Laithwaite Independent Financial Advisers
BSS (PO Final)
2:00pm - SundaySun 9th MayMay 2010
| Att: 4865

Bath City
Bath City
1 - 0

Woking
Woking

Cards prepare for big day

Brian Caffarey
1:33pm, Fri 7th May 2010
Bath City v Woking
BSS Play-off Final
2pm on Sunday 9 May 2010 (NB Kick-off time)

Woking’s roller-coaster season reaches its climax at Twerton Park on Sunday afternoon when the Cards take on a side who inflicted the heaviest defeat on them away in the league and the worst aggregate overall scoreline over the two games. Graham Baker’s team won’t be too worried about that, however, since they’re now in a rich vein of form which has seen them win seven and draw one of their last eight games and they can’t possibly play as badly again as they did on their visit to Bath back in December.

WOKING

A week’s rest between the semi-finals and the final will have allowed Graham Baker’s side to ease their aches and bruises. He confirmed this morning that everyone is fit apart from Delano Sam-Yorke, who’s experienced a recurrence of his knee injury. So,. Harry Arter has recovered from the stomach bug which ruled him out of the last three games and Jamie Slabber has also resumed training following his operation.

The general expectation is that Woking will start with the same XI as against Dover but with Arter in place of Jerome Maledon in midfield or at least on the bench. Graham says that he won’t select his 16 till Saturday night or even on Sunday morning.

He says that everyone is feeling in good spirits, confident and looking forward to the game, adding that the previous results against Bath are now just history. He reckons that any advantage falling to Bath as a result of being at home will be counterbalanced by the fantastic support he’s expecting Cards fans to provide again for his team and our otherwise impressive away form against the top sides.

BATH CITY

The Romans are in good form too, having beaten Chelmsford City by a 3-0 aggregate score in their semi-final tie despite being under the cosh, by the sound of it, for much of the home leg, in which they scored two goals in the final half hour to knock the stuffing out of the Clarets. Before then they’d put together a very good run to secure fourth place in the league, with five consecutive wins rounded off by a nervous last day 0-0 draw at home to St Albans City.

It’s been a very good season for Bath City, with an excellent FA Cup run to savour too, in which they reached the Second Round after beating Grimsby Town away 2-0. If that shows an appetite for cup games, it’s perhaps qualified by their record in play-off competitions, where they’ve failed to come out on top on the previous five occasions on which they’ve been involved.

Having shipped eight goals to Bath City in their two league games, Woking will be well aware of the danger posed up front by Darren Edwards and Kaid Mohamed. Woking’s 5-0 away defeat on 1 December was probably their worst performance of the season. An out-of-sorts Cards defence conceded two early goals to a rampant Bath team, taking full advantage of the wind behind them, with Mohamed and Edwards on target. Holland added a third just before half-time. Graham Baker rang the changes at half-time, replacing the lumbering Trevor Benjamin with Matthew Wright, and bringing on Nathaniel Pinney and Aswad Thomas. The Cards dominated immediately after the break but a Ross Worner mistake allowed Stolcers to make it 4-0 and Edwards then rounded off the rout. It just seemed to be ‘one of those nights’. Eighteen days later the Cards sought their revenge at Kingfield. Woking started brightly but suffered from their then familiar problem of turning pressure into goals. They were duly punished by a Mohamed penalty and an Edwards strike, to which Lewis Hogg added a free-kick in the second half. Perhaps one lesson the Cards can take away from both games is the knowledge that, with the likes of the highly experienced Jim Rollo in defence, long balls pumped forward aimlessly towards the Bath back line are not likely to be very fruitful even though Woking now have the aerial threat of Craig Faulconbridge in their armoury.

GETTING THERE

See Wednesday’s news item for full details on travel options and admission prices. To book a place on the coaches after 3pm on Friday please contact Rosemary Johnson on 01483 776609, as the Club Shop will not be open on Saturday.

Please also see the news item about parking at Kingfield on Saturday for those who are travelling by coach.

If you can’t make it to the game, see other news items re radio and internet live commentaries.


Come on, you Cards!

Cards suffer final defeat

Brian Caffarey
8:22am, Mon 10th May 2010
Bath City 1 Woking 0
BSS Play-Off Final
9 May 2010

While political leaders sought to make sense of the post-Election vacuum, Bath City and Woking fans massed at a packed Twerton Park to see their two sides engage in a much more straightforward ‘do or die’ encounter to decide which team should join Newport County in the Blue Square Premier next season. At the end it was the home fans who wildly celebrated City’s return to the Conference after a 13 year absence, while Woking supporters reflected on the prospect of at least another season in the Blue Square South. Bath edged the game by virtue of a second half penalty and generally looked the more fluent side, but the Cards probably had the better chances overall but failed to convert one of them.

Graham Baker stuck to the same side that had vanquished Dover Athletic in the semi-final games, so there was no place for Harry Arter. The fact that he wasn’t even on the bench suggested that the explanation for his absence lay elsewhere than his recent stomach bug.

After the kick-off had been delayed by 20 minutes due to congestion at the turnstiles, the home side were first on the attack, winning two early corners, which were effectively dealt with by Tom Hutchinson and Ross Worner. Woking fans then took encouragement from a Giuseppe Sole foray forward. Appeals for a penalty as he hit the deck in the area were waved away, however. The Woking free-kick specialist then lined up an effort from way out. It looked too far even for Gez and so it proved, with the ball sailing way over the bar and the netting and on its way towards the city centre. He was to do much better later, however.

In the 10th minute the Cards came agonisingly close to taking a dramatic lead. Nicky Nicolau fired over a deep cross out right to Moses Ademola, whose fine shot crashed against the inside of the far post and away to safety.

As the game began to settle down, it was clear that the home side would pose a threat down the flanks, especially through Lewis Hogg on the left, whilst the Cards would mainly hope to feed off Craig Faulconbridge’s flick-ons. Both sides continued to probe, with Woking’s high back line succeeding on several occasions in catching the Bath forwards offside or encouraging over-hit through balls.

After Gez Sole had been harshly booked for a challenge on the Bath keeper, Ryan Robinson, he had a second chance in the 22nd minute to demonstrate his free-kick prowess. From much closer in, to the right of the area, his fierce shot arrowed to the goal but was headed away by a defender on the line.

Woking’s territorial superiority at this stage of the game was rudely interrupted in the 29th mnute as Adie Harris got in front of Jerome Maledon to nod the ball against the outside of Ross Worner’s post.

Woking countered with a few enterprising attacks but Mark Ricketts could only cross into the keeper’s arms and Ademola wasted a quick Sole break out of defence. Worner was untroubled by a shot from Lewis Hogg, which went well over the bar.

In the 39th minute some determined play by Aswad Thomas won another free-kick on the edge of the box. Up stepped Gez again. This time it was the keeper’s flick over the bar which foiled another fine strike. Woking finished the half strongly, with an Ademola’s ambitious effort from distance blocked, with Maledon nearly breaking through the solid Bath back line and the home keeper successfully claiming a deep Ricky Anane cross under heavy challenge

Half-time: Bath City 0 Woking 0

With the Cards having had the better of the first half in a tight game, it looked very much as if the first goal would be decisive. In the opening phase of the second half both sides threatened but without creating a clear-cut opening. Nicolau’s interception allowed him to attack the Bath goal through the middle but the ball ran away from him to Robinson before he could shoot, whilst Worner dealt comfortably with a Bath corner and free-kick. More anxiety was caused by a rising shot by Browning over the bar, quickly matched by a Faulconbridge snap volley after the ball had rebounded to him.

But the home side’s increasing pressure began to tell as Kaid Mohamed broke through tackles by Anane and Hutchinson to fire well over from a good position. And in the 55th minute they made the decisive breakthrough. A Hutchinson slip allowed Darren Edwards to burst through the back line, with Worner only succeeding in bringing him down in the area. It was only a yellow card for the young keeper but Mohamed converted emphatically from the spot to put City ahead.

Sole came close to an immediate response as he latched onto a Faulconbridge flick but he was smothered by Robinson before he could nick the ball over the advancing keeper. With Joe McNerney on for Hutchinson, the Cards pressed forward again, Faulconbridge’s challenge forcing Robinson to drop the ball from a Nicolau cross but the Bath keeper recovered to grab it at the second attempt.

Woking’s attempts to get back into the game were frustrated as they conceded free-kicks in attack and tended to waste good crossing opportunities, the otherwise excellent Thomas being guilty of this on two occasions in the closing stages. At the back, Woking had McNerney to thank for thwarting a Bath break out of defence.

Graham Baker threw Matthew Wright on in the 72nd minute but, while his arrival was welcomed by Woking fans, his replacement of Gez Sole was not well received.

With some fifteen minutes to go, the Cards launched a sustained assault on the Bath goal. A Nicolau corner was cleared only to be lobbed back in by the same player and cleared out to Tony Sinclair, who took sufficiently long to line up his shot to enable a defensive block for another corner. Once more, though, the referee blew up for a foul in the box.

After McNerney and Worner had combined to foil a Bath attack, Woking had a great chance in the 81st minute to take the game into extra time. A long ball was flicked on to Ademola on the edge of the area. He had to react quickly as Robinson advanced but managed to put the ball wide. As heads fell into hands, you felt that this was the key chance wasted and so it proved.

But five minutes later it looked as though those forebodings had been unduly pessimistic as the ball nestled in the Bath net. A Nicolau free-kick was flicked on by Wright to Faulconbridge near the far post. His deliberate header was heading just wide of the far post when a defender diverted it into his own net. But the Woking celebrations were curtailed by the assistant referee’s flag – presumably an offside decision against Faulconbridge.

The Cards continued to push forward. A low Nicolau cross was met by Faulconbridge but his snap shot, leaning back, took the ball high over the bar. Wright connected with an ambitious scissors-kick but the effort went wide. The four minutes of added time produced no last-minute reprieve as Bath successfully kept the ball well away from the danger zone.

So, a season of changing expectations ended with a narrow defeat. In the summer most Woking fans would have been satisfied with a top ten finish after last season’s shambles. But early success brought hopes of a play-off place – which looked there for the taking when the Cards were sitting in second place in January. A dreadful loss of form saw Graham Baker’s side plunge to 13th place by mid-March, only to recover to sneak back into 5th place on the final day after an amazing run which saw them notch eight wins from the last nine games. Dover Athletic were conquered in the semi-finals, with some excellent attacking play in the first leg and some superb ‘backs to the wall’ defending in the second. And so to Twerton Park and, ultimately, disappointment.

In the end the verdict has to be that we were not quite good enough and it may be no bad thing in the long run to spend another season – but only one more, please! – in the BSS. We had problems all season in scoring goals – until the arrival of Craig Faulconbridge, that is – and perhaps then relied too much on hitting long balls to the big front man. We lacked genuine wide men to enable us to beat teams on the flanks and deliver dangerous crosses from the byeline. And a young side lacked the remorseless consistency which championship-winning teams like Newport County and (dare we mention them) Stevenage Borough have shown this season. But it’s been a much more enjoyable season than any we’ve experienced for a long time and, if Graham Baker can keep a good core of the present squad and fill the gaps, there is no reason why next season shouldn’t be even better.

Have a great summer, everyone, and get those season ticket applications in for the next campaign!

Woking: Ross Worner, Ricky Anane, Aswad Thomas, Mark Ricketts, Tom Hutchinson (Joe McNerney 58), Tony Sinclair, Moses Ademola, Jerome Maledon, Craig Faulconbridge, Giuseppe Sole (Matthew Wright 72), Nicky Nicolau

Unused subs: Jon Boardman, Charlie Moone, Matt Pegler

Booked: Giuseppe Sole, Ross Worner

Bath City: Robinson, Jombati, Rollo, Jones, Holland, Harris, Simpson, Connolly (Browning 4 (Barlett 87)), Edwards, Mohamed (Mackie 84), Hogg.
Unused subs: Coupe, Evans.

My MOTM: Mark Ricketts (pictured) for another tireless display in midfield

Attendance: tba
Bath City LINEUP
1Ryan Robinson
2Sido Jombati
3Jim Rollo
4Gethin Jones
5Chris Holland
6Adrian Harris
7Sekani Simpson
8Adam Connolly ('4)
9Darren Edwards
10Kaid Mohamed ('84)
11Lewes Hogg
BENCH
12Matt Coupe
14Marcus Browning ('4) ('90+2)
15Scott Bartlett ('90+2)
16Richard Evans
17Hector Mackie ('84)
WOKING LINEUP
1Ross Worner
2Ricky Anane
3Aswad Thomas
4Mark Ricketts
5Tom Hutchinson ('59)
6Tony Sinclair
7Moses Ademola
8Jerome Maledon
9Craig Faulconbridge
10Giuseppe Sole ('76)
11Nicky Nicolau
BENCH
12Jon Boardman
14Charlie Moone
15Joe McNerney ('59)
16Matthew Wright ('76)
18Matt Pegler

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