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Cards bounce back

Brian Caffarey - 13th November 2014

Cards bounce back Woking 1 Wrexham 1
Vanarama Conference
12 November 2014

Garry Hill wanted a reaction from his side following their dismal FA Cup performance at Wrexham three days earlier and, although the Cards weren’t quite able to fashion a win, he will have been pleased with a gutsy, energetic display. Woking had much the better of the first half, with Jack Marriott hitting the bar, but were dealt a body blow just before half-time when Andy Bishop headed the visitors into an undeserved lead. However, the Cards responded in the best possible way, with Scott Rendell equalising immediately after the break. Either side could have claimed the three points thereafter, with both teams going for a win in a lively contest, with Woking indebted to Jake Cole for an absolutely outstanding save from Wes York. The point takes Woking back up to fifth in a congested upper half of the table.

With Joe McNerney suspended and Josh Payne added to the injury list, Mike Cestor moved to centre back to partner James Clarke, with Adam Newton returning to right back. John Goddard came into the left of midfield where he worked tirelessly all evening in support of the excellent Joey Jones. Along with Theo Lewis, they hassled and harried their opponents, preventing Wrexham from building measured attacks. Kevin Betsy looked much more like his old self on the right flank, especially in the first half when his mazy runs caused a lot of problems for the visitors’ defence. Jack Marriott started again up front, with Garry Hill perhaps thinking that the Ipswich youngster needed to play himself into some form – and the manager was rewarded with a much livelier display than of late. Scott Rendell led the line well as usual and, of course, scored the crucial equaliser to bring his total for the season to 13 strikes.

The Cards started strongly against an unchanged Wrexham side on a slippery pitch, which became even wetter after a downpour late in the first half. In the third minute Marriott battled well to create a shooting chance, unleashing a fierce drive which Andy Coughlin, the Wrexham keeper, could only parry away. A couple of minutes later Goddard had the ball in the net, pouncing after Coughlin was just beaten to a through pass, but the referee ruled the strike out, apparently for offside. A wild effort followed from Jones, who only blotted his copybook on the night by his tendency to make over-eager challenges – which resulted in several free-kicks in dangerous areas.

Woking’s early domination was interrupted only by a sharp effort from Elliot Durrell, which Cole blocked at his near post for a corner. This shot turned out to be Wrexham’s only effort on target before Bishop’s surprise strike on the stroke of half-time.

With Betsy and Newton combining well down the Woking right, the Cards continued to take the game to Wrexham. A nice one-two saw Betsy burst through but his left-footed effort went well wide. Another fine, weaving run across field by Betsy led to further blocked shots from him and from Goddard.

Woking came closest to scoring midway through the half when a lovely lay-off by Rendell enabled Marriott to find space on the right of the area. His shot thundered off the bar to safety. Woking pressed forward again on a quick break, with Newton’s cross cleared by a resilient Wrexham defence.

A brief jittery period followed when Woking regressed to bad old habits of giving the ball away needlessly, allowing Wrexham to build some pressure of their own. But Woking countered with a fine move, Goddard intelligently finding Marriott, whose chipped effort was not far off target. Goddard then flashed a ball right across the face of the goal, eluding Rendell, who seemed unable to react in time.

As half-time beckoned a fine passing move ended with Lewis skewing the ball wide from a decent position in the box.

Just as Woking fans were beginning to reflect on the fact that Woking were unlucky not to go into half-time in front, the Cards suffered a mighty blow. From out of nothing, Mark Carrington swung in a fine cross from the Wrexham right and there was Bishop to glance home deftly just inside Cole’s post to give the Red Dragons an unexpected and undeserved lead.

Half-time: Woking 0 Wrexham 1

The Cards responded in the best possible fashion to this body blow. With only two minutes gone, Chris Arthur, who had not figured much in the first half, got in a perfect cross, which Rendell headed back across the keeper and into the net.

Woking, with their tails up, pressed forward but a rash back-heel from Goddard threatened to undo the good work as Wrexham swiftly countered – an attack which was only halted at the expense of a booking for Cestor.

Play switched from end to end as both sides sought all three points. Cards fans’ hearts were in their mouths as the Wes York’s free-kick ruffled the net – but it turned out to be only the side-netting, fortunately!

Cole then reacted decisively to punch away an awkward corner before, in the 60th minute, surpassing himself with a quite outstanding save. Sitting right behind Joe Clarke as he struck a superb effort towards the top corner, a goal seemed a foregone conclusion but Cole somehow managed to finger-tip it away, with Bishop then putting the ball wide.

As the game became more stretched, Jones slipped a pass through the Wrexham defence but Betsy’s shot was straight at Coughlin. Arthur then produced another dangerous cross, which veered towards the bar before being cleared. At the other end, Clarke had to time his tackle to perfection to foil the speedy York before Woking hit back with some concerted attacking, with Lewis and Betsy principally involved. Lewis seemed to spurn an opportunity to shoot before the move eventually ended with a blocked strike from Betsy.

Both sides emphasised their attacking intent as Connor Jennings replaced Durrell for Wrexham and Gez Sole, perhaps unlucky not to start, came on for Marriott. Woking upped the tempo, with the foundations for attacking moves still being laid by some impressive harrying from Jones and Goddard in particular. Betsy and Rendell had shots blocked before Sole, in the 81st minute, came within a whisker of grabbing a goal. He managed to escape his marker to meet an excellent cross from Newton but, stretching, could only poke the ball over the bar.

The Cards were then indebted once more to Cole as he prevented Bishop from claiming his second goal of the evening. A clever dink by York into Jennings’s path resulted in the ball reaching Bishop at the far post but Cole just managed to nudge the ball from the striker’s feet to save the day.

Once again, the Cards responded by putting the Wrexham defence under considerable pressure but the closest Woking came to grabbing the winning goal was when Coughlin raced off his line to thwart Sole, who was homing in on a through ball from Lewis.

In the end a draw was probably a fair result. Woking had more of the attacking play overall, especially in the first half, but Wrexham always looked sharp when they did attack. Garry Hill’s side emerged from the evening with a great deal of credit, with everyone contributing to a committed, wholehearted display. The Cards now need to show the same determination on Sunday when they travel to the Shay to take on FC Halifax in a game which is likely to test their resolve.

Woking: Jake Cole, Adam Newton, James Clarke, Mike Cestor, Chris Arthur, Kevin Betsy, Theo Lewis (John Nutter 94), Joey Jones, John Goddard, Scott Rendell, Jack Marriott (Giuseppe Sole 73)

Unused Substitutes: Aaron Howe, Reece Beckles, Ollie Taylor

Goals: Rendell 47

Cautions: Mike Cestor, Giuseppe Sole, Joey Jones

Wrexham: Andy Coughlin, Mark Carrington, Neil Ashton, Manny Smith, Blaine Hudson, Joe Clarke, Elliot Durrell (Connor Jennings 71), Andy Bishop, Wes York, Jonny Hunt, James Pearson (Ross White 77)

Unused substitutes: Louis Moult, Dean Keates, Robbie Evans

Goals: Andy Bishop 45

Cautions: Joe Clarke

Attendance: 1418 (158 Wrexham fans)

Sponsor’s MotM: Scott Rendell (pictured)
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