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A game for the connoisseur as the Cards prevent the Magpies from stealing 3 points

John Pearce - 23rd January 2021

A game for the connoisseur as the Cards prevent the Magpies from stealing 3 points  Woking 0 Maidenhead United 0
Vanarama National League
23rd January 2021

A goalless war of attrition between Woking and Maidenhead United at the Laithwaite Community Stadium, and the resulting one point, left the Cards in 15th place in the table – closer points-wise to the second placed team than to the relegation zone, but worryingly without a league goal or win in their last 4 games.

Woking kicked off, in a 4-3-2-1 formation, towards the KRE in conditions that were dry, with some blue sky and the occasional glimpse of sun, and probably cold (your reporter did not venture outside his front door, given the further tightening up of who can attend BCD games in the latest lockdown).

The starting line-up was unchanged from the one that won at Bromley in the FA Trophy on the previous Tuesday. Those on the bench included Malachi Napa – a welcome returnee from Oxford United for a second loan spell – and Jonte Smith, the unattached but experienced striker pursued and finally signed by Dowse following by an prolonged injury.

For Maidenhead, this was their first league game for 4 weeks. Their 4-4-2 starting line-up including Manny Parry in defence, but the only other ex-Card in their squad, Shaun Donnellan, had been ruled out by a hamstring injury and operation that meant the end of his season.

A very early foray by the Magpies led to a foul just outside the Cards box. The resulting free kick was deflected out for a corner by ‘Moaners’ which was cleared.

In the fifth minute, a Woking ball into the opposition area resulted in a Maidenhead being fouled and a free kick.

2 minutes, the visiting team won a free kick to the right of the Cards area; Dan Sparkes fired in an uninspiring low shot straight into Craig Ross’ hands.

At this early juncture, the game was somewhat scrappy, with a lot of ‘headball’. A feature of each side was a long throw-in specialist – Jack Cook and Sam Barratt respectively – but the ‘shock factor’ was neutralised on the day. One such ball from Cook in the 11th minute was easily cleared; the equivalent from Barratt not long was easily and gratefully collected by Ross.

There was a lot of intricate but ultimately ineffective short passing on the Cards left, typically involving Goddard. A rare attacking move developed, with Spasov picking up the ball on the left, cutting in but driving the ball past the post to the keeper’s right. Woking kept up the pressure for a few minutes, with a Cook throw going out for a corner.

On 25 minutes, a ball from the right into the Cards’ box was sliced out by Sparkes for a goal kick. At the other end, Max Kretzschmar’s shot soared over the KRE.

Cook found himself in the referee’s book when he tripped Nathan Blissett some 25 yards in front of the Woking goal. Sparkes blasted the free kick into the wall, and George Wells shot the returning ball well wide of Ross’ left post.

The ball sailed over the Woking bar from Barratt, on the receiving end of a dangerous cross from Sparkes. Casey was knocked to the ground and received attention from the physio and a doctor, but was able to carry on.

A poor long ball from Cooper from defence straight to the Magpies’ keeper in the 38th minute typified a catalogue of weak passes from Woking. It followed more opposition pressure, with a couple of corners being defended well. Danilo Orsi found himself clear and heading for goal shortly after, but it was called offside.

3 minutes of time added on were just under way when Slavi Spasov was also injured and in need of attention. Little else of note happened before half-time.

Half-time: Woking 0 Maidenhead United 0

The second half began with a move that found Goddard in the Maidenhead area; his pass to Charlie Cooper was hooked wide.

In the 53rd minute, Spasov was fouled by Parry about 25 yards out just left of centre. Cooper’s free kick met Ben Gerring’s head by the far post, but it dropped gently into the keeper’s arms. Blissett – having been warned several times – went into the book shortly after.

Mistakes by the Magpies’ defence gave Ben Dempsey the opportunity to shoot but he failed to trouble the scorers.

New signing Jonte Smith made his first appearance for the Cards, coming on for Spasov in the 64th minute. However, like the other Woking forwards, he was unable to make much of an impression.

A series of Maidenhead corners ensued. In the 73rd minute, a nice passage of passing play by the Cards down the left ended with the ball being cleared in front of goal; there was sustained pressure from the home team at this point.

Three minutes later, Gerring secured a yellow card by flattening Barratt just outside the Woking ‘D’ in an ‘’uncompromising challenge’. Sparkes’ free kick sailed into Ross’ arms without him having to move.

Both sides made double substitutions in the 79th minute. Matt Jarvis and Malachi Napa replaced Goddard and Kretzschmar – a completely new front line – and Josh Coley and Josh Smile came on for Orsi and Barratt.

Cook rises to meet a ball; pic: David Holmes

A Blissett header from a cross by Wells floated just wide of the post to Ross’ right.

Cook and Gerring managed to collide while trying to head the ball, and play was stopped much to the Magpies’ chagrin as they were in strong position.

As the 90th minute approached, a couple of Woking corners were to no avail, as was one in the 4 minutes added on after a poor Maidenhead clearance broke for Napa to pick up. There was a flurry of headers and balls booted skywards before the match came to a conclusion.

One for aficionados of the defensive game or just a dismal game? I’m inclined towards the latter. The difficulty of getting the ball into the opponents’ box and – when they do so – putting into that all important net are worrying, but the defence is solid. With a series of – on paper – difficult games coming up, starting at Bromley away on Tuesday night, it’s going to be a challenging time for the Cards. However, it may be reassuring that the bottom three clubs in the table are somewhat adrift and Woking remain in a large cluster of clubs with similar points totals.

Woking: 13. Craig Ross, 2. Jack Cook, 3. Josh Casey, 4. Charlie Cooper, 5. Ben Gerring, 8. Kane Ferdinand, 10. Max Kretzschmar (20. Malachi Napa 79’), 14. Slavi Spasov (9. Jonte Smith 64’), 16. Kyran Lofthouse, 18. Ben Dempsey, 22. John Goddard (11. Matt Jarvis 79’)

Unused subs: 12. Nathan Collier, 21. Tommy Block

Goals: None

Bookings: Cook 29’, Gerring 76’

Maidenhead United: 1. Taye Ashby-Hammond 3. George Wells 2. Jerry Wiltshire 5. Manny Parry 16. Ryheem Sheckleford 11. Dan Sparkes Rohan Ince 19. Ryan Upward 25. Sam Barratt (28. Josh Smile 79’), 10. Danilo Orsi (7. Josh Coley 79’), 9. Nathan Blissett

Unused subs: 15. Seth Twumasi 12. Brad Keetch 8. James Comley

Goals: None

Bookings: Upward 41’, Blissett 55’

Referee: Scott Jackson

Attendance: N/A

Man of the Match: Difficult to pick anyone out as outstanding on the day, but Jack Cook was particularly solid at the back

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