Woking's plight worsens
9:56pm, Sat 24th Mar 2018
Leyton Orient 3 Woking 0
Vanarama National League
24 March 2018
Another frustrating afternoon for travelling Cards fans saw their side extend their winless run to seven league games. At times the team played some attractive football but, as so often this season, they were undone by a couple of costly errors and a lack of a real cutting edge.
Woking started brightly, seeing a fantastic strike by the mercurial Jason Banton ricochet off the crossbar, before quickly going a goal down after Joey Jones made one of those all-too-familiar miscalculations on the edge of his box, allowing Macauley Bonne to fire home at the second attempt. And it was the unfortunate Jones who gave away the penalty in the 17th minute, which Bonne despatched emphatically. The Cards steadied the ship and pressed hard for the crucial third goal after the break which might have unsettled an Orient defence that did not look overly confident. But it didn't materialise and the task became even more difficult when Regan Charles-Cook was stretchered off on 69 minutes, leaving the Cards with only ten men. The game's star performer, James Brophy, added a third for the O's with a fine strike in the 80th minute.
Anthony Limbrick made one change from the side which drew 2-2 at home to Wrexham a week previously, bringing in Fabio Saraiva on the right of midfield in place of Reece Grego-Cox, who was on international duty. Newcomer to the first team squad, Academy player Reggie Young, was among the substitutes.
Backed by a vocal cadre of almost 500 Woking fans in a crowd of over 5,000, the team made a confident start, Baxter dealing easily with an early header. Some nice interplay between Louis Theophanous and Regan Charles-Cook played in Banton on the left. Cutting inside, he let fly from some 25 yards with a wonderful shot which dipped over the Orient keeper and came back off the bar. It was one of those 'what might have happened if that shot had gone in?' moments. But the Cards fans didn't have much time to savour the strike before a calamitous error by Joey Jones put the side on the back foot. On the edge of his area and with two Orient players in front of him, his loose touch allowed Bonne to rob him and make space for a shot which Baxter parried well. But Bonne seized on the rebound, firing home smartly from a tight angle into the far corner. Jones, not surprisingly, looked mortified.
Woking responded positively, with Charlie Carter driving forwards and unleashing a fine effort which the Orient keeper pushed away for a corner, and Banton seeing a shot blocked.
The open pattern of the game - which probably suited Orient more than Woking - continued as Bonne and Craig Clay both shot wide.
Disaster then struck again. Brophy was allowed to run at the heart of the Woking defence. He ought to have been tackled before Jones caught him - just inside the area in the referee's view. Bonne slammed the penalty home, sending Baxter the wrong way.
2-0 down with only 17 minutes gone was hardly the start which Anthony Limbrick would have envisaged and of course it left the Cards with a mountain to climb and desperately needing to ensure that the third goal in the game was in their favour. They succeeded in steadying the ship, with Kane Ferdinand pulling the strings admirably in midfield, but found it hard to make any real impression up front, where Theophanous looked rather isolated, Banton often peripheral and Saraiva not wholly comfortable out on the right.
On 25 minutes a scramble in the Woking box saw Baxter make a brave save, but the offside flag had already been raised anyway. Orient seemed largely happy to nullify any Woking threat and to rely on the occasional break upfield themselves. Brophy produced another enterprising run in the 35th minute, his cross flashing right across the box before a late-arriving team mate put it wide. Another break, a couple of minutes later, exemplified Woking's fallibility. Ferdinand did well to halt an attack but Saraiva then lost the ball, with Dan Holman (on as an early substitute for Matt Harrold) fortunately firing straight at Baxter.
As half-time approached, Josh Staunton, not for the first or last time, was first to a Woking corner but could not get his header on target. Charles-Cook showed his frustration after being muscled off the ball, by tripping his opponent and being booked for his troubles. Finally, after some 'pinball' in the Woking area, Baxter pounced on a weakish shot from Bonne.
Half-time: Leyton Orient 2 Woking 0
Anthony Limbrick made two changes at the start of the second half, bringing on Jordan Wynter for Jones and replacing Saraiva with Anthony Cook. The clear intention was to start on the front foot and to try to grab the crucial third goal early on. And the Cards certainly took the game to the home side for the first 15 minutes or so, aided by some enterprising running by Anthony Cook. Only three minutes in, a Ralph corner saw the Orient keeper make a reflex save from Theophanous on the line. Elokobi was booked for hauling down Charles-Cook, and Anthony Cook saw a free-kick pushed round the post. Less praiseworthy was Banton's decision to duck out of a 50-50 challenge, preferring an 'air kick'.
But it was the hosts who came closest to scoring in the 59th minute when Brophy beat Young all ends up to cross to McAnuff, whose goalbound shot was blocked.
The Woking manager went for broke, ramping up the attacking potential by bringing on Jonny Edwards to partner Theophanous up front, with Anthony Cook moving back to replace the substituted Young. Edwards started promisingly by flicking a header on, which Charles-Cook nearly profited from.
Woking's woes multiplied in the 65th minute. As his brother prepared to take a free-kick, Regan Charles-Cook collapsed to the ground, with a stretcher being summoned immediately: an all too familiar sight in recent months. With all three substitutes having been used already, the Cards were reduced to ten men for the remainder of the game.
When the game re-started Orient broke upfield after Carter had been pushed off the ball, and were only saved by Holman's carelessness in drifting offside. But there was no reprieve in the 80th minute when Brophy seized on a headed clearance on the edge of the box and struck a fine shot low into the corner of Baxter's net to make it 3-0.
As the game approached full time - but with seven minutes of added time to follow - a classy bit of defending by Wynter prevented Bonne from adding to his goal tally. At the other end, a fine glancing header from Carter produced a terrific one-handed save by the Orient keeper to deny Woking a consolation goal. However, Holman nearly added a fourth for the O's as his chip over Baxter drifted just wide. The Cards came close again before the final whistle, Theophanous's header being deflected just wide.
This was another very disappointing result for the Cards. It was essential to make a solid start, but that was precisely what the side failed to do. Jones's individual error was the cause of the first goal, and a failure to close down Brophy before he reached the area (and Jones's fateful intervention ensued) was the main cause of the second goal. To state the obvious: you can't give away a two-goal lead in 17 minutes and then expect to get anything out of a match. There were good performances from Ferdinand and Staunton in particular. Carter had a decent game and Baxter couldn't be faulted for the goals. But, overall, the team was too much of a 'soft touch', being too easily brushed aside and lacking cohesion and punch up front.
The defeat, combined with draws for Solihull and Barrow, leaves the Cards in 18th place in the table, only four points above Solihull Moors in the final relegation place and with the teams immediately below the Cards, Hartlepool and Barrow, having one and two games in hand. A home game against second-placed, Macclesfield Town, on Good Friday afternoon is not perhaps the ideal fixture in which to stop the slide towards the relegation zone, but that's what the Cards have now got to confront.
Leyton Orient: Dean Brill, Joe Widdowson, George Elokobi, Jobi McAnuff (Josh Koroma 82), Macauley Bonne (David Mooney 90 + 3), Josh Coulson, Craig Clay, Matt Harrold (Dan Holman 6), James Brophy, Ebou Adams, Sam Ling
Unused substitutes: Charlier Grainger, Marvin Ekpiteta
Goals: Macauley Bonne 10 and 17 (pen), Brophy 80
Booked: George Elokobi, Craig Clay, Dan Holman
Woking: Nathan Baxter, Matt Young (Jonny Edwards 62), Josh Staunton, Joey Jones (Jordan Wynter 46), Nathan Ralph, Kane Ferdinand, Charlie Carter, Regan Charles-Cook, Fabio Saraiva (Anthony Cook 46), Louis Theophanous, Jason Banton
Unused substitutes: Louis Ramsay, Reggie Young
Booked: Regan Charles-Cook, Joey Jones, Kane Ferdinand
My Woking MOTM: Kane Ferdinand (photo)
Attendance: 5,673 (479 Woking fans)