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Torquay United

Cards face National League leaders for semi-final spot

Glen Harrington
8:59am, Sat 27th Feb 2021
Woking vs Torquay United
Buildbase FA Trophy
Saturday 27th February 2021

Woking will aim to reach the last four of the FA Trophy for the first time in 15 years as they host National League leaders Torquay United on Saturday afternoon.

The Cards, who are playing in their first Trophy quarter-final since 2016, last reached the semi-final stage in 2006, on route to defeat in the final to Grays Athletic at Upton Park. They face a challenging task to match that achievement as they look to overcome the side who have topped the non-league pyramid for much of the season, although Alan Dowson’s side will be boosted by both last Saturday’s overdue league win over Barnet – courtesy of goals from Jamar Loza and Moussa Diarra – and their fine recent record against the Gulls, which has seen them win seven and draw five of the last 15 meetings between the two clubs since 2014.

Despite their less than stellar record against Woking, Torquay have enjoyed a hugely successful period under manager Gary Johnson, earning promotion to the National League alongside the Cards in 2019, where they went up as champions, surviving comfortably last season, before launching another promotion charge in this campaign. They currently lead the league by four points, with 14 wins and five draws from their 24 fixtures, although Sutton United – who the Cards defeated in the last round – do have three games still in hand. Torquay’s recent form has also been unremarkable considering their position, with only two wins from the last eight league games since the turn of the year.

Woking – Team News

Few would be surprised if Dowse went with the same team that beat Barnet last weekend, although that likely depends on whether captain Josh Casey is fit enough to return after six weeks out, with Kyran Lofthouse having filled in at left-back in his absence. John Goddard is also the only other long-term absentee having been out since the end of January.

Torquay United – The Boss

The hugely experienced Gary Johnson has won a remarkable 60 of his 107 games in charge of Torquay, leading them to promotion to the National League in his first season, and is now eyeing another promotion to the Football League, having won the same title with both Yeovil Town and Cheltenham Town during his career. The 65-year-old has also managed in the Football League with the likes of Bristol City, Peterborough United, and Northampton Town.

One to Watch

Former Card, Armani Little, has only featured nine times this season due to injury issues, with his last appearance coming at the start of February. He’s one of a number of key players currently sidelined, along with veteran forward Danny Wright. The 36-year-old, who was also part of Johnson’s Cheltenham promotion-winning side, has scored eight goals in just 17 appearances this season, but hasn’t played since Boxing Day. Midfielder Asa Hall remains a big threat and should start on Saturday, the former England youth player has 10 goals in all competitions this season.

Last Time Out

Torquay United 4-1 Woking – National League (28th December 2019)

The Cards, in the midst of a miserable Christmas period, were soundly beaten by Torquay at Plainmoor. Jake Hyde did give Woking the early lead, but the Gulls equalised through Asa Hall, and lead before half-time through start striker Jamie Reid. Ben Whitfield made the game safe for the home side before Ruairi Keating added insult to injury in stoppage time.

Next Up

The Cards travel to Altrincham on Tuesday evening for a rearranged fixture. That’s followed by the visit of King’s Lynn Town to the Laithwaite Community Stadium next Saturday.

One win from Wembley: Woking triumph in latest 'A303 derby'

Ben Musgrove
12:00am, Sun 28th Feb 2021
Woking 1 Torquay United 0
FA Trophy
27th February 2020

Despite the three-hour journey one way down the A303, Woking and Torquay have enjoyed a consistently competitive rivalry during the respective Dowson/Johnson eras. Both managers have taken their sides out of the National South within a year, and enjoyed a number of tight clashes - Woking edging them in the cups, Torquay more consistent in the league.

This game was one of the best of the era. While a superb strike from Jamar Loza would be enough to decide it, it's frankly beyond anyone who watched it how the game ended 1-0 to the hosts. A missed penalty, three strikes of the woodwork, two goal line clearances, multiple missed sitters and a 94th minute equaliser dubiously ruled out for offside only begins to paint the picture.

While Woking were able to name an unchanged side from the team that beat Barnet without really getting out of second gear the previous Saturday, Torquay's XI was as patchwork as it could have been. Injuries to a host of usual starters left Torquay with a bench of just five players, with the Gulls announcing the loan signing of QPR keeper Marcin Brzozowski less than two hours before kick-off.

Despite the threadbare squad, both sides were at it in the early stages, and it's a surprise that neither converted. Moussa Diarra almost opened the scoring from the first corner of the game but for a bicycle kick clearance off the Torquay line, with Ben Gerring's follow-up snapshot straight at Brzozowski. Diarra would then present Torquay with the best chance of the game just five minutes later, felling Conor Lemonheigh-Evans just centimetres inside the box. Asa Hall's resultant penalty was kept out thanks to a superb low save from Craig Ross, who has only dived the wrong way for two penalties this season.

The sparring would continue throughout the half, with high energy from Woking's wingers and fluid breaks from Torquay characterising much of the game. Jamar Loza almost recreated his goal against Barnet with a low drive that Brzozowski did well to palm away, while at the other end Max Sheaf was able to dance around two defenders in the penalty area, only to fail to lift his shot over a diving Ross.

The setup from both sides leant itself to quick, sharp counter attacks. Torquay's compact 4141 would flip into a 3142 in possession, with Jake Andrews tucking into a back three from the left while Whitfield bombed on ahead of him. The Gulls kept an incredibly high line from set pieces, but couldn't eliminate long balls into Jonte Smith and Kane Ferdinand, from which Loza and Malachi Napa were able to run at the visitors.

That strategy would ultimately lead to Woking's opener, and the match winner. After a couple of long balls into the Torquay back line weren't effectively dealt with, the bobbling ball was brought down by Loza in the centre of midfield. The Jamaican international rolled his marker before driving into the box, heading away from goal. Tim Flowers said that Loza "only had a right foot" after his goal last week; the wide man's perfect left-foot finish into the far corner suggests otherwise.

Jamar Loza shoots and scores; pic: David Holmes

It could have been two for Woking had Gerring converted an inswinging Napa cross, but the Cards had to be happy to go in ahead at the break. Having weathered several huge chances from the visitors, Loza's goal was a moment of quality that put pressure on Torquay to come out and play in the second half.

Half time: Woking 1 Torquay United 0

Torquay came out of the blocks the faster after the restart, and were inches from levelling the scoring within a few minutes of the whistle. With Woking struggling to clear their lines in the early stages, a cheap foul on the edge of the area gave three takers an opportunity to shoot at goal. Jake Andrews took on the responsibility, and clattered Ross's post with his dipping effort.

The effort would set the tone for a second half full of chances, mistakes, nearly moments, and intense attacking football. Whitfield was frustrated to see a swinging cross palmed over Ross's bar; at the other end, Diarra's header from a Charlie Cooper corner was hammered onto the post by Ben Gerring.

Woking would enjoy their best spell of the match on the hour mark, and it's still unbelievable that the Cards failed to increase their lead. Loza was involved in every attack, ballooning an effort over after cutting inside of #12, and firing a pass just inches short of Smith to put the striker in on goal. Just two minutes later a mistake in the Torquay midfield allowed Loza a second chance to feed Smith, which he nailed - only for the Bermudan hitman to launch an effort over the KRE from 10 yards out.

At the other end, Torquay would have their turn. A low cross-keeper effort from Waters, on the break from a spate of Woking attacks, forced Ross to push the ball back out into the box - only for Kyron Lofthouse to deny Whitfield's follow-up on the goal line. Whitfield himself would have a second effort from range minutes later, fizzing his shot over the bar.

Torquay's only change, introducing forward Rob Street for a frustrated Matt Buse, would only increase the pressure on the home side. A second low effort from Waters would again go unconverted as it skittered through the box, while a driving run from Lofthouse through the middle of the Torquay lines was the only concerted effort Woking summoned in the closing stages. Jayden Wareham was introduced for Smith in the closing stages, with the teenager a driving force for the press in the final minutes, while Napa made way for Tommy Block, and Charlie Cooper for Ben Dempsey.

The defensive changes were nearly all for naught. With thirty seconds to go, Torquay won a free kick on the Woking left, with every player on the pitch taking a place in the Woking area. Rallying cries of "one ball in, and it's a semi-final!" weren't enough; the in-swinging ball was flicked on and seemed to evade everyone despite the best efforts of Torquay forwards, winding up in the Woking net. For a moment, penalties were inevitable, only for the officials to come to Woking's rescue, and the offside flag to raise. The Torquay players were apoplectic, but the linesman was adamant, and Woking had their reprieve.

The final whistle blew moments later and put and end to what was, for the neutral, perhaps the best game played at the Laithwaite this season. The 1-0 score line misrepresents a game full of incident, opportunity and a real commitment to playing good, offensive football - in other words, a bloody good cup tie.

Woking: 1. Craig Ross, 26. Kyron Lofthouse, 5. Ben Gerring, 6. Moussa Diarra, 2. Jack Cook, 4. Charlie Cooper (18. Ben Dempsey 71'), 8. Kane Ferdinand, 10. Max Kretschmar, 20. Malachi Napa (21. Tommy Block 86'), 26. Jamar Loza, 9. Jonte Smith (23. Jayden Wareham 82')

Unused subs: 3. Josh Casey, 11. Matt Jarvis, 12. Nathan Collier, 31. Mark Smith

Goals: Loza 38'

Bookings: Cooper 74'

Opposing team 1. Marcin Brzozowski. 2. Ben Wynter, 7. Connor Lemonheigh-Evans, 8. Asa Hall, 11. Jake Andrews, 12. Adam Randall, 15. Matt Buse (24. Robert Street 67'), 16. Sam Sherring, 25. Billy Waters, 32. Max Sheaf, 34. Ben Whitfield

Unused subs: 17. Jacob Evans, 22. Owen Price, 35. Josh Umerah

Goals: None

Bookings: Hall 17', Lemonheigh-Evans 81'

Referee: Matthew Russell

Attendance: Behind Closed Doors

Man of the Match: Jamar Loza. Dovetailed superbly with Malachi Napa, got through a huge amount of running, was a constant danger in both halves and found that moment of magic to put the Cards one game from Wembley.

13Craig Ross
2Jack Cook
16Kyran Lofthouse
5Ben Gerring
6Moussa Diarra
10Max Kretzschmar
4Charlie Cooper ('71)
8Kane Ferdinand
20Malachi Napa ('86)
26Jamar Loza
9Jonté Smith ('82)
31Mark Smith
12Nathan Collier
3Josh Casey
21Tommy Block ('86)
18Ben Dempsey ('71)
11Matt Jarvis
23Jayden Wareham ('82)
Torquay United LINEUP
28Marcin Brzozowski
12Adam Randell
11Jake Andrews
2Ben Wynter
16Sam Sherring
8Asa Hall
32Max Sheaf
7Connor Lemonheigh-Evans
15Matt Buse ('67)
34Ben Whitfield
25Billy Waters
13Andy Collings
17Jacob Evans
22Owen Price
24Robert Street ('67)
35Josh Umerah

Woking 1-0 Torquay United | Ian Dyer

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