Magpies Take Valuables; Cardinals in Prayer

Ben Musgrove
12:00am, Tue 10th Apr 2018
Maidenhead United 2 Woking 1
Vanarama National League
10th April 2018

In opening the scoring just 14 minutes from time, one could have been forgiven for believing that Woking were about to notch their first away win in the National League in over six months. Jonathan Edwards’ first goal for the Cards came in a must-win game for the visitors, taking advantage of a mix-up between Carl Pentney and Rene Steer to tap home Regan Charles-Cook’s selfless lay-off. Within 10 minutes, however, Woking had conceded two goals on their way to a painful 2-1 defeat that leaves them just a point ahead of the relegation zone, having played two games more than Barrow below them.

The dismissal of Anthony Limbrick has seen the rise to prominence of the 4-4-2 that he would often utilise in the final stages of games, and that was the case again, with Grego-Cox and Theophanous deployed up front for the Cards. Captain Joey Jones remained on the bench after Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Dagenham, with goalscorer Josh Staunton wearing the armband and partnered by Jordan Wynter at the back. Their opposition included a familiar face for Cards fans in Moses Emmanuel (formerly Ademola), on loan from Sutton United, and a name to watch in Harold Odametey, who had already put in two superb performances against Woking this season.

Despite visiting fans working hard to out-sing a quiet home crowd at York Road, Maidenhead started the game on the front foot, and created several chances in the opening minutes. Odametey was the first to fizz a cross into the hands of Nathan Baxter, and slick link-up play between Sean Marks and Ademola saw Harry Pritchard fire a low shot across goal in the first real shot of the game. It could’ve been 1-0 shortly after when Emmanuel burst through the lines 20 yards from goal in pursuit of a bouncing ball, but his lobbed effort had too much power and bounced harmlessly over the crossbar, to the delight of the Woking faithful yards away.

The well-organised Maidenhead defence proved tricky for Woking to get to grips with, not least due to a very poor pitch that proved an obstacle in getting any cohesive passing going for both sides. Both sides missed easy passes with regularity; Kane Ferdinand was the lucky recipient of a Maidenhead pass that stuck in the turf and bobbled straight to him, only for the midfielder to fire an attempted pass straight through that same patch of mud back to his opposite number.

When Woking did get success, they did it by going direct. Charlie Carter proved an offensive strong point with several driving runs, and shortly before the half-hour mark found Charles-Cook in space in the box after a bursting move; the Charlton loanee shaped to shoot on his weak foot, only to slice the ball high and wide after a wicked bobble.

Both sides had arguably their best chances of the half at around the half hour mark. First an Odametey fizzed through the Woking box and was deflected inches wide of the post with some wicked spin. Shortly afterwards, another Maidenhead break saw two shots inside the area blocked, before Pritchard forced a smart save on the half-volley from Nathan Baxter; the youngster not only kept the ball out with a great save, but then recovered to claim the ball at the feet of Matt Young. Theophanous came closest for Woking in response, with the former Billericay man finding himself in space cutting in from the right-hand side and forcing a strong diving stop from Pentney.

The ‘entertainment’ in the first half can be summarised as two teams on poor runs of form and scrapping on a torrid pitch providing plenty of comical slices, unfortunate bobbles and wayward efforts as opposed to any consistent attacking quality. Maidenhead edged the half, stifling Woking effectively without creating much in the way of clear-cut chances, but the Cards had their moments and looked to build on them in the second half.

Half time: Maidenhead United 0 Woking 0

They could have built on them superbly within two minutes of kick-off, with Theophanous finding space in his battle with Maidenhead defender Jake Goodman only to fire just wide of Pentney’s post - when he may have been better placed to roll in an onrushing Charlie Carter. Just moments later Grego-Cox was the recipient of a Matt Young cross that was too far behind the striker; the young Irishman had clearly been watching Cristiano Ronaldo last week, digging out an impressive bicycle kick that wasn’t too far from the Maidenhead goal.

Jason Goodcliffe later mentioned that some tactical tweaks had been made to the side in the second half, and it seemed that Woking were happy to look long and float the ball into the channels with more regularity, as Maidenhead had done quite effectively in the first half. Grego-Cox and Theophanous had seemed isolated from each other at times, with the latter in particular often forced out too far to the right and unable to support his strike partner effectively. With a narrowed approach, Grego-Cox found himself winning more bobbling headers in midfield, and Woking began to look dangerous with some sort of regularity.

Maidenhead responded strongly, with a James Comley volley followed by efforts from Pritchard a great save at a narrow angle from Nathan Baxter. Moses Emmanuel was then substituted just moments after slamming the ball into the Woking side-netting, ending an ineffective display that gave the visiting fans some cheer.

The conditions and much of the first half had had 0-0 written all over them, but with less than a quarter of an hour remaining, a game of football suddenly broke out with the opening goal.

The state of the pitch combined with a bouncing ball back towards the Maidenhead penalty area prompted fullback Rene Steer to head the ball back to his keeper, not seeming to realise than Pentney was ready to claim the ball without much trouble; the resulting header bounced the ball off of the Maidenhead stopper, and Regan Charles-Cook bustled in to steal the ball from the pair. With the keeper stranded, Charles-Cook dribbled into the box with a composure that Woking have lacked in previous weeks, eyeing up his options before rolling the ball to Jonathan Edwards to slam in the opener.

The away fans were delirious, cheering off the departing Charles-Cook moments later with raucous rounds of “Regan, Regan� as he was replaced by his half-brother Anthony; the Magpies immediately made a change in response, with Max Kilman brought off for midfielder Sam Barratt.

Woking had twelve minutes to hold on; they managed five. The state of the pitch doesn’t effect the danger of set pieces, and a foul on the Woking right gave Ryan Upward the chance to whip the ball into the Cards box. His fizzing delivery was everything the home side wanted, and a bullet header from Adrian Clifton gave Baxter no chance at his far post.

With so much to play for, the game opened up. Just two minutes after the equaliser, Woking could’ve been ahead again with both Edwards and Grego-Cox bursting through; Edwards’s effort to pick out his partner was under-hit, claimed by Pentney when a fizzing low drive could’ve made the difference. Shortly afterwards Woking were pinned back in the third as Maidenhead claimed possession and fired an ominous low cross through the six-yard box.

With two minutes to go, the sucker-punch landed, and it hit the visiting side square in the stomach. Dispossessed too easily in the middle of the park, Maidenhead caught Woking with a swift attack that cut through the middle of the Cards’ lines to find Barratt bursting down the left-hand side. The substitute’s low ball in beat both Young and Staunton, and gave Sean Marks a simple tap-in past Baxter to turn the game on its head.

To their credit – or their detriment, depending on your perspective – Maidenhead then managed to return to their defensive shape and see out the game with determination and a healthy dose of gamesmanship. Two bouts of tenuous play-acting from Rene Steer made little difference, with the Cards struggling to create even as Baxter floated a late freekick into a loaded Maidenhead box; late bookings for Grego-Cox and Edwards only added to the frustration.

The final whistle meant that Maidenhead are now essentially safe from relegation in all but name; Woking, in contrast, are just a point above that first relegation spot. With Barrow only needing one draw from their two games in hand to push the Cards down into the relegation zone, Woking may now need to look to the poor form of Maidstone United – on the same games played and two points above them – if they are to drag themselves out of a downward spiral that is increasingly threatening to reach terminal velocity in every sense of the phrase.

Woking: Nathan Baxter, Matt Young, Jordan Wynter, Josh Staunton, Louis Ramsay, Charlie Carter, Chez Isaac (Joey Jones 90), Kane Ferdinand, Regan Charles-Cook (Anthony Cook 77), Louis Theophanous (Jonathan Edwards 67), Reece Grego-Cox
Unused subs: Sam Mason, Fabio Saraiva

Goals: Edwards 76

Bookings: Ramsay 55, Grego-Cox 89, Edwards 95

Maidenhead United: Carl Pentney, Rene Steer, Alan Massey, James Comley, Jake Goodman, Max Kilman (Sam Barratt 79), Harold Odametey, Harry Pritchard, Ryan Upward, Sean Marks, Moses Emmanuel (Jake Hyde 74)

Unused subs: Christian Smith, Nana Owusu

Goals: Clifton 81, Marks 88

Bookings: Massey 38, Comley 62, Upward 94

Referee: Carl Brook

Attendance: 1,301

Man of the Match: Kane Ferdinand. In spite of a pitch that physically refused to let players pass the ball, he was crucial for Woking’s ball retention on more than one occasion, and matched Charles-Cook’s exceptional work rate to make several key interceptions and tackles throughout the game.

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