Superb defence clinches Cards win

Glen Harrington
10:03pm, Mon 26th Dec 2011
Woking 1 Farnborough 0
Blue Square Bet South
26th December 2011

An opportunist’s goal from Ben Smith, his first for the club, handed the Cards victory in their Boxing Day clash with local rivals Farnborough, and ensured a twelve point lead at the top of the table heading into the New Year.

The hosts survived early Borough pressure to take the lead after eleven minutes, Elvis Hammond supplying a low cross for the stooping Smith to meet at the back post.

Woking were unlucky not to double their lead just before the break, Daniel Bennett doing well to clear Wayne Gray’s effort off the line, while Alan Inns also saw his close range header go narrowly wide.

Inns, along with Adam Newton, was at the heart of a heroic defensive effort for the Cards in the second half – Inns unbeatable in the air and Newton making one incredible last-ditch tackle to deny Marcus Moody ten minutes from time.

Garry Hill made two changes from the Woking side that drew with Thurrock last weekend – striker Gray replacing Jay Davies, slotting into a 4-4-2 formation alongside fellow front-man Hammond, while goalkeeper Aaron Howe, who had experienced a minor neck injury in training on Thursday, was replaced by Andy Little, following discomfort in the warm-up.

Playing in front of their biggest home crowd for a regular season league match since April 2009, the Cards almost got off to the worst possible start. Inside a minute a free-kick, swung in from the left-hand side by Phillip Page, was met by a sliding Bennett at the back post. The ball was sent rapidly back across goal, Reece Connolly – on loan from Aldershot Town – narrowly failing to find the vital touch.

Having come close to taking the lead through their own invention, the visitors were then nearly gifted a goal by Little, playing in his first league game since September. Seemingly readying himself for a routine clearance, the Woking keeper dallied too long in possession, charged down successfully by Connolly. A despairing Little appeared to haul down the Borough striker in his desperation to recover, but thankfully referee Ian Crouch saw no infringement.

Farnborough’s feeling of injustice was then intensified as Woking took the lead. A kindly bouncing ball appeared to have fallen nicely for Moses Ademola to volley on the edge of the area, only for the Cards' top-scorer to slice his effort well wide of the goal’s direction. However, the hard-working Hammond kept the ball in play on the right-hand side of the area, and squared superbly for Smith to nod home an unlikely opener.

Buoyed by their goal, the Cards were now well on top, Dale Binns, one of four Woking players appearing against their former employers, causing havoc down the Farnborough left with a mazy run and cross, the ball eventually turned behind for a corner. Ademola sent over a wonderful delivery, Inns heading only narrowly wide at the back post.

Adam Doyle was also causing concerns for Farnborough at set pieces, his flick from another Ademola corner finding Gray six yards out. Gray spun his marker and beat keeper Tom Lovelock with his effort, only for Bennett to deflect the ball clear.

Lovelock in particular endured a torrid half-hour spell as the Cards went in search of a second goal – his kicking wayward and his actions nervous.

At the other end Little had regained his quietly efficient confidence, doing well to block a close-range Page header and getting to his feat quickly to deny Connolly’s attempted rebound. Ashley Winn’s long-range effort in stoppage time Borough’s only other notable effort.

Half-time: Woking 1 Farnborough 0

The visitors enjoyed their best spell of the game after the re-start. First, Connolly failed to take advantage of a three-on-one situation for Farnborough, his attempted cross easily blocked by last man Newton, while Little was again on form to deny Bennett one-on-one.

The hosts introduced birthday-boy Davies and Giuseppe Sole, who had impressed from the bench against Thurrock, in place of the tiring Gray and Binns. The changes gave fresh impetus for the Cards, who came close through Elvis Hammond’s snap shot – juggled but held by Lovelock.

Borough came close twice more before the final whistle – Adam Bygrave flicking on Page’s corner, only for Moody to fail to make contact at the back post, while Moody, having escaped the challenge of Joe McNerney, was denied by an inch-perfect sliding tackle from Newton, just as the striker drew his foot back to shoot.

While so often it has been the forwards that have impressed for the Cards this season, the defence today deserved its share of the credit in an important if slightly uninspiring result and performance against the team with the league’s worst defensive record.

Nonetheless the Cards are now unbeaten in their last fifteen league games, winning twelve, and will take their commanding lead of the league into 2012. Draws for Welling, Dartford and Sutton both encourage and confirm suggestions that Chelmsford will be Woking’s biggest title challengers next year.

Woking travel to The Rushmoor Stadium on New Year’s Day for the second part of their double header with Farnborough, who to be fair have enjoyed an upturn in fortunes under new manager Spencer Day – losing just once in their last seven games in all competitions, making today's result all the more impressive.

Woking: Andy Little, Adam Newton, Joe McNerney, Ben Smith, Alan Inns, Adam Doyle, Wayne Gray (Giuseppe Sole 67), Jack King, Moses Ademola, Elvis Hammond (Josh Griffiths 85), Dale Binns (Jay Davies 72)

Unused Subs: Matt Pegler, Derek Duncan

Goals: Smith 11

Booked: Doyle 39, Davies 84

Farnborough: Tom Lovelock, Miles Smith, Ollie Treacher, Orlando Jeffery, Doug Bergqvist, Adam Bygrave, Daniel Bennett, Ashley Winn, Phillip Page, Marcus Moody (Troy Ferguson 86), Reece Connolly

Unused Subs: Craig Bradshaw, Nathan Webb, Jordan Merriman, Callum Cobb

Booked: Treacher 80, Bygrave 84

MOTM: Jack King (pictured) – Performed solidly in the ‘Mark Ricketts holding role’ and will be pleased with his performance against his former side.

Attendance: 3,038

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