Not-so-Good Friday: Cards Torquay-doed by late Wright strike

Ben Musgrove
12:00am, Fri 2nd Apr 2021
Torquay United 1 – 0 Woking
National League Premier
2nd April 2021

You could be forgiven for thinking that, following promotion to the National League Premier, the two clubs came together and agreed: Woking get the cup games, and Torquay get the league games.

Just over a month after besting the Gulls in a hotly contested FA Trophy tie, the 1-0 scoreline on that afternoon was reversed thanks to a late winner from returning striker Danny Wright. With both sides half-crippled by injuries to several key players, it was not a game that will live long in the memory – particularly in light of Woking’s FA Trophy hangover.

The visitors were missing the vast majority of their offensive assets, with Jayden Wareham, Malachi Napa, Sam Ashford, Jamar Loza, Matt Jarvis, John Goddard and Dave Tarpey all unavailable, and Niko Muir returning to Hampton after his one-month loan. Nevertheless, Woking stuck to their usual 433 shape; Kyran Lofthouse was pushed forward to right wing, with Tommy Block deputising at right-back in his stead.

Torquay, for their part, were missing an absurd sixteen players from that aforementioned FA Trophy tie and are still feeling the absences of key players including Aaron Nemane and Kyle Cameron. Things are improving though; Danny Wright was making his competitive return from a hamstring tear that demanded surgery and had kept him out since Boxing Day.

As you’d expect, the first twenty minutes looked exactly like a game in which both sides had strung a squad together. The only effort of the opening fifteen was flashed across goal by Scott Boden, who did well to control a ball into the box from Ryan Law and evade Moussa Diarra, only to miss the target with his effort.

Woking’s game plan had a clearly defensive emphasis, allowing United to boss the ball as long as they could keep two banks behind it. While that denied Torquay clear-cut chances, it did mean that keeper Mark Smith had to be on his toes; it would take a good stop from the former Dartford man to deny Asa Hall from range, and then again to tip a cross-cum-shot from Law over the bar moments later.

The setup was effective in denying the Gulls’ strikers space and time – particularly Sunderland loanee Benji Kimpioka, who worked incredibly hard to get on the ball and move it with little reward – but it did mean that Woking offered virtually no goal threat in the first half. The only effort of note came from Max Kretzschmar, stinging the palms of Lucas Covolan from distance.

While Woking fans could be pleased with no lack of effort from their side, it did not make for exciting viewing. With virtually no injury time played, the halfway point was an opportunity for both sides to tweak in the hope of improvements.

Half-time: Torquay United 0 Woking 0

It wasn’t a chance that either really took. If the first half was drab, the second was dire.

Woking actually arguably improved, neutering the attacking threat of their hosts, but remained without attacking output themselves. It’s indicative of the game that even former Card Armani Little, deployed in a left-wing berth this afternoon, struggled to make the sort of impact that made him so popular during his short time at Kingfield.

While able to absorb Torquay pressure, Woking were overly reliant on Sam Dalby to retain the ball and move the Cards up the pitch; his substitution on the hour mark, sandwiched between scrappy bookings for Kretzschmar and Connor Lemonheigh-Evans, was honestly the sum of the entertainment on show in the first twenty minutes of the half.

'Excuse me, ref?'; pic: ppauk

As time began to tick down, while the quality didn’t improve, at least the quantity did. A rare Torquay corner should have been bulleted in by Joe Lewis, only for the ball to skim the defender’s forehead with the goal almost at his mercy. At the other end, a 30-yard free kick from Kretzschmar could have wrong-footed Covolan only for the Brazilian to readjust and tip the effort wide, minutes after a Tommy Block cross went begging.

It had the flavour of a game that needed either the sublime or the ridiculous to break the deadlock, and the winning goal felt like a mix of both. Good work down the Torquay right, afforded Will Randell the chance to cross, and his fizzing ball into the near post was met by the returning Danny Wright. The 36-year-old’s toe-poked finish seemed to ghost through Smith, who despite being well-placed, couldn’t get low enough to keep the ball out.

It would be nice to say that Plainmoor resembled the Alamo for the last five minutes, but if there was an effort on goal in those last few minutes, it wasn’t significant enough for me to note it down. With almost every senior attacker unavailable, Woking were unable to muster any serious pressure on the Torquay goal. Speaking of pressure, Wright nearly doubled his tally after running down an underhit Diarra backpass, blocking Smith’s clearance just wide of the Woking goal.

While the result is a big one for Torquay given their title credentials, it’s one that extends a bubbling discontent amongst the Woking faithful at present.

On the one hand, a tight 1-0 defeat away at the team in third, with half of your senior squad missing, is an entirely acceptable result. On the other, it means that the Cards have scored just 14 goals in the 19 league games since the beginning of December, with 26 goals in 28 games representing the second-lowest total in the division.

Having not beaten a side above them in the table since December 12th, and in light of last week’s cup debacle, it shouldn’t be a surprise if some Woking fans are unenthused at the prospect of 13 more league games.

Woking: 1. Mark Smith; 21. Tommy Block, 5. Ben Gerring, 6. Moussa Diarra, 3. Josh Casey; 4. Charlie Cooper, 8. Kane Ferdinand, 17. Ben Dempsey (15. Jack Skinner 82’); 10. Max Kretschmar, 16. Kyran Lofthouse (32. Paul Hodges 79’), 30. Sam Dalby (9. Jonte Smith 62’)

Unused subs: 24. Leo Hamblin, 17. Sam Evans

Goals: N/A

Bookings: Cooper 28’, Kretzschmar 58’, Diarra 72’, Smith 81’, Skinner 91’

Torquay United 33. Lucas Covolan, 2. Ben Wynter, 7. Connor Lemonheigh-Evans, 8. Asa Hall (11. Jake Andrews 68′), 10. Armani Little, 12. Adam Randell, 16. Sam Sherring, 19. Scott Boden (9. Danny Wright 56′), 27. Ryan Law, 28. Benji Kimpioka (25. Billy Waters 86′), 31. Joe Lewis.

Unused subs: 1. Shaun MacDonald, 21. Dean Moxey

Goals: Wright 83’

Bookings: Lemonheigh-Evans 63’, Wynter 76’

Referee: James Durkin

Attendance: TBC

Man of the Match: Tommy Block. On a frustrating day for the few offensive players Woking were able to field, the young midfielder appeared a rare positive at right back, following up on a good performance against Wealdstone with another assured performance.

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