Too little too late as Cards slip to defeat in North Wales
12:00am, Sat 26th Aug 2017
Wrexham 1 Woking 0
Vanarama National League
26th August 2017
Glimpses of attacking promise in the closing stages were not enough to halt a 100 per cent National League loss rate on the road for the Cardinals this season.
A 43rd minute close-quarters finish from defender James Jennings – his first for the club - proved just enough to ensure victory for the Welsh hosts in a match unlikely to remain in the memory for long.
The result propelled Dean Keates’ less than impressive hosts into the top half of the table after three victories from six matches, while two-win Woking slipped to fifth from bottom.
The Dragons had enough chances to make their win more emphatic, but Anthony Limbrick’s shot-shy side were capable of at least salvaging a draw.
Not too much can be read into this reverse. There were promising signs, not least more assuredness at the back for much of the game, Woking never looking too flustered by their task after conceding.
On another day at least a couple of their created chances might have been tucked away. But the same could be said of the hosts.
There were certainly enough second-half moments to suggest a turnaround in fortunes, not least the shift put in by sub Jason Banton in the last 20 minutes.
Of the 32 players involved, just five featured in the corresponding fixture here in January – visitors Nathan Ralph, Kane Ferdinand and Charlie Carter, plus home sub Leo Smith and match-winner Jennings.
And this was a tale of two clubs desperately looking to redefine themselves, but both falling short of the mark amid late summer sunshine.
Marcus Kelly, Sam Wedgbury and Alex Reid tested Cards keeper Nathan Baxter early on, while it took Woking eight minutes to register a half-chance, Chez Isaac volleying over from Louis Ramsay’s delivery.
Bobson Bawling and Isaac were busy on the right flank, but Wrexham ensured they got no nearer, while at the other end skipper Richard Orlu had to head behind from a Jennings cross.
As the hosts continued to press, Reid’s strike from distance was pushed wide by Baxter, who then got hold of Jack Mackreth’s delivery.
In the next visitors’ spell of pressure a deep Isaac cross was pawed away for a corner, from which Orlu rose well but was outjumped, a further Isaac corner negated.
After one home attack, Ramsay – his shirt swapped for one without a number after an incident which left him with a bloody nose – battled upfield, but again the move stalled.
Isaac got the better of Kelly as Wrexham threatened again, the action swinging between ends but with the yellow-shirted visitors still lacking a cutting edge, Ramsay and Bawling failing to properly deliver.
Reid was way off target after good work by Akil Wright, while at the other end Isaac’s 40-yard run was snuffed out, both sets of fans increasingly frustrated.
As black clouds loomed over the Racecourse, Josh Staunton did well to keep out Ntumba Massanka then Kelly. But from sub Paul Rutherford’s resultant corner, 29-year-old left-back Jennings stabbed home after Carter cleared Manny Smith’s initial header off the line.
Half time: Wrexham 1 Woking 0
Both sides looked sharper after the break, but a drilled effort from Bawling was easily dealt with by under-employed Christian Dibble in the home goal, while as the hosts countered, Reid headed over.
Free-kicks followed in dangerous positions at both ends, yet the quality of finishing was little improved, and for all Joe Ward’s running Inih Effiong remained largely out of the game in the middle.
He came closer to Ward’s next cross after good work in midfield by Carter, the visitors starting to show more urgency, while the hosts looked capable on the break, but were let down by their finishing, not least when Kelly wellied over.
Bawling darted this way and that before a powerful volley that ended just wide of Dibble’s post, the first Woking change following as James Philpot replaced Carter, the 20-year-old forward soon looking lively.
But Effiong was unable to get a lethal touch from the sub’s first cross, Staunton going closer with a header from an Isaac corner, while Woking appealed for a penalty after Ward’s next centre was stopped in the box.
As Wrexham countered, Orlu cleared under pressure, with Reid and Kelly next to dither and be denied a killer second goal, the Cards stretched at the back while taking the game to their hosts.
A second change ensured the Surrey side took control, Banton replacing Bawling and soon having an impact.
Staunton stood his ground to deny Reid, the game still finely poised, Ramsay and Ferdinand then closing out Kelly before Baxter got down low to stop the next drilled effort.
Effiong was still isolated, for all the more promising build-up play, with Banton full of running and invention, despite the odd stray pass.
Orlu again proved cool to deny Massanka from Kelly’s through-ball as Wrexham broke back, with Rutherford next to play in play in the Burnley loanee, who looked odds on to beat Baxter, who somehow spread himself to stop with his legs.
Massanka’s next effort was far better, but again Baxter did well to deny him. And while Banton’s distribution improved, he still struggled to find a way through at the other end.
As Wrexham countered again, Baxter looked surely beaten this time, only for Reid to fire over, the late afternoon heat and bright sunshine soon taking its toll.
When the unmarked Philpot found himself in on goal, he couldn’t quite get the touch needed to turn home Banton’s neat delivery, the striker left with head in hands.
Former England U17s cap Banton again fed Philpot, but Dibble got to his cross, Woking soon making their final change, introducing Declan Appau.
Further Banton and Ralph crosses were stopped by Dibble, and from a Banton corner in the first of four added minutes, the ball almost crept in off home skipper Shaun Pearson, hitting the base of the far post before he collected again and cleared, another head-in-hands moment for the Cards.
More Woking pressure followed, but a late home substitution took the wind out of the sails, and while the Cards won one more corner, the referee called time before they could take it.
Wrexham: Christian Dibble, James Hurst, James Jennings, Manny Smith, Shaun Pearson ©, Jack Mackreth (Paul Rutherford 28), Sam Wedgbury, Ntumba Massanka (Leo Smith 79), Alex Reid, Marcus Kelly (Scott Boden 90), Akil Wright.
Unused subs: Olly Marx, Kevin Roberts.
Goals: Jennings 43.
Yellow card: Wright 50.
Woking: Nathan Baxter, Louis Ramsay, Nathan Ralph, Josh Staunton, Richard Orlu ©, Bobson Bawling (Jason Banton 72), Chez Isaac (Declan Appau 87), Inih Effiong, Charlie Carter (Jamie Philpot 65), Kane Ferdinand, Joe Ward.
Unused subs: Sam Mason, Matt Young.
Referee: Peter Gibbons.
Attendance 3,875 (66 away fans).
My MOTM: Jason Banton - barely on the pitch 20 minutes, yet at the heart of everything where others had failed to make an impact. Had the home fans looking nervously at their watches. A fine prospect when truly match-ready.