Spirited Cards push league leaders all the way

Ian Toft
12:00am, Sat 11th Feb 2017
Lincoln City 3 Woking 2
Vanarama National League
11th February 2017

Woking produced a gutsy performance full of effort against the National League leaders. Unfortunately they fell narrowly short in taking anything away from an entertaining game at Sincil Bank.

Matt Rhead was again the thorn in the Cards side. After trading early goals with the Cards Gozie Ugwu, he struck another in the second half which added to an unfortunate Terell Thomas own goal. This had seemingly put the tie beyond Woking. However Saraiva’s cool penalty took the tie down to the end and the Cards will feel that on another day they could have grabbed a deserved equaliser.

Lincoln have been grabbing the headlines nationally, after an impressive FA cup run which had seen them dispatch two teams from the Championship, and were now preparing for a televised visit to Premier League Burnley next Saturday. They were also sitting top of the National League and still battling in the FA Trophy. With these distractions in mind the Cards arrived in the cathedral city hoping to spring a surprise on the high flying league leaders.

Garry Hill made just one change to the side that had gone down to Tranmere Rovers in the previous game. On-loan returnee Chris Arthur was given his first start in place of Charlie Carter to give more balance to the backline against what would be likely be a formidable Imps attack.

This backline was called into action in the early stage. A knock down by Rhead set Southwell on his way. Having run forwards his low shot dragged to the left of Poke’s post. However this served as a warning to what was to follow. In the 9th minute, Arnold back-heeled to put his marker off balance. This created the space to spread the ball out wide to Wood. His first-time cross arched into the danger area deep within the penalty box and Rhead was able to out-muscle his marker to comfortably head into the top corner with Poke helpless to make the save.

However, with the hosts still celebrating their lead, Woking hit back immediately. A Saraiva free kick from outside of the penalty area was floated into the box. With the cross having evaded the immediate runners Ugwu timed his run perfectly at the back of the pack to nod the ball down and across Farman to level the scores and silence the large home crowd.

Three minutes later a very similar move for the Cards almost produced the same outcome. Another Saraiva free-kick was again expected to be played towards the pack of players but this time he opted to shoot for the bottom corner. Farman was able to scramble across and tip the ball around his post.

An even better chance was to come minutes later when Caprice lost his marker and was able to deliver a fine low cross which evaded the Lincoln backline. It fell to Bonne at the back post who, perhaps not realising the space and time he had, snatched at the shot and put it wide of the post. Sensing how close they had come to falling behind this served as a catalyst to the home side to turn up the pressure on their visitors.

Kane Ferdinand picked up an early booking for pulling back when the hosts looked to have a breakaway on. Then a tricky cross from Knott wrong-footed most of the Cards defence. Fortunately Thomas managed to improvise and correct his balance to scramble clear with Rhead waiting as the last man over his shoulder.

The danger was not heeded and in the 22nd minute another cross was floated into the Cards penalty area. Yakubu had been standing up well to the physical style of Rhead but on this occasion appeared to get on the wrong side of his marker. As both players weight took each over down the referee had no hesitation in awarding a penalty kick to the Imps and issuing a booking to Yakubu. Though Dayle Southwell’s penalty was struck powerfully it appeared to be far too close to Michael Poke who beat the shot away from the goal. The resulting scramble led to the ball being kicked away for a corner. This pressure continued and from the resulting corner Southwell found himself unmarked six yards out. Unable to get over the cross his connection sent the ball high over the crossbar.

As the first half progressed Lincoln continued to press in search of restoring their lead. As the ball was played across the edge of the penalty box Caprice moved to intercept the ball but lost his balance. This enabled Arnold to run towards goal. His rasping shot was cleanly hit but the power of the connection narrowly curved it wide of the far post. Minutes later another cross from Habergham was nodded away by the Cards defence but only into the path of Knott. The ex-Woking man hit a powerful shot through traffic. However Poke was aware of the danger to be able to get a strong punch of the ball away from his goal.

Woking had one last chance to take a half time lead. Saraiva curled another free kick into the penalty area. This was redirected by a crowd of players and it fell to Jones looking to pick up the rebound. However he could only head the ball straight at Farman.

Half Time: Lincoln City 1 Woking 1

The second half began with Woking now attacking the Bridge McFarland stand. However it would be at the Stacey West end of the ground to which they were defending that the initial action would take place.

Josh Ginnelly who had been introduced as a half time substitute made an immediate impact on the game. As he drove forward there appeared no obvious evidence of danger for the Cards backline. As he pulled the trigger 20 yards out his shot appeared to be cutting outside of the far post. Unfortunately Thomas appeared unaware of its direction and instinctively stuck a foot out to attempt to slow the pace of the ball. This merely changed the direction of the shot and it crept inside the back post to restore the Imps lead.

Another attack by the hosts in the 58th minute could have extended the lead as a corner by Habergham was diverted into the box by Waterfall. Southwell with his back to goal was able to twist on the far post but could only drill his shot against the woodwork with Poke covering the tight angle.

You could argue that the outcome of the game was heavily influenced by the events of the following two minutes. Having survived the previous scare Woking pushed forward through Caprice. A beautifully delivered ball was met by Ugwu who appeared to beat his man and comfortably head past Farman into the net. However this was immediately ruled out by referee Sam Allison for an infringement much to the disappointment of travelling Cards supporters.

From the resulting free kick Lincoln advanced the ball forwards until it eventually reached Rhead at the top of the pitch. He skilfully dummied Arthur and from there had the composure to pass the ball into the far corner of the goal and extend the hosts lead.

To the Cards credit this unfortunate turn of events only served to rally the team into continuing to attack the hosts. A through ball from Jones sent Murtagh rushing forward into the penalty area. As he tumbled with his man hopes of a penalty were extinguished when the referee ruled against the Cards midfielder. That would be Murtagh’s last action as he and Ferdinand made way for Carter and Kretzschmar in what Garry Hill hoped would be one last push for something out of the game.

Kretzschmar in particular appeared to have an immediate impact. Arthur’s through ball fed the Cards midfielder and his first time shot was palmed away by Farman. From the resulting play Kretzschmar was bundled over and referee Allison had no hesitation in awarding Woking a penalty. Fabio Saraiva stepped up and confidently slotted his penalty kick beyond Farman to bring the Cards back within one goal of the hosts.

Though Woking continued to push forward for the equaliser in the remaining stages it appeared to be that the hosts would hold out for all three points. However a late rally led to one last effort as Kretzschmar was sent clear. Though his shot initially looked to be troubling Farman it gently rose above the crossbar. Five added minutes could not create another opportunity and the hosts held out for another three points towards their promotion push.

For those 64 Cards fans in attendance, this must go down as one of the most entertaining games of the season - alas, one with no return of points. However if Woking can repeat this kind of performance in the forthcoming home battles against Solihull Moors and Southport then there deserves to be an optimism that they will begin to move up the table in the weeks to come.

Woking: Michael Poke, Jake Caprice, Terell Thomas, Joey Jones, Ismail Yakubu (Luke Kandi 82), Keiran Murtagh (Charlie Carter 67), Gozie Ugwu, Fabio Saraiva, Kane Ferdinand (Max Kretzschmar 71), Macauley Bonne, Chris Arthur

Unused subs: Brandon Hall, Dennon Lewis

Goals: Ugwu (11), Saraiva (75 Pen)

Yellow Cards: Yakubu, Ferdinand

Lincoln: Paul Farman, Bradley Wood, Sam Habergham, Luke Waterfall, Matt Rhead, Terry Hawkridge (Josh Ginnelly 46), Sean Raggett, Nathan Arnold, Alex Woodyard, Dayle Southwell (Elliott Whitehouse 69), Billy Knott (Alan Power 76)

Unused subs: Adam Marriott, Sean Long

Goals: Rhead (9, 60), Thomas (51 og)

Yellow Card: Ginnelly

My MOTM: Fabio Saraiva: Was at the heart of every Cards effort to push forward and added to his season’s tally with a goal and an assist. Woking will rely on Saraiva’s endeavour to encourage the team forward in their bid for National League survival over the forthcoming weeks.

Referee: Sam Allison

Attendance: 5,553

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