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Graham Baker on last night's game

Brian Caffarey - 28th April 2010

Graham Baker on last night's game I spoke to Graham Baker this morning to get his reactions to last night’s game.

Graham thought that the standard of play from both sides, especially in the first half, was exceptional for this level of football, with a very high tempo. He had debated beforehand whether to stick with Saturday’s line-up but decided on balance to bring in Jerome Maledon into the midfield since he’s a more natural central midfielder than Gez Sole, who can play in any position up front or midfield. He also wanted to give Moses Ademola the opportunity to try to latch onto Craig Faulconbridge’s flicks. Of course, Plan B had to be acted on when Gez went off injured. Matthew Wright was then the obvious replacement, given his track record and the amount of time he’s spent on the pitch compared with Charlie Moone or Joe McNerney.

Graham was disappointed that the defence was ‘caught cold’ for the first goal. He commented that all sides at this level have big defenders who present a threat at set pieces but that Olly Shulz is exceptionally prolific. Woking had snuffed him out at Dover with man marking but, unfortunately, last night he escaped his marker and was bound to do damage with a free header. He and Jimmy Dack will look at this again, of course, before Saturday.

Graham was delighted with the side’s response to the early setback, putting the Dover defence on the rack for 20 minutes or so and then gaining, first, the equaliser and then nearer half-time the winning goal.

He said that they’d talked at half-time about trying to take advantage of the fact that Dover would want to push forward and would try to get the ball to the front men quickly. If he had a criticism of our play last night, it was that we didn’t use the ball sufficiently well out of defence, resorting to hasty clearances instead of trying to find a man. But he did point out that it takes players of Premiership quality to be really comfortable on the ball and to consistently find their team mates when balls are played at them at speed in defence. He had also wanted us to slow the game down a little and to try to put a few passes together when we did get the ball but we had not done enough of this on the counter-attack. Nevertheless, we always presented a threat in the box and had the better chances than Dover, although the visitors probably had more of the ball.

I prompted Graham to comment on the performances of individual players. He thought that Nicky Nicolau had a fantastic game, with the best ball control of any player on the pitch, and putting in some great crosses. He was full of praise too for Jerome Maledon’s contribution, pointing out that he’d come into the side at a crucial stage of the season and played an important part. Although, clearly, Jerome doesn’t have as much creativity and flair as Harry Arter, and is a bit similar to Mark Ricketts in some respects, his contribution was very important. Graham enthused too about Craig Faulconbridge. They’d ‘nursed’ him carefully since his arrival, both on the pitch and the treatment table, and he was now getting fitter and fitter. He’d seen his knee specialist yesterday and had been given a clean bill of health. It was just a question now of building his strength up in the surrounding muscle area. As is evident from David Holmes’s interview with Craig, he is enjoying himself hugely at Woking and is apparently very keen to stay at the Club next season. Graham commented that his spell here had ‘rejuvenated’ Craig, and given him back an appetite for the game, at a point when his career could possibly have come to a dead end.

Graham, not surprisingly, sees the tie as being very finely balanced. A goal advantage is far from decisive and there is everything to play for on Saturday. Graham doesn’t yet know the extent of Gez Sole’s hip injury. He hopes Harry Arter may have recovered sufficiently by Saturday to at least be on the bench but pointed out that he would be bound to be weakened by his illness.

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