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Rendell injury blow in opening day defeat for Cards

Malcolm Wyatt - 9th August 2015

Rendell injury blow in opening day defeat for Cards Tranmere Rovers 1 Woking 0
The Vanarama National League
August 8th 2015

A new-look Woking side slipped to a slim defeat and lost top striker Scott Rendell to injury in sunny Birkenhead on the opening Saturday of the season.

The result was by no means a dead loss for the Cards though, and Garry Hill’s side can be proud of their efforts in a game of few clear-cut chances at Prenton Park.

In the end, they were undone by a quality 25-yard free-kick from Jay Harris, the home midfielder - one of the first signings for new boss Gary Brabin, having joined from Wrexham - firing past the visitors’ wall and keeper Jake Cole 13 minutes into the second half.

Meanwhile, Woking’s Rendell, arguably the most feared striker in the newly-renamed National League, appeared to suffer a knee injury late in the first half after a robust challenge, and was stretchered off to warm applause from the 5,583 attendance.

How much of a lay-off follows depends on a scan early next week. But while that’s a worry for the Cards, there were plenty of positives to be taken from this long trek to the Wirral.

Hill’s side – including six new faces - gave as good as their full-time hosts, newly relegated from League Two, on a baking afternoon, although they perhaps missed that killer touch.

Late signing Bruno Andrade, Jake Caprice and Ismail Yakubu impressed on their full debuts, while Kadel Daniel had a promising late run-out from the bench, with fellow new boys Godfrey Poku and Nick Hamann watching on from the sidelines.

In an early visitors' attack, home keeper Scott Davies collected with Rendell loitering, following a Chris Arthur cross, while in Rovers’ best opening no one could capitalise on Liam Ridehalgh's cross.

Harris then tested Cole from distance, while the busy John Goddard was almost in but didn't get enough power in his drill, the hosts looking exposed.

Goddard was starting to make in-roads as Tranmere struggled to settle, but on a home break Cole had to punch away a Harris free-kick, while Michael Ihiekwe booted over another half-chance.

Cole had to be quick off his line to deny Ridehalgh in the air, while as Woking countered, Kieran Murtagh shot over.

Debutants Andrade and Caprice were starting to harry Rovers’ defence from the wing, while Goddard got in a stronger strike but was deemed offside as his effort struck the underside of the crossbar.

Chris Arthur's left-wing industry led to a corner, and while Goddard's centre was too long, Andrade played back in and Goddard won another. But this time home skipper Steven Jennings cleared.

A Goddard free-kick was headed on target by Yakubu, but while Rovers cleared and countered, the same man – pretty solid in central defence alongside Brian Saah - was quickly back to return safely to Cole.

Lois Maynard worked hard on Rovers' left but finally ran out of steam after two challenges, while Rendell failed to chip the keeper as Woking hit back, Kieran Murtagh playing him in, the flag raised anyway.

Cole got down well to the next speculative home shot on goal, but then came that injury following a Ridehalgh free-kick for a push 30 yards out, Rendell going down under the challenge of Ritchie Sutton.

A long delay followed – including a welcome drinks break - before Rendell was carried off, Giuseppe Sole taking his place.

As Woking regrouped, Murtagh had to mop up as Jennings and Ihiekwe looked to find a way through on the right of the area, while from another Ridehalgh cross the hosts appealed for a penalty as James Norwood went down in the area, the referee waving the protests away.

Goddard won another corner, but again Rovers finally got the ball away, while in the last chance of the first half, the same roving midfielder lost out to Davies after a Murtagh delivery.

Half-time: Tranmere Rovers 0 Woking 0

Rovers seemed to have more fire about them from there, and won a corner more or less from the restart, but Garry Hill's side held their line, Cole palming away from a Harris delivery, the hosts starting to turn the screw following a sweeping move.

Andrade was almost in as Woking countered, only just off target as he looked to lose his markers. But Brabin's side were coming in waves, and Cole Stockton shot over after Norwood's shot was blocked and the visitors only half-cleared.

An uncharacteristic chipped Sole free-kick from distance lacked power, Davies untroubled, and soon Rovers had a dangerous free-kick of their own, 25 yards out.

They seemed to labour at it, but you had the feeling that it was all part of the act, a couple of short passes setting up Harris, who let fly, a mighty roar erupting around Prenton Park as it shook the net.

The Cards fought on, Caprice's deep cross cut back by Goddard, but Murtagh was unable to find enough space to continue.

Goddard was back to stop the next home attack with a well-timed clearance, and Hill soon made a further change, Andrade making way for Kadel Daniel for the final quarter.

He was soon part of a promising attack with Joey Jones and Goddard down the right, but Rovers stood their ground, and another long-range Sole free-kick was easily blocked.

As Tranmere countered, home sub and ex-Aldershot player Adam Mekki crossed, but no one could get near his delivery, the Cards soon making a final change as Reece Beckles replaced Caprice, who had also put in a promising shift without reward.

Daniel showed a little pace on the right to win a throw-in, but again Rovers cleared, Ridehalgh again threatening with a free-kick as the minutes began to slip away.

There was still time for one last Sole free-kick, but this time it cleared the wall and kept rising into the stand, where it was comfortably caught by one of the 170 travelling faithful.

There was no disgrace in defeat though, and Woking should certainly have learned from the experience of this difficult opener against a title contender.

Tranmere: Scott Davies, Ritchie Sutton, Liam Ridehalgh, Steven Jennings (c), Liam Hogan, Jay Harris, James Norwood (Adam Mekki 64), Lois Maynard, Michael Ihiekwe, Matt Hill, Cole Stockton

Subs not used: Iain Turner, Andy Mangan, Martin Riley, Jonny Margetts

Goal: Jay Harris (58)

No bookings

Woking: Jake Cole, Jake Caprice (Reece Beckles 79), Chris Arthur, Mark Ricketts (c), Brian Saah, Ismail Yakubu, Joey Jones, Keiran Murtagh, Scott Rendell (Giuseppe Sole 41), John Goddard, Bruno Andrade (Kadel Daniel 67)

Subs not used: Godfrey Poku, Nick Hamann

No bookings

Attendance: 5,583 (170 from Woking)

My MOTM: John Goddard – a typical hard-working shift from this ever-diligent roving midfielder, and on another day he may have sneaked a goal.
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