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RUSHDEN AND DIAMONDS 3 WOKING 1

John Moore - 27th April 2009

The end of an era

The Cards' final match in the top flight of non-league football ended in similar fashion to their first game in this league, seventeen years ago, in  defeat. With memories flooding in thick and fast from our tenure at this level, ranging from epic battles against Macclesfield and Stevenage, when we were a force to be reckoned with, to dogged, determined and gritty performances full of character against the likes of Telford and Stalybridge, when we were struggling, it was fervently hoped that the team would go out with a bang at Nene Park. Alas, the only fireworks Woking produced were off the pitch, when a mindless fan threw a flare at the end of the game and, disappointingly, the Cards ended a miserable season with more of a whimper than a defiant roar.

Graham Baker elected for a 4-5-1 formation and recalled Danny Bunce  after a lengthy spell out with a broken foot, pushed Joe Anderson into midfield to play in front of him and gave Paolo Vernazza a more advanced role in the hole behind Wilf Domoraud, who operated as the sole striker.

With the pitch looking in magnificent condition, it seemed to initially inspire the Cards and they started well, knocking the ball around confidentlyand seeking to use both flanks. After five minutes, Anderson went close, when his deflected shot fizzed just past the post.

Any hopes that the Rushden players might already be in holiday mode were rudely shattered a minute later, when they took the lead with a goal of the utmost simplicity. A ball over the top found Woking?s defence flat-footed, allowing Wolleaston to scramble the ball home, somehow squeezing it past the defenders on the line.

The Cards struck back four minutes later when an Oliver Bozanic free-kick evaded everyone and found Michael Kamara lurking unmarked at the farpost. He headed the ball back across the goal and it looped over the keeper and nestled into the far corner of the net.

The equaliser appeared to boost the team?s fragile confidence and led to the Cards? best spell of the match. Following good combination play between Kamara and Ledgister, first Domoraud went close with a glancing header from Ledgister?s whipped cross. Next, clever play from Bozanic and Domoraud, found Ledgister in space and, after cutting inside, he shot narrowly over from  just outside the box.

On the half hour mark, Rushden almost took the lead again, when Andy Burgess showed great skill and vision by evading several tackles and crashing a swerving shot from at least twenty-five yards, which hit the underside of the bar and was then scrambled away to safety.

This proved to be only a brief respite, as Rushden took the lead four minutes later. With Burgess now pulling the strings in midfield, the home side were beginning to enjoy far more possession, and this led to a corner.  The ball was only half cleared and from the resulting cross, Rankine rose above the Cards? defence at the far post to head home from close range.

Half-time Rushden 2 Woking 1

At the start of the second-half Michael Kamara was replaced by JoeMcNerney, who slotted in alongside Paul Lorraine, with Patrice Conan moving across to right back.

Sadly, it was unsurprising when Rushden increased their lead after fifty minutes, albeit with a slightly fortuitous goal. The Cards? defence gave Beecroft far too much space, and allowed him to cut inside and his effort struck the unfortunate Lorraine and totally wrong-footed Danny Knowles, who was given no chance.

Rushden, who were now almost treating the game like a training session by trying not to lose possession, had several opportunities to add a fourth, and only some smart saves and a heroic block from McNerney prevented this from happening.

At the death, Woking almost pulled a goal back, when Bozanic curled a long-range free-kick over the defensive wall, only to see it hit the top of the bar.

So the curtain comes down on the club?s long stay in the Conference, barring a reprieve in the summer. It has been, in anyone?s book, a very depressing and disappointing season, culminating in relegation. Let us hope that the chant coming from the Cards' long-suffering supporters during the game ?going down,  but we?ll be back? proves correct sooner rather later, and a new generation ofplayers can take this club back to its place among the elite of non-league football.

Woking: Knowles, Bunce, Kamara (McNerney), Konan, Lorraine, Ledgister, Quamina(Sam-Yorke), Vernazza, Bozanic, Anderson (Moone), Domoraud. Subs not used: Worner, Lambu.

MOTM: Paul Lorraine. Although he confessed to feeling ?knackered? afterwards, he again led from the front and showed pride in wearing the shirt. In the absence of Hutch for a lot of this season, he?s really stepped up to the plate and been the only player in the squad who?s shown any real consistency. He?s been, to put it simply, a tower of strength.

Attendance: 1676 (207 from Woking)

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