A SOLITARY goal from Ben Gerring was enough to book Woking’s place in the First Round Proper of the FA Cup after a tense victory over league rivals Welling United on Saturday.
With only goal difference separating the two sides in the National League South, it was United who created the first opportunity of the game, with Brendan Kiernan blazing over from the edge of the box.
Nassim L’Ghoul then went even closer for The Wings, forcing Craig Ross into a smart save as the visitors dictated more of the early play at The Laithwaite Community Stadium.
Woking began the second half much brighter, with Jamar Loza hitting the side netting in the 51st minute, before being replaced by Paul Hodges four minutes later.
The substitute made an instant impact as he lured Julien Anua into a late foul, which saw the United defender receive his marching orders for a second bookable offence.
Woking increased the pressure as they sought to make the extra man count, as United lowered themselves to time-wasting tactics, which somehow failed to draw the attention of the match officials.
The Cards then went close in the 74th minute, but Max Kretzschmar’s shot was comfortably gathered by Dan Wilks in the visitors’ goal.
Wilks could do nothing though about Gerring’s header three minutes later, as the hosts finally found a deserved opener, with the defender netting his first goal for the club.
However, The Cards were indebted to Ross, who pulled off a stunning one-handed save from Bradley Goldberg in stoppage time, which ensured Woking were in the bag for the First Round Proper on Monday, drawing Torquay United away.
It’s the second time in three seasons that The Cards have played the seasiders in the FA Cup; the last time being in the Fourth Qualifying Round in 2016, which Woking eventually won in a replay.
Woking boss Alan Dowson said he had “mixed thoughts” about a trip away to the English Riviera: “I would have loved Woking to draw one of Sunderland or Portsmouth away in the First Round (Proper), but we would lose; whereas we have a realistic chance of beating Torquay.
“You’re essentially then just 90 minutes away from drawing the likes Manchester United, Manchester City, Arsenal or Chelsea (to name a few),” he added.
While Dowse has no intention of turning his nose up at the chance for Woking to win £36,000 if they beat The Gulls, he is keen for his players not to get swept up in cup fever and to focus on the league.
With several key players still due to return from injury, the next two-and-a-half weeks will serve as welcome distraction and the chance for Dowson to deploy his strongest side against Torquay.
“Last Saturday was great; a number of us went down to the Kingfield Arms (pub around the corner from the ground) in the evening to celebrate reaching the First Round, but it’s about keeping things in perspective.
“I felt a bit worse for wear on Sunday morning, but people want to see you out and about in the local community; it’s what brings people together.
“The FA Cup is a massive competition, and you can see just what it means to Woking fans to have a good cup run.”
For the full report, interview and pictures, see the 25 October edition of the News & Mail