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3:00pm - SaturdaySat 3rd OctoberOct 2020
The Laithwaite Community Stadium

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Solihull Moors

Football returns as new season finally begins at the Laithwaite

Glen Harrington
12:00am, Sat 3rd Oct 2020
Woking vs Solihull Moors
Vanarama National League
Saturday 3rd October 2020

The Cards will return to National League action for the first time in almost seven months on Saturday afternoon, when Solihull Moors will be the visitors to the Laithwaite Community Stadium in the first league fixture of the 2020/21 season.

It’s been a surreal summer for football supporters across the world, but no more so than for fans of non-league clubs, who have been forced to wait longer than most to see their teams return to competitive action. Whilst it will be far from ‘normal’, with games set to take place behind closed doors for the foreseeable future, it’s fantastic to see football finally returning to Woking after one of the longest breaks in living memory. And remember, you can watch this afternoon’s fixture live by tuning into the #CardsLive stream. You can purchase your ticket at

The opening game of the season is always tough to predict, particularly in non-league where almost every squad regularly sees a mass summer overhaul in personnel, but manager Alan Dowson will have cause for optimism – he’s won both of his opening day fixtures with the Cards, beating East Thurrock United 1-0 in 2018 thanks to a late Max Kretzschmar penalty, before last year’s 2-0 success away to Dagenham & Redbridge, when Kane Ferdinand and Moussa Diarra found the net. We were also on the winning side the last time we played host on the opening day, Inih Effiong and Joe Ward goals seeing off Gateshead in 2017. Pre-season form has been decidedly mixed, the gloss of encouraging wins over Southampton Under-23s and Merstham, plus draws with Watford Under-23s and Dorking Wanderers, somewhat tempered by last weekend’s 3-1 reverse at Hampton & Richmond Borough. But after a number of late additions to the squad Dowse will be confident that he’s assembled a side more than capable of holding its own at this level once again.

Visitors Solihull Moors will start the season as one of the favourites for promotion. They narrowly missed out on going up to the Football League in 2018, when they finished second to champions Leyton Orient before losing in the play-offs to AFC Fylde. Last season proved more challenging for them and they ended the shortened season in a relatively disappointing ninth place – with the same points tally and record as the Cards. Their mid-season form was enough to spell the end for manager Tim Flowers, who departed in January of this year, with former West Bromwich Albion coach James Shan his replacement. Expectations will once again by high for the Moors after an impressive summer recruitment drive, which has included dangerous striker Adam Rooney, most recently of Salford City, along with ex-Republic of Ireland midfielder Stephen Gleeson.

Team News

Dowse has plenty of options to pick from this weekend. In defence, last season’s regulars – goalkeeper Craig Ross, Jack Cook, and Josh Casey – should all start. Nathan Collier, also returning for another season, and academy graduate Leo Hamblin, provide versatile cover, but the Cards will be without Ben Gerring (injured), as well as fellow centre-backs Moussa Diarra and Manny Parry, who have both moved on this summer. This week Dowse has added right-back Tyler Reid from Swindon Town, along with two centre-backs on loan, Saul Shotton (West Bromwich Albion) and Sam Cartwright (Peterborough United), who could be competing for a spot alongside Cook at the heart of the Woking back four.

In midfield, Kane Ferdinand looks set to miss out on a starting berth after having his pre-season campaign limited by injury, meaning new signings Charlie Cooper, with FC Halifax Town last season, and Tommy Block, from Scottish Premiership side Hibernian, look likely to start in the middle. Fan favourite John Goddard, who returned to the Cards this summer after a four-year absence, will be competing with Max Kretzschmar for the more advanced of the midfield roles.

Further forward, Dave Tarpey and Malachi Napa, the Oxford United loanee who has impressed in the last two pre-season games, appear to be the obvious choices out wide; although Woking fans will have an anxious wait to see if Matt Jarvis, with a goal and two assists from his first two appearances at the end of last season, is fit enough to force his way into that equation. Up front, another ex-Card returns in the shape of former loanee Connor Hall following a spell with Bolton Wanderers, whilst Oxford United loanee Slavi Spasov and academy graduate Jayden Wareham provide alternative options for the boss.

Last Time Out

Woking 2-0 Solihull Moors – National League (24th August 2019)

This game fell in the midst of the Cards’ brilliant run at the start of last season which saw them win seven of their first eight league games. At the time, it was first against second in Solihull’s favour, with the result seeing the Cards leapfrog their opponents to the top of the table. Jake Hyde and Manny Parry grabbed two early goals for the hosts four minutes apart and it was a blow from which the visitors never truly recovered, with Dowse’s side surviving a handful of second-half scares before emerging as relatively comfortable winners.

Next Up

The Cards next game is at newly promoted Weymouth on Tuesday evening before another away trip, this time to Chesterfield, next Saturday. Our next home game is three days later against Dagenham & Redbridge.

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Impressive Cards battle to first-day win

Will Thompson
12:00am, Sat 3rd Oct 2020
Woking 2 Solihull Moors 1
Vanarama National League
3rd October 2020

It seemed appropriate that storm clouds gathered around Kingfield as Woking got their 2020-21 season underway. With the season only fully confirmed as going ahead yesterday – given the financial implications of the pandemic and the requirement to at least initially play games behind closed doors – manager Alan Dowson was forced to make as many as five signings in the 24 hours leading up to kick off. Facing a full-time outfit including the likes of former Championship stalwarts Jamie Ward and Stephen Gleeson, prospects for the Card’s did perhaps look a bit gloomy, at least for this season opener. However, the aforementioned storm clouds stayed away for the duration of the game, as did any doubts that the home side would struggle to be competitive in the league this season, as Woking fought to very well-earned 2-1 victory.

Manager Alan Dowson sprung a couple of surprises with his team selection, with both Dave Tarpey and the returning John Goddard left on the bench, choosing what appeared to be a 4-3-2-1 formation. Craig Ross started in goal, behind a back four of Nathan Collier, Saul Shotton (signed on loan from West Brom yesterday), Jack Cook and Josh Casey. Tommy Block and Charlie Cooper took up the deeper two midfield positions, with Kane Ferdinand (pictured above) taking up a more advanced central role whilst being flanked by Max Kretzschmar and another late-arriving loanee - this time from Oxford - Malachi Napa. Fellow Oxford loanee, Slavi Spasov, took up the lone role up front.

The first eight minutes went by with very little goalmouth action - Woking seemed content to sit back and allow Solihull to keep the ball, which was fine, as play was generally in the middle third of the pitch. In the ninth minute though, the away side did manage to get in behind the Woking back four, as Shotton was dispossessed on the Woking right by ex-Derby County forward Ward, who fizzed a cross-cum-shot across the Cards’ six-yard box, but fortunately (for Woking fans) evading all his team-mates.

Woking’s luck didn’t hold however, and in the 16th minute the Surrey side fell behind. Cameron Coxe picked up the ball and drove into the Cards’ 18-yard box, before falling to ground – perhaps somewhat theatrically - whilst being challenged by Collier. It looked a very harsh decision, but Ward slotted home the resulting kick confidently none-the-less and Woking were 1-0 down.

In truth, at this point the Moors deserved their lead, with Woking unsurprisingly looking slightly disjointed, however the goal seemed to sting the Cards into action and they gradually grew into the game. In the 29th minute, Woking skipper Casey swung over a very dangerous cross to Solihull’s back post, but the ball was just flicked past the onrushing Kretzschmar by covering Moors defender Alex Gudger. Two minutes later, a speculative Jack Cook effort from inside his own half forced a brilliant save from the away side’s keeper Ryan Boot, preventing what would have been a certain ‘goal of the season’ contender.

Despite managing to grasp more of a foothold in the game, Cards number one Ross was still required to make a crucial double save in the 36th minute to keep Woking only a goal behind. Coxe played a defence-splitting ball in behind Casey to Joe Sbarra, who fired the ball towards goal. Ross kept out the first effort and brilliantly tipped the subsequent rebound round the post. Two corners followed, the second of which was put narrowly wide by Moors midfielder Kyle Storer.

The final chance of the half came Woking’s way. A deep Cooper free-kick was cleared for a corner, which Casey swung over. Ferdinand won the header, but was unable to divert the ball on target and it sailed harmlessly out for a goal kick. The half-time whistle blew shortly after.

Half-time: Woking 0 Solihull Moors 1

In a similar vain to the first half, there was little goalmouth action at either end of the pitch in the opening minutes of the second half. However, that would change in the 52nd minute, as the Cards grabbed the crucial second goal. Tenacious play from the impressive Spasov won a corner on Woking’s right, which Casey swung over to the back post. Kretzschmar may not be best known for his aerial prowess, but there he was rising like a salmon to nod the ball home. The away side may well have cause to be slightly disappointed with their defending, but it was still a well worked set piece.

Kretzschmar wheels away after heading home; pic: David Holmes

The Cards were noticeably lifted by the goal and took control of the game. Tricky play on the Woking left from the increasingly influential Napa created the space for himself to curl in a dangerous cross, which was frantically cleared for a corner. Cooper had a decent opening on the edge of the box as the corner was only half-cleared, but his crisp shot was blocked.

The home side didn’t have long to wait for their second goal though. In the 60th minute, tidy work in the middle of the pitch saw Casey played in down the left, who in turn slid the ball towards Spasov on the edge of the six-yard box. The Bulgarian held the ball up brilliantly before playing in the onrushing Ferdinand, who slammed the ball into the bottom corner. 2-1.

Woking were by now totally dominant, and in the 71st minute almost added to their lead. With some more clever play, Napa won a free-kick in a fairly central position. Cooper curled a wonderful effort towards the top corner, but Boot did brilliantly to tip the ball over the crossbar, especially as it may have taken a slight deflection off the wall.

Woking’s centre-back pairing of Cook and Shotton were dealing pretty comfortably with the hopeful balls forward that became more prevalent from the away side as time ticked towards the 90-minute mark - a pretty impressive feat considering they had only met each other an hour and a half before kick-off.

Ross was called upon one last time in the Woking goal, tipping a crisp Cranston effort over the bar after he cut in from the left. But that was as close as the away side came to an equaliser, and Dowson’s men held on and walked away with a very important three points to start the season.

After a slow start, Woking got better and better as the game wore on, and ultimately deserved their 2-1 win. All new signings made a significant impact, especially in the second half, with Spasov causing all sorts of problems to very experienced Solihull centre-backs. The defensive unit was solid, and the midfield found a good balance between defence and attack. The Cards will no doubt look to go from strength to strength on Tuesday with a trip to newly-promoted Weymouth.

Woking: Craig Ross, Jack Cook, Josh Casey, Saul Shotton, Nathan Collier, Charlie Cooper, Kane Ferdinand, Tommy Block, Max Kretzschmar (John Goddard 67’), Malachi Napa (Dave Tarpey 75’), Slavi Spasov (Jayden Wareham 90’)

Unused subs: Harvey White, Tyler Reid,

Goals: Kretzschmar 53’, Ferdinand 60’

Bookings: Block 18’, Kretzschmar 30’, Collier 90’

Solihull Moors Ryan Boot, Cameron Coxe, Jordan Cranston, Alex Gudger, Tyrone Williams, James Ball, Kyle Storer, Joe Sbarra, Stephen Gleeson, Callum Howe, Jamie Ward (Cameron Archer 59’)

Unused subs: Nick Clayton-Phillips, Mitch Hancox, Callum Maycock, Jordan Piggott

Goals: Ward 18’

Bookings: Williams 82’, Sbarra 90’

Referee: Scott Jackson

Reporter’s Man of the Match: Difficult to single anyone out as there were good performances across the pitch, but Slavi Spasov deserves a special mention. Worked tirelessly, leading the line on his own up top and playing a key part in the winning goal. A massive nuisance to the entirety of Solihull’s backline.

Spasov also received most votes in a Woking FC MotM poll on Twitter.

13Craig Ross
12Nathan Collier
3Josh Casey
6Saul Shotton
2Jack Cook
21Tommy Block
4Charlie Cooper
8Kane Ferdinand
10Max Kretzschmar ('67)
20Malachi Napa ('75)
14Slavi Spasov ('90)
1Harvey White
19Tyler Reid
22John Goddard ('67)
7Dave Tarpey ('75)
23Jayden Wareham ('90)
Solihull Moors LINEUP
1Ryan Boot
2Tyrone Williams
3Jordan Cranston
5Callum Howe
6Alex Gudger
12Cameron Coxe
4Kyle Storer
8Stephen Gleeson
7Joe Sbarra
18James Ball
11Jamie Ward ('59)
13Niall Clayton
17Jordan Piggott
24Mitch Hancox
15Callum Maycock
25Cameron Archer ('59)

Woking 2-1 Solihull Moors | Ian Dyer Interview

Woking 2-1 Solihull Moors | Malachi Napa Interview

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