Football: Jones knocks steam out of Woking

Woking 0 Southend United 2 Jones 88, Gridelet 90 Attendance: 5,00 0
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The Independent Online
WOKING failed to progress to the second round of the FA Cup yesterday but they went down fighting, succumbing only to two Southend goals in the final minutes of the game. Although they may be disappointed not to have progressed to the second round for a ninth season in a row, they have no reason to be unhappy with their performance.

The tie had all the ingredients that epitomise what is special about the early stages of the FA Cup - a cold, wet, floodlit November afternoon, and two sides with everything to play for.

Woking have an impressive record in this competition in recent years. Last year they eliminated league opposition in the shape of Millwall and Cambridge before going out in the third-round replay 2-1 to Coventry. Now under the management of John McGovern, the ex-Nottingham Forest midfielder, they are fourth in the Vauxhall Conference.

Southend, who climbed off the foot of the Second Division only last week, have been struggling of late and went into the match with something to prove.

The first half was not an attractive spectacle but neither was it devoid of spirit. Woking for the most part pursued a "hit it and chase it" policy, interspersed on occasions by the probing runs of the promising Kevin Betsy. Their best opportunity came when Betsy took a quick free-kick on the edge of the Southend box and put Darran Hay into a good position to cross. Hay sent the ball across the face of an open goal, only for Robin Taylor to arrive too late and lash the ball into the stand.

Southend's best chance fell to Adrian Clarke five minutes before the interval, but he too could only hit the terraces. Southend found it difficult to breach a tenacious Woking defence and were stopped from going ahead on several occasions by the competent goalkeeping of Laurence Batty.

The second half saw both sides pressing forward with Southend players hitting the bar and the post early after the break, and Hay shooting over for Woking after Simon Royce in the Southend goal had miskicked a clearance.

With half an hour remaining Hay was taken off and Betsy moved up to replace him in attack. This appeared to signal to both sides that they should goberserk and a cup match extraordinaire ensued. The ball was flung bagatelle- like from end to end with Betsy and Steve West going close for Woking and Andy Thompson and Philip Gridelet just missing for the visitors.

With three minutes left Southend were awarded a free-kick on the edge of the box and Nathan Jones curled a superb shot into the top corner. Barely before the ecstatic Southend fans had been ushered from the pitch, Thompson crossed to Gridelet, who secured the game.