Cards hit back to halt slump

Glen Harrington
9:14am, Wed 11th Nov 2015
Woking 1 Braintree Town 1
The Vanarama National League
November 10th 2015

John Goddard’s ninth goal of the season earned Woking a valuable point against high-flying Braintree, who had started the day inside the top five and just six points adrift of leaders Forest Green Rovers.
The Cards picked up just their fifth point in nine league matches as Goddard (pictured) cancelled out Sean Marks’ first-half strike, producing a calm finish from inside the penalty area after good work down the left from substitute Bruno Andrade.

The Iron, who were extremely well-organised and were coming off the back of an impressive FA Cup draw with League 2 promotion chasers Oxford United, were good value for the lead they held at the break – given to them when Marks held off the challenge of his marker and converted from close range.

However, a combination of tiredness from the visitors and a much improved second-half showing from Garry Hill’s men saw the home side deservedly claim a point twelve minutes from time, as Goddard kept his cool and rifled the ball home.

Woking made two changes from the side beaten by lowly Kidderminster Harriers ten days ago, with Jake Cole returning in goal in place of former Braintree stopper Nick Hamman, while Kadell Daniel got the nod over Andrade and Jimmy Keohane as an injured Keiran Murtagh dropped out.

Sadly, there was little sign of the Woking side which dismantled Sutton Common Rovers in the Surrey Senior Cup last Tuesday, as it was the men in sky blue and white stripes who had the better of the early play – albeit without creating many in the way of clear-cut goal scoring opportunities.

Indeed, it was the Cards who had the better of the early chances, with another former Braintree man – Dan Holman – shooting just wide as he produced a clever turn on the edge of the penalty area, before Adam Cunnington forced Will Norris into his first meaningful save of the evening.

But midway through the half and the deadlock was broken. Braintree built quickly from the back and set Mitch Brundle away down the right-hand side. Chris Arthur was caught out of position and couldn’t get back in time to prevent the cross which Marks ultimately turned home – giving a furious Cole no chance in the Woking goal.

The Cards attempted to hit back – with Daniel’s quick feet down the right causing problems and winning the home side a corner as he tried to pull the ball back for Holman on the edge of the six-yard box, before Matthew Robinson made Norris scramble across his goal to deal with a long range effort.

Ultimately though, there was little more to get excited about for the home faithful in a disappointing opening 45 minutes.

Half-time: Woking 0 Braintree Town 1

Thankfully, at least from a Woking perspective, the home side came out fired up after the break and looked far more willing to meet their challenge head on. While there was still the odd frustrated groan from the sparse crowd, as some minor error or misdemeanour gifted the ball back to the visitors, it was pleasing to see the work-rate and desire returning on what could otherwise have been a miserable evening.

Of course, the Cards didn’t have it all their own way as they pushed forward in search of an equaliser, and could have fallen further behind had Danny Cowley’s side made more of some early second-half chances.

Within four minutes of the restart, a Mark Ricketts slip allowed the wonderfully named Sammi Szmodics to go clean through on goal, but Cole stood up well and the striker’s finish was woeful, as he rolled the ball gently into the midriff of the diving goalkeeper from what had looked to be the perfect angle.

The same player went far closer five minutes later, as he caught a wandering Cole off his line and almost capitalised with the most delightful of chipped efforts, only for the Woking number one to backpedal furiously and flick the ball clear with an outstretched glove.

At the other end, Daniel and Holman both went close from distance, while Cunnington watched on in despair as his toe-poked effort bounced back agonisingly off the woodwork – after he’d slid in to meet a fantastic ball across the box from Goddard.

The hosts soon introduced Andrade and Keohane, with the latter coming off the back of a hat-trick in the game with Sutton, and it was this that ultimately made the difference.
The tiring legs of the Braintree defence struggled to keep up with the pace and trickery of Andrade – who’d previously played just 70 minutes of football since mid-October – and the equaliser soon came as a result, with the winger beating his man down the byline and pulling the ball back for Goddard, who made no mistake in picking out the bottom right hand corner of the net.

Woking might have nicked it late on, as they continued to push forward in search of a winner. Holman, who was full of running once again, forced one fine late save from Norris from a tight angle – as the National League’s sturdiest defence refused to yield for a second time.

Meanwhile Braintree, who had started the night with such control, were left to hang on – their celebrations at the final whistle proving just how grateful they were to come away from the Laithwaite Community Stadium with a point.

All in all, a decent point for the Cards, who should be pleased both with a much-needed result and the fact that they ended the game on top and looking for the winner – much more so than a team who were twelve places and eight points ahead of them at kick-off.

Braintree fans will no doubt point towards their strenuous schedule as the reason for their second-half decline, which also included three yellow cards for diving, time wasting and dissent respectively in an ill-tempered finale, but for the hosts it will have to go down as an important step towards recovery – after the team's worst run of results in almost five years.

It’s worth remembering that all is not lost. Woking currently sit eight points adrift of the top five – with at least one game in hand on many of the teams above them – and with another home game to come this weekend, against mid-table Macclesfield, the fast approaching festive period could provide us with the perfect opportunity to get back on track.

Woking: Jake Cole, Cameron Norman, Chris Arthur, Mark Ricketts (c), Brian Saah, Joey Jones, Matthew Robinson (Jimmy Keohane 65), John Goddard, Kadell Daniel (Bruno Andrade 65), Dan Holman, Adam Cunnington

Subs not used: Giuseppe Sole, Terrell Thomas, Nick Hamann

Goals: John Goddard 78

Bookings: None

Braintree Town: Will Norris, Remy Clerima, Sam Habergham, Matt Paine, Matt Fry, Sammi Szmodics, Taylor Miles (Michael Cheek 69), Alex Woodyard, Chez Isaac, Mitch Brundle, Sean Marks (Ibra Sekassa 81)

Subs not used: Chris Haigh, Elliot List, Anthony Edger

Goals: Sean Marks 23

Bookings: Chez Isaac 60, Will Norris 90, Sammi Szmodics 90

Attendance: 1,182

Sponsor's MOTM: John Goddard – worked extremely hard and while he arguably wasn’t at his free-flowing best, he still ultimately provided the crucial moment of quality which earned his team a point.

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