Maidenhead United 2 Woking 1
Vanarama National League
24th April 2021
Woking made 2 changes to the starting 11 that experienced defeat on Tuesday night versus old foes Torquay, with Paul Hodges and Jack Skinner replacing Jonté Smith and the injured Tommy Block, who joins an already abundant injury list as we face the tail end of the season. It was a gloriously sunny day in Berkshire, though a swirling breeze brought a chill to the air, almost as to remind us that although summer – and the return of fans to football – is coming, it is not quite here yet.
Despite a fairly strong second half performance, Woking fell short of finding an equaliser, having conceded two early goals at the hands of in-form striker Danilo Orsi, who scored a hat trick in midweek for the Magpies. Kane Ferdinand’s header just minutes into the second half re-ignited a game that had fallen flat before the half-time whistle, but the Cards were unable to find their 2nd point in 7 league games, and stay in 19th place.
There were very few chances to shout about in the early stages of the game, with set pieces for both sides failing to lead to tangible efforts on goal. Most of the progression up the pitch was via throw-ins down both wings, and it was difficult for Woking striker Sam Dalby to get on the ball in central positions.
In the 16th minute, Maidenhead took the lead, with a superb whipped cross from Dan Sparkes on the right wing falling at the feet of Orsi, who took a touch and slotted his finish into the bottom left corner of the goal
. Just moments before, Woking had been on the attack themselves, but a lack of decisive final product allowed the Magpies to break quickly and catch out the Cards’ defence.
The momentum continued for Maidenhead, but defensively Woking were just about getting the job done, and cleared any potential threat to Craig Ross’ goal on a number of occasions. Up the other end, a Cooper free kick just inside the centre circle was clipped into Moussa Diarra, who has scored a number of goals against Maidenhead in his career, but his flicked header failed to trouble the home side’s goalkeeper.
In the 25th minute, Barrett played a fantastic ball out to Sparkes yet again, who fired another cross into Clerima at the back post, whose shot-cum-layoff was diverted in by that man Orsi once more.
This really was not the start that Woking would have been hoping for, particularly after conceding two in the first half in midweek as well.
Possibly less than a minute later, a cross field ball went out to Sparkes again, and his cross was nodded narrowly wide by Barrett. The home side were clearly full of confidence, and playing some really good stuff down both flanks. In contrast, Woking were relying on set pieces for chances on goal, as whenever a move was put together, they tended to fizzle out before reaching the opposition box.
A chance nearly presented itself to Diarra in the 35th minute, when a Cooper free kick landed at his feet 6 yards from goal, only to be swept away by his old centre-back partner, Manny Parry, for a corner. The last real chance of the first half came to Maidenhead in the 43rd minute, when a downwards header from a corner was only prevented from nestling in the back of the net thanks to a superb reactionary stop by Ross with his right leg.
Half-time: Maidenhead United 2 Woking 0
Coming into the second half, it was evident that an early goal for Woking would be essential in turning this game around, and in the 47th minute, that is exactly what happened. From a deep position on the left wing, Charlie Cooper curled an in-swinging free kick right onto the head of Kane Ferdinand, whose looped header cleared the keeper and dropped just beneath the crossbar
, marking his first goal of the calendar year. It was a fantastic time to score, and all of a sudden the Cards were back in the game.
The ball drops into the Magpies' goal from Ferdinand's head
Ferdinand nearly turned from hero to villain in the 50th minute, strangely heading a Maidenhead long throw onto his own post, with nearly as much aplomb as the goal minutes earlier. Then, Sam Dalby found himself one-on-one with the keeper, but leant back too much and curled his effort over the crossbar! He really should have scored, although it was a tight angle further emphasised by forward movement from the keeper.
Subsequently, the quality of the game dropped slightly, with both teams attempting long balls that led to nothing, and overhitting crosses. Perhaps the wind had started to take effect, or the game had just reached a natural lull, as they often do. That being said, Woking were knocking the ball around nicely at times, but failed to make their movement into the final third count, with long-range efforts from both Cooper and Hodges not working Ashby-Hammond in between the sticks for Maidenhead.
In the 65th minute, Woking won another free kick in a similar position to the one that led to the goal, but this time the Maidenhead goalkeeper was alert to claim the ball high in the air and launch a massive kick towards Orsi, and the man with the brace won his side a corner. From a second successive corner, Ross was grateful to see unmarked Upward power his header “upwards” of the crossbar after being caught in an awkward position away from his goal line.
In the 76th minute, Ince received the only booking of the game for a cynical challenge preventing a Woking attack, and Dowse also took this opportunity to make a double change – Freeman and Skinner off, Evans and Joe Leslie on, the latter making his debut for Woking. Minutes later, the Magpies’ manager replaced the influential Sparkes with Kelly.
Woking would have liked to have been more dominant by this stage of the game, however chances had become few and far between, and they were still relying on set pieces for providing direct threat at goal. In the 82nd minute, after a strong driving run, Leslie was fouled on the left edge of the box, but the resulting free kick from Cooper was straight at Ashby-Hammond, who preceded to hoof yet another punt through to Ross at the other end.
As is often the case, the game started to get quite scrappy as it approached the final whistle, and following another spurned chance by Diarra to head home from a set piece, for which the keeper missed his punch completely, Maidenhead ensured they took all of the wind out of the Cards’ sails; an 88th minute sub was made, with Egan replacing striker Orsi, and Kelly conveniently went down holding his head to receive some treatment and wind down the clock.
A 93rd minute corner for the Cards prompted Craig Ross to make his way into the box, but the Maidenhead back line held their nerve, and cleared their lines. Woking came again, and as Diarra tried to latch onto Gerring’s flick on in the box he went down, prompting vocal protestation from the Woking bench who felt a penalty should have been awarded – it seemed to be more of an unfortunate coming together.
This was a much improved performance for Woking compared to recent weeks, but conceding early goals is something that Dowse is certain to want to look at going forwards. Despite the fact that relegation has been voided this season, it is vital that the Cards pick up more points in the latter stages of this season, to provide a positive outlook ahead of next season. Next up is FC Halifax Town away on Tuesday evening, where Woking will aim to achieve a solitary April win.
13 Craig Ross, 2 Jack Cook, 4 Charlie Cooper, 5 Ben Gerring, 6 Moussa Diarra, 8 Kane Ferdinand, 14 John Freeman (27 Joe Leslie 76’), 15 Jack Skinner (17 Sam Evans 76’), 16 Kyran Lofthouse, 30 Sam Dalby, 32 Paul Hodges
9 Jonté Smith, 24 Leo Hamblin, 31 Mark Smith
1 Taye Ashby-Hammond, 5 Manny Parry, 6 Remy Clerima, 8 James Comley (16 Ryheem Sheckleford 84’), 10 Danilo Orsi (18 Alfie Egan 88’), 11 Dan Sparkes (22 Josh Kelly 78’), 14 Rohan Ince, 15 Seth Twumasi, 19 Ryan Upward, 24 Alan Massey, 25 Sam Barratt
2 Jerry Wiltshire, 17 Reece Smith
Orsi 16’, 25’
Man of the Match: Kane Ferdinand
– He scored a great goal to bring the game back to life, showcased his technical ability with a number of sharp turns in the middle of the park, and always looked to drive the play forwards.