Woking v Maidstone United
Vanarama National League
3pm on Saturday 25 March 2017
It is hard to over-estimate the importance of this game to Woking’s chances of avoiding relegation. After Tuesday night’s tremendous 3-1 away win over Braintree Town the Cards now sit in 19th place in the table, ahead of the Stones only on goal difference and with the latter having two games in hand. Torquay United in the last relegation place are two points behind Woking with a game in hand, while all these sides will be looking nervously over their shoulders as York City’s revival continues. Maidstone are sure to bring plenty of fans to help to create a great atmosphere, so come down to the Laithwaite Community Stadium to cheer on Garry Hill’s side!
Just when the Cards really needed a big performance, they delivered it on Tuesday evening. Not only did they get the win they needed they played some fine football in the process. The combination of Delano Sam-Yorke and Jamie Lucas up front was a revelation. Playing like that it is no surprise that Delano was such a big hit with Stones fans during his loan spell there. It will no doubt be odd for him to line up against his recent team mates on Saturday but he can be sure to approach it professionally.
Joey Jones, another star performer, was hobbling towards the end of Tuesday’s game but wasn’t substituted, so will presumably be fine to start on Saturday. Keiran Murtagh, a late withdrawal at Gateshead and another key player at Braintree, was substituted before the end, no doubt to save him for this match.
Other key games on Saturday are: Dagenham and Redbridge v York City, Tranmere Rovers v Braintree Town and Wrexham v Torquay United.
The Stones were promoted to the Vanarama National League at the end of last season, beating Kent rivals Ebbsfleet United 4-3 on penalties in the play-off final after the game had ended 2-2 after extra time. Thus the club reached the top tier of the non-League game 23 years after the demise of the former Maidstone United, who had spent three years in the Football League before going bankrupt. The new club has had to work its way up through Kent leagues and the Ryman League and led a nomadic existence before its impressive new stadium, by the River Medway in the town centre, was opened at the beginning of the 2012-13 season. That season the Stones won the Ryman South title, followed by the Ryman Premier title in 2014-15. On Tuesday evening a new 1700 capacity stand was opened, at a cost of £850k, bringing the ground capacity to over 4,200.
The Stones, averaging over 2,200 at home games, can be expected to become a force in the National League provided that they can survive a testing first season. Irrespective of the outcome they are keeping faith with manager Jay Saunders, who’s been given a new contract, and will be going full-time next season.
Maidstone started the season promisingly but lost their way in the autumn: a loss of form which has only recently ended with a run of seven games without defeat, including a fine 2-0 away win at Dagenham and Redbridge. This run enabled them to escape the bottom four, briefly leapfrogging Woking in the process. On Tuesday night they will have been disappointed to manage only a 1-1 draw at home to Sutton United, Jamar Loza equalising from the spot in front of a crowd of nearly 3,000.
The Stones have an experienced keeper in Lee Worgan. At the back they recruited two ex-Welling United players in the summer, Anthony Acheampong, who had most recently been with Ebbsfleet United, and Kevin Lokko. Other regular starters at the back include Seth-Nana Twuamasi, Jamie Coyle and Jake McCarthy (on loan from Bournemouth). Magnus Okuonghe signed from Dagenham and Redbridge last month. In midfield Saunders can call on Stuart Lewis, Reece Prestedge (on loan from Bromley), Jack Paxman, Bobby-Joe Taylor and Harry Phipps, signed from Margate in December. Following the return of Delano Sam-Yorke to Woking, Saunders has brought in George Oakley on loan from AFC Wimbledon to join Joe Pigott (on loan from Cambridge United), Jamaican international Jamar Loza, long-serving Alex Flisher and Yemi Odubade as attacking options.
Over 65/Students with valid student card £13
The game will be segregated, with Maidstone fans standing on the uncovered Chris Lane Terrace or seated in a separate section of the Leslie Gosden Stand.
The draw for the 400 Club will take place after the game in the Cardinals Bar. Look up the news item of 7 March for more details and information on how to join the Club.
LAST TIME OUT
Maidstone United 0 Woking 3
Vanarama National League
19 November 2016
Cards fans have had few enjoyable away days this season but this was certainly one of them and all the more pleasurable since it was so unexpected, given that till that point the side had not won a single away game and the Cards had gone eight league games without a win.
After weathering the home team’s early pressure in wintery rain, Woking grew into the game with Keiran Murtagh making threatening runs into the Maidstone United box, given more freedom in midfield with Joey Jones playing the holding midfielder role.
Murtagh proved the inspiration for Woking’s opener, reaching the goal line and cutting back to an onrushing Fabio Saraiva, who had the presence of mind to slot his left-foot effort around the Maidstone bodies and into the bottom right corner.
With the Gallagher Stadium stunned into silence on the half-hour mark, Woking doubled their lead five minutes later through Gozie Ugwu. Jake Caprice carved out a yard of space on the right flank to whip in a delightful cross for Ugwu to attack from the back post and nod back across goalkeeper Lee Worgan.
The Cards had chances after the break to wrap up the game, with Saraiva blasting over the bar before Ugwu gave his team a three-goal cushion with less than 20 minutes remaining. In a virtual replay of Ugwu’s first of the afternoon, Caprice sprinted down the right wing to deliver a pinpoint cross for his striker to head home in front of the travelling supporters.
Maidstone United: Lee Worgan; Callum Driver, Tom Mills, Jamie Coyle, Kevin Lokko; James Rodgers, Bradley Hudson-Odoi (Yemi Odubade 72), Jack Paxman, Alex Flisher, Bobby-Joe Taylor (Ben Greenhalgh 79), Jamar Loza
Unused subs: Liam Enver-Marum, Dan Sweeney, Jack Evans
Woking: Brandon Hall; Jake Caprice, Brian Saah, Terrell Thomas, Frazer Shaw; Fabio Saraiva, Joey Jones (Frankie Sutherland 82), Charlie Carter, Keiran Murtagh, Chike Kandi (Delano Sam-Yorke 68); Gozie Ugwu (Anthony Edgar 84)
Unused subs: Andy Little, Ismail Yakubu
Goals: Saraiva (29), Ugwu (34, 72)
The Cards are at home to Sutton United next Saturday (1 April). Make a note now that entry to the Cards’ home game against Macclesfield Town at 3pm on Good Friday (14 April) will be free for U16s and only £10 for adults. There will be lots of added attractions too.
Come on, you Cards!