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Betsy strike earns Woking derserved draw

Glen Harrington
10:53pm, Sat 30th Mar 2013
Woking 1 Hereford United 1
Blue Square Premier
30th March 2013

A Kevin Betsy strike seven minutes into the second half deservedly earned the Cards a draw in an evenly-matched affair against play-off chasing Hereford United.

The Bulls struck lucky in the closing stages of the first period when Brett Johnson (pictured) deflected Chris Bush’s long throw beyond Seb Brown and into his own net.

But the home side quickly levelled proceedings after the break when Bradley Bubb’s low cross found Betsy free in the penalty area, leaving the experienced winger with the simple task of converting his thirteenth goal of the season.

In a game of few chances, it was Woking who came the closest to grabbing a winner when Gavin McCallum struck the post of James Bittner’s goal from a tight angle.

Facing their third game in just five days, it was unsurprising that Garry Hill and Steve Thompson chose to make three changes from the team held to a 0-0 draw at Nuneaton on Thursday evening, bringing in McCallum, Johnson and John Nutter in favour of Lee Sawyer, Jayden Stockley and Mark Ricketts, who all dropped to the bench.

This allowed for a 4-4-2 formation comprising stand-in skipper Adam Newton, Joe McNerney, Johnson and Nutter in defence, Betsy, Billy Knott, Jack Parkinson and Mike Cestor in midfield, with McCallum partnering Bubb up front.

Against a Hereford team full of tall, physically strong players unlikely to lose many aerial battles, it was a clever ploy from the Woking management team to start with pace, rather than height going forward. It was a tactic that almost immediately paid off when the Cards, starting surprisingly brightly considering their recent busy schedule, worked themselves space down the right-hand flank through Betsy. His inch-perfect cross looked to have found Cestor in space in the penalty area, but defender Luke Graham did just enough to get across and deflect a sweetly-struck shot narrowly wide.

The hosts continued to dominate the opening exchanges with both Betsy and Bubb giving the visiting defence reasons to question themselves: Joe Heath haphazardly slicing clear a Betsy cross before Bubb came close to capitalising on Bittner’s poor punch.

Despite the early pressure against them the Bulls soon began to show why they have been in the top half of the league table for almost the entire season, and prior to today were still clinging to faint hopes of reaching the top five, tirelessly chasing and harrying the Woking players and forcing them into numerous mistakes as the game became increasingly scrappy.

Hereford’s hard work even earned striker Chris Sharp a rare sight of Brown’s goal as his sprawling dive fell just short of connecting with Kingsley James’ long range drive, with any type of connection likely to have been enough to deflect the ball into the net.

Bubb and Betsy both shot wide again as the first half wound towards a conclusion, but there was a proverbial sting in the tail for the Cards as out of nothing their visitors went into the interval ahead: a long throw from former Woking loanee Bush flicking off the top of Johnson’s head before, moments later, nestling in the bottom right-hand corner of the goal.

Half-time: Woking 0 Hereford United 1

If the hosts' lapse in concentration had been down to them already thinking about the half-time break, then they caught the Bulls when they were still asleep in the dressing room, striking back almost immediately after the re-start.

Once again it was a goal seemingly from nowhere as Bubb collected the ball in the right-hand corner of the pitch and found a low cross which inexplicably found Betsy unmarked on the edge of the six-yard box, allowing him the simplest of tap-ins.

Woking proceeded to start the second half how they had started the first, on top, and were unlucky not to take the lead when Johnson headed over Parkinson’s cross from the left-hand side.

On the hour mark, the home side were unfortunate to lose Cestor, who had clearly been enjoying his more advanced role on the left-hand side of midfield, to injury. He was replaced by Sawyer, while Stockley also came on in place of Bubb, meaning a return to the more familiar 4-3-3 formation starring Betsy and McCallum wide of a lone striker.

It was Sawyer who came close to breaking the deadlock, his ambitious-looking effort from well outside the penalty area catching Bittner off-guard and forcing him into an excellent diving save low to his left-hand side. The ball fell for McCallum, but the keeper’s save looked to have pushed him too wide of goal to shoot. Unperturbed, the winger, with defenders looming around him, curled an effort spectacularly towards the far corner, only for the goal-post to deny him and deflect the ball clear.

Sam Clucas came closest for Hereford in what was, for them, a disappointing second-half performance, his long range free-kick flying well over the Woking crossbar.

In the final moments the Cards might have snatched all three points, with Stockley spurning an excellent late opportunity: beating the offside trap before shooting straight at the Bulls' goalkeeper when one-on-one.

No game would be complete without Sawyer’s customary yellow card, which he picked up in stoppage time for a late lunge on James, who had himself been booked earlier in the day for a similarly rash challenge on Parkinson.

So suddenly, after waiting for so long to tie a game, the Cards have become the draw specialists, with six of their last nine matches ending in a stalemate. Nonetheless, it’s a result that extends an impressive unbeaten league run to six games, a streak particularly noteworthy for its tough away games.

Perhaps unlike the start of the season we are now extremely hard to beat, while we have thankfully become a great deal more solid defensively. We are learning at this level, and if anything it shows how far we have come to emerge slightly disappointed with a draw against a club playing League One football just a couple of years ago.

Woking: Seb Brown, Adam Newton, John Nutter, Joe McNerney, Brett Johnson, Jack Parkinson (Mark Ricketts 80), Billy Knott, Kevin Betsy, Mike Cestor (Lee Sawyer 60), Gavin McCallum, Bradley Bubb (Jayden Stockley 64)

Unused Subs: Elvijs Putnins, George Frith

Goal(s): Betsy 52

Booked: McNerney 58, Sawyer 90

Hereford United: James Bittner, Joe Heath, Luke Graham, Stefan Stam, Chris Bush (Rod McDonald 75), Marley Watkins, Kingsley James, Josh O’Keefe, Samuel Clucas, Marlon Jackson, Chris Sharp (Ryan Bowman 66)
Unused Subs: Joe Connor, Craig Jones, Brian Smikle

Goal(s): Brett Johnson og. 44

Booked: James 53

MOTM: Brett Johnson – Very assured defensive performance from the centre-half, who has continued to improve in recent weeks. Left Bulls striker Chris Sharp extremely frustrated for much of the day and limited the visitors to very few shooting oppurtunities.

Attendance: 2,303

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