Cards bounce back

Brian Caffarey
9:24am, Wed 31st Oct 2018
Woking 3 Hungerford Town 0
Vanarama National League South
30 October 2018

A much-improved display saw the Cards ease to an ultimately comfortable win over lowly Hungerford Town. After Craig Ross had prevented an early reverse with a superb save, Jake Hyde scored a fine header to give Woking the lead on the quarter-hour mark from a Toby Edser corner. Hyde went on to double the Cards’ lead immediately after the break, smashing home a penalty after Nicky Wheeler had been fouled. Hungerford wasted a good chance to narrow the deficit before Ben Gerring powered home a header from a Wheeler corner midway through the half to make the three points safe.

Having failed to register a league win in five outings, and on the back of a dismal display in their 3-1 defeat at home to Bath City on Saturday, the onus was all on Dowse’s side to produce a good performance and grab a win. There was added pressure from the fact that the visitors, in spite of a morale-boosting win at Hampton and Richmond at the weekend which ended six straight league defeats, lay in 19th place in the table, with more goals conceded than any other side.

On a cold but calm evening, in front of a healthy midweek attendance, the Cards took the field with four changes from the eleven who started against Bath City. The main talking point was the decision to drop top scorer, Max Kretzschmar, to the bench in favour of Greg Luer, perhaps the only player to emerge with any credit at the weekend. Nathan Collier replaced Ian Gayle at right back, with Charlie Hester-Cook taking over from Donovan Makoma in midfield and Duane Ofori-Acheampong starting in place of Paul Hodges.

After a perfectly-observed minute’s silence as an early mark of Remembrance Sunday, the Cards soon demonstrated a degree of urgency and aggression which were sadly lacking at the weekend. Edser and Hester-Cook settled quickly in midfield, the former impressing with his eagerness to get on the ball and make things happen while the latter harried industriously, playing simple balls effectively. Ofori-Acheampong looked an unconventional right winger but also got stuck in rapidly, providing a useful outlet.

But Woking had to survive a couple of early scares before largely gaining control of the game. A poor tackle by Jack Cook gifted the Crusaders a free-kick in a dangerous position but Matt Jones’s effort didn’t dip enough to trouble Ross. However, the latter had to make an excellent save a minute later to prevent leading scorer Danilo Orsi-Dadomo from inflicting an early reverse. A goal seemed certain as he opened up his body to slide the ball past Ross but the latter just managed to get his left hand down to the ball to nudge it wide.

The Cards then began to string some moves together, with Luer, with his fine control and intelligent positioning, and Edser, with some stylish play, both showing up well. A fine run by Edser, ending with a shot which the Hungerford keeper, Jacob Weaver, tipped over the bar, led to a corner. The Nottingham Forest youngster whipped in the ball – the first of several good corners which he and Wheeler provided as the game wore on – and Hyde’s well-taken header gave the Cards the lead with 15 minutes gone.

Edser repeated the corner routine a minute later but Gerring’s low, stooping header flew narrowly wide.

Although Woking remained in the ascendancy, they weren’t able to build on this early lead as they might have hoped. Several promising attacks fizzled out with poor crosses or an insufficiently penetrating final ball. Indeed, it wasn’t till the 37th minute that Weaver was called into action again, but he certainly excelled himself in doing so. Hyde, allowed to turn and run at the defence, slipped a cute pass into Wheeler’s path. He was bravely foiled by Weaver, who then managed to grab the loose ball from Luer’s feet. Woking continued the pressure as Edser, tearing onto a Luer pass, was tripped just outside the box. Edser’s free-kick was beautifully struck but missed the top corner by a whisker.

But the visitors – who, to their credit, never stopped playing attractive, often skilful, football – nearly had the last laugh of the half. Collier was caught out by a ball played inside him. Darren Foxley cut in and aimed for the far corner but Ross once again stuck out his left hand to limit the damage to a corner. Hungerford continued to press in added time, with Foxley’s clever footwork winning a free-kick. The Woking defence was slow to spot the square pass to player/manager, Ian Herring, who, taking deliberate aim, nevertheless planted his shot wide of the post.

The Cards left the field at half-time in a much happier mood than on Saturday, with some decent displays throughout the team, but knowing that a one-goal lead was not enough against a side that had created a couple of very good chances.

Half-time: Woking 1 Hungerford Town 0

That concern was almost immediately assuaged after the break. Barely a minute had passed before Luer swung in a fine cross. It looked as if Wheeler had missed a golden opportunity with his header but the referee had spotted a foul on him and pointed to the spot. Hyde thrashed the penalty high into the centre of the net to give the Cards a decisive 2-0 lead.

The second goal seemed to give the Cards an infusion of confidence as they began to attack in some style. Ofori-Acheampong nearly profited from a Casey cross after some pleasing interplay, before the Woking skipper won a free-kick as he tore towards the box. From a central position Hyde evaded the wall but couldn’t bring the ball down sufficiently.

More attacks followed as Hyde headed wide from one of a number of enterprising runs by Collier. But, once more, the Cards benefited from a ‘let-off’. A nice one-two in the box saw James Rusby clean through on Ross. But the Crusaders’ captain went for an unnecessarily ambitious finish, curling the ball wide of the goal.

Woking countered, gaining two more corners in short order, from the second of which Gerring scored with a thunderous header after charging into the danger area, making the score a comfortable 3-0 to the Cards.

Not long afterwards his central defensive partner, Cook, nearly joined him on the scoresheet as he glanced an Edser corner beyond the far post and just out of reach of the lurking Gerring.

After Luer had left the field to warm applause, to be replaced by Paul Hodges, the Cards maintained their attacking momentum. Hyde’s hopes of a hat-trick were dashed by a point-blank save by Weaver after the Woking striker had latched onto a fine Wheeler cross.

As the game drew down to a close, Cook threatened again but the visitors enjoyed a strong finish, continuing to keep possession well and passing the ball neatly – but lacking the cutting edge and perhaps sufficient physicality to make a real impact.

This was a much more satisfactory performance from the Cards. Admittedly, Hungerford, though looking a better side than their league position suggested, were an easier proposition than Bath City, but there was a good deal to admire in Woking’s display. Ross had little to do but made two crucial saves. The defence looked solid, with both Casey and Collier getting forward to boost attacks. The youthful pairing of Hester-Cook and Edser proved effective and well balanced. Luer impressed in the number 10 role, taking up intelligent positions and showing close control. Hyde worked hard as usual but this time had some support and took his goals with aplomb. Ofori-Acheampong’s energy and strength were useful out on the right flank, though he faded after the break. Wheeler, though rarely getting past his man, put in some dangerous crosses and corners.

The Cards now need to take the confidence this win will have brought and build on it in what is likely to be a more testing encounter away at Chippenham Town on Saturday.

Woking: Craig Ross, Nathan Collier, Jack Cook, Ben Gerring, Josh Casey, Charlie Hester-Cook, Toby Edser, Greg Luer (Paul Hodges 74), Duane Ofori-Acheampong, Jake Hyde, Nicky Wheeler

Unused subs: Bert Schotterl, Max Kretzschmar, Donovan Makoma, Dan Spence

Scorers: Jake Hyde 15 and 48 (pen), Ben Gerring 66

Booked: Charlie Hester-Cook

Hungerford Town: Jacob Weaver, Marcus Johnson-Schuster, Matt Jones, Josh Martin, Marvel Ekpiteta, James Rusby, Romone Rose (Alfy Whittingham 79), Ian Herring (Charlie Ten-Grotenhuis 76), Danilo Orsi-Dadomo (Conor Lynch 57), Richie Whittingham, Darren Foxley

Unused subs: Alex Fragata, Dan Bailey

Booked: Marvel Ekpiteta, Romone Rose

Sponsors’ (Churchod and Co) MOTM: Jake Hyde (pictured)

Attendance: 1381

Referee: Robert Whitton

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