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Cards gain crucial win

Brian Caffarey
8:10am, Wed 14th Dec 2011
Dartford 2 Woking 3
13 December 2011

This match marked the halfway point of the season and, at the end of it, the Cards found themselves maintaining their nine-point lead over Welling United, having gained a crucial win over third-placed Dartford. Woking dominated the first half with some superb football and went into the dressing room at half-time with a deserved 2-0 lead thanks to towering headers from Alan Inns and Adam Doyle, both from Moses Ademola corners. But they made it hard for themselves in the second half, sitting too deep and allowing Dartford to build up a head of steam and pull a goal back. The game then looked safe when Elvis Hammond grabbed a third goal with four minutes to go but the Darts came back to reduce the deficit once more and Woking fans were mightily glad when the final whistle sounded.

With Ben Smith and Jay Davies caught up in traffic on the way to the game, Garry Hill was forced to re-jig his intended side, with Joe McNerney getting a start in left of central defence, alongside Alan Inns, with Adam Doyle at left-back. Wayne Gray and Elvis Hammond began up front.

On a bitterly cold evening, with a strong wind facing Woking in the first half, the Cards – as so often this season – got their noses in front early on. In the fourth minute Ademola swung a corner in. A static Dartford defence watched as Inns powered a header back under the bar to put the Cards 1-0 up.

It was nearly all Woking as the effervescent Cards dominated possession in midfield, looking to release their speedy front men at every opportunity. Hammond, having one of his best games for some time, cleverly played in Dale Binns, continuing his fine form, and the latter’s fierce shot was beaten away by the Darts’ keeper, Louis Wells.

Dartford’s composure at the back wasn’t helped by the loss of Goodacre in the 18th minute through injury. Woking nearly profited immediately as Hammond released Jack King, who crossed to Gray. Gray’s header was deflected away, with some shouts for handball echoing from Woking fans. A few minutes later Hammond was the provider again as Gray’s shot was blocked.

Aaron Howe wasn’t really called into action until the half-hour mark when he punched and then caught the ball from a Dartford corner. Play was soon up the other end when Inns nearly repeated his opening headed goal from a corner.

Dartford briefly came into the game around the 35-minute mark, for the first time in the match putting some passes together and applying some pressure to the Woking defence. Burns tried a wind-assisted snap shot which flew wide.

Shortly before half-time Woking put together a flowing move out of defence, started by Adam Newton and continued by Hammond, Gray and King to win a corner. Doyle ran in to meet Ademola’s corner with a bullet header, the Dartford defence static again, and the Cards rejoiced in a 2-0 lead.

Dartford fought hard to reduce the deficit before half-time, with Howe being forced into a smart reaction save from a corner, and ex-Card Adam Green twice trying his luck from distance. But Ademola could –and probably should – have wrapped the game up a minute later. A fine break down the left saw him with only the keeper to beat but he applied too heavy a touch to his finish, lifting the ball over the bar.

Half-time: Dartford 0 Woking 2

The Dartford players were no doubt given a hard time by their manager at the break and came out for the second half in more determined mood, but some casual Woking play presented them with their first chance as a loose clearance was returned with interest, Inns being forced to head off the line.

But, as the home side pressed forward, there were still opportunities for Woking to grab a crucial third goal. A break out of defence in the 51st minute saw Ademola hammer a shot against Wells and Doyle put a looping header just over the bar. A surging run by Newton was then halted as his cross was blocked.

However, the Dartford momentum was building and some hesitant play by Newton led to an incisive Dartford attack, with a header coming back off the post or Howe’s foot – I couldn’t tell which from where I was standing.

Garry Hill brought on Gez Sole for Dale Binns in the 61st minute and it was Sole, two minutes later, who had the next chance to stop the Darts’ resurgence. Ademola dinked a nice ball to him in the area but the substitute fluffed his shot.

Woking were quickly made to pay for not killing off Dartford. The home side was beginning to find plenty of space down Woking’s left flank. A cross from there went over Inns and Rogers’s diving header gave Howe no chance.

Ola Sogbanmu immediately came on for Gray, whilst play was then held up by what looked like quite a serious injury to Mark Ricketts, who hobbled off to be replaced by Jay Davies.

Ademola attempted to wriggle his way past a posse of Dartford defenders on the edge of the area but the Dartford pressure continued, with another cross from Woking’s left flank forcing Howe into a clearing punch. The Cards were under the cosh at this stage, seemingly unable to get hold of the ball and too often resorting to panicky clearances or hasty, over-ambitious passes when they did gain possession.

In the 82nd minute it looked as though Sogbanmu, beating Wells to a through ball, might relieve the pressure, but the ex-Staines keeper managed to clear the danger. He signally failed to do so, however, four minutes later, ballooning the ball high into the air on the edge of his area. Hammond showed all his experience in making sure that he, rather than the Dartford defender, was in the right position as the ball came down over his shoulder and then executing an excellent left-footed sweep past Wells and into the net.

Those Woking fans who thought that the Cards were now home and dry were in for a rude shock. Dartford continued to press, with Doyle and then King booked. The latter’s foul led to a free-kick in the 90th minute. Howe, who had otherwise had a faultless game, seemed to miss the ball as it was flighted over but it was headed back across the goal for Erskine, stooping, to head home to make it 2-3.

As the game headed into four minutes plus of injury time Dartford came very close to equalising as a fierce shot was blocked and then Howe did well to grab a cross at a forward’s feet. There was much relief among the sizeable contingent of Woking fans when the referee finally blew his whistle – followed by noisy celebration of what looks like a particularly valuable three points, especially with Welling winning at Basingstoke Town.

Having come through a difficult series of games against a number of top sides, Woking now have what looks like some easier games to negotiate against sides lower down the table but Garry Hill won’t be fooled into thinking that the job is done.

Woking: Aaron Howe, Adam Newton, Joe McNerney, Mark Ricketts (Jay Davies 70), Alan Inns, Adam Doyle, Wayne Gray (Ola Sogbanmu 65), Jack King, Moses Ademola, Elvis Hammond, Dale Binns (Giuseppe Sole 61)

Unused subs: Ben Smith, Andy Little

Bookings: Adam Doyle 88; Jack King 89

Dartford: Louis Wells, Matt Jones, Adam Green, Tom Bonner, Paul Goodacre (Jacob Erskine 19), Tom Champion, Ryan Hayes, Jon Wallis, Lee Burns (Tony Garrod 78), Elliot Bradbrook, James Rogers (Richard Graham 78)

Unused subs: Lee Noble, Deren Ibrahim

Bookings: Jon Wallis 65, Elliot Bradbrook 65

My MOTM: Adam Doyle

Attendance: 1230

P.S. Don’t forget that the Cards are at home to Farnborough on Boxing Day. Kick-off is at 1pm.

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