Cestor settles cup tie

Bob Cumming
9:09am, Tue 14th Feb 2012
Woking 1 Ashford Town (Middx) 0
Surrey Senior Cup – Fourth Round (Quarter Final)
Monday 13th February 2012

After a bright opening twenty minutes, during which the Cards shook off the icicles of their enforced lay-off, the old frustrations of not taking chances then laid heavily and they laboured to break down a very bright Ashford Town outfit.

Andy Little was preferred in goal, Joe McNerney moved to right back to replace Adam Newton, with Mike Cestor (pictured) in his familiar left back spot. Adam Doyle returned to partner Alan Inns at the heart of the defence. Keiran Murtagh, Jack King and Abdallah (Mo) Shariff formed the midfield partnership, whilst Moses Ademola provided the right-sided supply for the double spearhead of Wayne Gray and Elvis Hammond.

In front of 317 supporters the Cards eased Dale Binns and Jay Davies back from injury, but the heavy pitch was too much to allow Paris Cowan-Hall to risk his hamstring, and in the end the protection of Moses Ademola’s (ankle) and substitute Jay Davies’s (calf) injuries meant early baths for both players.

The opening exchanges saw the Cards exhibit some superb interplay and approach work as the midfield trio provided a continual succession of passes, crosses, chips, flicks and lobs, but the front line, despite some intricate weaving and possession play, could not get sufficient power into shots or get them on target.

After only four minutes Woking had a good opportunity after Mo Shariff was brought down in full flight on the edge of the box. The ex-Slough Town and QPR loanee hit a weak free-kick straight at the keeper. Minutes later Elvis Hammond went on a solo run in which he beat at least seven players before crossing straight to a blue shirt. Wayne Gray had a firm squared pass deflected agonisingly wide of the goal by defender Bairoh Conteh.

As the game settled Keiran Murtagh exuded quality with an array of passes and chips that just cried out for someone to finish them off, and he managed to maintain this level of play throughout the game to earn my ‘man of the match’ award. Jack King also had a confident and productive first half. Mo Shariff was lively throughout, gaining possession and skipping past the opposition, and with more luck could have provided a killer pass. However, with so many chances not taken it was not long before Ashford’s confidence improved and the lively, diminutive Pietro Palladino provided a string of opportunities.

Andy Little blocked a Mark Bitmead effort on 20 minutes after Doyle failed to control in the box, and minutes later Ashley Lodge slammed the ball against the corner of the upright and the bar after Alan Inns’s headed clearance dropped invitingly at his feet.

Probably the best Woking chance fell to Wayne Gray, who was set free in the box by a glorious through ball/chip by Jack King, but as the ball dropped Gray hit his first-time effort over the bar. On 29 minutes another excellent King penetrating pass set Elvis Hammond free. He ran into the box, steadied and drove the ball inches wide of the post.

On the half hour Gray set Murtagh up for a curled effort from the edge of the box, which the keeper at full stretch eventually grabbed, and five minutes later good work by Shariff on the left flank set up Murtagh to return the honours with a pass deftly slipped into the stride of Wayne Gray, who scooped his shot wide.

The first half closed with Woking, who should have been ahead, desperately defending as Palladino prompted several Ashford raids with nippy, darting runs and firm crosses.

Half-time: Woking 0 Ashford Town 0

Jay Davies, himself returning from injury, replaced Moses Ademola, who was protecting an ankle injury, at half-time. Shariff moved to the right side of attack with Wayne Gray on the left.

Within three minutes Mike Cestor had picked the ball up in centre midfield, took two strides forward and unleashed a shot that clipped Ashford captain Candeton on the head and flew into the net. Cestor will rightfully claim this one.

Two minutes later nearly brought a second own goal as a Wayne Gray lofted cross was returned into the melee by the head of Joe McNerney, and an unsuspecting Ashford defender sliced the ball just wide of the post.

With the game losing tempo in the second half, Woking made a 66th-minute double substitution and brought on Ola Sogbanmu, returning from his loan period at Farnborough, for the struggling Jay Davies, and Dale Binns, who made a welcome return, replacing Wayne Gray.

Murtagh was still probing with tempting passes and chips and almost set up Sogbanmu for a quick goal but he failed to make contact and nod into the open net.

Adam Doyle was booked on 74 minutes for a second scrappy challenge on the edge of the box, and Bitmead curled the resulting free-kick inches wide. As the game closed Ashford raised their efforts and Bitmead , the tenacious Dan Brown and Ashley Lodge all had chances.

Elvis Hammond showed considerable determination as he chased a deflection into the box and came out of a scrappy challenge with the keeper with the ball at his feet, but his momentum caused him to stumble with an open goal beckoning.

A closing effort by Lodge was held well by Andy Little to defuse a nervy last few minutes.

This game should have blown the cobwebs away and provided the perfect preparation for Saturday’s table-topping match against Dartford here at Kingfield. Woking now entertain either Carshalton Athletic or Metropolitan Police at Kingfield in the semi-final of the County Senior Cup, a competition that all of the senior clubs seem to be taking seriously this year.

Woking: Andy Little, Joe McNerney, Mike Cestor, Keiran Murtagh, Alan Inns, Adam Doyle, Wayne Gray (Dale Binns 67’), Jack King, Moses Ademola (Jay Davies HT’ [Ola Sogbanmu 66’]), Elvis Hammond, Mo Shariff.

Subs not used: Paris Cowan- Hall, Derek Duncan

Goals: Mike Cestor 48’

Cautions: Adam Doyle 76’

Ashford Town (Middx): Paul McCarthy, Harry Knock, Ed Thomas, Russell Canderton, Bairoh Conteh, Jim Mann (Jack Mullan 76’), Mark Bitmead, Ashley Lodge, Dan Brown, Pietro Palladino (Kofi Lockhart-Adams 58’), Alex Duffy

Subs not used: Josh Andrew, Peter Lucking, Tyler Tobin

My MOTM: Keiran Murtagh

Attendance: 317

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