Beavers boxed by superior Cards
Richard Parsons assesses the Boxing Day defeat at Kingfield
IT had been eagerly anticipated ever since the fixtures were first published in July, but this first meeting of Hampton and the Hampton Old Boys was something of a disappointment – certainly for the Beavers. A strange fact at the start of the match was that 18 of the starting 22 players either are, or were at one time, registered by the Beavers.
The score doesn’t perhaps tell the whole story because Woking’s third goal did not arrive until the final minute of stoppage time and, until then, there had been half a chance we might snatch an unlikely point.
However, the Cards were the superior side for most of this game. They outplayed us in the first half and, while they lost their way for a spell after we had hauled ourselves back into the game, we failed to create the chance of a second goal, which would have given them the jitters.
In truth, we were struggling before the game with three of our first-choice back four absent. No Luke Ruddick, Simon Downer or Ollie Sprague meant a big reshuffle, with Michael Corcoran returning at the heart of defence, following a recent injury spell, and midfielders Tyrell Miller-Rodney and Jack Connors at full-back.
Tellingly, we did not have a central defender on the bench – and how crucial that would prove when Corcoran succumbed to injury early on.
On came Nathan Mavila and Connors initially switched inside, but with his lack of height that was never going to last too long. Soon, it was Craig Dundas – withdrawn from his advanced role – plugging the gap at the back, which inevitably meant a loss of fire power up front, leaving Chris Dickson once again isolated and dominated by their centre-back pairing of Gerring and Cook.
Woking swept ahead with a header by Hyde and, crucially, followed it up with a second on the stroke of half-time, this time a powerful direct free-kick from Edser.
We were better after the break – we had to be after a disappointing opening half – and altered the flow of the game with a goal just before the hour mark. A Connors free-kick from the left caused issues in the Woking defence and the ball was swept home, without any great celebration, by someone. No-one in the press area, nor the announcer, could immediately identify the scorer, Everyone had settled on it being an own goal, when Rian Bray was given the credit.
Woking were clearly rattled and we had good possession in their half for a while, without threatening Ross in their goal. Their supporters became restless, calling for the introduction of fresh legs, and for a while we dared to think about a late equaliser that would have damaged their promotion ambitions.
We introduced Matty Whichelow for Karl Oliyede and Ryan Hill for Rhys Murrell-Williamson without achieving the breakthrough. We were still pushing forward in the final seconds of the game when a breakaway and a series of fortunate bounces allowed Luer to score the Woking third.
And so it’s on to Chippenham this Saturday and a match against fellow mid-tablers. It is shaping as one of our most important games for some time as we look nervously over our shoulders to see if the bottom four are showing any signs of recovery.
As I write these notes, the injury situation is unclear, though Sprague will have benefited from a few extra days’ rest and should be in the reckoning. In midfield, Ricky Wellard and even Casey Maclaren are closer to a return, while Whichelow and Hill will be anxious to get the nod from the start. Sam Cox’s loan from Wealdstone is about to expire and efforts are underway to renew that.
One thing’s for certain: we need all the troops we can assemble as, three days later, we receive Woking in the return league match, when we will be anxious to restore pride by exacting revenge on Dowse and his troops.
Photo courtesy of Ben Harrison-Hyde