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Brian Caffarey - 25th August 2008

We?re off the mark! The Cards gained their first point of the season this afternoon at the Kassam Stadium. It was far from a ?backs to the wall? performance, Woking having considerably more of the attacking play, especially in the second half. But for the want of an experienced striker we?d have had three points, not one.

Kim Grant abandoned ? at least temporarily ? his favoured 4-1-4-1 for what the cognoscenti around me said was 5-3-2. That will no doubt please all the fans who?d been clamouring for two up front but, in truth, it was the addition of Paul Lorraine to the central defence that seemed to me to make the greatest impact. He set the tone for the performance with four superb tackles in the opening minutes and we never looked back. Bradley Quamina replaced Matt Pattison in midfield ? no doubt to give us more ?bite? ? and the front two were the inexperienced pairing of Delano Sam-Yorke and Manny Williams. Liam Marum watched from the stands.

Giuseppe Sole had an early ?sighter? with a free-kick, which was on target but was fairly comfortably parried by the U?s keeper, Jake Cole. The U?s responded with an even better free-kick of their own, Carruthers rattling the Cards? crossbar.

The Cards more than held their own thereafter. Patrice Konan was the first to a corner in the 8th

minute but his toe poke went over the bar. Not long after all the Cards fans had been forced to evacuate to a different part of the stand a nice Woking move ended with Delano shooting wide. The Cards then kept up the pressure with three successive corners approaching the half-hour mark, including a sharp strike from Gez which was deflected over the bar.

The U?s best chance fell to Eddie Hutchinson in the 40th minute as he brushed aside Gez on the edge of the Woking area. He shot fiercely but fortunately just off target. Colin Miles then made a splendid block to as the U?s briefly came to life.

In injury time the Cards had two excellent chances to take a deserved lead. First, Bradley hit an excellent pass over the left back but Manny Williams, collecting it as he entered the area, mis-controlled the ball and it ran on to the keeper. Second, a superb pass from Gez inside the other full back sent Delano away. He turned inside to shoot but, seeing the way blocked by a defender, tried to clip the ball over the keeper, who, unfortunately, just got his fingers to it. The half ended with another strike from the Cards as Gez shot wide.

Half-time: Oxford United 0 Woking 0

The Cards, now with the blustery wind behind them, started the second half well and kept the initiative for most of the rest of the game. Another sequence of corners was gained before Paolo Vernazza played a terrific pass over the U?s defence and into Delano?s path. Delano, on his left foot, drew a fine save from Cole. A minute later an even better chance fell his way as he seized on a dreadful piece of defending but, in a one-on-one with Cole, he allowed the keeper to smother his shot.

The Cards continued to press, with Abdou El Kholti getting in a fine low cross and Delano?s back header in the box almost creating another opening. Oxford came to life once more as the hitherto anonymous Yemi Odubade stretched Tom Hutchinson, with Tom just doing enough to avert the threat.

The Cards returned to the offensive with another fine move, resulting in hopeful appeals for a penalty as Bradley went down in the box.

At this stage you couldn?t help feeling that Woking might pay for their missed chances since, although the U?s had played poorly, the likes of Constable, Odubade and Haldane would surely get a chance to grab the three points, however undeserved. It was Haldane who nearly did it. With the referee ignoring a blatant foul on Tom Hutchinson, the ball was played out wide to Haldane, whose shot cannoned off the post.

The Cards returned to the attack once more. Patrice hit a ?skier? high into the stands but Paolo?s effort from distance was at least on target, whilst a deflected shot from Tom Hutchinson had to be tipped over the bar in another sequence of three corners.

With the U?s fans becoming restive, Oxford tried to force a late winner, forcing Lenny Pidgeley to punch clear, whilst Bradley tackled well to stop Odubade in his tracks. Odubade then broke clear quickly on the right from a free-kick but crossed wastefully. Lenny then did well to stretch to take the sting out of a snap shot.

The Cards rode out the remaining ten minutes, including four added minutes, fairly comfortably, aided by two clean ?takes? by Lenny from crosses.

When the final whistle went the Cards fans applauded the side warmly for a committed performance which, on the balance of play, deserved all three points in spite of those two isolated strikes against the woodwork.

Let?s hope we can build on this display with a result at Kettering on Saturday.

Woking: Lenny Pidgeley, Patrice Konan, Paul Lorraine, Tom Hutchinson, Colin Miles, Abdou El Kholti, Giuseppe Sole (Matt Pattison, 64), Bradley Quamina, Paolo Vernazza, Manny Williams (Goma Lambu, 82), Delano Sam-Yorke

Unused subs: Ross Worner, Adekunle Salau, Charlie Moon

Booked: Delano Sam-Yorke

Attendance: 4314 (184 from Woking)

My MOTM: Paul Lorraine (pictured): a great display in a fine central back three.

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