Woking lose out in extra time

David Holmes and John Moore
11:02pm, Thu 12th May 2011
Farnborough 1 Woking 1 (after extra time)
BSS Play-Off Semi Final, 2nd Leg
Sunday 8th May 2011

Woking's rollercoaster ride, which began in January with the arrival of management team Garry Hill and Steve Thompson, finally ran into the buffers at the Rushmoor Stadium as they fell out of the Blue Square South play-off race on Sunday. Local rivals Farnborough FC finally overcame Woking's stubborn resistance with a deciding goal deep into extra-time to claim a place in Sunday's final against Ebbsfleet.

Woking made one change from the line-up that lost narrowly in the first leg of the play-off with Michael Doughty replacing Bournemouth loanee Lyle Taylor. They also had Ola Sogbanmu, who had been on loan to BSS rivals Boreham Wood for much of the season, on the bench to provide extra firepower, in place of fellow Academy product Ollie Palmer, who, while regularly coming on as a substitute in the latter part of the season had only found the net once in 18 appearances.

Farnborough were forced into changes by injuries to talismanic midfielder Gary Holloway, scorer of the only goal at Kingfield, and right back Jay Conroy, while influential winger Dale Binns returned.

Boro made light of the loss of key personnel, starting the stronger and immediately taking the game to the Cards. Woking's tactics seemed to be to leave Elvis Hammond (pictured) to forage alone in forward areas, a task which he positively relished and performed, as ever, with huge commitment and tenacity, but on this occasion he was often simply outnumbered through lack of support. Although, as the half wore on, Woking began to see more of the ball, they frequently surrendered possession too cheaply and failed to create meaningful opportunities. Their game plan was then further disrupted by an injury to Supporters' Player of the Year, centre back Joe McNerney, who hobbled off to be replaced by the experienced Alan Inns.

Indeed, it took the best part of half an hour before Hammond was put through on the left side of the box by Welsh U/19 teenager Michael Doughty. While Boro's defenders vainly waited for an offside flag that never came, Hammond wriggled free to shoot from a narrow angle but his effort was smothered by Boro keeper, Michael Jordan.

The Cards survived a scare when Boro skipper Steve Robinson rose unchallenged from a corner and powered in a header which fortunately went straight at keeper Andy Little, who was able to palm it away. Doughty then had an ambitious effort from distance that flew over the bar.

With half-time fast approaching, Woking got themselves right back into the tie when the Boro defence failed to deal with a ball over the top from Michael Doughty. Elvis Hammond, as usual, chased the hopeful ball, causing panic and confusion between the Boro keeper and his defence. Michael Jordan, by some metres out of his area, attempted to head the ball away but only succeeded in nodding the ball behind him, leaving Hammond to calmly side-foot into an empty net from just outside the penalty area.

Half time: Farnborough 0 Woking 1

This de facto equaliser from the Cards, right on the stroke of half-time, somewhat unnerved Farnborough and Woking began the second period at a higher tempo and with greater confidence and conviction. It was now their turn to enjoy a greater share of possession and pressure, which, sadly, they failed to convert into clear-cut chances.
One exception occurred when Aswad Thomas set up an excellent chance for Craig Dobson, whose shot lacked power and gave Jordan the opportunity to redeem himself, saving low to his right.

Having absorbed the Cards' period of pressure, Boro had a second wind. The increasingly impressive attacking duo of Michael Malcolm and Bradley Bubb began to cause problems for the tiring Woking defence with their movement and pace on the break. Indeed, Bubb came within a whisker of putting Boro ahead with eight minutes left to play as he hit the post with Little well beaten.

Moments later, Little made an acrobatic save from a Malcolm drive to keep Boro at bay. Woking skipper Mark Ricketts then made a last-ditch block to hold off Malcolm and see the Cards through to extra-time.

The ninety minutes and importance of the tie seemed to have taken their toll and sapped both teams' energy - players were beginning to suffer from cramp - and, although the game ebbed and flowed, neither team looked able to land the knockout punch.

With extra-time fast running out and penalties looming, a rare moment of attacking quality settled the tie in Farnborough's favour. Bradley Bubb, not for the first time, made an incisive run into the heart of Woking's defence and was able to cut the ball back for substitute Dean McDonald, who smashed the ball home to break Woking hearts.

There was still time for late drama as, valiantly, the Cards threw everyone forward to grab an equaliser. Alan Inns, who had been pushed forward from his defensive duties, drew a smart save from Jordan with a powerful shot. Boro hearts were in their mouths as the ball dropped invitingly at the feet of Woking sub Ola Sogbanmu, whose rushed attempt went agonisingly past the post.

The final whistle followed, ending Woking's second attempt to regain a place in the Blue Square Bet Premier league through the excitement and agony of the play-off system. Given the galvanising effect of Hill and Thompson and the way in which the players responded to them, Cards' fans will be optimistic of an even more successful campaign next season.

Woking: Andy Little, Ricky Anane, Aswad Thomas, Mark Ricketts, Joe McNerney (Alan Inns 25), Adam Doyle, Craig Dobson, Michael Doughty, Moses Ademola (Ola Sogbanmu 98), Elvis Hammond, Andy Burgess (Lyle Taylor 76)

Unused subs: Dave Gilroy, James Pullen

Farnborough: Jordan, Sankofa, Braham-Barrett, King, Robinson, Smith, Malcolm (McDonald), McMahon, Ibe (Booth 56), Bubb, Binns (Stevens 118)

Unused subs: Davies, Robinson

Attendance 2137

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