Boz's Fruit & Veg

Paris runs the show in vital win

Glen Harrington
9:06pm, Sun 18th Sep 2011
Woking 3 Dover Athletic 1
Blue Square Bet South
17th September 2011

Late goals from Paris Cowan-Hall and substitute Jay Davies ensured Woking took all three points in an entertaining game against fellow league favourites Dover Athletic.

The Cards took an early lead at Kingfield when Moses Ademola capitalised on a mistake by the Whites keeper Mikhael Jaimez-Ruiz, but had that advantage cancelled out by a Steven Watt tap-in just before half-time.

A very even second half looked to be producing a draw, but an incisive break and finish from Cowan-Hall reclaimed the home side’s lead, before a close-range Davies header made the points safe.

Garry Hill offered fans a first surprise of the day with the team news, with Wayne Gray, having made some strong performances from the bench, replacing Elvis Hammond in the starting line-up. Other rumoured starting contenders Jay Davies and Giuseppe Sole also needed to be content with places amongst the substitutes. Elsewhere, Mike Cestor started what is likely to prove his final game in Woking colours.

Considering Dover’s superb defensive record coming into this game – with only four goals conceded (the best in the league) – the Cards surely could not believe their luck at the opening goal they were gifted after just five minutes. An innocuous looking cross from Cowan-Hall seemed likely to be claimed by keeper Ruiz, only for defender Shane Huke to collide with him and cause them both to miss the ball. Ademola gratefully accepted his opportunity at the back post with ultimate efficiency, blasting high into the net to bypass the goal-line defender.

The game evened out after a shaky start from the visitors, the torrential rain making it hard for either team to keep possession on a desperately slippery surface. Nonetheless, it was the Cards who came closest to the game's second goal, Cowan-Hall majestically cutting in from the left and crunching an effort against the top of the Dover crossbar.

The visitors' presence grew as the half wore on, and eventually the Whites were rewarded with a well-rehearsed free-kick routine. Sam Cutler chipped the ball over the Woking wall, allowing the unmarked, perhaps unnoticed, Harry Baker to steam in from the right wing position that he had originally drifted too. Despite Woking bodies blocking the initial effort of Baker, the ball pinged around in the area until, from six yards, defender Steven Watt belatedly turned in off the crossbar.

Thankfully, the Cards responded well, their strongest move of the game culminating in a Jack King volley being deflected wide – Adam Doyle, Mike Cestor and Dale Binns all playing their part in the fine link-up play. There was still time for Cowan-Hall to cut in yet again from the left in stoppage time, drilling his effort wide before the players headed for the interval.

Half-time: Woking 1 Dover Athletic 1

Chances were few and far between at the start of a far more withdrawn second period from both teams. Mark Ricketts flashed a long-range drive narrowly wide of Ruiz’s right-hand post while Cowan-Hall forced a decent save. At the other end Billy Bricknell snatched at his half chance under pressure from Adam Newton, being only able to fire wide.

As the sides began to feel the effect of the high tempo and fierce nature of the occasion, a flurry of substitutions helped both sets of fans believe their team had what it took to win the game. From a Woking perspective, Elvis Hammond, Jay Davies and Giuseppe Sole replaced Wayne Gray, Jack King and Dale Binns. Dover introduced Barry Cogan and former Card James Walker.

And it was the Whites who came closest to breaking the deadlock with fifteen minutes remaining, George Purcell, usually such an adept finisher, taking advantage of a rare lapse in Woking defensive concentration to burst through on goal, only to scuff his effort well wide of the target.

As against Eastbourne, it was the Woking replacements, described as “bottles of lemonade� by manager Hill, that were to burst onto the scene and make all the difference. The tiring Dover team were unquestionably taken aback by the introduction of Davies's industry and combative nature, while the threat of Hammond and Sole was quite clearly causing them worry.

However, it was Paris Cowan-Hall, the bright spark throughout the day, who was to take advantage of some hesitant Dover defending and close in on Ruiz. Unlike Purcell, the Cards forward made no mistake, sliding the ball under the helpless keeper and wheeling away in celebration – truly banishing any memories of his late miss in an almost identical situation against Boreham Wood four weeks earlier.

There was still time for the icing to be put on the cake, and as the home side sliced through the visitors' rear-guard with repetitive ease, it was again Cowan-Hall coming close, a fine interception denying him a tap-in from Ademola’s cross.

No matter, though, as Ruiz proceeded to mis-hit a clearance into the path of Cowan-Hall mere moments later, the goal left empty. Almost in shock at the opportunity presented to him, Paris slightly unwisely hit his shot to the right side of the goal, closest to the Dover keeper, allowing him to scramble back and push the ball away. Unfortunately for him, Jay Davies was on hand, and it was he who deservedly headed in the bouncing ball from less than six yards.

Although many Dover supporters will argue they deserved a point from a game that, on balance, was a close, tightly-fought encounter, it was the Cards who reaped the rewards of continuing to fight till the very end, as well having a great depth in quality amongst their well-assembled squad. To be able to bring the likes of Hammond, Davies and Sole off the bench allows for the ability to change a game in quick time, and simply put, the visitors were unable to deal with these players' arrivals. Happy selection problems lie ahead for the Woking management.

While there were also wins for Welling (4-0) and Dartford (2-1) today, the Cards now sit three points clear of fourth-placed Sutton, emphasising the importance of a victory over one of their strongest rivals.

Woking are back in action on Tuesday when they travel to traditional bogey-team Bromley, who have enjoyed some excellent performances over the Cards in recent years, especially at home. With this fine performance behind them, however, here’s hoping the Cards can finally set that record straight!

A final mention must go to Mike Cestor, who has performed admirably in his short loan spell with the Club, originally filling in for absentees Adam Doyle and Derek Duncan before cementing his regular place in the team. If today was to be his final appearance, we wish him the best of luck and thank him for all his efforts!

Woking: Andy Little, Adam Newton, Mike Cestor, Mark Ricketts, Joe McNerney, Adam Doyle, Paris Cowan-Hall, Jack King (Jay Davies 77), Moses Ademola, Wayne Gray (Elvis Hammond 70), Dale Binns (Giuseppe Sole 77).

Unused Subs: Aaron Howe, Nathan Koranteng.

Goals: Ademola 5, Cowan-Hall 81, Davies 86.

Booked: Ademola 26, King 76.

Dover Athletic: Mikhael Jaimez-Ruiz, Phil Starkey, Tom Wynter, Michael Corcoran, Shane Huke, Harry Baker, Glen Southam (Barry Cogan 66), Billy Bricknell (James Walker 77), George Purcell, Sam Cutler.

Unused Subs: Ed Harris, Luke L’Anson, Ross Kitteridge.

Goals: Watt 37.

Booked: Corcoran 43.

MOTM: Paris Cowan-Hall – Yet again the mini-maestro was everywhere, always dangerous going forward and tracking back selflessly when possession was lost. Calm finish under pressure summed up his fine performance.

Attendance: 1,306

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