Cards Slip To Away Defeat

Phil Batts
12:19pm, Wed 14th Aug 2013
Braintree Town 2 Woking 0
Skrill Conference Premier
13th August 2013

After an encouraging home performance in the opening game of the season, Woking came down to earth with a bump against a lively Braintree side. After a fairly even opening fifteen minutes, the visitors quickly found themselves two goals behind courtesy of strikes from the Iron's front men Dan Holman and Sean Marks. It was always going to be an uphill battle after such a disastrous start and, although there was a marked improvement in the second half, particularly following the introduction of substitutes Giuseppe Sole and Anthony McNamee, the Cards never looked likely to get anything out of the game. To compound matters Sole, who looked sharp and lively up front after coming on in the second half, was sent off in the last minute after appearing to kick out at home team captain Kenny Davis.

Woking made one change to the team which drew against Lincoln City the previous Saturday. Captain Mark Ricketts sustained an injury in that game and was replaced by Joe McNerney, who started as the lone striker. In front of Aaron Howe was a back four of Adam Newton, Brett Johnson, Jack Parkinson and John Nutter. The midfield comprised Lee Sawyer, Gavin Williams, Josh Payne, Kevin Betsy and Gavin McCallum with the intention, seemingly, of Betsy and McCallum pushing up in support of McNerney whenever possible. In truth, however, this rarely happened as a result of the efforts of the hardworking home team, who had their opponents on the back foot for large chunks of the game, particularly in the first half. There was a place on the Woking bench for latest recruit, striker Jordan Ivey-Ward, released by MK Dons earlier in the year.

On a pitch which appeared bumpy and slightly over-grassed, the Cards were quickly into their stride and created the first opportunity of the match. An excellent interchange of passes between Sawyer and Betsy down the right-hand side opened up the home defence and the ball was pulled back to McCallum but his shot was hit high over the bar when he might have expected to do better.

Although the home side was having slightly more of the early possession, Woking were holding their own in the initial exchanges and it came as a surprise, therefore, when the Iron took the lead in the seventeenth minute. A corner was played in low from the left and the ball somehow found its way through a tangle of legs to Dan Holman inside the six yard box and he had the simplest of tasks to slot home the opening goal.

The visitors had barely recovered from this setback when they were hit by a second goal just two minutes later. The ball was crossed from the right to Sean Marks, whose first effort rebounded off the bar but the striker had time and space to calmly tap the ball into an empty net. This represented a dreadful start to the game for the Cards, particularly as they would have felt that both goals had been preventable.

For much of the remainder of the half, the visitors were very much on the back foot as the confident home side looked to increase their advantage with some quick and incisive football. It was not all Braintree, however, and as the half wore on good work from Betsy, Sawyer and Payne in midfield occasionally suggested that Woking might yet claw their way back into the game. Indeed, in the final seven minutes of the opening period, two half chances came their way. Firstly, following a mix-up in the home defence, Sawyer played in McNerney with an intelligent pass but the makeshift striker was driven wide and was unable to trouble Nathan McDonald in the home goal. Soon afterwards, it was McNerney again, whose looping header from a Williams free-kick, hit the top of the crossbar before going behind for a goal-kick.

Despite these occasional rays of hope for the away fans, there was no doubt that the home side had been the better of the two teams and were good value for their interval lead.

Half-time: Braintree Town 2 Woking 0

Whatever Garry and Steve said to the players during the half-time interval must have had a positive effect as they came out in determined fashion and took the game to their hosts in an effort to reduce the deficit. Firstly, good work down the left led to a dangerous Nutter cross which the home side cleared with difficulty. Shortly afterwards, intricate skills from Betsy led to a right-wing corner. From this, the ball fell to McCallum but his shot from twelve yards flew narrowly wide.

With a two-goal lead, the home side appeared content to sit back and allow Woking more of the ball than they had previously seen. The second half was thus much more evenly contested, although the visitors were still having difficulty creating any clear-cut chances.

On sixty-four minutes, the Cards made a double substitution, replacing McCallum and McNerney with McNamee and Sole. This seemed to give the team fresh impetus as they proceeded to enjoy their best period of the match.

With fifteen minutes remaining, the visitors were unlucky not to pull a goal back. Sole made good progress through the middle before finding Payne thirty yards out. He cleverly evaded a couple of tackles before unleashing a fine shot from the edge of the area which, agonisingly, hit the inside of the post before being cleared to safety.

As the time ticked by, another sweeping move featuring Betsy and Sole led to McNamee shooting just wide of the left-hand post.

It was not all Cards' pressure, however, with Marks almost converting a slick home move at the near post.

As the match entered stoppage time, the final action centred around an incident which the away team could have well done without. Giuseppe Sole and Kenny Davis tangled just inside the Braintree half and the Woking player was given his marching orders as he appeared to kick out at his opposite number.

There is no doubt that the home side deserved their victory. They had much the better of the first half and, although Woking came into the game more in the second period, they struggled to create sufficient chances to suggest that they could get back on level terms or better.

So, not the greatest of starts to the new season with one point from the opening two games and no goals scored. It is early days, however, and our experienced management duo will not be panicking. They will be hoping, though, that they can unearth a new striker sooner rather than later who can finish off the chances created by a more than able group of midfielders.

Next up, a long away trip on Saturday to Chester FC who are pointless from the opening two matches of the season.

Woking: Aaron Howe, Adam Newton, Brett Johnson, Jack Parkinson, John Nutter (Jordan Ivey-Ward 79), Josh Payne, Lee Sawyer, Gavin Williams, Kevin Betsy, Gavin McCallum (Anthony McNamee 64), Joe McNerney (Giuseppe Sole 64)

Unused subs: Sam Beasant, George Frith

Sent Off: Giuseppe Sole (90)

Cautions: Josh Payne (80), Jack Parkinson (85)

Braintree Town: Nathan McDonald, Ryan Peters, Samuel Habergham, Matthew Paine, Dean Wells, Chez Isaacs (Dan Sparkes 80), Kenny Davis, Luke Daley, Alan Massey, James Mulley, Sean Marks (Liam Enver-Marum 90), Dan Holman

Unused subs: Newman Carney, Nicky Symons, Nikon Hamann,

Goals: Dan Holman (17), Sean Marks (19)

Cautions: Chez Isaacs (75), Kenny Davis (80)

MOTM: Lee Sawyer - 100% commitment to the cause and was involved in most of the team's best moments

Attendance: 995

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