Football : Woking happy in high company

Coventry City 1 Jess 75 Woking 1 Thompson 89 Attendance: 16,040
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The Independent Online
After looking poised for the departure of gallant losers when the Scottish international Eoin Jess gave Premiership Coventry an unconvincing lead with 15 minutes left, non-League Woking revived the romance of the FA Cup with a 89th-minute equaliser at Highfield Road, bringing a dramatic end to what had been a strangely undramatic tie.

The hero of the 5,000 supporters who had made the journey to a twice postponed third-round tie was Steve Thompson, a midfield player and one- time RAF PT instructor who had joined the Surrey side from Wycombe Wanderers. In what was probably the only genuine goalmouth scramble of an untypical contest, Thompson lifted the ball over the goalkeeper Steve Ogrizovic to send those fans into unexpected delirium.

Until Woking's late assault the Premiership side, while never establishing superiority against opponents who preferred a patient passing game to the unsettling tactics one normally associates with giant killers, had not been seriously troubled.

Woking's huge following had determined from the outset to stage a spectacle, comfortably out-cheering the home contingent, who have suffered too many uncomfortable matches in the Premiership recently to relish an occasion such as this.

Woking's players did their supporters proud, as they had done while knocking out Millwall and Cambridge in earlier rounds, but if they had a shortcoming yesterday it was that their attacks lacked the penetration to threaten Coventry's goal with a frequency that reflected their share of possession. None the less, Scott Steele and the veteran Clive Walker both possessed enough accuracy in their shooting to keep Ogrizovic on his toes. In the first half Steele, after playing a neat one-two with Walker, curled one lovely left-foot effort only inches too high. Walker, taking aim from 25 yards, forced a save from the Coventry goalkeeper early in the second period.

At times it seems scarcely credible that 81 League places at present divide these rivals, nor that their manager Geoff Chapple had spent a mere pounds 40,000 putting together his squad, compared with the pounds 17m splashed out by Strachan and his predecessor, Ron Atkinson. Certainly, there was little sense of the spirit of David and Goliath in the way they played cat-and-mouse with one another, with Woking at ease in their surroundings and content to pass and probe.

Midway through the second half, however, there were signs that Premiership class and fitness would win the day as Coventry mounted a series of increasingly dangerous attacks, in which Woking goalkeeper Laurence Batty saved at the feet of Gary McAllister and defender Steve Foster hacked away a header by Darren Huckerby from under the crossbar. Sure enough, the breakthrough came when Woking failed to cut out a low cross from the left by John Salako and Jess drilled a shot into Batty's right-hand corner from 15 yards.

That should have been that so far as fairy tales were concerned but Coventry, seeming to believe their job was done, invited their opponents to have one last try for glory and ultimately paid a potentially high price, assigning themselves a replay they will approach with some trepidation.