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Brian Caffarey - 21st December 2007

Setanta Shield, 4th Round
3pm on Saturday 22 December 2007

It would be Stevenage, wouldn?t it! We are of course the proud (!) holders of the predecessor of this competition, the GLS Cup, having beaten Boro on the way to the final. But the Setanta Shield is intended to be a much more high profile affair, as is evidenced by the later rounds being played at weekends, TV coverage and increased prize money. It is good to ?put one over? our rivals from Hertfordshire at any time. To do it on Saturday would be a splendid early Christmas present for all Woking fans and a nice tonic for the exciting battles ahead with the similarly high-flying Shots and Torquay. The ?2,500 prize money for winners of Round 4 ties wouldn?t come amiss either!


The Cards have won their last four games, not conceding a goal in the process. Admittedly, that run includes matches against Croydon and Hemel Hempstead Town but , as Frank Gray has frequently pointed out (see today?s interview with him on the home page, below), winning breeds confidence ? and so we can expect the side to be in good spirits for tomorrow?s tie against our ambitious friends from Hertfordshire. The side will be buoyed too by Marvin Morgan?s return from his three match suspension ? very timely in view of Joe Gatting?s departure ? and Matt Pattison?s availability after his absence from the Hemel Hempstead tie. It would be no surprise, given Frank?s concerns about players on four bookings, to see an eager Marvin Morgan start with Liam Marum up front. Equally, it wouldn?t be a surprise to see Jay Gasson on the bench, to preserve him for the tough holiday ties against Aldershot and Torquay.


In the summer Mark Stimson ? now succeeded by Peter Taylor, of course ? released six players from his FA Trophy-winning side, including Jamie Slabber, Mark Beard and Tony Thorpe. Subsequently Jon Nurse moved to Dagenham and Redbridge and reserve keeper Danny Potter signed for Cambridge United.
Some pretty impressive-looking signings followed, confirming the bookies? view that Stevenage were one of the favourites for the title. Defender Mark Arber joined from Peterborough United; he was part of Barnet?s Conference-winning side. Midfielder John Martin arrived from Grays Athletic, where he played under Stimson. Another midfielder, Mark Molesley, was snapped up from Aldershot Town. Attacking options were strengthened with the capture of Ollie Allen, 20 year-old son of former Spurs favourite, Clive, and Tes Bramble, arriving from Stockport but previously with Southend, where he notched up 43 goals in some 150 appearances. (Bramble, though, is out till January following an operation.) Stimson also signed a few promising youngsters: winger Alistair John, a former Charlton trainee, who has recently returned to light training following his recovery from a stabbing incident outside his home; James Russell, a 19 year-old keeper released by Chelsea; Jamie Eames, a 17 year-old winger from Norwich; and Jerome Anderson, an 18 year-old forward from Oxford United.

Stimson?s acrimonious departure for Gillingham and his replacement by Peter Taylor sparked a new flurry of moves. John Nutter and Adam Miller joined Gillingham on loan pending a permanent move, whilst Santos Gaia joined Grays on loan. Taylor then signed Tyrone Berry, a 20 year-old winger, formerly with Rushden and Diamonds and Crawley, and also brought in three players on loan: 22 year-old Hungarian defender Zoltan Liptak from Southend, 21 year-old defender John White from Colchester and Tony Stokes, a 21 year-old midfielder from West Ham. He also awarded two-year contracts to two 17 year-old Academy products: Zak Burke and Liam McDevitt. (The strength of Boro?s youth side is evidenced by the fact that they only lost 1-0 against Chelsea in the FA Youth Cup.)

When you add in the likes of Alan Julian in goal, Barry Fuller, Ronnie Henry and ex-Card Luke Oliver at the back and Steve Morison, Craig Dobson and the exciting Mitchell Cole up front, you get a good idea of the strength of Boro?s senior squad too. But Peter Taylor has already made it clear that he intends to bring in three or four experienced players once the transfer window opens on 1 January, citing the Club?s long injury list as one of the reasons why he feels he needs to add to his squad.


Stevenage have often been let down in the past by a slow start to the season. Stimson brought the players back early to counter this and must have been disappointed to see his side lose their opening game 2-1 at Crawley. But Boro then went on a fantastic run, winning eight and drawing one of their next nine games, scoring 20 goals and conceding only one in the process. But a resolute Cambridge United side brought this great record to an end on 22 September when they came away from Broadhall Way with a 2-1 victory in front of over 4,000 fans. Boro followed this with a disappointing 4-2 reverse away at Forest Green Rovers. But they got back on track convincingly with a 2-0 away win at Grays Athletic and a 3-1 home victory over Aldershot Town before the Cards held them to a 1-1 draw at Broadhall Way. Subsequently, Boro have suffered reverses at Torquay (4-2) and, surprisingly, at home to Halifax Town (3-2) but have beaten Northwich Victoria, Altrincham and Salisbury City and drawn against Burton Albion. Boro were hammered 4-0 away by Exeter City in the First Round of the FA Cup, having beaten Salisbury City in the previous round. In the FA Trophy last Saturday Boro, last year?s winners, were high profile casualties, going down 2-1 at Dorchester Town to an injury-time penalty. Let?s hope that the Cards can inflict a third dose of cup misery on Peter Taylor and his men!


It is slightly worrying to note that both teams seem to relish playing each other away from home. Stevenage have an excellent record at Kingfield in the league and managed to do the double over us last season. In the away game in October we started badly, going a goal down in five minutes as Dwayne Lee headed home a Steve Guppy cross. Ten minutes later Karl Murray equalised from a free-kick whilst Alan Julian was still fussing about his ?wall?. Ollie Berquez had the satisfaction of scoring against his old club in the second half, netting coolly after Gez Sole?s shot had been blocked. But it all went wrong in the last five minutes. Karl Murray inexplicably handled in the box to make it 2-2 and then with the last move of the match Jon Nurse sent over a fantastic cross, which Craig Dobson buried, to make it 3-2 to Boro. Switch to Kingfield in March this year and a relegation-haunted Woking side made Alan Julian work for his money but succumbed to a solitary goal from Steve Morison in the first half.


The Setanta Shield is, in effect, the latest incarnation of the Conference League Cup, a competition open to all Conference sides which began when the Conference was formed in the 1979-80 season and which ran for 22 seasons until it was scrapped at the end of the 2000-01 season. It was revived in the 2004-05 season, during which it managed to acquire four different names: the Football Conference Challenge Cup, the Carthium Cup, the National Conference Cup and the GLS (Gladwish Land Sales) Cup. The Cards beat Stalybridge Celtic in the Final of the GLS Cup 1-0 at Stalybridge with a deflected shot by Karl Murray just before the end, thus adding another impressive entry to Glenn?s cv! On the way we beat a youthful Boro side 4-2 at Kingfield in the Southern Semi-Final, with goals from Jefferson Louis (penalty), Steve Ferguson, Justin Richards and Amos Foyewa. (Some names to conjure with there!) Jon Nurse scored both of Boro?s goals. The Boro result was a good tonic after a 4-0 thrashing by the Shots at the Rec a few days previously.

The GLS Cup was scrapped after only one season because of the lack of interest shown by fans ?not helped by under-strength teams being played on a number of occasions. This is being countered in the Setanta Shield by rules that require clubs to name in their 16 a high proportion (10, I think it is) of the squads for their previous two league games.

At Round Four of the Setanta Shield the 24 BSP Premier clubs join the 8 survivors from the earlier regional rounds. Round 4 winners receive ?2,500 in prize money. The eventual winners of the final will receive ?12,000.

The full draw for the Fourth Round is:

? Droylsden v Farsley C.
? Barrow v Northwich V.
? Burton A. v Tamworth (Sunday 23rd)
? Cambridge U. v Rushden & D.
? Hinckley U. v Kidderminster H.
? Histon v Halifax T.
? Nuneaton B. v Altrincham
? Stafford R v York C South
? Aldershot T. v Oxford U.
? Eastbourne B. v Crawley T.
? Exeter C. v Ebbsfleet U.
? Hampton & R. v Forest Green R.
? St Albans C. v Torquay U.
? Salisbury C. v Weymouth
? Welling v Grays A.
? Woking v Stevenage B.


This is an ?all pay? game, with normal admission prices (click ?venue? at the top of the home page for details).

Come on, you Cards!
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