New era starts on Saturday
9:29am, Thu 3rd Aug 2017
Woking v Gateshead
Vanarama National League
3pm on Saturday 5 August 2017
With over 1800 season tickets sold, a big crowd is expected at the Laithwaite Community Stadium on Saturday for the start of a new era as Anthony Limbrick takes charge of his first competitive game as manager of a much-changed Cards outfit. In Gateshead he will be up against a side desperate to make the play-offs. Make sure youâ€™re there to lend the Cards your support!
All Woking fans will share Anthonyâ€™s hope that the Cards can get off to a good start to the campaign on Saturday, especially since their next two games, away at Tranmere Rovers and Barrow, two more sides fancied for the play-offs, look decidedly tough. And, as we know from past experience, a poor start risks leading to loss of confidence and a sense of permanently playing â€˜catch upâ€™. If anything, the league is looking tougher than ever, with a host of other clubs, including Leyton Orient, Hartlepool United, Ebbsfleet United, AFC Fylde, Aldershot, Dagenham and Redbridge, Maidstone United and Boreham Wood, surely fancying their chances.
But, letâ€™s look on the bright side! Anthony has made some encouraging and interesting signings and itâ€™s plain that, thanks to his impressive coaching credentials and attention to detail, this Cards side will be extremely fit and in no doubt about what is expected of them.
A lot will of course turn on how quickly the new squad â€“ which contains 10 new recruits at the time of writing â€“ gels. But there were some useful pointers from the friendly games. Nathan Baxter, though young, is clearly a talented keeper and not slow to organise the defence in front of him. The experienced Richard Orlu, a stalwart of the Dover defence in recent seasons, looks like the sort of no-nonsense centre back we need, while it says a lot about the promise of Josh Staunton that the Daggers didnâ€™t want to lose him. The busy Chez Isaac, with plenty of know-how from his time at Braintree Town, ought to be influential in midfield, and wide men Joe Ward and Bobson Bawling, backed up by full backs Louis Ramsay and Nathan Ralph, should give us pace and penetration down the flanks. Because of injury we havenâ€™t seen anything of Jason Banton but he is, by all accounts, a talented player with attacking flair, and, when fit, should be able to complement the physical threat from the powerful Inih Effiong. Anthony will also be able to call on the likes of known quantities such as Kane Ferdinand, Fabio Saraiva and Charlie Carter, with perhaps the promising Academy player, Declan Appau, pushing his case for a first team place. Cards fans will be hoping perhaps that there might be at least one more attacking option before Saturday.
The Heed have been â€˜nearly menâ€™ the last couple of seasons, always looking as though they might make the play-off places but lacking sufficient consistency to nail it. A 9th place finish in 2015-16 was followed by an 8th place spot last season, with the Tynesiders falling away badly in the last month. The Heed Chairman, Richard Bennett, has said that a play-off place is â€œa mustâ€� this season but some fans are clearly concerned that a squad with an average age of 23 might not have sufficient experience to achieve the Chairmanâ€™s target, although the additional two play-off places may be just the incentive the Heed need.
Once again, former Halifax Town manager, Neil Aspin, has made substantial changes in the summer. Some very experienced players were discarded or chose to move on, including captain and â€˜player of the seasonâ€™ Liam Hogan, whoâ€™s moved to Salford City, along with another defender, Gus Mafuta; three more defenders, Manny Smith, James Bolton and George Smith; and midfielders Mitch Brundle and Toby Ajala. Aspin has brought in a dozen or so players, including those on loan. They include right back Theo Vassell, on loan at Chester last season from Walsall; left back Scott Barrow, previously with Merthyr Town but with experience at Newport County and Macclesfield; centre back Fraser Kerr, formerly with several Scottish clubs; highly experienced midfielder Russ Penn, who was on loan with the Heed for part of last season and who has enjoyed successful stints at York City and Cheltenham among other clubs; Kieran Green, a 20-year-old midfielder from Hartlepool United; well-travelled striker Richard Peniket, brought in from Halifax; Jordan Preston, who played up front for Guiseley last season; Robbie Tinkler, a 20-year-old defensive midfielder on loan from Middlesbrough, who had a loan spell at North Ferriby last season; and Fraser Horsfall, a young centre back on loan from Huddersfield Town.
Among those remaining from last season are keeper Richard Montgomery, defenders Neill Byrne and Jamal Fyfield, winger Wes York, midfielder Paddy McLaughlin and striker Danny Johnson, who netted 15 times last season.
The Heed have been handed four home games and two away games in August, so will be looking to make a strong start to the campaign. But their pre-season results were decidedly mixed, being held to draws by South Shields and Darlington and being beaten 3-0 at home by a young Newcastle United side. On Saturday, in their final friendly, they lost 3-0 at Conference North side, Harrogate Town, with Aspin admitting that they played poorly.
Over 65 Â£13
Disabled (Including carer) Â£13
Student (U19) Â£5
Donâ€™t forget the great offer for season ticket holders in the Geoff Chapple Lounge!
The Cardinals' Bar will be showing the opening game of the Vanarama National League season between Sutton United & Leyton Orient (12.30pm kick off) live on the big screen, so come down early! Don't forget that the Outback Shack will also be open.
Make sure you grab a copy of the matchday programme, which will feature an interview with Anthony Limbrick as well as profiles of all the players.
LAST TIME OUT
Gateshead 2 Woking 1
Vanarama National League
18 March 2017
Once again, in their desperate struggle to avoid the drop, Woking found themselves unable to hang onto a valuable point. The Cards took a deserved first half lead when Terell Thomas headed home Fabio Saraivaâ€™s corner and might have extended their lead, with Nathan Ralph firing just wide and the Heed keeper making good saves from Gozie Ugwu and new loan arrival, Jamie Lucas.
But Gateshead struck back soon after the break through Danny Johnson and then, at the death, Wes York netted Mitch Brundleâ€™s cross to leave the Cards in the last relegation place with 38 points from 38 games, while the Heed moved up to 5th.
Gateshead: Montgomery, Bolton (Brundle 52), Hogan, Mafuta, M.Smith, G.Smith, Beere (Hannant), McLaughlin, Johnson, Burrow, York
Unused subs: Ajala, Hanford, Bell
Scorers: Johnson (52), York (90)
Woking: Poke, Caprice, Thomas, Saah, Yakubu (Carter 59), Ralph, Jones, Saraiva, Ferdinand, Ugwu (Sam-Yorke 66), Lucas (Morris 58)
Unused subs: Ansah, Hall
Scorer: Thomas (21)
The Cards make the very long trips to Tranmere Rovers (Tuesday 8 August) and Barrow (Saturday 12 August) before entertaining Eastleigh on Tuesday 15 August.
Come on, you Cards!