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Woking overcome Forest Green Rovers to keep play-off dreams alive

Haydn Cobb
7:50pm, Sat 21st Mar 2015
Woking 1 Forest Green Rovers 0
Vanarama Conference
21st March 2015

Woking made it four wins from their last five games to maintain their play-off ambitions after beating Forest Green Rovers thanks to a 49th minute Scott Rendell penalty.

The Cards showed true grit and determination to beat a spirited Rovers and close the gap between the two teams to just four points, with the visitors currently occupying the final play-off place.

Woking also have a game in hand over their Gloucestershire rivals and enjoyed a near-perfect day as play-off hopefuls Eastleigh and Gateshead both lost while Halifax could only draw, which sees Woking jump up to seventh in the Vanarama Conference.

Three minutes into the second half Yemi Odubade fell under heavy pressure from Forest Green defender Charlie Clough and referee Nicholas Kinseley awarded Woking a penalty. Rendell confidently stepped up and slotted the ball past goalkeeper Steve Arnold for his 18th league goal of the season.

Woking’s victory ended the visitors' 12-game unbeaten run, the first time they had lost in the league in 2015. The result will be a massive confidence boost for Garry Hill’s team, who are well in the mix of the play-off chasers with seven games remaining.

The manager was forced into making one change to the starting line-up from last Saturday’s win against AFC Telford United with Chris Arthur returning to left back in place of the injured Aswad Thomas. Thomas has undergone surgery on a broken hand sustained against the Conference bottom club and is expected to be missing for the next four to six weeks.

The pre-match talk was focused on the game being make-or-break for Woking’s play-off ambitions. The Cards started the day seven points behind Forest Green Rovers, albeit with a game in hand, with Rovers occupying the final play-off position.

The home team started the brighter with Kevin Betsy and Odubade both testing Rovers goalkeeper Steve Arnold with early efforts from the edge of the penalty box.

The away side thought they had taken the lead against the run of play but Rovers striker Stuart Fleetwood was judged to be offside.

The home side were beginning to string a nice set of passes together which provided Mark Ricketts with a sight of goal from 20 yards out. The Cards captain, who was making his 200th league appearance in a Woking shirt, unleashed a fierce shot which was parried over the crossbar by Arnold.

Hill’s side continued to dominate the shots tally but were restricted to efforts from the edge of the penalty area by a side looking to extend its unbeaten run.

Some outstanding footwork from last week’s man-of-the-match Keiran Murtagh enabled him to wriggle free of his marker and whip an in-swinging cross to Cards’ top scorer Rendell but his header was well held by Arnold.

The opening 30 minutes were nearly all one-way traffic for Woking but Rovers looked content to attack on the counter, meaning the Cards backline had to maintain their concentration throughout.

Forest Green had their first sustained period of pressure but failed to test goalkeeper Jake Cole. Woking were then able to break away at the other end with Betsy threading a through ball to Odubade, who crossed from the left to Rendell, but the striker couldn’t direct his header on target.

As the game entered first half injury time, Rovers had the home fans' hearts in their mouths after right back Dale Bennett drifted unnoticed to the edge of the Cards' penalty box. The defender unleashed a good effort from 20 yards which clipped the top of Cole’s crossbar.

Half-time: Woking 0 Forest Green Rovers 0

Woking took the lead just four minutes after the restart with Rendell’s 18th league goal of the season. A mistake by Aarron Racine gifted the ball to Betsy, who floated a pass over the defence into the path of Odubade. The Woking striker went down under the challenge from Clough with his back to goal and referee Kinseley duly pointed to the spot.

Rendell, who spent time on loan at Forest Green whilst on Reading’s books earlier in his career, kept his composure and slotted home into the left of Arnold’s goal as the goalkeeper dived the opposite way.

The away side thought they’d equalised immediately after going behind but Fleetwood’s effort was ruled out, again because of an offside decision.

After conceding the opening goal, the visitors started to pose more of an attacking threat. Clough almost made amends for conceding the penalty with a header from a Marcus Kelly corner, but Cole was equal to it and pushed it on to the crossbar.

Just past the hour mark, Forest Green looked to refresh things up by making a double substitution, with Tom Bender and James Marwood coming on for Sam Wedgbury and Kurtis Guthrie.

The Cards also made a change with Giuseppe Sole replacing Odubade up front as the game began to stretch, which provided the ever-alert Sole with opportunities to get in behind the Rovers defence.

The home fans endured a tense end to the game as Rovers launched a series of aerial bombardments but the Woking defence stood firm.

Moans of anxiety rang around Kingfield as the fourth official indicated five minutes of injury time were to be played despite there being very few stoppages. Forest Green threw every outfield player forward in the hunt for an equaliser but Woking held out.

Substitute Charles Banya effectively ended the game as he broke away with the ball and smashed a shot at Arnold who could only parry it away for a corner, which used up all the remaining time and send the Woking fans into celebration at the full-time whistle.

Woking will hope to continue with their push for the play-offs on Tuesday night when they welcome Torquay United to Kingfield Stadium. If Garry Hill’s men can make it back-to-back home wins they would move just one point off the play-offs.

Woking: Jake Cole, Chris Arthur, Brian Saah, Joey Jones, Adam Newton, John Goddard (Charles Banya 88), Mark Ricketts (John Nutter 90), Keiran Murtagh, Kevin Betsy, Scott Rendell, Yemi Odubade (Giuseppe Sole 64)

Unused subs: Andy Little, Lionel Stone

Goals: Rendell (49 pen)

Booked: Cole

Forest Green Rovers: Steve Arnold, Marcus Kelly, Aaron Racine, Charlie Clough, Dale Bennett, Elliott Frear, Clovis Kamdjo, Sam Wedgbury (Tom Bender 64), Kurtis Guthrie (James Marwood 64), Jon Parkin, Stuart Fleetwood (David Pipe 82)

Unused subs: Sam Russell, Danny Coles

Sponsors' MotM: Brian Saah

Attendance: 1,436

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