Match report: County 1-1 Woking
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The long-awaited return of fans to Edgeley Park, for County’s final regular home fixture of the season, was marked by a third successive home draw against struggling Woking.
Two games from the end of a campaign in which most matches in the National League, and all at EP, had been played behind closed doors, a socially-distanced crowd of over 2,000 saw an own goal restore parity for the Hatters on the stroke of half-time and shortly after they had gone behind – creating, in the process, a club post-war record of 17 successive unbeaten matches within a season.
County took to the field to long-awaited loud cheers, and showing one change from the starting line-up in SK3 against Torquay six days previously – with Ryan Rydel replacing former Woking loanee Harry Cardwell, who failed a late fitness test. Recent ex-Hatter Sam Dalby, who had briefly turned out for County, whilst on loan from Watford, in late February and early March, was named among the visitors’ substitutes.
The Hatters created the first chance after four minutes, when a delicious through-ball from John Rooney picked out Macauley Southam-Hales – whose first-time shot was kept out by Woking’s goalkeeper-captain Craig Ross.
The ‘Cards’, who had triumphed on all three of their previous visits to EP, showed some early attacking intent of their own – with Ben Hinchliffe being forced to deflect past the near upright an effort from Zach Robinson after the striker had cut in from the left, and County’s defence having to scramble clear the resulting, in-swinging corner by Charlie Cooper.
Hinchliffe came to the rescue again with a one-handed parry, after Sam Ashford had been played through on goal by Cooper – and, at the other end, a cross by Rydel from the left found Elliot Newby, who headed narrowly over.
Four minutes before the break, a short corner on the right from Tom Walker to Newby was received back by the taker who drilled a low shot from the near side of the box that Ross dived to smother.
With added time imminent, the teams looked to be going in all-square – which, in the event they did, albeit after scoring one apiece within three minutes.
First, a Cooper free-kick on the left was held up by Jack Cook, who fed Max Kretzschmar – and the attacking midfielder fired past Hinchliffe from a narrow angle to put the visitors in front.
But the Hatters hit back ahead of the half-time whistle – with Rooney unleashing a shot that deflected against the left post, before being picked up wide of goal by Alex Reid, whose low delivery across the goalmouth was turned by Ben Gerring into his own net.
HALF-TIME: County 1 (Gerring (o.g.), 45 + 2), Woking 1 (Kretzschmar, 44).
Richie Bennett was introduced upon the resumption, and was soon in action – meeting two crosses from the right in quick succession by Southam-Hales to head first at Ross (whom the striker was adjudged to have fouled) and subsequently over the Woking crossbar.
Walker fired over, and Reid saw an attempt gathered by the diving Ross, as County started the half much the brighter. And the Hatters then hit the woodwork twice within a couple of minutes, as Bennett headed a Walker cross from the left against the underside of the bar, and a Rooney corner evaded all in attendance to strike the far right post.
The Hatters were monopolising the corner count, too – 15 to Woking’s one, in the final analysis – with one of Jennings’ deliveries from the right finding Ash Palmer, whose header from beyond the far post was tipped over by Ross.
With a number of visiting players going to ground in the later stages, Referee Richardson added on six minutes at the end – but late efforts from Ryan Croasdale and Reid, whose respective shots were saved by Ross and struck the bar, failed to secure the win that County’s second-half dominance had deserved.
FULL-TIME: County 1 (Gerring (o.g.), 45 + 2), Woking 1 (Kretzschmar, 44).
Team (3-4-2-1): Hinchliffe; Hogan (Capt.), Palmer, J. Jennings; Southam-Hales, Croasdale, Rooney, Rydel (Bennett, 46); Newby, Walker; Reid.
Unused Subs: Minihan, Keane, Fitzsimons.
Booked: Walker, Bennett.
Man of the Match: Jennings.
Reporter: Gareth Evans.
Photographer: Mike Petch.