3-1

CLOSE - Gavin McCallum hit the bar

CLOSE – Gavin McCallum hit the post

Mansfield 3
Woking 1

WOKING had no answer to non-league’s Rory Delap as the Stags left the Cards high and dry at Field Mill.

Deadline-day signing Exodus Geohaghon and his prolific long throws caused the damage as goals from Louis Briscoe and Matt Rhead gave Mansfield a two-goal cushion at the break.

Woking hit back six minutes from time through Joe McNerney to set up a grandstand finish.

But substitutes Nick Wright and Jake Speight combined in time added on to seal the points and consign Garry Hill to a third straight defeat.

And the manager admits Mansfield’s timely acquisition of Geohaghon had a huge bearing on the course of this goalfest.

Hill said: “We were very unlucky not to get a share of the spoils – the scoreline has flattered them.

“I think apart from the long throw, which acted as a great weapon for them, we bossed the game.

“It’s a throw which everyone has to deal with so I won’t make excuses but if he had signed a day later it might have been handy.

“We go away disappointed with the result but not with the performance, we were upbeat and very creative.

“What’s important now is to get out of this rut, if we get in a bit of a rut confidence can get low but that wasn’t the case against Mansfield.

“It doesn’t help us but anybody who watched the game will say we were unlucky, with the chances we created, not to get a point.

“We aren’t getting that little bit of luck at the minute and everything seems to be going against us but I’m sure in time it will start to go our way.”

Cards were by no means outplayed by their hotly-favoured hosts but what Woking lacked in the final third Mansfield possessed in abundance.

A self-assured conviction in front of goal served the Stags well and they took the lead in the 10th minute.

Woking failed to deal with Geohaghon’s laser-guided missile of a throw and Briscoe was allowed to drill a low shot past Aaron Howe from inside the area.

Cards were neat and tidy in position and, after being handed a place in the starting line-up, Gavin McCallum rewarded his manager’s faith with a series of penetrating runs.

But Woking were blunt in the final third and rarely threatened Alan Marriott in the Mansfield goal.

Luke Jones blazed over from inside the six-yard box as Geohaghon’s bullet throws continued to cause the visitors problems.

After setting up the opener Geohaghon almost got himself on the score sheet with a powerful left-foot volley that was cleared off the line by Kevin Betsy.

McNerney’s curling free-kick and McCallum’s 35-yard effort drew saves from Marriott, but it was Mansfield who made the most of their chances, doubling their lead with the final kick of the half.

Cards looked to be springing a counter attack when McCallum lost possession to Colin Daniel deep inside his own half.

The defender found Matt Green whose slide rule pass tripped the Woking offside trap releasing Rhead to coolly prod home a second.

Reflecting on what proved to be a huge moment in an otherwise even contest, Hill admitted his players need to cut out the mistakes in an unforgiving division.

He said: “We got punished when it looked like we were on the breakaway.

“We had players breaking out of the box but we gave the ball away cheaply, they slipped the ball in behind us and we got punished.

“That’s the difference at this level, a bad pass can be very costly whereas in the Conference South, we might have been able to get away with it.

“I thought in the second-half we bossed it but it wasn’t meant to be.”

McCallum came close to making amends for his earlier error when he hit the inside of the post – only the faintest of touches from Marriott denied the winger.

Howe spread himself brilliantly to keep out Briscoe after the forward had bundled through a cluster of Woking players.

Marriott got a strong hand to Jack Parkinson’s swerving free-kick but watched thankfully as Brett Williams sent the rebound into the side netting.

Cards dragged themselves to within one goal of a dramatic turnaround when Lee Sawyer’s scooped pass was converted from a narrow angle by McNerney.

But with Woking pressing for an equaliser Mansfield were able to break and secure the points through Speight’s powerful shot.

FEELING GREEN - Mark Ricketts and Woking slide to a 3-1 defeat

FEELING GREEN – Mark Ricketts and Woking slide to a 3-1 defeat

Forest Green 3
Woking 1

GARRY HILL was left reeling after a stoppage time poacher’s double from Forest Green’s Matt Taylor denied the Cards a first point on their travels.

Forest Green gave a beleaguered Woking a second-half battering after Kevin Betsy had given the visitors the lead with a first-half penalty.

And the Cards looked to be escaping The New Lawn with a positive result despite Magno Vieira squaring things up with a close-range finish in the 62nd-minute.

But the resistance was shattered in the cruellest of fashions and with just seconds remaining super-sub Taylor netted twice in time added on to give the hosts all three points.

A disappointed Hill described Taylor’s double strike as a moment of madness.

He said: “We haven’t had a bad start with six points out of twelve but it’s disappointing when you think you have a point in the bag.

“Injury time is a time to slow the game down and make sure everyone clears their head and takes responsibility.

“But we haven’t done that and that is what hurts me – we’ve worked hard but that gap in part-time and full-time started to tell on us at the end.

“I think that a neutral watching the game today would say that apart from the last five or 10 minutes that was nothing between the two teams.

“We said it would be important in the second half not to conceded – I thought we gave the ball away cheaply at times and we got punished.

“It’s disappointing to lose a game in injury time – it was a mad minute.”

Woking made all the early running and promised much with early attempts from Bradley Bubb and Betsy.

But despite moving the ball around wonderfully well on the deck it was the route one option that first seriously opened up the Forest Green defence.

Aaron Howe punted a huge kick forward but Bubb was hesitant in the area as the ball sailed over everyone else’s head and Sam Russell was allowed to punch clear.

Lee Sawyer then took the wrong option on the edge of the area and fired well wide when Loick Pires was better placed to his right.

Rovers were content to look after the ball deep in their own half but failed to carve out any chances of their own even with the persistent efforts of lightning-quick James Norwood down the flanks.

Kevin Betsy should have tested Russell after a 50-50 between Jack Parkinson and Jamie Collins released the forward and at the other end James Rowe tried his luck from long range.

A drab game finally burst into life in the 34th-minute.

Reece Styche combined with Rowe and Norwood to spring Woking’s offside trap only to see Mike Cestor steer a dangerous cross out for a corner at the back post.

Mark Ricketts almost found the back of the net a minute later with a driven 35-yard strike but the effort lacked the required dip and whistled just over the bar.

Only the fingertips of Howe kept the scores level as he turned Jamie Turley’s bullet header over the bar.

But the best chance of the half fell to the Cards and in-form striker Pires.

Betsy threaded the striker through down the right channel but the forward fluffed his lines, skewing a right-foot shot wide of the mark.

But Betsy spared his team-mates blushes, showing great composure to slot home a 42nd-minute penalty after Pires was bundled to the ground by Jamie Turley as he attacked Sawyer’s hanging cross.

Forest Green started the second-half brightly and fired off an early warning when Styche turned Ed Asafu-Adjaye’s cross round the post.

Substitute Kieron Forbes drew a save from Howe but Cards were not without chances of their own, Joe McNerney coming so close to producing a carbon copy of his stunning free-kick against Barrow last week in the 50th-minute.

But with Rovers shifting through the gears, Woking failed to exploit a handful of counter-attack opportunities as the game became more and more stretched.

Howe made an excellent one-handed save from Magno Vieira after Styche’s high cross fell to him in the area.

Vieira had the last laugh, however, as he helped Collins’ header over the line from a 61st-minute Forest Green corner.

With the rain hammering down Woking defenders stood like statues as another Collins’ header caused problems in the area, this knock-down ricocheting around the six-yard box before Adam Newton eventually cleared.

Newton was then forced to head Turley’s cross wide for a corner but not before Norwood drilled across the goal and wide from just inside the area.

Woking never got to grips with the second-half tempo and their frustration was summed up when Sawyer was cautioned for a cynical swipe at the legs of Norwood as the striker bore down on Woking’s defence.

Brett Johnson joined him in the book when he was adjudged to have illegally stopped substitute Phil Marsh, but Rowe failed to test Howe from the free-kick.

Despite the onslaught it looked as though Woking had done enough to earn a point.

But Taylor broke Woking hearts in stoppage time, two goals in as many minutes turning a hard-fought first away point into a painful defeat.

First the striker was well positioned to prod home Marsh’s cross and immediately after the restart he arrived at the back-post to slide home Norwood’ s measured square-ball.

 

FOCUS - Loick Pires is determined to build on his latest performance

FOCUS – Loick Pires is determined to build on his latest performance

LOICK PIRES is keeping his feet firmly on the ground after running Barrow ragged on Saturday.

Cards’ level-headed hit-man turned in the performance of the season as Woking crushed the Cumbrian’s 3-1 at Kingfield.

Pires drilled home a decisive third in 79th-minute as Garry Hill’s men battled back from a goal down to make it six points from a possible nine this season.

And despite rave reviews from his manager and fans alike, Pires refused to get caught up in the hype, instead focusing only on Saturday’s game with Forest Green Rovers and the chance of another three points.

If the manager believes in a player then they are already halfway there

After netting his first competitive goal for the Cards, the forward said: “It’s always good to get off the mark as I striker – scoring goals is what we are bought to do and I felt good against Barrow.

“It was a massive relief on my part but now I can look forward to the next game and try to build on that.

“It was always going to be a battle with the heat but I finally showed what I can really do.

“In the first two games I was a bit quiet by my own standards but things started happening for me on Saturday and I was pleased to get the three points.

“As a young player I’m looking for consistency and to try and improve in every game.

“I know what football is like – there are games when we all look good, but then there are some days when that might not happen.

“The minimum you’ll get is hard work and determination from me and my team-mates.”

His bullish performance, coupled with a result that lifts Woking up to seventh in the table, had Hill swooning come full-time.

In his post-match interview the Kingfield boss backed Pires to bag a minimum of 15 league goals this term, a prediction that did not faze the striker.

Pires said: “If the manager believes in a player then they are already halfway there.

“I know what I can do, the manager knows what I can do and it’s up to me to play my part in the team.

“If I get 10, 15, 20 goals then great but I’m not putting too much pressure on myself.

“My main focus is to contribute to the team in order for us to get where we want to be.”

Pires revealed the Woking dressing room was oozing with confidence after a superb start to the season and that there was no chance the Cards would settle for just a point in their next fixture.

He added: “We go into every game wanting to win, we are an ambitious team and an ambitious football club.

“There isn’t a team in this league that we’ll sit back against and try to consolidate for a draw.

“Once it’s eleven vs. eleven we know we can beat anyone on our day.

“I think you can see with the signings the gaffer has made that although we want to be solid defensively, we want to show what we can do in attack.

“I think that was reflected particularly in the second-half against Barrow.”

UNPLAYABLE - Barrow could not handle Loick Pires

UNPLAYABLE – Barrow could not handle Loick Pires

Woking 3
Barrow 1

GARRY HILL praised the character of his determined Woking side as they battled from a goal down in a Kingfield furnace to see off Barrow.

The Cards showed great resilience in blistering temperatures to hit back after Garry Hunter’s placed strike had given the visitors a 15th-minute advantage.

Joe McNerney, promoted to free-kick duty in the absence of Giuseppe Sole, conjured a goal the injured striker would have been proud of to pull Woking level after 20 minutes.

We really took the initiative and showed them that we wanted to win this match – it was a big win today

And despite twice being saved by the woodwork, Cards never looked back, securing victory with second-half goals from Bradley Bubb and Loick Pires as Hill revelled in a second Kingfield triumph in five days.

And the delighted manager believes his side have what it takes to give anyone a run for their money this season.

He said: “We knew it was going to be a tough game but I think we showed a great deal of character.

“They were the better team in the first 20 minutes and they got the goal they deserved.

“They hit the post before that, the warning signs were there but I think the big thing in this league, which we’ve already started to show, is we’ve got character.

“I know the league, I’ve been in the game a long time and I’ve instilled into the players that they’ve got to have character, desire, passion and they’ve got to be winners.

“For periods in the second-half it was all one way, we really took the initiative and showed them that we wanted to win this match – it was a big win today.

“If we put our honesty and commitment into every game then we can make it hard for teams. You can’t have days when you fancy it and days when don’t at this level – you’ve got to be up for it every game.

“I think it’s a very good start but it’s no secret that we want 50 points. When we get to that 50 points I’ll punch the air because that will be the first hurdle.

“We play against clubs in this league that are far superior financially to us but they can only put 11 out on the park at once.

“If we are at it in respect of commitment and honesty then we’ll give anybody a game.”

In an electric opening period Woking had the chance to take the lead as early as the second minute.

Persistent pressure from Pires forced Danny Hurst into picking up Mike Pearson’s heavy back-pass inside the penalty area.

The keeper received a caution for his troubles and the Cards were awarded an indirect free-kick eight yards from goal.

Bubb failed to force Lee Sawyer’s lay-off through a wall of black and white shirts and the danger was eventually cleared.

Aaron Howe needed to be alert to keep out James Owen’s deflected shot from 18-yards, but there was nothing the Woking stopper could do to prevent Barrow taking the lead.

A sweeping surge forward resulted in Hunter curling an effort back off the foot of the post.

But within 30 seconds the lively midfielder did have the ball in the net, measuring a fine effort from the edge of the area past the static Howe.

Pires rattled a fierce drive against the near post after being released down the left channel by Brett Williams two minutes later.

And having only trailed for a matter of moments Woking released the Beast to drag themselves level.

Kevin Betsy’s marauding run was unfairly hacked short and, in the absence of Sole, McNerney stepped up to take set-piece responsibility.

What the defender produced would have received the seal of approval from Cards’ injured dead ball specialist.

From fully 25-yards, McNerney found the smallest of gaps in the wall, bending a stunning strike into the bottom left corner.

With the contest well and truly at its peak both teams had chances to take the lead before half-time.

Barrow went close with Sean Hessey’s thundering free-kick that flew just wide.

For Woking, Pires had a shot cleared off the line by the stretching Gavin Skelton following Williams’ smart pass.

But the woodwork had to come to the Cards’ rescue a second time when Adam Boyes’ masterfully crafted volley beat Howe.

Under the scorching sun the tempo took an understandable knock in the second-half.

But with Barrow flagging in the Kingfield furnace, Woking got their noses in front thanks to Bubb’s second goal in three games.

Pires, who led the line excellently from start to finish, was hauled to the ground down the left.

Sawyer stepped up to flight in a cross and it was on-loan Aldershot man Bubb who applied the vital touch to help the ball loop over Hurst and into the far corner.

Buoyed by the breakthrough, Cards chased a decisive third.

Brett Johnson did his best to turn an awkward header into the top corner but was denied by Hurst’s safe hands.

But Barrow would have been on an even keel if not for the timely block of substitute Gavin McCallum.

A quick free-kick found substitute Vinny Mukendi in a pocket of space at the back stick, but his close-range stab at an equaliser was foiled by the outstretched leg of McCallum.

It was fitting that Pires would seal the points after such a tireless, selfless shift.

Betsy picked the ball up in the middle of the park and surged forward on a trademark run.

His threaded pass was to perfection and after a neat touch and a moment to compose himself, Pires drilled home a 79th-minute clincher, much to the delight of his manager.

Hill added: “Loick has shown why we’ve fetched him into the club.

“He’s not the finished article just yet but he’ll get goals in this league if he is prepared to listen to Steve Thompson and myself.

“He’s a big unit, he’s mobile, he’s got a left-foot on him and I expect Loick to go and get 15-20 goals this season.

“He’s a good player but he can be better and he will be better.”

Wrexham 3
Woking 1

GARRY HILL reckons it could have all been so different for Woking as the Cards took their first tentative steps back into the Blue Square Premier.

Woking looked to be crumbling in the heat of the Racecourse Ground and trailed to first-half goals from Rob Ogleby and Dean Keates.

But invigorated after the break thanks to the introduction of Bradley Bubb and Giuseppe Sole, Cards hit back and reduced the deficit in the 65th minute when Bubb slotted past Joslain Mayebi.

Kevin Betsy saw a diving header flapped off the line moments later before Mark Creighton’s powerful header 15 minutes from time killed off the visitors’ hopes.

We were a little bit nervous in places which I understand with it being the first game of the season

And Hill believes Betsy’s miss was the turning point, insisting Woking’s momentum at the time could have turned the opening day fixture on its head.

The manager said: “We had a chat at half-time and the thing we wanted most was a response – I said if we can get a goal early in the second-half how will Wrexham react?

“We got the goal we wanted and we were much better in the second-half, we started playing football and there was a big turning point in the match at 2-1. We were certainly on top for a 10 minute period.

“Giuseppe Sole has put in a fantastic cross and Kevin Betsy has hit the target but – whether he got a clean connection with it – the keeper has stopped it.

“Within five minutes of when it should have been 2-2 and us being in the ascendency we’ve been punished and it’s 3-1. It was a big five minutes in the game.

“It would have been interesting to see how the game would have gone with the momentum with us. We’ll learn lessons as we go through the fixtures but I’ve got no complaints at the final whistle.”

The Cards reeked of opening night nerves and their hesitancy and lack of conviction in the final third only acted as encouragement to the promotion candidates and their 4,000 strong support.

Joe McNerney was caught napping as early as the 11th minute by Ogleby, and was lucky to escape punishment when Danny Wright sent his turn and shot just wide from the edge of the area.

Wright – whose aerial presence caused Woking’s back-line all types of trouble in a shaky first-half – was at the heart of Wrexham’s next assault, but Ogleby contrived to send his defence splitting pass into the side netting.

But the U21 Welsh international made amends just 90 seconds later and fired the Dragons into an 18th minute advantage.

Neil Ashton was left in acres of space down the left and was allowed to cross. Ogleby held off his man to steer a wonderful volley over Aaron Howe and into the Woking goal.

The classy finish highlighted the gulf between the two sides in the opening period and only a timely block from Brett Johnson denied Jay Harris a clear cut chance moments later.

It was not until the 32nd minute that Woking registered their first strike at goal – Kevin Betsy earning a corner with a fierce shot but the visitors remained void of inspiration in a flat first-half.

And with time ticking away Wrexham doubled their lead with a goal that twinned their obvious craft with their underlying graft.

Ormerod exchanged passes with skipper Keates before sending a searching low cross into a congested six-yard box.

Ogleby’s attempted volley was blocked in the melee, but Keates had continued his run and was ideally placed to rifle across Howe and into the bottom corner.

Hill added: “It’s a big blow for us to concede on half-time.

“As a manager you hope your side can get out there and settle into the game but I think we showed them a little bit too much respect.

“We were a little bit nervous in places which I understand with it being the first game of the season. They got an early goal and that settled them in front of the home crowd and we were hoping to get in at half-time 1-0.

“I thought if we can get in at half-time at 1-0 we’d have a lot to play for after the break.

“It was a big goal at a big time in the game and Wrexham probably went in thinking they’d go on to win it comfortably.”

But reinvigorated after the interval, the Cards came out swinging.

Gavin McCallum snapped a shot high over the bar, while substitute Bubb flashed a header just wide from Mike Cestor’s whipped cross.

And it was Wrexham’s hesitancy that gave Woking a life-line.

A mistimed header sparked confusion between Joslain Mayebi and the rest of his static defence and Bubb – on the pitch for a matter of minutes – slotted the ball under the on-rushing keeper.

Betsy should have buried Sole’s inch-perfect cross six minutes later but his diving header was just kept out by Mayebi.

And his profligacy was punished within moments as a man nicknamed the Beast roared in at the back post to restore Wrexham’s two goal cushion.

Mark Creighton was left unmarked in the penalty area and did not need a second invitation to thunder home a simple corner.

Adrian Cieslewicz came off the bench and almost added a fourth for the hosts, but the Polish winger struck the woodwork after rounding Howe.

It was far from the roasting a newly promoted side may have been given on entering the Dragons’ den on the opening day, but Woking will be looking to come back strong and get their first points on the board when Dartford visit Kingfield on Tuesday.

 

  •  

  • Knaphill Print & Web