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Cards falter

Brian Caffarey - 20th December 2014

Cards falter Woking 1 Southport 2
20 December 2014

This was a game which a side chasing a play-off place ought to be expected to win but the Cards were undone by a combination of their failure (again) to defend set pieces, profligate finishing and some superb goalkeeping from the Sandgrounders’ David Raya Martin. Both Southport goals came from free-kicks pumped into the box, with another identical ‘goal’ disallowed for offside. Gez Sole pulled a goal back late on for the Cards but it was too little, too late. Woking’s woes were compounded by the sight of Mike Cestor being carried off on a stretcher in the first half, an injury which contributed to nine minutes’ added time at the end of the first half.

Woking were once again without the injured Scott Rendell, so Jack Marriott and Dean Morgan started up front, supported by a central midfield of Josh Payne and Keiran Murtagh, flanked by Kevin Betsy on the left and Theo Lewis on the right. At the back there was no sign of James Clarke, so Joey Jones replaced him there, with John Nutter again starting at left back, and Joe McNerney and Mike Cestor as the two centre backs. Jake Cole was sufficiently recovered from his injury to be the cover, on the bench, for Ross Worner.

Woking started a little sloppily, allowing the Sandgrounders’ Joe Connor to plant a header over the bar in the opening minute, followed by an uncharacteristic ‘spill’ by Ross Worner as the busy Paul Rutherford fashioned a fairly straightforward cross. Fortunately, the defence was able to clear its lines. The Cards’ passing was also loose early on. The first Woking threat came in the 7th minute as Payne slipped a ball through to Betsy but his cross was intercepted by a hardworking opposition defence. Payne’s shot, after a nice move a minute later, was easy ‘meat’ for Raya Martin.

Southport took the lead in the 12th minute. Predictably, it came from a set piece: a free-kick flighted in from Woking’s left by David Fitzpatrick. An exposed Worner missed his punch; the ball was half cleared, only to be headed back under the bar by Charlie Joyce.

The Cards nearly equalised straightaway as a long punt from Worner, clearing his lines, reached Marriott in the Southport box but it glanced off him. Woking threatened again a minute later as a fine move ended with Marriott twisting in the box and forcing the first of many smart saves from Raya Martin. A goal seemed to be coming as Marriott then turned provider, flashing the ball across the face of the goal, with Murtagh not quite able to apply the finishing touch.

The Cards’ pressure intensified in a ‘purple patch’ midway through the half as Morgan’s clever back header sent Marriott through but Raya Martin was out quickly to block the striker’s attempted flick over him. Then McNerney almost forced the ball home from a corner. Raya Martin then surpassed himself with a brilliant tip over from a cross-cum-shot from Murtagh. An easier save followed as the ball bobbled through to him following a throw – with the Cards once again unable to make the crucial connection.

The Cards looked certain to suffer a sucker punch as a deflected Payne pass fell into Richard Brodie’s path. The big number 10 took his time but even so Mike Cestor did superbly to get back and stick a vital foot in. Unfortunately, it appeared that he seriously injured himself in doing so, with a stretcher soon being called for, followed by a long halt to the game as he was attended to.

When play resumed Jones moved to centre back, Lewis to right back, Betsy to right midfield, with substitute John Goddard on the left. But it was Southport who threatened again, Worner having to save from Rutherford, while Paul Smith then unleashed a huge effort, which went narrowly wide, with Southport claiming that Worner got a touch.

Woking did not manage to take advantage of the added minutes, with hopes only raised by a mazy Morgan run along the 18-yard line as he was gradually forced wider by the massed Southport defence.

Half-time: Woking 0 Southport 1

It took a few minutes for the Cards to get going after the break but, once they did so, the Southport goal came under siege for a time. A free-kick in a ‘Gez Sole’ position – but with Gez not yet on the pitch – saw Morgan produce a fine effort which Raya Martin did superbly to tip onto the bar. A minute later a Payne through ball saw Marriott pull the ball back to Morgan, but his effort with the outside of his right boot drifted wide of the goal. Then Marriott and Goddard combined to put Morgan in again but he couldn’t scramble the ball in as the Southport goal led a charmed life.

For a moment, it looked as though Woking had fallen to another sucker punch as the ball ended up in Woking’s net from another free-kick but the visiting supporters’ cheers were silenced by a flag for offside.

Immediately, the onslaught on the Sandgrounders’ goal resumed as Goddard’s cross went right across the face of the goal. An equaliser then seemed certain as Betsy stepped inside the defender to pick his spot, only to see his shot headed off the line as the fans in the Leslie Gosden Stand gasped in disbelief.

In retrospect this was really the high watermark of Woking’s attacking play, with the Cards rarely able subsequently to put the Southport defence under sustained pressure. Moreover, the visitors began to look more dangerous on the break, with the speedy Amadou Bakayoko causing a few headaches for the Woking defence.

Garry Hill threw on Gez Sole for Betsy and Chris Arthur for Nutter in the 60th minute. It was Arthur who was unfortunately – and perhaps harshly – penalised (and booked) in a move which led to Southport’s second goal in the 67th minute. Fitzpatrick swung in the free-kick and Dominic Collins headed in. For all Woking’s often attractive approach play, they found themselves two goals adrift from two simple headed goals from set pieces.

It could have been worse as Brodie didn’t make the best of a good chance a few minutes later, shooting straight at Worner, while Rutherford tried a very ambitious effort from virtually the half-way line which Worner managed to get back in time to hold on the line. As we moved into the last ten minutes Worner saved from Bakayoko as Woking pushed forward and substitute Danny Hattersley hit the post – but from an offside position.

When the Woking breakthrough came in the 87th minute it was almost unexpected, but it was a well-worked and well-taken goal. A quick interchange between Goddard and Sole left the latter with just Raya Martin to beat – and this time his fiercely-struck volley gave the keeper no chance.

Although the referee added five minutes, Woking weren’t able to fashion any decent chances of securing an equaliser. Indeed, Bakayoko had the best opportunity as he robbed Lewis, only to fire straight at Worner.

So, a frustrating afternoon and a third league defeat in a row increases the pressure on Garry Hill’s side to come up with some exceptional performances in a testing Christmas/New Year schedule, starting with Eastleigh away on 26 December and followed, two days later, by a local derby at home to Aldershot Town. But they are still in 5th place in the table, with everything to play for.

Woking: Ross Worner, Joey Jones, Joe McNerney, Mike Cestor (John Goddard 40), John Nutter (Chris Arthur 61), Theo Lewis, Keiran Murtagh, Josh Payne, Kevin Betsy (Giuseppe Sole 60), Dean Morgan, Jack Marriott

Unused subs: Jake Cole, Adam Newton

Booked: Chris Arthur, Joe McNerney

Southport: David Raya Martin, David Fitzpatrick, Dominic Collins, Luke Foster, Luke George, Richard Brodie (Danny Hattersley 80), Charlie Joyce, Joe Connor (Clayton McDonald 65), Paul Rutherford, Amadou Bakayoko

Unused subs: John Marsden, Mitchell Austin, Liam Roberts

Booked: Dominic Collins, Luke Foster, Paul Rutherford

Sponsors’ MOTM: Dean Morgan (pictured)

Attendance: 1688

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