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Dowse continues to play his Cards right; third turnaround in 6 for Woking

Ben Musgrove
12:00am, Sat 25th Aug 2018
Woking 3 Truro City 1​​
Vanarama National League South​​​
25th August 2018​ ​​

Woking’s inability to open the scoring in games so far this season has thrown up a number of interesting scenarios for manager Alan Dowson to negotiate, and it seems that the ex-Hampton & Richmond manager is very good at getting results from these positions. The new man at the helm can boast five wins from six at the start of his “dream job�, thanks to a very strong response to his side’s first half performance against Truro City. Going in at 1-0 down thanks to a corner converted by visiting captain Jamie Richards, Woking stormed back to win the game 3-1 through goals from Kane Ferdinand and Jack Cook, with a late missed penalty from Max Kretzschmar barely managing to smear the icing atop a pretty delicious cake.

With a number of injuries to first team players including Charlie Wassmer, Christian Jolley and Jake Hyde, the Woking eleven saw only one change from the side that dispatched Hemel Hempstead last week, with Nicky Wheeler starting on the left wing ahead of teenage talent Reggie Young. Loanee Armani Little retained his place in the side after an exciting debut, whilst utility man Nathan Collier continued at right back in light of Dan Spence’s red card at Wealdstone.

The visitors offered an interesting prospect for the Cards to deal with; despite being yet to win this season, Truro have forced creditable draws against Eastbourne Borough and Welling United, and had only lost twice in their previous five matches. Their matchday squad included Jojo Wollacott in goal, known to Woking fans from a short loan spell at Kingfield last season, and John-Paul Pittman, who played against Woking twice last season for Truro’s arch-rivals Torquay United.

Given Woking’s inability to score first of late, fans will have been very frustrated to see a golden opportunity go begging within a minute of Short and sharp passing around the edge of the box ended up slipping captain Josh Casey in one-on-one on the edge of the six-yard box, but the fullback looked every inch the defender in front of goal; his cross-cum-shot failed to test Wollacott or to find Duane Ofori-Acheampong at the far post, trickling out for a goal kick.

Minutes later, Woking were made to pay for their early profligacy. Truro’s first corner of the game was met with a sliced clearance that invited further pressure, and from their second, they were ahead. Despite the height of the Woking backline, a vicious delivery from the right-hand side flew through the box unchallenged, and the unmarked centre-back Jamie Richards was on hand to demonstrate to Casey how defenders can finish, heading in from just a few yards out.

Winded by the sucker punch, Woking could do little more than try to snuff out probing attacks from Truro in the opening stages. The shape of the visitors, transitioning seamlessly from a 4-4-2 when defending into a 3-5-2 when in possession, gave them two target men to hit in Tyler Harvey and Jared Lewington whilst keeping the Cardinals quiet. Harvey was the most dangerous outlet in the first half, first forcing a great low save from Schotterl shortly after the goal before having a dangerous effort blocked from the edge of the box, after Niall Thompson managed to get the better of Ian Gayle. Corners also continued to be a problem, with the deliveries of Thompson and fellow winger Alex Hartridge not being decisively dealt with.

Woking, in contrast, were failing to get into the box at all. The forward line of Nicky Wheeler, Greg Luer and Ofori-Acheampong looked static, whilst the midfield struggled to press Truro’s midfield into turning over possession. The only moments of clear danger came from free kicks by Max Kretzschmar, but resulting efforts from Luer and Gayle did little to test Wollacott in the City goal.

After the half-hour mark, the game became something of a battle of attrition. Woking were increasingly able to get to grips with the Truro attack, but were wasteful in possession and some players seemed to find themselves waiting for someone else to take the game by the scruff of the neck. Indeed, Woking’s best move of the half saw great linkup between Kretzschmar, Ofori-Acheampong and Wheeler around the penalty area, only for Ofori-Acheampong and Luer to let the chance go begging as they assumed the other would shoot.

The half time whistle gave the home side a much-needed opportunity to change their performance for the better. For the defensive improvements they had made, Woking had barely tested the visitors in their third, and a quiet Kingfield crowd shared the team’s frustration as they headed down the tunnel. Hard work would be needed to turn over an unsatisfactory scoreline.

Half-time: Woking 0 – 1 Truro City

Woking made two changes at half-time, due to a combination of injury and tactics. Greg Luer made way after a disappointing first-half display for the young Paul Hodges (pictured above, with Dowse) whilst an injury to Ian Gayle saw the introduction of Kiran Khinda-John at centre-back. Truro remained unchanged, looking to capitalise on the half-chances and defensive solidity they had shown in the first half.

Fortunately for the Cards fans, if the first half was tepid, the start to the second was blistering. Woking’s previous reticence to shoot had been done away with; within a few minutes of kickoff Armani Little hammered a swerving drive from range that Wollacott did well to beat away, before Casey came closer from twenty-five yards than he had done from eight, whipping an effort just beyond the top corner.

There was also a fresh positivity in the movement of the Woking front three – particularly Ofori-Acheampong, whose work-rate and strength made him a dangerous focal point for the entire half – and this allowed the wide men to start firing in dangerous crosses. Fans attending Woking’s 2-1 home defeat to Barrow last season may well remember Wollacott’s performance, where he was bullied in the air by tall opposition due to a reticence to come off his line, but the former loanee did very well to claw out a Wheeler cross from under the bar before a second delivery was sent wide by a mistimed Ferdinand header.

Truro struggled to get out of the traps, creating very little of note in the first twenty-five minutes of the second half despite the introduction of Jordan Copp into the midfield in an effort to sure things up. Their 3-5-2 had largely been abandoned due to a lack of possession, and the introduction of Hodges was proving problematic for their right-hand side, with the youngster a bundle of energy against slower defenders.

That right side would prove to be the source of the equaliser, as Truro gave away a cheap free kick a few yards from their corner flag. Kretzschmar's delivery, whipped in towards the near post, took a small but crucial flick-on from Hodges to guide it into the onrushing combination of Ofori-Achampong and Kane Ferdinand, with the latter stubbing the ball over the line to level things up.

Having been rewarded for their efforts, Woking refused to let up their dominance, and arguably should’ve been playing ten men when a counter-attack just a minute later was broken up by a cynical foul from fullback Billy Palfrey. The referee, perhaps realising that Palfrey was already on a yellow, opted not to book the former Plymouth man.

Whilst a questionable decision, it may also have contributed to Woking taking the lead, which they did just two minutes later. Again it came down the Truro right – Palfrey’s side – as Woking forced a corner, and Kretzschmar's devastating cross from the right whipped over the defender’s head to be met by the towering Jack Cook, who crashed a header into the net at Wollacott’s near post. The Cards had taken the lead after going behind for the third time in six games.

Jack Cook's shot nestles in the corner of the net

Having turned the game on its head, Woking were looking for a third to kill the game off. Efforts from Wheeler and Ofori-Achampong both eluded the far post, whilst the visitors scrambled to make changes in an effort to create more danger. The introduction of Louis Rooney and John-Paul Pitman, the latter of whom scored on this ground for Grimsby two years ago, gave Truro fresh legs up front.

Within sixty seconds of their introduction, however, Woking had breathing space. Another foul by Palfrey gave Woking a free kick down the Truro right, and despite the petulance and timewasting of one-man wall Jordan Copp – for which he was booked - Kretzschmar's delivery was superb again. His low drive left Wollacott stranded on his line, and Jack Cook was able to stab the ball through the keeper’s legs for an unlikely brace.

The goal killed the game for some of the Truro players who’d been working hard to create a turnaround, with their only chance of note claimed by Schotterl before Rooney could sneak in at the back post. Long throws from both sides played into the hands of the exceptionally tall centre-back pairing of Khinda-John and Cook, and now that Woking’s midfield and forward lines were working hard and keeping a better shape, the visitors struggled to create when the ball was on the ground. Reggie Young was introduced with ten minutes to go to take advantage of Truro’s attacking commitments, replacing Nicky Wheeler who left the pitch to a standing ovation from the Leslie Gosden stand.

As the game ticked into added time, Woking should have had a fourth. Yet another corner fell to a Cards player in the form of Paul Hodges, who evaded one tackle before Palfrey’s umpteenth foul of the day sent the tricky winger tumbling in the box for a penalty. Kretzschmar stepped up to take the spot kick, but his exceptional penalty record was blemished by a fabulous low stop from Wollacott, diving low to his right to drive the penalty away.

Despite this minor disappointment, the final whistle blew minutes later to confirm a superb turnaround from the Cardinals. Once again Dowson’s men struggled to find their feet initially, only to demonstrate their quality with a second half of energy and quality to secure the result. If Woking are able to capture the quality they’ve shown in the second half of games like St. Alban’s and today’s match, then Cards fans will be in for a very exciting season indeed.

Woking: 1. Berti Schotterl, 2. Nathan Collier, 3. Josh Casey ©, 4. Jack Cook, 5. Ian Gayle (Kiran Khinda-John ’45), 6. Kane Ferdinand, 7. Greg Luer (Paul Hodges ’45), 8. Armani Little, 9. Duane Ofori-Acheampong, 10. Max Kretzschmar, 11. Nicky Wheeler (Reggie Young ’80)

Unused subs: 16 Declan Appau, 17 Sam Mason

Goals: Ferdinand 64’, Cook 67’, 77’

Bookings: Ferdinand 80’

Truro City 1. Jojo Wollacott, 17. Billy Palfrey, 4. Ed Palmer, 6. Jamie Richards ©, 15. Alex Hartridge, 18. Austen Booth (Louis Rooney ’74), 3. Connor Riley-Lowe, 11. Lloyd Gardner (Jordan Copp ’58), 9 Tyler Harvey (John Paul-Pitman ‘74), 19 Jared Lewington, 2 Niall Thompson

Unused subs: 5 Paul Bignot, 12 Max Smallcombe

Goals: Richards 6’

Bookings: Palfrey, Copp

Referee: Matthew Russell

Attendance: 1,574

Man of the Match: Paul Hodges. It’s no surprise that the sponsors choice was one of the key players in changing Woking’s play between halves, even though he played half the game! A constant bundle of energy, he won the header to assist Ferdinand’s equaliser, and the late penalty that he won would’ve capped the perfect 45 if it has been converted.

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