Baxter’s heroics not enough to prevent defeat
12:00am, Sat 13th Jan 2018
Woking 0 Tranmere Rovers 1
Vanarama National League
13th January 2018
Woking fell narrowly short of a late equaliser against ten-man Tranmere Rovers at Kingfield to fall to a 1-0 defeat. A top class display from Cards goalkeeper Nathan Baxter kept the score to a single goal until the visitors lost striker Andy Cook for a second yellow card late in the second half; although this led to a late Woking onslaught, the Rovers held out for all three points.
With many National League teams in FA Trophy action this afternoon Woking missed the opportunity to climb up the league table, with this encounter perceived as a game in hand over many of our rivals; as such, the Cards remain in 15th place on 35 points.
It has been an active week for Anthony Limbrick in the transfer market having seen the departure of popular winger Joe Ward to Peterborough United. In turn the Cards manager moved quickly to recruit winger Anthony Cook and forward Reece Grego-Cox to his squad. Cook was given a place in the starting eleven on the left side previously occupied by Ward with Grego-Cox ready to make an impact from the bench. Fabio Saraiva and Declan Appau were also recalled to the team in place of Richard Orlu and Jason Banton – a late omission from the squad, possibly due to a fitness concern. On a cool and overcast afternoon the Cards attacked the Leslie Gosden Stand in the first half.
Immediately from kick-off there was a feisty opening to the game. A late sliding tackle from Declan Appau on Steve McNulty incensed some of the opposing players and many visiting supporters. McNulty remained down receiving treatment for some time whilst referee Quelch took the decision to book the Cards midfielder. Despite efforts to make his return Rovers manager Micky Mellon decided to replace McNulty with fellow defender Liam Ridehalgh soon after.
Once the game started to settle down Anthony Cook began to find space on the left side. A cross was read by Saraiva who advanced forward from the centre. Unfortunately he failed to get enough of a connection with his head to redivert the ball towards goal.
The visitors first threatened soon after. A cross from the right arrowed towards Andy Cook. Baxter read the flight and came out to punch but was beaten to it by Cook who headed narrowly wide.
Woking responded with Ferdinand who collected the ball and advanced forward to feed Appau through the middle. The young Cards midfielder hit an early shot which was blocked. The deflection fell kindly back to Saraiva who hit a spinning shot at goal. With Tranmere goalkeeper Rhys Taylor looking beaten the Cards fans behind were frustrated to see the ball spin agonisingly wide of the near post.
Charlie Carter won a free kick in midfield as he was brought down. In frustration, Olly Norburn kicked the ball away which ricocheted off Carter’s head earning him a booking.
Anthony Cook escaped his marker on the left and picked out Saraiva in the middle from his cross. As many in the ground expected his shot to break the deadlock, Taylor produced an excellent save to get a hand on the shot to deny the opening goal.
As the first half wore on it was Tranmere who looked to seize control of the game. Jennings got away from Young on the wing and though his cross was headed away by the Cards defence it fell straight back into the path of Buxton. His powerful shot flew narrowly wide of the post with Baxter beaten.
The heavy pressure continued and a shot spun out back to Jennings. His cross was headed down by Cook at the back post. Fortunately for the home supporters Baxter was at full stretch to push the effort over the bar. Moments later some excellent footwork by Buxton in the penalty area allowed him to skip past a couple of challenges and again it was only for Baxter’s point blank save that would deny Tranmere the lead.
However eventually the pressure would tell in the 28th minute when from the resulting corner a cross was floated in by Cole and not sufficiently dealt with by Woking’s backline. The ball fell at Sutton’s feet with his back to goal and before he could be challenged was able to pick out Andy Cook to comfortably side foot into the goal for a deserved Tranmere lead.
Tranmere continued to attack and a brilliant long curling cross from Buxton found its way through to Andy Cook at the back post. Again Baxter read the play well and got just enough to palm the effort around his post for another corner. Moments later a spinning ball eluded Ramsay with his back to goal and it skipped over his foot into the path of a grateful Norwood who looked perfectly placed to double the visitors lead. Much to Ramsay’s relief Norwood’s resulting effort trickled the wrong side of the far post.
As the half wore down Woking were reliant on little more than distant shots in an attempt to stay in the game. Efforts from first Appau and then Anthony Cook when latching onto loose balls both resulted in shots fired high over Taylor’s crossbar. Aside from these efforts the visitors seemed content to close out the first half.
Half Time: Woking 0 Tranmere Rovers 1
After a rethink at half time, Woking attempted to restart on the front foot. Appau collected and advanced through the middle. He looked to play in Anthony Cook but unfortunately his quick strike was well defended.
At the other end Norburn collected the ball out wide and crossed in for Andy Cook. Though his initial shot was blocked low by Baxter it rebounded invitingly and the visiting striker looked certain to score. With great athleticism Baxter sensed the danger and quickly rose back to his feet to produce a miraculous double save.
Another long cross from the left eluded all and arrived at Cole on the opposite flank. Sensing plenty of space he hit a fierce shot at the near side of goal. Despite initially being out of position Baxter got across well to save and collect.
Woking introduced Hull City loanee Jonny Edwards midway through the second half in place of Fabio Saraiva. From the resulting play, Ramsay successfully chased down a ball that initially appeared to have gone out of play. The full-back twisted back inside and delivered an accurate cross for Carter to head down at goal but narrowly wide.
A late tackle in front of the home bench by Andy Cook on Louis Ramsay resulted in the visiting striker earning a booking.
The visitors again thought they had doubled their lead with twenty minutes remaining. A through ball from Norburn to Norwood resulted in the player being clean through with Baxter to beat. As with the earlier play, the initial shot was parried straight back into the path of the striker. Remarkably for a second time in the afternoon Baxter showed the ability to get a part of his body on the resulting effort to deflect away for a corner.
New signing Reece Grego-Cox attempted to show the Cards fans his abilities when a clever unorthodox flick from Effiong sent the Irish under-21 international clear down the middle. Just as Tranmere defenders were about to recover the ball he managed to get a shot away low to the right which Taylor was able to get down and save.
A key moment in the game came with approximately ten minutes remaining. Larbell Cole had picked up an injury and needed to leave the field to receive attention. As the Cards attacked down the left wing through Ramsay, Andy Cook made an effort to cover his absent teammate and track his opponent. Ramsay’s speed and ability took him past the Rovers striker who was late in his challenge bringing the Cards full back down. Referee Quelch had no hesitation in producing a second yellow card to Andy Cook and the visitors found themselves playing out the game a man down.
For the final ten minutes it was one-way traffic as the home side sought to gain the valuable equaliser. Ramsay was brought down on the goal line just outside the penalty box and Anthony Cook’s powerful free-kick was desperately hacked away by the Tranmere defence.
Another Anthony Cook free-kick was struck powerful moments later after the Cards had been awarded a free-kick 25 yards out. This time it struck the goal frame and bounced away to safety with Taylor well beaten.
In added time one final effort saw the ball played through to Carter. He skipped past the defender’s advances but lost his footing. Though he managed to keep his feet and attempt to collect the loose ball referee Quelch deemed it an attempt to deceive him and promptly awarded Tranmere a controversial free kick and Carter a booking for simulation.
Moments later referee Quelch again blew his whistle though this time it would be to signal the end of the game. Despite their late onslaught of pressure Woking had been unable to break the visitors’ resistance and it was Tranmere would return to the Wirral with three valuable points in their search for promotion.
Woking now look forward to a visit to the West Midlands next Saturday when they take on relegation haunted Solihull Moors in search for a precious victory.
Woking: Nathan Baxter, Matt Young, Joey Jones (c), Josh Staunton, Louis Ramsay, Kane Ferdinand, Charlie Carter, Declan Appau (Reece Grego-Cox 54), Anthony Cook, Inih Effiong, Fabio Saraiva (Jonny Edwards 66)
Unused subs: Sam Mason, Richard Orlu, Jason Banton
Yellow Cards: Appau, Ramsay, Staunton, Carter
Tranmere Rovers: Rhys Taylor, Steve McNulty (Liam Ridehalgh 6), James Norwood, Jay Harris, Adam Buxton, Any Cook, Ritchie Sutton, Larbell Cole (Jeff Hughes 82), Connor Jennings, Eddy Clarke, Olly Norburn
Goals: Cook 28
Unused subs: Luke Pilling, Josh Ginnelly, Jake Kirby
Yellow Cards: Norburn, Cook
Red Card: Cook
Sponsors MOTM: Nathan Baxter: Despite a strong debut from Anthony Cook, few would disagree that the Woking goalkeeper was comfortably Man of the Match with arguably a season best performance in goal. Baxter produced save after save to keep the Cards in the tie until the very end including two top class double saves in the second half.
Referee: Adrian Quelch