Solid defence ensures Cards deserved away point

Malcolm Wyatt
1:17pm, Wed 13th Mar 2013
Macclesfield Town 0 Woking 0
Blue Square Bet Premier
12th March 2013

A committed Cards performance against a combative Cheshire outfit led to a deserved point at the Moss Rose Ground on Tuesday night.

There were assured performances and lots of hard graft all over the pitch, with imperious performances at the back from central defenders Joe McNerney and Brett Johnson keeping a lively Macc attack locked out.

But while Woking caused problems at the other end too - with Jayden Stockley in the thick of it and John Nutter busy in both halves - it took a late Seb Brown save from ex-Card Kieran Murtagh to ensure the visitors didn’t suffer a second straight injury-time loss.

Honours were pretty even early on, but the Cheshire hosts were first to create clear chances, Thierry Audel shooting wide from the right of the area after the Cards failed to properly clear a free-kick, before an eager John Paul Kissock’s volley drifted harmlessly wide.

McNerney and Johnson quicky settled into a pattern and remained assured, but Brown – at fault for Cambridge’s winner on Saturday - had to tip a powerful long-range Murtagh free-kick around his post, Adam Newton clearing the subsequent corner.

Murtagh remained a threat, combining well with lively Matthew Barnes-Homer while Woking were reduced to occasional counter-attacks. But the visitors steadily grew in confidence, and Jack Parkinson might have done better from a Kevin Betsy cross.

Ryan Jackson, causing problems with his runs, set up Murtagh again, but his finish was poor, while Amari Morgan-Smith was offside in the next attack and Kissock volleyed over.

The pace died down as the referee talked at length first to McNerney then Lee Sawyer as the exchanges grew more feisty. The hosts were showing more urgency by then, but Garry Hill’s side were unruffled and always liable to break away.

Johnson twice won battles to snuff out one Silkmen attack, then headed away a Morgan-Smith danger ball, while Peter Winn – on for the injured Jackson on the half-hour - added a new threat. Meanwhile, Woking were finding it hard to create a winning final ball, with Stockley, Betsy and Bradley Bubb well-shepherded.

Brown soon had to stop a low drill from Barnes-Homer, and by the time Sawyer earned a two-match ban after his 10th yellow card for a foul – rather harshly on this occasion - Garry Hill was contemplating changes.

The game began to flow, Bubb going close with a header, while Nutter and Brown thwarted Morgan-Smith, Stockley threatened with a header from a Nutter free-kick, and Craig Braham-Barrett’s cross snuffed out, both teams living on their nerves.

Further chances fell for Macc’s Sam Wedgbury and Woking’s Stockley, while Mark Ricketts – in his customary collected yet commanding role – was up-ended by a late Murtagh challenge that led to a further booking. And there was still time before the break for Sawyer to clear one attack while Barnes-Homer failed to finish for Macc.

Half-time: Macclesfield Town 0 Woking 0

Mike Cestor took Sawyer’s place in the second half, with Betsy switching into the middle in a gambit that proved inspired. But the Silkmen might have been ahead within 15 seconds, a Morgan-Smith cross-shot somehow going wide with Waide Fairhurst lurking, the visiting defence caught napping.

As the jitters continued, McNerney was on hand to deal with the outcome of a stray Cestor pass, then block out a promising Winn and Morgan-Smith raid, Newton clearing the resultant corner. And in the next attack, Morgan-Smith latched onto a half-clearance and should have done better, before McNerney cleared Winn’s next deep delivery.

Pretty soon the Cards were back on the rise, with Betsy and Cestor, more threatening good work by Nutter and then Betsy teeing up Jack Parkinson, but his powerful drill was blocked.

Then came the Cards’ best chances, first when Newton played in Bubb, his high cross met in the air by Stockley but home keeper Rhys Taylor doing just enough to see his header drop inches wide of the post. And in the next attack, Betsy broke from half-way and put Bubb away again, Stockley stabbing just wide of the keeper’s other post this time.

Both teams were stretched now, with McNerney clearing one home attack while Johnson and Nutter snuffed out the next, while an offside flag denied Betsy after good work by Ricketts and Bubb at the other end, the latter not far off as a hopeful Stockley punt set up another chance.

Nutter had to be at his best as Barners-Homer homed in on goal, and was there again soon after to clear off the line from skipper Pablo Mills from a corner. Even Stockley was back for the next corner, half-clearing before a Mills lob was snaffled by Brown.

As the action switched again, Taylor denied Stockley, and the resultant corner came to nothing. As Macc countered, there were hopeful home calls for a penalty and handball in the area as Murtagh tried a pot, while a Wedgbury finish was high and wide, and Johnson somewhow cleared as Barnes-Homer hovered again.

Dean McDonald replaced Kissock as the Silkmen looked for late salvation, with Saturday’s Abbey Stadium heartbreak on the mind as Brown collected one promising delivery with Barnes-Homer threatening to finish.

As Woking countered, Stockley and Bubb combined to win a corner, and while Nutter’s delivery was half-cleared by a Taylor punch, Ricketts pumped the ball back in and Johnson was not far off with a header.

There was still time for Nutter to deny Murtagh at one end then see his long-range free-kick stopped by Taylor at the other, with the visitors’ nerves exposed in added time as Macc won a final corner on the right. But Newton denied Barnes-Homer from Winn’s delivery and then Johnson cleared off a home forward for a welcome goal kick.

It wasn’t quite over though, a needless free-kick conceded at the death, Murtagh lining up the ball at the edge of the D and beating the Woking wall, only for Brown’s superb diving stop, pushing away to his left in what proved to be the last chance of the match.

Woking: Seb Brown, Adam Newton, John Nutter, Joe McNerney, Brett Johnson, Mark Ricketts ©, Jack Parkinson, Lee Sawyer (Mike Cestor 46), Kevin Betsy, Bradley Bubb, Jayden Stockley

Unused subs: Adam Francis, Elvijs Putnins, Jack Mazzone, George Frith

Cautions: Lee Sawyer 37 Mike Cestor 61

Macclesfield Town: Rhys Taylor, Ryan Jackson (Peter Winn 31), Keiran Murtagh, Matthew Barnes-Homer, Amari Morgan-Smith, Sam Wedgbury, John Paul Kissock (Dean McDonald 87), Waide Fairhurst (Jack Mackreth 59), Craig Braham-Barrett, Thierry Ausel, Pablo Mills

Unused subs: Andre Da Costa, Arthur Gnahoua

Caution: Keiran Murtagh 44

Attendance: 1350 (17 from Woking)

My MOTM: Brett Johnson – a workhorse at the heart of defence to deny Macc’s potent attack

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