WOKING 1 GRAYS ATHLETIC 0
12:00am, Sun 8th Apr 2007
3.00pm on Saturday 7 April 2007
On a day when the battle cry from the new management team of Smith and Baker was for all the players to stand up and be counted, it was appropriate that the Cards most inspirational player this season, Tom Hutchinson, scored the crucial winning goal to secure all three points in this tense relegation battle.
The team showed three changes from last week?s line up against Morecambe, with Rob Gier coming in at right-back to replace the unwell Osano, Green returning at left-back instead of Pearce, with Goma Lambu also making a welcome return to the side instead of Sole.
The Cards responded to a much more vociferous Kingfield faithful who returned in greater numbers following Glenn Cockerill?s exit last week, by not allowing Grays to get into their rhythm. They were quickly rewarded with a fine opening goal after twelve minutes. A well worked free-kick was expertly flicked on by McAllister to Hutchinson, who has the happy knack of scoring crucial goals, and he somehow managed to stretch his leg out to toe poke a volley past the keeper from close range.
Despite this good start, the Cards were unable to build on their lead and Grays almost struck back immediately, when following good build up play, O?Connor hit a low drive that flashed just past the post.
Understandably, given what was at stake, there followed a nervous passage of play with few clear-cut chances created by either side. It took Woking almost half an hour to create another decent opportunity. Following the award of a free-kick, Bunce put over an excellent cross to find Hutchinson, who cleverly headed the ball across the goal to Webb, who could only volley the ball over the bar when well placed.
With half-time approaching, Karl Murray, perhaps sensing that more than one goal would be needed in order to steady the nerves later on, nearly added a second, courtesy of some typically determined play on his part. Charging into the box, he stumbled under the initial challenge but somehow picked himself up and although off balance, hit a ferocious shot that looked goal bound until Knowles managed to pull off a fantastic save, tipping the ball over the bar.
Following the restart, not surprisingly Grays upped the tempo, but it was Woking who had two good opportunities to put the match beyond doubt. Firstly, following good work by Lambu, who skipped round a couple of defenders and put over an inviting cross, McAllister directed his header towards the bottom corner only to find Knowles diving to his left to make another excellent save. Next it was the turn of Marum, who looked lively as a replacement for McAllister, when he robbed a defender near the by-line who was hoping the ball would go out of play, and cut inside only to see his shot hit the post and roll out again to safety.
Slowly but surely, through the probing play of Thurgood and the sheer physical strength and skill of Oli, Grays increasingly began to dominate possession and the Cards became virtually encamped in their own half. An equaliser looked inevitable and Grays will surely look back at their missed chances and wonder what might have been.
Stuart missed their first opportunity, heading over from five yards when well placed, then the ever dangerous Oli, having bulldozed his way past a couple of challenges, hit a vicious dipping drive from twenty-five yards that cannoned off the bar. Then, with the clock ticking down, Alex Rhodes missed a glorious opportunity shooting wide from close range.
Despite being under siege for a lot of the second-half, Gindre?s goal survived intact, and after a nerve-jangling four minutes of added time, the Cards held out to earn a hard fought three points in their battle to be playing Conference football again next year.
Woking: Gindre, Gier (Berquez 70), Hutchinson, MacDonald, Green, Lambu, Murray, Smith, Bunce (Sole 63),Webb, McAllister (Marum 59).
Subs not used: Bittner, Pearce.
Booked: Smith, Gindre, MacDonald.
Goals: Hutchinson 12.
Sponsor?s MOTM: MacDonald
My MOTM Hutchinson