EVER the pragmatist, Woking manager Garry Hill admitted that he needs ‘help from the boardroom’ to help patch-up his injury-hit squad after defeat at Macclesfield Town.
Off-colour from the first whistle at Moss Rose in Saturday’s 2-1 loss, Hill’s small squad looked to be paying the price for their flying start to the campaign, which has been cruelly curtailed of late by a string of injuries to key players – such as captain Mark Ricketts – on top of season-ending blows suffered by defender Ismail Yakubu and star striker Scott Rendell.
Two tap-ins mid-way through each half – the first from Town’s lively forward Kristian Dennis; the second via defender Neill Byrne – did the damage for the home side before Woking’s man-of-the-match Joey Jones put a flattering gloss on the final scoreline for the Cards when he pulled a goal back four minutes from time.
Even the most partisan among the travelling fans would, perhaps, admit that even a two-goal winning margin for their dominant hosts wouldn’t have fairly reflected their superiority over the 90 minutes. Something Cards boss Hill was happy to admit post-match: “No complaints. The only good thing to come out of it was that it was only 2-1. On the day [we were] second best. You get that in football.
“We’ve had a very good run lately with five wins and a draw so I can’t be too hard on the players. We’ve had a good start after eight games, having 16 points, but today their [Macclesfield’s] desire and hunger, their physical presence and experience told in
a big way.”
With boss Hill fielding a side with an average age of just over 23 years of age, the trip to Cheshire always looked a tough assignment for his young squad against their more experienced foes.
Non-League goal-getter Dennis – back on loan to Town from Stockport County – proved a constant thorn in the side of the Cards’ backline over the course of the game, while the likes of wily defensive duo 33-year-old skipper George Pilkington and full-back Tony Diagne kept Cards’ fearless winger Kadell Daniel and his fellow speedy forward Bruno Andrade on the periphery of the action for the most part.
The likes of loan signings Daniel and defender Terell Thomas – both from Charlton Athletic – have impressed the Kingfield hierarchy during their short stints to date, while the newest member of the travelling party, former Exeter City midfielder Jimmy Keohane, made the bench after his goalscoring debut in the 2-0 win over Welling United on Bank Holiday Monday.
But Keohane’s new boss was sending out a clear message to the money-men at The Laithwaite Community Stadium after the game – that he needs the Kingfield coffers opening once more if he and assistant Steve Thompson are to keep third-placed Woking challenging at the top end of the standings in the absence of Rendell, Yakubu et al.
“It was a reality check today for a lot of people: whether you’re a supporter, whether you’re management, whether you’re a player, whatever way you look at it,” said Hill.
“We looked a very young side today which was second best against an experienced side.
“There were some young players in that team today who will have to learn quite quickly; this league is very punishing.”
But rather than riding roughshod over his juniors’ achievements so far this season – with five wins from their opening eight matches prior to defeat at Macc – Hill admitted that he knew to expect such off-days while the squad find their feet in his first team.
“We will have these types of days with young players… but I can’t be too hard on them, there are going to be learning curves – that’s part of football. But we’ve done very well; we have to give the players praise and the supporters praise for travelling up here.”
But in order to keep the fans flocking back to follow his side up and down the highways and byways of the National League, realist Hill knows that further invest is needed.
“I need some help at the moment from the board, in a big way. I’ve never asked the board for anything extra in all the years that I’ve been here… but when we lose [the players] that we’re losing at the moment… I will do my outmost with Steve Thompson and the players, but football can turn very quickly, and if you don’t notice it and stand up and be brave quickly enough things can turn round – from having 16 points from eight games, it can soon reverse and it becomes hard.
“We’ve got the same budget as we had in 2011 and like they say, with inflation, everything goes up, so we’ll have to see.
“We want to keep our crowds up and the supporters will stick with you if you’re seen to be getting results and showing a bit of quality.”
Back to Saturday’s forgettable foray up in Cheshire and it was all over bar the shouting for a listless Cards by the close of the first period as they went in a goal behind to Dennis’ effort having failed to match Macc boss John Askey’s side for pace, power and precision throughout.
There are usually goals between these two National League stalwarts – including an identical 2-1 reverse for the Cards at Moss Rose last season – and two more strikes arrived after the interval, both from unlikely sources.
Firstly, Town’s central defender Byrne rolled in the home side’s second with ease, but only after a wonder save at point blank range from Jake Cole had denied Dennis his brace and momentarily kept the deficit to one goal.
Having been marshalled tightly by full-back Diagne, wide man Daniel was replaced by Giuseppe Sole for the closing stages, while promising QPR loanee Ben Pattie also entered the fray to try and salvage something.
Surprisingly though, it was defensive screen Jones who then got his name on the scoresheet as he pulled a goal back with a fine curling effort from the edge of the penalty area late on.
Despite some late angst among the home crowd their side held on for the points.
WOKING: Cole, Caprice, Arthur, Saah, Thomas, Jones, Murtagh (Keohane, 45mins), Goddard (Pattie, 79mins), Andrade, Daniel (Sole, 74mins), Holman.