loick pires

Stockport 1
Woking 2

GARRY HILL reckons Woking have shown their mettle after surviving their Blue Square Premier baptism.

Cards were dealt a daunting run of away fixtures to kick-off the campaign and failed to take a single point from any of their first four games on the road.

But defeats to Wrexham, Forest Green, Mansfield and Hereford were finally banished with a commanding victory over 10-man Stockport.

CLINCHER - Loick Pires fires in Woking's winner

CLINCHER – Loick Pires fires in Woking’s winner

“We were deserved winners,” said Hill. “No game is easy in this division so to come to Edgeley Park and beat Stockport is a great lift for the players.

“We’ve had a tough baptism to this league but I feel we’ve done better than results suggest. Even though we found ourselves behind we showed great desire to get back into it.”

Alex Kenyon gave County the perfect start with a headed goal inside 15 minutes.

But Gavin McCallum levelled things up with a mazy run and finish just nine minutes later.

Hill rolled the dice in the second-half and having already sacrificed Mark Ricketts for the more attack-minded Dean Sinclair, brought off McCallum and threw on Loick Pires.

And the change worked a treat as just two minutes after coming on, Pires cut in from the right and fired a low shot past Ian Ormson to give Cards the lead.

Honestly, I was relieved at the final whistle because I wanted it for the players

On the switch that acted as a catalyst for Woking’s first away win of the season, Hill said: “As a manager you’ve got to take responsibility and make the big decisions.

“I felt today that we could build on our first-half display and go on and win the game.

“Loick is a little bit low on confidence at the moment and is still raw at this level but he’ll be alright.

“He knows which part of his game he wants to improve and I have no doubt he’ll do just that.”

In contrast, Stockport’s second-half substitutions proved disastrous.

With his side chasing the game, Jim Gannon made a 77th-minute double switch, hauling off Sam Sheridan and Danny Rowe for Jon Nolan and Alex Meaney.

But just three minutes after coming on, 20-year-old Nolan was trudging back to the dressing room.

The midfielder was immediately cautioned for a tug on Kevin Betsy as the Cards threatened to break forward.

And he was given his marching orders moments later after flying in on Adam Doyle as he made a clearance down the line.

Woking had  two great chances to make the points safe through Betsy and Lee Sawyer.

But poor finishing meant Hill had to endure five tense minutes of time added on before breathing a huge sigh of relief.

Hill added: “Honestly, I was relieved at the final whistle because I wanted it for the players – they’ve worked very hard in our away games and not quite got their reward.

“Not winning can soon add up but we got the break and the points here which we totally deserved. It’s a very, very big three points for us.”

 

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.”

ON THE GOAL TRAIL - Loick Pires now has two goals in two games for the Cards

ON THE GOAL TRAIL – Loick Pires now has two goals in two games for the Cards

GARRY HILL has stoked the fire ahead of the season curtain raiser and warned Wrexham: “We’ll be ready.”

Speaking after his side outgunned Aldershot 2-1 in their final pre-season friendly, Hill declared himself happy with the way preparations had concluded.

He said: “I expect every team in the Blue Square Premier to be competitive but we’ll be ready – I’m sure of that.”

I’m sure there will be a certain degree of excitement next Saturday at 3pm for sure

Defeat to minnows Windsor in July was quickly rectified with subsequent wins over Crawley and AFC Wimbledon, while a spirited display against a QPR select XI will have given the manager huge encouragement.

Cards were held to back-to-back 1-1 draws at Carshalton and Hornchurch, but goals from Loick Pires and Jack Parkinson ensured Woking’s pre-season ended on a high against the Shots.

Attention now turns to the opening day trip to the Racecourse Ground and Hill believes the Cards – who are still looking to bring in three more players before the start of the campaign – must adapt quickly or risk a harsh culture shock.

Hill added: “We know it’s going to be tough going up to Wrexham but we’ll look forward to it – it’s something we’ve been waiting for since we won promotion. I’m sure there will be a certain degree of excitement next Saturday at 3pm for sure.

“We’re level-headed at the club and I’ve always been quite reserved on things so the number one aim is to get 50 points – I think that gives you the first cushion to build with going forward.

“I think we are going to go to some places and get a rude awakening and we’re going to learn a certain amount as we go along in the league.

“The boys have worked hard and we’ll be at the level we need to be next week – we’ve just got to go through a few things to make sure we are ready for Saturday.”

Pires bagged his second goal in as many games to give Woking a third minute lead against old foes Aldershot.

Kevin Betsy’s deep corner was kept alive at the back post by Parkinson and in the resulting melee Pires was able to hammer home a loose clearance from close-range.

And it was Woking’s Welling-connection that helped double their lead midway through the second half.

Lee Sawyer’s deflected cross sparked confusion in the Aldershot area and Parkinson was alert to smash in from inside the six-yard box.

Shots pulled one back minutes later when Michael Rankine got on the end of Jordan Roberts’ in-swinging corner, but that was to conclude the afternoon’s scoring.

The goals may have stopped but the drama was far from over and after the break Sawyer was amazingly denied by the woodwork at both ends.

A long back pass eluded Aaron Howe and hit the upright before a controlled effort at the other end grazed the outside of Jordan Clement’s post.

Doug Bergqvist should have seen a late red for a tug on trialist Kurtis Guthrie with the striker clean through on goal but he escaped with a caution.

Tackles flew in from both teams but Woking came through the tussle unscathed, victory over the old enemy teeing them up perfectly for the clash with Wrexham.

PATIENT - Garry Hill is willing to bide his time in the transfer market

PATIENT – Garry Hill is willing to bide his time in the transfer market

GARRY HILL does not predict any new signings to be unveiled at Kingfield until after the squad reports back for pre-season training.

Hill’s champions are still some way short of a full pack with only 13 players registered with Woking ahead of the club’s return to the Blue Square Premier.

And after completing an incredible hat trick of Blue Square South manager of the season awards, Hill confessed he didn’t expect much transfer activity before the players report for duty on July 2.

He said: “One or two could happen before then but I’m more interested in having my squad ready for the first league game in August.

We’ll pick and choose what is right for our football club, affordable for our football club but the players have got to want to come to Woking for the right reasons – that is very important to me

“What I’ve found out at the present time is that a lot of the players we are trying to fetch in and get on board want full-time football – and if they want full-time football they ask for full-time wages.

“There are only so many players who can get full-time football and I think the middle of July is when players go back to their clubs or go on trial looking for it somewhere else.

“When that doesn’t happen it becomes more of a level playing field where part-time clubs in the conference get a better opportunity.

“I’ve had some figures come back and I don’t think some football players really understand how hard it is out there. Some think the rules apply to everybody else but not them.

“We’ll pick and choose what is right for our football club, affordable for our football club, but the players have got to want to come to Woking for the right reasons – that is very important to me.”

Hill completed his amazing hat trick of manager of the season awards after leading Cards back to the top flight of non-league football following a three-year absence.

He was previously awarded the top honour with Dagenham & Redbridge in 2000 and with Weymouth six years later.

“I feel very proud,” said Hill. “I think someone said I was the first person to win it three times which makes it even more satisfying from that point of view but it’s a team award after the hard work from my staff and everybody at the club.

“Certainly the players and the fans who supported the club and played their part – I’m very pleased to pick up the award again.”

And there was more joy for the Woking boss as Alan Inns, Jack King, Giuseppe Sole, and new boys Loick Pires and Jack Parkinson all made the Blue Square South team of the year.

“There are five Woking players – past and present – in the team and they’ve got noticed for the right reasons.

“Of course I’m very pleased about it and even more so with our two new signings who were in the team with Welling.”

SIGNED - Jack Parkinson has joined the Cards

SIGNED - Jack Parkinson has joined the Cards

CARDS have completed the signing of defender Jack Parkinson from Welling.

The 22-year-old played 41 games for United last season and scored eight goals, three of which came against Woking.

The ex-Welling skipper said: “I met Garry yesterday, we had a chat and after coming away and sorting a few things out on my work side of things, I was really impressed with the club and the way it was presented.

“The fan base they have is fantastic, it’s a club that wants to do well and wants to push on and it’s a club that matches the ambition that I’ve got as well.

“I don’t like talking about myself too much I’d say I’m predominantly a defender. I played in midfield quite a few times last season, I got about 11-goals last season in all competitions which isn’t a bad return.

There’s no one in particular that I’m looking forward to playing, but it’s a new challenge of heading to new grounds and new teams – it’s something I can’t wait to get stuck into

“But more than anything I’m a lad that’s enthusiastic, loves what he does and is looking to push on and I feel I’ve made the right move. It’s a great club, with a good fanbase and it’s a club that wants to do well – it fits the bill really.”

The news comes on the same day that Woking announced they had signed Welling striker Loick Pires.

Parkinson added: “Loick is a good lad. He’s young like myself, he’s another one who is ambitious, he wants to do well and he is in the same boat as me.

“I suppose it helps him joining at the same time but I know the lads at Woking will be as good as gold. The gaffer has already said they are a good group and both of us really just can’t wait to get going.

“I was very impressed with the manager, him and Steve Thompson came across very well. He asked my views and at the same time he sold the club very well and that’s what has done it really.

“I want to play for a club that is ambitious and the manager is ambitious as well. Without going over the top, we know it will be hard but we feel we’re going to be quite well equipped by the time we kick-off to have a good go.

“My season ran on a little bit at Welling because of the play-offs so I wanted to get myself sorted. I had eight or nine offers from different clubs in non-league and in the league for next season.

“I wanted to get something sorted quick because I don’t like messing people about – there is nothing worse than people waiting on you and I was a bit paranoid that might happen so I wanted to make the decision sooner rather than later.

“Once I spoke to Garry my mind was made up.

“Every player will tell you it’s nice to play in front of big crowds each week and there will be no better than heading to Luton and the teams that attract big gates. It’s nice to test yourself against big clubs.

“There’s no one in particular that I’m looking forward to playing, but it’s a new challenge of heading to new grounds and new teams – it’s something I can’t wait to get stuck into.”

SIGNED - Loick Pires is Cards' first summer signing

SIGNED - Loick Pires is Cards' first summer signing

WOKING have made Welling striker Loick Pires their first summer signing.

Pires, 22, joined United from Leyton Orient at the start of the 2010-11 campaign and went on to score 20  goals in 60 appearances for the Wings.

He becomes Garry Hill’s first signing since Cards were crowned Blue Square South champions in April.

Speaking exclusively to the News & Mail, Pires said: “My first goal for Welling was against Woking with a free-kick a couple of years ago so I’ve had a bit of joy against them.

“But in recent times I’ve seen the quality that was there and I’ve been to the stadium a couple of times so it was a club I rated highly regardless of whether it was a club I joining or not.

“Obviously I knew a lot about Garry Hill and his pedigree so that came into it once he asked me to join. I’m looking forward to testing myself at a higher level.

Once I’m on the pitch I’m more than confident I can get the better of my opponent and one thing I can guarantee is that no one will work harder than me. That’s an attitude Garry Hill shares and that is where we met eye-to-eye

“I’m not fazed by the teams in the division. Compared to the Lutons and the Wrexhams Woking are a smaller club but to me, if you are on the pitch, it is 11 versus 11 and me against a centre-half.

“You’ve got to believe you can get the best of him. Whether they are playing two or three leagues above you or just above you in the league, it’s irrelevant to me.

“Once I’m on the pitch I’m more than confident I can get the better of my opponent and one thing I can guarantee is that no one will work harder than me. That’s an attitude Garry Hill shares and that is where we met eye-to-eye.

“When I was at Leyton Orient I was fed bread crumbs so I can’t really count that as a League One experience.

“All my experience has come in the Blue Square South and although there were five or six clubs interested from the conference, my heart was set on joining Woking from the off-set because I liked what he had to say and I like his philosophy.

“I really bought into that, amongst other things, and I thought it was the right time to test myself.

“There was an option for me to go into the conference last year but I was in a position where I thought it would be best to do another year in the Blue Square South and gain promotion – which I came very close to.  Right now, at my age, I think it’s the right time to test myself.

“In my first year at Welling I came in as a winger but I think myself now as more of a central striker. I can drift out wide, I’m quite pacy, I’m a lot stronger than I used to be and I’ve got a goal in me, too.

“I am primarily a target man but I like to think I can play on the deck too and I feel I’ve got a lot to offer the team in many areas.

“Defensively I do my job in terms of marking and I feel a threat going forward as well. The minimum you’ll get from me is hard work. Things might not go my way but I will run channels and work hard, that’s the minimum I will do.”

The announcement was accompanied by news that Kevin Betsy, Mark Ricketts, Adam Newton and Adam Doyle have all signed new deals at Kingfield.

A delighted Betsy said: “I enjoyed my three months towards the end of the season coming back so it was pretty much a no-brainer to sign a new deal.

“With the manager and Thommo committing their future to the club and after hearing their plans for the new season, it was easy to sign.

“The fans have always been fantastic with me and it’s like coming home again really.

“It’s an enjoyable place to play football and that is what I want to do at this stage in my career.

“I think the manager will draw on the experience of all the players at the club. He’s experienced in this division as am I and so is Steve Thompson.

“Thommo played in the conference for many years and when he was an assistant manager in a higher division he would always scout players in the non-league.

“They know the scene extremely well, they know the level, they know what’s required to do well in the league and keep us out of the relegation places.

“We are optimistic because we have the ability to perform well. We’ve got the nucleus of a good squad from last season and hopefully we can continue in the same vein.”

Academy graduates George Frith and Jack Mazzone have also signed first team contracts.

One player on his way out of Kingfield is Alan Inns who confirmed today via Twitter that he will not be extending his stay at Woking.

Inns made 33 appearances for the champions last season and scooped both the Cards Trust and Woking FC player of the year awards at the end of season trophy presentation.

He said: “Gutted to leave, but work and family to think about! Can’t fully commit 100 per cent. Been a great year personally. Great club/fans/lads #champions.”