Cards storm back to grab three points

Brian Caffarey
10:52am, Wed 8th Aug 2018
Woking 2 St Albans City 1
Vanarama National League South
7 August 2018

A dramatic finale to the Cards’ first home game of the season saw Dowse’s side fall behind unexpectedly, only to equalise almost immediately through Jake Hyde (pictured) and then snatch a winner, four minutes from time, through Ian Gayle, to the delight of a busy and noisy Leslie Gosden Stand, which had been roaring the side on to their second win of the campaign.

On a sultry evening, with dark clouds gathering, Woking took the field with one change from the side which had started in the last-gasp 1-0 win at East Thurrock on Saturday, with Greg Luer coming in for Fabio Saraiva. Luer found himself out on the right flank in a three-man front line, with Hyde in the middle and Nicky Wheeler out left.

The Cards started at a fast tempo, with attacks focused on the tricky Wheeler, who fired in several crosses in the opening minutes, from one of which Hyde just lost out in a clash with the Saints’ keeper, Dean Snedker.

It soon became clear that the main – if intermittent – threat from Ian Allinson’s side would come from long throws into the area. Fortunately, the Cards’ defence, especially the outstanding Nathan Collier, were generally dominant in the air.

Woking continued to press forward, racking up the corner count, as they did throughout the evening, but the Saints’ defence proved stubborn, with only off-target headers from Kane Ferdinand and Gayle resulting.

Wheeler went closest around the quarter of an hour mark when he met a deep cross but his header, on target, was brilliantly clawed away by Snedker. A minute later the Saints almost opened their account when Collier was forced to hook off the line following a corner.

Max Kretzschmar, busy and influential in the middle of the park and also drifting out onto the right flank, curled a free-kick not too far wide before the Cards actually found the net. But the assistant referee had already flagged before Kretzschmar headed home, so Cards fans’ celebrations were quickly cut short.

Having weathered a great deal of early pressure, the visitors came rather more into the game from the half-hour mark, perhaps sensing that the Cards were going to struggle to convert their dominance into goals. The pacy Sambou got round Christian Jolley before being thwarted, while Merson had a decent effort a few minutes later.

Woking responded with a midfield surge from the impressive Josh Casey, always looking in command at left back, but a poor Wheeler cross led to no advantage. Another foray on the stroke of half time saw Wheeler play in Casey in the box but the latter’s cross was over-hit. The half ended with Wheeler heading a fine Luer cross wide but his blushes were spared by the raised flag from the assistant referee.

The Cards left the field perhaps reflecting on the potential danger of failing to test the keeper sufficiently in spite of all their attacking play.

Half-time: Woking 0 St Albans City 0

With black clouds looming menacingly overhead, the Cards started the second half at electric pace – no doubt following Dowse’s orders to seek an early breakthrough. Corner followed corner in the opening minutes but still the Saints’ defence stood firm. As expected, Dowse quickly brought on the highly promising Reggie Young for Wheeler, but the young winger had to wait a little while before making an impact on the game.

With the hard-working Jake Hyde battling well up front and holding the ball up skilfully, the Cards continued to make nearly all of the running but without really looking as though they would achieve a breakthrough. However, in the 62nd minute, Young came close, stealing in at the near post to glance Kretzschmar’s corner just wide of the far stanchion.

The Saints’ best chance to date came a few minutes later when substitute David Moyo headed wide from a cross to the far post when he really ought to have hit the target.

As at East Thurrock, Dowse’s next move was to bring on the nippy Paul Hodges, this time in place of Luer. More admirable hold-up play from Hyde produced yet another corner. When the ball was played back in Hyde stooped low but headed beyond the far post, with Saints defenders appealing for offside.

After more frustration from crosses and corners, the Cards suddenly found themselves a goal adrift in the 80th minute, wholly against the run of play. Moyo was allowed a bit too much room to pick his spot but it was nevertheless a fine effort from outside the box which dipped over Bert Schotterl and into the top corner.

The jubilant away fans did not have long to enjoy their unexpected lead. Almost immediately, Young won another corner. Ferdinand’s header came off the bar but Hyde was in the right place to nod home to make it 1-1.

A big and noisy crowd in the Leslie Gosden Stand urged the Cards on to seek a winner. A sublime piece of skill by Young bamboozled Ben Herd, who, picking up his second yellow card, was sent off.

The Woking pressure intensified and led to the perfect ending for home fans. A blocked shot rebounded to Gayle, who did well to shift left to make space before firing home: a goal greeted with rapture by Gayle himself, his team mates and by excited home fans.

There was still time for Hodges to set up Young, whose effort was blocked by Snedker, and for the Saints to fire wide and launch a couple of long throws and crosses before the referee blew for full time.

Dowse will have been delighted no doubt to see his side grab a win on his home league debut and to see them fight back so effectively after the shock of falling behind late in the game. This was a much better all-round performance than the display at East Thurrock, with some fine contributions, especially in defence, with Collier and Casey particularly catching the eye. Kretzschmar showed again how valuable he will be for the Cards in midfield: the danger may be in over-relying on him to provide the attacking momentum from that area of the pitch. Hyde’s hold-up play, especially in the second half, provided a platform for Woking’s attacks, although the suspicion is that he may need more support alongside him if the goals are going to flow. Both Wheeler and Young threatened on the left but Luer did not look particularly comfortable out on the right flank. What was also notable was the energy and commitment of the whole side: traits which seem to be rapidly endearing Dowse’s team to Cards fans.

With two wins from the first two games, the side has made a great start. It’s now Oxford City at home on Saturday, followed quickly by Wealdstone away next Monday.

Woking: Bert Schotterl, Dan Spence, Ian Gayle, Nathan Collier, Josh Casey, Max Kretzschmar (Kiran Khinda-John 90), Christian Jolley, Kane Ferdinand, Greg Luer (Paul Hodges 72), Jake Hyde, Nicky Wheeler (Reggie Young 55)

Unused subs: Sam Mason, Fabio Saraiva

Scorers: Jake Hyde 82, Ian Gayle 86

Booked: Christian Jolley

St Albans City: Dean Snedker, Ben Herd, Tom Bender, David Noble (Zane Banton 89), Dave Diedhiou (David Moyo 63), Harold Joseph, James Sage, Solomon Sambou, Raiston Gabriel, Sam Merson (Khale Da Costa 66), Percy Kiangebeni

Unused subs: Roman Michael-Percil, Ben Wyatt

Sent off: Ben Herd (two yellow cards)

Booked: Percy Kiangebeni

Sponsors’ MOTM: Nathan Collier

Attendance: 1671

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