Cards again frustrated by a familiar result
11:31pm, Sat 27th Nov 2010
Woking 2 Dartford 2
Blue Square Bet South
27th November 2010
The Cards' long wait for a home league win will continue into December after yet another Kingfield stalemate, this time against Blue-Square-South new boys Dartford.
Manager Graham Baker came into the game now without Francis Quarm and Ola Sogbanmu, both on loan at Kingstonian, but still with just one change to the starting line-up – Craig Faulconbridge returning in place of Jerome Maledon and slotting into a more traditional 4-4-2 formation.
Things did not start well for the Cards, and they appeared unsettled by Dartford’s physical approach as, for 20 minutes, an animated Mark Ricketts desperately attempted to reorganise his troops – the visitors again and again scything through the Woking back-line. The goal came seven minutes in, a hopeful ball forward from Michael Shinn finding Ryan Hayes in oceans of space down the right and, despite a heavy first touch, he pulled off the most delicate of lobs to leave Andy Little a mere bystander.
The early chances continued to come for the Darts as George Purcell, on loan from Blue-Square-Premier side York City, in particular continued to threaten. First, Purcell’s ball across the box looking for Carl Rook was well intercepted by Little, before Rook again looked to go through one-on-one, only to mis-control the ball at the vital moment.
In order to wake themselves up the hosts desperately needed a moment of inspiration or a huge slice of luck. They got both. As the ball bobbled around inside the Dartford penalty area, the ever-determined Elvis Hammond hopefully stretched out towards a scrum of anxious defenders, his touch somehow enough to deflect the ball sluggishly into the corner of the net.
The goal had precisely the desired effect, and for a short time the Cards gave a glimpse of the side that had run League One Brighton so close in the FA Cup. Hammond, as always, looked threatening, and the addition of Faulconbridge really looked to give an extra option, the big man winning nearly everything aimed towards him in the air. The pace of Moses Ademola and Jerome Federico, following a switch of flanks, also started to cause problems, as for the first time the visitors unmistakably withdrew into their shell.
As the end of the half drew near, the Darts appeared desperate for the half-time whistle, Ademola cutting inside and knocking the ball neatly across the area for Federico to go close. A minute into stoppage time and the Cards deservedly took the lead, with first of all Federico and Ricky Anane doing well simply to keep the ball in play. Anane then found some rare time and space to deliver a pin-point cross, a flicked header from Craig Faulconbridge nestling nicely into the corner.
Half-time: Woking 2 Dartford 1
Unfortunately for the Cards, they were forced into a half-time change, losing Jerome Federico, who was replaced by holding man Jerome Maledon. This in turn appeared to disrupt the shape and rhythm of the hosts, with no obvious left-sided player remaining to support full back Aswad Thomas.
While the Woking players were still attempting to digest the overhaul to their system, Dartford struck back. George Purcell collected the ball on the right-hand edge of the area and, seeing Andy Little marginally off his line, produced a stunning half-volley which left the keeper with absolutely no chance, dipping exquisitely into the goal.
With the scores once again level, the game settled down into a scrappy midfield battle. The Cards belatedly returned to the 4-3-3 formation which had become commonplace in the last couple of ties but, still, neither side looked likely to accumulate a winner - Craig Faulconbridge’s volley, and a couple of half-chances for Darts' substitute Charlie Sherringham the closest to a fifth goal.
The little flair shown in the second half was, however, produced by players in red and white, Lee Sawyer’s passing ability standing out as the main threat, even if his temper flared once too often for the referee’s liking. Moses Ademola also continued his inconsistent streak of form apparent in recent weeks, combining moments of magic with patches of high frustration. He did at least go out on a high today, a smart run and cross finding Maledon in the area, the midfielder's shot on the turn only narrowly wide; Dave Gilroy coming on moments later.
In the end the Cards will at least be grateful they were able to hang onto a fourth successive league draw. Grateful, if only due to Dartford’s inability to convert a winner, with Sheringham’s chipped through ball finding George Purcell, who was denied only by a superb saving tackle from Anane.
Two minutes later and Purcell again found himself with time to look up in the area but, for the umpteenth time, the striker put the ball into the stands. Into stoppage time and a goalmouth scramble again came agonisingly close to finding the busy Sheringham. Similar to Hammond’s bizarre goal earlier in the day, the substitute stretched a leg into a mass of bodies, getting the necessary touch goalwards, only to see his effort brilliantly saved by the sprawling Little.
So, a mixed bag of feelings for the Cards, who are unlikely ever to have been more frustrated with a nine-match unbeaten run in all competitions, which now stretches back to mid-October. Woking move up a place to 13th in the table and lie seven points off the play-off places. Although this could arguably be put down to a variety of postponements and FA Cup clashes, it is testament that a good run of form in this league can easily see a side rise into the top five.
Notably, however, the Cup results included next week’s opponents, Dover Athletic, who overcame Aldershot by two goals to nil. Despite there not being too many Cards fans who will begrudge them this fantastic result over our own local rivals, we will all just have to hope that Baker’s men are well prepared for their upcoming trip to Crabble. Woking, of course, already have a strong record there, the last 18 months producing three games without defeat, including an FA Trophy win seven days ago.
Woking: Andrew Little, Ricky Anane, Aswad Thomas, Mark Ricketts, Joe McNerney, Adam Doyle, Moses Ademola (Dave Gilroy 77), Lee Sawyer, Craig Faulconbridge, Elvis Hammond, Jerome Federico (Jerome Maledon 46).
Unused subs: Daniel Sintim, Charlie Turnbull, Matt Pegler.
Goals: Hammond 21, Faulconbridge 45.
Bookings: Sawyer 83.
Dartford: Andy Young, Joe Bruce, Tom Bonner, Tom Champion, Paul Goodacre, Michael Shinn, Ryan Hayes (Danny Harris 72), Lee Burns, Carl Rook (Charlie Sheringham 62) , George Purcell, Elliot Bradbrook.
Unused subs: Billy Burgess, James White, Adam Burchell.
Goals: Hayes 7, Purcell 50.
MOTM: Lee Sawyer – Tireless effort in midfield, with an array of neat passes in an otherwise scrappy affair.