Question of the WeekHow important is data in League 2 football?
|Game of chance|
Playing Our Cards Right
By: Andrew Doherty
MY wife gave up a few years back on watching Town, citing frustration for no return and poor value for money as the primary reasons for pursuing the passion. Strange. But she's here today, having been incentivized by pre-match fish and chips. "They'd better win" she commented, ominously.
This is the success conundrum. A good start, a dire mid-section and better recent results tips the balance in our favour. We did beat today's opponents Woking, known as the Cards, in the corresponding away fixture, not that that means a lot, but on that day the home side's style of play suggested an open game and not one where the away team was going to shut up shop and look to pinch a goal on the break, as happens with some teams. Let's hope so for everyone's sake.
Town's side today in front of 5,423 spectators including 78 travelling Cards fans was: Crocombe - Efete, Pearson, Waterfall, Crookes - Burgess, Jones - Sousa, McAtee, Clifton - Abrahams. Woking, in blue, had the wind behind them as they attacked the Osmond end for the first half, and had the better of the opening exchanges, creating a couple of half chances. Town set up their first attack on 13 minutes. From a cross on the right, Abrahams struck, forcing Woking goalkeeper Ross into a last-ditch save. Jones delivered the corner. Waterfall headed against the inside of the post. Sousa followed up from close range but Diarra blocked the ball on the goal line. This was as close as Town got, as other than a speculative shot from McAtee, Woking had much of the possession at this stage and played the ball around nicely on the ground. On 22 minutes Woking won a corner and looked to take advantage of their height superiority but were repelled by a resolute Town defence. Town did have a chance on 25 minutes when McAtee made an interception. A move started up the right, from where Efete supplied Sousa but the shot went wide. Five minutes later in this dour struggle, Waterfall did well to shake off the rampaging Efiong as the Cards's striker homed in on goal. Town won a McAtee-inspired corner on 39 minutes. Jones sent in a long one which was returned into the box from where Pearson headed wide. Soon after Waterfall showed good leadership, dragging the angry and frankly irresponsible Pearson back for arguing with the referee and risking a needless yellow card after being penalized for an accidental handball 35 yards out. Pendlebury's free-kick was curled just wide. All in all, there had been nothing to shout about in this first half. Other than the one chance where Town were unlucky not to score in the first 15 minutes, Town's attacking threat was negligible as it almost seemed as if the objective was to contain Woking.
Town started the second half on the attack. Efete, who during the first half seemed to have been under orders to stay back, attacked on the right. Clifton found Burgess whose slotted pass to Abrahams resulted in an accurate shot which Ross palmed away for a corner. Three minutes later Efete lost control and was lucky not to be booked when chasing back to retrieve the ball and in doing so fouling the Woking player. Following the free-kick Town broke. McAtee burst out but Sousa and Jones were guilty of a misunderstanding so the move stopped. Burgess then started a move, supplying Sousa who cut inside but seemingly as always failed to set himself and while off balance skewed his shot well wide. Note to Sousa: when preparing to shoot, either (a) only do so when correctly balanced or (b) pass to someone else. On 57 minutes, McAtee pushed the ball up the right. Sousa found Efete whose cross was bundled into the net by Clifton but the goal was disallowed for a foul on Ross. Sousa was working more effectively up the middle as Efete ran up the right and supplied the crosses, as he did on 63 minutes. McAtee couldn't quite his toe end on it. Jones was booked for a foul as Woking attacked, but Town were the ones who most looked to break the deadlock. Clifton set up an attack, finding McAtee crossed to Abrahams who sliced his shot comically, striking the unsuspecting Sousa on the head before the ball went out for a goal kick. Dieseruvwe replaced Sousa on 67 minutes. McAtee attempted a curler following a Clifton pass but it was weak, then Dieseruvwe headed wide following an Efete cross. Clifton in particular was influential in midfield for Town but there was a lack of understanding as a team. The final balls were inaccurate and not incisive enough, and as the game went on Town lost their way and the game lost any momentum. A nicely worked move involving Clifton, Dieseruvwe, Burgess and McAtee eventually found McAtee but the interplay was too slow and Woking were able to close in on McAtee, stifling any opportunity. Woking now were happy to sit back, defend tightly, slow the game down and waste time. The last 15 minutes were characterized by Woking players going down as if they had been shot as they sought to waste further time and go back to Surrey with a point. Abrahams found himself forced wide as the clock ticked down. Town had lost their shape, players were out of position and whilst previously the opportunities were there but the final ball was poor, Town's players were spread apart. It was a dull day in Cleethorpes, and I'm not just talking about the weather. As Woking players continued to go down like dying swans, the crowd became angry and Town's players became increasingly frustrated. At one point McAtee had to pull Abrahams away from getting into trouble. Woking had had no chances since anyone could remember but on 88 minutes, following a rare attack, Kabamba struck the side netting. Here was a warning. There was an air of inevitability about this. Soon afterwards Town won a free kick, but Jones's effort went straight to Ross. Town's game had lost all semblance of quality and composure. I could hear groans around me, as Town were unable to get out of the rut of mediocrity. 5 minutes were added. Woking had another chance. Surely they weren't going to nick it? The ball was punted deep into Town territory. 94 minutes were up. The ball was played forward up the left. Abrahams took the ball, beat the defender on the outside and crossed. Dieseruvwe advanced in spite of the attentions of the Woking defence got there first and slid the ball home from inside the 6 yard box. Cue mass celebrations. There was no time for Woking to recover. The game ended: Town 1, Woking 0, Cue more celebrations. “I shall celebrate this with a kebab”, announced a happy Mariner behind me. For 93 minutes it seemed as if he was going to be commiserating a draw, or worse. But it didn't happen. For the second time this season, we managed to nick a victory against Woking in the final seconds.
This was utterly hard work. Town had so much possession that it is hard to argue that we did not deserve victory but the interplay was for the most part clumsy and frequently slow. The substitution of Sousa was puzzling as we were looking for invention and something different, which Sousa provides. It was ironic that the cross for the eventual goal came in from the left because what threat there was had only come from the other side. Crookes was poor and it was hard to see why Amos, whose delivery is arguably better, was not preferred. Once Efete was allowed to advance into the Woking half after the break, Town looked more threatening, as this also gave Sousa the chance to take a freer role and gain yardage. The crosses were better too thanks to Efete's superior delivery. Clifton and Burgess worked hard and both had an impact, and McAtee looked to create opportunities as always, but overall it was an uninspiring display where it was hard to see how the individual moments were ever going to end in an effective team performance and ultimately victory. But it did. So the play-off dream remains but once again it was unconvincing, and we must improve the quality of our game against teams who are higher in the division and more dangerous than Woking. At least we can be grateful that the cards fell right for us today.
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