WOKING v EBBSFLEET UNITED
12:00am, Tue 27th Nov 2007
Woking v Ebbsfleet United (KIDS FOR A QUID!)
7.45pm on Thursday 29 November 2007
Make sure that you?ve got all the kids lined up for Thursday evening: all under 16s will be admitted for ?1 each when accompanied by a paying adult! This game will be another stiff test for Frank Gray?s side: Ebbsfleet ? soon to be taken over by MyFootballClub.com ? have been doing well and, assuming he is selected by the Fleet, former Kingfield favourite Raphael Nade will be looking to impress on his return. It would be good to see Raph again but it will be even better if we can get three much-needed points!
It was the familiar story down at Torquay: some good defending (apart from the Gulls? first goal) but almost nothing up front ? and to make matters worse, Marvin Morgan will now miss the next three games as a result of his harsh sending-off. Where are the goals going to come from? The worrying thing for even patient supporters is that it?s hard to discern, with almost half the league season gone, any real signs of improvement. Indeed, we look less like scoring goals than we have done at any time this season.
But, it?s clear from my interview with Frank Gray earlier today (Tuesday) that he isn?t panicking and, as we all know, football is full of surprises (Bolton v Manchester United, anyone?), so we might just pull something out of the fire against Ebbsfleet. Fingers crossed!
Another former Woking stalwart, Gary MacDonald, joined the Fleet in the summer but he had the misfortune to rupture his Achilles tendon in the opening game and is likely to miss all or most of the rest of the season. Other arrivals included midfielder Neil Barrett, who had a brief spell at Kingfield last season; Michael Bostwick, a 19 year-old defender/midfielder, originally with Millwall, but who has also figured for Rushden and Diamonds and Crawley; Phil Starkey, a local lad who came through the ranks at Crystal Palace and plays on the right side of defence; Chukki Eribenne, a much-travelled striker, most recently seen with Weymouth, where he was Raph?s strike partner, and Grays; and Chris McPhee, a striker who started his career at Swansea and Brighton before moving to Torquay and who also appeared for the Shots. Liam Daish has also given contracts to four youngsters who have come through the youth set-up, a couple of whom are out on loan with Whitstable Town.
Among the established players, 36 year-old Paul McCarthy continues to give good service in defence, as does former Don, Peter Hawkins, whilst 20 year-old Luke Moore, another product of the PASE scheme, is a very promising striker. The keeper, Lance Cronin, was recently played again for the England C Team. Danny Slatter, who has often impressed against us, is out for the season with a knee injury.
The most notable departures in the summer were those of top scorer Charlie MacDonald, who moved to Southend, and central defender Ross Smith, who joined Dagenham and Redbridge.
As if to even things up for Thursday night, Chukki Eribenne also managed to get himself sent off on Saturday ? but his head-butt sounds as if it was rather more deserving of a red card than Marvin?s two-footed tackle on the ball! Mark Ricketts is expected to be missing with a hamstring injury.
SEASON SO FAR
Liam Daish ? on no bigger budget than Woking?s, one suspects ? did extremely well to take them to seventh place last season, missing the play-offs by only four points. And he seems to have got them on course for another successful league campaign: they currently lie in 8th place with 32 points. Once all the furore had subsided over the Fleet?s change of name early wins over Northwich Victoria, Rushden and Diamonds and Halifax were followed by a blip of two home defeats at the hands of Stevenage and Histon and an away loss to Weymouth. The Fleet then went on a good run, losing only one of their subsequent nine league games, away to Aldershot. That run included a 2-1 home win over Torquay. But they recently suffered the disappointment of two successive home defeats: 3-1 to Exeter City in the FA Cup and then 2-0 to Forest Green Rovers. Away from home they have won at Rushden and Altrincham, drawn at Cambridge, Burton, Exeter, Farsley and Oxford and lost at Salisbury, Weymouth and Aldershot. On Saturday ten-man Fleet came from behind at home to beat Stafford Rangers 2-1, with goals from the pacy George Purcell and Stacy Long.
We?ve always found the Fleet obdurate opponents, home and away, and last season was no different.
Gravesend and Northfleet 1 Woking 0
Woking 2 Gravesend and Northfleet 2
The short journey round the M25 to North Kent proved ultimately fruitless for the Cards last October. Gravesend had the better of the early exchanges and came closest to scoring in what was a fairly scrappy half, with the ball frequently in the air. After the interval the visitors played much better without quite being able to create clear-cut openings. It became increasingly likely that one goal would settle the match and it fell to the then Conference leading goal scorer Charlie MacDonald to find the net in the 75th minute, converting a half chance after some "ping-pong" around the visitors? penalty area. Despite using all of their subs and pressing up to the final whistle Woking could not find a way through.
In the return encounter in relegation-haunted February Woking, in front of our lowest-ever Conference gate of 851, had substitute Gez Sole (replacing Neil Barrett!) to thank for grabbing a vital point. Gez put the Cards ahead in the 38th minute with a superb free-kick, only for Charlie MacDonald to equalise in the second half and for Alex Varney to give the Fleet the lead with seven minutes to go. Deep in injury time Gez struck again with a marvellous volley from 30 yards to rescue a point.
Come on, you Cards!