CARDS were dealt a lesson in how to take chances by a Salisbury side who seem destined for the play-offs.
It was a case of what might have been for Woking on Tuesday night as their hoodoo against the Whites dragged on.
Garry Hill’s men have lost three of their last four against the Wiltshire side, the other a 0-0 draw two seasons ago in the then Blue Square South.
Cards were terribly unlucky not to be in front at the break after John Goddard hit the inside of the post.
And their misfortune persisted after the interval when Keiran Murtagh squandered a glorious chance to volley in the opener with the goal at his mercy.
It meant Hill was left to rue missed opportunities at the full-time whistle.
He said: “On another day we could have come in one or two goals to the good.
“We hit the post and the keeper made some good saves, and in the first half we dominated for long periods.
“You need that break and that goal in football – I thought we had it and I’ve seen efforts like Goddard’s hit the post and then go in.
“Then, against the run of play, they got in behind us and scored a simple goal. From there it was a case of having to gamble.
“I’m disappointed to lose the game but I don’t think you can complain when you lose 2-0.”
And Hill even went as far to rule out laying blame on the soaked Salisbury pitch.
“It played very well,” he explained. “It was the same for both sides and I’m not looking for excuses.
“We had good opportunities in the first half and that is the dividing line – we didn’t take our chances, they had limited opportunities and have punished us.”
Both sides came into the clash in fine form. Salisbury started the evening just three points shy of the play-off places having been promoted last season, while the cards had claimed victory in seven of their last 12 fixtures prior to kick-off.
Seeking revenge for the 3-1 Boxing Day defeat at Kingfield, Hill made just a single change to the side which comprehensively beat Hereford in their last outing.
Adam Newton was the casualty, making way for fit again skipper Mark Ricketts who slotted into the right-back position.
Despite some early probing from Goddard, Salisbury were the first to register an effort at goal. Dan Fitchett found room on the edge of the box before firing off what proved to be an easy early save for Woking keeper Sam Beasant.
And the Cards keeper had to be alert to prevent disaster on 10 minutes when John Nutter’s wayward header back towards his own goal almost crept into the net.
Beasant had to be at full stretch to spare his full-back’s blushes with City striker Warren Feeney lurking.
A scrappy affair was bereft of quality in the final third. Woking shaded the opening 20 minutes but rarely troubled Salisbury keeper Will Puddy.
Their wastefulness in the early exchanges was summed up when a defence splitting pass from Josh Payne was collected by Kevin Betsy.
The winger danced his way to the byline, but with Scott Rendell waiting in the area, the cross was easily blocked.
The first real piece of play to draw cries from the terraces came in the 26th minute when Fitchett just failed to get on the end of a teasing cross.
Possession switched to the left flank but Cards just about contained the danger, Brett Johnson taking the credit for putting the Salisbury man under enough pressure to see the chance safely out for a goal kick.
Jack Marriott’s presence in the game grew as the night wore on and he finally fired off his first shot 10 minutes before the interval.
To Cards’ frustration the strike was closed down and Puddy got down well to save the 18-yard effort.
Goddard thought he had given Woking the lead moments later when he raced through one and one.
But after beating Puddy with a deft chip he watched in despair as the ball struck the foot of the post.
Marriott was unable to react quick enough and the Salisbury defence recovered to nullify the threat.
The two sides exchanged blows after the break. Chris McPhee flashed wide for the hosts before Betsy ripped a shot towards goal which was plucked out of the air by Puddy.
Rendell then blazed an effort into the car park prior to Cards’ best chance of the game, three minutes into the second period. Betsy steamed into the box down the flank and picked out Murtagh with a pinpoint cross.
But the arriving midfielder chose the wrong option, opting to side foot his volley wide of the mark.
And Cards’ misfiring forwards were made to pay when Salisbury, much improved after the half-time break, snatched the lead after 64 minutes.
Woking got themselves in a jam down the right, gifting Elliott Frear time and space to pull back for Clovis Kamdjo to calmly fire past Beasant. Forced to take action Hill rang the changes and brought on Joe Jones in place of Goddard in the hope releasing Payne from his defensive duties.
But it was Marriott’s raw pace that looked like opening up the home side as opposed to an eye of the needle ball – and he should have done better after breezing past the final defender.
Hill threw further caution to the wind when he sacrificed Ricketts for Giuseppe Sole and reverted to a 4-3-3 set up.
But Cards were riding their luck at the back and if not for the presence of his team-mates Brett Johnson would have been sent for an early bath when bringing down Fitchett as he looked to go through one on one. The resulting free kick came to nothing and again Woking went on the hunt for an equaliser.
Regrettably, their ball retention was hugely substandard. Their best chance came when Sole’s left foot effort deflected to Betsy in the penalty area. A twist and a turn freed up some space, but the subsequent shot failed to connect cleanly and Puddy dropped down to make a routine save.
As the last of the 90 minutes ticked away Woking tried to muster a final siege with Anthony McNamee rising from the bench in place of the ineffective Rendell.
But it was game set and match Salisbury in the 88th minute when Angus MacDonald’s bullet free kick rifled through the wall and into the top corner.
WOKING: Beasant, McNerney, Johnson, Nutter, Ricketts (Sole, 73mins), Murtagh, Payne, Goddard (Jones, 67mins), Betsy, Rendell (McNamee, 84mins), Marriott.