joe mcnerney

CLOSE - Gavin McCallum hit the bar

CLOSE – Gavin McCallum hit the post

Mansfield 3
Woking 1

WOKING had no answer to non-league’s Rory Delap as the Stags left the Cards high and dry at Field Mill.

Deadline-day signing Exodus Geohaghon and his prolific long throws caused the damage as goals from Louis Briscoe and Matt Rhead gave Mansfield a two-goal cushion at the break.

Woking hit back six minutes from time through Joe McNerney to set up a grandstand finish.

But substitutes Nick Wright and Jake Speight combined in time added on to seal the points and consign Garry Hill to a third straight defeat.

And the manager admits Mansfield’s timely acquisition of Geohaghon had a huge bearing on the course of this goalfest.

Hill said: “We were very unlucky not to get a share of the spoils – the scoreline has flattered them.

“I think apart from the long throw, which acted as a great weapon for them, we bossed the game.

“It’s a throw which everyone has to deal with so I won’t make excuses but if he had signed a day later it might have been handy.

“We go away disappointed with the result but not with the performance, we were upbeat and very creative.

“What’s important now is to get out of this rut, if we get in a bit of a rut confidence can get low but that wasn’t the case against Mansfield.

“It doesn’t help us but anybody who watched the game will say we were unlucky, with the chances we created, not to get a point.

“We aren’t getting that little bit of luck at the minute and everything seems to be going against us but I’m sure in time it will start to go our way.”

Cards were by no means outplayed by their hotly-favoured hosts but what Woking lacked in the final third Mansfield possessed in abundance.

A self-assured conviction in front of goal served the Stags well and they took the lead in the 10th minute.

Woking failed to deal with Geohaghon’s laser-guided missile of a throw and Briscoe was allowed to drill a low shot past Aaron Howe from inside the area.

Cards were neat and tidy in position and, after being handed a place in the starting line-up, Gavin McCallum rewarded his manager’s faith with a series of penetrating runs.

But Woking were blunt in the final third and rarely threatened Alan Marriott in the Mansfield goal.

Luke Jones blazed over from inside the six-yard box as Geohaghon’s bullet throws continued to cause the visitors problems.

After setting up the opener Geohaghon almost got himself on the score sheet with a powerful left-foot volley that was cleared off the line by Kevin Betsy.

McNerney’s curling free-kick and McCallum’s 35-yard effort drew saves from Marriott, but it was Mansfield who made the most of their chances, doubling their lead with the final kick of the half.

Cards looked to be springing a counter attack when McCallum lost possession to Colin Daniel deep inside his own half.

The defender found Matt Green whose slide rule pass tripped the Woking offside trap releasing Rhead to coolly prod home a second.

Reflecting on what proved to be a huge moment in an otherwise even contest, Hill admitted his players need to cut out the mistakes in an unforgiving division.

He said: “We got punished when it looked like we were on the breakaway.

“We had players breaking out of the box but we gave the ball away cheaply, they slipped the ball in behind us and we got punished.

“That’s the difference at this level, a bad pass can be very costly whereas in the Conference South, we might have been able to get away with it.

“I thought in the second-half we bossed it but it wasn’t meant to be.”

McCallum came close to making amends for his earlier error when he hit the inside of the post – only the faintest of touches from Marriott denied the winger.

Howe spread himself brilliantly to keep out Briscoe after the forward had bundled through a cluster of Woking players.

Marriott got a strong hand to Jack Parkinson’s swerving free-kick but watched thankfully as Brett Williams sent the rebound into the side netting.

Cards dragged themselves to within one goal of a dramatic turnaround when Lee Sawyer’s scooped pass was converted from a narrow angle by McNerney.

But with Woking pressing for an equaliser Mansfield were able to break and secure the points through Speight’s powerful shot.

UNPLAYABLE - Barrow could not handle Loick Pires

UNPLAYABLE – Barrow could not handle Loick Pires

Woking 3
Barrow 1

GARRY HILL praised the character of his determined Woking side as they battled from a goal down in a Kingfield furnace to see off Barrow.

The Cards showed great resilience in blistering temperatures to hit back after Garry Hunter’s placed strike had given the visitors a 15th-minute advantage.

Joe McNerney, promoted to free-kick duty in the absence of Giuseppe Sole, conjured a goal the injured striker would have been proud of to pull Woking level after 20 minutes.

We really took the initiative and showed them that we wanted to win this match – it was a big win today

And despite twice being saved by the woodwork, Cards never looked back, securing victory with second-half goals from Bradley Bubb and Loick Pires as Hill revelled in a second Kingfield triumph in five days.

And the delighted manager believes his side have what it takes to give anyone a run for their money this season.

He said: “We knew it was going to be a tough game but I think we showed a great deal of character.

“They were the better team in the first 20 minutes and they got the goal they deserved.

“They hit the post before that, the warning signs were there but I think the big thing in this league, which we’ve already started to show, is we’ve got character.

“I know the league, I’ve been in the game a long time and I’ve instilled into the players that they’ve got to have character, desire, passion and they’ve got to be winners.

“For periods in the second-half it was all one way, we really took the initiative and showed them that we wanted to win this match – it was a big win today.

“If we put our honesty and commitment into every game then we can make it hard for teams. You can’t have days when you fancy it and days when don’t at this level – you’ve got to be up for it every game.

“I think it’s a very good start but it’s no secret that we want 50 points. When we get to that 50 points I’ll punch the air because that will be the first hurdle.

“We play against clubs in this league that are far superior financially to us but they can only put 11 out on the park at once.

“If we are at it in respect of commitment and honesty then we’ll give anybody a game.”

In an electric opening period Woking had the chance to take the lead as early as the second minute.

Persistent pressure from Pires forced Danny Hurst into picking up Mike Pearson’s heavy back-pass inside the penalty area.

The keeper received a caution for his troubles and the Cards were awarded an indirect free-kick eight yards from goal.

Bubb failed to force Lee Sawyer’s lay-off through a wall of black and white shirts and the danger was eventually cleared.

Aaron Howe needed to be alert to keep out James Owen’s deflected shot from 18-yards, but there was nothing the Woking stopper could do to prevent Barrow taking the lead.

A sweeping surge forward resulted in Hunter curling an effort back off the foot of the post.

But within 30 seconds the lively midfielder did have the ball in the net, measuring a fine effort from the edge of the area past the static Howe.

Pires rattled a fierce drive against the near post after being released down the left channel by Brett Williams two minutes later.

And having only trailed for a matter of moments Woking released the Beast to drag themselves level.

Kevin Betsy’s marauding run was unfairly hacked short and, in the absence of Sole, McNerney stepped up to take set-piece responsibility.

What the defender produced would have received the seal of approval from Cards’ injured dead ball specialist.

From fully 25-yards, McNerney found the smallest of gaps in the wall, bending a stunning strike into the bottom left corner.

With the contest well and truly at its peak both teams had chances to take the lead before half-time.

Barrow went close with Sean Hessey’s thundering free-kick that flew just wide.

For Woking, Pires had a shot cleared off the line by the stretching Gavin Skelton following Williams’ smart pass.

But the woodwork had to come to the Cards’ rescue a second time when Adam Boyes’ masterfully crafted volley beat Howe.

Under the scorching sun the tempo took an understandable knock in the second-half.

But with Barrow flagging in the Kingfield furnace, Woking got their noses in front thanks to Bubb’s second goal in three games.

Pires, who led the line excellently from start to finish, was hauled to the ground down the left.

Sawyer stepped up to flight in a cross and it was on-loan Aldershot man Bubb who applied the vital touch to help the ball loop over Hurst and into the far corner.

Buoyed by the breakthrough, Cards chased a decisive third.

Brett Johnson did his best to turn an awkward header into the top corner but was denied by Hurst’s safe hands.

But Barrow would have been on an even keel if not for the timely block of substitute Gavin McCallum.

A quick free-kick found substitute Vinny Mukendi in a pocket of space at the back stick, but his close-range stab at an equaliser was foiled by the outstretched leg of McCallum.

It was fitting that Pires would seal the points after such a tireless, selfless shift.

Betsy picked the ball up in the middle of the park and surged forward on a trademark run.

His threaded pass was to perfection and after a neat touch and a moment to compose himself, Pires drilled home a 79th-minute clincher, much to the delight of his manager.

Hill added: “Loick has shown why we’ve fetched him into the club.

“He’s not the finished article just yet but he’ll get goals in this league if he is prepared to listen to Steve Thompson and myself.

“He’s a big unit, he’s mobile, he’s got a left-foot on him and I expect Loick to go and get 15-20 goals this season.

“He’s a good player but he can be better and he will be better.”

BIG MAC - Joe McNerney towers over everyone to head home Woking's second

BIG MAC – Joe McNerney towers over everyone to head home Woking’s second

JOE McNERNEY gave Garry Hill some food for thought after thundering home the decisive second goal in Woking’s 2-1 win over AFC Wimbledon.

McNerney, on as a second half substitute, rose highest to head home Jesse Waller-Lassen’s corner to double his side’s advantage after Bradley Bubb’s 19th minute volley had given the hosts the lead.

Jack Midson reduced the deficit ten minutes from time after the Dons were awarded a controversial penalty.

But Woking were rarely threatened and eased their way to victory in a game that honoured the memory of former player and chairman Phil Ledger.

It was nice to be able to honour a real legend at the club with a performance like that

After the game Hill admitted an additional friendly with Hornchurch had been arranged to give every member of his squad the chance to prove their worth before the start of the season.

And McNerney, who faces stiff competition from Jack Parkinson, Brett Johnson and Adam Doyle to secure a place in the starting XI, confirmed he will keep working hard to force his way into the manager’s plans.

He said: “Hopefully the goal will stick in the gaffer’s mind but I’m sure he will be focusing on my performance at the back.

“There is competition in every position and everyone is looking to stake their claim.

“The extra friendly is another chance to impress but pre-season is all about fitness, no one is really worried about results yet.

“All the lads will want to get out there and make sure the impress they manager.

“We’ve got a strong core of players at the club now and the spirit in the dressing room is positive – everyone is getting on and working hard.”

McNerney also hailed the way his side outplayed and outclassed their Football League opponents.

He described the performance as a fitting way to celebrate Phil Ledger’s outstanding service to both Woking and AFC Wimbledon.

“I was actually really impressed with the way we played last night. We kept the ball well, played some good football and controlled the game.

“It was nice to be able to honour a real legend at the club with a performance like that and it’s brilliant that we could host the cup against a top team in AFC Wimbledon.”

NEW DEAL - Joe McNerney is now in his seventh season with Cards

NEW DEAL - Joe McNerney is entering his seventh season with Cards

JOE McNERNEY has agreed re-engagements terms with Woking that will see him reach seven seasons as a Card.

McNerney, 22, struck three times for the champions last term – including the 98th minute clincher in the 3-2 victory over Bromley in January.

And after helping Woking secure the Blue Square South title, the young defender has pledged his future to Garry Hill as he plots a siege on non-league’s top-flight.

Worried fans had began to question whether Joe Mac was spending his holiday searching for football elsewhere, a suggestion the Kingfield academy graduate quickly dismissed.

I check in on the website from time to time to see if we’ve got any new signings and I’ve been really impressed so far

The Woking lad said: “It was always going to be hard to get back into the conference but now that we’ve done it I’m excited and looking forward to next season as a Woking player – it was just a case of sitting down with the gaffer and talking about my deal.

“The trouble was we negotiated, then he went away, then I went away – it was just a case of getting together and getting it all sorted. It was all straight forward really.

“I didn’t speak to any other clubs. As a young player I am obviously keen and ambitious to move up the ladder at some point but I was always on the side of staying with Woking.

“Last season I wasn’t as strong as the year before and I was quite open about that with the manager. I told him I wanted to get back to my best this season and that I wanted to be starting every game.

“He told me that if I’m back to form and playing well then he’s not going to stop me from doing that – he’ll be picking the players who are on-form.”

McNerney will report for pre-season training alongside Woking new-boy and former Welling skipper Jack Parkinson.

Versatile defender Parkinson, also 22, has already outlined his desire to make his mark on his new team, but McNerney refuses to sweat on his place in Hill’s first team plans until he’s enjoyed some much deserved time off.

“I’ve played against Jack three or four times now and he’s very impressive. He’s similar to Mark Ricketts in his versatility and can play central midfield or centre back, players like that are very valuable.

“You know there is always someone who can come in and compete no matter what position they play in which is always good.

“But I’m trying to let my hair down a little bit over the summer and not really thinking too much about football at the moment.

“I check in on the website from time to time to see if we’ve got any new signings and I’ve been really impressed so far.

“I’m pleased with who has stayed and who has been brought in but as for the football side, I’m trying to forget about it for a little bit. But when I come back I’ll be raring to go.”