Cards begin National League South campaign at Rookery Hill

Glen Harrington
12:00am, Fri 3rd Aug 2018
East Thurrock United vs Woking
National League South
Saturday 4th August

After nine encouraging pre-season friendlies, comprising five wins, two draws and two defeats, the Cards finally begin their National League South campaign this coming Saturday as they travel to East Thurrock United.

Despite selecting a predominately second-string eleven, also comprising a number of trialists, Alan Dowson’s side were comfortable in defeating Farnborough 2-0 on Tuesday evening – Reggie Young and trialist Bradley Simms scoring the goals. It will certainly be a very different side which lines up in Essex but it will be interesting to see whether any of Young, Greg Luer or Paul Hodges in particular has done enough to earn a starting spot.

The Rocks were promoted to the sixth tier of English football in 2016, beating Dulwich Hamlet in the Isthmian League Premier Division play-off final, and have since finished 13th and 15th in their two seasons in the division. Last year they got 50 points from their 42 games – eight clear of the bottom three – but notably conceded 84 goals, with only relegated Whitehawk letting in more.

The Cards will certainly be hoping to make a statement of intent to justify their position amongst the favourites for promotion so get along if you can to support the team and cheer them on to success!

Woking Team News

Dowse, supported by assistants Martin Tyler and Ian Dyer, look to have put together a very competitive squad ahead of the new season and the trio will certainly have some interesting decisions to make ahead of Saturday’s opener.

German goalkeeper Berti Schotterl, who starred for Dartford during the second-half of last season, looks likely to start in goal ahead of academy graduate Sam Mason. The duo have shared the gloves during pre-season but the more experienced man is primed to get the nod. At the back, Nathan Collier and Josh Casey – two players Dowse knows well from former club Hampton and Richmond – seem the obvious choices in the two full-back positions, with Jack Cook and Ian Gayle set to be the preferred centre-back partnership with Charlie Wassmer still on the way back to full fitness.

In midfield, Dowse will be hoping that Christian Jolley is fit to start alongside Kane Ferdinand, with another academy graduate Declan Appau waiting in the wings to step in if he doesn’t make it. Max Kretzschmar should make his first competitive Woking appearance since the final day of the 2016/17 season after impressing in pre-season and will likely play in the number ten role, although Fabio Saraiva and Paul Hodges will also be looking to fill that spot.

Out wide, Nicky Wheeler should take one of the two places, but the second is very much up for grabs with Hodges and Reggie Young hoping to start, as well as one of the three forwards who could play slightly out of position to accommodate a teammate. Jake Hyde, Duane Ofori-Acheampong and Greg Luer are all pushing for a starting spot and all have drifted out wide at times during pre-season.

East Thurrock United Team News

The Rocks, managed by John Coventry, have the goals of last year’s National League South top scorer Sam Higgins to call upon. The striker found the net 25 times last season, three ahead of Dartford’s Alfie Pavey and Havant’s Jason Prior, and made the decision to stay with the club this summer.

The other very notable name in United’s squad is defender Paul Konchesky, the former England international who has played for the likes of West Ham, Fulham and Liverpool during his club career, but was with Billericay Town last year.

Last Time Out

Woking 2-0 East Thurrock United (FA Cup 4th Qualifying Round – 2003/04 season)

The Cards needed a replay to defeat East Thurrock after a 1-1 draw in the original fixture at Rookery Hill. Woking went on to reach the second round, beating Histon 3-1 in round one, before losing 3-0 at home to Kidderminster. For the Rocks it was the furthest they had ever reached in the competition at the time – a record which stood until 2011/12.

On the Day

Rookery Hill can be found in Corringham and the postcode is SS17 9LB. It is around an hour and a quarter from the Laithwaite Community Stadium. The nearest stations are Stanford-le-hope or Basildon, both on the Fenchurch Street to Southend line. Ticket prices are £13 for adults, £6 for an OAP or student and £3 for Under 16s. A group of two adults and two children can also purchase a ‘family ticket’ for £25 – although the group does all need to be related.

Next Up

The Cards play consecutive home games on Tuesday evening, against St Albans City, and then on Saturday afternoon against Oxford City. For many this will be the first opportunity to see the new team in action so come along if you can and cheer on the team.

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