Double Gloucester for Max as Card’s Edge Thriller

Adam Leary
12:00am, Wed 14th Nov 2018
Gloucester City 3 Woking 4
‘Vanarama National League South
‘14th November 2018

Woking moved up to second in the National League South following an incredible end to an incident-packed match at the Jubilee Stadium. A headed own goal four minutes into stoppage time gave Woking the winner and a vital three points against struggling Gloucester City, who can consider themselves unfortunate to emerge with nothing to show for their contribution to this bizarre match.

Cook’s winner followed a double from Max Kretzschmar and one from Jake Hyde, and completed a remarkable turnaround for the visitors, who found themselves trailing three-one after conceding three goals in seven first half minutes.

The hosts, currently playing at Evesham United having been in exile since severe flooding forced them to vacate their Meadow Park home in 2007, have been struggling this season and came into the game on the back of six straight defeats in all competitions.

Alan Dowson made two changes from the starting line-up which secured Woking safe passage to the second round of the FA Cup. Ian Gayle replaced Nathan Collier, missing due to personal reasons, at right back. Further forward, Nicky Wheeler lined up on the left flank in place of the suspended Charlie Hester-Cook. Cards fans were handed a further boost by the sight of Christian Jolley, side lined through injury since August, taking an active part in the pre-match warmup.

Gloucester kicked off on a mild November evening, and Woking looked to put any suspicion of a post-Torquay hangover to one side by asserting themselves on the hosts in the opening exchanges. Jamar Loza and Nicky Wheeler saw plenty of the ball early on in wide areas, with Armani Little and Toby Edser doing well to dictate the tempo of the match from the centre of midfield.

In what proved to be a sign of things to come, the Cards had a couple of early shouts for a penalty, firstly after two minutes when a Toby Edser cross appeared to strike a defender’s arm, and then four minute later when Kretzschmar flicked on a cross from Loza, which fell tantalisingly to Nicky Wheeler who was strongly challenged by the goalkeeper Alhaji Sesay. On both occasions the referee Scott Simpson waved away appeals from visiting players and fans.

Woking came close to opening the scoring after 13 minutes, a Wheeler cross evaded Jake Hyde but fell at the feet of Little, whose shot beat Sesay but was cleared off the line by a home defender. Two minutes later, a header from Edser was well saved by the keeper from Sierra Leone, who had signed on loan from Bristol City earlier in the day.

Woking lost some attacking momentum after 21 minutes when Jamar Loza went down, and, after receiving treatment, was forced to leave the field. Greg Luer came on to replace Loza, who had looked very lively and was using his pace to great effect prior to picking up the knock.

After 28 minutes Woking did open the scoring. Josh Casey did a fine job of reading the intentions of the Gloucester defence, who, keen to play the ball from the back, allowed Casey to intercept and drive into the box from left back. Having evaded a couple of challenges during his positive run into the penalty area, the Cards skipper was upended and the referee pointed to the spot. Kretzschmar duly converted low to Sesay’s left.

Gloucester equalised in the 36th minute following their first real spell of pressure in the Woking half. After clearing an initial corner Woking were unable to do so with a second in quick succession, Jake Jackson meeting Joe Hanks’ corner with a firm near post header, a goal against the run of play at the time.

Worse was to follow for the Cards two minutes later, again Hanks the architect from a set piece. His free kick, from just inside the Woking half, was played into the corridor of uncertainty between defence and keeper, and was unfortunately met on the stretch by the head of Ben Gerring. Dowson might question the starting position of his defence, who, in trying to play a high line, were caught facing their own goal by the quality of the delivery into the box.

Woking were looking shell-shocked by the sudden shift in momentum, and five minutes later the situation became even bleaker when the Tigers incredibly extended their lead. The impressive Odin Bailey showed Ian Gayle a clean pair of heels on the halfway line, and slipped a through ball into Jackson. The Cards defence, stepping up, appealed for offside, but the assistant referee kept his flag down and Jackson coolly rounded Ross before slotting into the net, despite the despairing efforts of Casey on the line.

It was scarcely credible that Woking should find themselves trailing by two goals despite bossing most of the half, however they were literally handed a lifeline almost immediately, a long ball into the box was bought down by Hyde, whose attempted cross was blocked by the arm of a home defender. This time it was the centre forward himself who smashed the penalty into the net, notching his seventh of the season.

Half-time: Gloucester City 3 Woking 2

Woking emerged early from the dressing rooms in the second half, and the pervading feeling was that despite the scoreline there remained every chance of emerging from Worcestershire with three points, assuming they could reassert their authority over the hosts.

Frustratingly for Cards fans, they struggled to control the match as they had for much of the first half, and the general standard of the game regressed into hopeful long balls from both sides, interspersed by a series of fouls and free kicks. This suited Gloucester, who were understandably happy to protect their lead, but it did not afford Woking the chance to advance up the pitch with numbers and create any meaningful spell of concerted pressure.

After fifteen minutes without a great deal happening for Woking, Dowson reacted by making a change, Duane Ofori-Acheampong replacing Wheeler, who, following a bright start, had struggled to make an impression as a creative force. Ofori-Acheampong was pushed up to form an orthodox strike partnership with Hyde, however Woking laboured to provide meaningful service to the front pair.

Aside from a handful of corners and free kicks, Woking struggled to get into advanced positions. Most of the limited attacking impetus was provided by Casey from left back. Dowson made a final change after 72 minutes, with Paul Hodges replacing Luer. Gloucester had a couple of opportunities to extend their lead on the counter attack, but were unable to make the most of them.

Woking huffed and puffed but it was beginning to look increasingly likely that they would emerge pointless from this match. There was a somewhat bizarre incident on 86 minutes when the referee issued a second yellow card, followed by a red card, to Hanks. The Gloucester protests were incredibly passionate, hardly surprising given that Hanks had not previously been cautioned. Following consultation with his assistant the official realised his mistake and play continued without the red card.

Sesay had proved to be an enthusiastic keeper who was very keen to demonstrate his footballing ability throughout the match, to good effect until the 88th minute. At that point, calamity ensued when Kretzschmar closed down a backpass, which the keeper could only fire into the shins of the Woking number 10, the ball flying into the unguarded goal. Credit to Kretzschmar for chasing down a lost cause, but in truth this was a clear error that allowed Woking an equaliser they had been craving. Kretzschmar’s 11th goal of the season, coming as it did, seemed set to hand Woking a draw that might well have been a fair result in the eyes of neutrals.

However, this game had one final twist as Woking sought to turn the screw in the five minutes of stoppage time signified by the officials. A Hyde cross was almost headed into his own net by a home defender. Kretzschmar took the resulting corner, which was met by the head of the Tigers' captain Sam Avery for the game's second own goal, sparking wild celebrations from the players, visiting fans and the away dugout.

Cook leaps but it's Gloucester's Avery who heads into his own net for the Cards' last gasp winner;
pic: David Holmes

The final whistle came as a huge relief for the second time in less than a week, in totally different circumstances to Devon on Saturday.

This was a very difficult game to summarise and draw too many conclusions on, a bizarre match in many ways that Dowson and his players will be very relieved to emerge from with three precious points. Woking played well at the start of the match, but lost momentum and pace after losing Loza through injury. The second half display was laboured, clear cut chances were hard to create, however Woking kept battling and their toil was rewarded with the dramatic ending.

Having taken seven league points from the last nine available, alongside the significant bonus of FA Cup progress, Cards fans will be hoping that the team have emerged from the early Autumn league slump, and, to have done so sitting in second place in the table, can look forward with both optimism and room for improvement.

Woking: 1 Craig Ross, 2 Ian Gayle, 3 Josh Casey ©, 4 Jack Cook, 5 Ben Gerring, 6 Toby Edser, 7 Jamar Loza (16. Greg Luer 25’, (14. Paul Hodges 73’)), 8 Armani Little, 9 Jake Hyde, 10 Max Kretzschmar, 11 Nicky Wheeler (12 Duane Ofori-Acheampong 63’)

Unused subs: 15 Dan Spence, 18 Herbert Schotterl

Goals: Kretzschmar (pen) 31’, 89’, Hyde (pen) 45’, Avery o.g. 90+3’

Bookings: Kretzschmar, Little

Gloucester City 1 Alhaji Sesay, 2 Tyler Weir (17 Jack Deaman 88’), 3 Noah Smerdon, 4 Chris Knowles, 5 Matt Liddiard, 6 Sam Avery ©, 7 Harry Williams, 8 Joe Hanks, 9 Andre Wright (16 Harry Warwick 90’), 10 Jake Jackson, 11 Odin Bailey

Unused subs: 12 James Unwin, 14 Jake Mawford, 15 Dan King

Goals: Jackson 36’, 43’, Gerring o.g. 38’

Bookings: Knowles, Williams, Hanks

Referee: Scott Simpson

Attendance: 291

Man of the Match: Josh Casey – A difficult call to pick a stand out player in an inconsistent game, but the skipper did not put a foot wrong defensively and contributed well going forward with positive running from full back

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