Woking 3 Wealdstone 2
National League South Play-Off Semi-Final
5th May 2019
Woking staged a dramatic second-half fightback to book their place in the National League South play-off final against Welling United.
Trailing to early strikes by Wealdstoneâ€™s Freddie Grant and Connor Stevens with 14 minutes to go, after which even the most optimistic Woking fan must have written off their chances, the Cards produced one of the most stunning comebacks in recent memory.
First man-of-the-match Moussa Diarra headed home Max Kretzschmarâ€™s corner on 76 minutes before Kretzschmar himself smashed in the equaliser with four minutes left on the clock and then Jake Hyde flicked the ball past keeper Mark Scott for the winner deep into injury time.
Cue scenes of sheer delirium around Kingfield as all the players and management celebrated in front of a packed Leslie Gosden Stand.
Woking had made sure of second place and home advantage courtesy of a 3-1 victory at Dulwich Hamlet on Easter Monday. But those players still trying to secure a starting berth for the play-offs did their chances little good thanks to a drab 2-1 home defeat to lowly Gloucester City on the final day of the season.
This was the second season running that boss Alan Dowson has been involved in the play-offs, having lost to Braintree Town 4-3 on penalties in last yearâ€™s final. However, he was hoping to go one step better this time despite a less than convincing second half of the season.
Wealdstone had already done the double over Woking this season, bringing their winning start to an abrupt halt with a 1-0 win at Grosvenor Vale back in August after an 85-minute Matt Lench penalty. Then the Cards were undone by first-half strikes by Tarry Allarakhia and David Pratt in the return leg at Kingfield in January.
The Stones snuck into the play-offs after coming from behind to beat Hemel Hempstead Town on the final day of the regular season. And they continued their momentum with a 3-1 victory at fifth-placed Bath City in Wednesday nightâ€™s play-off eliminator.
Among the most familiar names in the Wealdstone ranks was former Cards midfielder Godfrey Poku. But influential keeper Jonathan North was ruled out after a serious head injury sustained in the Bath game.
Dowson also rang the changes, restoring Scott Durojaiye, Reise Allassani, Greg Luer and Max Kretzschmar to the side with Jake Hyde, Paul Hodges and Kane Ferdinand dropping to the bench, and James Ferry missing out altogether.
The game burst into life as early as the second minute when Grant crossed the ball and it was punched away by Craig Ross. The follow-up was smartly met by Rhys Taylor on the half-volley but his effort flicked off Josh Caseyâ€™s head and over the bar.
But Grant made Woking pay for their lackadaisical defending from the resulting corner by Daniel Green, arriving late in box to head home.
Shortly after Jake Sheppard found his way into referee James Durkinâ€™s book for a crude challenge on Armani Little.
Kretzschmar was next to try his luck from 30 yards but his effort was comfortably dealt with by Mark Scott in the Wealdstone goal.
Moments later, however, Stevens doubled Wealdstoneâ€™s advantage on 19 minutes as Woking went to sleep and were again undone by a Green corner, this time from the other side, Stevens firing beyond the despairing dive of Ross.
Chances were at a premium with the Cards failing to produce anything of note as Durojaiye joined Sheppard in the book for a robust tackle on Christian Smith who was later subbed for Simon Mensah as the half drew to a close with Woking going in 2-0 down.
Half-time: Woking 0 Wealdstone 2
The second half started with the same frenzy as the first with Wokingâ€™s appeals for a penalty after a handball by Stevens in the Wealdstone box waved away by Durkin. Moments later Kretzschmarâ€™s corner was met by the advancing Jack Cook but his header was just over.
Then on 61 minutes Ben Gerring rattled his header against the Wealdstone bar with Scott beaten, but the ball was scrambled to safety.
With the game seemingly ebbing away from Woking, Dowson had seen enough and brought on Hodges and Hyde for Allassani and Kieron Cadogan.
Little was then booked for a reckless challenge on Sheppard as frustration crept in.
Dowson then made his last roll of the dice, bringing on Ferdinand for Durojaiye. The changes paid swift dividends as moments later Diarra rose above the Wealdstone defence to head home Kretzschmarâ€™s corner to halve the deficit and set up a grandstand finish.
Little was then alert to pick up a quickly taken Hodges free-kick and he raced into the box. An almighty goalmouth scramble ensued but Kretzschmar was in the right place to force the ball home and level matters.
It was end-to-end stuff with Taylor also trying his luck from 30 yards but Ross comfortably caught it.
With extra time beckoning, Hodges flicked the ball over the top to Hyde who chipped the ball past Scott in the second minute of extra time to send the Kingfield faithful into raptures and set up a winner takes all clash at home to Welling next Sunday.
Hyde lifts the ball into the net to complete stunning Cards comeback; pic: David Holmes
However, the Cards will need to play much better from the start if they are to overcome an extremely strong Welling outfit that saw off Chelmsford City 3-2 courtesy of a Brendan Kiernan penalty in the sixth minute of injury time.
1 Craig Ross, 2 Jack Cook, 3 Josh Casey (c), 4 Olu Durojaiye (16 Kane Ferdinand 76â€™), 5 Ben Gerring, 6 Moussa Diarra, 7 Reise Allassani (15 Paul Hodges 62â€™), 8 Armani Little, 9 Greg Luer, 10 Max Kretzschmar, 11 Kieron Cadogan (14 Jake Hyde 65â€™)
12 Nathan Collier, 18 Sam Mason
Diarra 76â€™, Kretzschmar 86â€™, Hyde 90+3â€™
Durojaiye 31â€™, Little 70â€™
1 Mark Scott, 2 Rhys Tyler, 3 Freddie Grant, 4 Connor Stevens, 5 Jerome Okimo (c), 6 Godfrey Poku, 7 Jeffrey Monakana, 8 Christian Smith (14 Simon Mensah 33â€™), 9 David Pratt (James Clark 84â€™), 10 Daniel Green, 11 Jake Sheppard
12 Glen Wilson, 13 Sonny Wheeler, 17 Stefan Brown
Grant 3â€™, Stevens 19â€™
Man of the Match:
Moussa Diarra â€“ the man mountain didnâ€™t put a foot wrong all game, winning all his headers and scoring the crucial first goal that started Wokingâ€™s remarkable comeback