WOKING fans had started the day dreaming of a win and a nine-goal swing that could have seen Cards top the Vanarama Conference table come Saturday tea-time.
Sadly though for star-gazing fans – who turned out in large numbers on a grey day at Kingfield – it was their Cardinal heroes who were guilty of day dreaming on the job as the home side slumbered through their most sluggish 90 minutes of the season.
With a break in the league schedule for FA Cup games to come next weekend, second-placed Cards were daring to dream of a fortnight on top of the Conference pile – but 90 minutes is a lifetime in this league.
As it transpired, Garry Hill’s side’s sole home loss of the season saw them drop to third in the standings, while AFC Telford United’s shock first away win of the season wasn’t enough to lift them off the bottom.
“All credit to AFC Telford United who’ve come here today and wanted it more than us, (and) showed more desire and hunger than us over the 90 minutes.
“Very rarely over the three-and-a-half years that I’ve been here, have I had to say that,” was Hill’s forthright admission post-game.
“Very, very disappointed all round with what I’ve seen out there today. No excuses, no complaints.”
Swift striker Mike Phenix was the two-goal star of the show for phoenix club AFC Telford, who were raised from the ashes of the old Telford United club back in 2004.
Phenix swooped twice to head home from set-pieces before strike wing-man Sam Smith all but sealed the win, with half an hour remaining as he coolly swept home the decisive third goal past Ross Worner, the goalkeeper having this week extended his loan from AFC Wimbledon for another month.
Stags’ head coach Liam Watson will certainly be hoping that this was the day that last season’s Conference North champions bucked the trend of their sorry seven-point start to their season.
On a day of few plusses for a humbled home side, utility man John Goddard put in a second man-of-the-match performance in a week. And it was in-form Goddard who deservedly scored Woking’s leveller, which looked to have restored some reason to proceedings 10 minutes before the break.
Goddard followed in to slide home his first of the season after Stags’ Bermudan stopper Freddie Hall could only parry his fellow Caribbean islander’s (Montserrat’s Dean Morgan) close-range effort back into danger.
Goddard’s goal had looked to have brightened a dank day at Kingfield as the sun broke through on cue, but the dark clouds were circling overhead once more when Phenix and Smith struck to put the home side away early in the second half.
Supplied by some devilish delivery from willing wing-backs Ryan Higgins and skipper Sean Clancy, the industrious Smith and Phenix kept an uncharacteristically chaotic Cards rearguard honest all afternoon.
Set-piece specialists Telford – as Kidderminster had been at Kingfield a month ago – again shone a light on Woking’s recent demise in delegating a workload at dead ball deliveries.
Stand-in skipper Joe McNerney – returning from tonsilitis – and 12-goal Scott Rendell, continue to tower over opponents in their aerial duels at either end of the field, but such is the pair’s cranial dominance it appears as if their colleague no longer feel that they have to share the load.
It’s certainly a headache for Hill, who says he will study the terrifying tape of the Telford game to get his side back into winning ways when in-form Conference South Boreham Wood visit Kingfield in the final qualifying round of the FA Cup on Saturday.
“I’m not thinking about that match yet,” said the boss, knowing that the Wood currently sit second in the standings.
“I don’t get away from today’s game and let it go under the bridge and pretend that it didn’t happen,” said Hill.
“I’ll be taking it (the Telford DVD) home tonight and going through the agony of watching it.”