Boz's Fruit & Veg

Woking Overpowered by Shaymen

Ben Musgrove
12:00am, Sat 10th Mar 2018
Woking 1 FC Halifax Town 3
Vanarama National League
10th March 2018

In defeat to a well-disciplined and hard-working Halifax Town side, Woking continued to slip slowly down the table on Saturday afternoon, enduring a fourth loss in five games. A brace from the exceptional Matthew Kosylo either side of half time was enough to damn the Cards to defeat, with the Shaymen becoming only the third side after Maidstone and Guiseley to score three at Kingfield this season. A Carter equaliser early in the second half turned out to be little more than consolation, with a late third from debutant Connor Thomson sealing the game late on. With 9 points separating them from the drop zone, and every team below them having at least one game in hand, it remains to be seen whether or not Woking will be dragged into a relegation battle in the final stages of the season.

After an unfortunately tame 2-0 defeat against Sutton United on Tuesday night, Anthony Limbrick was forced into some changes with the absences of Louis Theophanus and Chez Isaac from the side. Joey Jones was moved into the heart of midfield alongside Kane Ferdinand, and Jason Banton made the starting line-up after a short cameo at Gander Green Lane. Halifax, meanwhile, relegated top scorer Tom Denton to the bench in favour of loanee debutant Mike Fondop-Talom, who had been on trial with Chesterfield prior to joining Guiseley at the start of the season.

Early endeavour from the home side saw the Cards create several early chances to go ahead, with winger Anthony Cook teed up for a scuffed half-volley over the KRE within two minutes of kick-off. Halifax looked to press high from the off, aware of Woking’s preference to dominate possession and work the pitch, but took a few minutes to get to grips with the Woking shape; just two minutes later, Reece Grego-Cox evaded the Halifax defence to burst into the channel, only for his cutback to evade the newly re-signed Regan Charles-Cook.

Shortly after, Woking had the wind taken out of their sails somewhat by being forced into an early substitution thanks to a late challenge on Joey Jones. Charlie Carter’s selection as a replacement meant that Woking faced the remainder of the game with an exceptionally attacking midfield; of the five in that area of the pitch, only Kane Ferdinand could be considered more defensive than offensive.

The change saw Woking require some reorganisation, and Halifax began to fashion dangerous half-chances without truly threatening to convert. Kosylo had an early sighter spilled by Nathan Baxter before being cleared, and shortly afterwards Scott McManus was close to finding Will Maher with a floated free-kick from the right wing.

Woking were outshot despite dominating possession in these early stages; Halifax were content to let them pass sideways, pressed the ball hard across the pitch, and weren’t afraid to put their foot in if the Cards threatened to create an opportunity. Ben Tomlinson exemplified this with his booking for a particularly poor foul on Jason Banton that left Woking fans aware of his injury record biting their nails.

As such, the game reached something of an impasse. Banton came the closest either side did to seriously threatening a goal within the opening half an hour with a long-range effort just over the bar, and whilst Baxter had to rush from his goal to punch away a Tomlinson cross, Halifax seemed happy to absorb the occasional Woking bout of pressure and wait for their chances.

Just after the half-hour mark, this approach paid off. A quick Halifax break released Kosylo rushing into the box, and the midfielder was happy to clatter himself into the leg of Richard Orlu, throwing himself down in what referee considered a clear penalty. Extensive protest from Orlu was futile; Kosylo picked himself from the turf to take the spot-kick, and smashed an unsaveable effort into Baxter’s top left corner.

Woking’s response was full of effort and bluster, creating chances with an increased intensity as the Shaymen looked to hold until half-time. Banton fired a shot straight at Sam Johnson just minutes after the Cards fell behind, and Woking’s best chance of the game came after a whipped Cook free-kick from the left caused mayhem in the box. With Johnson beaten and out of position, the goalmouth scramble could’ve gone anywhere, but was cleared despite shout for a handball by a Halifax defender.

Further pressure unfortunately failed to tell; Charles-Cook rifled an effort into the side netting, and just moments before half time, Anthony Cook forced a phenomenal save from Johnson with a half-volley that seemed destined for the corner. As too often this season, though, Woking had found their organisation and endeavour after falling behind, having used their dominance in possession to little effect against hard-working opposition. Whilst it seemed that the Cards had a goal in them, they had to do it the hard way.

Half time: Woking 0 Halifax Town 1

The second half saw no changes from either side, with both happy that elements of their game-plan had served them well. Halifax looked to keep the game tight and press Woking into mistakes high up the field, whilst the home side felt confident that they had the goals in them to turn the game around.

Just five minutes after kick-off, this latter conviction seemed validated. Excellent work from Banton down the left saw the winger roll the ball across to Charles-Cook on the edge of the box, and the Charlton loanee smashed a shot at goal that fell kindly to the feet of Carter, who was able to tap the ball into a relatively unguarded goal from close range. It was the perfect start for the home side.

The goal palpably shifted the momentum of the game, and Woking pressed forward with a renewed sense of purpose. Three consecutive corners from Nathan Ralph saw Halifax eventually manage to nervously clear their lines, and shortly afterwards Woking fans were surprised and pleased to see centre-back Josh Staunton trade two one-two passes through the middle of the pitch, travelling twenty yards before winning a free kick. Head were up, and it seemed that Woking could score if only they were able to find a quality ball in the final third.

As they pressed with an especially attacking midfield, however, they were open to direct Halifax counters, and the Shaymen looked dangerous on the break as the game went on. Orlu found himself caught on his heels by a long ball over the top of the defence on the hour mark, and was lucky that Tomlinson was called offside, with the forward bursting through one on one. Shortly after the Cards failed to close down substitute Raheem Hanley, who fizzed an effort across goal.

Just two minutes later, the gaps in defence told, in a particularly painful manner for Woking. With the Cards fail to deal with quick passing in midfield, a long searching ball for Kosylo managed to evade both Orlu and Ralph, who were happy to let the ball bounce rather than asserting themselves on the situation. Kosylo was the beneficiary, and his finish was admittedly fantastic, smashing a bouncing half-volley across Baxter and into the top corner. It was the second time in the game, however, that Woking had failed to make their pressure tell, and they’d been punished for defensive lapses as a result.

The goal seemed to take the wind from the sails of the Cards, and they fell into something of a lull, with Halifax happy to defend their tentative attacks. The introduction of Johnathan Edwards for Banton did little to refresh the attack, and indeed Kosylo could have had a hattrick if it wasn’t for a strong save from Baxter.

The home crowd weren’t entirely sure what it would take to wake Woking up as the game pressed on; as it turns out, what it would take would be to kill the game off. With the Cards stretched wide across the pitch, Halifax broke yet again, with Hanley on the left fizzing a superb pass out to right-back Michael Duckworth on the opposite wing, and former Hartlepool man serving the ball on a plate to substitute Thomson in the air. The new signing nodded a well-placed header low past Baxter to seal the game, and a chorus of boos rang across Kingfield in response.

Suddenly, with Halifax dropping off and the game seemingly lost, Woking found new impetus. Charles-Cook and Carter both had well-hit efforts saved by Johnson, and crosses from Ralph and substitute Fabio Saraiva were unlucky not to find their targets. Despite their intent, the well-disciplined Halifax defence forced the Cards to shoot from range; Charles-Cook and Saraiva both hit long-range efforts over the bar, and with just a minute remaining Woking were forced to go long-ball into the box, seeing Grego-Cox flash a header wide.

Ultimately, it was too little too late. There was further booing at full-time from dissatisfied fans, but there was also a sense of boredom, or even apathy. The pattern of the game had played out several times over the course of the season, and Woking now need to find something fresh from somewhere for an extremely tough game against a Wrexham side well-known for their exceptional defensive capabilities.

The game also followed a worrying trend of losing to lower-placed sides in the relegation fight; Woking have lost to Guiseley, Solihull Moors, Barrow, and Hartlepool this season, all of whom are closer to the drop than the Cards. Were it not for the exceptional form of the opening months of the season, Woking would now be staring down the barrel.

Woking: Nathan Baxter, Matt Young, Nathan Ralph, Josh Staunton, Richard Orlu, Joey Jones (Carter 6), Kane Ferdinand, Jason Banton (Jonathan Edwards 72), Anthony Cook (Saraiva 81), Regan Charles-Cook, Reece Grego-Cox

Unused subs: Sam Mason, Jordan Wynter

Goals: Carter 50

Bookings: Ferdinand 53, Ralph 54

Halifax Town: Sam Johnson, Matty Brown, Scott McManus, Jake Hibbs (Hanley 61), Michael Duckworth, Niall Maher, Nathan Hotte, Michael Collins, Matthew Kosylo (Oliver 86), Ben Tomlinson, Mike Fondop-Talom (Connor Thomson 73)

Unused subs: Tom Denton, Tom Nicholson

Goals: Kosylo 33 pen, 66, Thomson 80

Bookings: Tomlinson 14, Collins 37,

Referee: Adam Penwell

Attendance: 1,619

Sponsor’s Man of the Match: Kane Ferdinand

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