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Cards' wait for a league win continues as Harriers hit back

Glen Harrington - 26th March 2016

Cards' wait for a league win continues as Harriers hit back Woking 1 Kidderminster Harriers 1
The Vanarama National League
March 26th 2016

Woking ended a run of seven straight defeats in league and cup games, but missed out on a first league win since early January, despite an improved performance against bottom of the table Kidderminster Harriers.

For much of the game Daniel Carr’s opening goal, his first for the club since joining on loan from Cambridge United earlier this month, looked like it was going to be enough for the Cards – the youngster slotting the ball past Max O’Leary after an excellent cushioned header from Keiran Murtagh just before the 15 minute mark.

But the visitors claimed an equaliser ten minutes from time, when James McQuilkin fired a thunderous shot past Jake Cole from just outside the penalty area, which may have taken a slight deflection.

Both teams had chances to win it – with substitute Joe Quigley particularly guilty of squandering a golden opportunity with five minutes to play, while at the other end Ben Whitfield was a constant thorn in Woking’s side, but ultimately the draw was probably a fair result.

Garry Hill, who in his programme notes spoke of the need to finish a faltering season strongly, made three changes from the side which suffered a heavy defeat at Cheltenham two weeks earlier – with the previously suspended Murtagh replacing Matt Robinson in midfield, while Brian Saah returned from injury and joined Carr in the starting eleven. Quigley and Giuseppe Sole were the men to miss out.

That all meant that the Cards lined up in a 4-3-3 formation, with Bruno Andrade (pictured) and John Goddard playing off Carr up front; Elsewhere, Mark Ricketts returned to midfield while Saah partnered Joey Jones in central defence.

Despite coming into the game off the back of a humbling defeat to lowly Merstham in the Surrey Senior Cup, the home side started brightly, with Jake Caprice hitting the post from a tight angle after being released down the right by Andrade.

The opening goal for the home side came soon after, with Chris Arthur doing brilliantly to control a long ball on his chest out on the left-hand side, and then having the composure to look up and pick out Murtagh – who was lurking dangerously on the edge of the Harriers penalty area. His header fell perfectly into the path of Carr, who had all of the time in the world to pick his spot and fire the ball into the bottom right-hand corner of the net.

Carr might have doubled his and Woking’s tally, a couple of minutes later. Caprice picked out the striker from the right-hand side, six yards from goal, only for Carr to scuff his effort wide. He looked to have been in an offside position, but the linesman’s flag stayed down, and the forward was left holding his head in his hands.

The rest of the half was a much more even contest, as two teams short on confidence settled into a more familiar midfield battle, with Arthur Gnahoua the only man to truly trouble the Woking goalkeeper – forcing Cole to palm away a stinging shot from the edge of the penalty area.

Half-time: Woking 1 Kidderminster Harriers 0

The visitors improved after the break, helped greatly by the introduction of substitutes Jordan Jones and Elton Ngwatala, whose presence in midfield allowed McQuilkin to push further forward in support of danger man Whitfield. Kidderminster centre-back Kelvin Langmead also became a makeshift centre-forward shortly after the changes, as the league’s bottom side chased a route back into the game.

Whitfield came close to the equaliser from, of all things, a corner – as his effort swirled in the wind and required a fine save from Cole to push the ball away, with the Woking defenders hacking the ball clear to ensure that there would be no follow-up effort. The Bournemouth loanee came close twice more as the half wore on, but every time found an in-form Cole blocking his way.

The Cards had plenty of chances of their own to finish the game and score their first home league win since a victory over local rivals Aldershot Town almost three months ago, but couldn’t take advantage. Caprice’s brilliant ball over the top put Carr clean through, only for the covering defender to get back and deny the Woking striker; Goddard saw his shot saved, while Matt Butcher skimmed the crossbar with his long-range effort.

However, it was the Harriers who were starting to look menacing and the equaliser eventually came ten minutes from time, when the Cards half-cleared the ball away from their penalty area – only for McQuilkin to meet the ball eighteen yards out and slam an unstoppable strike past the despairing dive of Cole into the Woking net, although the Woking manager was of the opinion that a deflection had taken the ball past his goalkeeper.

The hosts responded by immediately throwing on Quigley to partner Carr up front, and the young striker – who hasn’t scored since the FA Trophy win over Oxford City at the start of February – might have won it late on, but was denied by an excellent saving tackle. Poku, another Woking substitute, picked up the ball on the right and played an inch-perfect pass to dissect the Harriers defence. Quigley took the ball around the keeper but dallied too long in possession as he took the ball wide and couldn’t force his shot back past a sprawling O’Leary.

This was a result which won’t do either team any huge favours. For Woking, it did at least put an end to a depressing losing run and take them up to that important 50 point mark, while for the Harriers it’s a score that leaves them still well adrift at the bottom in their battle against relegation.

The Cards will no doubt be hoping to build on today’s improved performance when they travel to take on another relegation-threatened outfit – Welling United – on Easter Monday, as they aim for only a third league win in 2016.

Woking: Jake Cole, Jake Caprice, Chris Arthur, Joey Jones, Brian Saah, Mark Ricketts (c) (Joe Quigley 81), Keiran Murtagh (Matt Robinson 66), Matt Butcher (Godfrey Poku 76), Bruno Andrade, John Goddard, Daniel Carr

Subs not used: Joe Robinson, Nick Hamann

Goal: Daniel Carr 14

Bookings: None

Kidderminster Harriers: Max O’Leary, Jared Hodgkiss (Jordan Jones 62), Keith Lowe, Kelvin Langmead, Luke Maxwell (Elton Ngwatala 64), Tyrone Williams, Ousmane Fane, Lewis Kinsella, James McQuilkin, Arthur Gnahoua (Evan Garnett 45), Ben Whitfield

Subs not used: Omari Patrick, Dean

Goal: James McQuilkin 79

Bookings: None

Attendance: 1,730

MOTM as nominated by match sponsors Hugh Harris Menswear: Bruno Andrade – once again the winger was the man the Cards looked to for a little bit of flair, magic and inspiration. There were only flashes of it today, but a solid performance nonetheless.
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