Dom Roman – @DomRoman
After the excitement of finally making it back into the 1st Round proper, the FA Cup dreams of the Yellow Army are over with a bump and we must concentrate on league football once more. Just in case you’d thought horribly frustrating 1-0 defeats at Plainmoor were a thing of the past, back they come with vengeance – as a dreadful refereeing decision hands ‘The Cards’ a penalty we end up having no answer for.
The first half is a fairly even affair. The opposition midfields’ scrap it out for supremacy and the large away Woking following make their voices heard. After the initial sparring ‘The Cards’ spring to life and exploit space in behind Janneh on the left. Macc makes a smart stop, whilst Dickson does well to block a goal-bound shot. United throw their own punches in retaliation (not literally I may add), Kalala could score a couple of times and Reidy should score once from a rebound. A lack of composure costing both teams. It’s entertaining action from two teams who desperately want to reach that 2nd round and feels more like National League quality than NLS – oh how I miss you Conference football!
I quickly dash to say hello to friends at the interval and view the biggest moment of the game perfectly on the walk back. Loza steals a march on our defence, but Niate recovers well to toe the ball out. To our dismay the well-placed referee immediately points to the spot..absolutely ridiculous. The penalty is despatched in the corner by Max Kretzschmar and a shaken United don’t react well. Too many long balls and too much panic, a flashback to last Saturday. Composure does return at times (mostly in the form of CLE) and Kalala again threatens to find the net, but the minutes tick away frustratingly. More shambolic refereeing ensues and the ball will just not go in. A scramble where 3 or 4 tame shots are cleared from the line would be laughable if I was a neutral, but I am not! Shortly after that, the frankly awful referee blows the whistle on a game which just wouldn’t tilt our way.
MACDONALD 6 – MOTM? No. But Shaun makes a good one-on-one stop to keep things level in the 1st half.
WYNTER 7 – Ben presses forward positively especially in the 1st half and defends ok. A player who is improving.
NIATE 6 – The pen is a nonsense. Apart from that the big man is solid enough, though he does find Loza a handful.
CAMERON 6 – Woking attack mainly down the other side so Kyle has a fairly quiet game. Assured.
DAVIS 7 – Liam is Liam. Consistent, steady and untroubled at the back – busy on the overlap going forward.
DICKSON 6 – See below
LEMONHEIGH-EVANS 8 – See Below
KALALA 6.5 – See Below
ANDREWS 6 – Looked understandably rusty after a period out injured, but put some quality balls into the box and never shied from taking possession.
JANNEH 5 – Saikou was played on the right, a position that didn’t suit him as he often found himself in defensive positions rather than attack.
REID 5.5 – Missed a very good chance in the first and was marshalled well by the big CBs. Touch and control generally good, but not his day.
KEATING 4 – Almost sniffed out a goal, but unfortunately this is so often the case as Ruairi tries hard but just cannot find the back of the net.
WILLIAMS 3 – A non-event on arrival, barely touched the ball.
KUZSELA N/A – No rating, but well done on making your debut Olaf!
Man of the Match: Connor Lemonheigh-Evans
The official man of the match was Shaun MacDonald, but let’s ignore that, there was only one Gull deserving of the award. CLE was the only player for United who really displayed his quality throughout the match. Demanding the ball in midfield, making space for himself, beating men and also testing the goalkeeper. One of his jinking runs was Gazza-esque, pushing off players and showing brilliant determination to press on towards the penalty area. Connor is becoming the best player at the club with those sort of performances, we maybe just need to get the midfield balance right around him. Impressively mature stuff from the Bristol City youngster.
Kalvin Lumbombo-Kalala is an enigma. He started the game sluggishly and hesitantly – however a quick word from Gary in his shell during the 1st half sparked KLK into life and he came closer than anyone in a yellow shirt to scoring. A rough diamond who has the tools (too many metaphors?!) in skill, balance and trickery to be a cracking player. Apart from that Ben Wynter again did well and looked like a player finding confidence after a poor start to his United career, hopefully his upward curve will continue in the upcoming fixtures.
Johnson decided to pick Reidy as the central striker, with Janneh mainly on the right and Kalala the left. Behind them Andrews/Dickson/CLE made up a midfield. It worked at times as the Kalala/Davis and Janneh/Wynter combos troubled the Cards down both flanks. However Reidy was isolated at times, Janneh spent too long defending and the midfield had poise on the ball, but lacked defensive balance. Eventually Gary moved Saikou up alongside Reidy as he over-loaded on forwards; on this occasion it just wasn’t enough and it’s back to the drawing board. One player who was missed and gives us great width is Opi Edwards, I hope to see him back asap.
Woking FC present the sort of stiff challenge that we will have to start overcoming if this season is to end in glory. At the back Ben Gerring and Jack Cook had very strong games, making life difficult for Jamie Reid to get on the ball and disrupting our attacking momentum. Upfront Jamar Loza was a pest for our defence, with lively movement and some nice skill he looks like a player who could make the step up from the NLS very soon. Overall the Cards had enough toughness and pace about them to give us problems, and that coupled with a dubious refereeing decision was enough to get them a place in the 2nd round.
I don’t like to blame the referee for losing a game, but on this occasion let’s just say he had a massive hand in the result! I just don’t know why the ref Declan Bourne thought it was a penalty against Niate (unless his view was obscured) and nobody thought it was apart from him. Then later on in the 2nd half he blew the whistle on a foul, 1 second later the ball was at Janneh’s feet and he may have been tripped in the penalty area – whether he was or wasn’t, the ref should be playing advantage and showed a complete lack of common sense. Very disappointing as you assume an FA Cup tie would see an improvement in officiating, this was the complete reverse.
Player Spotlight: Ryan Dickson
I was glad (along with the rest of the Yellow Army) to have Ryan back in the fold a couple of weeks ago, he was a rare light of quality in the early season Owers-led doldrums. Against Woking he had a very busy game, and spent a lot of time tracking their midfielders, getting stuck in and making important blocks. I’d like to see him on the ball more as I thought his qualities lie more in the final attacking third, so it’ll be interesting to see how the midfield develops under Gary Johnson – especially once Asa Hall makes his return. Ryan is a great pro though and an important member of the squad going forward into the winter’s fixtures.
Gary Johnson’s unbeaten record as United manager is over, Manager of the Month curse anyone?! I don’t think even the most die-hard Woking FC fan would say that TUFC didn’t deserve at least a replay from the game. Sure we didn’t play brilliantly, but on another day the name ‘TUFC’ could easily have been in that 2nd round draw. However, when a decision like that penalty goes against us we must react better and just win anyway – converting presentable chances into goals. Gary has come in with a bang and raised our game, inspiring us to beat the teams we should beat; his next task is to mastermind victories over the Wokings and Billericays of this world and take us to the next level. After all this losing battle will be long forgotten, if the war (promotion) is eventually won. Meanwhile my hopes of a bumper Gulls away day at Anfield or Old Trafford will have to wait for yet another year. One day it’ll happen….