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Impressive Cards topple promotion hopefuls

Phil Batts
12:00am, Wed 27th Feb 2013

Woking 2 Forest Green Rovers 0
Blue Square Bet Premier
26th February 2013

Woking produced one of their best performances of the season to see off high-flying Forest Green Rovers in an entertaining match on a chilly Surrey evening. Missing the skills and energy of Billy Knott and Lee Sawyer in midfield, they nevertheless served up a superb team performance, coupled with plenty of good football, which deservedly saw them take all three points courtesy of second-half goals from Kevin Betsy and Jack Parkinson.

Unsurprisingly, manager Garry Hill chose to stick with the same starting eleven (and substitutes) which carved out a hard-earned victory at Southport three days earlier. Seb Brown, on loan from AFC Wimbledon, made his home debut in goal, with a back four of Adam Newton, Joe McNerney, Brett Johnson and John Nutter. The midfield comprised captain Mark Ricketts, Kevin Betsy, Jack Parkinson and Mike Cestor, with Bradley Bubb and Jayden Stockley up front.

It was pleasing to report that the Kingfield playing surface, which had suffered much over the past few months due to the adverse weather conditions and also having to accommodate the matches of both Woking and temporary ground-sharers Hayes and Yeading, was now starting to show clear signs of recovery, allowing both teams to get the ball down and play, rather than having to rely on a more alien 'route one' approach.

The opening fifteen minutes was a fairly cagey affair as the game settled into a pattern. Forest Green looked slightly the more comfortable team in possession with plenty of good movement off the ball. Woking, for their part, however, were well-organised and working hard to keep their shape and close down the opposition in the danger areas.

As the first half progressed, the Cards began to grow in confidence. Firstly, Bradley Bubb dragged his shot wide from the edge of the area on seventeen minutes following good work from Kevin Betsy. Concise build-up play moments later presented an opening for Mark Ricketts, who finished poorly from just outside the box. Rovers were also having their moments and Seb Brown had to be alert on two occasions to stop efforts from James Norwood.

Woking were now starting to push forward with more confidence but without that little bit of magic around the box to create any clear-cut opportunities. Just after the half-hour, a sweeping move from the home team saw Sam Russell in the opposition goal intercept a cross from Adam Newton and the 'keeper then made a fine save low to his left a few minutes later to deny Betsy. As half-time approached, there was a scare at the other end of the pitch when Newton misjudged a long cross-field ball, allowing a Forest Green attacker to steal in behind him and deliver a dangerous ball across the six-yard area. Fortunately for the home team, there was no Rovers player on hand to convert the opportunity.

Half-time: Woking 0 Forest Green Rovers 0

The first half had been very evenly contested. One wondered, however, whether Woking's hard graft in the opening forty-five minutes and their recent long trips to Barrow and Southport might start to take their toll in the second half against their full-time opponents, who had also had the luxury of having the previous weekend off due to a postponed fixture.

The answer to this question came emphatically on fifty-one minutes as the Cards stormed into the lead. The ball fell to Kevin Betsy on the edge of the area and he took precise aim before smashing the ball into the top right-hand corner of the net for an excellent goal.
This served only to galvanise Forest Green into action as they stormed down the other end where Seb Brown had to be at his most alert to keep out a goal-bound shot from Magno Vieira.

The goal was clearly a confidence boost for the Cards, however as, rather than rest on their laurels, they pushed forward in search of a second goal. Playing simple but effective football, they were starting to dominate proceedings and for the first time in the evening, their opponents seemed to doubt whether they could take anything from their long trip down the M4.

It was no surprise, therefore, when the home team increased their lead in the seventy-eighth minute. Following a Woking corner and an almighty scramble in the Forest Green six-yard box, the ball eventually ended up at the feet of Jack Parkinson on the edge of the area who swivelled and made space for himself before thundering the ball high to the 'keeper's right for another excellent goal.

The second goal clearly took the wind out of the opposition's sails, who battled on but without any real belief that they could get back into the game. With the aid of three late tactical substitutions, the Cards were able to see out the game with little difficulty.

This was a hugely impressive result for Woking against a talented Forest Green Rovers side who may yet make the play-offs. It is difficult to single out individual performances after a victory based on a superb all-round team performance where every player gave 100% effort and commitment. However, special mention has to be made of three players. Firstly Seb Brown, who didn't put a foot wrong in the home goal all evening. Secondly, Kevin Betsy, who scored a fine goal and who was at his best, exhibiting skills worthy of a higher division. Finally, Jayden Stockley, surely having his best game in a Woking shirt and who was a constant thorn in the side of his opponents with excellent hold-up play and boundless energy.

Garry Hill will be purring with delight at this performance. It combined exactly what he likes to see in his team - effort and commitment based around the team ethic, combined with plenty of enterprising football, played on the ground as much as possible. This win lifts the team to ninth in the league with a creditable forty-seven points from thirty-two matches. Next up, two more home fixtures against recently relegated Football League teams Lincoln City and Mansfield Town.

Woking: Seb Brown, Adam Newton, Joe McNerney, Brett Johnson, Mike Cestor (Gavin McCallum 89) Mark Ricketts, Jack Parkinson, Kevin Betsy, John Nutter, Bradley Bubb (George Frith 90), Jayden Stockley (Brett Williams 84)

Unused subs: Elvijs Putnins, Loick Pires

Goals: Kevin Betsy (51), Jack Parkinson (78)

Cautions: Nil

Forest Green Rovers: Sam Russell, Jared Hodgkiss, Chris Stokes, Jamie Turley, Yan Klukowski, Magno Vieira, Matt Taylor, Eddie Oshodi (Lee Fowler 46), Ed Asafu-Adjaye, James Norwood (Yemi Odubade 57), Paul Green (Ben Wright 74)

Unused subs: Omar Koroma, Aaran Racine
Cautions: Eddie Oshodi (43)

Attendance: 1105

Sponsor's MOTM: Joe McNerney - a fine game at the heart of the Cards' defence

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