Plucky Alfreton hold on against unlucky Woking

Glen Harrington
8:21am, Sun 18th Nov 2012
Woking 1 Alfreton Town 2
Blue Square Premier
17th November 2012

A brace from Paul Clayton allowed a hard-working and determined Alfreton side to hold out for all three points at Kingfield and extend the Cards' winless streak to four games.

The visitors took the lead midway through the first half when Josh Law’s corner from the left-hand side was headed in by Clayton, who was left totally unmarked at the back post.

Brett Williams levelled proceedings when Alfreton goalkeeper Jon Stewart spilled a free-kick from debutant John Nutter, which allowed the Woking striker to turn the ball in from close range.

Despite dominating for long periods in the second half, the home side were undone by Daniel Meadows' long-range effort which, despite being parried by Aaron Howe, fell kindly for Clayton, who headed home what proved to be the winning goal ten minutes into the second half.

Garry Hill and Steve Thompson made four changes from the team well beaten by Grimsby last Saturday, with Brett Johnson dropped to the bench and the suspended Lee Sawyer, Mike Cestor and Bradley Bubb missing out altogether. In their place came new loan signings Nutter and Jayden Stockley, along with Williams and Jack Parkinson, in a 4-4-2 formation.

It was Woking’s new signings who made the early impact. Nutter, who arrived from Lincoln City on Thursday, was clearly enjoying his role at left back, and needed little invitation to attack down the flank – three times finding the head of forward Stockley, who joined from League One Bournemouth on Tuesday, in the Alfreton penalty area. Twice his efforts went wide, with Stewart comfortably saving the third – but the signs were encouraging.

Joe McNerney (pictured) also came close to testing the visitors’ keeper with a flicked header, while Dean Sinclair almost latched on to Williams's exquisite through ball as the Cards continued to look dangerous.

But just like so many times this season, Woking were undone by a set piece against the run of play, with Alfreton’s first shot of the game looping off the head of Clayton and into the top right-hand corner of Howe’s goal.

Buoyed by taking the lead, the visitors might have doubled their advantage moments later, as Nathan Arnold caught the home side’s defence sleeping and moved in on goal, eventually striking his effort narrowly wide of the right-hand upright.

Perhaps overdue a slice of luck, Woking were handed their equaliser on a plate by the Alfreton goalkeeper. Despite having his sight slightly impaired by his defensive wall, Stewart really should have dealt comfortably with Nutter’s fairly timid free-kick, but instead only succeeded in pushing the ball back into the danger zone, where a grateful Williams gleefully fired home.

Half-time: Woking 1 Alfreton Town 1

Even without the driving force of midfield maestro Sawyer, the Cards' performance continued to impress after the break, with Gavin McCallum at the forefront of the hosts' push for a second goal.

Williams, who undoubtedly had his best game in a Woking shirt so far this season, created the first chance of the second half as his low cross was cleared only as far as Kevin Betsy, who cut inside and forced Stewart into a smart save at his near post.

McCallum twice came close, set up first of all by Betsy’s pull back, and next by Williams, who benefited from Adam Newton’s excellent bursting run through the heart of the Alfreton midfield. Unfortunately, the winger was unable to find the target.

For the second time in the game the Cards' defence were punished for the smallest of defensive errors in a half of football they had previously dominated: Meadows racing clear down the Woking left and, aware of Parkinson looming down on him, unleashed a powerful long-range effort. Howe looked to have beaten the ball away, but the hosts failed to clear their lines and the ball only span up for Clayton to cushion a simple header into the empty net.

With their spirits visibly dampened by going behind for a second time, Woking took a few minutes to re-compose themselves. But when they did, they found a solid wall of blue shirts in front of them.

Even with ten, sometimes eleven, defenders in front of them, the Cards continued to create chances – McCallum escaping Law and firing wide, before heading over Williams's clever chipped cross.

Woking threw everything at the Alfreton blockade as the game drew towards its conclusion – Stockley even attempting an ambitious overhead kick that crashed into a desperate defensive block.

Howe deserves an honourable mention for one excellent save from Arnold, after the visitors enjoyed a rare foray forward in the dying seconds, but his heroics proved the best of a frustrating end to the Cards' afternoon.

There were some encouraging signs from Woking’s performance today – new boys Nutter and Stockley impressed while Kingfield was finally treated to something like the real Brett Williams. The absences of Sawyer and Bubb were less than ideal, but with the Cards now 17th and just three points above the relegation zone, these are the sort of games where points really need to be picked up.

It will be hoped that two cup games in the next seven days – away at Merstham on Tuesday in the Surrey Senior Cup, and at home to Farnborough in the FA Trophy next Saturday – will go some way to restoring the confidence lost since a wonderful win at Newport last month.

Woking: Aaron Howe, Adam Newton, John Nutter, Joe McNerney, Jack Parkinson (Brett Johnson 82), Mark Ricketts, Dean Sinclair, Kevin Betsy, Gavin McCallum (Loick Pires 74), Brett Williams, Jayden Stockley

Unused Subs: Sam Beasant, Adam Doyle, George Frith.
Goal(s): Williams 38

Booked: Betsy 45

Alfreton Town: Jon Stewart, Leigh Franks, Theodore Streete (Adam Quinn 90), Connor Franklin, Ross Killock, Matthew Harriott (Anton Brown 81), Dan Bradley, Daniel Meadows, Paul Clayton, Joshua Law, Nathan Arnold

Unused Subs: Simon Russell, Ben Tomlinson, Ashley Worsfold.
Goal(s): Clayton 26 & 54

Booked: Clayton 45

MOTM: Joe McNerney

Attendance: 1,537

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