Woking 1 Lincoln City 3
Vanarama National League
6 August 2016
This always looked like a challenging opening fixture for a side containing so many new faces. Only four of the Cardsí starting eleven were with the Club last season, with only one more among the five substitutes. Lincoln City, on the other hand, are one of the bookiesí favourites for a play-off place and their seasoned side proved too strong for a team still finding its feet.
On a typically baking hot afternoon on the first day of the season, the Imps took the lead in the 28th minute from a smart turn and finish by Adam Marriott, only for the Cards to equalise immediately after the break from substitute Ismail Yakubu. Briefly, the Cards took the game to Lincoln before a poorly-defended counter-attack saw Matt Rhead slot home to restore the Impsí lead. It then became 3-1 with another goal, from the penalty spot, before Rhead missed his chance of a hat-trick when Michael Poke saved another penalty.
The Cards lined up with Poke in goal; a defence of Jake Caprice, Joey Jones, Brian Saah and Ben Gordon; a midfield of Dennon Lewis and Nathan Ralph on the flanks and with Keiran Murtagh and Fabio Saraiva inside them; and an attacking duo of Gozie Ugwu and Zac Ansah. Delano Sam-Yorke was presumably injured since he was not even among the substitutes.
The opening exchanges were fairly even, although even then the visitors appeared to have the edge in terms of possession and were clearly looking to hit long balls to the back post. The Cards threatened to open the scoring, however, in the 10th minute when Ugwu cleverly dummied a Caprice cross, with Saraivaís effort being blocked.
For the visitors Bradley Wood and Nathan Arnold both shot wide before Poke had to be alert to tip a back header from Joey Jones over his bar from one of Sam Haberghamís many long throws.
The Imps took the lead in the 28th minute when the Cardsí defence failed to cut out a long ball towards the back post, Rhead nodding down to the tricky Adam Marriott, who smartly turned a Woking defender and shot inside Pokeís near post.
Woking were finding it hard to mount much of a threat themselves at this stage, with the hard-working Ugwu not finding it easy to hold the ball up against a solid Lincoln back line and Ansah struggling to get into the game Ė with the same applying to Ralph and Lewis. But in the 35th minute an excellent flowing move saw Gordonís effort blocked by keeper Farman. Shortly afterwards Ugwu had a decent effort with a header from Lewisís cross, and Ansah made space for himself to shoot wide. The half ended with Farman comfortably saving a Gordon free-kick.
Half-time: Woking 0 Lincoln City 1
The matchday announcer hadnít had time to note Garry Hillís substitution of Yakubu for Saraiva, with Jones moving into midfield, before Yakubu stabbed home a low corner from Ralph which found its way to him through a crowd of players.
With their tails up, the Cards now enjoyed their best spell of the match, taking the game to a Lincoln side which was forced to concede several corners and free-kicks. Ugwu brought Farman into action but it was not all one way, with Marriott carving out a couple of half-chances at the other end.
In the 60th minute, however, Lincoln regained the lead with a goal which will have surely disappointed Garry Hill for it was a simple move, poorly defended. Muldoon surged down Wokingís left flank, crossing to the lurking, unmarked, Rhead at the far post, who side-footed home across Poke.
Although Lewis created a good opening for himself shortly afterwards, going behind once more seemed to knock some of the stuffing out of the Cards, who now brought on Charlie Penny for Lewis. Marriott shot wide from a promising position. A Saah foul on Rhead saw Poke make a fine save from the resulting free-kick but, in his eagerness to complete the clearance, Gordon seemed to clatter into the back of a Lincoln player and the referee awarded a penalty, which Rhead converted in the 73rd minute to make it 3-1 to the Imps.
Max Kretzschmar came on for Gordon in the 78th minute, with Ralph moving to left back. Disaster almost struck immediately as Murtagh and Jones got in each otherís way, allowing Bradley Wood to drive forward into the box, where he was adjudged to have been brought down. This time, however, Poke saved Rheadís spot kick, denying the burly Lincoln striker an opening day hat-trick.
The visitors saw out the game fairly comfortably, with the only Woking threat coming from a glancing header from Penny, whilst substitute Miles Taylor passed up an opportunity to add a fourth goal for Lincoln.
It was not perhaps surprising to see a new side lacking cohesion, and one or two players looked as though they had not come to terms with the pace and physicality of the National League. But, with games coming thick and fast at the beginning of the season, the side will need to re-group and adapt quickly, starting at newly-promoted Solihull Moors on Tuesday evening.
Woking: Michael Poke, Jake Caprice, Joey Jones, Brian Saah, Ben Gordon (Max Kretzschmar 78), Dennon Lewis (Charlie Penny 68), Keiran Murtagh, Fabio Saraiva (Ismail Yakubu 46), Nathan Ralph, Gozie Ugwu, Zac Ansah
Unused substitutes: Brandon Hall (gk), Chike Kandi
Scorer: Ismail Yakubu 46
Booked: Keiran Murtagh, Brian Saah
Lincoln City: Paul Farman, Bradley Wood, Sam Habergham, Luke Waterfall, Jack Muldoon, Matt Rhead, Adam Marriott (Jonathon Margetts 68), Lee Beevers, Jamie McCombe, Nathan Arnold (Miles Taylor 83) (Elliot Hodge 90 + 3), Alex Woodyard
Unused substitutes: Callum Howe, Sean Raggett
Booked: Jamie McCombe, Luke Waterfall, Sam Habergham, Miles Taylor
Scorers: Adam Marriott 28, Matt Rhead 60 and 73(pen)
Sponsorsí (The Travel Network Group) MOTM: Joey Jones (pictured)