Wealdstone raided and Cards come away with all the points

John Pearce
12:00am, Tue 23rd Mar 2021
Wealdstone 0 Woking 1
Vanarama National League
23rd March 2021

‘You’ve got no fans’.‘Nor have you’. On a clear, dry and cold night, in front of the all-too-familiar deserted terraces, Woking finally got the better of the Stones in the last few minutes of this away game, and focussed intently and successfully on avoiding a late equaliser like the one against Alty a week earlier.

It was the proverbial ‘game of two halves’ with the team kicking down the slope dominating each half – Wealdstone in the first, Woking after the interval

There were 5 changes from the Woking starting line-up against Hartlepool 3 days earlier. Craig Ross returned in goal, and Tommy Block came in for the rested Kyran Lofthouse in a rare appearance; Kane Ferdinand and Niko Muir were replaced by Charlie Cooper and Max Kretzschmar. There was a straight ‘Sam Swap’ up front, with the tall Watford loanee Dalby brought in for the absent Ashford for his Cards debut. There was a welcome return for Paul Hodges, who had re-signed on a short term contract from Slough Town, on the bench.

Wealdstone started with much-travelled ex Woking loanee Ross Lafayette up front, and former Card and (briefly) Love Island star Dennon Lewis on the bench.

The Cards kicked off up the slope towards the north-eastern end of the (eccentric, hotch-potch) Grosvenor Vale ground, on a pitch that looked in perfect condition. However, Wealdstone made all of the early running. From an Ashley Charles free kick, in the 4th minute, Jack Cawley half-volleyed the ball over Ross’ bar. Some 60 seconds later, Ben Gerring floored Lafayette 30 yards out; again Charles took the kick and Cawley got a head to it this time but was ruled offside.

On 10 minutes, after being fouled, Casey lofted a long free kick into the Wealdstone box, the ball making contact with a defender and going out for a corner to the right of the goal. There was an immediate and very strong cry of ‘handball’ from the Cards players and Casey remonstrated with the assistant referee who was best positioned to see what happened. ‘Lino, that was terrible’ (with silence from the terraces, one is reminded of how most other on-field exclamations are unprintable).

The Stones gained a corner on their right in the 17th minute, and this was knocked behind by Kretzschmar; the follow-up was headed by a Wealdstone striker into Ross’ safe hands. Woking were then caught offside for at least the 3rd time.

The home side continued to dominate, with Mendy and Bowry particularly effective down the left win. Charles floated in a dangerous corner, which was headed out for a throw-in taken by Okimo. That was, in turn, headed out for another corner which Ross pushed away. A third corner in quick succession resulted in an offside. Casey was injured in the associated melee but soon recovered.

Dalby headed towards goal in the 31st minute from a Kretzschmar free kick on the left, and the Stones keeper Isted just managed to tip over. This was the best chance that came the Cards’ way in the first half, and Dalby’s most notable contribution to the game.

Jarvis picked a long Casey ball and surged into the Stones’ area on the left; he had ‘two bites of the cherry’, his second shot being pushed back out by the keeper and cleared.

Block was making some determined runs down the right, and he secured a throw-in near the corner which was caught by the keeper. A Ross free kick led to Dalby being fouled as he headed with his back to goal; however, Casey’s free kick went out for a corner on the left; this was easily taken by the keeper. Thus ended the first half.

Half-time: Wealdstone 0 Woking 0

Within 2 minutes of the start of the second half, with Wealdstone continuing to apply pressure, Lewis was substituted for Lafayette. He may have been particularly determined to make a point to Woking, and he immediately impressed by heading narrowly over Ross’ bar and – a minute later – picking up the ball close to goal and firing over.

However, the Cards started to establish their presence felt for the first time in the game. On 53 minutes, a ball crossed in from the right was volleyed over by Napa from close quarters. With Woking pressing hard, a corner was won on the right but came to nothing.

On the hour, the Stones’ Connor Smith dangerously broke free just inside the Woking half but play was called back due to a foul; a lucky break for the Cards.

Kretzschmar took the opportunity for a powerful shot on goal from 25 yards out, which was deflected wide for the first of two corners in quick succession.

73 minutes in, Lewis broke free, ran towards goal and shot straight at Ross. He was showing an unfamiliar focus, energy and drive which will have left a fair few Cards fans scratching their heads.

The Stones made their first substitution on 67 minutes, with Daniel Green on for Danny Parish. In turn, Paul Hodges made his return in a Cards shirt, replacing Napa, and immediately came close to scoring as he drove a ball in from Diarra past the post.

Jonte Smith came on for Jarvis, followed by Niko Muir soon after for Dalby, and Woking continued to apply pressure with this new front pair. A Cooper free kick from the centre circle out to Casey on the left was floated into the box where Smith and Isted both rose for the ball, with the keeper winning out.

On 86 minutes, following the Stone’s last substitution, Hodges hit the ball just wide of their goal from close in. A minute later, Kretzschmar found himself with the ball on the left edge of their box, with the keeper come out to challenge him. He lifted the ball over him into a dangerous area; after a bit of a scramble, Moussa Diarra managed to tap the ball in from very close quarters. 0-1 to Woking.

Smith was very much involved in the goal and received words of recognition and great encouragement from his captain as they returned for the kick-off. He impressed with his hard work during his 20 minute spell, competing in the air, receiving and laying off the ball with his back to the goal, and battling near the corner.

In the 5 minutes added on, Woking maintained their discipline and there were few moments where the nerves were frayed as they moved towards securing the win. Not a great game, and the Cards only came to life in the second half, but it was important to get some points in the bag. Of the ‘new’ boys, Dalby saw limited action and I’m sure there is more to come, while Hodges showed familiar glimpses of his ability as an impact sub. The result should build confidence in advance of the vital FA Trophy game at Hereford, but Dowse needs to put his thinking cap on re selection, particularly in the striking department.

Wealdstone 1 Harry Isted, 15 Riley Harbottle, 34 Jack Cawley, 7 Michael Phillips, 14 David Bowry, 6 Jerome Okimo, 4 Ashley Charles, 8 Connor Smith, 17 Jacob Mendy (26 Craig Fasanmade), 14 Danny Parish (10 Daniel Green 67’), 9 Ross Lafayette (11 Dennon Lewis 47’)

Unused subs: 23 Ryan Gondoh, 25 Jake Askew

Goals: None

Bookings: Smith

Woking: 13 Craig Ross, 3 Josh Casey, 5 Ben Gerring, 6 Moussa Diarra, 21 Tommy Block, 4 Charlie Cooper, 18 Ben Dempsey, 10 Max Kretzschmar, 11 Matt Jarvis (9 Jonte Smith 76’), 20 Malachi Napa (32 Paul Hodges 71’), 30 Sam Dalby (Niko Muir 80’)

Unused subs: 8 Kane Ferdinand, 16 Kyran Lofthouse

Goals: Diarra 86'

Bookings: Gerring

Referee: Scott Jackson

Attendance: Behind Closed Doors

Man of the Match: Tommy Block took the opportunity to impress and put in a very solid performance at right back, with the occasional surging run down the wing. Worth a mention for Jonte Smith who was only on for 20 minutes, but was very much involved in the action.

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