Cards and Dons square up
8:46am, Thu 24th Jul 2014
Woking v AFC Wimbledon
3pm on Saturday 26 July 2014
This should be an excellent test for both sides, in front of a good crowd, as both sets of players gear up for the season ahead. The Cards are looking confident, with the squad based on tried and tested players from last season with a few promising additions. The only blow has been the news that Kevin Betsy is likely to miss the first 12 weeks of the season as the result of an operation on his knee which is due to take place on Monday. Neal Ardley, meanwhile, has been ringing the changes for Wimbledon and it will be interesting to see how their squad is beginning to shape up.
The Cards won their first friendly 3-2 at home to Scottish Championship side Falkirk in spite of spurning several good chances. Last Saturday they drew 0-0 at Kingfield against a Fulham XI side which was, in effect, their U21 team. Few chances were created on a blisteringly hot afternoon. But Cards fans got their first, encouraging, sighting of new keeper, Jake Cole, from Plymouth Argyle, who can be expected to give Aaron Howe tough competition for the number 1 jersey. A first outing for new central defender James Clarke from Salisbury is still awaited. The Cardsâ€™ third new signing, attacking midfielder Theo Lewis, got in another 45 minutes. There were further appearances for trialists Xabi, Hicham Abdellah and Ebby Nelson-Addy and a first showing for Dylan Bonella.
On Tuesday a Woking XI, consisting mostly of these and other trialists, drew 1-1 at Frome Town, with Reece Beckles scoring the equaliser.
In contrast to Garry Hill, who has brought in only three completely new faces so far, Wimbledonâ€™s manager Neal Ardley has been very busy in the transfer market, signing nine new players over the summer. Prominent among them is the formidable figure of Bayo Akinfenwa, a 16-stone centre forward who, as you can imagine, is hard to dislodge but is more mobile than you might expect. Ardley looks to have done well to have prised him from Gillingham, who apparently offered him a new contract. Partnering him will be Matt Tubbs, the former Salisbury and Crawley striker, who is on a season-long loan from AFC Bournemouth. A third addition to the strike force is the speedy 20 year-old Ade Azeez, who was with Charlton Athletic last season but who impressed in loan spells at Torquay and Dagenham.
Ardley has also brought in two new keepers to give some competition to former Woking favourite Ross Worner. James Shea, 23, was originally an FA Youth Cup winner with Arsenal but shone at Harrow Borough last season, whilst 20 year-old Joe McDonnell was being mentored by Ashley Bayes at Basingstoke Town. The other additions are: experienced midfielder Dannie Bulman from Crawley Town; Sean Rigg, a winger from Oxford United; Jack Smith, an experienced left back who was with Millwall; and Mark Phillips, a robust centre back from Southend United, who played with Ardley at Millwall.
Wimbledonâ€™s first pre-season friendly saw them well beaten 3-0 by ex-boss Terry Brownâ€™s moneyed Margate side, who featured ex-Don/Card Brett Johnson, but the Dons fared much better last weekend, taking a 2-0 lead against a strong-ish Chelsea side and only losing out 3-2 to the second of two goals from John Terry.
On Tuesday night a much-changed Wimbledon side beat Sutton United 2-1 at home, with goals from Ade Azeez and Chace Jacquart.
AFC finished a disappointing 20th in the table last season, with a nervous finale caused by the deduction of three points for fielding an ineligible player, but would hope to fare better than that with the squad Ardley has now amassed.
The Leslie Gosden Stand will not be open for this match or any of the remaining pre-season games. There will be seating available in the Family and Directors' Stands. If you are elderly or infirm and need a seat, please speak to a Steward, who will endeavour to help you.
There is a new-look programme to cover all the home pre-season friendly games. Read Garry Hillâ€™s thoughts as the pre-season gathers pace.
The Cardsâ€™ next friendly is on Wednesday 30 July when League One side Crawley Town are likely to provide a tough test for Garry Hillâ€™s side.
The Cardsâ€™ remaining pre-season friendlies are:
Wednesday 30 July (7.45pm) Woking v Crawley Town
Saturday 2 August (2pm) Basingstoke Town v Woking
Tuesday 5 August (7.45pm) Woking v West Ham XI
The Conference Premier season starts in earnest on Saturday 9 August when Woking travel to Alfreton Town. The first home game is on Tuesday 12 August when Dartford are the visitors. Why not order a season ticket if you havenâ€™t already got one? It could be an exciting campaign!
Come on, you Cards!
P.S. Woking fans â€“ donâ€™t forget the fansâ€™ forum at Kingfield on Monday evening, starting at 7.30pm.