Specsavers

Cards get off to flying start

Brian Caffarey
9:00pm, Sat 3rd Aug 2019
Dagenham and Redbridge 0 Woking 2
Vanarama National League
3 August 2019

A hugely committed performance from all the Woking players, combined with potency at set pieces, saw the Cards get off to a flying start on their return to the top tier of non-League football. The fun started early, with Alan Dowson’s side taking the lead in the 7th minute when Kane Ferdinand bundled the ball in after ‘man of the match’ Moussa Diarra and Jack Cook had won headers at a free-kick. The Cards doubled their lead in the 53rd minute when Diarra nodded home after a free-kick had been headed back into the mix at the far post. Terrific harrying, chasing and obdurate defending restricted the Daggers to very few chances.

Dowse had been handed a tough opening fixture for his first game in charge at this level. The Daggers, with new financial backing, have put together a strong squad, with fans optimistic about making the play-offs. 13 new arrivals included ex-Card Joe Quigley and former Shot, Reece Grant, up front, midfielders Mitch Brundle (ex-Dover) and Harold Odametey (who always impressed against us for Maidenhead) and defender Luke Croll (from Exeter). They joined the likes of experienced defender Kenny Clark and striker Angelo Balanta, plus former Card Matt Robinson and Chike Kandi, to form an outfit that promises to give the Daggers a good chance of recovering their Football League status.

On a bright, calm afternoon the Cards lined up with Craig Ross in goal, a towering central defensive trio of Diarra, Ben Gerring and Manny Parry, with Cook and Josh Casey as wing backs. The midfield comprised Sean Donnellan, Ferdinand and Max Kretzschmar, with Dave Tarpey and Jake Hyde up front. New loan signings Tyreke Johnson and Ibrahim Meite were on the bench.

Roared on by a noisy contingent of 340 fans, the Cards’ aerial threat became clear at the very first opportunity. In the 7th minute Kretzschmar floated in a free-kick from out left, Diarra headed towards goal, with Cook nodding back a partial clearance, and Ferdinand scrambling the loose ball home from close range.

The Daggers’ first chance came in the 16th minute when Graham beat Cook to a header from a diagonal cross, nodding down to Clark, who, however, drilled wide.

The home side began to make most of the running as they started to put some passes together, pushing Woking back. The Cards found it hard to retain possession in midfield and had to rely mainly on hitting long balls towards Tarpey and Hyde. But another free-kick, in the 26th minute, demonstrated again the Cards’ threat at set pieces. After the first Casey corner was tipped over the bar, Diarra flicked the second onto the bar. A few minutes later Hyde flashed a dangerous ball right across the goalmouth, a deflection gaining a corner. Gerring’s header reached Parry but the latter could not get his effort on target.

In the final quarter before the break the Daggers ramped up the pressure and it looked as though the Cards would do well to keep their lead intact till the interval. A fine ‘take’ by the lively McQueen led to a shot by Eleftheriou, which Parry blocked. The Daggers went even closer when a McQueen free-kick ricocheted off the wall and just over the bar, with Ross stranded. Several corners followed before Woking nearly profited from a swift breakaway, Hyde sweeping the ball into Tarpey’s path but the latter wasn’t quick enough to avoid Clark’s saving tackle.

On the stroke of half-time Quigley put a tame header straight at Ross and ought to have done better when putting wide a fine Balanta cross.

Half-time: Dagenham and Redbridge 0 Woking 1

The expected Dagenham onslaught did not really materialise in the second half, thanks in large part to some superb closing-down and timely interceptions. In fact, it was Woking who again produced the early threat. A Cook long throw was flicked on by Diarra but Ferdinand’s snap shot was blocked.

In the 52nd minute, though, the Cards doubled their lead. A Casey free-kick was headed goalwards from the far post, enabling Diarra to nod home from very close in.

Peter Taylor began to ring the changes for the Daggers but they were not able to produce a sustained attacking threat. The long legs of Diarra foiled Quigley and Brundle fired well over the bar before, in the 69th minute, substitute Reece Grant went close with a spectacular diving header.

A few minutes later Dowse brought on Godfrey Poku for Kretzschmar and Ibrahim Meite for Hyde, quickly followed by Tyreke Johnson for Tarpey. Poku quickly got stuck in and the two new loan signings impressed with their endeavour, energy and pace. Johnson nearly played in Meite and Donnellan did the same for Johnson.

Meite came close to grabbing a third goal when he blocked a clearance. The ball spun up in the air towards the goal. The Daggers’ keeper just managed to pounce on the ball but it looked as though he had pushed Meite in the back in the process.

In the 86th minute Ross dived low to take cleanly a long-distance shot from Brundle and then had to produce a fine save to deflect Balanta’s effort away for a corner. The Cards too managed a rare shot, Poku trying his luck from a fair way out. A Brundle effort was deflected away for a final corner, headed firmly away by Ferdinand, before the Woking players, management and fans could celebrate an excellent win.

This was a magnificently committed performance, with everyone, from front to back, working their socks off to frustrate a talented Daggers side. Special mention must go to the three centre backs, with outstanding displays by Diarra and Parry in particular, but they were well supported by all their team mates. An added bonus towards the end was seeing the cameo performances of Meite and Johnson, who both looked as though they could trouble defences with their running.

The Cards will go into Tuesday night’s ‘derby’ game against the Shots with great heart after this morale-boosting win. Let’s hope the hard work which made it possible hasn’t taken too much of a toll on energy levels.

Dagenham and Redbridge: Elliott Justham, Manny Onariase, Luke Croll, Kenny Clark, Alex McQueen (James Dobson 63), Mitch Brundle, Angelo Balanta, Bragasan Graham (Joan Luque 63), Joe Quigley, Andrew Eleftheriou, Harold Odametey (Reece Grant 68)

Unused subs: Will Wright, Matt Robinson

Booked: Mitch Brundle

Woking: Craig Ross, Jack Cook, Josh Casey, Manny Parry, Ben Gerring, Moussa Diarra, Kane Ferdinand, Sean Donnellan, Max Kretzschmar (Godfrey Poku 73), Jake Hyde (Ibrahim Meite 73), Dave Tarpey (Tyreke Johnson 77)

Unused subs: Sam Howes, Nathan Collier

Goals: Kane Ferdinand 7, Moussa Diarra 53

Referee: Elliot Swallow

Attendance: 1549 (340 away fans)

Man of the Match: Moussa Diarra (pictured), rapidly becoming a fans’ favourite, winning almost everything in the air and making many timely interceptions on the ground.

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