Fitogether

Presents of mind: Whites' late Christmas gift for Cards is first win in six

Ben Musgrove
6:38pm, Wed 29th Dec 2021
Woking 3 Dover Athletic 2
Vanarama National League
28th December 2021

When the referee pointed to the spot at the EBB Stadium two days ago, there was a certain sense of déjà vu amongst the Woking faithful. You could be forgiven for assuming that the Cards were about to stumble to a fifth loss in a row, despite long periods of dominance and good play, and that Aldershot were about to make it nine consecutive derby wins in the League.

Given the 100 or so minutes of football since, the outlook is much more optimistic. Not only did Max Kretzschmar’s added-time penalty avoid defeat against the Shots and dish out a certain amount of karma, but Woking’s subsequent win against Dover marks the first in over a month, lifting the Cards to just 3 points from their top-half target despite a difficult run over the last couple of months.

The home side made four changes from the team that drew 48 hours earlier, with top scorer Tahvon Campbell ruled out through late illness. Rotation elsewhere saw Lofthouse, Diarra, Nwabuokei and Britton drafted in to start.

The game started as the previous one ended – within 5 minutes, the Cards’ had a penalty. A looped ball through the middle of the Dover back line was jumped on by Moussa Diarra, with the big man felled by Alexis Andre as he attempted to round the keeper. Step up Kretzschmar for his seventh goal and fifth penalty of the campaign, lashing an effort low down the middle.

And yet, for all the positivity, Woking’s profligacy in defending set pieces – despite the height at their disposal – would see the scores levelled within ten minutes. A contentious foul deep on the Woking left would give Dover a chance to put the ball into the box, and Khale Da Costa’s cross was bundled in at the back post by Jake Goodman from the Whites’ first attempt on goal.

Being pegged back so quickly seemed to take the wind out of the Woking sails, and would lead to the visitors’ best period of the game. Consistently working down the Woking left to try and find space in behind Louie Annesley and Tyreke Johnson, the trio of Ben Williamson, Koby Arthur and Da Costa found balls in behind the backline multiple times. Williamson was moments away from putting his side into the lead on one occasion, only to be denied by a superb Kretzschmar block.

But as the half wore on, the frailties that had seen Dover concede 45 goals in 20 League games before today’s game began to show. Effiong nearly opened an account of his own with a low shot across goal, before Tyreke Johnson almost scored an unquestionable goal of the season with a 25-yard rocket that cannoned off the visitors’ bar. Britton was almost the man of the moment within 60 seconds, beating Andre to another lofted ball, only to loop his header wide of goal.

Before half time, that pressure paid off. A long ball out to the Woking right gave Lofthouse the chance to run at Sam Wood, and the wing-back beat his man to slide a cross into the six-yard box. Effiong was the man on the scene, and after what felt like minutes rather than seconds, was able to stab the ball through the crowd and into the Dover net to put his side back in front.

Despite a couple more set pieces to be negotiated – including two corners for Dover that were put straight out of play – the Cards were able to see themselves in ahead at the break. 45 minutes stood between them and their first win since Weymouth on November 23rd.

Half-time: Woking 2 Dover Athletic 1

Woking’s form has been inconsistent between halves at times, and even the most stoical of fans would have been slightly nervous to see Dover come out the stronger side in the first ten minutes. Alfie Pavey came the closest in the opening stages to changing the score, with a superb dummy to send Annesley sprawling before stinging the palms of Ross.

But, again, defensive frailties told. Woking could have made it 3-1 with a set piece of their own when Goodman was booked for a challenge wide of goal – Kretzschmar’s floated ball to Effiong was narrowly stabbed over by the striker.

Moments later, he would make amends. Brilliant pressing from Woking boxed in a short goal kick, with Effiong taking possession wide on the Woking right. Bustling forward, he almost dragged Goodman – who could no longer bring him down due to the booking – for over 20 yards, cutting inside and cannoning a ‘weak’ footed howitzer through Andre and into the net.

The next ten minutes saw a flurry of changes for both sides, and were slightly lighter on chances. Louis Britton departed immediately after the goal, with Jamar Loza on in his place; shortly after, and perhaps with an eye on the New Year’s derby, the excellent Kretzschmar was replaced by Josh Casey. Dover meanwhile, in pursuit of the game, freshened up their attack with the introduction of Noah Carney and James Caton for Koby Arthur and Khale da Costa respectively.

And then the speed just seemed to ramp up and up and up. Nwabuokei should have finished better at the end of a superb Effiong run, before he turned provider for Loza, with the Jamaican hitman flashing his one-on-one effort wide of the Dover goal. At the other end Ross made a superb save from Sam Woods at range to protect his side’s two-goal lead…

…but only briefly. From the resulting corner, Pavey was able to nod back into the six-yard-box, and the resulting chaos would eventually allow Hanson to poke a deflected shot that wrong-footed Ross and crawled over the line.

The visitors went directly in pursuit of the winner, at one point winning a corner that drew gasps of fear from the home fans, but in truth the margin of victory should have been extended again before the match was up. With Goodman deployed as an auxiliary forward and a much higher line from the visitors, Woking were able to break with relative impunity.

That was most obvious in the dying seconds of the match, in which another short goal kick was punished. Andre’s attempted clearance was headed through on goal by Effiong, with Loza again bursting in on the keeper – this time his effort was on target, but stung the palms of the Whites’ loanee goalkeeper. Effiong himself pounced on the rebound, first clattering his effort into Andre again, before Harry Ransom was able to smuggle his second effort away for a throw.

The final whistle followed, and heralded Woking’s 9th win of the season – and, despite the struggles for form in recent times, still leaves them closer to the playoffs than the relegation zone. Avoiding defeat when the neighbours visit would have the Cards unbeaten in 3 games, and would hopefully represent a positive platform for New Year momentum.

Woking: 13. Craig Ross; 2. Kyran Lofthouse, 4. Tom Champion, 6. Moussa Diarra, 16. Louie Annesley, 11. Tryeke Johnson; 8. Solomon Nwabuokei, 23. Jermaine Anderson, 10. Max Kretzschmar (Josh Casey 72’); 9. Inih Effiong, 18. Louis Britton (Jamar Loza 67’)

Unused subs: 1. Mark Smith, 17. Tarryn Allarakhia, 21. Tommy Block

Goals: Kretzschmar (pen) 5’, Effiong 34’, 60’

Bookings: Annesley 85’

Dover Athletic 44. Alexis Andre; 3. Sam Wood (Junior Tiensia 39’), 6. Jake Goodman, 23. Daniele Collinge, 16. Harry Ransom; 18. Henry Woods, 25. Ryan Hanson, 22. Koby Arthur (Noah Carney 74’); 7. Khale Da Costa (James Caton 76’), 26. Alfie Pavey, 10. Ben Williamson

Unused subs: Nana Ofori-Twumasi, 1.1 Josh Bexon

Goals: Goodman 11’, Hanson 87’

Bookings: Goodman 54’, Hanson 54’, Woods 81’, Tiensia 84’

Referee: Gary Parsons

Attendance: 2,248

Man of the Match: Inih Effiong. The striker bagged a brace of goals, including one of the goals of the season so far with a superb solo run. He should have had a hat trick in the dying moments but for a great double save from Alexis Andre, but will be very pleased with his afternoon, nonetheless.

Thank you to our Match Sponsor Laithwaite Financial Services and our Match Ball Sponsor RAMS FM

You can check out Laithwaite Financial here.

See how RAMS FM could help you here.

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