Cards smash Fleet as run goes on
10:13pm, Wed 2nd Mar 2011
By Glen Harrington
Woking 3 Ebbsfleet United 0
Blue Square Bet South
1 March 2011
The Cards last night stretched their incredible winning streak to seven games, producing a performance as good as any Woking side has done in many a year. Three first-half goals from Elvis Hammond, Joe McNerney and Craig Dobson proved more than enough to ease past high-flying Ebbsfleet.
Garry Hill, fresh from collecting Februaryâ€™s Manager-of-the-Month Award, named the same starting eleven as at Saturdayâ€™s game at Lewes. The only change came on the bench, where Reiss Noel was welcomed back.
In opposition the Cards found former favourite Paul Lorraine, voted the supportersâ€™ player of the season in 2008-09. Nowwearing the colours of the Fleet, complete with Captainâ€™s armband, Lorraine led out second-placed United in search of continuing a strong run of form that had seen them win four games in a row, scoring twelve goals in the process.
That would prove to be something easier said than done, especially with this Woking side, unrecognisable from the team that last lost in the league at leaders Braintree on 29 January. Not only that, this really is a side worth watching, the hosts winning the six games leading into their tie with United by an aggregate score of 14-0.
The Cards started brightly, Craig Dobsonâ€™s pace too much for the Fleet defence as, with just five minutes on the clock, he raced clear on goal, unfortunate to shoot over, with Elvis Hammond free in a more central position. However, the hosts were to test the United keeper soon after, Moses Ademola curling his shot neatly around his marker, but into the arms of Preston Edwards.
It didnâ€™t take long for the goal to come. And what a goal it was. Picking up possession just inside opposition territory, Kieran Murtagh executed an inch-perfect pass over the top of the defence, Hammond finding himself clean through with only Edwards to beat. A couple of touches later and Hammond smashed the ball home, into the bottom-left corner, giving the keeper no chance.
If the Cards werenâ€™t already full of confidence then they most certainly were now, passing the ball around with ease and drawing fantastic support from the Woking fans. Twice the hosts came close to doubling their advantage. First, Dobsonâ€™s free-kick narrowly failed to find the head of Mark Ricketts, before a lovely move culminated in a Dobson header producing a point-blank save from Edwards.
Despite Calum Willock coming close to an equaliser with a close-range miss it was not to get any better for the visitors. With the big men still up from a half-cleared free-kick, Ricketts cleverly flicked the ball back into danger and, despite some half-hearted appeals for offside, Lorraine and co could only watch as Joe McNerney placed the ball beautifully into the corner of the net â€“ a finish easily worthy of Hammond or, indeed, any other striker.
Five minutes later and the Cards were in dreamland. This time it was Ademola who provided, playing another brilliant pass over the top of the defence to allow Craig Dobson space down the right. Calmly collecting the ball and having turned his marker inside-out, Dobson curled his shot round Edwards, sprinting away to celebrate with his manager and ecstatic teammates. The hosts three up with just 31 minutes played â€“ the seasonâ€™s record of having not beaten a single side higher in the league looking, thankfully, under serious threat.
Half-time: Woking 3 Ebbsfleet United 0
Ebbsfleet looked shell-shocked, and with manager Liam Daish becoming more and more aggravated on the touchline, the visitors found themselves booed off by 68 disgruntled United fans at the break. Having already brought on Dean Pooley midway through the first period, Daish made a second change during the interval, throwing in Jacob Erskine to try, if nothing else, to salvage some pride.
Unfortunately for the visitors, they continued to struggle in breaking down a defence that had now failed to concede a goal in nearly ten hours of league football â€“ Andy Little still without a stain on his traditional sky blue jersey.
Indeed, as if to match the first half efforts of Dobson on the opposite flank, Aswad Thomas began to cause consistent problems for Ebbsfleet, his pace, skill and ability to pick a cross twice creating a chance for Hammond. Looking to increase the lead still further, Murtagh and Dobson each came close with long-range attempts while, at the other end, an effort from Erskine at least gave Little something to think about.
The game slowly petered out as United, who had improved after the break, began to run out of steam. Garry Hill quickly brought on Ollie Palmer and Craig Faulconbridge, grateful to take the chance to rest the ever-impressive Hammond and, the understated Jay Davies, who again covered a lot of distance in an all-action display.
Also encouraging was the sustainability of Dobsonâ€™s threat, eventually replaced with just five minutes remaining, and clearly close to being capable of a full 90 minutes. Reiss Noel was hence given a brief cameo with Ricky Anane moving into midfield. No doubt Noelâ€™s presence will prove to be vital, if not on Saturday, but in the weeks to come when McNerney serves his three-match suspension. Noel looked refreshed from his missed game, claiming several strong headers in his short time on the pitch.
Despite Palmer twice coming close in the final moments the refereeâ€™s whistle brought resounding cheers around Kingfield, everyone present delighted with a seventh consecutive victory and, perhaps more astonishingly, a seventh consecutive clean sheet. Importantly, the Cards now find themselves in sixth place, five points off the play-offs with a game in hand and with a defensive record bettered only by Braintree â€“ an unbelievable turn-around by Hill and Thompson in just five short weeks.
Of course, the players also deserve great credit; let us not forget that the vast majority of this team have been here since the start of the season. Andy Little is a confident and assured presence in goal, with fullbacks Anane and Thomas providing flair and width as well as the ability to cover for McNerney and Doyle â€“ who themselves have been extremely consistent, especially in recent weeks.
In midfield Ricketts is again showing the form that saw him made club Captain last summer and, with a rejuvenated Ademola alongside new boys Murtagh, Davies and Dobson, the midfield has plenty of creativity and a nice balance about it. Hammond, of course, provides the touch of class and experience that the Cards have long since craved to have leading their line: an average of a goal every two games showing that if you give him the ball, thereâ€™s a pretty good chance heâ€™ll do something with it!
Words cannot now express the importance of Saturdayâ€™s derby against local rivals Farnborough. Everyone will hope to see the biggest league crowd of the season, at their loudest, ready to cheer the boys to victory.
Come on, you Cards!
Woking: Andrew Little, Ricky Anane, Aswad Thomas, Mark Ricketts, Joe McNerney, Adam Doyle, Craig Dobson (Reiss Noel 84), Kieran Murtagh, Moses Ademola, Elvis Hammond (Craig Faulconbridge 78), Jay Davies (Ollie Palmer 71).
Unused Subs: Dave Gilroy, Matt Pegler.
Goals: Hammond 15, McNerney 26, Dobson 31.
Ebbsfleet United: Preston Edwards, Joe Howe, Derek Duncan, Tom Phipp, Clint Easton (Dean Pooley 25), Paul Lorraine, Gareth Williams (Conor Okus 72), Ram Marwa, Calum Willock, Ashley Carew, Ricky Shakes (Jacob Erskine 45).
Unused Subs: Adam Williams, Darren Hawkes.
Sponsorsâ€™ MOTM: Joe McNerney (pictured) â€“ For the second game in succession Joe picks up the bottle and, with the defensive run Woking are on at the moment, it may not be his last. Also took his goal superbly to cap fine night.
Supportersâ€™ MOTM: Craig Dobson â€“ Getting closer and closer to full fitness, looking more and more a fantastic signing. He gave yet another fullback a nightmare, ran tirelessly throughout and scored perhaps the pick of a great set of goals.