woking fc

Woking 2
Cambridge 1

GARRY HILL admits he had almost forgotten what it was like to watch his side score first in a football match.

Woking have made an impressive start to life back in the Blue Square Premier but have only scored first in four games prior to Cambridge United’s ­arrival at Kingfield on Tuesday.

So it was a refreshing change to see Bradley Bubb and Kevin Betsy put the Cards in the driving seat with a goal either side of half-time.

And despite a late barrage from the U’s, kick started by Robbie Wilmott’s powerful header, Hill’s battlers held on to pick up their sixth win of the season.

“It was nice to be in front,” said Hill in a brutal examination of his team’s previous displays. “We’re not used to that and we were a bit shell shocked.

KNOTT'S BAD LANDING - Billy Knott was forced off on Tuesday

KNOTT’S BAD LANDING – Billy Knott was forced off on Tuesday

“I knew there would be chances for both teams and it certainly was never going to be 0-0.

“We got the important first goal and that seemed to settle us down a bit and at 2-0 we fancied ourselves to go on and win the game.

“But all credit to Cambridge. They worked very hard and got a goal back from a set-play and in the last 20 ­minutes they have put us under ­immense pressure.

“It was a big three points and a big response and I’m very pleased.”

The Cards dominated the opening quarter of an hour with Betsy and Lee Sawyer working feverishly in the middle of the park to keep Cambridge on the back foot.

And it was no surprise that Cambridge’sJonathan Hedge was the busier of the two keepers in the opneing stages.

Jack Parkinson was first to test Hedge with a ­swerving drive which the keeper pushed away for a corner.

Michael Gash flashed a low shot just wide of the post in reply.

But it proved nothing more than a  light reposte as Hill’s men took the lead in the 19th minute.

Betsy weaved his magic in the penalty area to reach the byline and clip a cross to the back post to Bubb, who clinically pounced to head home the opener.

And Cards’ leading scorer had a glorious chance to bag his second of the night in the 27th minute.

But he completely mis-judged ­Gavin McCallum’s cross and somehow managed to get the ball stuck under his feet with the goal gaping. Goalkeeper Sam Beasant, son of former Wimbledon and Chelsea No.1 Dave, was handed his full Woking debut in place of the suspended Aaron Howe.

And the 24-year-old showed no lack of confidence when, after a couple of early catches, he coolly Cruyff-turned Robbie Wilmott as the Cambridge man closed down a clearance.

Cambridge almost caught Beasant out when Tom Elliott capitalised on the keeper’s rash decision to leave his area.

But Woking were indebted to the youngster  when he got his outstretched fingertips to Rossi Jarvis’ deflected strike from the edge of the area.

Cards looked electric on the counter and always looked the most likely to grab the game’s second goal.

But as half-time loomed and the first shreds of anxiety began to surface the visitors had the chance to even things up, only for Rory McAuley to head Daniel Andrew’s in-swinging corner wide.

Cards thought they had steadied the ship when Betsy slid a shot under Hedge on the hour.

New loan star Billy Knott, who only signed from Premier League ­giants Sunderland hours before kick off, slipped past Cambridge full-back Josh Coulson and pulled the ball back for Betsy to apply the finishing touch.

But five minutes after giving themselves a two-goal cushion Woking threatened to implode.

The lead was cut in the 65th minute when Wilmott was allowed to escape at the near post to thunder in Andrew’s corner.

And Woking were dealt a major blow when lively debutant Knott ­hobbled off with what initially looked to be quite a serious injury.

“Hopefully it’s not too bad with Billy,” said Hill. “He’s a good young player but we’ll have to take it easy and see where we can go from here.”

Deflated by the loss of midfielder Knott, Woking retreated on to the back foot as Cambridge sought an equaliser.

Sub Ricky Wellard thought he had earend the visitors a point when his deflected effort hit the post and ricocheted off the back of the Woking keeper ­before dribbling out for a corner.

Beasant added to his side’s apprehension when he spilled two teasing crosses in quick succession.

But Cards survived the onslaught to secure their first win in four and climb up to 10th ahead of Saturday’s meeting with Southport.

Ebbsfleet 2
Woking 2

WOKING were held to their first draw of the season after failing to capitalise on a dominant 45 minutes of football at Stonebridge Road.

It was a major disappointment for the Cards who had recovered from the early setback of falling behind to Joe Howe’s piledriver to lead at the break through Jack ­Parkinson and Brett ­Johnson strikes.

But that hard work was undone 15 minutes from time when Fleet snatched a share of the spoils through Phil Walsh’s headed effort from Ben ­Greenhalgh’s corner.

EQUALISER - Jack Parkinson smashes home to make it 1-1

EQUALISER – Jack Parkinson smashes home to make it 1-1

Boss Garry Hill admitted his players were guilty of switching off in a sub-par second-half.

He said: “We didn’t play at all after the break – it feels like a defeat and I’m very disappointed.

“We were cruising at half-time and against a very average side we were cruising.

“We could have wrapped the game up and if we had found a third goal the game would have been over.

“We gave the ball away far too cheaply, lacked discipline, invited pressure and as a result they grew in confidence as the game went on.

“Ten points from the last 12 is a good run and we haven’t been beaten but this feels like a loss.

“We should be beating teams like Ebbsfleet comfortably – this is two points dropped.”

And there was further woe for Hill who will be without Lee Sawyer after the midfield ace picked up his fifth booking of the season.

The manager raged: “It doesn’t help when you are working with such a small squad to see your players needlessly suspended.

“I’m a bit disappointed with Lee and I’ve told him how I feel about the booking. It gives the opposition a lift, gets their tails up and limits the influence Lee can have on the game.”

For full match report and reaction pick up your Woking News & Mail today.

Stockport 1
Woking 2

GARRY HILL reckons Woking have shown their mettle after surviving their Blue Square Premier baptism.

Cards were dealt a daunting run of away fixtures to kick-off the campaign and failed to take a single point from any of their first four games on the road.

But defeats to Wrexham, Forest Green, Mansfield and Hereford were finally banished with a commanding victory over 10-man Stockport.

CLINCHER - Loick Pires fires in Woking's winner

CLINCHER – Loick Pires fires in Woking’s winner

“We were deserved winners,” said Hill. “No game is easy in this division so to come to Edgeley Park and beat Stockport is a great lift for the players.

“We’ve had a tough baptism to this league but I feel we’ve done better than results suggest. Even though we found ourselves behind we showed great desire to get back into it.”

Alex Kenyon gave County the perfect start with a headed goal inside 15 minutes.

But Gavin McCallum levelled things up with a mazy run and finish just nine minutes later.

Hill rolled the dice in the second-half and having already sacrificed Mark Ricketts for the more attack-minded Dean Sinclair, brought off McCallum and threw on Loick Pires.

And the change worked a treat as just two minutes after coming on, Pires cut in from the right and fired a low shot past Ian Ormson to give Cards the lead.

Honestly, I was relieved at the final whistle because I wanted it for the players

On the switch that acted as a catalyst for Woking’s first away win of the season, Hill said: “As a manager you’ve got to take responsibility and make the big decisions.

“I felt today that we could build on our first-half display and go on and win the game.

“Loick is a little bit low on confidence at the moment and is still raw at this level but he’ll be alright.

“He knows which part of his game he wants to improve and I have no doubt he’ll do just that.”

In contrast, Stockport’s second-half substitutions proved disastrous.

With his side chasing the game, Jim Gannon made a 77th-minute double switch, hauling off Sam Sheridan and Danny Rowe for Jon Nolan and Alex Meaney.

But just three minutes after coming on, 20-year-old Nolan was trudging back to the dressing room.

The midfielder was immediately cautioned for a tug on Kevin Betsy as the Cards threatened to break forward.

And he was given his marching orders moments later after flying in on Adam Doyle as he made a clearance down the line.

Woking had  two great chances to make the points safe through Betsy and Lee Sawyer.

But poor finishing meant Hill had to endure five tense minutes of time added on before breathing a huge sigh of relief.

Hill added: “Honestly, I was relieved at the final whistle because I wanted it for the players – they’ve worked very hard in our away games and not quite got their reward.

“Not winning can soon add up but we got the break and the points here which we totally deserved. It’s a very, very big three points for us.”

 

Woking 6
Nuneaton 1

CARDS went on a goal-scoring frenzy but were indebted to the magnificence of Bradley Bubb and Aaron Howe as Garry Hill’s men stopped the rot to claim their third win of the season in unbelievable style.

Defiant Howe laid the foundations for Woking’s first win in five with a string of wonderful saves, including a second-half penalty stop from Kyle Perry.

At the other end four-goal hero Bubb added to first-half strikes from Gavin McCallum and Lee Sawyer to set up the Cards’ most emphatic league win since a 7-1 hiding of Altrincham in November 1996.

After watching his side run riot at Kingfield, Hill was undoubtedly in awe of loan star Bubb’s astonishing display.

LOVELY BUBBLY - Bradley Bubb scored four

LOVELY BUBBLY – Bradley Bubb scored four

He said: “The dividing line at this level is in the final third and it is a tremendous achievement for Bradley Bubb to score four goals in one game.

“All his finishes were of the highest standard and he deserves all the accolades.

“We’ve not been getting the rewards we deserve recently and we’ve been a little unlucky. But we found ourselves scoring at important times when we’d usually be punished. The goal on half-time killed them and you get those days when everything you hit goes in.”

Andy Brown tapped in a late consolation for the visitors.

Pick up Thursday’s Woking News & Mail for the full report and reaction.

 

GARRY HILL has described Giuseppe Sole’s lengthy injury lay-off as “the worst thing in the world”.

Record-breaking Sole, who scored 15 goals in 11 consecutive games at the end of last season, is out for 12 months after seriously damaging ligaments in his knee against Dartford last month.

And with Hill’s wafer thin squad struggling for goals, losing his star striker for the entirety of the campaign comes as a real kick in the teeth.

LOSS - Giuseppe Sole will be out for 12 months

LOSS – Giuseppe Sole will be out for 12 months

Hill said: “Giuseppe Sole is a big loss and we were very disappointed for him when we heard the news.

“When you talk about losing a player with Gez’s scoring ratio in the second game of the season it’s always going to be a big blow -but that’s football.

“It’s the worst thing in the world when you are working with 17-18 lads to get a major injury to one of your players.

“To lose Gez the way we have is a blow but at the end of the day all clubs get their injuries.

“We knew it was going to be tough for us this year but I’ve got to be upbeat as a manager and we’ve got to try and be upbeat as a club.”

Lady luck has not been kind to Woking on the injury front under Hill’s reign at Kingfield.

Captain Mark Ricketts was side-lined with a broken leg for more than six months last season, while now departed Paris Cowan-Hall was also a frequent visitor to the treatment room.

But the manager is convinced the tide will turn and bring with it an upturn in fortune both on and off the pitch.

He said: “What goes around comes around and hopefully that will happen sooner rather than later.

“It’s been a little bit awkward at the moment but there won’t be any additional pressure on the players.

“We’ve played some lovely football on the road but things haven’t quite gone our way and we are getting punished.

“People can’t forget that we’ve had a real hard start away from home.

“We’ve played three really fancied teams in Wrexham, Hereford and Mansfield and given a good account of ourselves.

“Our other away game was against Forest Green and they are top of the league so we are taking the positives out of those fixtures. “

Though he likes to keep his dealings in the transfer market hushed, Hill suggested his hands could be tied when it comes to finding a replacement.

The manager added: “Unfortunately we are not over blessed financially and we’ll have to have a think about what we now can and can’t do.

“Sometimes setbacks can make you a stronger person and we’ve got to be strong now.

“I’m upbeat about the situation, I’m trying to be positive and we are going to push on.”

 

Hereford 2
Woking 1

GARRY HILL is suffering from an awful case of déjà vu as his trouble on the road shows no sign of slowing.

Cards fell to a fourth successive league defeat for the first time since February 2009 and are yet to collect a single point on their travels this season.

An early strike from Ashley Sammons and Sam Clucas’ curling effort just before half-time gave Hereford an unassailable lead at Edgar Street.

Kevin Betsy bundled home an 81st-minute consolation but it was the recurring manner in which Woking are shipping goals that is of most concern to their manager.

Woking have now conceded six goals in the final five minutes of either half in their first seven games.

CONSOLATION - Kevin Betsy scores Woking's goal

CONSOLATION – Kevin Betsy scores Woking’s goal

A frustrated Hill said: “We are giving a good account of ourselves but things aren’t quite going our way at the moment.

“We found ourselves 1-0 down early on – same old story. We gave a present away on the stroke of half-time – same old story.

“But we showed a lot of character for a side that is thin on numbers, we dug in deep and I’m disappointed with the end result.

“I thought we were worth half a loaf and deserved a point from the game.”

Cards were punished for a sloppy start when Sammons blasted Hereford into a 5th-minute lead.

Sean Canham showed great desire to hunt down Joe McNerney as he was about to clear.

The striker stole possession in Woking’s box, shifted on to his right and launched an effort at goal.

I couldn’t have had any player available tonight who could have given more commitment and more effort than what the lads showed in these second-half

The danger was only half cleared and Sammons, who pulled all the strings in a busy first 45, rifled a 25-yard effort into the bottom left corner.

Woking’s first real chance of the half arrived in the form of Jack Parkinson in the 30th minute.

Gavin McCallum’s whipped corner fell to the former Welling man inside the six-yard box and only a combination of keeper Dan Hanford, Stefan Stam and Harry Pell was able to stop the ball going over the line.

Two minutes later Loick Pires took a great opportunity off the toes of Lee Sawyer who was storming in to smash home Gavin McCallum’s low cross.

But as Woking’s presence in the game grew so did the influence of Sammons.

The midfielder’s disguised pass sent Ryan Bowman clean through but the striker failed to apply the finish to a wonderful move and clipped wide from just inside the area.

But, just as in previous away fixtures with Wrexham and Mansfield, Woking surrendered the vital second goal right on the verge of half-time.

Mike Cestor was the guilty party this week, dwelling on the ball in his own 18-yard box and inviting Clucas to steal possession.

The winger’s curling finish into the top corner was sublime, but Cestor’s criminal defending leaves Woking with it all to do in Saturday’s now must-win meeting with Nuneaton.

But despite being shorn of key personnel and with injuries taking their toll, Hill hinted that he will not be dipping into the loan market just yet.

The manager added:  “Where we are sitting at the moment is a little frustrating but I still believe that we’ll get to the 50 points we need and that we’ll be a conference club next year.

“We’re thin on bodies which is no secret but I couldn’t have had any player available tonight who could have given more commitment and more effort than what the lads showed in these second-half.”

On the hour Hill threw McNerney up front in an attempt to give Woking a presence in the final third.

Sawyer’s one-two with Betsy resulted in an effort that was tipped just wide by Hanford.

But the Bulls always looked a rampaging threat on the break and Pell could have extended their lead, only to steer a low cross into the side netting with Aaron Howe rooted.

McCallum stung the hands of Hanford and with nine minutes to play Woking dragged themselves back into contention from a corner.

McNerney’s header was well saved by Hanford, but the keeper could only parry the ball into the path of Betsy who bundled home from a yard out.

McCallum’s deflected effort forced a smart stop from the keeper as the game moved into the final minutes.

But it was Hereford who came closest to netting the fourth goal of game when substitute Tom Nichols struck the outside of the post.

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.

FOCUS - Loick Pires is determined to build on his latest performance

FOCUS – Loick Pires is determined to build on his latest performance

LOICK PIRES is keeping his feet firmly on the ground after running Barrow ragged on Saturday.

Cards’ level-headed hit-man turned in the performance of the season as Woking crushed the Cumbrian’s 3-1 at Kingfield.

Pires drilled home a decisive third in 79th-minute as Garry Hill’s men battled back from a goal down to make it six points from a possible nine this season.

And despite rave reviews from his manager and fans alike, Pires refused to get caught up in the hype, instead focusing only on Saturday’s game with Forest Green Rovers and the chance of another three points.

If the manager believes in a player then they are already halfway there

After netting his first competitive goal for the Cards, the forward said: “It’s always good to get off the mark as I striker – scoring goals is what we are bought to do and I felt good against Barrow.

“It was a massive relief on my part but now I can look forward to the next game and try to build on that.

“It was always going to be a battle with the heat but I finally showed what I can really do.

“In the first two games I was a bit quiet by my own standards but things started happening for me on Saturday and I was pleased to get the three points.

“As a young player I’m looking for consistency and to try and improve in every game.

“I know what football is like – there are games when we all look good, but then there are some days when that might not happen.

“The minimum you’ll get is hard work and determination from me and my team-mates.”

His bullish performance, coupled with a result that lifts Woking up to seventh in the table, had Hill swooning come full-time.

In his post-match interview the Kingfield boss backed Pires to bag a minimum of 15 league goals this term, a prediction that did not faze the striker.

Pires said: “If the manager believes in a player then they are already halfway there.

“I know what I can do, the manager knows what I can do and it’s up to me to play my part in the team.

“If I get 10, 15, 20 goals then great but I’m not putting too much pressure on myself.

“My main focus is to contribute to the team in order for us to get where we want to be.”

Pires revealed the Woking dressing room was oozing with confidence after a superb start to the season and that there was no chance the Cards would settle for just a point in their next fixture.

He added: “We go into every game wanting to win, we are an ambitious team and an ambitious football club.

“There isn’t a team in this league that we’ll sit back against and try to consolidate for a draw.

“Once it’s eleven vs. eleven we know we can beat anyone on our day.

“I think you can see with the signings the gaffer has made that although we want to be solid defensively, we want to show what we can do in attack.

“I think that was reflected particularly in the second-half against Barrow.”

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.”

BRAWL - a fan was ejected from the stadium after entering the pitch

BRAWL – a fan was ejected from the stadium after entering the pitch

Woking 1
Dartford 0

THOUGH he refused to admit it, Garry Hill will be mightily relieved to have escaped this feisty encounter with all three points.

It took a Giuseppe Sole penalty eight minutes from the end to separate ­Woking and old Blue Square South adversaries Dartford at Kingfield.

And even that came from a foul on Loick Pires that looked to be more outside the box than in.

But the late drama of the winner does not even begin to scratch the surface of a fixture teeming with chaos.

Add to the mix the fact Dartford were reduced to 10 men when Lee Noble was dismissed midway through the first-half.

Not that Hill was expecting anything less than a brutal examination from a Darts side that tirelessly chased the Cards for so much of last season.

He said: “There are no games in this league where you can turn around and expect to win.

“What you can expect, whether it is home or away, every game you play is going to be hard.

“Dartford certainly had the upperhand in the first 20 minutes and we knew they were going to be a tough, competitive team.

“We knew that it would be hard – even more so as we were both beaten on Saturday.

“One goal was always going to win it and that’s the dividing line.

“But we got the breaks and I don’t think there is a better man under pressure in a penalty situation than
Gez Sole.

“I’ve said it before, it doesn’t matter who you play, every game in this league is going to be tough – it was a big three points.”

Woking looked all at sea in a woeful opening half-hour as they failed to create any chances of note against a solid looking Darts backline.

At the  other end, the visitor’s decision to go with two target men up front gave them the early edge.

A sliced clearance over his own crossbar was the only way Joe McNerney could relieve the pressure caused by Adam Green’s dangerous ball across the face of goal.

The subdued Pires was hacked to the ground twice in the opening 15 minutes but it was Dartford who were benefitting from Woking’s set-pieces.

Noble was allowed to break from deep inside his own half and threaded a pass to Jacob Erskine down the right channel.

The lumbering forward had the beating of Brett Johnson, but Aaron Howe was more than equal to his tame shot at the near post.

Bradley Bubb eventually tested Louis Wells in the Dartford goal on the half-hour mark, jinking into the area before drawing a smart save.

But it was five minutes of madness from dangerman Noble that turned the tide and handed Woking the initiative.

After scything down Kevin Betsy on the edge of the area, the Dartford midfielder then arrived late on Mike Cestor and was duly dismissed by  referee Dean Treleaven.

On the sending off, Hill said: “It was a big decision but it was the right ­decision – both fouls were bookable ­offences.

“Dartford know they can have no complaints and the boy knows he can have no complaints. He had a mad five minutes where he lost it.”

The dynamic of the match shifted and Woking ended the half in the ascendancy.

Bang on half-time Lee Sawyer travelled almost 50 yards before releasing a shot straight at Wells.

And a minute into stoppage time, on-loan forward Brett Williams produced a gut-busting run of his own before releasing a shot at the keeper.

A reluctance to recycle possession stifled Woking’s progress at start of the second-half.

But when Sawyer’s corner was headed clear by Jacob Erskine, Adam Newton controlled the ball on his chest and unleashed a swerving strike that seemed destined for the top corner until the fingertips of Wells intervened.

Bubb was lucky to see Danny Harris toe-poke well over from a narrow angle after the Woking winger surrendered possession in his own box with an hour played.

And with 23 minutes left on the clock Hill rolled the dice, hauling off Bubb and throwing on last season’s top
goalscorer Sole.

As the game moved into the final 10 minutes, Sole stepped up to demonstrate why a player of his calibre should not be warming the bench.

Pires latched on to McNerney’s incisive long throw and was pulled to the ground as he surged into the area.

The linesman raised his flag and the referee pointed to the spot, although it looked as if Pires had been fouled
outside the box.

Dartford players disputed the decision, none more so than Wells, who picked up a caution for moving the ball from the spot as Sole readied himself.

Unfazed, the classy forward sent the keeper the wrong way, slotting the penalty into the bottom left corner.

But there was more chaos for officials to address after the goal as Wells and Sole squared up before dragging a melee of players into the advertising hoardings.

One fan, who entered the pitch, was ejected from the stadium and play finally resumed.

One sour note was the sight of match-winner Sole hobbling out of the ground on crutches.

Hill will be praying his star forward makes a speedy recovery.