Oxford City 1
THE road to Wembley is still open for Woking after a first-half Joe Quigley strike proved enough to edge out Oxford City in this FA Trophy third round clash.
Despite having Conference South league title winner’s medals and Surrey Senior Cup silverware to their names, management duo Garry Hill and Steve Thompson have made no secret of their desire to lead the Cards – and thousands of proud Wokingians – back to Wembley Way for the first time since the 1997 final win over Dagenham & Redbridge.
If Hill and Thompson are to help the club achieve, what would be, a record-breaking fourth FA Trophy victory, they next have to overcome favourites Grimsby Town after they were paired with the Mariners in Monday’s quarter-final draw.
Back to Saturday’s action and, despite having just that solitary Quigley goal to cheer – the Bournemouth youngster adding to his strike in the previous round’s win over Maidenhead United – a nip and tuck Trophy tie did offer full value for the punters at a blustery Kingfield.
National League South outfit Oxford are well-known for their ‘tika-taka’ approach to the beautiful game. Indeed, City boss Justin Merritt and Spanish assistant Enrique Guillen named five Spaniards in their match day squad of 16.
So this cup clash between two of the Non-League game’s purists, Mssrs Hill and Merritt, was sure to be a far cry from the previous, more direct visitors to Kingfield; Barrow and Halifax Town.
Cards gaffer Hill handed a debut to young Yeovil Town loan man Shaun Jeffers, who partnered Quigley in attack.
This pair of ‘footballing’ sides were showing themselves capable of coping admirably with the gusty conditions – City goalkeeper Laurie Walker adapting his kicking game to keep the ball on the Kingfield turf, while for the hosts the in-form Bruno Andrade started brightly with an early shot on Walker’s goal.
Amid the deft touches on show, both sides showed they aren’t averse to straying into the ‘dark arts’ of the game – in his first game of a 28-day loan spell, 23-year-old forward Jeffers was playing on the edge; clearly keen to impress his new fans.
Lenient ref Constantine Hatzidakis seemed happy enough to let the cup tie flow in the main, although the man in the middle did have his yellow card out for Jose Lapoujade half an hour in – the caution would later come back to haunt the City captain.
Up the other end of the field, ex-Woking forward Bradley Bubb was hoping to make a scoring return to his old stomping ground but toe-poked an effort at keeper Jake Cole when dangerously placed. The burly Bubb was being well marshalled by Woking defenders Joey Jones and Brian Saah – although there was an unfortunate delay in the match when the latter was visibly ill on the field, although ever stoic, Saah opted to play on.
On the left-hand side of the Cards’ back line, Scott Griffiths was busy putting his own goal nightmare against Barrow out of Woking fans’ minds by shackling lively City winger Marlon Jackson.
With a first half which had ebbed and flowed drawing to a close, the hosts decided to up the ante.
Top scorer John Goddard cut in from the left to swerve an effort on target, while Quigley was unlucky to get the ball stuck under his feet from a whipped Andrade cross into the penalty area.
But young Quigley would not have to wait much longer for his seventh goal of the season to arrive as, this time, he made no mistake to dispatch another defence-splitting delivery from Cards’ Portuguese winger Andrade with aplomb just five minutes from the break.
Netting just before the referee’s half-time whistle is always seen as prime goal scoring time, and Woking new boy Jeffers had a golden opportunity to double the advantage but spurned a headed chance with the goal at his mercy.
Credit to City coaches Merritt and Guillen, who threw on strikers Carlos Pifarre-Forner and 19-year-old James Roberts – the latter having made the move across Oxford from City’s rivals in the January transfer window – to try and force Woking back to Marsh Lane for a replay.
Despite the away side bolstering their forward line, it was Jeffers who again went closest to adding to the scoresheet – however, again the lively youngster was unable to make the necessary connection to a close-range header, although questions could be asked over the legality of keeper Walker’s last-ditch lunge which flattened Cards’ new No22.
After putting in sterling shifts to lead the Cards’ charge to quarter finals, Hill removed the trio of Quigley, Jeffers and Andrade as the half wore on – Giuseppe Sole, Matt Robinson and Alex Smith the men trusted to see Woking over the line. That task was made all the more simpler when Lapoujade’s earlier yellow card caught up with Oxford with seven minutes to go.
The reason City skipper found his way in to the referee’s note book for a second time was slightly unclear. An accidental tangle of legs with Sole had earned Woking a free-kick, but the trip in itself had seemed unworthy of another caution – although there did appear to be ‘words’ afterwards between Lapoujade and ref Hatzidakis.
And as the clock wound down to full time it was to prove the second year in a row that a 10-man Oxford had been knocked out of the competition at Kingfield.
Post-match, Trophy-winning Cards coach Thompson said that it was mission accomplished as Woking kept Wembley in their sights: “The important thing was to get through today. I felt we were in control for pretty much the whole game. [We] lacked a bit of quality in the final third but we never looked in too much trouble defensively and have come through with a 1-0 [win].”