Poor defending costs the Cards

Brian Caffarey
8:48am, Wed 25th Oct 2017
Dover Athletic 3 Woking 1
Vanarama National League
24 October 2017

Anthony Limbrick and Jason Goodliffe must be tearing their hair out after more calamitous defending at set pieces sent the Cards crashing to their second successive away defeat. Only five minutes had gone when the Whites’ top scorer, Ryan Bird, poked home from a corner. He added a second on 21 minutes when he was able to profit from a botched attempted clearance from a long throw, side-footing home, unmarked, at the far post. The Cards pulled a goal back early in the second half through Joe Ward but almost immediately conceded again from another corner, Parry arriving unchallenged at the far post to nod down and in. The win moved Dover top of the league while Woking dropped to fifth.

Anthony made three changes from the starting line-up at Bromley, bringing Josh Staunton into the back four to replace Richard Orlu, who wasn’t fit enough to even make the bench, and also starting with Regan Charles-Cook and Inih Effiong in place of the suspended Kane Ferdinand and Jason Banton, who was in the 16 though not apparently fully fit.

On a mild, damp evening the Cards had a great chance to take an early lead when Staunton, left free, headed narrowly wide from a corner. However, Dover quickly threatened, too, with Brundle unleashing a volley from distance, which Nathan Baxter had to help over his bar. It was from the resulting corner that Bird had the simple task of poking home after the ball came to him a couple of yards out; quite how it had managed to evade the Woking defence was a mystery.

Brundle had another attempt from distance in the 11th minute, side-footing just over the bar. Effiong, whose pace and power occasionally caused problems for the home defence, really ought to have equalised shortly afterwards. Put through on the right by Joey Jones, he dragged his shot wide of the far post with only keeper Walker to beat.

Dover continued to look the more dangerous side, playing in the usual Chris Kinnear mode, with pace, aggression and strength and getting the ball forward quickly whenever the opportunity arose. In contrast, Woking played neatly out from the back, often pleasing on the eye, but they were not usually able to get into dangerous areas, attempts to release Ward, Charles-Cook and Effiong usually breaking down, while Philpot was well shackled and rarely able to get into the game.

Alabi headed over from a Lewis cross and Baxter had to make a brave, diving header way out of his area to foil another dangerous home foray. The Cards coped with a couple of corners, the second wasted by Dover fortunately, before being undone in the 21st minute by a Pinnock long throw. Jones (I think it was) got underneath the ball, which skimmed off his head back to Bird, lurking unmarked at the far post. Baxter got a hand to his side-footed shot but couldn’t prevent it hitting the back of the net to make it 2-0 to the home side.

In spite of a good deal of possession and some attractive approach play on occasions, the Cards rarely looked like pulling a goal back in the remainder of the first half. Effiong had a decent run through the middle but shot straight at Walker. Ralph found space down the left on several occasions but decent crosses came to nought. As half-time approached there was a bit more by way of concerted pressure. Chez Isaac had a shot blocked and then Philpot did well to get in front of his marker to meet a Ralph cross but nodded wide of the near post. In added time Effiong and Ward combined in a nice one-two but Walker comfortably fielded the latter’s low drive.

Half-time: Dover Athletic 2 Woking 0

The Cards started the second half with a bit more urgency. Charles-Cook drove forward and shot strongly but Walker again was not really tested, while Effiong bundled his way along the right flank to fire in a potentially dangerous cross.

On 54 minutes a fine move enabled the Cards to pull a goal back. Effiong slid the ball left into the path of the fast-moving Ward, whose acceleration took him past the Dover defence. His first attempt was blocked by Walker but the ball reared up nicely and Ward was able to side-foot into the far corner.

This ought to have been ‘game on’ for Woking but their frailty at set pieces soon scuppered any thoughts of a come-back. First, though, Pinnock went close with a low drive after he picked up a loose ball from a clearance and then Jordan Wynter nearly conceded an own goal as he tried to block Alabi’s cross. The resulting corner was swung to the far post, where Parry arrived unchallenged to head down and in and past Baxter’s despairing dive.

Not surprisingly, the Cards looked somewhat deflated to find themselves two goals adrift again – a deficit which they never looked like recovering. Charles-Cook, always looking to get on the ball, twisting and turning, went on the offensive with a couple of bursts down the right, with Walker surprisingly dropping a deflected cross, the ball being scrambled away before a Woking attacker could benefit.

Declan Appau came on for Joey Jones, who seemed to have a recurrence of a nose bleed. Appau looked strong and eager as Woking tried to create some real momentum. Staunton headed over the bar from a corner and Charles-Cook again shot fiercely, but straight at Walker. As the Cards pressed forward, Dover threatened several times on the counter-attack, with Baxter punching more or less clear on three occasions and Staunton getting in a fine blocking tackle on the edge of the area.

In the 82nd minute Ward, on the right, latched onto a ball over the top from Isaac but couldn’t hook it far enough round his body, as Walker closed in on him, to find the target. With the game now clearly way beyond recovery, the only remaining incident of note occurred when Ward went down as he neared the Dover area, the Dover players feeling that he had dived or at least gone down far too easily.

It is clearly worrying to see five goals conceded in two successive games from free-kicks, corners and a throw-in. Moreover, all the goals were poorly defended, being virtually gifted to the opposition. It was even more frustrating since, last night at least, the defence played pretty well the rest of the time, with both Wynter and Staunton looking composed on the ground and winning a good share of balls in the air. Somehow, too, although there were flashes of good play from Ward, Effiong and Charles-Cook, it never seemed to add up to a coherent team performance. With the unsurprising exception of Effiong, the attack looked lightweight at times, outmuscled by a typically obdurate Dover midfield and defence. The Cards look in danger of flattering to deceive after a laboured win over Concord Rangers and consecutive away defeats and will be anxious to put in a winning display on Saturday against Guiseley, who, under Paul Cox, will be sure to test Woking’s defensive resolve.

Dover Athletic: Mitch Walker, Josh Passley, Femi Ilesanmi, Giancarlo Gallifuocu, Manny Parry, Connor Essam, Mitch Brundle, Mitchell Pinnock, Ryan Bird, James Alabi (Kadell Daniel 58), Paul Lewis

Unused subs: Kane Richards, Loui Fazackerley, Nortei Nortey, Aziz Deen-Conteh

Goals: Ryan Bird 5 and 21, Parry 56

Booked: Ilesanmi, Pinnock, Lewis, Daniel

Woking: Nathan Baxter, Matt Young, Jordan Wynter, Josh Staunton, Nathan Ralph, Joey Jones (Declan Appau 69), Chez Isaac, Joe Ward, Regan Charles-Cook, Jamie Philpot, Inih Effiong

Unused subs: Lazar Stojsavljevic, Fabio Saraiva, Jason Banton, Ryan Mason

Goal: Joe Ward 54

My MOTM: Not an easy choice on a night when no one really shone but Joe Ward’s ability to turn away quickly at pace always seemed to offer the best chance of making an impact.

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