Town 0-1 Woking: Hatters slump to shock home defeat
The Town’s proud 27-match unbeaten run in the Skrill Premier came to an end as a goal three minutes from time from Giuseppe Sole gave Woking a 1-0 victory to stun Kenilworth Road.
However, it was anything but a shock win given the Hatters’ below-par performance on the night in a game dominated by the visitors in front of the BT Sport camera.
Boss John Still admitted afterwards that the Town were well off colour but, despite that, his side still came mighty close to winning all three points in a second half that saw them hit the woodwork twice in the second period, with crosses from Jake Howells and Alex Lawless both agonisingly bouncing away from goal after striking the post.
But Woking, who had completely bossed the first half and hit the woodwork themselves following Josh Payne’s rasping 25-yarder, won it thanks to the head of Sole, who nodded home after Kieron Murtagh’s effort had also hit the crossbar – the fourth time in the match the woodwork had been rattled during the match.
Woking started like they meant to go on in the first half as the Town failed to test Aaron Howe in the Cards’ goal and Payne’s super hit from distance on nine minutes cannoned off the angle of post and bar and served as a warning shot to the Hatters.
Half-chances came and went for the visitors as the Town were sloppy in possession, a shadow of the team that had strung together such a wonderful sequence of results. Kevin Betsy tested Mark Tyler’s concentration on 24 minutes with the winger’s low shot from the edge of the box flew through numerous legs in the penalty area and into the keeper’s grateful arms.
The Hatters remained under the cosh as the first half continued. Tyler and Fraser Franks got in a pickle inside the penalty area on 26 minutes that almost presented a chance to Jack Marriott before Betsy saw another shot saved by Tyler three minutes later.
Payne was at it again for the Cards just after the half-hour, this time side-footing wide from the edge of the box, before former Hatter Scott Rendell thought he had given his side the lead on 42 minutes when heading past Tyler following a right-wing free-kick – only to see the linesman’s flag for offside cut short his celebrations.
The second half was better from the Town. The arrival of Pelly Ruddock on 54 minutes gave the Hatters energy and drive from central midfield and the Town came close to opening the scoring on the hour. Howells’ cross from the left floated all the way over and came back off of the post with Paul Benson lurking. Former Hatter Adam Newton then headed back towards goal, but an own goal on his return to Kenilworth Road was spared by a last-ditch clearance from team-mate Joe McNerney.
Andre Gray thought he should have had a penalty on 64 minutes but saw his appeals waved away by referee Kavanagh after tumbling in the box, and two minutes later the Town’s top goalscorer couldn’t get a shot out having been found by a wonderful clipped pass from Matt Robinson.
The Town were slowly but surely finding their passing game which was missing for much of the first half, and Ruddock stung the fingers of Howe on 72 minutes with a stunning fierce drive from 20 yards that hurtled goalwards.
As time began to tick down the Hatters struck the woodwork for a second time with five minutes left. Lawless’ teasing cross from the left, aimed at Benson, again bounced off the inside of the post and to safety with Benson unable to turn the ball home.
And that proved to be a vital turning point as two minutes later Sole won it for Woking. Murtagh’s pinched the ball off of Ruddock and then saw his angled drive arch over Tyler and came back off the underside of the crossbar. Sole, who had just come on as a substitute, was on hand to nod past the goalkeeper with his first touch of the ball.
A shocked Kenilworth Road could hardly believe it and despite four minutes of added time the Town couldn’t find a late, late leveller with Benson unable to convert the final, final chance.