No Christmas cheer for Cards!

Alan Worth
7:19pm, Wed 26th Dec 2012
Luton Town 3 Woking 1
Blue Square Bet Premier
26th December 2012

On paper this was always going to be a difficult away test and so it proved. Woking never really managed to get much of a foothold in the game apart from a short period in the second half. In Andre Gray, Luton had a very dangerous forward whose pace and trickery caused the Cards difficulty throughout and the Hatters' well-organised defence appeared able to snuff out any Woking attacks relatively easily.

With Brett Williams and Bradley Bubb still needing to serve their suspensions and Lee Sawyer out injured, Garry Hill started with Newton, McNerney, Doyle and Nutter across the back, a five-man midfield with Betsy and a returning McCallum out wide, Ricketts and Parkinson in the centre of midfield and Billy Knott playing in a slightly more advanced role in the centre. Jayden Stockley was the lone front man. Andy Little returned to the Woking bench as substitute keeper resulting from the recent departure of Sam Beasant to Billericay.

An early Woking free-kick taken by Nutter saw Doyle unable to connect with his head but Ricketts was able to swing the half-cleared ball back into the box. The hosts cleared easily and so set down a marker for the first half.

A relatively quiet first quarter saw Luton begin to settle. A dangerous low cross from Henry was taken by Howe and then Shaw looped a header over the bar. Gray’s pace saw him carry the ball into the box but the forward was denied by Doyle, putting the ball out for Luton’s first corner of the game. From this first set piece the Hatters took the lead and Woking again fell victim to a set piece. The corner was played in from the right by Howells for Kovacs to lose his marker and rise to glance the ball home into the far corner of Howe’s net.

Two further Luton corners followed in quick succession before Gray, chasing down a long Luton clearance, clashed with Doyle. Despite the howls of protest from the Luton fans referee Mr Johnson, who had an excellent game himself, waved play on much to the relief of the Woking contingent.

It was now all one-way traffic as Luton pushed hard for a second goal. Mendy’s fierce, goalbound volley from the edge of the box was deflected away, Gray was denied by a Ricketts's challenge in the box and Gray again was on hand to set up Fleetwood but Adam Doyle averted the danger with an excellent tackle.

A second goal was coming and it was that man Gray who set up the opportunity after thirty-seven minutes. He beat McNerney on the left and his subsequent cross was palmed out by Howe but straight to Jon Shaw, who made no mistake, returning the ball with interest and into the far corner of the Woking net.

Two minutes later Woking had their first effort on goal but it was a weak effort from McCallum after he had broken away following Aaron Howe’s punched clearance. McCallum ran half the length of the pitch but with limited support his shot was straight at keeper Tyler.

Half-time: Luton Town 2 Woking 0

Woking started the second period brightly and after five minutes won their first corner of the game. That opportunity was cleared easily as the Cards again struggled to carve out any clear-cut chances.

A Luton corner following a dangerous run from Gray saw Aingee rise to head goalwards in a crowded penalty area but Howe was able to tip the effort over the bar. Immediately afterwards a great ball, whipped in from the right, was headed just wide by a stooping Gray. The forward was again close after he controlled a ball into the Woking box on his chest with his back to goal. He turned to fire straight at Howe but the Hatters were again looking likely to increase their advantage.

On sixty-five minutes, Fleetwood was almost in on goal after the Cards’ defence was caught out by a headed Luton clearance. From a tight angle the Luton striker fired past the near post.

Garry Hill now decided to make a change. With Jayden Stockley getting little change out of the Luton central defenders, he was replaced by Loick Pires, with Joe McNerney joining him up front. These changes made an instanst impact on the game. Pires played a one-two with McCallum, whose shot was pushed away by Tyler. But McNerney was on hand at the far post to plant the ball back past the keeper and into the net.

With twenty minutes remaining Woking were now back in the game and it was the Hatters who suddenly looked nervous as they defended deeper and deeper in attempting to hold onto their goal advantage. A fierce McNerney shot was charged down with Woking now dominating play.

However, the game was made safe for the hosts on eighty-one minutes. A Gray shot hit Howe’s post and rebounded to Lawless. Surrounded by Woking defenders in the box, he was brought down by Ricketts and Mr Johnson pointed to the spot. Rendell converted the penalty and the Hatters had secured all three points.

A Pires back heel almost opened up an opportunity for Kevin Betsy and a goalbound McNerney header from Nutter’s free-kick wad headed clear. And that was as far as the Cards were able to get in their efforts to secure some form of consolation.

Luton looked a very impressive side on this performance and will provide another tough test for Woking when the reverse fixture is played back at Kingfield on New Year’s Day.

Woking: Aaron Howe, Adam Newton, John Nutter (Mike Cestor 90), Joe McNerney, Adam Doyle, Mark Ricketts (Dean Sinclair 82), Jack Parkinson, Billy Knott, Gavin McCallum, Kevin Betsy, Jayden Stockley (Loick Pires 70)

Unused subs: Brett Johnson, Andy Little

Scorer: Joe McNerney 71

Luton Town: Mark Tyler, Janos Kovacs, Alex Lawless, Jon Shaw, Scott Rendell, Jake Howells, Simon Ainge, Stuart Fleetwood (JJ O’Donnell 82), Arnaud Mendy, Ronnie Henry, Andre Gray (Matt Robinson 90)

Unused subs: Lathaniel Rowe-Turner, Greg Taylor, Dean Brill

Scorers: Janos Kovacs 15; Jon Shaw 37; Scott Rendell 81 (pen)

Attendance: 6744

MOTM: Adam Newton - consistent at the back on his return to his old club, keeping the dangerous Fleetwood quiet for most of the game.

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