Cards don’t enjoy their day at the coast

Alan Worth
9:27pm, Sat 24th Mar 2012
Eastbourne Borough 2 Woking 1
Blue Square Bet South
24 March 2012

Thanks largely to a poor first-half performance, Woking slumped to their fifth defeat of the season against relegation strugglers Eastbourne Borough. Apart from the glorious spring sunshine, this was an afternoon to forget - made worse by Kevin Betsy’s straight red card in the dying seconds of the game and a possible injury to Paris Cowan-Hall, who limped off just before the end of the first half.

Garry Hill introduced his new loan signing Glenn Wilson who came straight into the side at right back replacing the injured Adam Newton, with Adam Doyle taking over the captain’s arm-band. Mike Cestor, back from Leyton Orient, was on the bench alongside Jack King.

It was Woking who initially made the running in the first few minutes with Murtagh almost playing in Sole but the ball deflected off Baker's heel to safety. Duncan then swung over the first corner of the game but Inns, free at the far post, was unable to find the target as his header flew well over the bar.

But suddenly the hosts came to life and in the next twenty minutes produced some excellent, high tempo, passing football that left the Cards unable to control midfield, too easily opened up at the back and looking like they’d rather be on the beach.

First, the dangerous Watson latched on to a flicked header and was almost in behind the defence. This time Doyle was on hand to clear well. Matt Smart fizzed a long-range effort past Howe’s left-hand post before a Baker free-kick was headed on by Gary Hart. Alan Inns was on hand to clear but the ball fell back to Baker, whose rasping shot from long range was over the bar.

On twelve minutes Crabb’s excellent right-foot shot was curling towards the top corner before Aaron Howe, diving to his left, palmed the ball away for a corner. And from the resulting set piece the Borough took a lead that had been coming. The ball was whipped in from the right and found Alex Lacey free at the far post. He headed home into a gaping net and the Cards were one down.

This early lead further galvanised the home side and, bayed on by the delighted home support, they went in search of a second. They didn’t need to wait long. With fifteen minutes gone Ben Watson struck. Through one-on-one with Howe, he rounded the Cards' keeper and slotted home from a tight angle despite the efforts of Inns and Doyle to get back and clear.

Woking were now looking second best in most areas of the field with Watson almost immediately making the most of a long ball forward. Crabb had another excellent opportunity but some good defending from Doyle as he harried the Borough wide man resulted in a weak shot.

On twenty minutes a great Crabb cross from the left was met on the volley by Baker and his long-range shot was only inches wide. As Garry Hill shouted instructions from the side line and sought to stem the flow of attacks, Woking finally managed to create a couple of chances. A long throw from Wilson on the right caused panic in the Eastbourne box as Inns flicked the ball on but both Sole and Cowan-Hall were unable to capitalise. With thirty minutes on the clock, Murtagh burst through midfield only to be brought down to the left of the penalty area – a free-kick well in the Gez Sole range. However, Sole’s well-struck effort was beaten away by keeper Walker, making his first real save of the game.

Cowan-Hall was then tripped but, from the other side of the box, Duncan’s free-kick was wasted as the full back fired well over the bar. The game was now more end to end but Borough continued to pose a threat. A Smart free-kick was well wide and a hopeful cross from Baker still had to be tipped over the bar by Howe.

'Man of the match' Davis continued to steady the ship as he prompted from midfield – a great ball through to Cowan-Hall almost opened up a chance but the striker was quickly surrounded by Eastbourne defenders. Davis himself was then chopped down by Smart. Sole’s free-kick, for once played into the box, was met by Inns but his looped header floated agonisingly past the far post.

Woking immediately almost reduced the arrears. A ball in from Ademola was played back to Cowan-Hall but his side-footed effort was cleared off the line. Two minutes later Murtagh tried to wriggle his way past Borough defenders in the area rather than shoot and a Betsy side-footed effort following Inns's knock-back was also cleared. The half finished with an apparent injury to Paris Cowan-Hall, who limped off to be replaced by Wayne Gray.

Woking had managed to stem the tide but it had been a poor first half and the home side were well worth their two-goal advantage despite the Cards’ late resurgence towards the end of the half.

Half-time: Eastbourne Borough 2 Woking 0

No doubt with the words of the management team ringing in their ears, Woking started the second period much more positively. Betsy was immediately brought down just outside the area but Sole’s free-kick was straight at Eastbourne’s defensive wall. Betsey then cut in from the left but his cross was too long and evaded the Woking front men.

After five minutes a Sole flick to Betsy allowed him to set Gray free down the left flank. Gray’s cross again created panic at the back but efforts from Sole and Ademola were both blocked with the ball pinging around the box. Two minutes later and another Woking corner from Sole left the home side struggling to clear with Murtagh finally firing over from just outside the penalty area.

With Eastbourne already looking to waste time and preserve what they had, the Cards were handed a life line. Yet another Betsy cross was handled by Johnson and referee Harris pointed to the spot. The ever-reliable Gez Sole converted, with Walker sent the wrong way.

Woking were now on the front foot as Eastbourne defended ever deeper. The Borough conceded another free-kick after a Murtagh flick was handled. Duncan took the kick quickly but with Eastbourne slow to react his shot flashed across the goal and wide of the far post with Walker stretching.

Following excellent work from Murtagh the ball was played across the box finally reaching Gray but the forward, leaning back, blazed high over the bar and a good opportunity was gone. Further efforts from Betsy and a Sole header were both wide of the mark before Eastbourne substitute Ademeno, on a rare Borough foray into the Cards' half, saw his cross deflected by a Woking defender. The Eastbourne shouts for a penalty were ignored by Mr Harris. Ademeno then saw his shot on the turn saved down low at the foot of his post by Howe.

With Alan Inns pressed into the role of a third striker, the Cards support willing their side forward and home support urging their side to hold onto three valuable points, the game was building towards a frantic finale.

More panic in the Borough area as Elvis Hammond was played in by Murtagh and his flicked cross found Inns. His shot was deflected for a corner. Then a Sole cross found Inns but his header was just wide with Eastbourne desperately hanging on.

With a minute of the ninety remaining, Ademeno almost made the game totally safe as he charged down a Howe clearance but the ball rebounded just wide of the open goal.

And so into five minutes of added time. A Murtagh shot through a crowded Eastbourne box was saved by Walker before controversy and pandemonium as the game reached its climax.

More desperate defending in the Eastbourne area with the ball pinging off defenders' legs before yet another ball was played into the box for Sole to find the back of the net from close range. The away support’s joy and refief was cut short with the realisation that Mr Harris had ruled out the goal apparently for off side. Kevin Betsy’s vehement protests ended with his dismissal as the game finally came to an end.

Eastbourne celebrated their win with much relief as they moved four points away from the drop zone. Woking and their loyal support had to leave licking their collective wounds. It had not been ultimately a good day at the coast. A game of high drama but it wasn’t all bad news. Events at Dorchester mean that Woking retain their eight point lead at the top of the league and with other results going the Cards' way Woking still remain in pole position for promotion.

Woking: Aaron Howe, Glenn Wilson, Derek Duncan (Mike Cestor 76), Keiran Murtagh, Alan Inns, Adam Doyle, Paris Cowan-Hall (Wayne Gray 45), Tom Davis, Moses Ademola (Elvis Hammond 82), Giuseppe Sole, Kevin Betsy

Unused subs: Jack King, Andy Little

Cautioned: Derek Duncan 63

Sent off: Kevin Betsy 90

Eastbourne Borough: Mitchell Walker, Darren Baker, Sam Cole, Matt Smart (Gary Charman 81), Alex Lacey, Ollie Rowe, Simon Johnson, Stuart Anderson, Ben Watson (Ellis Remy 61), Gary Hart (Charles Ademeno 61), Matt Crabb

Unused subs: Jason Mason, Steve Brinkhurst

Cautioned: Simon Johnson 55;

MOTM: Tom Davis – worked hard throughout and always effective in midfield on an afternoon when the overall team performance was far from consistent.

Attendance: 1037

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