Slough Town 0 â€“ 1 Woking
Vanarama National League South
17th November 2018
After the highs and lows of Wokingâ€™s win at Gloucester City on Wednesday night, fans could be forgiven for wanting nothing more than a quiet 1-0 victory. Fortunately for the travelling fans, thatâ€™s exactly what they got. A driven corner bundled over the line by defender Ben Gerring was the difference between a determined Woking outfit and a compact, disciplined Slough Town side that could have taken a point but for the woodwork. The result puts Woking top of the National League South table, albeit with two teams having a game in hand.
The Woking line-up saw returns to the side for Charlie Hester-Cook and Nathan Collier, both of whom were unavailable of the Cardâ€™s midweek victory. After a tough 90 minutes in midweek, Jake Hyde was dropped to the bench in favour of Greg Luer up front, as Woking looked to do their best to guarantee control of the ball on an unfamiliar surface with a 4231 formation that didnâ€™t include any natural wingers.
Sloughâ€™s starting XI included the Togwell brothers Lee and Sam, both of whom boast experience from professional League football. Midfielder Simon Dunne made his 100th appearance for the Rebels as part of the midfield in a compact 4-4-2 that looked to hit the strikers quickly and catch Woking on the break.
The artificial turf was a talking point before the game and certainly seemed to slow the game down in the early stages, as Woking dominated possession but failing to threaten. An early effort from Sam Togwell that skittered past Rossâ€™s near post was the only real shot of note in the first twenty minutes, with Ben Gerring and Jack Cook (pictured above) spending more time in possession and dictating play than winning the ball for the visitors. Sloughâ€™s midfield worked hard to stifle Wokingâ€™s central players, and both Hester-Cook and Little found it difficult to progress the play; a booking for Armani Little was the only moment of note early on.
Wokingâ€™s first real chance, despite the stymied midfield, should have opened the scoring. A strong Woking counter down the left, driven by the hard running of Josh Casey, led to a corner from Kretzschmar that found Jack Cook unmarked in the six-yard box. The free header took everyone by surprise, including Cook; his effort was sliced wide of goal with the net gaping.
The chance was a warning shot across the bows, and Slough began to create chances with more intensity. A superb run inside from the right wing saw fullback Josh Jackson skip past two Woking challenges and leave Kretzschmar on the turf before blazing an over-excited effort over Rossâ€™s bar, and a shot from Matt Stevens should have been on target but failed to test. The Rebels were finding some joy in going into the feet of Stevens and his strike partner Ben Harris before turning and running at the defence, with right-midfielder Warren Harris pushing high up on Josh Casey in support.
These efforts werenâ€™t converted, and with Wokingâ€™s next corner, Slough were made to pay. A second ball from the left found Cookâ€™s partner Gerring steaming towards goal, and the centre-half made no mistake in bundling the ball over the line past the flailing Jack Turner.
The Cards celebrate Ben Gerring's match-winning goal; pic: David Holmes
Again, Slough responded to adversity with hard graft, and created several good chances as Woking looked to soak up the pressure before half time. Ben Harris forced a corner from close range and then brought a good low save out of Craig Ross from the resulting cross. George Wells â€“ a set piece danger all afternoon - curled a free kick just over the bar from the edge of the box, and with moments to go before half time, Charlie Hester-Cook was on hand to clear a Matt Stevens header off of the line from another corner.
Woking led at the break, but would need both good luck and continued hard work to take all three points from the game.
Half-time: Slough Town 0 â€“ 1 Woking
The second half saw no systemic changes from either side, and the pattern of the game remained the same, with Slough on the front foot once more. Their first effort was a show-stopping 25-yard half-volley from fullback George Wells, who had Ross scrambling across to his far post to see the effort fly just wide.
The pitch again made itself felt in the opening stages of the half, and combined with the meticulous referring of official James Durkin, the game became increasingly stop-start. Three bookings in ten minutes were indicative of frustrations on both sides, with challenges in dangerous areas often waved away or let go, only for minimal contact in the middle of the park to draw foul after foul. Changes on the hour mark saw Slough go slightly more direct whilst removing their booked players from that area of the field; Lee Togwell and the impressive Ben Harris made way for long-serving Aldershot winger Louis Soares and Chris Flood.
Soares was involved in Sloughâ€™s biggest chance with 20 minutes to go, dovetailing down the left with Wells to create a crossing opportunity. Wellsâ€™ flashed cross took a wicked deflection beyond Ross and cracked the Woking crossbar, with Matt Stevens failing to bundled the rebound over the line. Wokingâ€™s scrambled clearance to the edge of the box was fired back in low by Scott Davies, but held well by Ross.
As Slough pushed in search of an equaliser, spaces began to open up for Woking to break and tick down the clock. Both Kretzschmar and Luer, marginalised in the first half, produced moments of exemplary hold-up play to retain possession and protect the lead. A number of breaks were thwarted at the final moment by a poor touch or offside call, and Gerring had a late chance from a corner to get his brace, only to nod wide of the goal at the far post.
With Woking having defended valiantly for the majority of the second half, Cardâ€™s fans would have expected one final big chance, but ultimately it never came. The late additions of Nick Wheeler and Ofori-Acheampong for the superb Hester-Cook and Paul Hodges helped tick down the clock, and the final whistle came to rapturous celebrations from the travelling fans.
Gerringâ€™s header was ultimately enough to seal Wokingâ€™s third win in seven days â€“ and a marked return to defensive form following the circus at Gloucester just four days earlier. An injury-time equaliser for Billericay at Hungerford kept them in touching distance of the Cards, but their failure to win leaves Woking top of the table for the first time since mid-September.
1. Jack Turner, 2. Josh Jackman, 3. George Wells, 4. Sam Togwell, 5. Mark Nisbet Â©, 6. Lee Togwell (Louis Soares 65â€™), 7. Simon Dunne, 8. Scott Davies (Sean Fraser 72â€™), 9. Ben Harris (Chris Flood 60â€™), 10. Matt Stevens, 11. Warren Harris
12. Guy Hollis, 18. Manny Williams
L. Togwell 53â€™, Harris 58â€™, Dunne 87â€™
1. Craig Ross, 2. Nathan Collier, 3. Josh Casey Â©, 4. Jack Cook, 5. Ben Gerring, 6. Charlie Hester-Cook (Nicky Wheeler 83â€™), 7. Toby Edser (Duane Ofori-Acheampong 90+1â€™), 8. Armani Little, 9. Greg Luer, 10. Max Kretzschmar, 11. Paul Hodges
14. Jake Hyde, 16. Dan Spence, 17. Sam Mason
Little 17â€™, Kretzschmar 50â€™
Man of the Match:
Ben Gerring. The defenderâ€™s goal was his third in eight games and capped a superb defensive performance as marshal of a well-organised, tough-tackling back four that was key to Wokingâ€™s victory on the day.