MKJ Group

Cards fail to sink The Fleet

Joshua Stedman
3:02pm, Wed 26th Sep 2012
Ebbsfleet United 2 Woking 2
Blue Square Bet Premier
25th September 2012

Woking came from a goal behind to lead with goals from Parkinson and Johnson, but were eventually forced to settle for their first draw of the season, after failing to capitalise on further chances.

Both captains were facing their former clubs and the game was played in a good spirit. The match got off to a quick start with Ebbsfleet quickly out of the blocks. In an opening spell, which saw neither side maintain possession, they were by far the more dangerous outfit. In fact, a chance was nearly created within the first minute. Had the striker timed his run a little more effectively, the home fans could well have been treated to a goal within the first minute.

The energetic start from the Fleet seemed to surprise Woking who, after a run of three straight wins, perhaps expected to gain more control. Consequently, their general play was hectic and rushed and led to a number of fouls. From one of these, an Ebbsfleet free-kick was delivered high and deep toward the far post. The Woking defenders failed to clear, and the ball was nodded down to Joe Howe who shot past his namesake with a powerful right-footed half volley which crashed into the net in the seventh minute.

Up to this point all the attacking threat had been posed by "The Fleet" but, thankfully, this goal served as a wake up call to Garry Hill’s side who quickly shook off their early lethargy and started to play. They began to show composure and intelligent use of the ball which has characterised much of their play this season, and as a result started to exert pressure on the home side.

It was from the first phase of play in which Woking tried to patiently pass the ball and attempt to create, rather than force, that the equaliser came. The ball was won in midfield and a quick exchange of passes saw it spread out wide to the left flank. As it came flying into the area, strong shouts for a penalty were heard, but it ricocheted directly into the path of an unmarked Jack Parkinson, and he promptly fired high and hard past the keeper to equalise for the Cards.

The goal seemed to fill the Cards with the confidence and they began to play with far more extravagance, moving the ball quickly from one side of the pitch to the other, with goal scorer Parkinson and midfield dynamo Sawyer (pictured) instrumental in allowing the wingers and striker Bubb the opportunity to look threatening. On one such occasion, a weighted pass from Parkinson nearly saw Bubb through one-on-one, but the angle proved too tight, forcing the forward to snatch at the shot, and he failed to trouble the keeper.

Midway through the half, another example of the calmness which had embodied the midfield, saw Sawyer play a long, cross-field ball to Kevin Betsy. Betsy, running at his man, neatly touched the ball into position and let rip, the ball sailed narrowly wide but it was deemed that it had been deflected and a corner was given. The resulting delivery was headed away by the Ebbsfleet defence, but found McCallum on the opposite side. He, too, delivered a ball into the box only for it to miss everyone. However, the ball was chased down and met first by a Woking boot, passed back to Newton, and he swung over a deep, high cross to the back post. It went beyond keeper Preston, who appeared to misjudge the flight of the ball, and was met by Brett Johnson who, lurking at the far post, headed home into the opposite corner of the goal.

Woking, for the remainder of the half, were dominant and always looked better the better side, but didn't create any further real chances.

Half time: Ebbsfleet United 1 Woking 2

The hosts, not unexpectedly, began the second half in more determined mood.

However, just a few minutes into the second period, the Cards had a great opportunity to add a third. Enjoying a large slice of luck, a Fleet pass struck the referee and fell perfectly for Sawyer to play an inch perfect pass through to Betsy. Unfortunately, Betsy failed to capitalise on this moment of good fortune, as he allowed the goalkeeper to make himself big and get in front of the shot and Preston saved comfortably in the end.

Time passed quickly with ongoing action, but the level of finishing didn’t improve all round and both sides had a number of half chances. Ebbsfleet made their first change on 65 minutes whilst Woking waited until the 75th to replace McCallum with Loick Pires, when McCallum appeared to have taken a knock.

Ebbsfeet began to exert more and more pressure, with Woking frequently struggling to clear their lines. You sensed a goal was coming and sure enough, it came from a corner delivered to the near post, where the ball was powerfully headed home from centre half Phil Walsh.

In the 80th minute, Woking appeared denied what looked liked a clear claim for a penalty. The ball had been played to the right of midfield and into the corner. The ball was then floated across the goal and Sawyer appeared to be pushed into the back of the net when trying to get his head onto the cross by an Ebbsfleet player, who made no attempt to play the ball.

Woking replaced Adam Doyle with Mike Cestor at left back. Later, as the minutes ticked on, Sinclair also replaced Newton, with Ricketts covering at right back. Howe gave the away fans a nervy moment when he fumbled a catch but, luckily, landed on it just in time to smother it from the onrushing forwards. With Ebbsfleet piling forward, The Cards survived another scare when Ebbsfleet had a speculative long- range shot that fizzed off the post.

It was, however, The Cards who had the final chances to win the game in added time. A free-kick was delivered to the back post in a packed penalty box, and was intelligently played along the ground through a gap in the defence by Sawyer. This caught everyone but Betsy off guard and allowing him to pull a ball back across the box. Unfortunately, a vital touch, though, en route, meant that it evaded everyone who was poised to pounce and, frustratingly, trickled away to safety. Betsy then had another chance, with almost the final kick of the game, as Woking broke from the back. Pires ran wide to take a player with him, allowing Betsy to continue to the edge of the box, but, although he struck it well enough, it went over the bar, and the Cards went home probably ruing the loss of two valuable away points.

MotM: Lee Sawyer

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