A goal up but Cards fail to heed counter threat

Adam Leary
12:00am, Tue 23rd Jan 2018
Gateshead 1 Woking 1
Vanarama National League
23rd January 2018

Woking picked up a valuable point on their travels but will, however, have left the North East disappointed not to have come home with the three points their performance vindicated. A stunning shot from Gateshead’s Ben Cox 11 minutes from time set up a potentially nervy finish for the Cards, who deservedly led following a well worked goal from Reece Grego-Cox.

Anthony Limbrick made just the one change from the side which slumped to defeat in Solihull at the weekend; Fabio Saraiva, who toiled out of position at left back, was replaced by the more natural full back talents of Matt Young. The home side was unchanged from an impressive and important win on their travels at Chester, the first time since taking over that Steve Watson had named the same starting line-up in consecutive matches.

The Cards boss made a tweak to the formation adopted on Saturday. Whilst in the West Midlands Woking played with two out and out front men, on Tyneside it was left to Jonny Edwards to shoulder the load as a lone striker, with Grego-Cox, Charlie Carter and Anthony Cook looking to support at every opportunity from midfield. Having the extra man in a midfield five, with Kane Ferdinand and Chez Isaac making up the quintet, made the Cards much more solid and competitive than had been the case at times on Saturday.

The game proved to be fairly uneventful in the first period, the hosts offering little in the way of threat to the Woking rearguard, going some way to illustrating their relatively poor recent home record. As you would expect from two sides sitting level on points in 15th and 16th places in the National League table, there was little to choose between the teams. Woking had the better of the general play, with the three attacking midfielders knocking the ball around confidently and looking to get the ball into the feet of Edwards wherever possible.

After 23 minutes, a fine piece of football from the visitors saw them nearly take the lead. Cook, technically impressive, spread the ball to the right with a delightful ball inside the left back for the on-rushing Grego-Cox, who whipped a fine cross into the box which flew agonisingly across the goal, tantalisingly out of the reach of Edwards.

The best chance of the half fell to the Cards in the two minutes of additional time the officials added on for a clash of heads involving Louis Ramsey. This came after a decent spell of pressure which began with Carter winning a free kick 30 yards from goal. Cook swung the ball in dangerously past the two man wall, before being cleared for a corner to the visitors. Cook’s excellent delivery found Jones at the far post, who headed across goal. His fellow centre back Staunton looked to turn the ball in; his effort was cleared as far as Isaac, whose shot was blocked. The ball scrambled around the box before eventually landing to Carter, who hooked over the bar from inside the six yard box; a great chance spurned for Woking, to the frustration of the away dugout.

The half time whistle blew soon after and Woking could reflect on a good first half display, full of grit and determination, but tinged with frustration about going in on level terms.

Half-time: Gateshead 0 Woking 0

Neither boss made any changes at the break, and Woking started on the front foot, forging early openings through Grego-Cox and Edwards. After 51 minutes, the Cards found the breakthrough their enterprising play deserved. A fine goal it was to, with Anthony Cook winning the ball in midfield, playing the ball to Chez Isaac who delayed his pass and played a lovely ball through to the overlapping Grego-Cox, who drilled his shot into the bottom left hand corner past the keeper Hanford. Grego-Cox will be delighted to open his goalscoring account for Woking, and it was no more than the visitors deserved.

This prompted Gateshead manager, former Newcastle utility man Steve Watson, to make a double change. Fraser Kerr and Lewis McNall replacing Theo Vassell and Jordan Preston, the latter of whom had been well marshalled by Matt Young.

After 61 minutes, the Cards came close to doubling their lead, through what is becoming a signature Cook free kick. Similar to his effort at home to Tranmere, which struck the corner of post and bar, this effort was from fully 35 yards out and was well saved by Hanford.

Gateshead were unable to create any clear cut openings at this stage, however the small but vocal band of travelling supporters would have had their hearts in their mouths when a cross from Scott Barrow was nearly sliced into his own net by otherwise assured skipper Joey Jones.

Woking continued to threaten on the break, and arguably looked the side more likely to score the next goal. Cook and Carter linked up well, the latter’s cross narrowly unable to find Edwards, which was a familiar story on the night, the Cards not quite demonstrating the accurate final ball in the last third of the pitch.

On 79 minutes, the Cards were made to pay for their inability to extend their lead. Unlike in recent matches, it was impossible not to feel hard done by, for this was a goal of high quality that could not be put down to a defensive lapse. Barrow, getting forward well from left back, pulled a cross back to the edge of the penalty area, and Fox struck a superb left foot volley past Baxter, who stood no chance. This goal lifted the home crowd, and the home side, and Woking might have feared the worst with over ten minutes to play.

Pleasingly for Cards fans, and no doubt the coaching staff, the visitors were able to manage the remainder of the game very well, and were rarely threatened, with the exception of Baxter being forced into a good save from a fierce, if speculative shot from Barrow. Limbrick made three substitutions in quick succession. Lazar Stojsavljevic came on for Louis Ramsey, who appeared to pick up a knock. This change was followed by Declan Appau coming on for Chez Isaac, and Grego-Cox earning a deserved round of applause for his goal-scoring display, being replaced by Jason Banton.

The last chance of the match saw Cook and Banton combining well for the Cards, however the shot from the on-loan Ebbsfleet man was easily fielded by Hanford.

Three minutes of added time passed off uneventfully, and Woking will be able to reflect on the long journey back to Surrey of an improved, gutsy display that produced a well-earned point. Fittingly, the effort of the travelling supporters, travelling to Tyneside on a Tuesday night in January, was matched by the men in yellow.

Gateshead: Dan Hanford, Theo Vassell (Fraser Kerr 54), Scott Barrow, Neil Byrne ©, Jamal Fyfield, Wes York, Jordan Burrow, Jordan Preston (Lewis McNall 54), Paddy McLaughlin, Russell Penn, Ben Fox

Subs not used: JJ O’Donnell, Nyal Bell, Iain McLeod

Goals: Fox (80)

Bookings: Byrne

Woking: Nathan Baxter, Louis Ramsey (Lazar Stojsavljevic 85), Joey Jones ©, Josh Staunton, Chez Isaac (Declan Appau 87), Charlie Carter, Reece Grego-Cox (Jason Banton 89), Matt Young, Kane Ferdinand, Anthony Cook, Jonny Edwards

Subs not used: Sam Mason, Fabio Saraiva

Goals: Grego-Cox (52)

Bookings: Ferdinand

Attendance: 470 (14 Away)

Referee: Matthew Diciccio

My MOTM: Anthony Cook. There were creditable performances all round from the visitors, with the back four resolute and the central midfield competitive all night. Cook was at the heart of all of the good things the Cards did as an attacking unit, always looking for the ball and creating opportunities with good delivery from open play and set pieces.

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