Cards Off To Winning Start

Phil Batts
9:01pm, Sat 12th Jul 2014
Woking 3 Falkirk 2

Pre-season friendly

12th July 2014

Woking kicked off their build-up to the new season with a friendly against Scottish Championship side Falkirk. In an entertaining encounter, with plenty of attractive football from the home side, the Cards came from 1-2 down to deservedly win by the odd goal in five.

Preparations for the coming campaign appear much more advanced than they did at the same stage last year with the bulk of the squad, and the key players, having committed to the club for a further year. In addition, Gary Hill has already snapped up James Clarke and Theo Lewis from financially troubled Salisbury City to further strengthen the group and Cards fans will no doubt be hoping for a couple of loan signings of the calibre of Billy Knott, Jayden Stockley or Jack Marriott to get the league campaign off to a positive start.

Falkirk, nicknamed the Bairns, have a new manager, Peter Houston, at the helm and have already played one friendly this season. Eight days ago they defeated Berwick Rangers 3-2 before heading South for a training camp at nearby Aldershot barracks. They will no doubt already have one eye on a mouth-watering first home league match of the season on August 15th against the mighty Glasgow Rangers which will be televised live.

The Cards lined up in a 4-5-1 formation. In front of Aaron Howe was a back four of Adam Newton, Joey Jones (back at Woking on trial having been released at the end of last season by Yeovil), Joe McNerney and Mike Cestor. The midfield comprised John Goddard, Theo Lewis, Keiran Murtagh, Josh Payne and Kevin Betsy with Scott Rendell the target man up front. The bench included a number of trialists, all of whom were given a run-out in the second half.

On a warm and sultry afternoon, Falkirk kicked off on a well-grassed pitch. After a quiet start with both sides understandably feeling each other out, the home side gradually started to gain the initiative. The evergreen Betsy started to tantalise his opposite number down the left flank and Lewis was an energetic presence on the right side of midfield showing plenty of good touches to suggest that he was an astute signing for the club.

Despite starting to boss the game it came as something of a surprise when the visitors took the lead against the run of play in the eighteenth minute. Murtagh brought down Tom Taiwo outside the area and Blair Alston stepped up to drill the free-kick low to the left of Howe's despairing dive.

Three minutes later, the Cards were level. There appeared to be little danger for the Bairns as Murtagh was played in by Goddard through the centre. The visitors' defence seemed slow to react to the potential danger, however, and Murtagh coolly slotted the equaliser low to Jamie MacDonald's left.

As the half wore on, the Cards continued to play some attractive football with all five of the Woking midfielders showing glimpses of creativity and good link-up play to suggest that they will be a handful for most defences in the coming season. A number of half-chances came and went and the visitors were probably happy to go in at the interval on level terms.

Half-time: Woking 1 Falkirk 1

Woking introduced Mark Ricketts and Giuseppe Sole to the action at the start of the second half as the first of eight substitutions and both Murtagh and Sole were unlucky not to put the home team into the lead within minutes of the restart. Firstly, an audacious chip from Murtagh just cleared the bar from forty-five yards before MacDonald expertly blocked a good effort from Sole.

Once again, however, against the run of play the Cards found themselves trailing as Newton unceremoniously upended Conner McGrandles in the box and Rory Loy stepped up to calmly restore Falkirk's lead from the penalty spot.

Moments later there were cries for a home penalty as Betsy appeared to be bundled over in the area. Mr. Atkins, the referee, was unmoved, however, instead electing to issue the Woking midfielder with a strong rebuke for simulation, which appeared rather harsh.

Midway through the half and the Cards were level, this time with a penalty of their own. Sole, who had looked lively following his half-time introduction, burst into the box and the referee was quick to spot central defender David McCracken claw the ball away from the Woking player with his hand. The ever-reliable Rendell stepped up and easily sent the 'keeper the wrong way to level the scores once again.

Although the visitors continued to have their moments, the home side, despite the many changes of personnel in the second period, continued to look the more likely of the two sides to find the winner. And so it proved. With less than ten minutes remaining, Oliver Taylor broke down the right and centred for Reece Beckles to crash the ball against the bar. Fortunately, the ball fell at the feet of Abdellah Hicham who calmly converted for his first goal for the club and what proved to be the winner as the Cards' defence held steady for victory.

Garry Hill, watching from the stand, will no doubt have been pleased with his side's first competitive run-out of the season. There were fine performances all over the pitch and the fitness levels, in the heat, seemed impressive for mid-July. Hopefully, the squad will continue to make good progress as it readies itself for the first league game of the season, away to Alfreton Town on August 9th.

Next up, another home friendly against a Fulham XI next Saturday.

Woking: Aaron Howe, Adam Newton (Xabi 58*), Joey Jones*, Mike Cestor, Joe McNerney (Mark Ricketts 46), John Goddard (Ebby Nelson-Addy 58*), Kevin Betsy (Oliver Taylor 67*), Theo Lewis (Giuseppe Sole 46), Keiran Murtagh (Adam Brice 73), Josh Payne (Reece Beckles 73), Scott Rendell (Abdellah Hicham 67*)

* Indicates trialist

Unused Sub: Andy Little

Goals: Keiran Murtagh 21, Scott Rendell (pen) 66, Abdellah Hicham 81

Falkirk: Jamie MacDonald, Alan Maybury, Will Vaulks, David McCracken, Liam Dick, Blair Alston, Olumide Durojaiye (Luke Leahy 72), Tom Taiwo (Robbie McNab 85), Alex Cooper, Rory Loy, Conner McGrandles

Unused Subs: Paul Grant, Peter Grant, Liam Rowan, Ryan McGeever, Ryan Blair, Biabi Botti, Conner Hogg

Goals: Blair Alston 18, Rory Loy (pen) 54

My MOTM: Joey Jones - difficult to single out one player with so many substitutions, but the youngster hardly put a foot wrong all afternoon

Attendance: 736

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