stopped the rot with a 1-1 draw at Dorchester last Saturday, Graham Baker will no doubt have been praying that his side could produce another solid display. In fact, the Cards dominated the game from start to finish and, after a soporific first half, were very unlucky not to take all three points after the break, with MOTM Jamie Hand especially unfortunate to see his fine, low drive bounce out from the inside of the post midway through the second half.

In the absence of the injured Ross Worner, Matt Pegler made his first league start between the posts and could not really have had an easier afternoon, with the visitors, missing Ali Chaaban and Elliot Onochie, offering no threat up front – although credit must also be given to the Woking defence, which offered excellent protection to their rookie keeper. The back four of Sinclair, Hutchinson, Boardman and Thomas were also well shielded, in turn, by the central midfield pairing of Hand and Ricketts. Sam Sloma and Harry Arter were on the flanks, with the Palace loan pair of Matthew Wright and the bustling Nathaniel Pinney up front.

The first goalmouth action came in the 9th minute after the Staines defence had conceded one of the many free-kicks awarded against them. Hutchinson dived low to glance Arter’s free-kick goalwards but it hit the Staines keeper, Wells, who then held it safely. The game continued to potter along rather tamely until the next shot on goal in the 19th minute, with Hand not connecting properly from a free-kick in a central position, the ball dribbling through to Wells.

The only venomous shot of the half came in the 25th minute when Pinney did well to out-muscle his marker down the right, nod the ball on and then crash it, on the volley, beyond the keeper but also just beyond the far post.

The rest of the half contained little of note. Hand, catching the eye with some determined play and useful distribution, shot comfortably wide and Arter tried an over-ambitious chip, which never looked like troubling Wells. But it was no surprise at all to go into the break at 0-0.

Half-time: Woking 0 Staines Town 0

There were hints as the second half got underway that it might be a little livelier than the first and, indeed, three minutes in, the visitors actually managed a shot on goal, the ball arrowing comfortably into Pegler’s midriff. Initially, though, the main focus was on whether Arter, having picked up his customary booking – this time perhaps unluckily - would talk himself into a red card as he expostulated a little too strongly for the referee’s liking following some rough treatment from the Staines defenders.

It was Arter who nearly benefited from a deflection from his free-kick in the 52nd minute as the ball spun off the wall, narrowly missing the post. And it was Arter again, now much more prominent than in the first half, who broke out of defence and raced through the middle. Having narrowly avoided colliding with Pinney, he was bundled over for yet another free-kick. Wells was fortunate to be able to grab the ball at the second attempt after he had fumbled Sloma’s kick.

By the middle of the half the Cards were beginning to build up some genuine attacking momentum, although it was still not easy to see where a goal might come from. Pinney and Arter looked the most likely source, however, and in the 64th minute the two combined, with the midfielder bursting through onto Pinney’s pass and hitting a fine effort just wide of Wells’s far post.

Most of the Leslie Gosden Stand thought that Woking’s – by now deserved – winner had come in the 71st minute. Pinney did well to beat the keeper to a ball out right. As it was played back in, Hand hit a first-time, low drive, which slammed against the inside of the far post, only to ricochet away to safety.

The pressure on the visitors’ defence also manifested itself in the dismissal of Sterling, booked for the second time for an over-robust challenge on Arter. The Cards continued to press, with some decent crosses coming in from Sinclair and Sloma, a header from Boardman and a blocked effort from Arter. Hand was again on target with a curling shot but it was easily taken by Wells. The keeper was luckier a minute later as he fumbled Thomas’s free-kick but, once again, he was able to pounce on the loose ball before a Woking player could take advantage.

By now Graham Baker had brought on Tamer Tuna for Arter, but the Charlton player had to wait a long time for his first meaningful touch. First, though, there was an anxious moment at the other end as Staines lifted a free-kick narrowly over Pegler’s bar. The final throw of the dice saw Delano Sam-Yorke take Wright’s place but it was Sloma who had the last chance of glory. In injury time Tuna’s deft pass created space out left but Sloma’s shot went wide of the far post, with several of his colleagues not quite advanced enough to intervene with a decisive foot.

It was disappointing not to gain all three points from this game against a Staines side who seemed content just to sit back and absorb pressure. It’s hard to believe that they won’t present more of a threat at Wheatsheaf Park next Saturday and the Cards might live to regret not pressing home their advantage today.

Woking: Matt Pegler, Tony Sinclair, Aswad Thomas, Mark Ricketts, Tom Hutchinson, Jon Boardman, Harry Arter (Tamer Tuna, 82), Jamie Hand, Matthew Wright (Delano Sam-Yorke, 89), Nathaniel Pinney, Sam Sloma

Unused subs: Nicky Nicolau, Moses Ademola. Giuseppe Sole
Booked: Harry Arter

Sponsors’ MOTM: Jamie Hand (pictured)

Attendance: 1419

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