Forest Green Rovers 1
WOKING continued to bloom as they felled Forest Green Rovers 2-1 at an action-packed Kingfield on Tuesday night.
A fifth successive league win – their sixth in all competitions – takes Woking into the top half of the table for the first time this season, just eight points shy of gatecrashing the play-off party.
If only the season started in spring, Cards fans must be wondering.
With winter weather postponements and cup commitments now behind them, a host of Conference clubs now face a hectic sprint to the end of their Skrill Premier seasons.
Indeed, this April 1 fixture heralded the start of an all-consuming month for Woking, with nine games for boss Garry Hill and his staff to tackle over the course of the 30 days.
It’s sure to be a run to stretch the part-time squad to its limits; akin to last year when the Cards won just one game out of 10 in a manic March.
However with Cards’ gaffer Hill, being announced as Conference manager of the month prior to kick-off for overseeing a Midas March, and another win against top-half opposition, the signs point to a ‘loverly jubberly’ end to the season, as the boss would say.
Such is this season’s sporadic end, Cards fans had 12 days to bask in the glory of Sole’s big screen winner against odds-on title favourites Luton Town, while this game against Forest Green Rovers came just 72 hours after
Saturday’s 2-1 win over Wrexham.
The club had urged fans to pack Kingfield against the Welsh side to reward that Luton licking, and more than 2,000 accepted the invitation to see Scott Rendell’s 14th goal of the season and a first in a Cards’ shirt for Yeovil loanee Joey Jones take the points.
“It’s a nice habit, winning games,” joked Hill after the game.
While Woking starred in front of the BT Sport cameras recently, Forest Green Rovers were struck down with stage fright, as they lost 2-0 at Southport on the box last week Cards had beaten Southport by the exact same scoreline at Kingfield just two weeks earlier.
And Rovers’ record away from Stroud was nothing to write home about coming into this one.
Ten defeats on the road this season saw the Gloucestershire side perched five points outside the play-off places in 11th at kick-off despite being backed by bucks of ‘eco-warrior’ Chairman Dale Vince.
Green energy tycoon Vince, will be hoping that his financial strategy is as sustainable as his energy ideas, should boss Ady Pencock and his rumoured handsomely paid squad miss out on promotion this time out.
Some Conference clubs will be looking on green with envy at a Green Devil’s squad containing nine registered strikers, including experienced Football League forwards Lee Hughes and Luke Rodgers.
Sam Beasant deputised for the injured Aaron Howe between the sticks for Cards, while Joey Jones kept his place in midfield after an impressive shift in the engine room against the Dragons from Wrexham.
As they had in that Wrexham win, the Cards shot out of the blocks quickly again.
John Nutter, Keiran Murtagh and Kevin Betsy exploited the gaps left by marauding right wing-back James Norwood early on.
Norwood’s opposite full-back Chris Stokes was sticking more diligently to his defensive duties, as he hacked a Joe McNerney header off the line after 20 minutes.
McNerney out jumping 6’7” Rovers’ skipper and ex-Card Luke Oliver to meet a swinging John Goddard corner from the right.
The new centre-back pairing of McNerney and Mark Ricketts was keeping a lively visitor’s forward line in check, and McNerney stepped out from the back again with some great composure on the half-way line to feed Murtagh.
The midfielder’s bobbling effort was spilled by ever-present keeper Sam Russell, with the unkind bounce taking it away from the in-form Rendell when poised to pounce.
Jones swung a volley over from close range as the final chance of the half came and went.
Another Rendell half-chance came at the start of the second half.
Chasing on to an under-powered header back, Rendell was denied by the outstretched Aarran Racine; who in putting the ball out, also put himself out of the game with a suspected dislocated knee, to be replaced by Eddie Oshodi.
With wing-back Norwood, all but now totally abandoning his defensive duties to play as an auxiliary forward, Rovers’ pressure paid off with a goal on the hour.
Stealing in down the right, midfielder Yan Klukowski whipped in a low, hard cross to the near post, where Lee Hughes stole in ahead of McNerney and Ricketts to fire across Beasant.
It was harsh on the home side, with the visitor’s scoring from their first effort on target.
You got the sense that in-form Woking weren’t going to let their unbeaten run out of their grasp that easily.
But in fact it was the visitors who handed them a way back in with 20 minutes to go when sub Oshodi was adjudged to have handled inside the box by the referee’s assistant. Rendell dispatched the spot kick.
Woking tails were now up, with Russell’s goal living an increasingly charmed life to deny Rendell his brace. Russell got fingertips to a low flashed Betsy centre from the left ahead of Rendell in the six-yard box, before clawing an unbelievable stop out of his bottom right corner when looking beaten all ends up from a towering header.
Moaners’ Corner’s goal-line technology system was adamant that the ball had crossed the line, but the assistant, perhaps keen to avoid another berating from the visitors, kept his flag down.
The Forest Green labyrinth threatened to bewilder the home side as Rendell and Betsy chipped away at the roots in a frantic finale. But cue lumberjack Marriott to shear his way through; to sheer relief in the stands.
With Rover’s again looking at the linesman, Marriott stole in behind to wield the axe as he met Jones’ floated ball at full pace to slide home emphatically from right to left.
Betsy almost sealed it as he crashed a left-footer off the underside of the crossbar to trouble the white goal paint once more.
Hughes almost nicked a point in stoppage time but he sent his header a few crucial inches wide of Beasant’s goal from close range.
And Woking held on to move to within a point of the visitors in the top half of the table and eight off Alfreton Town in fifth place.