Boz's Fruit & Veg

Murtagh provides vital win

Glen Harrington
10:02pm, Wed 9th Feb 2011
Woking 2 St. Albans City 0
Blue Square Bet South
9th February 2011

A Kieran Murtagh-inspired Woking provided a strong response to Saturday’s FA Trophy disappointment against Salisbury with a comfortable 2-0 victory against bottom-of-the-table St. Albans City, Moses Ademola joining the loan signing on the score-sheet.

In terms of team news, Cards’ boss Gary Hill started with three changes from the weekend – the injured Dave Gilroy missing out, replaced by Ricky Anane, and the previously cup-tied Reiss Noel and Sam Hurrell returning in place of Alan Inns and Jerome Maledon. The decision to play Anane in his favoured right wing position also meant that Ademola was given the duty of supporting Elvis Hammond up front in a 4-4-2 formation.

Visitors St Albans, ridden by debt and having just suffered a points deduction which placed them at the bottom of the league table, arrived in understandably low spirits, a feeling not helped when top scorer Inih Effiong was declared only fit enough to make the bench. This left space for ex-Card Kyle Vassell, on loan from Brentford, who managed just 45 minutes in a red and white shirt, to try and show the Woking fans just what they had been missing.

The Cards, in front of an extremely sparse crowd, immediately went about trying to make amends for their Trophy exit, flooding forward as the visitors started nervously, the first chance coming after just two minutes when Mark Ricketts’s chip over the top of the defence was successfully chased by Hammond. Having done well in finding himself space, it was disappointing to see the Ghanaian fire over.

The opportunities continued to come for the hosts as Ademola’s pull-back across the area was met late by a surging run from Ricketts, only for the skipper to mis-hit his shot high in the air. Minutes later and Kieran Murtagh turned neatly, laying off to allow Aswad Thomas to shoot over. This was before captain Ricketts was again involved, bursting into the box, only to be denied by an excellent saving tackle from Robert Magwood.

With the goal seemingly inevitable, it was perhaps surprising to see City, after an extremely shaky 15 minutes, begin to grow in the game and, with the help of giant centre half Ben Martin, begin to look more solid defensively.

It was therefore the Cards who were left frustrated until the end of the half, the visitors coming closest to a goal when first half substitute Effiong, despite looking far from one hundred percent fit, shot just wide of the top right-hand corner – an injured Kyle Vassell replaced, having this time managed only 41 minutes at Kingfield. He may be beginning to dislike this ground.

Half-time: Woking 0 St. Albans City 0

No doubt fresh from enduring a team-talk from a highly frustrated Gary Hill and Steve Thompson, the Woking players emerged rejuvenated in the second half, looking more like the team of the opening stages.

Six minutes in and the goal, which at one stage looked only moments away, finally did come, although it took a rather awkward effort from Ademola to get past veteran keeper Paul Bastock. Cutting inside from the left wing, Moses quickly found himself on the edge of the six-yard box, Hammond and co screaming for the pass in the middle. With the keeper obviously also expecting the pull-back it was a surprise to one and all as Ademola appeared to slice his cross, the ball instead sneaking in at the near post. A momentary silence around Kingfield before everyone eventually seemed to realise what had happened and Ademola promptly mobbed by his gleeful team-mates.

Despite Ademola’s and Anane’s best attempts to tackle each other when the ball dropped mid-pitch the Cards saw out the remainder of the game in relative comfort, the Saints not helped by Effiong becoming the second striker to limp off, having lasted just 27 minutes either side of the interval.

Woking also made their own changes, anticipation greeting the arrival of Academy star Ollie Palmer, who immediately set about making a nuisance of himself with his strong physical presence.

With Palmer having twice come close, it was Man-of-the-Match Kieran Murtagh who belatedly made the game safe twelve minutes from time. Striding forward from the half-way line, he did well to set away the pace of Anane down the right. Looking up, Anane cut back inside and presented the ball back to Murtagh who, cool as anything, curled the ball delightfully past Bastock, and into the bottom left corner.

The Cards perhaps should have turned a straightforward night into an emphatic victory when, just before the final whistle, Joe McNerney’s free-kick, flicked on by Palmer, was headed towards goal by fellow substitute Craig Faulconbridge – Bastock on hand to prevent an embarrassment for a team who would have felt hard done by losing by three. I can only wish St Albans all the best in the coming months as they look to recover from a tough year both on and off the pitch.

So, without being spectacular, the Cards both improved and got the three points desperately needed to help kick-start a faltering league campaign back into gear. With a second successive league victory, Woking now move into ninth place, at the head of a chasing pack desperate to make up ground on a top eight that may otherwise cut away in pursuit of the play-off places.

Woking now leads a group of six teams separated by just three points, a group which includes our next two opponents: Bishop’s Stortford (14th) and Staines Town (12th). It is with this in mind that the Cards must look to take maximum points from their upcoming games in an effort to catch those above, the first of whom are Dover Athletic (7 points above with a game in hand).

More positively, only one team above the Cards has played fewer games and there is still plenty of time left in the season for Woking to make up the lost ground. That is if, of course, they can find the sort of consistency that saw them scrape fifth place last year. Although some doubters may be turning their attentions to the future, it is worth remembering that this season is definitely not over yet!

Woking: Andrew Little, Reiss Noel, Aswad Thomas, Mark Ricketts, Joe McNerney, Adam Doyle, Ricky Anane, Kieran Murtagh, Moses Ademola, Elvis Hammond (Craig Faulconbridge 82), Sam Hurrell (Ollie Palmer 67).

Unused Subs: Alan Inns, Jerome Maledon, Matt Pegler.

Goals: Ademola 51, Murtagh 78.

Bookings: None

St. Albans City: Paul Bastock, David Deeney, Peter Smith, Jake Reeves, Ben Martin, Adam Everitt, James Fisher, Robert Magwood, Kyle Vassell (Inih Effiong 41 (Mark Peters 68)), Dom Petrucci, Sean Shields (Jamie O’Donoghue 66).

Unused Subs: Ross Dedman, Adam Martin.

Goals: None

Bookings: None

MOTM: Kieran Murtagh – An excellent midfield display after a nervy start, calm and skilful performance in possession, capping his night with a great goal.

Attendance: 690

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