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Cards weather the storm to record unlikely win

Ian Toft - 9th August 2019

Cards weather the storm to record unlikely win Woking 1 Harrogate Town 0
Vanarama National League
10th August 2019

Shaun Donnellan’s deflected first half strike was enough to secure Woking three precious points despite spending much of the encounter under a torrent of pressure, both from the visitors and from the weather. After perhaps feeling somewhat aggrieved to have suffered defeat in the previous home game against local rivals Aldershot Town when on top for much of that game there was perhaps a sense of the Cards’ luck having evened out by the end of a busy week.

On an overcast and gusty afternoon the Cards welcomed Harrogate Town to Kingfield for the first ever match contested between the two clubs. Having surpassed expectations to make last season’s National League Play Offs, Town arrived in buoyant mood having recorded an impressive 3-0 win at Barrow on Tuesday.

Alan Dowson made two changes to the disappointing defeat to Aldershot by selecting Ibrahim Meite and Godfrey Poku in place of Jake Hyde and Max Kretzschmar. Woking attacked the Kingfield Road End in the first half but instantly found themselves on the back foot.

Early on, Leesley and Kiernan found themselves regularly getting the better of Cook and Casey on each wing resulting in a series of impressive crosses that had to be cut out by an alert Ross and his supporting back three. Both Beck and Muldoon found back post opportunities to put Town ahead but narrowly failed to get their efforts on target. A wonderfully weighted clipped ball from Kerry found Kiernan clear through but Ross sensed the danger and made sure to be there first. A further goalmouth cross from Burkell, then immediately leading to a powerful shot by George Smith, all within the first ten minutes gave Cards fans the dread that they could be in a long afternoon.

It wasn’t until a third of the half had passed before Woking registered their first attack of note. A ball was clipped over to Meite, wide of the left touchline. His cut back pass appeared to be intended for Tarpey but instead ran loose for Donnellan who sliced his effort wide of the far post.

After a Cards corner had initially come to nothing, Donnellan then collected a loose ball. At least twenty yards out he hit a speculative effort which initially looked set for the centre of the goal. George Smith sensed the shot and reached out to attempt to block but could only deflect the effort towards the top corner of the Harrogate goal. The ball’s change in direction appeared to catch Belshaw wrong-footed and it hit the back of the net to give the home side the lead entirely against the run of play.

The goal appeared to give Woking confidence and it was not long before they were again pushing forward. Cook took a few strides down the right wing before cutting inside and passing outside to Meite. His cross was aimed for Tarpey, expectantly waiting on point. However, just as the Cards’ striker appeared to be pulling the trigger, the ball was pulled away from him by an alert Town defender. The ball fell loose to Donnellan but his effort was high and wide.

Harrogate reasserted themselves and again built up another spell of sustained pressure. Kerry’s lay off wide to Kiernan set him free on the right and his hard low cross appeared between goalkeeper and defence. Parry stuck out a leg when facing his goal in an attempt to intercept but the ball ran loose to the goal line. Ross scrambled to collect the ball in time, much to the relief of the Cards fans sat behind in the Leslie Gosden Stand.

Another gilt-edged chance fell to the visitors when Falkingham played a long pass through to Leesley in space on the left wing. Allowing the strikers to get up into the danger zone the Town winger curled a precise cross deep into the six yard box. Muldoon timed his run to perfection but somehow his effort was sent wide of the post with an open goal at his mercy.

At the other end Meite carved out a rare opportunity for the Cards with a fierce shot. Having had his back to goal, he turned quickly and unleashed a low hard drive that drew out an impressive save from Belshaw to turn the ball away for a corner.

Unfortunately the final minutes of the half saw further sustained pressure from Town. Further good work from Kerry set up Leesley who hit a driving shot that narrowly cleared the crossbar. Soon after Leesley clipped a pass over to Muldoon which got the better of the Cards’ offside trap. This time Muldoon made sure his effort was bound for goal. From nowhere Ross produced the save of the game to tip the shot away via his crossbar.

Half-time: Woking 1 Harrogate Town 0

Having experienced a whirlwind first half it was rather apt that both teams returned to the pitch in tornado-like conditions with strong winds and driving rain. The weather was not the only thing beating down on the Cards players as Harrogate’s sustained pressure continued.

A Kerry corner drifted over to Beck at the far post. However Ross was able to get across to palm his headed effort away. Another corner, this time from Leesley, passed through a huge crowd of players, all managing to somehow fail to connect with it, as it rolled to the safety of a goal kick.

William Smith was booked for a late charge on Ferdinand where the elbow was raised. From the resulting free kick Poku was able to nod down a high floated ball to the back post. However nether Cook or Meite could get to it before Belshaw was able to collect.

Another full-bodied encounter between Poku and Kerry led to a lengthy delay whilst the visiting midfielder received treatment before being stretched off. This delay enabled Alan Dowson to bring on first Collier and then Johnson to give new energy to his hardworking side.

Johnson was soon involved when he skilfully escaped on the left and put in a searching cross for Meite. With Belshaw beaten the Cards striker was narrowly unable to get his head to the ball which could have put the game beyond the visitors’ reach.

As it was, the single goal lead looked more fragile as Harrogate continued to apply even under pressure. Former Premier League striker Jon Stead was introduced for the visitors to add extra menace to an already potent attack and he nearly made an instant impact as a far post effort was narrowly scrambled away by Ross.

Woking thought they had done a good job of soaking up the seven additional minutes by successfully keeping the ball safely at the opposite end of the pitch. However in the dying seconds one final opportunity arose for an equaliser when Stead collected on the left side of the penalty area, his lay off to Leesley saw him hit a quick fizzing shot at Ross. Though the effort was parried away the rebound fell to Falkingham who hit a low effort which rolled narrowly wide of the post.

With this final attempt, referee Lewis Smith blew for full time to confirm what will feel to some supporters as one of the Cards least likely victories for some time. To have sustained the sheer amount of pressure across ninety minutes and kept a clean sheet was no mean feat and great credit should go to goalkeeper and back three for a resolute performance.

Dowse must now prepare the team for two long trips north next week. First they visit the Proact Stadium on Tuesday to take on former FA Cup Semi-Finalists Chesterfield before heading to Lancashire next Saturday to take on AFC Fylde.

Woking:1 Craig Ross, 2 Jack Cook, 3 Josh Casey (Capt), 4 Manny Parry, 5 Ben Gerring, 6 Moussa Diarra (12 Nathan Collier 66’), 7 Dave Tarpey (17 Tyreke Johnson 69’), 8 Kane Ferdinand, 14 Godfrey Poku, 16 Shaun Donnellan, 18 Ibrahim Meite (9 Jake Hyde 86’)

Unused subs: 1 Sam Howes, 11 Paul Hodges

Goals: Donnellan 19’

Bookings: Gerring

Harrogate Town 1 James Belshaw, 3 George Smith, 4 Josh Falkingham, 6 Warren Burkell, 9 Mark Beck, 11 Joe Leesley, 14 Brendan Kiernan, 17 Lloyd Kerry (8 Jack Emmett 66’), 18 Jack Muldoon (16 Jonathan Stead), 20 Connor Hall, 22 William Smith

Unused subs: 2 Ryan Fallowfield, 13 Joe Cracknell, 21 Scott Brown

Bookings: Smith

Referee: Lewis Smith

Attendance: 1,470

Sponsor's (MKJ) Man of the Match:Shaun Donnellan, showed improvement against his home debut on Tuesday and was rewarded with the vital goal that saw the Cards take all three points.
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