Cards run out of steam

Brian Caffarey
8:58pm, Mon 1st Apr 2013
Dartford 4 Woking 1
1 April 2013

This looked like it was a game too far for the Cards as they took to the field for the fourth time in less than a week. Unfortunate to be 2-1 down at half-time, Garry Hill’s side seemed to run out of steam after the interval, as the Darts’ more direct play, probably better suited to the difficult playing conditions, enabled them to run out comfortable winners, leaping Woking in the league table.

Garry rested Joe McNerney, moving Jack Parkinson back to partner Brett Johnson at centre back, whilst Mark Ricketts, Jayden Stockley and Lee Sawyer returned to the starting line-up, with Gavin McCallum moving to the bench. Mike Cestor had presumably not recovered from his injury on Saturday, opening up a place for Brett Williams in the sixteen.

Woking started uncertainly, with a number of mis-kicks and misplaced passes as the players tried to find their feet on a hard, bumpy surface, with conditions made worse by a swirling wind. It took the Darts only seven minutes to seize the advantage, ‘man of the match’ Nathan Collier latching onto a loose ball to hit a fine strike into the top corner, giving Seb Brown no chance.

Another direct attacking move from the home side saw Bradbrook chest down in the area before, off balance, failing to connect as he attempted to double his side’s lead. Two minutes later, he tried a bicycle kick in the box but it flew wide. Then a fluffed Stockley clearance almost gifted Dartford a goal but the hurried strike skied over the bar.

In the 17th minute a Mark Ricketts’ pile-driver, blocked, signalled the start of Woking’s revival as the Cards’ midfield began to get a grip of the game. But, first, they had to survive another scare as Collier broke free on the right, only to see his cross-shot deflected for a corner.

Bradley Bubb had a great chance to equalise in the 21st minute as he seized on a Ricketts headed flick-on but he blasted the ball over the advancing keeper and the bar.

Woking now began to dominate the play, with some nice build-up play from Billy Knott, Sawyer and Ricketts, usually with Kevin Betsy, out wide on the left, as the main target. A short corner saw Betsy feed Ricketts but his shot flew well over. But the next corner, in the 33rd minute, proved more productive. Stockley rose above the Darts’ defence to glance Knott’s header into the net.

Dartford’s attacks were now fairly sporadic but still threatened as they moved the ball forward quickly. Charlie Sheringham just got his toe to a back header but could do no more than direct into Seb Brown’s midriff.

Another Woking corner saw a Bubb back-heel rebound off the keeper. But it looked as though Woking’s top scorer suffered a hamstring injury in the process, as he limped slowly off to be replaced by Gavin McCallum.

Seb Brown had to be alert to cut out a dangerous cross from Collier before, at the other end, John Nutter disappointed with a weak free-kick and Stockley put a snap-shot, on the turn, out of the ground.

On the stroke of half-time Joe McNerney came on for Ricketts, with Parkinson filling the latter’s place in midfield. Possibly this resulted in a lack of concentration because, in injury time, Lee Noble was first to a ball ‘over the top’, guiding his finish past the stranded Seb Brown.

Half-time: Dartford 2 Woking 1

Garry sprang another surprise two minutes after the interval, making his third substitution, with George Frith coming on for Brett Johnson. Jack Parkinson moved back into central defence once more.

The promising Frith was neat and tidy in possession but, not surprisingly, the Cards seemed to miss Ricketts’ drive and determination. Knott drifted left and out of the game temporarily, with most of the creative impetus now coming from Sawyer. However, Woking seemed unable to string enough passes together in the right areas to put any real pressure on the home side.

Collier should have done better with a header from a beautifully-flighted cross from Ryan Hayes. Betsy, the Cards’ main threat, hit a left-footed effort narrowly over the bar but, with 60 minutes on the clock, Dartford scored the decisive fourth goal. As a cross came in from the Woking left, Brown managed to half block a shot but the ball ballooned up in the air and Sheringham, a couple of feet from the line, had the easiest of tasks to nod it in as it fell.

Now with a mountain to climb, the Cards, in truth, showed little sign of recovering a two-goal deficit. Instead, a fine volley from Noble in the 70th minute might have made the task even harder but the ball flew inches wide. Hayes was the next to come closest as he curled an effort past Brown’s far post.

As the minutes began to tick away, and Tony Burman began to make his substitutions, there was at least the consoling thought that Sawyer, the liveliest of Woking’s midfielders in the second half, had avoided his customary booking. But in injury time he made a totally unnecessary rash challenge, barging into a Darford player as he competed for a header, and his name was in the book once more.

There might have been the consolation of a late goal for Woking as Betsy carved out what was probably the best chance of the half, as he opened up the right of the Darts’ defence and flashed the ball across the goalmouth.

But, as if to rub salt into the wounds, the Darts had the last laugh on April Fool’s Day as Noble curled a superb free-kick from out wide on the Woking right into the top corner and beyond Brown’s despairing dive.

This result enabled Dartford to leapfrog Woking into 10th place and dealt a blow to Garry’s hopes of the Cards finishing as the top part-time side in the league. Let’s hope that, after a rest, they feel in the right frame of mind to take on Wrexham, Macclesfield, Grimsby and Tamworth in their remaining games.

Woking: Seb Brown, Adam Newton, John Nutter, Brett Johnson (George Frith, 47), Jack Parkinson, Mark Ricketts (Joe McNerney, 44), Billy Knott, Lee Sawyer, Kevin Betsy, Bradley Bubb (Gavin McCallum, 41), Jayden Stockley

Unused subs: Elvijs Putnins, Brett Williams

Booked: Billy Knott (41), Jayden Stockley (72), Lee Sawyer (90)

Dartford: Csaba Smogyi, Adam Green, Tom Champion, Tom Bonner, Ryan Hayes (Jon Wallis, 89), Elliot Bradbrook, Lee Noble, Nathan Collier (Jack Evans, 85), Mark Arber, Lee Burns, Charlie Sheringham (Jason Prior, 76)

Unused subs: Richard Rose, Steve Sutton

Booked: Charlie Sheringham (28), Tom Champion (48), Adam Green (70)

My MOTM: Jack Parkinson (pictured) – an assured performance, demonstrating again his versatility as he switched effortlessly back and forward from centre back to midfield

Attendance: 1407

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