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Heads above the rest

3rd April 2010

Heads above the rest Woking 2 Lewes 0
3 April 2010

By Glen Harrington

Graham Baker surprised many with his team selection today in a ‘must win’ game. Despite Harry Arter’s return from injury there was no place for him or midfield partner Mark Ricketts, who was rested. Jon Boardman’s ‘come back’ was also delayed as he had to settle for a place on the bench, Monday’s equally important game away at Eastleigh obviously on the Cards’ mind. These changes resulted in a rare start for Nicky Nicolau and an untried central pairing of Giuseppe Sole and Jerome Maledon.

Visitors Lewes, seemingly certainties for a second successive relegation, appeared boosted by last week’s surprise win over Welling. They started the game in a relatively assured manner, employing an ambitious high line in defence, looking for the long ball over the top at every opportunity.

However, it was the home side that had the first real opportunity ten minutes in. The raw pace of Ricky Anane allowed the full back to scamper down the touchline and produce an excellent whipped cross. Despite their best efforts neither Nathaniel Pinney nor Craig Faulconbridge could get the necessary touch.

Woking began to get into their stride soon after, looking to show their resurgent home form once more. Moses Ademola found himself in acres of space at the back post, only to see his effort well saved by Lewes keeper Rickki Banks. Less than a minute later Anane weaved his way through the defence to the edge of the area before a weak shot produced a simple save.

On 20 minutes the goal arrived. Following a nervous hacked clearance, the Cards saw their opportunity to pack the penalty area for a set piece. The delivery from Nicolau was pin-point and it was left to Faulconbridge (pictured), six yards out, to crash home the header at the back post.

The game quietened as the visitors looked for an unlikely route back into contention, Tom Hutchinson ever reliable, snuffing out any Lewes attack.

The Cards were unlucky not to double their advantage. First, Ross Worner’s long punt forward over the heads of the defence was latched onto by Pinney whose shot was well saved by Banks’s outstretched foot. Shortly afterwards, more good work from Pinney allowed him to drive the ball across the six yard box. Ademola, again unmarked, skied the ball high over the bar.

The Rooks’ only noteworthy chance of the half came in stoppage time: a goalmouth scramble eventually falling to midfielder Jack Walder who, off balance, scooped the ball over the bar.

Half-Time: Woking 1 Lewes 0

The second half started in a similar vein. With only a single goal advantage, nerves continued to jangle. Worries were not helped by Jerome Maledon’s injury niggle, yet to be shaken off after a first-half knock, and a bench of only four players.

It was not long, though, before the crowd were on their feet as another deadly cross from Nicolau found the head of Faulconbridge. Those seats were returned too in disappointment as Craig was denied a second goal by the linesman’s flag.

Lewes’s respite barely lasted 5 minutes. Ademola, picking the ball up inside his own half, surged forward 50 yards before releasing Pinney down the right. Moses continued his run and gratefully received the ball back on the edge of the area. His cross was, almost predictably, met by the head of Faulconbridge, and this time it did count!

As the Cards, now two to the good, relaxed, so did the game, Anane coming closest amidst a flurry of substitutions – teeing himself up before firing just wide. This also allowed Baker to rest further key players, and welcome others back to full fitness. Jon Boardman came on for a tired-looking Tony Sinclair; an exceptional Faulconbridge was replaced by Matthew Wright, and, finally, Ademola swapped with Charlie Moone, having produced a far stronger second half display.

Following another fine save from Banks (by far Lewes’s best player) from Pinney the game wound towards a conclusion, producing a dream scenario for the team and management – an uneventful victory.

There was still time for two comical moments right at the death, foremost Boardman’s aerial back-pass to Worner. Under pressure, and unable to catch the ball, the Cards keeper produced a bicycle-kick style clearance to the amusement of many of those watching. With Rooks’ stopper Banks stranded upfield following the resulting corner, Matthew Wright collected the ball on half way, only to slice his shot close to the corner flagm – everyone bar Pinney, frustrated for much of the afternoon by a fine keeping display, seeing the funny side.

All in all, a satisfying victory which keeps the Cards in the play-off hunt with 6 points, and a game in hand, now the gap to 5th-placed Staines. Maximum points must surely be needed, though, from a relatively kind run-in, if the dream of bouncing straight back up is to be achieved. Monday will hold many answers, one way or the other.

Woking: Ross Worner, Ricky Anane, Aswad Thomas, Nicky Nicolau, Tom Hutchinson, Tony Sinclair (Jon Boardman 78), Moses Ademola (Charlie Moone 84), Jerome Maledon, Craig Faulconbridge (Matthew Wright 69), Nathaniel Pinney, Giuseppe Sole.
Unused Sub: Billy Hussey.
Goals: Faulconbridge 20, 58.
Booked: Anane 26, Faulconbridge 56.
Lewes: Banks, Barness, Sutton, Pearson, Walder (Fraser 64), El-Abd, Wheeler (Hamilton 67), Breach, Keehan, Gradwell (Louis 77), Brinkhurst.
Unused Subs: Royce, Peauroux.
Booked: Pearson 73.
Man of the Match: Faulconbridge
Attendance: 1128

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