Nine-man Cards suffer late Darts blow

Alex Wright
12:00am, Tue 5th Feb 2019
Woking 0 Dartford 1
Vanarama National League South
5th February 2019

Woking’s promotion bid suffered a serious setback after they were beaten by a Dartford goal in the last minute of injury time at Kingfield.

Darts’ centre back Robbie Vint headed home from a corner after six minutes of stoppage time in front of the Leslie Gosden Stand to inflict a sickening defeat on their play-off rivals after almost holding on at the end with nine men.

The Cards will feel particularly aggrieved as substitute Andre Coker’s late shot appeared to go straight out but referee Christopher O’Donnell ruled it had come off goalkeeper Craig Ross.

To add injury to insult, on a night of high drama, O’Donnell, who sent a Woking player off in the last two Cards’ games he has officiated, red-carded Ben Gerring and Armani Little in the second half.

The loss still leaves Woking four points behind leaders Torquay United but now with only one game in hand and an inferior goal difference with the chasing pack breathing down their neck. The result elevates Dartford to seventh, seven points behind the Cards.

Woking kicked off the first of four consecutive home games looking to return to winning ways in the league after a 1-1 draw at St Albans City and a 2-0 home defeat to Wealdstone, who have done the double over them this season.

A morale-boosting 5-0 win at Egham Town in the Surrey Senior Cup second round last Tuesday had given Cards boss Alan Dowson the chance to run the rule over some of his fringe players with Dan Spence, Ian Gayle, Duane Ofori-Acheampong and Nicky Wheeler all getting a run out. But that was tempered by the disappointment of Saturday’s postponement of the league clash at Oxford City because of a frozen pitch.

This was Woking’s first of two matches against Dartford in the space of one month, with the return fixture at Princes Park Stadium on Saturday 23rd February. The game, which was originally rescheduled from earlier in the season, was the first time the two sides had met since the 2014/15 season when they drew 1-1 at Kingfield and Woking triumphed 3-1 in the reverse fixture in the Conference National.

Having narrowly missed out on automatic promotion to Havant & Waterlooville on goal difference last season and then losing 1-0 to Braintree Town in the play-off semi-final, Dartford were ninth going into the game. Among the most notable names in the Darts’ ranks was former Cards defender Jordan Wynter.

Reverting to a 4-4-2 formation, Dowson made two changes to his line-up, bringing in Dave Tarpey, signed on loan on Monday from Barnet, and Oxford United loanee Harvey Bradbury for the injured Max Kretzschmar, and Greg Luer, who moved to the bench. He also named Bradley Hudson-Odoi, brother of Chelsea’s teenage prodigy Callum, signed from Wealdstone after the defeat to the Stones, among the substitutes. Woking were also missing Jake Hyde, who picked up a hamstring injury in the St Albans draw.

On a sand-strewn pitch, in rainy conditions, the match started in lively fashion when a loose Dartford free-kick fell to Paul Hodges who released Tarpey down the right wing and he cut in on his left foot but his smart strike was blocked by keeper Bailey Vose and cleared away from danger. A minute later Hodges made space outside the D and fired in a shot which was saved again by the diving Vose.

Moments later Elliot Bradbrook found his way into O’Donnell’s book for a cynical foul on Christian Jolley.

On 12 minutes, in a free-flowing move Bradbury swept the ball through for Tarpey but Vose rushed out and his clearance connected with the on loan Barnet man, ricocheting just wide of his right hand post. The partnership was already starting to yield dividends and another smart interchange between the duo on 25 minutes put Rhys Murrell-Williamson clean through on the left, but the former Billericay Town winger was adjudged offside.

Not to be denied, Murrell-Williamson tried his luck from the other side with a couple of step-overs, but blasted his shot high and wide.

At the other end, Gerring was cautioned for a robust challenge on Phil Roberts on the half-hour mark.

Minutes later Ben Greenhalgh whipped in a dangerous corner from the right which Bradbrook conspired to miss from two yards out. Ryan Hayes then cut in from the right flank but his shot was headed away by Gerring on 39 minutes.

With the pendulum swinging firmly in Dartford’s favour, Hodges came to Woking’s rescue, turning defender to nick the ball away from Greenhalgh when he was just about to pull the trigger before an almighty goalmouth scramble ensued in which Greenhalgh struck the foot of the right hand post with a drive and Nathan Collier cleared the follow-up off the line.

On the stroke of half-time though, Jolley threaded a ball through to Bradbury out wide on the right who whipped in a cross and the ball fell to Tarpey who appeared to be taken out by Vose, but O’Donnell waved away Woking penalty claims.

Half-time: Woking 0 Dartford 0

We had to wait six minutes for any action of note in the second half when Hayes got the better of Josh Casey and hared down the right but his cross-cum-shot was cut out by Gerring.

Minutes later, at the other end Jack Cook headed over from Little’s corner.

On 60 minutes, however, Gerring, was booked for a second time for dissent but remained on the pitch and Tom Bonner joined him for appearing to aim the ball at Bradbury’s head when he was on the ground after being fouled. After a period of considerable delay the linesman brought it to O’Donnell’s attention that Gerring had already been booked and realising his mistake he gave the Woking No.5 his marching orders.

Dowson responded immediately, sacrificing Murrell-Williamson for defensive replacement Gayle. From the resulting Woking free-kick, the ball eventually fell to Cook, but his close-range shot was well saved by Vose.

Advantage Dartford, on 70 minutes Hayes whipped in a dangerous cross from the right which Roberts headed on but Charlie Sheringham put his shot wide of the right hand post.

Dowson subsequently decided switch things up again and brought on Luer for Bradbury, who had run himself into the ground, on 71 minutes.

Collier then lifted a high ball into the area but Little was unable to get on the end of it.

Trying to exploit the extra space, Dartford made their first change of the evening, bringing on attacker Kudus Oyenuge for Daniel Johnson on 77 minutes.

But soon the Cards were reduced to nine men with Little following Gerring down the tunnel after retaliating to a foul by Lee Noble, who was also booked for his initial infringement.

On 80 minutes Dowson made his last roll of the dice in a bid to secure a precious point, bringing on Spence for Tarpey, while Andre Coker came on for Hayes for the visitors.

With the game coming to a close Oyenuge tried his luck from outside the box but fired well over.

Noble was then removed from the fray, replaced by Billy Crook on 90 minutes.

The referee signalled six minutes of added time which was met with a chorus of boos from the home faithful.

With the Darts scenting victory, Vint played a superb one-two on the edge of the box but his shot was smartly turned around by Ross. From the resulting corner the ball fell to Coker who drilled another long distance shot just wide of the left hand stick.

But Vint made no mistake from the disputed corner, heading in to send the travelling support into raptures.

At the final whistle O’Donnell ran the gauntlet of unhappy players and fans who made their feelings known about the standard of his officiating.

Next up the Cards will be looking to arrest their mid-season slump when they face strugglers East Thurrock United at Kingfield on Saturday. But they will have to do so with a gaping hole in central defence and midfield after the sendings off of Gerring and Little.

Having also let Charlie Wassmer go to Billericay and with Toby Edser joining Port Vale, perhaps Dowson will now dip back into the transfer market and pull another rabbit out of the hat to get over what is hopefully only a mini blip around. What’s for sure is that this will be a serious test of his managerial mettle to turn Woking’s fortunes around.

Woking: 1 Craig Ross, 2 Nathan Collier, 3 Josh Casey (c), 4 Jack Cook, 5 Ben Gerring, 6 Christian Jolley, 7 Paul Hodges, 8 Armani Little, 9 Dave Tarpey (14 Dan Spence 80’), 10 Harvey Bradbury (16 Greg Luer 71’), 11 Rhys Murrell-Williamson (15 Ian Gayle 60’)

Unused subs: Dunn, Hudson-Odoi

Goals: None

Bookings: Gerring 30’, 60’

Sent off: Gerring 60’, Little 78’

Dartford 1 Bailey Vose, 4 Jordan Wynter, 5 Robbie Vint, 6 Tom Bonner (c), 7 Ben Greenhalgh, 8 Lee Noble (14 Billy Crook 90’), 15 Phil Roberts, 16 Elliot Bradbrook, 17 Ryan Hayes (18 Andre Coker 80’), 19 Daniel Johnson (9 Kudus Oyenuge 77’), 20 Charlie Sheringham

Unused subs: Onyemah, Murphy

Goals: Vint 90+6’

Bookings: Bradbrook 9’

Sent off: None

Referee: Christopher O’Donnell

Attendance: 1,190

Man of the Match: Paul Hodges – ran his socks off, chasing down every ball and tracked back superbly to deny Dartford a clear scoring chance

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