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WOKING v TORQUAY UNITED

Brian Caffarey - 27th December 2007

WOKING v TORQUAY UNITED
3pm on Saturday 29 December 2007

Can the Cards do their neighbours, the Shots, a favour by culling the Gulls this Saturday? Woking continue their extremely tough, but attractive, Christmas/New Year programme with the visit of the Shots? current main rivals for automatic promotion, free-scoring Torquay United. It?s only a few weeks since we travelled down to Plainmoor and suffered a 2-0 defeat, not helped by Marvin Morgan?s very harsh dismissal when the Cards were 1- 0 down but far from out of the game. From then on there was only one team in it ? and the Cards were fortunate not to suffer a heavier reverse. The return encounter is a great opportunity for the Cards to show what might have been had they managed to retain eleven men on the pitch. But it won?t be easy!

WOKING

Although the Cards lost, narrowly, to Aldershot Town on Boxing Day, there was enough about the display to confirm that the signs of improvement during the recent run of five wins were not simply illusory. Torquay will provide another opportunity to test ourselves against a top side. The team now looks reasonably well balanced and holds a better shape than earlier in the season. The defence remains strong and the midfield is looking more durable and creative, with Kevin James and Matt Pattison being backed up by increasingly assured performances from Matt Gray and Adam Green. Frank Gray is well aware that he has to try to bring in someone during the transfer window who is likely to find the back of the net a bit more consistently than our current strikers, all of whom show promise but aren?t clinical enough. However, even if they were hitting the back of the net regularly, three strikers is simply too few to cope with the inevitable injuries, suspensions, tiredness and loss of form. We could certainly do with someone who gets into the box more frequently than our current forward line.

I haven?t had an update yet on the injury situation but Matt Ruby will certainly be missing again on Saturday following the operation on his hand. Jerome Maledon was also on the injury list on Boxing Day.

TORQUAY SQUAD

Paul Buckle, formerly Exeter City?s Assistant Manager, was appointed in early June by the new consortium which had taken control of the club and wasted no time in gathering an impressive group of new players around him. Not surprisingly, he looked to his old club for a few of them. Keeper Martin Rice, striker Lee Phillips and defender Chris Todd all switched from St James?s Park. A second keeper was added in the shape of Simon Rayner, who had had a loan spell the previous season from Lincoln City. Experienced left-back Kevin Nicholson joined from Forest Green Rovers and defender Paul Hinshelwood, son of Paul senior and brother of Adam, arrived from Brighton and Hove Albion. In midfield Buckle added the experienced Chris Hargreaves, with over 500 league games to his credit, Darren Mullings, formerly with Bristol Rovers, Danny Wring, a 20 year-old winger from Bristol City, and Danny Stevens (ex-Luton). Up front the familiar figure of ex-Shot Tim Sills arrived from Hereford United, along with two loan signings: the exciting Chris Zebroski from Millwall and Ishmael Welsh, a winger on a season-long loan from Yeovil, and 19 year-old Elliot Benyon, who had loan spells last season with St Albans and Crawley. A returnee was striker Tony Bedeau after a brief spell at Walsall.

SEASON SO FAR

The Gulls were one of the bookies? pre-season favourites for the title and they?ve certainly lived up to their billing. A televised opener saw them draw 0-0 against Grays Athletic but Plainmoor then witnessed seven home league wins on the trot, including a convincing 4-2 defeat of Stevenage Borough. The record ended when Cambridge United came away with a 2-1 win. Goals haven?t been hard to come by either: the Gulls have scored 56 in 22 outings, compared with our 22 in two more outings! The goal tally includes five at both Histon and Kidderminster Harriers. Tim Sills and Chris Zebroski have both bagged 11 league goals while Lee Phillips has scored nine. Torquay?s away record reads: won 7, drawn 2, lost 3. The three defeats occurred at Burton Albion, Ebbsfleet United and ? on Boxing Day ? at rivals Exeter City. In a thrilling game, in front of a crowd of nearly 8,000. Exeter went into a 4-1 lead before having a man sent off. The Gulls clawed the game back to 4-3 but couldn?t quite snatch the equaliser. On target for the Gulls were Chris Todd, Lee Phillips and Kevin Nicholson.

A glimmer of hope for the Cards is that Torquay have conceded more goals than us: 34 compared with our 26. In fact, only Cambridge United have conceded fewer league goals at home than the Cards (10 in 12 games). Conversely, only Stafford and Northwich have scored fewer goals at home.

In the Cup Torquay had a fine 2-0 away win over Bath City and then had a superb 4-1 home victory over Yeovil Town before succumbing 2-0 at home to Brighton and Hove Albion in the Second Round. In the Trophy the Gulls beat Bashley 1-0 at home and now travel to Newport County. Torquay surprisingly lost 2-0 at St Albans in the Setanta Shield a week ago.

PREVIOUS ENCOUNTERS

Our only previous game against Torquay was the away match at Plainmoor on 24 November. The Cards travelled down there in reasonably good spirits, having achieved creditable draws in their previous three away games at Stevenage, Oxford and Kidderminster, although, as always this season, the worry was where the goals were going to come from. At that point we had scored only three goals in our previous seven games. By 5pm that afternoon, that record became three goals in eight games ? and, what?s more, we were going to have to do without first choice striker, Marvin Morgan, for the following three games.

The Cards looked fairly comfortable for the first 20 minutes but then a huge, wind-assisted kick by the Gulls? keeper caught the defence out. The ball fell between Nick Gindre and Paul Lorraine, and the Gulls? Elliot Benyon prodded home. You felt that if the Cards could only hold out till half-time they might just stand a chance in the second half with the wind behind them. But the Cards? dreadful luck continued with the dismissal of Marvin Morgan for his two-footed tackle on the ball. (Even Paul Buckle was moved after the game to say that he would have been very unhappy if one of his players had been sent off for Marvin?s misdemeanour. Needless to say, the FA rejected Woking?s appeal!) It was virtually one-way traffic in the second half and it was astonishing ? and a tribute to the resolute Cards? defence ? that Torquay added only a far-post header from Chris Hargreaves.

Come on, you Cards!

Log on to www.wokingfc.co.uk for a match report on Saturday evening.


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