West Leigh Park, Havant
When, just after the hour, Woking’s Jamie Hand was tunnelled for clattering into Steve Walker like a pigeon flying into a French window, my immediate thought was “I’ve got a bad feeling about this”. Let’s put this into context. We were leading 1-0 at the time, courtesy of Ian Simpemba's first half strike, and were in the midst of gaining a numerical advantage in terms of bodies as well.
I’ve long thought of myself as a positive thinker when it comes to football. Turns out I have a rose-tinted view of my having rose-tinted views. Looking at the remark above, my predilection these days appears to be towards pessimism.
However I can’t entirely blame the first half hour of humdrum football for that, given that I spent all of that time watching it over my shoulder whilst in the tea bar queue. There was little reward for my stoicism either. I like a nice dark, hearty tea ordinarily; swarthy and muscular like a Turkish weightlifter. Today’s was as pallid as a sleep-deprived haemophiliac.
So it was possibly the liquid based grumps that had me fretting, rather than celebrating, Hand’s dismissal. Although I’ve certainly watched enough football at this level to know that having an extra man is not always the boon it appears to be on paper.
To prove that point, within barely minute of Hand’s removal and ‘the fear’ applying its grip we had conceded a penalty kick that Guiseppe Sole eagerly capitalised upon, untroubled by Aaron Howe’s dive.
Mind you, whilst his guesswork and, quite often, his goal-kicking leave a lot to be desired, we probably had Aaron to thank for shepherding us from defeat with the brilliant finger-tip saves he pulled off in each half. Sole will also be cursing the post for keeping out his long range shot.
Despite this, to be fair to our depleted forward line (both Manny Williams and Mustafa Tiryaki were suspended, leaving Steve Hutchings as a lone wolf), Woking keeper Ross Worner also needed to be on form to make a superb one-handed save from Hutchings as our man bore down upon him like baby leopard careering excitedly in the direction of a deaf zebra.
In injury time, Woking found themselves a further man down as substitute Nathan Pinney saw red for his involvement in a spat with Aaron Howe. There was not time to capitalise though as the final whistle blew within a minute but, after all, if playing ten men is, illogically, a problem, then playing nine can only worsen that headache so we should, perhaps, be thankful.