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Payneful experience as Cards slip to third consecutive defeat

Phil Batts - 26th September 2015

Payneful experience as Cards slip to third consecutive defeat Dover Athletic 2 Woking 0

The Vanarama National League

September 25th 2015

These two sides came into the match in front of the live BT cameras on the back of contrasting fortunes. The home side was on a run of three unbeaten games, including Tuesday night's 5-2 trouncing of promotion hopefuls and big spenders Eastleigh on their own ground. The victory had moved them up to tenth place in the Vanarama National League. Woking, however, were looking to avoid a third successive defeat which had seen them slip to sixth.

Garry Hill made three changes to the line-up which started in Tuesday night's narrow defeat at Braintree. Captain Mark Ricketts made a welcome return from the ankle injury he sustained at Boreham Wood at the end of August whilst Jake Caprice and Jimmy Keohane both came back into the side having only made the substitutes bench at Braintree. Joey Jones, Giuseppe Sole and Godfrey Poku made way for the three returnees.

Lining up in a 4-5-1 formation but with wide men Bruno Andrade and John Goddard no doubt looking to push forward in support of Dan Holman whenever possible, the Cards got off to the worst possible start after just two minutes. Craig Braham-Barrett tugged back Toby Ajala in the penalty box and referee Mr Whitton, having been given the nod by his assistant, pointed to the penalty spot. Up stepped a confident looking Nicky Deverdics to take the kick but Jake Cole guessed correctly and saved smartly to his right to deny the home striker.

This reprieve should have provided the visitors with the wake-up call they needed but alas it was not to be as less than a minute later, they found themselves behind and it was all too easy. A through ball inside Terell Thomas allowed Stefan Payne to burst through and score through Cole's legs. Having performed heroics with the penalty, the Woking stopper may have felt that he could have done better on this occasion.

This had been a terrible start for the Cards and, still at sixes and sevens, they almost conceded a second as ex-Card Aswad Thomas whizzed a dangerous pass across the six-yard box which Ajala could not quite get on the end of. Deverdics then hit a free kick marginally over the bar as Woking continued to struggle to come to terms with the lively Dover attack, backed up by a midfield which constantly harried their opponents out of the ball.

Eventually, however, Garry Hill's men started to settle and string a few passes together but without looking as though they could put any real pressure on the home defence. A couple of John Goddard free kicks around the box were a little predictable and easily snuffed out and their first corner just past the half-hour also came to nothing.

Nevertheless, the Cards were now starting to enjoy their fair share of possession and Jake Caprice was starting to make in-roads with his energetic probing down the right flank.

On thirty minutes, Thomas did well to break up a Dover attack and found Goddard who played an incisive through ball into the path of Keiran Murtagh, who up until this point had been having one of his quieter matches this season. The midfielder did well to get his shot away but it was deflected for a corner. The set-piece, not for the first time in the evening, came to nothing.

The game was now starting to open up and Liam Bellamy shot wide up the other end from twenty-five yards.

With the Cards still missing that extra bit of quality in the final third of the pitch, it was the home side who came closest to adding to their tally right on half-time as Ricky Miller's left-footed free kick from just outside the box was pawed away by Cole high to his left to end a pretty dismal opening forty-five minutes for Garry Hill and his players.

Half-time: Dover Athletic 1 Woking 0

Woking came out with greater determination at the start of the second half, no doubt with a few home truths from the manager ringing in their ears. Some good possession kept the home side pinned back in their own half in the first few minutes but again, they could not find that incisive final ball to suggest that an equaliser was imminent.

Having survived their opponents' mini revival, Dover came storming back as a swerving and dipping drive from Richard Orlu produced a fine tip-over from Cole. The Woking 'keeper was called into action again shortly after as he kept out Miller's header from another Deverdics free kick.

With only one goal the difference, Woking were still in the game though although the home side were still looking the more threatening. The visitors kept doggedly to their task, nevertheless, as Goddard's prompting suggested that all was not lost.

Midway through the half, hopes were raised as Goddard engineered enough space for himself in the box to get a low shot away which Mitch Walker in the Dover goal could not hold. Dan Holman, who had worked hard all evening with little reward, was almost on hand to knock in the rebound but desperate defending saw the ball cleared in the nick of time.

In the fifty-eighth minute Joey Jones replaced Thomas, who appeared to have picked up a slight knock.

As the game entered the last quarter of an hour and with Woking still not out of it, Dover found that all-important second goal. As with the opener, there appeared to be no immediate danger for the Woking defence to deal with as substitute Duane Ofori- Acheampong received the ball just inside the penalty area. He was allowed time and space to play in Payne, however, who clinically slotted home for his second goal of the night.

A final throw of the dice from the Cards' manager then saw a double substitution as Giuseppe Sole and Harry Cardwell replaced Goddard and Ricketts.

It could quite easily have been 3-0 to the home side a few minutes later, however, as substitute Tom Murphy managed to scoop over from six yards out when it seemed easier to score.

With time running out, Woking's frustration spilled over in the final few minutes as Murtagh and Sole were booked to bring the team's total of yellow cards to five for the night in what had been neither a physical nor bad-tempered encounter.

This will not go down as one of Woking's greatest ninety minutes of football as they were well beaten by an impressive Dover outfit, no doubt made to look a little better on the night by a well under-par performance from their visitors.

Garry Hill had no complaints when interviewed after the match, commenting that the better team won on the night and that his players had not shown any quality or cutting edge, having given themselves a mountain to climb after a disastrous opening few minutes.

This loss is the Cards' third on the spin, which has seen them score just the one goal and slip from the heady heights of second place in the league to ninth. It is hardly time for talk of a crisis, however. Having had to deal with an early season spate of injuries which ripped the spine out of the team, they did incredibly well in the face of adversity to lift themselves as high up the table as they did. What followed, with Cheltenham at home, followed by Braintree and Dover away in the space of six days, was never going to be an easy sequence of fixtures, so hopefully the upcoming eight day break will give Garry and his players the chance to regroup and go again with renewed energy and enthusiasm.

Next up, Southport at home on Saturday 3rd October.

Woking: Jake Cole, Craig Braham-Barrett, Terell Thomas (Joey Jones 58), Brian Saah, Jake Caprice, Bruno Andrade, Mark Ricketts (c) (Harry Cardwell 77), John Goddard (Giuseppe Sole 77), Keiran Murtagh, Jimmy Keohane, Daniel Holman

Unused subs: Nick Hamann, Godfrey Poku

Cautioned: Jake Caprice (18), Terell Thomas(39), Mark Ricketts (45), Keiran Murtagh (87), Giuseppe Sole (90)

Dover Athletic: Mitch Walker, Sam Magri, Sean Raggett, Liam Bellamy (Tom Murphy 54), Jamie Grimes, Richard Orlu, Aswad Thomas, Toby Ajala (Nabi Diallo 82), Nicky Deverdics, Ricky Miller (Duane Ofori-Acheampong 70), Stefan Payne

Unused subs: Andy Rafferty, Jaydon Gibbs

Goals: Stefan Payne (3 + 75)

Cautioned: Aswad Thomas (68)

My MOTM: Jake Caprice – difficult to single out a Woking player who did themselves justice on the night but the full-back never game up and his attacking raids down the right flank were one of the few positives to be taken from the match

Attendance: 864
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