10-Man Woking show mettle to draw against Halifax

Haydn Cobb
9:45pm, Sat 23rd Jan 2016
Woking 1 FC Halifax Town 1
Vanarama National League
January 23rd 2016

Woking ground out a hard-fought draw against an improving FC Halifax Town despite playing with ten men for over an hour, as Bruno Andrade’s first half goal was cancelled out a few minutes later by Sam Walker’s precise free kick.

With the home side hunting a fourth consecutive win in all competitions, their strong start was halted after Chris Arthur was shown a straight red card midway through the first half. Despite the setback, Woking took the lead ten minutes later through Andrade’s mesmerising run and shot.

However, Woking were pegged back when Walker converted a curling free kick for Halifax five minutes before the interval but the Cards showed strong resilience to keep out the Shaymen and take a well-deserved point to make it nine games unbeaten.

The draw sees Woking remain sixth in the Vanarama National League and one point shy of the play-offs after Eastleigh also drew, while Dover play on Sunday.

Woking boss Garry Hill, who celebrated five years in charge of the Cards during the week, made one change to the starting line-up with Joey Jones (pictured) slotting in alongside Brain Saah in central defence after recovering from illness. His return allowed captain Mark Ricketts to push into central midfield with Matt Robinson dropping to the substitute bench.

Despite Halifax’s lowly league position, the Shaymen arrived at the Laithwaite Community Stadium undefeated in 10 games since Jim Harvey became manager on a permanent basis. After an initial bright start from the opposition, Woking were the first team with an effort on target as Jones headed an Arthur free kick into the goalkeeper’s chest.

Giuseppe Sole then went close to scoring with a trademark free kick but his effort was palmed over the crossbar by goalkeeper Sam Johnson. Woking maintained the pressure through Keiran Murtagh’s fierce long range shot, which was blocked, and John Goddard followed up by stinging the 'keeper’s hands.

With the Yorkshire side deploying a 3-5-2 formation, Woking looked to penetrate through quick wing play with both wide players and full backs enjoying plenty of possession, but the game was turned on its head after Arthur was shown a straight red card in the 25th minute.

Woking’s left back stormed forward with the ball but after a heavy touch he attempted to recover possession with a strong sliding challenge on Scott McManus. Despite little contact being made between the players, the referee applied the letter of the law and gave Arthur his marching orders, which was only Woking's second red card of the season.

After weathering some Halifax pressure, Hill looked to reshape his 10-man Woking side with Sole being sacrificed for Robinson in midfield. As a result, Ricketts moved to right back as Norman switched to the left.

With the home crowd looking to lift their players, Andrade produced a moment of magic to give Woking the lead on 35 minutes. Picking up the ball in the centre circle, the nippy winger charged at the Halifax back line and, unchallenged, blasted a 20-yard effort into the bottom left corner for his fourth goal of the season.

However, Woking’s joy was short-lived as Halifax equalised four minutes later through a curling free kick by Walker. The Halifax forward won a soft decision from Murtagh on the edge of the penalty area and duly picked himself up to dispatch the equaliser.The Woking midfielder clearly felt that the decision had been harsh.

The Cards dug deep to make it through to the interval level despite continued Halifax pressure and with a man down it gave Hill arguably one of his trickiest half-time team talks for some time.

Half-time: Woking 1 FC Halifax Town 1

Neither side made a change at the interval but there was a change of referee with Mr Hopkins unable to continue in the second period and he was replaced by the fourth official. After his performance in the first period, it has to be said that not too many home supporters showed a great deal of sympathy for the original referee when the announcement was made over the tannoy before the second half began.

Despite Woking being a player down the home side started the second period on the front foot, with substitute Robinson seeing his deflected shot skim the top of the crossbar. The home side continued to play with a resolute defence and the clear aim of picking off Halifax on the counter attack but chances were few and far between.

Andrade became the home side’s best outlet going forward but Halifax boss Harvey ensured the winger didn’t waltz through his defence by doubling up defenders on the flank.

With Woking building two banks of four in front of Cole’s goal it gave Halifax plenty of possession around the halfway line but they struggled to make it count in attack with a series of sloppy passes.

As the Kingfield faithful attempted to stir fresh energy into the home team, Joe Quigley came close to latching on to a blocked clearance but Johnson was able to smother the danger.

Heading into the final 10 minutes, Woking’s numerical disadvantage was far from apparent as the home side had the better chances to win the game at the death. Goddard wriggled free on the left but couldn’t pick out Murtagh or Quigley while Cameron Norman had a low effort saved.

Entering injury time, Woking stood firm to a late Halifax barrage of crosses and demonstrated their mettle to earn a share of the spoils and a valuable point.

Woking: Jake Cole, Chris Arthur, Brain Saah, Joey Jones, Cameron Norman, John Goddard, Mark Ricketts (c), Keiran Murtagh, Bruno Andrade (Jake Caprice 67), Joe Quigley, Giuseppe Sole (Matthew Robinson 30)

Unused subs: Nick Hamann, Godfrey Poku, Alex Smith

Goal: Andrade (35)

Yellow Cards: Norman (69), Murtagh (71)

Red Card: Arthur (25)

FC Halifax Town: Sam Johnson, James Bolton, Scott McManus, Hamza Bencherif, Matty Brown, Kevin Roberts (Josh MacDonald 71), Nicky Wroe (c), Kingsley James, Sam Walker (Dino Fazlic 61), Shaun Tuton, Jordan Burrow

Unused subs: Jordan Porter, Richard Peniket, Jake Hibbs

Goal: Walker (39)

Sponsors’ MOTM: Joey Jones – rock solid in Woking’s defence and read the game well.

Attendance: 1,484

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