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Woking go second after routine victory over Altrincham

Adam White
3:57pm, Wed 3rd Dec 2014
Woking 2 Altrincham 0

Vanarama Conference

2nd December 2014

Second half goals from Jack Marriott and the returning Scott Rendell pushed Woking up to second place in the Vanarama Conference table, with a straightforward win over visiting Altrincham on a chilly Tuesday night at Kingfield. Despite clear chances for the home side, the first half ran out goalless. However, Marriott was on hand to tap in Rendell’s flick-on from a Josh Payne corner just after the interval to put Woking ahead. Rendell then added his name to the score sheet, with a sliding effort on 65 minutes to seal the three points for the Cards after a scything through ball from 'Man of the Match', Payne.

The somewhat surprise inclusion in the starting eleven of top scorer Rendell was the solitary change made by Garry Hill to his side, following their 1-0 victory over Braintree Town three days earlier with Dean Morgan dropping to the bench. A foot injury sustained by Rendell, which saw the striker helped from the field in Woking’s 3-1 defeat at Grimsby a week earlier, was originally thought to be considerably more serious, potentially keeping Woking’s number 9 side-lined for weeks rather than days. However, a speedy recovery saw Rendell make the bench for Saturday’s encounter with Braintree before being reunited with Jack Marriott, who continued to be preferred to Giuseppe Sole in attack. Meanwhile, centre back Joe McNerney served the last match of a three-game suspension after his retrospective red card in November’s draw with Barnet. Mike Cestor and James Clarke were again paired at the heart of the Cards’ defence.

A refreshingly open start saw Woking begin brightly, Kevin Betsy with a deflected effort inside the opening thirty seconds. This was to be the first of a number of early chances for Garry Hill’s men as they regularly threatened to take the lead within 20 minutes. Less than 90 seconds later, Altrincham keeper Stuart Coburn was forced into his first meaningful save of the evening, Coburn tipping over Marriott’s dipping, curling shot from the corner of the area after Rendell was halted by a timely interception from Robins’ defender Tom Marshall. Altrincham were under pressure.

Betsy, prominent in the early stages, was afforded considerable space down Woking’s right, repeatedly troubling his full back and, along with Chris Arthur on the opposite flank, delivered a number of dangerous crosses as the visitors struggled to clear their lines. The first clear chance of the game fell to John Goddard on 10 minutes. A flowing move led to another crossing opportunity and as the ball was squared neatly for Goddard, the Woking midfielder could only side-foot narrowly wide from just inside the box. If that chance was a mere warning shot across enemy bows for Goddard then two minutes later he probably should have scored, scooping over after finding himself with time and space 8 yards out, the goal gaping.

Despite a shaky start, Altrincham grew into the contest. With Betsy seeing less of the ball and buoyed by the fact that their clean sheet was still intact, Lee Sinnott’s men began to make raids of their own without really testing Ross Worner in the Woking goal. Ryan Crowther burst into the penalty area after 17 minutes but was unable to work a shooting opportunity while the on-loan Worner was able to deal comfortably with a smattering of Altrincham crosses. Woking responded forcefully. A succession of corners, which saw a glanced near-post header from Rendell blocked and Joey Jones’ powerful headed effort miraculously cleared off the line when a goal seemed inevitable.

Woking looked much the better side throughout the opening quarter but as the half wore on Altrincham continued to force their way into the game. As the match settled down the play evened out into a more balanced midfield contest as half-time approached.

Altrincham arguably finished the half stronger. They came into the game unbeaten in three matches thanks to a creditable sequence of results which included an impressive 1-1 draw with Grimsby and a bad-tempered triumph away at Wrexham.

A rasping Crowther shot from 20 yards was nudged over by Worner and a buccaneering run from Shaun Densmore ended in the full back firing over as he was forced wide. The visitors even had the ball in the net as the half drew to a close, when a floated long range free-kick was disallowed for a push on Woking stopper Worner as he attempted to claim the cross.

As the half-time whistle sounded, Woking were the happier of the two sides, having created more chances. However, some wasteful finishing, and the visitors beginning to assert themselves, was some concern for Garry Hill as his players returned to the dressing room, the scores still level.

Half-time Woking 0 Altrincham 0

As the match ventured into the second half, Woking’s superior quality began to show itself. Hill’s men again started the half with pace and verve as Marriott broke clear on the left and only a desperate sliding clearance from Adam Griffin could prevent a certain tap-in for the loitering Kevin Betsy at the far post.

Griffin and co were unable to stop Marriott from opening the scoring from the resulting corner. Josh Payne’s in-swinging cross was met by Rendell, making a familiar near post run. His flicked header fell kindly for Marriott two yards out, and with Coburn stranded the Woking forward was left with the simplest of finishes to claim only his second goal of the season.

Altrincham responded with their most consistent period of pressure. Jones was forced into a hurried clearance after a mistake from Payne. Worner failed to hold a shot from Reeves which he gathered at the second attempt ahead of the onrushing forwards. Lee Sinnott’s travelling side’s only clear-cut opening of the evening came as a precise free-kick from Dunsmore found the head of an unmarked Gianluca Havern on the edge of the six-yard area but he could only nod the ball down into the grateful arms of the waiting Ross Worner.

This was the only significant defensive blip in what had been a confident and assured performance from Woking’s Clarke and Cestor, ably assisted by Jones and Arthur. Despite the hustle and bustle the away side offered, they were limited to mainly half chances and long-range attempts. A second consecutive clean sheet was well earned by the men in red and white.

A sliding finish from Scott Rendell on 65 minutes halted any fleeting threat of an Altrincham advance and sealed the points for the home side. A wonderful defence-splitting pass from Payne, who continued as captain for the evening in McNerney's absence, set Rendell free, leaving his marker in his wake before beating Coburn with a surprise first time finish, poking the ball into the far corner. 2-0 and virtually game over. Rendell cleverly took his 14th goal of the season and overall had a pleasing return to the first team, showing neat touches and tight interplay with Marriott. His job done and a successful run-out completed unscathed, both Rendell and Marriott were swiftly withdrawn by Hill shortly afterwards to be replaced by Sole and Morgan.

With Payne, Keiran Murtagh and Goddard controlling and directing from midfield, Woking finished the game in control of proceedings and were able to professionally complete a solid display. The home side maintained possession for much of the last quarter and were unfortunate not to add to their lead. Murtagh might have done better with a side-footed effort from the edge of the area after an astute pick-out from Sole while a goal-bound shot from Morgan, after a bulldozing run cutting in from the right, stuck Sole on the back preventing what looked to be a certain third for the substitute. Worner’s only remaining act was to pull off a remarkable save, tipping round the post at full stretch from a well-placed Damian Reeves header.

Garry Hill can be roundly satisfied with a professional display from his Woking side, which, thanks to Bristol Rovers' draw at Wrexham, saw Woking move into second place, seven points behind leaders Barnet, as they continue their play-off push. The unexpectedly swift goal-scoring return from injury of Scott Rendell will have come as a welcome bonus for the Club. The manager’s thoughts will now turn to a tricky-looking trip to fifth-placed Macclesfield Town at the weekend, where Hill will look for his defence to continue their solid displays which have been the basis for the last two victories as the Cards march on in their impressive league campaign.

Woking: Ross Worner, Chris Arthur, James Clarke, Joey Jones, Mike Cestor (Adam Newton 74), John Goddard, Josh Payne, Kevin Betsy, Keiran Murtagh, Jack Marriott (Giuseppe Sole 65), Scott Rendell (Dean Morgan 65)

Unused subs: Andy Little, John Nutter

Goals: Marriott 48, Rendell 65

Altrincham: Stuart Coburn, Adam Griffin, Gianluca Havern, Shaun Densmore, Tom Marshall, Jake Moult, Peter Cavanagh (Sean Williams 75), Ryan Crowther (Kyle Perry 70), Simon Richman, Damien Reeves, James Lawie (Steven Gillespie 46)

Unused subs: Dave Parton, Greg Wilkinson

Attendance: 1,056

Sponsor's MOTM: Josh Payne (pictured)

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