Cards lose out to the young guns
10:57pm, Sat 16th Jul 2011
Woking 0 Arsenal XI 3
15th July 2011
Despite the unflattering result the Cards will have been left satisfied with their first taste of the 2011/12 season, taking on and for spells matching the likes of Jay Emmanuel-Thomas and Sanchez Watt, who made up a talented young Arsenal side.
The four-figure turnout at Kingfield was treated to a Woking starting eleven unlikely to be far short of that starting against Sutton United in a month’s time – Adam Doyle and new-boy Wayne Gray the only obvious omissions.
The line-up therefore consisted of returning regulars Andy Little in goal, Joe McNerney (pictured) and Alan Inns in defence, skipper Mark Ricketts marshalling the midfield, and Elvis Hammond leading the line. New signings on show included Adam Newton at right back, Nathan Koranteng (following his spell with the Cards last term) trying out at left back, and ex-Farnborough trio Jack King, Dale Binns and Jay Davies playing alongside the back-again Giuseppe Sole in midfield, making up a 4-5-1 formation.
It was the home side who started the better, putting together some slick passing moves and enjoying the positive effect of overlapping full-backs Newton and Koranteng. Indeed, it was the advanced Koranteng who allowed the space for Binns to navigate his first winding run into Arsenal territory down the left, almost fooling himself with his quick feet.
Four minutes in and on the opposing flank it was King who worked his way into space, sending over a cross that only narrowly missed the run of Giuseppe Sole, Newton’s equally fine secondary cross, following a poor clearance, unlucky not to find a Woking shirt.
Unsurprisingly, it was Hammond who made the Cards' best chance, doing the majority of the work himself as he weaved his way through two defenders and attempted an audacious chip which required a fine save from Gunners' stopper James Shea, tipping the ball over the bar.
With the Cards on the front foot it made the opening goal even more disappointing, Emmanuel-Thomas's corner bouncing off the stranded Mark Ricketts and trickling in from six yards – this after a fine Joe McNerney intervention had prevented Benik Afobe putting away Arsenal’s first real chance.
The Gunners had now woken up and taken full control – the likes of Emmanuel-Thomas, Watt and Kyle Bartley, who had spent their previous campaigns at Cardiff City, Leeds United and Sheffield United respectively, showing their obvious touch of top-level class – the Cards having Little’s sprawling save at the feet of the equally intimidating Chukus Aneke to thank for not being further behind.
The second goal was, however, inevitable and was delivered in supreme style as Afobe jinked his way through the Woking back line and played in Aneke for a simple finish: the score dampening what had been, at least for twenty minutes, a highly fluent and encouraging performance from the boys in yellow.
Half-time: Woking 0 Arsenal XI 2
Both teams looked far more disjointed after the break, coaching staff on either side using the opportunity to run the rule over triallists, fringe players and, in Woking’s case, the younger members of Garry Hill’s new-look squad.
Steve Thompson changed nine of the starting eleven over the course of the second half, with only Little and McNerney completing the 90 minutes. This meant a line-up by the end of the game of Little in goal, a back four of McNerney and triallists Wolleaston, Lawrence and Noone, a midfield five of youngsters Frith, Griffiths, Palmer and further triallists Powell and Kozucu, with Sogbanmu the lone striker.
Unfortunately, the little attacking play on show in the second half came from Arsenal, Little twice doing well to deny the Gunners one-on-one before Emmanuel-Thomas, latching on to a mistake from Noone, finally made the weight of chances pay.
Giuseppe Sole came closest to a second-half strike for the Cards, his free-kick forcing no more than a neat save before he joined those heading for an early shower.
So, perhaps on balance the Cards were only slightly hard done by, their display having proved most encouraging before Ricketts's unlucky opener. However, major positives did come from the performances of many of the new signings: Adam Newton looking solid at the back and aggressive in attack, Nathan Koranteng – a surprise for many in defence considering his usual attacking instincts – playing equally well despite the odd mistake, Jack King and Dale Binns both looking fine additions, especially when exchanging with each other, while the offerings of Davies and Sole will be more than familiar to Woking fans – Jay his usual energetic self, Gez looking a persistent danger out on the right.
The balance of the side was corrupted in the second-half as new, untried players were given their chance to impress. Those that did certainly included the sprightly Josh Griffiths, sporting both a dazzling blonde hairstyle and some fancy footwork as he made the Arsenal back-line sweat over their clean-sheet. The young midfielder also linked up well with Sogbanmu, who was unlucky, on more than one occasion, not to see the ball fall more kindly for him at the last moment.
With more winnable friendlies against Reading, Charlton and Kingstonian to come in July, along with QPR and Heybridge Swifts in early August, we will soon have a better idea of where we stand. Taking into account the impressive standard of the Gunners on a chilly Friday night, a satisfactory start!
Woking: Andy Little, Adam Newton (George Frith 80), Nathan Koranteng (Michael Noone* 63), Mark Ricketts (Ollie Palmer 68), Joe McNerney, Alan Inns (Demetrious Lawrence* 73), Giuseppe Sole (Ola Sogbanmu 58), Jack King (Matt Powell* 80), Dale Binns (Alper Kozucu* 46), Elvis Hammond (Josh Griffiths 58), Jay Davies (Rob Wolleaston* 46).
Unused Subs: Aaron Howe, Anson Cousins.
Arsenal XI: Shea, Hajrovic, Meade, Henderson, Bartley, Boateng, Emmanuel-Thomas, Ozyakup, Afobe, Aneke, Watt.
Subs: Brislen-Hall, Yennaris, Freeman, Galindo, Murphy.
MOTM: Joe McNerney – The only Cards outfield player to complete the full 90 minutes, looked as assured as ever and was unfazed by the array of young Arsenal talent on show.