MKJ Group

Four in a row for confident Cards

Martin Townshend
10:55am, Sun 10th Feb 2013
Alfreton Town 0 Woking 3
Blue Square Bet Premier
9th February 2013

Woking edged ever closer to Garry Hill’s 50-point target with an accomplished victory at out-of-sorts Alfreton thanks to an impressive second-half performance.

Aiming to make it six wins in the last seven league fixtures, the Cards lined up on a chilly afternoon in Derbyshire with just one change from the side that defeated Hyde last weekend, with Jayden Stockley dropping to the bench to make way for the returning Adam Newton. Joe McNerney took the role of target man up front, although it proved to be a mostly frustrating afternoon for the big number five, who spent most of the time wrestling with his Alfreton marker.

On a pitch looking distinctly healthier than Kingfield’s, it was the home side who started the brighter of the two sides, belying their current run of poor form and taking the game to the visitors. In fact, the Reds could have gone ahead with just four minutes on the clock. After Mark Ricketts conceded a foul outside the Woking box Josh Law floated a free-kick into the heart of the penalty area and Darran Kempson rose high above the Cards’ defence to steer his header wide of Aaron Howe, only for the ball to crash against the bar before being put behind, the subsequent corner being easily cleared.

Next to have a go was Nathan Arnold, his deflected 25-yard strike looking initially as though it would wrongfoot Howe before the Woking ‘keeper recovered to push the ball to safety. Howe was in action minutes later, this time diving to turn Scott Boden’s low drive around his near post for another corner after the Alfreton forward managed to turn away from John Nutter.

It was Nutter who had Woking’s first attempt on goal. After McNerney won a free-kick just outside the area, the defender curled the ball over the Alfreton wall only to be thwarted by the flying Phil Barnes, who tipped the ball away at the expense of a corner.

Alfreton on the whole were continuing to look the more threatening, Brett Johnson (pictured) blocking another long-range effort, this time from Matthew Harriott, to give away another corner, and with 22 minutes gone it looked as though a turning point might have arrived, albeit a rather worrying one for the Cards.

Whilst securely collecting a deep Law free-kick under pressure Aaron Howe collided with an Alfreton player and landed heavily. With the injured stopper leaving the field cradling his right arm, Elvijs Putnins was called off the bench to make his league debut.

If the home fans thought this might tip the odds in their favour they were to be sorely disappointed, as Putnins’ appearance seemed to coincide with a loss of momentum from the Reds, as they failed to create any further chances until the 34th minute, when Harriot’s well-struck volley from the edge of the penalty area dropped just over the bar without needing any intervention from the Latvian stopper.

With the half coming to an end there was a brief flurry of chances, Bradley Bubb signalling Woking’s intent after escaping the home defence but failing to trouble Barnes as he fired wide, before Boden collected a long ball from Leigh Franks at the other end and his powerful shot was deflected by Johnson for yet another Alfreton corner.

Following a brief interlude whilst Lee Sawyer talked himself into the referee's book, Kevin Betsy did manage to sting Barnes’s fingers after being played through the home defence by McNerney. From the resulting corner, Jack Parkinson had what proved to be the final chance of the half, his header failing to make it through a packed goalmouth, with no-one able to follow up as the ball bobbled around in the box before being cleared.

Half-time: Alfreton Town 0 Woking 0

The second half began in much the same way as the first, with Alfreton taking the initiative and, except in the final third of the pitch, looking more creative than their opponents.

Moments after the restart Harriot fired another 20-yarder wide as Putnins remained untroubled before, with the Cards beginning to look more purposeful, Bradley Bubb and Alfreton’s Dan Bradley were booked after exchanging handbags near the centre of the pitch.

Betsy had his second chance to open the scoring after 58 minutes, playing a one-two with Billy Knott after dispossessing Nathan Arnold on the half-way line, and advancing into the area only to scoop his effort and allow a relieved Barnes to make the save.

At the other end Parkinson blocked a drive from Clayton in the Woking area, leading to another bout of pinball in the box before the ball was finally cleared. Woking, however, resumed the offensive with Knott’s low angled effort being saved by Barnes, before the impressive stopper made a remarkable double save to deny first Knott and then McNerney from close range.

The breakthrough finally came shortly afterwards, Bubb picking up the ball inside the Alfreton box and poking it under Barnes from 6 yards to make it 1-0 to the Cards. Bubb had the chance to extend the lead moments later, but could only steer his shot wide after picking up a header forward.

The home side’s efforts were becoming more sporadic and mainly from long-range, as Putnins continued to look comfortable in the Woking goal, confidently collecting crosses but not having a real shot to save. He should have been tested after a 72nd minute Law corner was headed back across the goal by Franks, but Nathan Arnold failed to get his header on target after climbing well to connect and the ball drifted over the angle and behind.

Woking showed their effective counter-attacking ability by immediately heading to the other end and doubling their lead, Bubb rounding Barnes and playing the ball low across the face of the goal for Betsy to make it 2-0 from close range.

Alfreton tried to shuffle things with some substitutions, but made little headway against an efficient Woking defence and were increasingly resorting to the long ball forward, much to the annoyance of the crowd and, with McCallum now on for Sawyer, it was still the visitors who were looking more likely to score.

Which is precisely what they did after 83 minutes, although with a piece of generosity reminiscent of the Cards’ early season defensive frailty, as Leigh Franks was caught in possession on the edge of the area by Knott as he tried to take the ball out of defence, the Cards’ man of the moment firing low into the far corner to make it 3-0.

Putnins was finally called into action to comfortably collect another long-range shot as the temperature continued to drop, and that was much the end of proceedings as the Cards comfortably played out the remaining time to notch their fourth, and largest, away win of the season and fourth win in a row.

Another welcome three points then and a good performance to boot (although, slightly disappointingly, no further progress up the table). Newport will almost certainly provide much sterner opposition next weekend, but on current form they will not be relishing a trip to Kingfield and the potential to complete the double over the Exiles is certainly there.

Woking: Aaron Howe (Elvijs Putnins 25), Adam Newton, Mark Ricketts, Joe McNerney, Jack Parkinson, Bradley Bubb (Jayden Stockley 85), Kevin Betsy, Lee Sawyer (Gavin McCallum 81), Brett Johnson, Billy Knott, John Nutter

Unused subs: Mike Cestor, Brett Williams

Cautions: Lee Sawyer 43, Bradley Bubb 51, Billy Knott 64

Alfreton Town: Phil Barnes, Josh Law (Daniel Meadows 74), Connor Franklin, Darran Kempson, Paul Clayton, Dan Bradley (Louie Soares 73), Nathan Arnold, Leigh Franks, Scott Boden (Steven Hewitt 80), Matty Harriot, Theo Streete

Unused subs: Ashley Worsfold, Ben Tomlinson

Cautions: Dan Bradley 51, Leigh Franks 64

Attendance: 606

MOTM: Brett Johnson. A solid performance in an impressive Woking defence.

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