Cards Grounded As Concord Leave It Late

Dan Stobbart
12:00am, Sat 8th Sep 2018
Concord Rangers 1 Woking 1
Vanarama National League South
8th September 2018

Following last week's hard-fought home victory against Billericay Town, another stern test from Essex faced the Cards this week in the shape of Concord Rangers. The 'Beach Boys' had made a strong start to the season and despite a couple of poor results in the last couple of weeks, they were still in a play-off spot ahead of kick off. For the Cards, the trip will bring back good memories of victory here in the FA cup last season as Charlie Carter notched home late in extra time.

In a competitive contest from the outset, Woking had the better of the first half, and went into the break a goal ahead, Greg Luer opening his Woking account with a tap in from close range. Concord were more determined in the second half and had the better of it, snatching a point with a late equaliser from former Card Billy Knott. Duane Ofori-Acheampong didn't help the Woking cause by being sent off not long after coming on for two yellow cards in the space of a minute for time wasting and dissent.

Both teams entered to the emphatic 'Insomnia' by Faithless, but as one home fan remarked behind me, not coming out to a Beach Boys record is surely an opportunity missed? The backdrop to the Aspect Arena was cloudy overhead but with enough blue sky and sunshine coming through to form a dry, warm afternoon. Backed by a good away following and in good voice, Woking were unchanged from the victory last week, lining up in the same 4-2-3-1 formation. In addition to Knott, Concord’s squad included former cards Sam Beasant and Frazer Shaw and a number of ‘refugees’ from Leatherhead.

A pattern of both teams looking for joy from searching balls from midfield quickly emerged, with an eagerness to counter at pace when the opportunity presented itself. Woking had some of their best chances inside the opening quarter of an hour. A long ball from Jack Cook found Max Kretzschmar on the attacking right, his cross found Luer who headed against the marking defender and won a corner. The resulting ball-in nearly produced an own goal as a trailing foot diverted the ball toward goal, but instead trickled wide for another corner. On 8 minutes Concord created their best chance of the half following a corner kick, after being initially cleared Aron Pollock struck on the volley just outside the box but it was a comfortable pace and save for Berti Schotterl.

Paul Hodges was at the heart of most of Woking's attacking play, making headway through the middle of the park with good close control and tenacity and having a shot blocked, which inadvertently tee'd up the industrious Armani Little to blaze over from 25 yards out. Hodges was at it again through the centre, teeing up Nicky Wheeler whose low effort from the left came back off the near post, and back to Hodges who then shot over. Hodges turned provider for Luer who flicked on for Kretzschmar, who had his shot blocked. Along with Hodges, Josh Casey and Wheeler were getting success down the left side and it spawned a couple of decent chances for Woking around the 20 minute mark. Luer dropped a bit deeper, flicking the ball on nicely for Wheeler who did really well to keep the ball in play, and dug out a cross for Kretzschmar to head on target but straight at keeper Beasant. Casey then fed Luer who again held up and flicked on effectively, but put too much on the ball for the chasing Wheeler to catch, Beasant just winning the race to claim it.

Concord started to show frustration, Shaw receiving a talking to from the referee following a firm tackle on Kretzschmar, before Sam Blackman picked up the first yellow card of the game on 26 minutes for a late challenge on the halfway line. On 29 minutes Woking broke the deadlock, Josh Casey burst down the left channel and found Wheeler, who stood up a ball to the back stick for Kretzschmar to nod back across, and with the goalkeeper having committed himself, Luer tapped into an open net, sending the travelling fans behind the goal wild.

Beasant 'wrong-footed' as Greg Luer finally opens his Woking account; pic: David Holmes

Knott started to become more effective for Concord as the game wore on; he put a few troubling balls into the box which Khinda-John and Cook managed to deal with, the former fortunate to not be penalised for a shove in the back. An offside decision broke up the spell of pressure and Casey had to leave the field to receive treatment for a knock on the face. Concord then made the first substitution of the game on 37 minutes for what looked like a possible injury, Jed Smith replacing Sean Clohessy.

Towards half-time Hodges was again in the thick of the action; he was physically targeted by Concord and was unfortunate not to win a couple of free kicks in dangerous areas. He found Kretzschmar on the right who passed to Luer who - despite adjusting his neck well to generate power - sent a header over the bar. Wheeler showed trickery on the left, sending another cross in moments after, but easily caught by the keeper. Khinda-John was again fortunate not concede a penalty after another shove, this time on Midson.

Half-time: Concord Rangers 0 Woking 1

Woking kicked off the second half but it appeared that Moore had gotten into his players at half time, as Concord had Woking pegged back into their own half for the opening 5 minutes. A good ball in from Knott was headed over by Jack Midson, and served as a warning shot to the cards. When Woking did finally get out their half they put together the best passing move of the match, patient, measured build up play driven by Casey and Little, ultimately leading to a corner. Played quickly and short, Hodges had a shot blocked at the near post.

Concord continued to push harder, winning the second balls, still seemingly targeting Hodges yet drawing niggly fouls from Ferdinand and Little, Luer being pulled back increasingly deeper. The front two of Midson and Wall stretched the Woking back line and forcing them into rushed clearances. Just shy of the hour mark, a powerful long throw from Jed Smith managed to get through the box from the right hand side with Wall getting contact from a few yards out but somehow guiding up and over the bar. Lee Minshull put a long ball over the top for Midson which asked another question of the defence, before Pollock put a great cross into Midson from the right channel and remarkably, with a sizeable amount of net gaping, he headed wide. On 65 minutes Adam Topley replaced Blackman for Concord.

In response, Dowse opted to bring on Duane Ofori-Acheampong on 68 minutes. Within a few minutes an opening looked on for Woking as Kretzschmar was released through midfield, Ofori-Acheampong in a good position further forward, but Kretzschmar's through ball lacked accuracy and was intercepted. On 79 minutes the change suddenly turned costly for Woking as Ofori-Acheampong received two yellow cards within the space of a minute. With a free kick having been awarded to Concord in their own half, Ofori-Acheampong kicked the ball away and took time to retreat from the incident. Upset by the award of the yellow, something untoward must have been directed at the referee who then brandished a second yellow and red.

Concord kept advancing in stronger waves. Midson and Wall were causing the back line many problems, switching channels, reacting well on effective balls driven in, particularly from Knott and Popo. Knott went close with a half volley from just outside the box, the ball spiralling away from the near post, flying just wide. Concord's final change in the 80th minute saw Ryan Hayes came on for Tosan Popo. The sub was immediately effective, pinging balls into the box which Wheeler and Cook managing to deal with them. In dealing with another ball in, Wheeler was fouled inside the six-yard box and Woking breathed a sigh of relief as a sure tap-in to an empty net awaited had the whistle not been blown. Midson got a shot away from the left corner of the area, saved well by Berti. Looking to close the game out, Dowse replaced Wheeler with Charlie Wassmer, the much touted centre half making his first appearance for the club. The final substitution came on 90 minutes as Hodges, who was replaced by Reggie Young.

The effort to shore up wasn't quite having the desired effect as Khinda-John was punished for a push in the back 25 yards out which thankfully came to nothing and Berti was cautioned for time wasting, delaying the taking of a goal kick. With 5 minutes added time on, Concord finally broke through, Woking not clearing their lines after a bit of a scramble, Midson touching the ball on to Knott who dispatched a volley low from the edge of the box, averting a few bodies on the way in. Late opportunities for both sides followed after, Minshull was flagged offside for Concord having received a nod back across the area and Little put a ball through for Kretzschmar who was through on goal but just could not trap the ball. Wassmer was frustrated he gave away a free kick 30 odd yards from goal, Berti punched it away. Minshull then hooked it over the bar in the dying seconds.

Prior to the game, a point would have been considered a good result, but the manner of the performance in both halves will leave Cards fans frustrated to have not come away with all three. Unable to capitalise on the better chances and general good play up top in the first half, the lesser resistance to Concord's increased pressure, capped by the ill-disciplined sending off of Ofori-Acheampong, made for a testing second. Dowse will be looking for more composure from his backline and a bit more patience in the middle of the park. With this tricky Essex double bill out the way, the Cards return home next Saturday with an opportunity to get back into the winning habit against newly-promoted Dulwich Hamlet.

Woking:1 Bertl Schotterl, 2 Nathan Collier, 3 Josh Casey (c), 4 Jack Cook, 5 Kiran Khinda-John, 6 Kane Ferdinand, 7 Paul Hodges (16 Young 90'), 8 Armani Little, 9 Greg Luer (17 Ofori-Acheampong 68'), 10 Max Kretzschmar, 11 Nicky Wheeler (12 Wassmer 85')

Unused subs: 5 Daniel Spence, 18 Nicholas Hayes

Goals: Luer 29’

Bookings: Ofori-Acheampong 79’ Schotterl 90’

Sent off: Ofori-Acheampong 79’

Concord Rangers1 Sam Beasant, 2 Sean Clohessy (14 Smith 37'), 3 Frazer Shaw, 4 Aron Pollock, 5 Lee Minshull, 6 Tyrone Sterling, 7 Tosan Popo (15 Hayes 77)', 8 Sam Blackman (17 Topley 73'), 9 Alex Wall, 10 Jack Midson, 11 Billy Knott (c)

Unused subs: 12 Sammy Moore, 16 Danny Green

Goals: Knott 92’

Bookings: Blackman 26’

Referee: Steven Hughes

Attendance: 608

Man of the Match: Paul Hodges. Once again, Woking’s brightest spark, spearheading attacks with his tenacity, close control, deceptive pace through the middle, and often finding a final ball.

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