Fine attacking display clinches thriller
5:03pm, Sun 11th Mar 2012
Havant & Waterlooville 3 Woking 4
Blue Square Bet South
10th March 2012
The Cardsâ€™ forwards emphatically returned to form with a stunning attacking performance, but were still forced to endure a nervy conclusion as the Hawks staged a late comeback.
Despite going behind early to former Woking striker Ollie Palmerâ€™s tap-in, the Cards responded superbly to first level through a trade-mark Giuseppe Sole free-kick, and then take the lead, with Paris Cowan-Hall (pictured) bagging a first-half brace.
Havant struck back within minutes of the re-start as Steve Ramsey unleashed a stunning drive to find the bottom corner of the net, before Woking restored their two-goal advantage, Moses Ademola calmly taking advantage of Keiran Murtaghâ€™s fine pass.
Kevin Betsy and Alan Inns both came close to putting the game to bed, before a second Palmer strike made for a slightly anxious finish.
Pre-game speculation were on who Garry Hill and Steve Thompson would select in their midfield â€“ with Mark Ricketts and Jay Davies still out injured, and a suspended Jack King set to miss his first game of the season. The answer was Tom Davis, who played for Carshalton Athletic against the Cards on Tuesday night, brought in on a monthâ€™s loan. Tom is no stranger to this level, having won three Blue Square South titles with St Albans City, Lewes and AFC Wimbledon.
There were two other changes from last weekendâ€™s league defeat against Maidenhead with Sole, who performed well as a substitute in that game and claimed the winner against Carshalton in mid-week, replacing Wayne Gray, and Derek Duncan coming in for Joe McNerney. Mike Cestor, who returned from suspension in the Surrey Senior Cup, has now been re-called by Leyton Orient.
It could not have started much worse for the Cards, not only going behind for the third league match in succession, but conceding to their former player Palmer. It was not a difficult finish for the towering forward as Woking failed to clear Steve Ramseyâ€™s free-kick, Scott Jones pulled the ball back across goal, and Palmer was in the right place to turn it home.
Thankfully, the visitors were not about to feel sorry for themselves, and quickly went about finding a response. It was good work from Ademola, benefiting from far more space than he has been allowed in recent weeks, which produced the Cardsâ€™ first chance, as he chipped the ball from the right flank, over to Sole at the back-post. Full of confidence, Sole brought it under control sublimely and found a shot, only to see his effort cannon away off the crossbar.
This was the most open game the Cards had been involved in for weeks, but while Ademola, Sole, Cowan-Hall and Betsy were visibly enjoying themselves at one end against a defence that had already conceded 58 goals this season, the hosts were still carrying a threat of their own at the other. Certainly, if it were not for the intervention of Adam Doyle, the Hawks would have doubled their advantage â€“ Ramsey cutting inside and lashing his shot goal-wards, only for the defender to head the ball up and over the bar.
Mid-way through the first-half and Woking were finally rewarded for edging what had been a highly entertaining start to the game. Cowan-Hall was tripped on the edge of the area by Perry Ryan, and Sole elegantly curled the resulting free-kick into the top right hand corner of the net, giving goalkeeper Lyall Beazley absolutely no chance.
Suddenly, the Cards were again looking the team that were scoring goals for fun at the start of the season. Murtagh, freed up no end by the introduction of Davis in the Mark Ricketts holding role, was picking passes all over the park, coming close to grabbing his midfield partner a debut goal as Davis turned his pull-back wide.
Alan Inns twice came close to giving the visitors the lead, heading Soleâ€™s corner straight at Beazley before hooking an ambitious half-volley narrowly wide.
Palmer might have put his side ahead, as he found the ball at his feet inside the penalty area. Duncan was to the rescue, with a superb sliding tackle denying the striker the chance to shoot and setting up a counter attack. Cowan-Hall exchanged passes with Murtagh down the right and burst through on goal, emphatically beating Beazley as he smashed his shot into the top left hand corner.
It was starting to look like the Cards were having an in-match goal of the season competition as, in stoppage time, Betsy muscled his way between two weak defensive challenges and sent Cowan-Hall clear once again. No mistake from a confident Paris, the ball nestling in the bottom right hand corner of the net this time around.
Half-time: Havant & Waterlooville 1 Woking 3
If Woking had been sleeping at the start of the first-half then they had fallen back into a doze by the start of the second. For the second time in the game the Cards failed to clear their lines, and Ramsey had time to pick his spot from the edge of the area, a despairing dive from Aaron Howe unable to deny the Hawks player-of-the-month for February (awarded before the game), from dragging his team right back into the game.
Back in the game for four minutes at least, Murtagh sliding Ademola through on goal on the right hand side of the area. Moses calmly delayed his shot, waiting for Beazley to make the first move, before slotting the ball neatly into the net.
With twenty minutes remaining Elvis Hammond replaced Paris Cowan-Hall to the disappointed understanding of the impressive cohort of travelling Woking fans, torn between desires to see the dayâ€™s star-man grab his third goal and knowledge of the need to rest him before Tuesdayâ€™s game with Dorchester.
The Ghanaian was straight into the action however, flicking a ball into the path of Betsy who tore into the Havant half. Possession was laid into Sole who chipped the ball neatly back into the path of Betsy, only for Beazley to come to the Hawks rescue.
Woking had further chances to add to their already impressive goal-tally, Beazley denying Ademolaâ€™s shot from a tight angle while Inns saw his header from Soleâ€™s corner cleared off the line by Chris Arthur.
Despite all their pressure, chances and at times domination of the game, the Cards were suddenly back in the mire as, out of nothing, Scott Jones hopeful effort was deflected kindly into the path of Palmer, who secured his second and Havantâ€™s third.
Aaron Howe, who had already screamed himself hoarse at some uncharacteristically sloppy defending, was beside himself moments later when an Adam Newton slip allowed substitute Dan Thompson to shoot straight at him. Further efforts from Sam Pearce and Joe Dolan went narrowly wide while Betsyâ€™s 60-yard run with the ball belatedly resulted in another Beazley save as the game ended in as frantic a fashion as it had begun.
The Cards successfully saw out five minutes of stoppage time to claim a much needed three points. Numerous encouraging signs included the fine displays of the front four: Cowan-Hall, Sole, Betsy and Ademola, while Tom Davis played his part with a highly promising introduction. Keiran Murtagh had one of his strongest games in his second spell with the club while Derek Duncan arguably played his best game in a Woking shirt.
Elsewhere Dartford made it four wins in four since their defeat at Kingfield, while Welling also claimed victory over Chelmsford, meaning that both sides remain six points behind the Cards (Dartford having played a game less, Welling a game more).
It is therefore vital that the Cards continue their return to form next week when they play Dorchester at home on Tuesday night, and host Welling themselves on Saturday.
Woking: Aaron Howe, Adam Newton, Derek Duncan, Keiran Murtagh, Alan Inns, Adam Doyle, Paris Cowan-Hall (Elvis Hammond 68), Tom Davis, Moses Ademola (Joe McNerney 90), Giuseppe Sole (Dale Binns 80), Kevin Betsy
Unused Subs: Andy Little, Wayne Gray
Goals: Sole 23, Cowan-Hall 37 & 45, Ademola 53
Booked: Davis 12, Sole 73, Howe 78, Duncan 79
Havant & Waterlooville: Lyall Beazley, Jake Newton, Chris Arthur, Perry Ryan, Joe Dolan, Sam Pearce, Eddie Hutchinson (Sammy Igoe 68), Steve Ramsey, Scott Jones, Ollie Palmer, Bobby Hopkinson (Dan Thompson 64)
Unused Subs: Ryan Woodford, Paul Hinshelwood, Jon McDonald
Goals: Palmer 2 & 78, Ramsey 49
Booked: Dolan 8, Hopkinson 14, Ryan 22
MOTM: Paris Cowan-Hall â€“ A return to form and then some for the speedy striker, who produced two sublime finishes and was a thorn in the Havant side all day long.