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Honey Trap: sweet start for Cards overturned by busy Bees

Ben Musgrove
10:01pm, Sun 28th Nov 2021
Woking 1 Barnet 2
Vanarama National League
27th November 2021

The aim of a mid-table finish for Woking this season implied, at times, some patches of inconsistency. But no Woking fan would have expected the club to be without a draw after seventeen games.

Since the superb run of victories against Chesterfield, Notts County and Dagenham almost two months ago, the Cards have failed to secure back-to-back wins in the following ten games. Despite scoring fairly freely, in no small part thanks to the incredible form of Tahvon Campbell, they’ve failed to keep a clean sheet in all except one – the victory over Southend, the league’s lowest scorers.

They’ve also struggled at Kingfield in comparison to good form on the road. So it was no surprise, despite the early goal for Joe McNerney, to see a threadbare Woking side suffer from set pieces to lose late against a Barnet side that matched the home side pound-for-pound.

In one of those classic November slogs where small margins count for a lot, the game would ultimately be decided by weaknesses that are starting to become all too familiar. Despite a noticeable height advantage, two set piece goals from Adam Marriott – who Wikipedia tells us is 5’9 – would leave Woking with flip-flop LWLWL form over the last five games.

That’s not to dismiss a bright start from the Cards, with the early goal a positive sign for a team that has failed to capitalise on offensive set pieces. The first corner of the game, swung in by Kretzschmar, was poorly cleared, and McNerney’s header was as perfectly placed as you could hope, skittering into the bottom-right-hand corner in slow motion.

McNerney leaps to head the Cards into a very early lead
McNerney leaps to head the Cards into a very early lead
David Holmes

But after the first fifteen minutes, in which Woking moved the ball fairly well and seemed to find a lot of joy in the offensive movement of Kyran Lofthouse, the momentum began to dissipate. Inih Effiong was booked for a late challenge – leaving him suspended for the trip to Solihull – while at the other end, Barnet began to create down the Woking left.

Eventual goalscorer Adam Marriott, who Woking failed to contain all game, first rolled the ball into the net from an offside position before capitalising on a sliced Moussa Diarra clearance to force a good save from Smith. From the resulting corner, it was third time lucky, and yet another set piece that the Cards have conceded from this season.

Despite the Cards boasting six outfield players standing at six foot or taller, Marriott was the player on hand to bullet in Rob Hall’s inswinging corner off the underside of the bar. The Woking defenders protested the decision, with Smith immediately scooping up the bouncing ball, but it was a basic decision for the linesman.

While to concede in such circumstances must have been frustrating, Woking did mount a spirited end to the half, and should have gone in 2-1 up. First Effiong was denied a free header on goal from eight yards thanks to great positioning from Jamie Turley, before Jamar Loza had Woking’s best chance of the game.

A huge clearance from Casey put the wide man through on goal with just Oxborough to beat; Loza was able to round the keeper, but lost his balance, stumbling for almost the entirety of the penalty area before the ball went out for a goal kick.

1-1 was a fair score at the break, but both sides could argue their case to be ahead. Tight margins would continue to be the theme in the second half.

Half-time: Woking 1 – 1 Barnet

If Woking fans hoped that the late chances would spur their team on in the second period, they’d be initially disappointed – it was Barnet that did much of the running in the first fifteen minutes.

Marriott could have had his brace from a tight angle but for the good work of Mark Smith – who had a good game all round – with a low effort saved before the rebound fizzed wide. Efforts from Harry Taylor and Wes Fonguck were warning shots across the bow.

But then, again, sliding doors for the home side. A poor kick from Oxborough dropped the ball to Rohan Ince in the middle of the park, and he picked out a superb through ball to fire Effiong in on goal from the left channel. The forward did brilliantly to outmuscle his marker, but his effort was well-smothered by the visiting keeper, who was relived to make amends for his error so quickly.

After this, more sparring – and, indeed, knocks that the Cards can’t really afford at present. With exits for both Jordan Maguire-Drew and Kane Thompson-Sommers, the injury to Max Kretzschmar – replaced by loanee Louie Annesley – may prove costly. Loza nearly lifted spirits, fizzing a superb ball across goal that was just beyond Effiong, only to then pick up a knock himself, replaced by Tyreke Johnson.

And then, the kicker. Moments before added time was announced, a free kick level with the Woking penalty area was fizzed in by Serhat Tasdemir, at hip height and not properly dealt with. It almost missed everyone – except that man again, Adam Marriott, who rifled in from point-blank range with the goal at his mercy.

There might have been one more reprieve – again, surprisingly from a corner – when Diarra headed a spinning ball just wide of Oxborough’s upright. But there was little time to rally, in truth, nor much offensive resource on a bench that included Craig Ross – too unwell to play on Tuesday night – and lacked the prolific Campbell, nursing a hamstring injury from the same game.

In terms of the League position, the result leaves Woking in twelfth; their form and points return currently have the Cards sitting in the position that was the target at the start of the season. There have only been a couple of games that the team has not threatened to win outright, and it can consider itself unlucky and hard done by on several occasions.

Therein lies the frustration. With a theoretically kind run of fixtures over the Christmas period, and having claimed superb results against sides with far superior budgets and deeper squads, Woking fans will be desperate not to see hard-won points slip away in games such as this. The familiarity of the moments that go against us – defending set pieces top of the list – will continue to rankle.

Woking: 1. Mark Smith; 5. Joe McNerney, 6. Moussa Diarra, 4. Tom Champion; 3. Josh Casey, 17. Tarryn Allarakhia, 24. Rohan Ince (Solomon Nwabuokei 68’), 2. Kyron Lofthouse; 10. Max Kretzschmar (Louie Annesley 71’), 7. Jamar Loza, (Tyreke Johnson 84’) 9. Inih Effiong

Unused subs: 12. Nathan Collier, 13. Craig Ross

Goals: McNerney 2’

Bookings: Effiong 18’, Nwabuokei 70’

Barnet 27. Aston Oxborough; 23. Sam Beard, 15. Reese Greenidge, 5. Jamie Turley, 2. Jamie Thomas; 19. Harry Taylor, 8. Mitch Brundle, 18. Wesley Fonguck (Serhat Tasdemir 74’; 7. Rob Hall (Mason Bloomfield 83’), 14 Adam Mariott (Ben Richards-Everton 90+1’), 11. Ephron Mason-Clarke

Unused subs: 24. Jake Askew, 4. Josh Payne

Goals: Marriott 28’, 90

Bookings: Beard 82’, Mason-Clarke 88’

Referee: Elliot Swallow

Attendance: 1,779

Man of the Match: Tarryn Allarakhia. Having had to compete with an extremely deep midfield, the ex-Crawley man came in from the cold – or was sent out to play in it! – to start only his second game of the campaign, in a deeper position than usually expected. His industry and willingness to switch the ball to either flank, at range and from deep, was behind most of the fleeting offensive quality that the Cards’ showed.

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