Cards’ Cup dreams stung by Hornets
12:00am, Sun 6th Jan 2019
Woking 0 Watford 2
Emirates FA Cup third round
6th January 2019
Woking’s FA Cup dream came to an end as Premier League side Watford scored a goal in each half in a largely one-sided affair in front of a sell-out crowd at Kingfield.
A Will Hughes shot from a corner after 13 minutes and a close range finish from Troy Deeney late on sealed victory for the high-flying Hornets on a chilly early January afternoon.
But the Cards can be proud of their performance as they defended resolutely and had chances of their own to score in the second half.
It was always going to be a tough ask for Woking with 110 league places separating the two teams.
The match was billed as one of the biggest matches in Woking’s recent history, with the Cards attempting to reach the FA Cup fourth round for only the second time in their 130-year history since their famous 4-2 victory over West Bromwich Albion in 1991 when Tim Buzaglo netted a hat-trick.
The tie, which is believed to have brought in £150,000 in television money for the club, had a historic connection with Watford midfielder Tom Cleverley’s late great uncle Reg Stratton writing himself into Woking folklore after scoring in their 3-0 1958 FA Amateur Cup win over Ilford.
Jake Hyde, goalscorer in Woking’s 1-0 second round win over Swindon Town, was restored to the starting line-up at the expense of Paul Hodges after sitting out Tuesday’s 3-0 win at Hampton & Richmond Borough.
Alan Dowson had to make do without influential playmaker Max Kretzschmar who was ruled out with a hamstring injury in the victory at Hampton with Jamar Loza coming in to replace him.
Returning Oxford United loanees Armani Little and Harvey Bradbury were also given berths on the bench alongside Academy youngster Charlie Hester-Cook, Nicky Wheeler and Dan Spence.
The Watford side featured England international Nathaniel Chalobah and had the luxury of naming Deeney as a substitute.
Just over 5,700 crammed into Kingfield – Woking’s second largest attendance since the FA Amateur Cup fourth round clash against Finchley in the 1957/58 season – to watch the Cards’ first competitive game against Watford.
Woking lined up in a 4-5-1 formation with Loza on the left flank and Greg Luer, hat-trick hero against Hampton on New Year’s Day, on the right and Christian Jolley, Toby Edser and Harry Taylor in the centre, and Hyde the lone man up front.
The game burst into life in the seventh minute when Cleverley teed up Watford debutant Adalberto Penaranda on the left but his right foot curler went inches wide of keeper Craig Ross’ far post.
Moments later Hyde almost played Luer through but the danger was cleared by Watford’s left back Adam Masina.
Hughes then floated over a corner which Manuel Britos got on the end of and the ball fell to Masina but he put his effort wide of the left post from close range.
But Watford made no mistake from the next corner with Masina firing in a low drive which Hughes turned home first time off the head of Harry Taylor past the despairing dive of Ross.
On 14 minutes, the uglier side of the game came to the fore with Isaac Success being booked for diving.
Five minutes later Daryl Janmaat whipped in a cross from the right which Ross did well to get down to and deny Success.
The Watford pressure was relentless and they had another chance soon after when Domingos Quina broke and ran the length of the pitch before firing tamely over.
At the other end Josh Casey (pictured above) launched a long throw into the box which Ben Gerring got on the end of but Heurelho Gomes got down to smother.
Gerring then found himself in the book after 28 minutes for going through the back of Success.
The referee then gave a controversial free-kick after Luer was harshly adjudged to have bundled over the bleach blonde haired Penaranda on 35 minutes, drawing a round of boos from the home end.
From the resulting free-kick Cleverley struck the bar with Ross beaten but it bounced away to safety.
But remember that Woking were 1-0 down at half-time to West Brom in that famous 1991 clash, and were clearly hoping that history would repeat itself.
Half-time: Woking 0 Watford 1
The first action of any note in the second half was a half-chance for Penaranda who moved inside from the left but fired his shot just wide of the right post on 55 minutes.
Minutes later Loza swung in a cross from the left which Hyde got on the end of but it was weak and Gomes dealt easily with the threat.
Dowson then made his first change on 61 minutes, bringing on Little for Taylor. Little almost made an instant impact, receiving the ball from Loza from 30 yards out and he went for the shot but it was comfortably saved by Gomes.
On 70 minutes Dowson made the last roll of the dice, bringing on Hodges and Bradbury for Edser and Luer.
Watford manager Javi Gracia responded by bringing on Sema and Deeney for the disappointing Penaranda and Success.
Quina then swung a long ball over to Sema who drilled the ball across the area and Deeney was there to tap it in for Watford’s second on 74 minutes.
The Hornets made their last change in the 81st minute, replacing the goalscorer Hughes with Marc Navarro.
Moments later, Sema floated in a corner which Deeney got on the end of but Hodges was back to clear well off the line.
With minutes to go Jolley then burst forward and floated over a cross but Bradbury headed agonisingly over from yards out.
Woking’s journey, which began with a 4-0 second qualifying round victory over Tooting & Mitcham in September, followed by wins over Kempston Rovers, Welling United, Torquay United and Swindon, ended with an honourable defeat as they went toe-to-toe with a top 10 Premier League side.
They can now turn their attention to the business end of the promotion race when they host Welling in the league at Kingfield on Wednesday night.
Woking: 1 Craig Ross, 2 Nathan Collier, 3 Josh Casey (c), 4 Jack Cook, 5 Ben Gerring, 6 Christian Jolley, 7 Toby Edser (Paul Hodges 70’), 8 Harry Taylor (14 Armani Little 61’), 9 Jake Hyde, 10 Greg Luer (Harvey Bradbury 70’), 11 Jamar Loza
Unused subs: Berti Schotterl, Charlie Hester-Cook, Nicky Wheeler, Dan Spence
Bookings: Gerring 28'
Watford 1 Heurelho Gomes (c), 2 Daryl Janmaat, 3 Miguel Britos, 8 Tom Cleverley, 10 Isaac Success (9 Troy Deeney 71’), 11 Adam Masina, 14 Nathaniel Chalobah, 17 Adalberto Penaranda (Ken Sema 71’), 19 Will Hughes (Marc Navarro 81’), 20 Domingos Quina, 24 Ben Wilmot
Unused subs: Pontus Dahlberg, Adrian Mariappa, Gerard Deulofeu, Kiko Femenia
Goals: Hughes 12’, Deeney 74’
Bookings: Success 14’
Referee: Graham Scott
Man of the Match: Ben Gerring, a typical no-nonsense and rock solid performance from the Woking centre back who marshalled Watford’s Nigerian striker Isaac Success superbly