MKJ Group

Cards give the Gills a fright

Brian Caffarey
7:42pm, Sat 7th Nov 2020
Gillingham 3 Woking 2
FA Cup 1st Round Proper
7 November 2020

An impressive performance by Dowse’s Cards saw them narrowly pipped by League 1 Gillingham as the home side came back from 2-0 down in the second half to squeeze through to the next round. In truth, for most of the game the two-league gap between the two clubs was hard to discern but, in the end, the Gills showed enough late quality in crossing and finishing to deny the Cards even extra time, while Woking will once again rue failure to cut out crosses.

On a momentous afternoon – Geoff Chapple’s birthday and, oh yes, Joe Biden ousting Donald Trump – the Cards came close to adding something else to celebrate. After successfully stifling some early threat from the Gills the Cards took the lead in the 23rd minute with a tremendous strike into the bottom corner from Max Kretzschmar. That lead was doubled in the 55th minute when Josh Davison seized on a rebound to fire home. But the Gills quickly pulled a goal back with a fine, low header from Dominic Samuel, who, ten minutes later, levelled the scores after the ball had come back off the bar. The Gills then got their noses in front in the 78th minute when Vadaine Oliver headed home. The Cards fought valiantly for an equaliser but to no avail.

There were three changes from the side which started at Kings Lynn. Disappointingly, Matt Jarvis was not fit enough to grace Priestfield Stadium once more. Tommy Block was also missing and Kyran Lofthouse moved to the bench. In came Kretzschmar and Slavi Spasov, both of whom were substitutes at Kings Lynn, and Ben Dempsey.

After a slightly jittery opening, which saw John Akinde loop a header off the top of the bar and the Cards having to defend several corners and long throws, Woking settled down well, content to let the Gills pass the ball around in their own area but creating a difficult barrier once the home side ventured beyond the halfway line and then waiting patiently for an interception or misplaced pass to launch quick counter-attacks, using the strength of Josh Davison and the pace and trickery of Spasov. It was the on-loan Bulgarian striker who seized on a loose pass in the 17th minute and, interchanging well with Davison, enabled the latter to get off a fierce effort which the keeper turned away for a corner.

The Gills gained a free-kick just outside the Woking area in the 20th minute but the eventually influential Jordan Graham fired wastefully well over the bar.

A few minutes later Josh Casey floated in the second of two free-kicks gained inside the Gills’ half. The ball was half-cleared but Kretzschmar (pictured) took it down superbly, made a bit of space and struck a wonderful left-footed effort into the bottom corner to put the Cards 1-0 up.

That lead was nearly immediately cancelled out but Craig Ross pulled off a brilliant save with his legs to deny Samuel, who had turned sweetly in the box.

As the half wore on, the Cards looked increasingly comfortable and the Gills seemed to resort more frequently to hopeful balls forward towards Akinde, who was well marshalled by Jack Cook, who won almost everything in the air, and Saul Shotton.

Spasov slalomed his way into the Gills’ area in the 36th minute but had to settle for a corner. This led to a Cook cross, with Kretzschmar firing just wide and gaining another corner in the process. Casey’s ball in seemed to bamboozle the Gills keeper, who was lucky to see it bounce off the bar before Cook’s attempted overhead kick sent it wide.

With Akinde being caught offside on a couple of occasions and the Woking defence coping admirably with other Gills attacks, the Cards were able to see out the half, which included five minutes’ added time for an early injury to Tyler Reid, with the only alarm being a header wide by Declan Drysdale.

Half-time: Gillingham 0 Woking 1

Steve Evans – as animated as ever! – brought on Vadaine Oliver for Akinde at half-time but the substitution did not change the shape of the game at that stage. The first attack of real note saw Davison get goal side of defender Jack Tucker as he seized on a long ball but Tucker did well to get a foot in for a corner. Another corner, won cleverly by Spasov a couple of minutes later, saw Woking double their lead. A shot was blocked and the hard-working Davison lit on the rebound to smash the ball home in the 55th minute.

The Gills’ response three minutes later was unexpected and happened so quickly that players on both sides seemed to be slow in realising that Samuel had actually scored, stooping low to connect expertly with a low header from Graham’s cross from the right.

Not surprisingly, the Gills were lifted by this quick reply and noticeably upped the pace of their game, aided by the substitution of the tricky Trae Coyle for Tom O’Connor. Ross safely held onto a low Coyle free-kick but couldn’t prevent the Gills from equalising in the 67th minute when Samuel stabbed home as the ball came back off the bar following a corner.

But it was by no means simply backs to the wall for the Cards. In the 70th minute Dempsey slid a glorious pass through to Spasov, who, however, was tackled just as he attempted to let fly from the edge of the area. This was followed by an enterprising run by Kretzschmar, whose cross, though, was too fiercely struck. And, in the 75th minute, Davison headed just wide of the far post from a fine Casey ball in.

But an even deadlier cross came in from Graham in the 78th minute and the lanky Oliver was perfectly placed to head decisively back past Ross to put the Gills 3-2 up.

The Gills sought to kill Woking off with a fourth goal as Samuel saw an effort blocked, while Dowse threw on Dave Tarpey and Jayden Wareham in an effort to gain a late equaliser. The Gills’ Kyle Dempsey struck the post from 20 yards with three minutes remaining, and then in the four minutes of added time Spasov connected well with a ball into the box but it flew straight into the keeper’s midriff.

The Woking players were clearly very disappointed not to get anything out of the game in the end but can look back on a fine display which so nearly brought another Cup upset to add to the Club’s many notable past successes. The Gills certainly knew they’d been in a tough game.

Gillingham: Jack Bonham, Ryan Jackson, Connor Ogilvie, Jack Tucker, Kyle Dempsey, Dominic Samuel, Jordan Graham, Robbie McKenzie, John Akinde (Vadaine Oliver 45), Tom O’Connor (Trae Coyle 59), Declan Drysdale

Unused subs: Joe Walsh, Zech Medley, Matthew Willock, Josh Eccles, Christian Maghoma

Goals: Dominic Samuel 58 and 67; Vadaine Oliver 78

Booked: Jordan Graham

Woking: Craig Ross, Tyler Reid, Saul Shotton, Jack Cook, Josh Casey, Max Kretzschmar (Jayden Wareham 86), Charlie Cooper, Ben Dempsey (Dave Tarpey 83), Kane Ferdinand, Slavi Spasov, Josh Davison

Unused subs: Mark Smith, Ben Gerring, Nathan Collier, Kyran Lofthouse, Joe Leslie

Goals: Max Kretzschmar 23, Josh Davison 55

Booked: Josh Davison, Max Kretzschmar

My MOTM: Josh Davison

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