Bury-illiant recovery earns Cardinals a replay
12:00am, Sun 5th Nov 2017
Woking 1 Bury 1
Emirates FA Cup First Round
5th November 2017
The November drizzle broke at just the right time for home fans hoping for a grand day out in the First Round proper of the FA Cup, with Woking grinding out a 1-1 draw against a Bury side struggling for form two leagues above them in the rare winter sunshine. Despite conceding after just 42 seconds through Michael Smith, the Cards were on terms by half time thanks to a Jamie Philpott header, and outshot their football league opposition in a game that both sides had good chances to win.
Woking came into the game on a poor run of form having lost three of the last five, with last week's 3-2 defeat to a struggling Guiseley side a particularly difficult pill to swallow. The absences of Kane Ferdinand through suspension and Josh Staunton through injury made things more difficult still, despite strong replacements in Joey Jones and Richard Orlu respectively. Despite this, Chez Isaac managed to overcome a knock that forced him off in the aforementioned defeat to start the game, and Anthony Limbrick's decision to start both strikers available to him suggested a real optimism about the afternoon.
Such optimism was potentially inspired by the difficult circumstances that the opposition found themselves facing. Bury made five changes from the 1-0 defeat against Doncaster that finalised the sacking of Lee Clark, which included top scorer Jermaine Beckford - who had scored more than half of the Shakers' goals so far this season. The visitors had only won one game away from home all season, and looked to curb a run of four straight defeats that had seen them drop to 23rd in League 1.
Within a minute of kickoff, they looked well on their way to doing so, opening the scoring with a goal equal parts tragic and comic. Bury's passing fashioned space for full back Glenn Leigh down the left hand side, and the Manchester City graduate was able to float a cross in past Matt Young. The ball was dangerous enough for Joey Jones to attempt to head it behind, only for the clearance to fall short, and arc gracefully onto the Woking bar. With Baxter beaten, the ball dropped perfectly for visiting forward Michael Smith, who knew he'd scored well before he rolled the ball into an unguarded net. Just 42 seconds in, Woking had gifted a goal to a team 33 places above them in the football pyramid, and had a psychological mountain to climb.
Understandably, there followed a cagey period of the game where the Cards did their best to gain control and assert themselves, whilst Bury did their best to pick off the home side â€“ who are developing a reputation for possession football - on the counter. The high press that Bury utilised meant that Woking had to work the ball wide to find any creative outlets, whilst a fluid shape with overlapping fullbacks made it difficult for Woking to press themselves. Leigh continued to threaten down the left with strong overlapping runs and a few pulse-raising crosses, and looked one of the most dangerous outlets for the visitors in the early stages. A shot just wide from Joe Ward, skittering across the goal of Leo Fasan, was the only riposte for the home side in the first 20 minutes.
However, Woking began to find space more regularly after surviving the opening pressure, with Regan Charles-Cook and Joe Ward combining well to create an opening for Matt Young that looked particularly dangerous. Growing into the game, the Cards were looking shift momentum in their favour, and did so soon after with a fantastic equaliser.
A quick throw in from Nathan Ralph on the left-hand side found Charles-Cook just to the left of central midfield, and the Charlton loanee looked up before arcing a beautiful early cross over the Bury defence and onto the head of Jamie Philpott. The youngster leaped well to smash a header into the top corner across Fasan, who was given no chance. The KRE exploded into noise and green flare smoke; after an early setback, Woking were level in style, and from that point on looked the more dangerous side in the first half.
It could have been even better just a few minutes later, had a great finish not been ruled out for a foul by Joey Jones. Joe Wardâ€™s vicious corner found the Woking stalwart on hand to bullet a header past Fasan, only for the goal to be discounted for a push in the build-up. Further efforts from Ward, Philpott, and a scuffed shot from Effiong after great footwork were the further reward for a side in the ascendancy against their league opposition, with little danger from the visitors in response. The home side would have been disappointed to hear the half-time whistle, which ended an excellent period of play after such an early blow.
Half-time: Woking 1 Bury 1
The second half saw a change in system from Bury, who moved from their fluid five-at-the-back system to a more conventional back four in an attempt to get a better hold of possession, and to break Woking down higher up the field. The Cards, on the back of a good showing, remained unchanged.
Within a few minutes of the restart, they could have been ahead. Following some good movement of the ball across the park, the ball was worked out to Ward on the left-hand side of goal. The young winger cut inside his marker and smashed a low shot at goal which Fasan could only parry, but the ricochet bounced just beyond the outstretched leg of Jones, who was lurking for the rebound.
Despite this early chance, the change in system seemed to benefit Bury in the early stages. After a promising close to the first half, Woking retained their possessive dominance, but were unable to create as freely as they had done. However, their ball-winning ability remained at an extremely high level, with Bury not managing to create at all in the early stages of the half. Special mention should go to Jordan Wynter, who was immaculate in his work at center-back with several important challenges, and Chez Isaac, whose packhorse role in the middle of the park was pivotal to Woking's ability to move the ball up the field.
When their first chance came, it was one of the biggest of the afternoon, and something of a sitter for the unfortunate Inih Effiong. The 6'3 target man, serenaded by sections of the home support after the game for his running of the line, managed to bring a long ball from central midfield down on his chest, before attempting to lay in Philpott breaking the line beside him. Philpott was thwarted by Leigh, but only just - the clearance knocked the ball up into the air above the box, and dropped back to an onrushing Effiong just 7 yards from goal. His finish, however, embodied the frustrations of a forward who hasn't scored since September 2nd; a stooping header that missed the target entirely.
As the half wore on, Woking began to lose a little impetus in their play, and Bury began to create with more regularity and some impressive movement of the ball. Andrew Tutte and Mihai Dobre both looked strong offensive outlets for the visitors, making Nathan Baxter work on multiple occasions with dangerous efforts from range. Maguire continued to provide danger from set pieces, and Woking had to work hard to maintain their grip on possession and their position in the game.
The introduction of Declan Appau for a tiring Charles-Cook was an important boost for the Cards. The 18 year old could have had an FA Cup winner to go alongside his Goal of the Month nomination, taking down a throw from the left wing and cutting inside smartly between Tutte and Jordan Williams, only for his goalbound effort to be denied by a smart block from Tom Aldred.
However, his effort was the last real moment of offensive quality from either side. Both Maguire and Ward provided sub-par set pieces for in the closing stages, and a stratospheric spinning volley from Effiong just before the final whistle was the only direct effort at goal Woking managed for the remainder of the game.
The final whistle, then, brought positives and negatives for both sides. Had Woking managed to capitalise on some fantastic football and impressive work in possession, they would be celebrating victory against one of their biggest opponents in recent history, and looking forward to the Second Round of the FA Cup. They rode out difficult moments, particularly in the early stages, and managed the game well throughout.
The manner of their performance may make a great result against a team two divisions above them less favourable - but on the other hand, had it been offered before the game had started, few would have turned it down. The Cards now look forward to a replay at Gigg Lane for their hard work, and if they can manage a performance of the same magnitude, their hopes of progression may not be unrealistic.
Woking: Nathan Baxter, Nathan Ralph, Jordan Wynter, Richard Orlu, Matt Young, Chez Isaac, Joey Jones, Regan Charles-Cook (Declan Appau 79), Joe Ward, Jamie Philpot, Inih Effiong
Unused subs: Jason Banton, Fabio Saraiva, Lazar Stojsavljevic, Sam Mason
Goals: Philpot 25
Bookings: Ralph 80
Bury: Leo Fasan, Jordan Williams, Phil Edwards, Tom Aldred, Chris Humphrey (Rohan Ince 58), Andrew Tutte, Jay Oâ€™Shea, Greg Leigh, Danny Mayor (Mihai Dobre 76), Chris Maguire, Michael Smith
Unused subs: Nicky Ajose, Callum Reilly, Alex Whitmore, Neil Danns, Scott Maloney
Goals: Smith 1
Bookings: Williams 34, Smith 83, Aldred 90+2
Referee: Darren England
Sponsorsâ€™ Man of the Match: Chez Isaac. Youâ€™d never know he was coming back from injury â€“ the midfielder was a cornerstone of Wokingâ€™s build-up play, and harassed the opposition through the middle all day long. A strong performance from the captain.