Cards grab a point

Brian Caffarey
9:26pm, Sat 19th Jan 2019
St Albans City 1 Woking 1
19 January 2019
Vanarama National League South

The Cards’ eight-game winning streak in the league came to an end this afternoon at Clarence Park but Woking were perhaps a bit fortunate to come away with even a point in the face of a lively and prolific home attack. The Saints took the lead in the 31st minute after Woking had failed to clear their penalty area but Jack Cook quickly thumped home an equaliser. St Albans hit the woodwork twice in the second half as the Woking goal led something of a charmed life but the best chance of all fell to Greg Luer from the penalty spot, only for the Saints’ keeper Dean Snedker to save his effort.

With Toby Edser (possibly only temporarily), Jamar Loza, Noel Leighton and Aaron Eyoma departing in the last few days, and Max Kretzschmar still injured, Dowse had fewer attacking forces to choose from. Predictably, he lined up with Christian Jolley, Armani Little and Harry Taylor in midfield and, as widely expected, Nicky Wheeler out on the left flank. Up front, though, he started with both Jake Hyde and Harvey Bradbury, with Greg Luer and Paul Hodges on the bench, where they were joined by new keeper James Dunn, Ian Gayle and Dan Spence.

On a cold, dull, misty afternoon, and on a rather heavy-looking pitch, the game started scrappily, with neither side making much impression in the opening exchanges. There were already signs, though, that Woking would have their work cut out in trying to deal with the lively and skilful Soloman Sambou, who was ably supported by David Moyo and Khale Da Costa in an attack which looked more sprightly than Woking’s in this encounter.

The Cards suffered an early setback when Hyde injured his hamstring and had to be replaced by Luer. Although Bradbury and Luer worked hard, neither was able to provide the control of the ball up front which Hyde might have offered.

The Cards’ first real attack did not occur till the 21st minute when Jolley put a pass into Luer’s stride. The substitute did well to cut the ball back into the path of the advancing Little but the young Oxford United midfielder could not get it out from under his feet. Woking’s pressure continued with a couple of corners, from the first of which Taylor did manage to get a deflected shot away.

The initiative swung back to the home side as the free-ranging Sambou shot straight at Craig Ross. And in the 31st minute St Albans took the lead. Both Taylor and Jolley had chances to clear the ball from the Woking area but it eventually fell to Zane Banton, whose low, left-footed effort went in off the base of the far post, with Moyo adjudged to have got a final touch.

Sambou forced another corner before, somewhat unexpectedly given the lack of attacking moves hitherto, the Cards grabbed an equaliser. Josh Casey floated in a free-kick. Jack Cook challenged and, when the ball hit the deck, thumped it unceremoniously past Dean Snedker to make it 1-1 with 36 minutes gone.

The Cards tried to build on this recovery as half-time approached, with Casey, Cook and Ben Gerring all prominent in attack at one point. They nearly paid the price, though, as St Albans counter-attacked, with Ross having to save with his feet from Moyo.

Half-time: St Albans City 1 Woking 1

Woking started the second half slowly, taking a good 15 minutes before they mounted an attack of any note. In the meantime St Albans hit the bar with a header, with a shot then being blocked before the ball was scrambled away; and Da Costa fired narrowly over the bar after cutting inside Casey. In addition, Gerring had to make a vital interception as he cut out a dangerous Sambou cross.

On 60 minutes Woking at last managed to achieve some attacking momentum as Little set Luer free on the right. The latter cut inside nicely but his shot was deflected away by Snedker for a corner. The keeper then tipped a Gerring header over the bar, with the giant defender heading narrowly wide from the resulting corner-kick. Woking threatened again as Cook lofted a ball over the home defence but Little could not quite connect with the ball as it came over his shoulder. Cook then tried to add to his goal tally with a fierce shot, which was, however, blocked. The attacking spell culminated in the 73rd minute in a typically darting run from Paul Hodges, who had come on for Wheeler. Slaloming past several defenders into the box, he tumbled to the ground as he was challenged, with the referee pointing to the spot in spite of the protestations of the home defenders. But they need not have worried because Snedker stuck a leg out to deny Luer’s effort.

Predictably, this ‘let-off’ galvanised the home side. A header went narrowly wide and then another was cleared off the line. A few minutes later Cook was booked for a foul on Da Costa as he threatened to break clear. The Woking goal survived again as another header came off the post. A goal looked certain as Lewis Knight swung his leg to convert the rebound but somehow Gerring managed to get in the way.

In a rousing finale to a game which had started unpromisingly, the Saints’ Jordan Sanderson powered a fierce effort wide and Cook managed to foil Moyo. Woking responded with several long balls into the box but could not breach the home defence again.

On an afternoon when Torquay United lost at Bath City, this draw was probably a point gained, given that, apart from the missed penalty, the home side created more and better chances. Although Little in particular got around the pitch well, the liveliness of Edser seemed to be missed in midfield as well as the outlet provided by Loza’s pace. Bradbury was not really able to get on the ball, while Luer threatened only occasionally. Cook and Casey – the latter also the instigator of a good proportion of Woking’s attacking moves – stood out in defence.

Woking: Craig Ross, Nathan Collier, Ben Gerring, Jack Cook, Josh Casey, Armani Little, Christian Jolley, Harry Taylor, Nicky Wheeler (Paul Hodges 62), Jake Hyde (Greg Luer 20), Harvey Bradbury

Unused subs: Ian Gayle, Dan Spence, James Dunn

Goal: Jack Cook 36

Booked: Jack Cook

My Woking MOTM: Jack Cook (pictured)

St Albans City: Dean Snedker, Joshua McLeod-Urquhart, Tom Bender, Michael Clark, Lewis Knight, Dave Diedhiou, Ben Wyatt (Jordan Sanderson 90), Solomon Sambou, Khale Da Costa, David Moyo, Zane Banton

Unused subs: Percy Kiangebeni, Jacob Gardiner-Smith, Alfie Bonfield

Goal: David Moyo 31

Booked: Khale Da Costa, Tom Bender, Solomon Sandhou

Attendance: 1017

Referee: Mr Matthew Russell

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