Eastleigh 3 Woking 2
Vanarama National League
25th September 2021
Woking made the short trip down the M27 for their first outing since the 1-0 reverse at Wrexham a fortnight ago. The cards showed two changes with Tyreke Johnson replacing Moussa Diarra, who failed a fitness test, and Inih Effiong instead of George Oakley who dropped to the bench.
It was heartening to see a healthy sized crowd under cloudy skies at the Silverlake Stadium, including a fair number of Cards fans, as last season’s goalless draw was played out with fake crowd noise behind closed doors.
The match itself was a breathless affair in the first half, with Woking taking a 2-0 lead inside 16 minutes and Eastleigh gradually coming back with a goal of their own on the half hour to keep them in the game. The second half started in similar fashion; the Cards thought that they had restored their two-goal cushion from a corner, only to be denied by the referee’s whistle, who then took centre stage by issuing yellow cards willy-nilly to the visitors as well as awarding two penalties to the home side (the first of which was dubious)
to allow them to complete a comeback victory when they should have been out of sight long before the deciding goal.
In the third minute of the game Woking took the lead. Tahvan Campbell turned on Inih Effiong’s flick-on before driving into the box and putting the ball through the keeper's legs from a tight angle (0-1)
This was just reward for the Cards as they had started the brighter of the two sides and were eager to make the most of their early dominance.
Campbell drives home the first of two
Not content to rest on their laurels, the Cards constructed a beautifully worked move up the pitch to double their lead in the sixteenth minute. Rohan Ince fed Effiong and he found Tyreke Johnson on the overlap before he put in an inch-perfect cross onto the toes of Tahvan Campbell who finished with aplomb in the far corner of the net (0-2).
This was a goal that deserved to grace any stage and sent the travelling contingent into wild delight and evoked memories of the game in South Devon against Torquay at the end of August.
Clearly stunned, the home side took a while to rally but pulled a goal back on the half hour.
From a free kick some 30 yards out, the set-piece was floated towards the back post where it was headed in by Whitehall giving Craig Ross no chance (1-2).
This was the lifeline that they were looking for and visibly roused the crowd of over 2,500 who had been disgruntled with the performance thus far as the visitors had threatened to run away with it.
The final fifteen minutes of the half continued to be end-to-end with chances for both sides; a great save from Craig Ross and a disallowed goal for an obvious offside against Effiong, but no change in the score line as the teams disappeared down the tunnel to earn a well-earned breather after a thoroughly entertaining first 45 minutes.
Half-time: Eastleigh 1 Woking 2
The players emerged from their break to be greeted by light rain on a lush surface that had already been watered during the interval and had to adjust to the conditions. The visitors earned a corner which was expertly headed back across goal by Joe McNerney and firmly into the net. Their celebrations were cut short by the referee’s whistle for an alleged foul on the goalkeeper and the goal was inexplicably chalked off. The man in the middle then continued to speak to several home players indicating that he was losing patience with the number of fouls committed. He seemed to have adopted the infamous Monty Python Spanish Inquisition sketch epithet of ‘You have three last chances’ as no yellow cards were forthcoming.
As the hour mark approached, he discovered that there were cards up his sleeve (or at least in his top pocket)
as Effiong became the first player into the notebook following a foul after losing possession of the ball. This was followed by an award of a penalty to Eastleigh on 61 minutes despite the protests of McNerney who was also booked, as he felt that he had played the ball rather than the man. Ross was sent the wrong way by Tom Whelan, who was initially fouled, to level the scores (2-2).
The momentum had shifted firmly towards the home side now that parity had been restored and they looked to make the most of the good fortune that had been afforded them.
On 68 minutes Maguire-Drew became the third Card to be carded and a corner was conceded from the resultant free-kick. The home side took this short and a dipping shot was tipped over by Ross. Woking then made their first change of the afternoon with Max Kretzschmar replacing Johnson.
Unsurprisingly, another penalty ensued, this time for an unnecessary pull back by Kyran Lofthouse on 72 minutes. Whelan hit the spot-kick off the underside of the bar, with Ross again having no chance, to give the home side the lead (3-2).
The Woking players were visibly crestfallen having seen their early 2-0 first half lead evaporate when they had been looking comfortable and seemingly in charge of proceedings.
There then followed double substitutions for the home side after 77 minutes with Harper replacing Hill and Barnett replacing Whitehall. The Cards also made a change with Oakley coming on in place of Maguire-Drew. Woking then forced a couple of corners in an attempt to salvage a point, but their efforts came to naught. Kane Thompson-Sommers then came on for Nwabuokei after 83 minutes.
The remaining time was played out by the home side content to cling onto their lead, and at last given a couple of yellow cards, whilst the visitors had the best chance in the last minute of added time when, from a corner, Craig Ross fashioned a chance to equalise but his header went wide and with it any last hope of a draw.
Woking were left to reflect on what might have been given their excellent start and deserved at least a share of the spoils on the balance of play. They will surely play worse and win but at the end of the day circumstances conspired against them and the points were secured by the Spitfires.
Next up for Dowse’s Cards is home game against second-place Chesterfield this coming Tuesday night followed by a trip to one of the founders of the football league, Notts County on Saturday.
13 Craig Ross, 2 Kyran Lofthouse, 3 Josh Casey, 4 Tom Champion, 5 Joe McNierney, 8 Solomon Nwabuokei (22 Kane Thompson-Sommers), 9 Inih Effiong,11 Tyreke Johnson (Kretzschmar 71’), 18 Jordan Maguire-Drew (14 George Oakley 77’), 19 Tahvon Campbell, 24 Rohan Ince
1 Mark Smith, 17 Tarryn Allarakhia
Campbell 3’, 16’
Iffiong 57’, McNierney 62’, Maguire-Drew 68’, Casey 90’
1 Joe McDonnell, 2 Josh Hare, 3 Michael Kelly, 4 Cavaghn Miley, 6 Andrew Boyce ©, 8 Harry Pritchard, 11 Ryan Hill (26 Vincent Harper 77’), 16 Joe Low, 17 Danny Whitehall (10 Tyrone Barnett 77’), 18 Ben House, 20 Tom Whelan (25 Christian Maghoma 90’)
7 Sam Smart, 12 Jake Hesketh
Whitehall 30’, Whelan 62’, 74’ (2 pens)
Harper 90’, Hare 90+3’
Man of the Match:
A difficult choice as Craig Ross made some excellent saves and was not at fault for any of the goals but Tahvon Campbell
scored two excellent goals, the second of which will live long in the memory and gets my vote.