THERE were high fives all round for Woking as they ground out a 5-2 win against the Sandgrounders up at Southport.
A Mr Holmes – aided by his assistant Mr Watson – got the game underway by a breezy Mersey.
It was perhaps an apt choice of officials in the wake of some criminal finishing on Tuesday night had almost cost Cards the points against Nuneaton Town – super-sub Giuseppe Sole’s last-gasp winner saving his team-mates from the gallows on the night.
Midfield enforcer Josh Payne returned to Garry Hill’s starting XI after a one game ban – with Payne holding the dubious tag of joint-most carded man in the Vanarama Conference for collecting five yellows so far this season.
Meanwhile, Hill’s present for Dean Morgan was a rest on the bench the day after the forward’s 31st birthday celebrations.
Duo Hill and Steve Thompson will no doubt have scheduled some shooting practice over at the Surrey Sports Park this week before their side’s trip up to Southport. If that was the case then it certainly paid dividends as Woking got back on the straight and narrow with just three minutes gone.
The Conference’s leading scorer Scott Rendell glanced home an inch-perfect Theo Lewis cross from right – the goal coming almost a year to the day since Rendell had opened the scoring, in the third minute again, in last season’s 1-1 game at Haig Avenue.
But it seemed as if Woking would be off-target serial offenders rather than hitting a high-five here, especially during a first-half where auxiliary full-backs Joey Jones and Chris Arthur failed to capitalise on their dominance in the final third of the dampened field.
Woking’s marauding ‘full-backs’ had to keep an eye on the back door too, as the home side engineered some dangerous centres for striker Richard Brodie – looking to get on the scoresheet for the second time in a week after his winner against Grimsby Town on Tuesday night.
Jet-powered Jack Marriott went close with two low left footers, both kept out well by Spanish stopper David Raya Martin. But Martin was soon seeing double as a wicked deflection steered Woking winger Lewis’ low drive past him after 54 minutes.
Another double-double, two at each end, swung the game one way and the other after the hour mark. Sandgrounders’ full-back David Fitzpatrick looked to grind out an unlikely point as he seized on a Ross Worner spill to pull one back for the hosts.
But just as he had on Tuesday, with Woking wobbling, Sole stepped off the bench to nonchalantly stroke home yet another 20-yard free-kick with his first swipe of the ball. Free-kick specialist Sole now has 99 Cardinal goals to his name.
Despite their dominance, Woking conceded again when big No 6 Luke Foster headed a late corner past Worner for a second time. Straight from the restart winger Ross Dyer looked to have made Woking pay as he stuck his head on another killer cross but Worner watched it fly just the high side of the crossbar.
With the chances starting to stack up, Cards played a cool hand and raced up the other end to make it 4-2 –Rendell tapping in a Joe McNerney rebound on the goal line with five minutes remaining. There was still time for ref Holmes to finally close the case when Sole was upended by scorer Foster in the box.
Rendell rolled home an elementary spot-kick to pocket the points and the match ball. He said: “Yeah [it is a] great feeling from a personal point of view – it is always great to get a hat-trick.
“We’ve made hard work of it and that can come back to bite you in this league but we’ve come back and scored late.”
Next up for the Cards is another north-west jaunt up the M6, this to Altrincham next Saturday. Cheshire-based Altrincham climbed out of the bottom four at Southport’s expense last Saturday with an improbable 3-1 away win at high-flying FC Halifax.