Match Report | Oldham-bits die hard; Cards lose again to Latics

Ben Musgrove
1:55pm, Tue 21st Nov 2023
Woking 0 – 1 Oldham
Vanarama National League
18th November 2023

The last time these two teams met, in grim conditions and under dark skies, a tough game with no lack of endeavour saw the Latics snatch a well-placed finish to win the game 1-0.

The last time Woking FC changed manager, the incumbent made way for his assistant, Ian Dyer. In his first game, Dyer took charge of a group with ebbing confidence and underperforming players, ultimately ending in a 1-0 defeat against tough, high-spending opposition.

Is any of this sounding familiar yet?

If the end result was familiar, the Woking team did at least see some significant changes. Dyer’s reversion to a 442 saw the deployment of Pavey and Grego-Cox as a two-man pairing for the first time, with Amond out right to cover for a plethora of midfield injuries. Alexis Andre Jr. stepped between the sticks for his Woking debut, with Will Jääskeläinen going down with a bug following the Cards’ frustrating afternoon at Oxford City last week.

The first twenty minutes was defined by hard work and tough, busy defending as much as anything else. Amond could have opened the scoring with a deflected drive after just a few minutes, while Mark Kitching and Dan Ward wasted long-range efforts. Dennon Lewis then came as close as the Cards would all afternoon, with some dancing feet to evade Dan Gardner and Charlie Raglan before forcing keeper Matt Hudson into a near-post save.

But as the half wore on, the Latics started to establish themselves as the dominant force both in possession and attack, and Andre. Jr had to show his quality. The visitors should’ve opened the scoring when a fabulous Josh Lundstram ball split the Woking defence in half, with Ward teeing up James Norwood – only for the veteran striker to be denied by Andre Jr’s feet at close range.

Mike Fondop should’ve sent the visitors in ahead just moments later, only to totally fluff his lines from a Norwood cross – the ball hitting his standing leg as he swung for a half-open goal. The Cards would head in level and hope to reassert themselves in the second period.

Half-time: Woking 0 – 0 Oldham

Unfortunately, that assertion was not forthcoming. A thirty-yard, outside-foot volley from Raglan, clawed out of the top corner by Andre Jr, set the tone for what was to come. While the Cards maintained their effort levels, Oldham retained their control, and were ultimately rewarded with what would prove a scrappy winner.

Failing to properly defend the second phase of a Kitching corner, a ball looped in by substitute Devarn Green evaded the Woking centre-halves would drop kindly in the six-yard box for James Norwood. The forward smuggled the ball through marker Alfie Pavey, managing to get the other side of the Woking striker and to stab the ball home from just a couple of yards out.

It should’ve been two just minutes later, as the Cards were hit on the break. A Latics clearance would drop in the Woking half for James Norwood, who nudged Dan Moss aside to drive at goal and find Green bursting towards the area from the right. Green would switch to the left to find Ward, who hammered his effort off the crossbar with the keeper beaten.

The Cards would look to inject some energy and impetus with the introduction of Morgan Williams and Zak Bradshaw in midfield, but a long-range effort from the latter was the only meaningful shot of the second half for the home side. Oldham continued to apply pressure, with Norwood and Green standing out as particularly dangerous; the former set up Fondop for another close-range miss, and was denied well by Andre. Jr just before the final whistle.

The result means that the Cards have just one league win since the start of October, just nine points off the playoffs – but also firmly wedged in the mass of sides floating just a few points above the relegation zone. The team needs the clarity and direction to move into the post-Sarll era – and so the coming weeks will prove to be defining ones for Woking.

Woking: 1. Alexis Andre Jr.; 3. Josh Casey, 4. Scott Cuthbert, 5. Greg Taylor, 2. Dan Moss; 11. Dennon Lewis (Morgan Williams 76’), 24. Rohan Ince, 16. Tunji Akinola (Zak Bradshaw 72’), 10. Padraig Amond; 9. Reece Grego-Cox (Charlie Wakefield 46’), 29. Alfie Pavey

Unused subs: 21. Timi Odusina, 28. Sam Habergham

Bookings: Pavey 61’, Williams 77’

Oldham 13. Matt Hudson; 3. Mark Kitching, 16. Charlie Raglan, 5. Harrison McGahey, 23. Kieron Freeman; 11. Dan Ward (Devarn Green 62’), 8. Josh Lundstram, 14. Nathan Sheron, 19. Dan Gardner,; 9. Mike Fondop, 30. James Norwood

Unused subs: 1. Magnus Norman, 6. Mark Shelton, 7. Kurt Willoughby, 21. Will Sutton

Goals: Norwood 61’

Bookings: Freeman 79’

Man of the Match: Alexis Andre Jr. On an afternoon with little to report from Woking’s offence, the debutant keeper made several smart stops to keep the scoreline to just one, and impressed fans with his distribution to boot.

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