Sole-ful celebrations as Cards honour club great in Wimbledon testimonial
12:00am, Tue 10th Jul 2018
Woking 1 AFC Wimbledon 3
Tuesday 10th July 2018
It was a sunny early July evening that would be the backdrop for Giuseppe Sole as he led his Woking side out in his Appreciation match against League One side AFC Wimbledon. A day that was full of remembrance for a man who has been in the Cards side for many years after making 352 games and scoring 111 goals in his time with the club. With the Dons being three leagues higher than the home side, it would be an interesting test for the club as they looked to bow Sole out accordingly. But sadly, the final score of Woking 1 AFC Wimbledon 3 didnâ€™t turn out quite how Cards fans wouldâ€™ve liked, but it was still an appropriate send-off nonetheless.
Plenty of opportunities were given to new signings and academy graduates alike for the home side with the likes of striker Duane Ofori-Acheampong, full-back Josh Casey and centre-half Jack Cook among others who were all given an opportunity to show manager Alan Dowson and Cards fans what they can do.
It was Wimbledon however who would start off the brighter of the two sides and would make the most of their early pressure with a goal in just the 3rd minute through centre-back Deji Oshilaja. The Dons earnt themselves a corner on the right which was taken by recent signing Mitch Pinnock from Conference side Dover Athletic. The winger in turn found team-mate Oshilaja whose thundering header found the back of the net, despite the best efforts of Woking goalkeeper Sam Mason and the Woking defender on the line of the front post.
The home side seemed to take a while to get into the game as they would find themselves further behind in the 14th minute through the ever-involved Pinnock once again. Another smart run from Donâ€™s striker Joe Pigott led to the home side giving a sloppy back-pass foul inside their own penalty area, leaving Wimbledon to take full-advantage. After a smart routine, Pinnock struck goalwards from just 6 yards out and frustratingly, the ball deflected under one of five Woking defenders on the line and past Mason for the second time in this first-half.
Shortly after this, it was a moment for Woking fans to stand up and applaud as club stalwart Sole was taken off and given the chance to embrace his testimonial in full, coming off in the 18th minute to a round of applause and standing ovations from all four sides of the Kingfield Stadium.
This emotional moment seemed to spur the home side on as they started to get into the game and would create several chances of their own. The first coming to young forward Ofori-Acheampong, (who did well all game to hold the ball up for his team using his strength to full-effect), after winger Nick Wheeler broke through down the left-hand side, was unable to connect to a cross down the wing before Wimbledon cleared the ball to safety.
Sadly, it was one of few chances for the home side in the first-half and it was the visitors who would score the third and final goal of the half as they looked very impressive throughout. Dons Winger Andy Barchamâ€™s cross is fizzed across to the front post where full-back and captain for this game Jon Meades is quickest to react to it and tap in at the frot post after an initial cross from Kwesi Appiah was well-blocked by Woking. Some disappointed faces were shown after that particular goal with many of the Cards defenders left wondering if they shouldâ€™ve dealt better with the goal.
Despite being 3 goals behind, Woking had made a good account of themselves so far with the home side creating good spells and perhaps were just missing that final pass that wouldâ€™ve led to them creating a real golden opportunity. But this will come with time as the side is coming back into another competitive season of football after a few weeks off.
Half-Time: Woking 0 AFC Wimbledon 3
Woking opted to keep the same players that played in the first-half to go out and look for that goal they richly deserved, whilst Wimbledon decided to bring on a player they had only signed on the day of the game with right-back Tennai Watson (on loan from Championship side Reading) replacing Toby Sibbick.
Cards manager Alan Dowson clearly had some stern words for his players at half-time as the home side came much more aggressive and look more threatening when going forward in the early exchanges.
In a half which was much more even and well-balanced, both sides felt that they would give several players the opportunity to come on and impress before the start of both sidesâ€™ respective seasons in League One and Conference South.
Cardsâ€™ academy graduate Declan Appau and Samson Maagbe were the first two to enter the field of play in the 54th minute and it was almost a nightmare start to the game for the former. After being dispossessed by Pigott in his own half, the Dons forward laid off his strike partner Appiah who had his rasping show saved by Mason in goal, sparing Appauâ€™s blushes.
But both Appau and the entire Woking side improved after this minor mistake, with the Cards seeing much more of the ball and looking more comfortable on it. Looking less fearful of their League One opponents.
As we approached the later stages of the game, wholesale changes for both sides followed with Woking bringing on Nic Bignall, Paul Hodges, Brandon Diau, James Dale, Kofi Halliday, Samson Maagbe and one more special introduction: Giuseppe Sole.
Sole was reintroduced to an arguably louder reception than what he left the pitch to, this reception just showed what a respected player Sole is and will be a great miss for the Cards after 10 years with the club.
Wimbledon too made numerous changes to their side with many of their academy players given a chance to see what they can do in menâ€™s football and these changes opened the game up for both sides with Woking scoring the only goal of the half in the 78th minute.
A great ball down the left-hand side saw the impressive Bignall involved not for the first time since coming on, as he broke through the young Wimbledon defence before squaring the ball back to a Lampard-esque run from Paul Hodges to finish cooly past Tzanev first-time in the Wimbledon goal. A real moment of class from the home side and could be a sign of things to come as they look to push back up to the Conference Premier next season.
A final moment of brilliance fell to none other than Sole who had a final minute free-kick from 25 yards and a chance to score one final goal for the Cards before moving on. Sadly, as good an effort it was, the shot was inches away from finding the top corner and wouldâ€™ve been a perfect send-off for the 30 year-old.
This ended what was a real test for Woking as they looked to come back from a three-goal deficit in the second-half with a real sense of character and fight as they looked much more impressive in the second 45 minutes as opposed to the first. It now remains to be seen how they respond to a disappointing defeat to a top professional side like AFC Wimbledon but also a memorable day for club legend Giuseppe Sole as well. The Cards now look ahead to their next pre-season game against Spelthorne Sports away on Saturday at 12:00 pm as well as Sutton United on the same day but a 3:00 pm kick-off so a real mixture of players will be on display for Woking fans at both games.
Woking: 1. Sam Mason, 2. Nathan Collier, 3. Josh Casey, 4. Ian Gayle, 5 Jack Cook, 6 Dan Spence, 7 Greg Luer, 8 Fabio Saraiva, 9 Duane Ofori-Acheampong, 10, Giuseppe Sole (C), 11. Nick Wheeler
Woking Second Half: 1. Sam Mason, 2. Nathan Collier, 3. Josh Casey, 4. Ian Gayle, 12. Nic Bignall, 15. Declan Appau, 16. Paul Hodges, 17. Brandon Diau, 18. James Dale, 19. Kofi Halliday, 20. Samson Maagbe.
Unused subs: 13. Peter Arnold, 14. Chris Dickson.
Goals: Hodges 78â€™
AFC Wimbledon: 1. Thomas King, 3. Jon Meades (C), 4. Deji Oshilaja, 5. Will Nightingale, 9. Kwesi Appiah, 11. Mitch Pinnock, 14. Liam Trotter, 17. Andy Barcham, 19. Tom Soares, 20. Toby Sibbick, 39. Joe Pigott.
AFC Wimbledon Second Half: 25. Nick Tzanev, 2. Tennai Watson, 21. Egli Kaja. 22. Tommy Wood, 27. Nez Bellikli, 28. Alfie Egan, 29. Kosta Sparta 30. Paul Kalambayal, 31. Kane Critchlow, 36. Oussama Ashley, 37. Osaze Urhoghide.
Unused subs: 24. Joe McDonnell
Goals: Oshilaja 3â€™, Pinnock 14â€™, Meades 42â€™
Man of the Match: Nic Bignall. The forward looked a real nuisance when he came on and just seemed to never stop running. He was heavily involved in many of Wokingâ€™s late attacks on the Wimbledon goal and was unlucky not to score as he surely deserved it.