WOKING tumbled three places down the Vanarama National League standings as a lacklustre display saw them fall to a 1-0 defeat to Guiseley on Saturday.
From the first whistle it was apparent the Cards were in for an afternoon of brawn over brain as the visiting Lions soon marked their territory at a subdued Kingfield – bustling target man Liam Dickinson slamming the visitors in front after nine minutes.
This has been a season of feast or famine for Woking followers who, having revelled in a seven-game unbeaten run in the league, have seen their side slip to ninth position after their current winless spell stretched to a fourth league match.
Discount the division’s runaway trio of Cheltenham Town, Forest Green Rovers and Grimsby Town – the latter of whom the Cards face twice in the space of four days next week in league and cup – and the fight for the remaining top-half slots is hotting up as the business end of the campaign nears.
Off-colour Woking’s pointless weekend allowed promotion rivals Dover Athletic – in fifth place – to put a three-point wedge between them and the Cards, while it’s a five-point bridge to Tranmere Rovers in fourth spot.
Questions are abound on the terraces as to whether Garry Hill’s squad has sufficient strength in depth to cope with the rigours of three competitions – boss Hill having guided his side into the last eight of both the FA Trophy and Surrey Senior Cup.
Unfortunately, the Woking gaffer was unavailable for his usual post-match analysis on Saturday, but he had struck an increasingly frustrated figure on the touchline as the hosts failed to claw their way past a resolute Guiseley side in the 81 minutes after falling behind.
Many of Hills’ starting XI – including a second appearance for on-loan Yeovil Town striker Shaun Jeffers – simply seemed to freeze like rabbits in the headlights at a perishing Kingfield; Woking forced on to the back foot in the opening exchanges as Guiseley started as boldly as their sunshine-yellow shirts.
Ten promotion-damaging points have been dropped against bottom-half of the table opponents in recent weeks – Halifax Town, Altrincham, Barrow and now Guiseley. Indeed, Woking may be relishing a tough-looking set of fixtures over the next month against the sides in and around them in the division’s upper echelons.
The Yorkshire Lions can take pride at their first season at this level of the football pyramid – who can forget September’s
dramatic 4-4 draw with Woking up at Nethermoor Park? Their boss Mark Bower followed the formula of recent Kingfield ‘frustrators’ Halifax and Barrow, with two imposing ball-winners at either end of the field.
At the heart of the Lions’ diligent defence Daniel Hall and Rob Atkinson comfortably kept home strike duo Joe Quigley and Jeffers in check. Meanwhile, their grafting strike pair of Emile Sinclair and scorer Dickinson ran themselves into the ground as they unnerved a rattled Cards back line throughout.
Time and again Bower’s gritty side won their battles all over the divot-strewn Kingfield pitch.
While towering target men Sinclair and Dickinson are likely to win few ‘goal of the season’ prizes, they were in the right place at the right time, nine minutes in, to notch what proved the winning goal – the pacy Sinclair laying on a low centre for his strike partner to slam home from six yards out.
Only pure athleticism from keeper Jake Cole prevented Sinclair inflicting double trouble on Woking before the break, but the hosts’ woes were compounded when young forward Jeffers was stretchered from the field clutching his back – although the club confirmed the player was in better shape at the final whistle.
An early second-half switch saw Hill throw on his – surprisingly benched – bag of tricks Bruno Andrade and speedster Jake Caprice to inject some sorely needed pace into the game.
Before Portuguese winger Andrade could begin to make inroads into the yellow wall in front of Steven Drench’s goal, Cole was again required to defy gravity to keep out another Sinclair effort from close range.
The final third of the match belonged to a pepped up Woking, who threw men forward looking for a late leveller – the irony being that the final third of the field was a ‘no go zone’, with Drench rarely troubled.
When sub Giuseppe Sole and Quigley did slip into the Guiseley penalty area, both men miscued gilt-edged chances with the goal at their mercy as the visitors held on to the end. It’s 16th-placed Bromley for the Cards this Saturday – a trip they won’t take lightly.