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It's a draw again, in the River Lane rain

John Pearce - 10th July 2017

It's a draw again, in the River Lane rain Leatherhead 2 Woking 2
Pre-season Friendly
11th July 2017

Woking’s second Pre-season Friendly nearly saw them come unstuck away to Bostik Premier League team Leatherhead, a club they had last faced earlier this year Surrey Senior Cup.

The match took place at the River Lane ground, home to Leatherhead Youth Football Club, which is in the throes of a potential merger with Leatherhead Football Club, and a move of the latter to this ground from Fetcham Grove. The ground has clearly been redeveloped in recent times and the modern and hospitable, if low-key, facilities include a decent-sized car park, a ‘small but perfectly formed’ clubhouse/bar and two covered stands providing seating for 120-130 spectators.

The rain – conspicuous by its absence in recent weeks – was persistent throughout the game, and heavy at times. The 3G pitch on which this was played meant that this wasn’t much of an issue.

Woking’s starting line-up entirely consisted of contracted players and, of only 4 on the bench, 3 were from the academy and there were no other triallists; only Kane Ferdinand and Jason Banton were missing from the main squad. Leatherhead including several players experience at a significantly higher level, including right-back Sean Clohessy (ex Southend, Colchester, etc.) and midfielder Lee Minshull (AFC Wimbledon, Newport County) – and with Chike Kandi, at Kingfield last season, leading the line.

As early as the 3rd minute, Joe Ward showed why he is an exciting prospect with a surging run down the left, passing a couple of defenders before being fouled just outside the Leatherhead box; the ensuing free kick just missed Harry Girling’s left post. 4 minutes later, Ward hit the side netting from close range on the left, and had another shot blocked shortly after that.

Woking continued to apply pressure on the opposition goal, with a couple of corners, taken by Nathan Ralph, in quick succession but – slightly against the run of play, in the 19th minute – Leatherhead took the lead as Callum Davies found himself free in the Woking box and blasted the ball past Baxter into the net.

This lead was short lived as, finding himself free in the Leatherhead goal area, Ward slotted the ball calmly past Girling into the right-hand corner of Leatherhead’s goal, from a centre by Effiong on the right. Bobson Bawling’s shot shortly after that was well saved.

Unfortunately, Leatherhead regained the lead when Woking managed to conjure up a classic comedy own goal moment in the 30th minute. Staunton, well out on the right, contrived to over hit and misdirect a backpass, which left Baxter scrambling to his right but helplessly watching it drift past him into the corner of the net. 2-1.

Leatherhead had come into the game, with some dangerous attacks, and 3 minutes later Baxter was forced to punch out a cross under pressure. Playing up front for Leatherhead, Kandi was looking as lively and inventive as on his better appearances for the Cards last season; on 36 minutes, his shot from close range was saved well by Baxter, going out for a corner.

The first half drifted to a close, with Girling collecting a Ward cross and a Woking corner which led to nothing.

Half-time: Leatherhead 2 Woking 1

Woking made two changes at half time, with Richard Orlu replacing Joey Jones in defence, and academy player Declan Appau on for Ward. Leatherhead also swapped couple of players.

A Woking shot in the 49th minute was well saved and, 5 minutes later, a goal bound strike by Appau was deflected past the post for a corner. Shortly after that, Charlie Carter did superbly to get to the byline to the left of the Leatherhead goal and cut the ball back to Bawling who was ideally positioned to drive it into the net. 2-2

Inih Effiong was struggling to find form, compsure and accuracy up front and blasted the ball over the bar, and headed wide to the right, in the 62nd and 68th minutes respectively. A ball lofted in towards the Leatherhead goal was headed wide by Fabio Saraiva and, 4 minutes later, the same player drove the ball dangerously across their box from the right, missing everyone.

A further Woking substitution ensued, with Ivan Nsimbi replacing Saraiva. A Leatherhead shot from the left was pushed out unconvincingly by Baxter, in the final meaningful action of the game.

An entertaining game, and a solid display and good run-out for Woking, against a determined opposition performing above their theoretical station, in conditions that were unpleasant – and probably unplayable if it had been on grass. There still appear to be some issues to be addressed before the season starts next month – for example, the need for an effective back-up for Effiong as a main striker, a more experienced goalkeeper as competition for Baxter, and a midfielder who can effectively replace the assured Murtagh in his pivotal role?

Leatherhead goals: Callum Davies 19, Staunton 30 (OG)

Woking: Nathan Baxter, Jordan Wynter, Nathan Ralph, Josh Staunton, Joey Jones (Richard Orlu 45), Chez Isaac, Charlie Carter, Fabio Saraiva (Ivan Nsimbi 78), Bobson Bawling, Joe Ward (Declan Appau 45), Inih Effiong

Unused subs: Sam Mason

Goals: Ward 25, Bawling 56

Bookings: None

Attendance: 97, according to Leatherhead Twitter feed (looked about 150-200)

Man of the Match: Impressive performances from Bobson Bawling and Joe Ward in particular but – although he only played for the first half of the game – my vote goes to Ward for his incisive runs at the opposition defence and his calm side-footing of the ball for Woking’s first goal. He looks a class act.
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