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Defensive mistakes prove costly as Cards' unbeaten run ends

Malcolm Wyatt
10:15am, Wed 27th Jan 2016
Altrincham 3 Woking 1
Vanarama National League
January 26th 2015

A mighty second half strike from dead-ball specialist Giuseppe Sole was not enough to see off-colour Woking past lowly hosts Altrincham on Tuesday night, the Cards slipping to defeat at Moss Lane.

Garry Hill’s side were second-best at times against Lee Sinnott’s strugglers, who seemed to grow in stature as the night wore on, clearly enjoying their first home league game in 66 days. The Robins pulled themselves out of the National League drop zone accordingly, and their Surrey visitors could have no real complaints.

In the first attack of note, central defender Brian Saah was on hand to hook away under pressure, and when the ball came back in from the right, Jake Cole gathered comfortably, the Cards 'keeper far the busier, Sinnott's hosts looking hungry and Woking were soon very much on the back foot.

Simon Richman struck wide for the Robins from a corner after visiting defender Cameron Norman headed behind an Adam Griffin delivery, while at the other end John Goddard made a promising break, but home custodian Tim Deasy was equal to his finish. Then, as Woking spread the ball wide, Bruno Andrade showed his pace but over-hit a centre.

The next attack proved fruitful for the home side though - an initial ball into the Cards’ goalmouth punched by Cole straight back to the hosts and a looping header beating the 'keeper but cleared off the line by a scrambling Jake Caprice. Joey Jones then had to head away, but only found Tranmere loan striker Jonathon Margetts, who - while looking to regroup - was brought down by Andrade. The ref pointed to the spot, Michael Rankine blasting powerfully home on 13 minutes, giving Cole no chance.

Margetts and influential 18 year-old Burnley loanee Josh Ginelly remained a handful, the former further testing Cole with a stinging volley, the ball bouncing back from his grasp before the goalie gathered.

The experienced Rankine was back defending to put behind a Goddard free-kick as Woking hit back, while as Altrincham pushed again a corner was headed away by Keiran Murtagh, and a promising move started by Ginnelly ended with a wayward effort by Marcus Holness, also in from Tranmere.

Goddard fired on goal for Woking but Deasy recovered from a spill to hold on, the visitors keen to stretch their unbeaten league run to 10 matches – a sequence going back to defeat at Barrow on November 28th.

Visitors’ skipper Mark Ricketts was typically tenacious and denied Margetts as he shaped up for another shot on goal. The Cards' skipper then set up Andrade but his team-mate could only find heavily-shepherded Murtagh, the move breaking down. Meanwhile, Goddard struck left of the post with a free-kick from distance.

As Alty countered, Margetts took a deflection off Saah and ran on goal, his effort going out for a corner after a key touch from Ricketts. A free-kick from ex-Huddersfield Town midfielder Jordan Sinnott – the manager’s son – also missed the target.

Murtagh was unlucky with a glancing header from a Sole set-piece, but just when the Yellows’ pressure was increasing, the hosts broke and doubled their advantage two minutes before the interval, Woking again caught out at the back. This time, Cole failed to hold Richman's effort, the ball falling kindly to unmarked Ginnelly, who tapped into an unguarded net from eight yards.

Half-time: Altrincham 2 Woking 0

Swirling rain continued after the break and Altrincham looked sharper again, keen to kill the game off. But a Sinnott free-kick from distance was snaffled up by the Woking wall, the visitors soon looking more promising.

Jake Caprice (pictured) was instrumental, making two promising right-wing raids and putting in a couple of decent crosses, Andrade coming closest to taking advantage in the centre. But then up the other end, Ginnelly fired over from a free-kick, while in the next home attack Rankine saw off his marker but his cross was cut out by Saah, with Margetts ready to pull the trigger.

Two more home corners followed before Norman cleared and set Andrade on his way, the pacy midfielder carrying on where he left off against Halifax with a mighty run, this time curtailed 25 yards out by Ryan Crowther, who was cautioned. The resultant free-kick was in Sole territory, the lone Woking striker stepping up and making no mistake, his 57th-minute party-piece beating the home wall and finding the corner with Deasy left diving at shadows.

Altrincham fought back and Rankine netted at the other end, but the referee had already blown, the experienced striker’s free-kick less effective but leading to a corner from which Joey Jones tidied up. Yet Sole continued to cause anxiety for the hosts with another set-piece, and Jones wasn’t far off from a deep Norman delivery, Woking chasing the game now.

However, Sinnott came close again with a free-kick of his own, just wide, while the Robins called for a penalty after Norman denied Crowther. Sinnott‘s next free-kick was cleared, prompting changes from the Cards' dug-out, with Joe Quigley replacing Saah and debutant Alex Smith on for Andrade as Hill tinkered with his formation, moving Ricketts back into defence.

While the visitors were chasing the game, they proved susceptible to counter-attacks and errors and a poor Norman clearance led to a further Rankine raid, Woking just about recovering on this occasion however.

They were soon further behind, though, as Margetts got the goal he deserved on 71 minutes, finding himself in space on the left from Rankine’s headed pass before unleashing an assured finish beyond Cole.

Woking were not quite done, but a hopeful four-player move ended with the Cards squeezed out, while Deasy denied Sole after a Caprice cross. Sole was soon in the book, the frustration showing, and Cole did well to stop a stinging effort from Rankine before Caprice cleared as Margetts loitered with intent.

Goddard wasn’t far off as the Cards pushed again, while Sole did everything but finish in the next attack, although the linesman’s flag was already raised.

And the home fans knew they were safe after a mighty Quigley effort that the loan striker got all wrong, his shot finishing closer to the corner flag than to the onion bag in the last real assault as the home side eased to a comfortable victory.

Garry Hill was in philosophical mood after the game, conceding that his team had been disappointing on the night and "second best all over the park".

Next up, a home league fixture this coming Saturday against Barrow with the Cards looking to prevent the Cumbrian side completing the double over them following a 2-1 reversal in November.

Altrincham: Tim Deasy, Adam Griffin, Jake Moult (c), Scott Leather, Simon Richman, Michael Rankine, Josh Ginnelly (Dylan Mottley-Henry 86), Ryan Crowther (James Lawrie 74), Jordan Sinnott, Jonathon Margetts (Josh O'Keefe 89), Marcus Holness

Unused subs: Damian Reeves, Sam Heathcote

Goals: Rankine (pen) 13, Ginnelly 43, Margetts 71

Bookings: Crowther 55, O’Keefe 90

Woking: Jake Cole, Jake Caprice, Cameron Norman, Brian Saah (Joe Quigley 65), Joey Jones, Mark Ricketts, Keiran Murtagh (Godfrey Poku 84), Matt Robinson, Bruno Andrade (Alex Smith 68), John Goddard, Giuseppe Sole

Unused subs: Nick Hamann, Gary Abisogun

Goal: Sole 57

Booking: Sole 77

Attendance: 826

My MOTM: Jake Caprice – while Woking’s defence were caught out at key times, Jake Caprice personified the Cards’ ability to bounce back, and on another night his positivity might have inspired at least a point.

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