Winning feeling back on the Cards
9:19am, Sun 1st Feb 2015
Woking 3 Alfreton Town 0
31st January 2015
Woking bounced back to winning ways as Alfreton Town were soundly beaten 3-0 in the Vanarama Conference at Kingfield on Saturday.
A first-half Scott Rendell penalty, plus a strike apiece from new recruits Ross Lafayette and 'man of the match' Charles Banya, meant that Garry’s men belatedly banked maximum points in 2015.
Three precious points were just the tonic after a Tuesday night to forget down at Dover: both on the pitch, as the Cards bowed out of the FA Trophy; and off it, with a number of supporters stationary on the M20 during the first half.
Garry has spoken publicly about freshening things up during the transfer window in a bid to turn five straight league draws into that elusive first win of the year. So the boss was no doubt delighted as his diminutive and direct winger Banya fully justified his inclusion in Saturday’s starting XI with an energetic display, capped by a neatly-taken goal with half an hour remaining.
A relieved Kingfield also welcomed back Mark Ricketts (pictured) with open arms after five frustrating months out with nagging calf and knee injuries – and the skipper looked like he had never been away.
A firm - and heavily-sanded - Kingfield surface provided a tough test for Ricketts’ recovering knee but, despite the challenging conditions, he put in a captain’s performance to marshal the midfield against admittedly unambitious opponents.
After the Alfreton team bus limped into the Kingfield car park, it may be unfair to suggest that Nicky Law proceeded to park the stricken coach in front of the Reds’ goal. But, given that Law’s strugglers have suffered defeat eleven times on the road this term, you could see why they chose to stick rigidly to a compact 4-4-1-1 formation for the majority of the 90 minutes.
Right-back for the day Joey Jones was the first to advance on Alfreton’s blue wall but saw his left-footed curler flash a few feet wide after ten minutes; four minutes later, Banya switched over to the right-hand side but sliced off target after Josh Payne’s superb outside-of-the-right-boot flick over the top.
Banya was involved in Woking’s opener shortly after, though, after his cross was headed half clear to fellow pacey wide man Chris Arthur. Like his strike against Dover last Saturday, Arthur drove the loose ball goalwards, but rather than hit the back of the net his strike ricocheted around the sea of blue shirts, and into the path of Lafayette. And with a nod to another of last week's goals against Dover, Lafayette was pulled down in the box – this time by Reds’ Lee Stevenson - and Rendell sent the goalkeeper the wrong way to coolly convert the spot-kick for the second week running in front of a jubilant KRE.
Apart from one counter-attack of note from Reds’ winger John Johnston, Woking continued to profit down the right-hand side, keeping young defenders Lathaniel Rowe-Turner and Bradford City teenage loanee, Callum Howe, on their toes at every opportunity.
And the Cards’ Rendell-Newton combination almost dealt a double five minutes from the break, after further pressure ended in a Rowe-Turner clearance finding the feet of Newton. Rendell then slipped in the marauding Payne, who shunned the first time strike, instead putting Mooney on the seat of his pants with a feint, before conspiring to chip the chance into the keeper’s grateful gloves from close range.
Half-Time: Woking 1 Alfreton Town 0
Five minutes after the change of ends, the previously profligate Payne was soon asking the linesman why he was unwilling to hand out a second home penalty as his curling centre struck an unspecified limb of fellow midfielder Tom Shaw.
With Rendell and Lafayette continuing to win more than their fair share of flicks and knock-downs, the latter drew another foul in a dangerous area, with Reds’ Bradley Wood penalised for climbing on the big Luton loanee. Wood appeared to have atoned for his ill-timed leap by repelling Payne’s resulting dead ball, but as with the Cards’ opener, the clearance fell to a red and white boot – this time Banya – whose shy at the stumps initially failed to find its intended target. But. as all good centre forwards do, Lafayette followed in the half-chance to roll in on the rebound for the first goal of his month’s loan spell.
Woking looked to kill the game off, and having notched his first Cards’ goal, Lafayette laid on a chance for Banya to follow suit four minutes later. Clearly on the same wavelength, Lafayette took Reds’ skipper Luke Graham and Andi Thanoj out of the game with a deft ball round the corner for Banya to breeze in on goal and clip past Mooney from six yards out.
Garry took the opportunity to give his excellent returning skipper Ricketts a standing ovation from the thankful terraces and introduced new forward Yemi Odubade with half an hour remaining – the lively Eastleigh loan man soon putting himself about to keep Town pegged back.
Three points all but safe, Woking never over-exerted themselves from that point onwards, with the only real late drama coming when Payne tried an audacious lob from the centre circle, which Mooney scrambled back to tip over his crossbar.
With a number of fellow play-off hopefuls being frozen out of action over the weekend, the Cards jumped up four places to sixth in the table. And as Garry pointed out afterwards, it is perhaps better to have the points on the board rather than hold games in hand during the climax to the season. It certainly proved that way for the Cards last term as multiple postponements dented their play-off push.
Up next for the Cards is a far sterner-looking test at leaders Barnet on Saturday, although Cards fans will travel to north London with fond memories of their first-ever trip to The Hive last season, which resulted in a thrilling 3-1 victory.
Woking: Jake Cole, Joey Jones, Chris Arthur, Joe McNerney, James Clarke, Mark Ricketts (Yemi Odubade 70), Josh Payne, Charles Banya, Ross Lafayette (Giuseppe Sole 77), Scott Rendell (Kevin Betsy 77).
Unused subs: Andy Little, John Goddard.
Goals: Scott Rendell (pen) 18, Ross Lafayette 59, Charles Banya 63
Cautions: Mark Ricketts, Ross Lafayette, Joey Jones
Alfreton Town: Jason Mooney, Bradley Wood, Lathaniel Rowe-Turner, John Johnston, Luke Graham, Callum Howe, Andi Thanoj, Thomas Shaw (Niall Heaton 77), Anthony Howell, Lee Stevenson (Dan Bradley 66), Karl Hawley (Joe Leesley 66).
Unused subs: George Willis, Jordan Keane.
Sponsor’s MOTM: Charles Banya – opened his Cards' account to seal the points in the second half.