Cards make disappointing Trophy exit

Brian Caffarey
8:05am, Sun 28th Feb 2016
Grimsby Town 2 Woking 0
FA Trophy Quarter-Final
27 February 2016

The Cards’ hopes of reaching the Trophy Final were extinguished all too easily by a slick Grimsby side. Woking started brightly but faded after conceding in the 10th minute, thereafter rarely looking as though they could trouble the home side. The Mariners scored a second before half-time and cruised through the second half, with their keeper not having a save of note to make the whole game.

As expected, Garry Hill made a number of changes from the side which was beaten 3-1 in the league fixture earlier in the week at Blundell Park. Jake Cole returned in goal. Cameron Norman and Chris Arthur filled the right and left back positions. Mark Ricketts returned, but to partner Joey Jones at centre back, while Godfrey Poku, who had impressed in midweek, retained his place in the centre of midfield alongside Keiran Murtagh and Matt Butcher, making his debut on loan from Bournemouth. Bruno Andrade and John Goddard filled the wide positions, with Giuseppe Sole up front. Most fans had probably expected Joe Quigley to start but when he came on as a substitute in the second half he looked below par, perhaps not having fully recovered from his recent illness.

The postponement of Grimsby Town’s game against Aldershot Town, scheduled for Tuesday night, had perhaps encouraged Paul Hurst, Grimsby’s manager, to put out a full-strength side.

The Cards started well, with Butcher immediately impressing with a surge forward, feeding Murtagh, who in turn slipped the ball on to Goddard, but the Cards’ top scorer lost control of it on the edge of the area. More encouragement followed as Goddard and Sole combined sweetly. A corner ensued as Woking continued to apply some early pressure, with Sole shooting from distance but well over the bar.

But, in the 10th minute, in what was Grimsby’s first real attack, the Cards found themselves 1-0 down, conceding yet another poor goal. Norman was unable to cut out the initial deep cross or the low ball fired across the box, which went all the way through to the unmarked Nathan Arnold, who slotted home.

The Cards seemed to be visibly deflated by this goal, perhaps feeling ‘here we go again’ after midweek’s even earlier reverse, whilst the Mariners eased into a good rhythm, making space, using the ball intelligently and dealing almost nonchalantly with Woking’s attempted attacks. Gez Sole soon looked an isolated figure in an unequal battle with Grimsby’s central defenders, who had little difficulty in beating him in the air and in outmuscling him or crowding him out on the ground.

In the 22nd minute Woking gained a free-kick in the sort of position from which Sole has scored so many memorable goals but this effort flew high over the bar. A second free-kick was equally unproductive as the ball was chipped forward to Murtagh but, with the ball lacking any pace, he could do no more than help it on its way for a goal-kick.

Shaun Pearson headed wide after Woking had failed to clear their lines and then a quick ball forward from Arthur saw Sole go briefly clear of his markers. But with the ball coming down awkwardly over his shoulder there was time for two defenders to usher the ball to safety.

Grimsby returned to the attack as Arnold slid in to meet a cross from Woking’s right, stabbing the ball narrowly wide. However, the next attack produced the Mariners’ decisive second goal. Jon Nolan left Murtagh in his wake as he surged forward from midfield, sliding the ball to Arnold. Cole got a hand to his shot, which seemed to bobble in front of him, but he could not prevent it reaching its target.

At 2-0 down Woking had a mountain to climb and, for a short while, it looked as though Andrade might lead a fight back as he took on Grimsby’s defenders but without being able to put in a really telling cross. On the stroke of half-time Butcher, who looked skilful on the ball, worked a good opening on the left and crossed superbly but Sole, under the bar, could not get over the ball and his header went harmlessly over.

Half-time: Grimsby Town 2 Woking 0

As the second half started the Cards seemed to be enjoying more possession but without looking as though they could inflict any damage. Little progress was made in getting to the byline and the Grimsby defence dealt comfortably with any crosses launched from deep. A flurry in the box in the 52nd minute, after Jones had headed down to Murtagh, raised hopes but Sole was unable to bundle the ball goalwards. Quigley then came on to replace Murtagh.

Jones went perilously close to putting the ball in his own net as he lunged to cut out a dangerous cross from Jon Paul Pittman. Arthur then went on a powerful run – his first and last of the game – as he tore into the box but, perhaps unluckily, was adjudged to have fouled the covering defender. Butcher spread a fine ball wide to Goddard but he seemed to lose his footing and the chance was gone.

After that brief flurry Grimsby resumed their firm control of the game. Garry Hill tried to change things by bringing on the more attack-minded Matt Robinson for the busy Poku but, almost as soon as the change had been made, Ricketts went down injured with what looked like a badly gashed shin and had to be replaced by Joe Robinson.

Although there was no lack of effort from the Cards, no one seemed to be able to lift the side to a rousing finish, with the side looking pedestrian in comparison with the home side’s quick, incisive moves. There were, however, a couple of moments when it looked as though the Cards might just grab a goal back. In the 77th minute Arthur picked up an over-hit cross from Norman and fizzed a low cross right across the face of the Grimsby goal but no one could apply the finishing touch. And, in the 84th minute, Goddard, fed by Arthur, worked his way into the left of the area but passed up an opportunity to shoot and was then crowded out as he tried to beat another defender.

Grimsby should have added a third goal just before that as Andy Monkhouse had an air shot at Arnold’s cut-back, with Padraig Amond then curling the ball just wide.

In the 89th minute there were some, perhaps understandably ironic, cheers from the disappointed
away fans when the Grimsby keeper finally had a shot to save, albeit a fairly tame effort from Goddard on his weaker foot.

With five minutes added as a result of Ricketts’s injury, Woking pressed forward in search of a consolation goal but the final action saw Goddard’s free-kick blocked by a defensive wall.

This was a disappointing performance from the Cards even allowing for the fact that they were up against a very capable side away from home. The Grimsby keeper had virtually nothing to do all game, with Woking looking toothless and predictable going forward. At the back Jones and Ricketts did well to shackle the league’s top scorer, Amond, but the Cards looked vulnerable down the flanks. Butcher, clearly talented, shone on the ball but was not in the game enough to influence its course decisively. Perhaps the biggest disappointment was that there was not enough sense of a passionate desire to give it a real ‘go’ and to try to reach a Trophy Final even against the odds.

Grimsby Town: James McKeown, Richard Tait, Shaun Pearson, Josh Gowling, Craig Disley, Padraig Amond, Andy Monkhouse (Gregor Robertson 88), Jon Paul Pittman, Nathan Arnold, Jon Nolan, Evan Horwood

Unused subs: Omar Bogle, Craig Clay, Aristote Nsiala, Anthony Straker

Goals: Nathan Arnold, 10 and 35

Woking: Jake Cole, Cameron Norman, Joey Jones, Mark Ricketts (Joe Robinson 70), Chris Arthur, Bruno Andrade, Keiran Murtagh (Joe Quigley 54), Godfrey Poku (Matt Robinson 67), Matt Butcher, John Goddard, Giuseppe Sole

Unused subs: Jake Caprice, Nick Hamann

My MOTM: Joey Jones (pictured)

Attendance: 1675 (69 away fans)

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