Cards face a replay

Brian Caffarey
10:00pm, Sat 26th Sep 2009
Hythe Town 2 Woking 2
FA Cup 2nd Qualifying Round
26 September 2009

If this is the year when Woking begin to put an end to their recent dismal form in the FA Cup, it got off to an inauspicious start today at Hythe Town. Indeed, at half-time, 1-0 down, it was hard to see where an equalising goal might come from. I’d have certainly taken a replay at that stage. However, having turned the tables on the home side and established a 2-1 lead in the 78th minute, you’d have thought that Graham Baker’s side would have been home and dry. Not likely! A long free-kick hoofed forward saw on-loan keeper, David Blackmore, brought in for this game, allow the ball to slip through his fingers as he was challenged, with the ball ending up in the back of the net. So, it’s all now to play for at Kingfield on Tuesday evening.

Injuries, suspensions and the enforced departure of Luke Medley saw Graham make a number of changes to his usual line-up. In front of Blackmore were a back three of Daniel Sintim, Tom Hutchinson and Joe McNerney. The midfield comprised Ricky Anane, Mark Ricketts, Jamie Hand (making his debut) and Sam Sloma, with Giuseppe Sole generally operating just behind the front two of Fola Onibuje and Moses Ademola.

Graham had warned his side that Hythe would be ‘in their faces’ and this proved to be absolutely right, with Hythe’s captain, Gavin Ransley, quick to leave his mark, literally and metaphorically, on Moses Ademola, whose appetite for the fray seemed to diminish fairly rapidly thereafter, eventually being substituted, after one or two more acquaintances with the rock-hard pitch, by Delano Sam-Yorke.

Hythe were quickly on the attack with top scorer Kieran Byrne, quite a handful, especially in the first half, shooting wide of Blackmore’s right-hand post from Winfield’s cross. The home side continued to attempt to out-muscle Woking, successfully disrupting any efforts to play fluent football – which wasn’t easy anyway on such a bone-hard, bumpy pitch. The first real moment of quality from the Cards came in the 11th minute when Gez Sole, who showed up well in the first half, turned adroitly and forced the home keeper, Kieron Mann, to tip his rising shot over the bar.

Hythe responded with several promising attacks against a Woking defence which always looked uneasy. Byrne released Cook for a shot, which flew well over the bar, after McNerney had blocked another effort.

With 17 minutes gone Onibuje headed the ball home from a Sintim throw-in but the whistle had already gone, so there was no need for any premature celebrations. Woking continued to find it difficult to get any real purchase on the game, with Ademola now limping and appealing to be taken off. Before then, though, the Kent League side had gained a not wholly unexpected lead.

Those Woking fans in line thought that Kingwell was well offside when he collected a long ball through the middle in the 26th minute but, be that as it may, he had the relatively simple task of slipping the ball past Blackmore.

It was very nearly 2-0 a minute later as an awkward shot bounced off Blackmore’s chest and into the path of Pursglove. Fortunately, the on-loan keeper was just able to snatch the ball from his feet to prevent what otherwise looked a certain goal.

Woking struggled to create chances but hopes were raised by a superb cross from Sloma, which beat the keeper, with Cook doing extremely well to clear almost off the goal line. At the other end, some confusion in central defence allowed Byrne to get in a snap shot, which he blazed over the bar.

As half-time approached the Cards still found it difficult to make any headway, with the only real chance falling to Ricketts as he seized on a clearance from a corner and volleyed over the bar.

Half-time: Hythe Town 1 Woking 0

Fortunately, Woking side started the second half in a more positive and determined frame of mind, and this was noticeably reinforced when Harry Arter came on for Jamie Hand in the 53rd minute. Before then, though, Pursglove had twice troubled the Cards defence, getting in front of Sintim to shoot wide of the post and then getting the better of Hutchinson to again fire wide.

At last the Cards began to put Hythe under some sustained pressure as Arter prompted from midfield and the pacy Anane began to find space down the right flank. Onibuje headed just wide and Sloma shot over the bar after the ball had been laid back by Ricketts. It looked as though the breakthrough had arrived in the 61st minute when an excellent pass by Arter sent Anane scurrying through but his shot was just wide of the far post. More pressure followed as Anane got in a fine cross and then Arter made a penetrating run into the box to pull the ball back for Ricketts, whose second attempt was tipped over the bar.

Sintim made a crucial intervention before another Anane break, in the 71st minute, finally brought parity. His pace took him clear of the Hythe central defence and he was able to push the ball beyond the advancing keeper before having the simple task of slotting it into the net.

The Cards now had the necessary impetus to go and win the game and it took only another seven minutes for what appeared to be the deciding goal to be scored. Onibuje was fouled just inside the left of the penalty area – having already been fouled outside the area – and Gez Sole rammed the ball home from the spot to make it 2-1 to Woking. Against a tiring part-time side, surely that was ‘game over’?

Far from it! Just three minutes later a long free-kick was hoisted forward by Marsh. Guiver challenged Blackmore and the ball seemed to go through the latter’s outstretched hands and on into the net.

In the remaining minutes both sides sought a winning goal but neither really came close to preventing a replay. Cook volleyed over for the home side, whilst Arter had a shot blocked and Watkins, on as a late substitute for Onibuje, laid off balls to no avail to Sam-Yorke and Anane.

Some Cards fans no doubt felt that the home side over-did the physical side of their play but Woking can hardly complain about the result: they were unable to impose themselves on the game and a replay was the most they deserved.

Woking: David Blackmore, Rikki Anane, Sam Sloma, Mark Ricketts, Tom Hutchinson, Joe McNerney, Daniel Sintim, Jamie Hand (Harry Arter, 53), Fola Onibuje (Craig Watkins, 85), Moses Ademola (Delano Sam-Yorke, 36), Giuseppe Sole
Subs: Matt Pegler, Jerome Maledon
Attendance: 557
My MOTM: Rikki Anane (pictured)

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