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Cards rise to the challenge

Alan Worth
9:20am, Wed 27th Mar 2013
Kidderminster Harriers 2 Woking 2
Blue Square Bet Premier
26th March 2013

A fabulous solo strike from Billy Knott and some spirited defending saw Woking secure another valuable point at the home of the league leaders on a freezing Tuesday evening in the West Midlands. Garry Hill punched the air in delight as he led his team to applaud the forty-five hardy Cards fans. They had surely travelled in hope rather than expectation but been rewarded with another superb performance and a pulsating game to watch.

After the exertions of the previous week Garry made two changes from the side that had drawn away at Braintree. John Nutter returned at left back and Lee Sawyer, back from suspension, took his place in midfield with Jack Parkinson out with an injury.

On a decent pitch considering the recent weather and in front of a healthy crowd of over two thousand it was Woking who began on the front foot. An early Cards corner was cleared and then after three minutes Kevin Betsy was fouled on the edge of the Harriers’ box – a recurring theme for the evening. Lee Sawyer’s effort was quickly cleared downfield and Seb Brown had to be out quickly to block Malbon’s one-on-one effort.

Yet another booking for Sawyer after only six minutes, following a rash challenge, possibly signalled a long night for the Cards but the midfielder, looking suitably mortified, picked himself up and continued to contribute to the team’s heroic effort without further alarms.

From the resulting free-kick Kiddermister were awarded their first corner. The ball was only half cleared to Vaughan who, lurking on the edge of the box, blazed his shot over the bar.

The Harriers were now beginning to settle and, playing some accurate passing football, took the game to their visitors. Johnson, a threat on the left-hand side, managed a fierce shot from out wide that was wide of Brown’s left-hand post and then Joe McNerney was called on to clear a dangerous Vaughan cross from the right.

Cards fans held their breath as Brown managed to fluff his clearance after a Mark Ricketts back pass fell to his left foot but Malbon’s resulting shot was deflected away for a corner.

A goal was coming with Kiddies’ incessant pressure and a series of corners saw the deadlock broken. On thirteen minutes Storer’s corner found Gowling, up from the back and unmarked at the far post. He nodded home from close range and the league leaders had their lead.

A shot from Jackman was wide after Brown’s clearance was less than convincing and then Johnson’s cross was headed wide by the on-loan Michael Gash when he might have done better. Another goal looked to be on the cards and it came after nineteen minutes. This time, however, and against the run of play it was the visitors who scored.

Following a mix-up between Betsy and Stockley the ball ballooned forward to be chased down by Bradley Bubb. He managed to get in front of Demetriou but was running away from goal when the defender brought him down from behind. Mr Hopkins pointed to the spot and Bubb brushed himself down to take the spot kick, blasting it past Lewis, the Kidderminster ‘keeper.

Almost immediately Woking had a second chance as a Nutter cross was chested down by the tireless Jayden Stockley for Betsy to hit left-footed but wide of the post.

With Woking now encouraged by their equaliser, they pressed forward and just before the half-hour mark Betsy, increasingly dominant as he sliced through the hosts' defence, slipped the ball to Stockley, who appeared to be brought down in the box. The ball fell back to Betsy, who also appeared to be fouled. The shouts for a penalty were this time waved away by Mr. Hopkins, who promptly booked Betsy for diving.

Kidderminster steadied their own ship and began to assert themselves as they tested Seb Brown – first with a cross from Johnson that had to be pushed away for a corner. From the corner Dunkley’s close-range header was somehow turned away by the Cards’ keeper, who then struggled with the next corner, patting down the ball towards the onrushing Kidderminster forwards but again the ball was cleared with some courageous last-ditch defending.

It was breathless stuff as yet another Harriers’ corner followed but Brown was fouled as he punched clear and the immediate danger was past.

On thirty-five minutes Stockley had a great chance to give Woking the lead. Betsy, yet again slicing through the middle, pushed the ball wide to Bubb on the right. His lobbed cross found Stockley unmarked but his header was just wide.

As the half came to a close it was Ricketts who was on hand to make a wonderful clearance from three yards, somehow getting back to clear a goal-bound effort before Sawyer, at the other end, saw his shot comfortably saved by Lewis.

Half-time: Kidderminster Harriers 1 Woking 1

As with the first half, it was Woking who were out of the blocks first with a Sawyer free-kick cleared and then unanswered appeals for handball following Betsy’s corner. The midfielder was then brought down as he dangerously cut inside and from Nutter’s excellent free-kick, wide on the left, Stockley saw his header brilliantly pushed away by Lewis when a goal looked certain.

Ten minutes in and with their first attack of the half Kidderminster took the lead for the second time. Storer’s free-kick from out wide looked way too strong as the ball appeared to be heading out. But somehow Gash rose to head the ball back across the goal for Malbon to score from close range.

But immediately, and in sensational style, Woking were level again. From the re-start Billy Knott took the ball forward, dropped a shoulder, carved his way through the middle of the Harriers’ midfield and, as the defence backed off, let fly from twenty yards, his shot nestling in the bottom corner. It was a stunning effort and his cartwheeled celebration in front of the travelling Cards fans said it all.

But Kidderminster are not league leaders for nothing and were determined to find a third goal and the three points. Attacks now came in waves as Woking were pushed back but still defending securely.

After seventy-three minutes the Cards had a let-off. A sizzling drive from substitute Briggs flashed off Brown’s left-hand post. A number of further corners followed and as Woking cleared so the ball came right back as they defended ever deeper.

With ten minutes remaining, Pilkington’s free-kick from just outside the box beat the Woking wall but not Brown, who made a good save. A further scare followed as McNerney had to head clear a dangerous free-kick after the ball had dropped in the middle of a melee of scrambling players.

With all this pressure there was always the chance that Woking might catch Kidderminster on the break and with four minutes remaining the opportunity came. Betsy brought the ball out of defence and set up substitute Mike Cestor clear on the left. But as he approached the penalty area unchallenged the ball bobbled, his shot was well wide and the chance for a now unlikely win had gone.

Kidderminster continued to press for their own win but Woking, defending to the last, saw out the four added minutes and secured their point.

A pulsating game and an excellent performance right across the Woking side saw them further consolidate their league position and quest to become the highest-placed part-time side. Woking will certainly have their say in who is promoted and who makes the play-offs as they face a number of contenders over the final weeks of the season. Playing like this, they will be no pushover and on tonight’s performance lived up to their billing.

In his programme notes, Kidderminster manager Steve Burr wrote – “we face a real threat this evening – as you always will against one of Garry Hill’s teams�. That threat was real and the Cards’ performance, on a great night of football, will not go unnoticed by those who still have to play this determined Woking side.

Woking: Seb Brown, Adam Newton, Joe McNerney, Brett Johnson, John Nutter, Mark Ricketts, Lee Sawyer (Mike Cestor 82), Kevin Betsy, Billy Knott (George Frith 87), Bradley Bubb (Gavin McCallum 74), Jayden Stockley

Unused subs: Elvijs Putnins, Adam Francis

Goals: Bradley Bubb 22 (pen), Billy Knott 56

Cautions: Lee Sawyer 6, Kevin Betsy 28, Adam Newton 89, Jayden Stockley 90

Kidderminster Harriers: Danny Lewis, Lee Vaughan, Mickey Demetriou, Kyle Storer (Keith Briggs 65), James Vincent, Anthony Malborn, Marvin Johnson (Ryan Rowe 82), Danny Jackman (Danny Pilkington 65), Michael Gash, Chey Dunkley, Josh Gowling

Unused subs: Nathan Vaughan, Greg Pearson

Goals: Josh Gowling 13, Anthony Malbon 55

Cautions: Danny Jackman 37, Lee Vaughan 51, Josh Gowling 60

Attendance: 2035 (45 Woking)

MOTM: Mark Ricketts – a captain’s performance on a night when everyone played their part.

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