WOKING v GRAYS ATHLETIC
12:00am, Fri 9th Nov 2007
WOKING v GRAYS ATHLETIC
3pm on Saturday 10 November 2007
With both teams falling at the first hurdle in the FA Cup, the opportunity has been taken to bring forward the return encounter against the Blues which should have been played next March. It means an earlier return to Kingfield for former favourite Karl Murray but Craig McAllister, who also made the switch to the Recreation Ground in the summer, won?t be joining Karl since he is out on loan at Rushden and Diamonds. Both teams have been struggling in the league but Justin Edinburgh?s team have a good away record and were boosted by a fine 1-0 win at Salisbury last weekend.
The Cards could do with a convincing win at Kingfield. While there have been very creditable draws away at Stevenage Borough and Oxford United, home form has been disappointing recently with a 3-0 defeat by York followed by an FA Cup exit to Staines and then a tame 1-1 draw last weekend against struggling Droylsden. Fortunately, we?re still well clear of the relegation zone, with ten points separating us from Altrincham.
The Woking defence looks sound enough for the most part but we are still finding goals hard to come by. Last Saturday Gez Sole scored a fine goal but his partnership with Joe Gatting didn?t seem to carry much of a threat even allowing for the poor service. Marvin Morgan, who was absent injured, would no doubt have caused trouble for the slow-moving Droyslden defence but he too is not hitting the net at all regularly. Liam Marum, when he came on as a substitute, showed that his pace could be an asset but he has only just returned from a long lay-off and doesn?t look ready to be pitched into the fray from the outset.
Grays had an even closer shave with relegation last season than we did ? which came as something of a shock given that, the previous year, they had made the play-offs. But there was much turmoil at the Rec, with no fewer than four managers (including Frank Gray, of course) in charge during the season. Justin Edinburgh announced, when survival had been assured on the final day, that the team ?needed a good shake-up? and promptly released a substantial list of players, including ex-Card Ashley Bayes, who joined Crawley Town.
Edinburgh was busy bringing in replacements this summer ? no fewer than 13 new faces walked in the door of the Rec ? and whilst, echoing Frank Gray, he said that he had a ?young and hungry squad of players?, many have experience at this level or above. Apart from Karl Murray, new faces included Jon Ashton, a central defender signed from Rushden and Diamonds, Ernie Cooksey, a midfielder signed from Boston and with League experience at Oldham and Rochdale too, and Ross Flitney, a keeper signed from Barnet who started his career at Arsenal. Edinburgh also dipped into the former Conference South to acquire two of its star performers: Danny Kedwell, who scored 23 goals last season for Welling, and who scored an excellent strike against us in the FA Cup at Kingfield, and Ben Watson, the Bognor Regis forward whose name was linked with us last season. Other recruits include highly-rated midfielder Jamie Day from Welling; 19 year-old Southend striker, James Lawson; 19 year-old Bournemouth central defender Jack Haverson; Mark Marshall, a winger formerly with Carshalton Athletic; Danny Knowles, a keeper originally with Gillingham and who had a loan spell at Welling last season; and Charley Hearn, a 23 year-old midfielder signed from Fisher Athletic. Edinburgh also gave contracts to four youth team graduates.
The turmoil has continued at the Recreation Ground. In September it was announced that Simon Downer and Ben Watson were both available for loan. In early October four players were transfer listed: Andy Sambrook, Charley Hearn, James Lawson and Craig McAllister. Sambrook and Hearn were subsequently taken off the list, but Lawson has gone on loan to Chelmsford City and Craig is now at Nene Park till 1 January. Jimmy Dack was also sacked as First Team Coach and replaced by John Yems.
Other changes include Gavin Grant arriving on a season-long loan from Gillingham, Jack Obersteller, a left-sided defender, joining on a short-term loan from Wycombe Wanderers, Matt Bodkin going on loan to Thurrock FC and - this week - keeper Danny Knowles being put on the transfer list at his own request.
Although there have been lots of comings and goings, Grays can still call on a talented core of players from last season, notably Stuart Thurgood ? who, the season before last, was surely the best midfielder in the Conference ? strikers Dennis Oli and the pacy Aaron O?Connor and defenders Andy Sambrook and Cameron Mawer. On paper, it looks quite a strong squad and the Blues ought really to be doing better.
RESULTS SO FAR
The Blues lie in 13th place with 23 points, five places and two points ahead of the Cards. Their away form is impressive, with four wins, three draws and only two defeats. Wins have been recorded at Altrincham, Droylsden, Stafford and Salisbury, draws at Torquay, Rushden and Diamonds and Halifax, and they have been defeated at Exeter and Cambridge.
The two teams played out two thrilling 2-2 draws in the league encounters in Grays? first season in the Conference. There?s no need to remind Woking fans what happened in the FA Trophy Final at the end of that campaign! In August 2006 we were thrashed 3-0 at Grays, with Frank Gray in the Grays dugout: a performance which produced some early calls for Glenn Cockerill?s departure. (If I remember rightly too, Frank was not very complimentary about our style of play!) In the return fixture in April, with Neil Smith and Graham Baker in temporary charge, the Cards won a tense relegation battle 1-0 thanks to a Tom Hutchinson toe-poke and much desperate defending in the second half.
Our first encounter with Grays this season, in our opening away game of the season, will always be remembered for the ?free goal? which Frank Gray ordered the Woking players to concede after the Cards had gone ahead through a bizarre goal from Matt Pattison. With five minutes till full-time Matt had nonchalantly chipped the ball back to Grays? keeper Ross Flitney after a stoppage but Ross had strayed from his goal and was horrified to see the ball hit the net! The referee had no option to give a goal to the Cards and, as tempers rose on the Grays bench, Frank Gray stepped in to sort things out. From the kick-off Ben Watson strolled through the Cards team for the easiest goal he?ll ever score. Ironically, the Cards could have won the game at the death as Flitney brought Marvin Morgan down in the area. But Danny Bunce?s penalty kick was weak and Flitney saved. A defeat for the Blues would have been harsh for they had had most of the attacking play, with Woking only really coming to life midway through the second half when Goma Lambu began attacking down the right flank.
Come on, you Cards!