Boz's Fruit & Veg

Impressive Cards battle to first-day win

Will Thompson
12:00am, Sat 3rd Oct 2020
Woking 2 Solihull Moors 1
Vanarama National League
3rd October 2020

It seemed appropriate that storm clouds gathered around Kingfield as Woking got their 2020-21 season underway. With the season only fully confirmed as going ahead yesterday – given the financial implications of the pandemic and the requirement to at least initially play games behind closed doors – manager Alan Dowson was forced to make as many as five signings in the 24 hours leading up to kick off. Facing a full-time outfit including the likes of former Championship stalwarts Jamie Ward and Stephen Gleeson, prospects for the Card’s did perhaps look a bit gloomy, at least for this season opener. However, the aforementioned storm clouds stayed away for the duration of the game, as did any doubts that the home side would struggle to be competitive in the league this season, as Woking fought to very well-earned 2-1 victory.

Manager Alan Dowson sprung a couple of surprises with his team selection, with both Dave Tarpey and the returning John Goddard left on the bench, choosing what appeared to be a 4-3-2-1 formation. Craig Ross started in goal, behind a back four of Nathan Collier, Saul Shotton (signed on loan from West Brom yesterday), Jack Cook and Josh Casey. Tommy Block and Charlie Cooper took up the deeper two midfield positions, with Kane Ferdinand (pictured above) taking up a more advanced central role whilst being flanked by Max Kretzschmar and another late-arriving loanee - this time from Oxford - Malachi Napa. Fellow Oxford loanee, Slavi Spasov, took up the lone role up front.

The first eight minutes went by with very little goalmouth action - Woking seemed content to sit back and allow Solihull to keep the ball, which was fine, as play was generally in the middle third of the pitch. In the ninth minute though, the away side did manage to get in behind the Woking back four, as Shotton was dispossessed on the Woking right by ex-Derby County forward Ward, who fizzed a cross-cum-shot across the Cards’ six-yard box, but fortunately (for Woking fans) evading all his team-mates.

Woking’s luck didn’t hold however, and in the 16th minute the Surrey side fell behind. Cameron Coxe picked up the ball and drove into the Cards’ 18-yard box, before falling to ground – perhaps somewhat theatrically - whilst being challenged by Collier. It looked a very harsh decision, but Ward slotted home the resulting kick confidently none-the-less and Woking were 1-0 down.

In truth, at this point the Moors deserved their lead, with Woking unsurprisingly looking slightly disjointed, however the goal seemed to sting the Cards into action and they gradually grew into the game. In the 29th minute, Woking skipper Casey swung over a very dangerous cross to Solihull’s back post, but the ball was just flicked past the onrushing Kretzschmar by covering Moors defender Alex Gudger. Two minutes later, a speculative Jack Cook effort from inside his own half forced a brilliant save from the away side’s keeper Ryan Boot, preventing what would have been a certain ‘goal of the season’ contender.

Despite managing to grasp more of a foothold in the game, Cards number one Ross was still required to make a crucial double save in the 36th minute to keep Woking only a goal behind. Coxe played a defence-splitting ball in behind Casey to Joe Sbarra, who fired the ball towards goal. Ross kept out the first effort and brilliantly tipped the subsequent rebound round the post. Two corners followed, the second of which was put narrowly wide by Moors midfielder Kyle Storer.

The final chance of the half came Woking’s way. A deep Cooper free-kick was cleared for a corner, which Casey swung over. Ferdinand won the header, but was unable to divert the ball on target and it sailed harmlessly out for a goal kick. The half-time whistle blew shortly after.

Half-time: Woking 0 Solihull Moors 1

In a similar vain to the first half, there was little goalmouth action at either end of the pitch in the opening minutes of the second half. However, that would change in the 52nd minute, as the Cards grabbed the crucial second goal. Tenacious play from the impressive Spasov won a corner on Woking’s right, which Casey swung over to the back post. Kretzschmar may not be best known for his aerial prowess, but there he was rising like a salmon to nod the ball home. The away side may well have cause to be slightly disappointed with their defending, but it was still a well worked set piece.

Kretzschmar wheels away after heading home; pic: David Holmes

The Cards were noticeably lifted by the goal and took control of the game. Tricky play on the Woking left from the increasingly influential Napa created the space for himself to curl in a dangerous cross, which was frantically cleared for a corner. Cooper had a decent opening on the edge of the box as the corner was only half-cleared, but his crisp shot was blocked.

The home side didn’t have long to wait for their second goal though. In the 60th minute, tidy work in the middle of the pitch saw Casey played in down the left, who in turn slid the ball towards Spasov on the edge of the six-yard box. The Bulgarian held the ball up brilliantly before playing in the onrushing Ferdinand, who slammed the ball into the bottom corner. 2-1.

Woking were by now totally dominant, and in the 71st minute almost added to their lead. With some more clever play, Napa won a free-kick in a fairly central position. Cooper curled a wonderful effort towards the top corner, but Boot did brilliantly to tip the ball over the crossbar, especially as it may have taken a slight deflection off the wall.

Woking’s centre-back pairing of Cook and Shotton were dealing pretty comfortably with the hopeful balls forward that became more prevalent from the away side as time ticked towards the 90-minute mark - a pretty impressive feat considering they had only met each other an hour and a half before kick-off.

Ross was called upon one last time in the Woking goal, tipping a crisp Cranston effort over the bar after he cut in from the left. But that was as close as the away side came to an equaliser, and Dowson’s men held on and walked away with a very important three points to start the season.

After a slow start, Woking got better and better as the game wore on, and ultimately deserved their 2-1 win. All new signings made a significant impact, especially in the second half, with Spasov causing all sorts of problems to very experienced Solihull centre-backs. The defensive unit was solid, and the midfield found a good balance between defence and attack. The Cards will no doubt look to go from strength to strength on Tuesday with a trip to newly-promoted Weymouth.

Woking: Craig Ross, Jack Cook, Josh Casey, Saul Shotton, Nathan Collier, Charlie Cooper, Kane Ferdinand, Tommy Block, Max Kretzschmar (John Goddard 67’), Malachi Napa (Dave Tarpey 75’), Slavi Spasov (Jayden Wareham 90’)

Unused subs: Harvey White, Tyler Reid,

Goals: Kretzschmar 53’, Ferdinand 60’

Bookings: Block 18’, Kretzschmar 30’, Collier 90’

Solihull Moors Ryan Boot, Cameron Coxe, Jordan Cranston, Alex Gudger, Tyrone Williams, James Ball, Kyle Storer, Joe Sbarra, Stephen Gleeson, Callum Howe, Jamie Ward (Cameron Archer 59’)

Unused subs: Nick Clayton-Phillips, Mitch Hancox, Callum Maycock, Jordan Piggott

Goals: Ward 18’

Bookings: Williams 82’, Sbarra 90’

Referee: Scott Jackson

Reporter’s Man of the Match: Difficult to single anyone out as there were good performances across the pitch, but Slavi Spasov deserves a special mention. Worked tirelessly, leading the line on his own up top and playing a key part in the winning goal. A massive nuisance to the entirety of Solihull’s backline.

Spasov also received most votes in a Woking FC MotM poll on Twitter.

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