Cards’ poor form continues as Barrow’s barrage pays off

Glen Harrington
12:00am, Sat 23rd Dec 2017
Woking 1 Barrow 2
Vanarama National League
23rd December 2017

Festive cheer was thin on the ground at the Laithwaite Community Stadium this afternoon as, despite Charlie Carter’s sixth goal of the season, the Cards fell to a fourth successive defeat in all competitions and extended an indifferent run of form to just two wins in the last 14 games.

Despite the result, manager Anthony Limbrick will no doubt highlight an improved performance when compared with last weekend’s FA Trophy exit at the hands of Maidenhead United, with the home side unfortunate not to claim at least a point after a commendable second-half effort.

The hosts gave themselves a mountain to climb after Moussa Diarra headed in Barrow’s opener inside two minutes, and despite Carter turning in Joe Ward’s free-kick to level the scores, the visitors' aerial dominance from set-pieces paid dividends as Jimmy Dunne quickly restored their lead.

Woking were much improved after the break but struggled to create clear-cut chances. Carter did come close twice more, heading wide from Nathan Ralph crosses, while goalkeeper Joel Dixon produced a superb save from his own player after Inih Effiong’s flick-on was turned goalwards; ultimately though the home side’s efforts were in vain as they slip into the bottom-half of the table.

Limbrick and his team made three changes from the side beaten by Maidenhead the previous week as the Cards returned to their preferred 4-2-3-1 formation; Josh Staunton dropped to the bench whilst Chez Isaac and Regan Charles-Cook were absent. In their place came Joey Jones, Carter, and Jason Banton, who made his first start since 21st October. Barrow, who won the reverse fixture 3-0 in August, gave a start to former Premier League striker Grant Holt.

Having struggled to deal with Barrow’s game-plan in Cumbria earlier this season, when set pieces and the monster-like throw of Dan Jones proved Woking’s undoing, few would have been surprised to see the Bluebirds starting with a similar approach at the Laithwaite.

Within a minute, Jones’ long ball cannoned around the penalty area, Diarra eventually got on the end of it, and only the quick reactions of Jojo Wollacott – retaining his place in the continued absence of first choice keeper Nathan Baxter – prevented Barrow taking the lead as the goalkeeper spread himself and caught the ball square in the face from close range. Sadly, Diarra did get his goal from the resulting corner, as he nodded home Lewis Walter’s corner.

Buoyed by their goal, the visitors stormed forward, whilst home fans were forced to watch on grimly through their fingers as every long ball and set piece caused chaos in the Woking penalty area. Richard Orlu hacked one such effort off the line, Wollacott dived at the feet of Diarra to deny him a second, before the Bristol City loanee was forced to palm Jones’ throw-in wide as the full-back took aim yet again, knowing that any touch could leave the ball nestling in the net.

The Cards desperately needed a moment of quality and, in a rare foray into the opposition half just after the 20 minute mark, one was indeed delivered – Ward’s free-kick from the left-hand side was hung in the air and was met superbly by Carter around the penalty spot, who guided the ball past Dixon, off the post and in.

Unfortunately, the goal did little to change Barrow’s approach, and they continued to enjoy the better of the play. First, Wollacott did brilliantly to deny Calum MacDonald with a flying save from a free-kick before, seven minutes on from the equaliser Dunne headed the visitors back in front. Walters, whose deliveries were excellent throughout, found the head of the defender with a free-kick from the left-hand side and he cushioned his effort back across goal and into the bottom left-hand corner. Thankfully from a Woking perspective, that proved to be Walters' last major action in the game, as he limped off with an injury just before the break.

Half-time: Woking 1 Barrow 2

Despite dominating almost the entirety of the first 45 minutes, Barrow looked nervous after the break, whilst the Cards, no doubt coming off the back of a grilling from their manager at the break, looked rejuvenated – Matt Young shooting wide from distance after a notable spell of pressure.

Woking continued to push forward in search of an equaliser. Carter glanced a header wide from Ralph’s corner when he might have done better, before Ward’s long-range effort called Dixon into action – the Barrow keeper initially spilling the shot before pouncing on the loose ball. The visitors had chances too with Bedsente Gomis shooting wide and man-of-the-match Wollacott again doing well to push a header wide.

Limbrick introduced Fabio Saraiva and Jamie Philpot in place of Banton and Jones as the Cards moved to a 4-4-2 formation, but with Barrow dropping increasingly deep in defence, the chances became harder to find. Carter went close with another header again from a Ralph cross, whilst Dixon was belatedly called into action to push the ball over the crossbar, after Effiong’s heavily deflected effort. Sadly, though, it was all too little too late.

Plenty to ponder for the Woking management team as 2017 threatens to end on a whimper. Whilst many will point to the distraction of a six-game FA Cup run, the reality is that much of the early-season promise is threatening to be derailed by this ongoing run of poor form, and with a trip to local rivals Aldershot Town just three days away it’s vital that the Cards rediscover the sort of performances that saw them defeat the likes of Sutton United, Dagenham and Redbridge, and enjoy four superb games against Football League opposition.

Woking: Jojo Wollacott, Matt Young (Louis Ramsay 86), Nathan Ralph, Richard Orlu, Jordan Wynter, Joey Jones (Jamie Philpot 71), Kane Ferdinand, Charlie Carter, Joe Ward, Jason Banton (Fabio Saraiva 59), Inih Effiong.

Subs not used: Sam Mason, Josh Staunton

Goals: Carter 21

Bookings: Orlu 70, Young 85, Effiong 90

Barrow: Joel Dixon, Dan Jones (Donovan Makoma 84), Jimmy Dunne, Moussa Diarra, Jack Barthram, Lewis Walters (Harry Panayiotou 43), Asa Hall, Calum MacDonald, Bedsente Gomis, Grant Holt (Jordan White 77), Byron Harrison.

Subs not used: Stuart Moore, Tony Diagne.

Goals: Diarra 2, Dunne 28

Bookings: Gomis 45, Dunne 51, Hall 56, Holt 70, Dixon 90

Attendance: 1,816

Referee: Gary Parsons

MOTM: Jojo Wollacott – a mixed afternoon for the young goalkeeper who, despite looking uncomfortable at times under Barrow’s aerial bombardment, will look back on several fine saves which kept his side in the game until the final whistle.

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