Defensive howlers cost the Cards

Brian Caffarey
6:30pm, Mon 5th Apr 2021
Woking 2 Notts County 4
Vanarama National League
5 April 2021

Woking’s miserable run of results continued this afternoon as second-half defensive howlers undid the laudable recovery they had made in coming back from a one-goal deficit to take a 2-1 lead at the break. Overall, it was a better performance than in most recent games but calamitous defending presented the Magpies with three points which they might otherwise have had difficulty in pocketing.

There were four changes from the starting line-up against Torquay, with Jack Cook, Jonte Smith, Jamar Loza and Sam Ashford all returning in place of Ben Gerring, Kyran Lofthouse, Charlie Cooper and Sam Dalby. Mark Smith continued in goal.

The Cards started quite brightly, with Ashford looking especially lively up front. But, having conceded two early bookings, it was the Magpies who created the first real chance in the 11th minute, with Smith and Diarra just managing to thwart Sam in spite of the first sign of defensive confusion. Ashford’s pressure nearly paid off as he hustled a defender, who just managed to escape being pickpocketed.

The visitors began to settle, winning three corners in quick succession and it was from the last of these that they took the lead in the 20th minute. As Boldewijn dinked the ball back in Block slipped, leaving Mark Ellis to slam the ball past Smith from close range.

For a few minutes it looked as though County might quickly build on that lead but the Cards got lucky. A wayward defensive header allowed Block to hurl in a long throw, resulting in Moussa Diarra being tugged to the ground as he tried to attack the second ball. Max Kretzschmar made no mistake from the spot, firing low and hard into the corner.

The equaliser put an extra spring in Woking’s step and, conversely, seemed to deflate the Magpies. Only five minutes later the Cards found themselves in the lead. Dempsey’s free-kick was poor but the first defender’s attempted headed clearance sailed onto Cook at the far post, who nodded down cleverly, with Ashford anticipating superbly to slide the ball past the keeper.

The rest of the first half was fairly uneventful, with County presenting no real threat to Woking’s lead apart from a tame header from Reeves, who nodded the ball straight into Smith’s arms. At the other end Loza shot well wide after picking up an Ashford header.

Half-time: Woking 2 Notts County 1

Woking remained largely on the front foot in the opening phases of the second half, with Kretzschmar hooking wide and Loza looking as though he was denied a very good shout for a penalty after dribbling past several defenders in the box. The Cards threatened again, too, from another Block long-throw.

For County, Reeves once again failed to make the most of a free header, this time at the back post, and substitute Lewis Knight dragged his shot wide after being played inside Block.

But, in the 59th minute, Cook failed to cope with an awkward bouncing ball, allowing Jimmy Knowles to run on and finish clinically past Smith to make it 2-2.

Worse was to follow in the 65th minute. Smith came for a long ball but only succeeded in half-clearing it, allowing Knowles to fire past two Woking defenders as they sought vainly to protect the empty goal.

To Woking’s credit, they did not allow their heads to drop and, with Sam Dalby now on in place of Jonte Smith, proceeded to try to make a fight of it. But a missed Cook tackle and a poor Block pass nearly opened the way for County to immediately extend their lead, while the Cards failed to make the most of a free-kick in a promising position and over-hit several crosses. However, a great chance to equalise came in the 77th minute when Diarra latched onto a loose ball but his diving header didn’t have enough power to trouble the County keeper.

The killer blow came straightaway as a long ball over the top saw the Woking defenders appealing in vain for offside as Knowles ran through to complete his hat-trick and make the score a flattering 2-4 for County.

The Cards nearly pulled a goal back in the 85th minute when Ferdinand’s diving header was brilliantly saved by the Magpies keeper, with Dalby’s follow-up blocked by a defender.

The closing minutes were notable only for several bookings before the referee called time on a topsy-turvy game, in which two sides engaged in an uncharacteristic comparative goal fest. Woking will know that, on this occasion, it was sloppy defending, rather than their inability to score sufficient goals, that let them down.

Woking: Mark Smith, Tommy Block, Jack Cook, Moussa Diarra, Josh Casey, Kane Ferdinand, Ben Dempsey, Max Kretzschmar, Jonte Smith (Sam Dalby 64), Sam Ashford, Jamar Loza (Paul Hodges 84)

Unused subs: Charlie Cooper, Jack Skinner, Kyran Lofthouse

Goals: Max Kretzschmar (pen) 28, Sam Ashford 33

Booked: Tommy Block, Moussa Diarra

Notts County: Slocombe, Barnett, Chicksen, Reeves, Rawlinson, Ellis, Boldewijn (Kelly-Evans 87), O’Brien, Griffiths (Rodrigues 46), Knowles, Sam (Knight 55)

Unused subs: Miller, Golden

Scorers: Ellis 20, Knowles 60, 66 and 79

Booked: Sam, Rawlinson, Knight

My MOTM: Faded in the second half, but Sam Ashford looks the kind of striker we’ve been lacking most of the season.

Referee: Andrew Kitchen

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