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Cards' run comes to an abrupt end

Glen Harrington
10:42pm, Sat 8th Jan 2011
Woking 0 Basingstoke Town 1
Blue Square Bet South
8th January 2010

Woking were brought crashing back down to earth this afternoon as Basingstoke Town deservedly ended the Cards' unbeaten run, which had stretched back as far as 16 October. A second-half goal from Matt Warner separated the teams, with the Cards only having keeper Andy Little to thank for keeping them in it right to the death.

Graham Baker came into the game with two changes from the relatively comfortable victory over Boreham Wood, skipper Mark Ricketts and Reiss Noel both returning from illness in place of Aswad Thomas and, perhaps surprisingly, Joe McNerney.

The Cards started brightly, Elvis Hammond weaving his way down the left before Lee Sawyer was able to switch play for Ricky Anane. The aggressive wing-back confidently cut back inside and did well to pick out the diving head of Craig Faulconbridge who was only to be denied by Dragons' keeper Simon Locke. A minute later and it was the turn of Joe Keehan, his shot from the edge of the area again neatly blocked by debutant Locke, recently signed on a one-month loan from Reading.

Three minutes gone and, debatably, this was about as good as it got for the Cards, at least in an attacking sense, and the home side quickly got themselves back into the game with David Pratt shooting wide and Matt Warner rippling the side-netting all inside the opening ten minutes.

There was little else to speak of in a half dominated by poor passing and slip-ups from both sides, especially in midfield. It was a situation not at all helped by a bumpy, muddy surface, no doubt caused by the recent, torrential rain, which severely hampered the flashes of quality that in particular Hammond, Sawyer and Ricketts attempted to show. However, it was Andy Little who kept out the half’s best effort from Jide Ogunbote, after ex-Card Matt Pattison somehow missed the ball all together from six yards with the goal at his mercy.

Half-time: Woking 0 Basingstoke Town 0

Graham Baker, seemingly and understandably frustrated by his team’s below-par first half performance, rang the changes at the break, bringing on both Moses Ademola and Aswad Thomas from the bench. With Hammond and Doyle coming off, it also meant a change of formation, reverting back to 4-5-1, with Inns and Noel striking up an untried partnership at the back. Thomas and Anane returned to the more traditional full-back roles behind Hurrell and Ademola respectively while it was left to Keehan to link up the play with lone front man Faulconbridge.

In a match littered with mistakes, where neither team was able to gain a visible foothold, it should have come as no surprise that the game’s defining moment came from a mistake. Ricky Anane was the unlucky culprit as he allowed the ball to bounce inside the area, over his head and to the feet of Warner who had all the time in the world to tuck the ball past Little.

It was a goal the Cards just never recovered from and, if anything, Basingstoke looked more likely to find a second as the visitors were forced to push more men forward in search of the equaliser. Twice Woking again had Little (pictured) to thank for keeping them in the game. First, following a weak volley from Ademola, the Dragons broke at speed and, with Pratt clean through, the Cards' number one pulled off a fantastic smothering save. It was a scenario almost precisely repeated twenty minutes later when he denied Warner, who time and again was proving a real danger man down the left, even finding the time to get his shot away when one-on-one.

The Cards' frustration was evident as an almost endless variety of decisions, offsides and fouls which seemed never to go their way, left them feeling hard done by. Twice players in red and white found themselves in the book for dissent and it was substitute Dave Gilroy who came closest to a goal, volleying over when under pressure from the Basingstoke man-of-the-match and captain Ross Adams.

In the end, a thoroughly disappointing end to what has been an extremely impressive two and a half months for the Cards. Indeed, since their last defeat, also 1-0 away, on this occasion at Staines, this was a side that had accumulated eight games unbeaten in the league – including tough matches with table-topping Chelmsford and Bromley – as well as three cup wins and two wonderful showings against League One Brighton & Hove Albion, who today advanced to the fourth round of the FA Cup.

The Cards' next game sees them travel to Dover, a side they have already beaten four times in the last 18 months and who themselves suffered defeat today, losing their third round cup tie at Huddersfield. A big performance at Crabble will leave today’s defeat a distant memory before another exciting tie at AFC Wimbledon, where Woking will hope to right the wrongs of a 4-0 pre-season deficit. One to forget today, I’m afraid.

Woking: Andrew Little, Ricky Anane, Reiss Noel, Mark Ricketts, Alan Inns, Adam Doyle (Moses Ademola 46), Joe Keehan (Dave Gilroy 81), Lee Sawyer, Craig Faulconbridge, Elvis Hammond (Aswad Thomas 46), Sam Hurrell.

Unused Subs: Joe McNerney, Anson Cousins.

Bookings: Inns 11, Ademola 87, Gilroy 90.

Basingstoke Town: Simon Locke, Rob Rice, Jay Gasson, Ross Adams, Callum Reynolds, Stuart Lake, Nathan Smart, Jide Ogunbote, David Pratt, Matt Pattison, Matt Warner.

Unused Subs: Greg Draper, Tom Williamson, Jahson Downes, Steve Laidler, Grant Powell.

Goals: Warner 53.

Bookings: Lake 57.

MOTM: Andy Little – The only man completely faultless in Woking’s defeat; could do nothing about the goal and made two top-class saves to keep his side in it.

Attendance: 604

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