Three and easy for cool Cards
12:36pm, Sun 12th Apr 2015
Woking 3 Gateshead 0
11 April 2015
There was a strange sense of calm around Kingfield on Saturday, as Cards' players and fans alike took to their task of seeing off a Gateshead side who still harboured late play-off hopes of their own prior to the start of the match.
A Josh Payne double, including yet another goal of the month contender, and the now customary Scott Rendell effort, were enough to seal maximum points as the home side cantered to victory on Grand National day.
Perhaps that quiet serenity in the ground was in fact resignation from home fans who feared that no matter what the result against The Heed, the terminal damage had already been done for the Cards after a disappointing set of results over the Easter weekend.
The only real moment of angst came when the returning Jake Cole was forced to pull off a superb penalty stop from ex-Aldershot Town man Alex Rodman towards the end of the first half which, had it been converted, would have made for a slightly more tense second period.
Bedecked in beautiful blue skies, if a tad blustery, Kingfield looked a picture as the Cards welcomed their aptly sky-blue shirted opponents from Durham, for what at times had the feel of an end-of-season dead rubber, despite the three points on offer likely to rule either side in or out of the play-off scene once and for all.
Indeed, despite Eastleigh recording a similarly resounding 3-1 win over Alfreton Town on Saturday afternoon, Wokingâ€™s points and Forest Greenâ€™s 3-1 win over Macclesfield all mean that Garry Hill's side have kept themselves within three points of the now fifth-placed Macc, who swapped places with Forest Green, and continue to drop like a stone after posting just one win in seven.
Fellow Garry, Mills, in the visitorsâ€™ dugout, will surely be kicking himself after his sideâ€™s lacklustre display which - despite admitting himself, pre-match, to being â€˜rank outsidersâ€™ - now means that, mathematically, they can no longer bridge the gap to fifth spot and therefore not repeat last seasonâ€™s day out at Wembley.
Back to action on the lush Kingfield pitch - which had benefitted from a traditional April shower on the morning of the game - and perhaps the most significant action came in the coin toss, which canny home skipper Mark Ricketts won and opted to test out young loan Sunderland â€˜keeper Joel Dixon with the blinding sun bearing down on the Kingfield Road End.
It was a 45 minutes to forget for a shaky Heed defence â€“ in their 3-5-2 set-up â€“ as they failed to get to grips with the bright conditions. Black Cats on-loan â€˜keeper Dixon was particularly culpable, with a number of miscued clearances and uncertain dashes from his goal line.
Woking had already struck Dixonâ€™s left-hand upright through a Kevin Betsy daisy cutter by the time Josh Payne spectacularly opened the scoring after just seven minutes.
Having almost conceded possession on half-way as his attempted cross-field ball cannoned off the stocky frame of Michael Rankine, Payne rode his luck to retrieve the loose ball and slip in John Goddard, who put in a strong shift down the left touchline. Squared in to Keiran Murtagh and helped out to Betsy out on the right flank, the ball was hung up for Rendell, who resisted the attentions of beanpole defender James Curtis to nod back to Payne on the edge of the penalty area - and anybody that has seen the Cardsâ€™ No. 7â€™s wonder strike against Chester... you know the rest!
With the kind of timing and execution skills that The Masters' golfers will struggle to match this weekend, Payne seized onto the knock-down to arrow yet another special goal - in this season of special goals - into the proverbial postage stamp in the top left-hand corner of Dixonâ€™s goal to bring Kingfield to life in spectacular fashion.
With The Heed rattled by that early blockbuster, the returning Joe McNerney then rattled the KRE crossbar with a bullet downward header from a Payne corner on the left: the rebound bouncing down just millimetres the wrong side of the whitewash.
It was turning into a pleasant afternoonâ€™s viewing for the Kingfield crowd. Of course, a one-goal head start and a jittery opposition goalkeeper all help, but credit to Garry Mills and his men as they too persevered with zipping the ball around on the deck. A passing game came as a relief for fans who were saved from craning their necks to catch sight of the ball in the blinding blue skies, as may not have been the case against the likes of a long-ball side such as Dover in the Cards' most recent match.
Despite McNerneyâ€™s near-miss, the second did not take long in coming as after twenty minutes Rendell added his 23rd league goal of a stellar season for the popular plunderer.
Unwittingly, the officials did Woking a favour by asking for sneaky short corner routine between Betsy and Adam Newton to be retaken. At the second time of asking, Payne lobbed the ball into the mixer where McNerney made telling contact again, this time with an outstretched boot, to find Rendell, who again used his strength to hold off the attentions of two defenders before hooking the ball home over his shoulder from inside the six-yard box.
Two goals to the good, Woking spent the next ten minutes on top, with Yemi Odubade twice racing on to teasing passes through a static Heed back line, to come close to adding a third.
But with Gateshead finally growing into the game - much to the frustration of Garry and Tommo on the touchline, who could sense some of their side perhaps taking their feet off the pedal - the visitors grabbed themselves a potential lifeline as referee Richard Martin pointed to the spot for handball after forward Josh Gilliesâ€™ free-kick had been charged down by a Woking arm in the wall.
Up stepped Alex Rodman for a No.23 v No.23 showdown, and despite the ex-Shotsâ€™ man making clean and firm contact, full credit must go to Cardsâ€™ â€˜keeper Cole, who plunged down to his right with a firm hand to propel the ball to safety â€“ to rapturous applause from the Leslie Gosden Stand â€“ and ensure the Cards maintained their two-goal advantage going into the break.
Half-Time: Woking 2 Gateshead 0
Visiting boss Mills brought on experienced defender Ben Clark at the start of the second half to press striker Jon Shaw back into his usual duties up front alongside Rankine, having begun the game in defence.
Woking were straight back on the front foot again, with Goddard stealing in at the back post to set up a headed chance for Payne, which looped wide, but Garry was forced into an early change when Rendell was replaced by James Clarke after suffering an innocuous-looking hand injury in a fall.
The reshuffle saw the returning Clarke move in to the right-back berth, pushing Newton and Betsy further up field alongside Odubade, who continued to cause panic in the Gateshead defence. One snap shot just failed to find the target from close range before the live wire Eastleigh loanee earned an all-important penalty after the hour mark.
Another calamitous mix up involving Dixon, who tried an ill-advised drag-back on the edge of his penalty area, allowed Betsy to steal in to toe the ball towards the open goal. On to the chance like a flash, Odubade was then unceremoniously upended by a desperate lunge from sub Clarke.
There was some confusion as to whether the big defender had seen one yellow card for the foul and a second for dissent, or whether ref Martin had opted for a straight red, either way Clarkeâ€™s short afternoon was over just twenty minutes after coming on.
Calm restored, and with penalty-supremo Rendell now off the field, duties fell to Payne who, Rendell-like, stuttered his run up to send the goalkeeper to his left and the ball coolly into the right corner.
With the game seemingly safe and not wishing to level the teams up at 10 v 10, Garry and Tommo replaced Goddard with Manny Oyeleke ten minutes later after a wild hack of retribution at Heed sub Carl Finnigan almost earned the usually mild-mannered midfielder a dismissal of his own.
Having packed up his cards and whistle for the afternoon, Woking were denied a nailed-on second penalty from the man in the middle in injury time, after Betsy was appeared to be cleaned out by a last-ditch lunge from defender Tom Allan, with the Cards' man poised to strike a fourth.
When time was called on an entertaining afternoonâ€™s action shortly afterwards, Cardsâ€™ fans simply filtered out as they had entered, in quiet confidence, at just another good dayâ€™s work at the office.
Up next is a trip to the Midlands for a meeting with Nuneaton Town. Liam Daishâ€™s Town had their relegation confirmed over the weekend after a 3-1 loss at fellow-strugglers Dartford - plus the club have an impending 3-point deduction hanging over them for fielding an ineligible player in their 1-0 win over Welling United earlier in the season.
As for the Cards, itâ€™s a case of one cup final down, two to go in their bid to pip Eastleigh, Forest Green and Macclesfield to the post in the end of season sprint.
Woking : Jake Cole, Adam Newton, Chris Arthur, Joe McNerney, Mark Ricketts(c), Josh Payne, Keiran Murtagh, John Goddard (Manny Oyeleke 81), Kevin Betsy, Scott Rendell (James Clarke 56), Yemi Odubade (Charles Banya 84)
Unused subs: Michael Crowe, Giuseppe Sole
Goals: Josh Payne 7, 67 (pen), Scott Rendell 20
Cautions: John Goddard
Gateshead: Joel Dixon, Jamie Chandler, James Curtis, Jon Shaw(c), Josh Gillies (Ben Clark 46) Rob Ramshaw, Craig Baxter, Michael Rankine, Alex Rodman (Carl Finnigan 52), Matty Pattison, Kevin Sainte-Luce (Tom Allan 65)
Unused subs: Adam Bartlett, Jake Orrell
Cautions: Ben Clark, Rob Ramshaw
Red Cards: Ben Clark
Sponsorâ€™s MOTM: Josh Payne â€“ pulled the midfield strings and topped it off with two more goals