IN FOOTBALL terms it was a Remembrance Sunday to forget for Woking fans as they saw their side crash out of the FA Cup at Wrexham.
Some cup polish from the Welsh side, courtesy of first-half Neil Ashton, Wes York and Andy Bishop goals, put paid to Woking’s Wembley dreams for another year.
Sunday’s slaying by the Dragons was in fact the Cards’ second three-goal cup exit of what boss Garry Hill described as a very disappointing week for the club; his side’s swashbuckling early season form so far eluding them in an inauspicious start to a tough November programme.
That disappointing week had begun with the shock midweek Surrey Senior Cup home loss to Combined Counties side Ashford Town prior to the trip to Wales – the Cards falling at the first hurdle defending last season’s Surrey crown, won against Met Police at Kingfield back in May.
Typically frank in his assessment of his side’s recent cup shortcomings, a furious Hill looked to rally the troops to cease the immediate chance handed to his side to right the Wrexham wrongs – with the two sides lining up against each other back in Conference action at Kingfield on Wednesday night (played after the News & Mail went to press).
“I wish it was tomorrow night (the league fixture with Wrexham) because that’s the way I am and that’s the way I want the players to be,” said a bullish Hill after Sunday’s limp loss.
“You’ve got to turn round and try and put a smile back on those faces of the travelling supporters who came up here, on a Sunday, to get behind the team. Let’s have a reaction, let’s have a response.”
As with all the fixtures over the Remembrance weekend, a moment of silence was impeccably observed prior to kick-off at the Racecourse Ground. This year’s period of reflection all the more poignant for Cards fans given the sad loss of young academy player Joe Reay, son of Woking Club Director Kelvin Reay.
A total of 79 Cards fans made the long hop over the North Wales border to take their place in a sparse Sunday crowd; many more no doubt taking advantage of the unique opportunity to catch the action on Welsh-speaking satellite channel, S4C.
Given the home side’s dominance of a one-sided first-half, it looked as if Woking were playing a European Cup side – rather than an FA Cup tie – such was the disparity between the sides.
The paltry performance was made all the more frustrating given that an almost identical Woking XI won 2-1 at the Racecourse Ground back in August.
But unlike their league victory, Woking were never at the races in this cup tie, while the hosts simply galloped out of the start gate with lightening thoroughbred trio York, Elliott Durrell and Johnny Hunt romping past Woking’s flagging nags at will. Woking did appear to have cause for cup consternation over Ashton’s 20th-minute opener, however.
Mike Cestor – whose defensive shift was otherwise a plus point on a day of few for gaffer Hill – was adjudged to have felled strapping, 6ft plus, centre-forward Bishop with the merest of brushes in the box.
To further compound the sense of wrong-doing, despite Cards keeper Jake Cole saving the full-back’s initial penalty, Ashton rolled home his fortuitous second bite at the cherry.
Cards could have no complaints at goals two and three, however, as they contributed to their own demise with some dour defending, before two fine executions of first-time finishing from York (36 minutes) and Bishop (43 minutes) effectively finished the tie as a contest before the sun had set.
With Wrexham happy to sit back and use their willing front-runners on the counter attack, Woking did manage to make more of a tie of it in the second period. The normally deadly Scott Rendell nodded his only real chance of the game wide when well placed, while the closest effort for a consolation goal for the travelling fans came when sub John Goddard stuck the post late on after a weaving run into the box.
With cup distractions now aside, boss Hill has urged his players to recapture the league promise that has shot them up around the play-off places: “You don’t become a bad player, you don’t become a bad team, you don’t become a bad manager or management staff overnight.
“Mentally, you’ve got to be strong, you’ve got to roll your sleeves up, you’ve got to stand up and be counted.”