Cards' Corner Chaos

Josh Stedman
12:00am, Wed 25th Sep 2013
Woking 0 Luton Town 4
Skrill Premier
24th September 2013

The Cards slumped to a four-nil defeat at the hands of Luton Town on Tuesday night. Three first half goals, all from corners, and another from open play in the second half, meant that Woking’s poor form continued and that they now move into the relegation zone.

Although the Cards conceded four at home for the second time this season, for the opening period of the game Garry Hill’s side worked hard and showed brief glimpses that they were up for the fight. The physicality of Darren Murphy in particular, a new recruit previously with Stevenage, helped the home side win more in the air. In fact, around twenty minutes in, a mistake from Luton centre-half Steve McNulty left top goalscorer Gavin Williams one-on-one with the keeper. Had he placed his shot more precisely, Woking would have taken the lead but Mark Tyler spread himself well to make a good save.

It was a miss that would be rued as in the 29th minute Luton capitalised with a headed goal from Mark Cullen. A routine corner kick, which really should have been cleared at the near post, was fired in low and Cullen’s flicked header, from within the six yard box, beat Beasant completely. It was a careless goal to concede but the Cards didn’t learn from the mistake.

The response at first seemed bright. Sole threatened to cause trouble in the Luton box, with a half-hearted chorus willing for a penalty when he was bundled off the ball. Betsy managed to deliver some crosses from the right wing but all were gathered up by Luton keeper Tyler. Sadly, with Woking’s brief pressure paying no dividends it only took five more minutes for the score-line to double.

Again, a Luton corner was not dealt with properly. This time the ball was played short and a lack of pressure gave them plenty of time to control and deliver a cross to the far post. Andy Parry leapt unopposed and headed downward towards goal, the ball bouncing past a helpless Beasant.

At two-nil down the Cards needed to dig deep and for the next ten minutes it seemed as though they might be able to wrestle their way back into contention. Short spells of possession earned the side a corner kick which was headed clear and a Sole shot was then deflected towards goal, only to be parried wide.

Just as it seemed Woking were going to see things out till half-time and regroup, a lacklustre pass gifted Luton possession high up the pitch and a blocked cross meant the ball was once again at the corner. The initial delivery was headed away but a sloppy header back into the centre of the pitch gave possession straight back to Luton, who were able to get the ball wide and whip a second cross into the box. Cullen beat his marker to the ball and headed into the top corner of the net to make it three for the visitors.

Half Time: Woking 0 Luton Town 3

The second half began with a flurry of Luton free-kicks inside the Woking half. Thankfully, some were headed away, but all too many were not met with a dominant defensive header. At times chaos reigned with pinball defending causing frenzy.

A missed header saw striker Andre Gray fire over for Luton in the 54th minute. Despite an improvement in intensity from Woking, no chances were being created, and Luton posed a regular threat.

The sixty minute mark saw the game’s first substitution with Gez Sole being replaced by Anthony McNamee. This change meant Betsy moved into a forward position and McNamee filled his spot on the right. The lack of forward options in the squad meant that the Cards effectively had two midfield players playing as a front two.

Five minutes later Hill made another change with John Goddard replacing Murphy in the centre of midfield. Murphy had looked impressive in the early stages but his lack of match fitness meant that his impact on the game faded as the minutes ticked by. Goddard provided an added element of creativity, but couldn’t change his side’s fortunes in a midfield which was finding it increasingly difficult to compete with their confident opponents.

Shortly after the changes, a sloppy pass from Mark Ricketts found a blue shirt. After moving the ball quickly across the pitch a space opened up in the middle from which a well-timed ball was slotted through a gap in the defence to put Gray through. Finishing calmly, the game was even further out of reach than it had been before.

George Frith replaced a tired Williams in the 76th minute. From the brief time he had on the pitch, a tidy pass and turn gave the impression that he could be relied upon in future games. Williams was deserving of praise for the way he ran the line for the Cards in an unfamiliar position.

With the game petering out, Luton made their changes with three substitutions in quick succession.

The announcement of four minutes added time was met by a universal groan from the fans in the Leslie Gosden Stand. The added time only benefited the visiting Luton fans who by this point were cheering every pass. A moment of madness in the dying seconds nearly saw them grab a fifth goal but a burst of shots was cleared.

Garry Hill apologised for the side’s performance levels in the matchday programme but on today's evidence the corner has not yet been turned, although it has to be said that the Cards will not meet many better teams this season. Woking clearly missed the physicality of Scott Rendell up front on the night, his absence due to a clause preventing the on-loan player turning out against his parent club. The constant tweaking of the back four is doing little to add stability either. Garry Hill remained in a positive mood in his post-match interview, however, so let us hope that this permeates through to the players when they take on high-flying Nuneaton at Kingfield this coming Saturday.

Woking: Sam Beasant, Mark Ricketts, Jack Parkinson, Joe McNerney, John Nutter, Kevin Betsy, Darren Murphy (John Goddard 65), Josh Payne, Mike Cestor, Gavin Williams (George Frith 76), Giuseppe Sole (Anthony McNamee 62)

Unused Subs: Aaron Howe, Niall Wright

Cautions: Joe McNerney 76, Mike Cestor 88

Luton: Mark Tyler, Jonathan Smith, Steve McNulty, Scott Griffiths, Jake Howells (JJ O’Donnell 84), Andy Parry, Luke Guttridge (Shaun Whalley 86), Ronnie Henry, Andre Gray (Zane Banton 85), Mark Cullen, Alex Lacey

Unused Subs: Elliot Justham, Solomon Taiwo

Goals: Mark Cullen 29, 45, Andy Parry 35, Andre Gray 70

Sponsor's MOTM: Joe McNerney

Attendance: 1,955

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