That’s it for another season, and even by recent Woking FC standards this was rollercoaster-esque. Not in an overly-exciting way though. It was all over as a competition far too soon.
Considering the comparatively small budget and those early injury woes, we didn’t do so bad. A lack of consistency cost us, although at stages we were fairly consistent in letting in goals at inopportune moments. But take away two poor spells and we might even have made the play-offs, fellow part-timers Braintree Town proving in finishing a commendable third place what can be achieved amid all the bigger spenders.
Those of us who were there on day one on the Wirral will have replayed many times a key moment when we lost the previous season’s top-scorer Scott Rendell with barely 40 minutes of the season gone. Twang went the anterior cruciate ligaments, zing went the strings of our hearts. But not in a Broadway style. Gutting. Then there was defender Ismail Yakubu’s copycat ACL injury three weeks later, both following Mike Cestor’s lead from the previous term. However, the resultant crowd-funding appeals and the cash they brought in for our injured parties’ rehabilitation – from players and fans alike, across the sporting spectrum – put into perspective many of the negatives surrounding the big business that is 21st century football.
On the field, despite our opening day 1-0 defeat at Prenton Park we somehow – and it was a case of somehow on a few occasions – went on to pull six wins out of the bag over the next nine fixtures, with only one more slim reverse, at Macclesfield (my next match), the last of those victories against the team who ended up play-off finalists, Forest Green. In the next game we slipped up against Cheltenham, but only the most pessimistic saw that as the beginning of a major slide.
As it turned out we more or less reversed that earlier form, winning just one match in that 10-game league sequence, that against a Halifax side that struggled to get going all season. I was there for that one, but also the rain-ravaged embarrassment that followed a fortnight later, our early FA Cup exit at Maidenhead United. I think I’m only just drying out now (at least mentally). A far more positive sequence followed, a cracking victory at Chester and home drubbing of Tranmere followed by what turned out to be just a minor blip, a reverse at Barrow – our only defeat in that third 10-match sequence. The Cardinals again amassed seven wins, including a 5-1 pre-Christmas cracker at Gateshead and festive double over Aldershot.
But who could have guessed that our victory at Wrexham on January 9th would be our last league win for 14 weeks? A calamitous run followed, that fourth 10-game sequence bringing just two more points, the last nil-pointer at doomed Welling of all places, and another witnessed first-hand by this geographically-challenged scribe at Altrincham, another team that went on to drop a division. Dreadful form.
Thankfully, although the season was effectively over for us by then, we managed to put a proper run together from there, finishing on fine form – three wins and two draws from six not to be sneezed at as our play-off campaign gave way to the hayfever season. In fact, our only loss came at the hands of a Grimsby side who finally secured a return to the League via a Wembley play-off final. And I particular enjoyed my first visit to Sincil Bank, that day’s victory over Lincoln City a special occasion until around 6pm. But more of that later.
A few years ago a workmate told me the finishing positions I moaned about during the Glenn Cockerill era had to be far preferable to year upon year being more exciting but ending up fighting the drop. I guess he was right, and two years after Glenn left we finally lost our Conference top-flight status, but it turned out to be a positive sequence of events, the Garry Hill era that followed well worth the initial pain. I’ll stand by my earlier thinking though, craving neat football and excitement over ground-out results every time. But on this season’s showing it looks like we’re a mid-table side that happen to play interesting football. We have occasional storming performances, but also the odd stinker. We have the odd spell of total football, but also moments of defensive suicide. It doesn’t help the heart-rate.
If I had a quid for every time I heard WFC press officer (and clubman of the year) John Moore berate another defensive switch-off leading to an opposition goal this season on BBC Surrey, I could afford to comfortably put my hand in my pocket at Gateshead to buy the team and travelling fans a pint each next time we score five at the International Stadium. But we could do without those moments of déjà vu leading to Mooro exclaiming, ‘How many times ….’ during Gary Smith’s commentaries (at least once a match at one stage). But I’m even depressing myself with this negative talk, so let’s celebrate the finer moments of this topsy-turvy season too, starting where I left off last time (with a link to the last piece here).
I’ll try not to go back over old ground, moaning about the new season arriving too early and that Tranmere visit coming before I’d even had my family holiday. But back then, we seemed to be riding the storm, that first-day blip quickly put behind us as good work against Bromley led to more home victories over Altrincham and Chester, sandwiching one on the Fawlty Towers set at Torquay. I was listening in via Smithy and Mooro on the radio for all four, debutant loanee Dan Holman soon proving a suitable replacement for crocked Scott Rendell, having a hand in both goals in a 2-0 win over Alty – scoring one, setting up Gez Sole for the other – while we sealed a 1-0 stoppage-time win on the English Riviera – Yakubu heading home Kadell Daniel’s corner – then climbed to second with a 5-2 thrashing of Chester, John Goddard’s penalty followed by Holman, Daniel, Goddard (again) and loanee Ben Pattie’s finishes. All was well in Surrey as I headed off to the Far West.
I was seeking out mystical stone circles and ancient Celtic monuments on the afternoon of our battle at Boreham Wood. So while the Wyatt clan perilously faced twisted ankles and gorse-bush cuts amid desolate granite moorland, Joey Jones, Mark Ricketts and the Yak fared far worse at Meadow Park, our new-found rock in defence the latest victim of our dreaded cruciate curse. Thankfully we had a Daniel strike behind us, but it took a spirited performance to ensure a draw. Then Goddard and new signing Jimmy Keohane ensured a 2-0 bank holiday home win over Welling, inspiring a celebratory barbecue at our hired cottage, raising glasses after a cracking day sightseeing and news of another victory. I wasn’t looking forward to my return, but we had scores to settle at Macclesfield, where I was on the reporter’s bench that coming weekend.
As it turned out, two frustrating afternoons followed, those next games highlighting our weak spots. Reluctant as I am to admit it, Macc just about deserved their victory, showing far more invention. Joey J was on target late doors, but a 2-1 home win was about right, our patched-up squad unable to stretch an unbeaten run to seven games. Come to think of it, league visits to the Moss Rose are never great, the best we’ve had to show since our 2012 top-flight return a 0-0 draw against a Steve King side. Since then we’ve had three straight defeats, added to three more before the Silkmen’s 15 seasons in the League, with no victory in nine visits over 22 years. Thankfully, we have that 1-0 FA Trophy quarter-final in early 1995 to savour though – the year we went on to beat Kiddie at Wembley. Oh yes – Thommo in the last minute, and all that.
I was more confident about the next weekend’s trip across the Pennines, the West Riding having witnessed a few Woking victories over the years. It was my first trip to Nethermoor since my UniBond League reporting days, and I’ve always enjoyed the scenery and friendly Yorkshire welcome. In late 2002 I had two visits seven weeks apart, a 2-1 Lions’ win over Chorley followed by a 3-3 draw with Bamber Bridge, the other Lancashire team I covered. I hadn’t returned since a 3-1 Magpies win in April 2004, but it seemed that the hospitality still applied, Goddard’s early 30-yard free-kick putting us ahead, our roving midfielder quickly doubling the lead from a Chris Arthur lay-off. This time we were the dominant, inventive outfit. Surely it was a just a case of how many we’d rattle past these rather tame Lions.
Yet from there we showcased our frailties, two goals in eight minutes seeing the hosts level before Brian Saah headed home from a corner to see us back in front at the break. Guiseley levelled again, but we seemed to put the game to bed on 75 minutes, confusion in the home box leading to Keohane setting up Holman for a fourth. Yet we were ultimately foiled by the imposing Jake Lawlor deep into an astounding eight minutes of stoppage time, the white and navy contingent going understandably wild. So, after three away games – all in glorious sunshine – I’d seen us grab just one measly point.
Three days later we made up for that with a blistering display at home to Forest Green, Goddard and Keohane goals sealing a superb victory, a delight to listen to. But next up was a 1-0 home defeat to promotion-contenders Cheltenham following a second-half Danny Wright header, and there were respective 2-1 and 2-0 reverses at Braintree and Dover, the former including a goal from WFC reporter Phil Batts’ man of the match Keiran Murtagh. Seeing as we haven’t won at Crabble for four years and – as far as I know – never at Cressing Road, I wasn’t too surprised by either defeat. Regarding Dover, I previously waxed lyrical on an early ‘95 postponement spoiling a weekend visit to the Kentish port (one of the groundstaff telling me, ‘There’s more chance of it being played on the Goodwin Sands’). I’ve since seen us win there, but that was against Margate – while Hartsdown Park was being developed – one night in November 2003, a 2-1 win for Glenn Cockerill’s side sealed by two own goals. Quality. This time I witnessed our pain from afar, after a flier to Surrey with my girls, suffering a televised Friday night defeat via BT Sport on the WFC social club big screen.
A fourth straight league defeat followed, relegation-possibles Southport winning 2-1 at Kingfield, Murtagh again scoring for us, while in our other home games in October we were held 2-2 by Torquay – Daniel putting us ahead within two minutes, but Holman having to score late on to secure the point – and lost 1-0 to slow-starters Wrexham, with plenty of gnashed teeth over key refereeing decisions in the latter two. From where I was sat, listening in on my computer in my front room 230 miles away, they were clear-cut penalties. Fact. By then, I’d finally witnessed an away win though, back in West Yorkshire against a Halifax outfit down on their luck, an emphatic 3-0 win including cracking strikes from Holman (twice) and Goddard (another mighty free-kick), showing us in our best light, quality finishing complemented by a cohesive, assured display, showing true potential. The defence was solid – not least Charlton loanee Terell Thomas – while we proved dominant in midfield, with Daniel and the scorers sharp up top and plenty of service from the wings. We’d shown what we could do, now just needed to work on those frailties, the season still young.
But then came our nightmare on York Road, and I can think of nothing positive to relate regarding a dire afternoon on the terraces at Maidenhead. The sight of flat-capped Magpies boss Alan Devonshire on the sidelines made me think of happier days when giant-killing managers seemed to always look like that, the hosts deserving of their 3-0 victory and resultant Port Vale payday. Let’s just say the late rain that autumnal afternoon in Berkshire was somewhat purifying for all of us who made the trip. It’s testament to the fans that they turned up in impressive numbers that next weekend at Kidderminster, but another grim late 1-0 defeat followed. Incidentally, we only took 11 points out of 24 against the relegated four this season. That tells us something.
Garry H turned a few heads after our Maidenhead shocker, putting his whole squad up for sale and telling reporters, ‘We’re in a rut and we’ve got to dig deep’. Thankfully, by the time of my November 21st visit to Chester, we’d at least remembered which end of the spade was which. That month started brightly, Keohane and Holman bagging hat-tricks as we smashed struggling Combined Counties League outfit Sutton Common Rovers 10-0 in the Surrey Senior Cup, a competition that moneybags clubs like Man United, Man City, Chelsea and Arsenal have yet to distinguish themselves in, I might add.
John Goddard then showed his worth again with his ninth goal of the season to secure a 1-1 home draw with this season’s over-achievers Braintree, before Macclesfield completed a quick double over us with a 5-2 thrashing at Kingfield, late Holman and Jones strikes merely consolations. A much-improved performance followed on the North Wales border though, the Cards grabbing only their second league win in 11 attempts, assured finishing from Dan H and Johnny G book-ending a steely, confidence-boosting 2-1 victory, the kind of determined performance the long-suffering fans had craved on a day when the sun’s rays could only half-shield us from the worst of a bitter cold wind.
We also saw promise from debutant loanee Joe Quigley and classy displays by Jake Cole, Joey Jones – switched to central defence – plus Chris Arthur and Bruno Andrade in a true team performance. And that was followed by an impressive 4-1 home win over Tranmere, making up for that opening day, a double from the highly-impressive Holman and strikes from Goddard and home debutant Quigley ensuring a first home win in seven.
But we finished the month with defeat on another filthy day in Northern England. On that occasion I was soaked before I left Lancashire, supporting my youngest daughter’s outdoor drama performance as part of a Christmas lights switch-on. The plan was to head straight on to the M6 and beyond, but torrential rain left me wringing clothes out back home, getting changed before heading out again. With that in mind, I had no reason to feel disappointed that the press box at Holker Street was enclosed and away from those hardy Cards fans enduring the lashing rain and a cold wind howling in off the Irish Sea.
We had our hopes up as Joey J’s glancing header from Andrade’s free-kick early in the second half cancelled out Barrow’s opener, but our good work was ultimately undone by Steve Williams, a 28-year-old ex-Bradford City and Inverness Caledonian Thistle defender from my adopted neck of the woods, one I last saw playing for Bamber Bridge and previously West Lancs League favourites Charnock Richard (whose step seven status puts them at the same level as Merrow and Virginia Water).
As it turned out, that rain hardly diminished for another week or so, by which time Storm Desmond (named in tribute to defensive colossus Des Walker) brought devastating floods and 50 severe weather warnings in Cumbria and North Lancashire, military, RNLI, Mountain Rescue and volunteers from all over helping rescue operations in Carlisle and parts of the Lake District – a month of rain falling in 24 hours.
By then parts of the A590 linking Barrow to the M6 were impassable, and another old Woking haunt, Brunton Park, was under water, with supposed sightings of koi carp in Carlisle United’s goalmouth. But the clean-up operation at least allowed us to again put everything into context, all that Carlisle and its neighbours suffered giving a little perspective as to the true nature of loyalty and community spirit – Carlisle players helping bail out their neighbours in the aftermath, something worth noting while contemplating the aired frustrations of despairing fair-weather Chelsea and Man United fans.
That turned out to be our only defeat in the next eight weeks, a run starting with a 3-1 home win over Lincoln, as ‘Andrade, Goddard and Holman vied for the conjuror-in-chief title’, with ‘fine performances throughout’ according to WFC reporter Brian Caffarey, who also singled out midfielder Matt Robinson for praise on a day when Holman scored twice and Quigley added another in between. A 2-1 FA Trophy win at Boreham Wood followed, Giuseppe Sole’s added time free-kick the culmination of a Cards fightback after an early setback, Brian Saah’s rare strike – a volley to be proud of – just after the hour having levelled matters.
We entered the festive season in 10th place after a 5-1 thrashing of Gateshead the Saturday before Christmas, a result few of us could see coming. It had a lot in its favour, not least two fine strikes from Holman and collectors’ items from Andrade, Robinson and Quigley, at a ground where you have to try that little bit harder to create atmosphere, due to the distance of the pitch from the stand. On a day of relatively-flowing football with an undercurrent of needle to keep the ref busy, my highlights included the moment one local – in response to playful goading from our small band of travelling fans – sang, ‘I can see me sneaking out!’ as he made for the International Stadium exits after Big Joe Q made it five. In similar vein, not long before, one frustrated Heed fan shouted at a player slowly fetching the ball, ‘Howay man! You’re wasting time!’ with just enough of a comic delay before a fellow local – less optimistic about his side’s chances of salvaging something – added a low-key but clearly audible, ‘Thank God’.
Not long after filing my report, the rain bucketing down, I headed back over the Tyne Bridge to nearby Heaton, with St James’s Park brilliantly lit up in the night sky, yet no real compunction to join the unhappy Magpies’ fans as their hit’n’miss side battled basement outfit Villa. I don’t doubt for one moment my friend Ed’s ‘Church’ is a theatre of dreams on its day, but I’d had more than enough of my share of footballing joy for one day.
And what a Christmas it turned out to be, 700 Woking fans among a 3,000-plus gate at the Rec as the Cards beat their fierce rivals, a lone Goddard strike settling the game before half time after good work by defensive star man Joey J and Holman. A goalless home draw with Boreham Wood then rounded off the year, this punter among the Kingfield faithful, feeling the Herts visitors had enough spirit about them to secure a further National League season, something they only just managed as it turned out.
Back in Lancashire but without an internet connection and cursing BT, I was reliant on my sister’s texting service as we completed our double over Aldershot with a 2-1 New Year’s Day home win, Quigley and Goddard setting each other up for a two-goal half-time lead, 800 North Hants visitors among a 3,700 gate getting behind their side, but having to make do with a single Rhys Browne strike with quarter of an hour spare.
Our run continued at the Racecourse Ground, yours truly on hand for a 3-1 win, 90-plus minutes of rain on a pitch already saturated in parts unable to deter another fine victory in North Wales, the Cards moving within a point of the play-off zone. While an early own goal from home keeper Rhys Taylor following a mighty Keiran Murtagh free-kick was quickly cancelled out, decisive second-half finishes from Quigley and Andrade saw the Cards stretch their league record to seven wins from nine and push us up to sixth.
For me, Norwich loanee Cameron Norman was a prime example of a pleasingly-determined Woking team ethic, caked in mud from early on and busy on the left flank, the game decided seven minutes from time as St Bruno took advantage of a poor clearance, striding forward before a decisive left-footed strike, the 22-year-old midfielder keeping his cool where many may have blasted and lost their footing. But who would have thought we’d have to wait another 97 days before the next league victory?
There was at least a little revenge before that poor run kicked in, a 6-1 home drubbing of Maidenhead in the FA Trophy making up for October’s FA Cup no-show, the Cards coming back from a half-time deficit in style, Murtagh claiming a double but Chris Arthur getting the pick of the bunch, his 30-yard strike deservedly securing our goal of the season award, just seeing off the Andrade wonder-strike that secured a 1-1 home draw with Halifax in the next game, stretching our unbeaten record to nine games in all competitions.
I was there to see that run end at lowly Altrincham the following midweek, our only moment of note in a 3-1 defeat at Moss Lane a mighty second-half strike from dead-ball specialist Giuseppe Sole. Put simply, the Cards were second-best against Lee Sinnott’s strugglers, who grew in stature as the night wore on.
WFC reporter Matt Goldsmith described our next point as ‘attritional’, the Cards held 2-2 by Barrow at Kingfield, our goals coming from Goddard and Sole in a game best remembered for an early injury to ref’s assistant Matthew Rushton, pole-axed by a close-quarters deflection, Gez’s equaliser (all the goals coming in the first half) arriving nine minutes into a 15-minute period of first-half stoppage time.
There was a promising start to the next month, Quigley with the only goal in a 1-0 home defeat of National League South side Oxford City in the FA Trophy, securing a quarter-final, our loanee striker adding two more in midweek as we saw off next-door neighbours Westfield 4-1 in the Surrey Senior Cup at Kingfield, ensuring another quarter-final.
But then came four straight defeats, the first a 1-0 reverse at home to Guiseley (enough to keep them up as it turned out), the second a 2-1 loss at Bromley, despite Goddard putting us ahead, followed by successive 3-1 and 2-0 slips at Grimsby in the pace of five days, Sole scoring our goal in the first game, while the latter defeat set up the Mariners for a two-legged Trophy semi-final against Bognor Regis, the Cleethorpes boys going on to win that but lose out to Halifax on their second successive Sunday afternoon outing to Wembley.
Things weren’t about to get a lot better for the Cards as the next month arrived. We did manage our only win in that wretched sequence, a 3-1 Surrey Senior Cup win at Molesey in which man of the match Goddard scored twice. But our league form was dreadful, any outside hopes of a play-off place soon ruled out. We also lost 1-0 at home to Dover, 2-1 at Eastleigh – Joey Jones’ early strike seeing us ahead for an hour, before the Spitfires came back and strafed us, Will Evans settling it with the last kick – and were then humbled 4-0 at on-form Cheltenham. What’s more, our former Colchester loan ace Dan Holman scored all bloody four in the latter, on his way to 30 goals in just 44 matches this season, 14 of those coming from 26 Woking appearances.
Then came another kick in the teeth (while we were floored, naturally) – a 3-1 Surrey Senior Cup exit at home to Merstham of the Ryman Premier League (who went on to beat Godalming Town 4-1 in the final at Kingfield), Johnny Goddard on the spot with a second-half penalty to half the deficit before the visitors finished us off.
We finally got a league point though – 55 days after our last one – in a 1-1 draw with bottom-markers Kidderminster, Cambridge United loanee Daniel Carr having put us ahead with his first Cards strike. But even that was followed by a 2-1 loss, and that at Park View Road, Welling. Cue the heavy sigh.
Accordingly, confidence remained pretty low when I next caught the Cards, for what turned out to be a 2-2 draw at Haig Avenue against Southport, and it was definitely two points lost rather than one gained. There were positives, not least two great goals from Bournemouth loanee Matt Butcher, and in the way the visitors rode early pressure then built a healthy lead. But in the end the fragile nature of a team without a league win in 12 attempts over 12 long weeks told. And my perverse highlight of the day? Probably the apt moment Gary Smith lost his studio connection during a post-match BBC Surrey interview with Garry Hill, leading to a neat exchange – the gaffer putting his interviewer’s technical problems into perspective during a rant which somehow went out live, suggesting he’d happily swap places with the matchday commentator rather than deal with his own set of problems.
Arguably the hosts – three points behind the Cards – had more to fight for that day, caretaker boss Andy Bishop going into this match on the back of a win and a draw since taking over from Dino Maamria. Yet the Surrey visitors’ inability to close out a game ultimately cost our off-form outfit, the hosts scoring twice in the last quarter-hour. Another draw followed as Gateshead visited Surrey, Matt Robinson having put us ahead in a 1-1 outcome. On the plus side though, we’d – finally – as good as hobbled over the safety line, and that point against an in-form Tyneside outfit was certainly no disgrace. But still we waited for that elusive victory.
Few would have put money on that arriving at Forest Green though, a side destined for the play-offs and still at that point in contention with nearest neighbours Cheltenham for the title. We left it late too, a Carr penalty 21 minutes from time cancelling out an early home lead, Norman then popping up in added time with the decider. As Ray Avards put it for the club website, “There was to be a final twist to the match … Matt Butcher’s corner, won by the persistence of Murtagh near the corner flag, saw Arnold attempt to punch the ball away, but he could only deflect it to Andrade lurking on the left of the area. His clipped cross was only half-cleared and it fell for Cameron Norman, the centre-back having a split second to steady himself as the ball settled, before the home defence swallowed him up. There was time, nevertheless, for the Norwich City youngster to drill the ball through the forest of legs and in for the winner. Joy unconfined as he was mobbed at the barrier by jubilant Cards’ fans.”
Hopes of building on that win against in-form Grimsby at Kingfield were dashed by expert finishing from Padraig Amond, who netted a hat-trick to restore his place at the top of the league’s scoring charts, making it three wins out of three for the Mariners against us that season. Andrade pulled a goal back on 71 minutes, but Amond settled it to ensure his side’s play-off place, one they used to great effect.
But then came Lincoln, this scribe on the road with the Cards for the final time in 2015/16, for what turned out to be a cracking encounter in the Far East, so to speak, the Surrey visitors securing a memorable 3-2 victory. I’d been to Lincoln for matches before, but that was in my reporting days working for Lancashire newspapers, having caught Chorley at Lincoln United a couple of times in the UniBond League. A very nice set-up it was too, and I can now say the same about Sincil Bank, a ground I’d only passed by on previous Lincolnshire trips.
On the day, man of the moment Johnny G was there at the right time in the right place with a left-footed finish to secure the Cards’ league double over the Imps, back from a four-game absence following a hamstring injury to pop up with a decisive strike three minutes from time, allaying fears after the hosts rubbed out Woking’s early two-goal lead.
The hosts enjoyed most of the early pressure, my man of the match Jake Cole – who deservedly scooped a couple of awards at the end of season presentation, after 50 appearances in total – on fine form to keep us involved before Butcher’s corner led to Murtagh heading us in front. And with the hosts somewhat stunned, Jake Caprice’s next cross left the hosts chasing shadows, Andrade swivelling slightly left then tucking home within three minutes of the opener, his second in two matches.
Within two minutes of the second half Imps’ top-scorer Matt Rhead halved the deficit with a header from a deep cross for his 23rd of the season, Woking somehow contriving to lose possession again more or less straight away, Jack Muldoon’s left-foot power-strike making it 2-2 on 48 minutes. But then Robinson set up a late counter-attack, winning out in the middle of the park and feeding Goddard on the left, the final sub’s perfectly-timed run seeing him expertly draw the keeper then fire through his legs.
There were supposedly 59 Woking supporters there to enjoy the moment among a 2,500 crowd, but enjoy it we did, the post-match interviews a joy to behold, despite this reporter’s usual problems chasing internet connections. Either way, I was quite relaxed as I made my way back up the road to the car I’d left in a hurry at a quarter to three, city centre traffic and space-hunting having delayed me. But while I’d got in the ground and settled in time for the kick-off – just about – I later found out I’d fallen foul of local restrictions. It seems that the off-road space I chose, thinking the local garage were done for the day and I’d be okay to park, was anything but.
It turns out that the garage I’d found was attached to a Peugeot dealership, with a second entrance accessible from the other side of the car park, hence the company’s decision to activate hidden barriers and lock the place up for the night – probably while I was getting my copy to the Surrey Advertiser and listening to Garry H – a joy to behold when he gets going – talk us through our final away win of the season (our eighth, by the way, of which I’d witnessed five). To cut a long story short – and yes, it still hurts to relay the story – a succession of calls to the dealership, premises security blokes and local police failed to get the barriers dropped, this roving reporter finally forced to book with Airbnb at around 9pm, effectively staying on a stranger’s floor just off the main drag, heading home the next morning instead.
And the moral of the story? Well, when you park up in a strange town, always look for tell-tale black spots at the entrance of off-road parking facilities. Alternatively, leave home at least an hour earlier than Google Maps suggests. Here endeth my sorry public information announcement.
Anyway, a week later the Cards wrapped the season up in style, that man Goddard going out on a high with the goal that ultimately saw off Eastleigh – his 20th of the season, from 49 appearances – within two minutes of Keiran Murtagh’s opener. Matt Tubbs pulled one back, but the Spitfires couldn’t find a way through again, Woking securing a top-half finish – our fourth in succession – that looked extremely unlikely at the end of April.
Here Comes the Summer
As is always the case at season’s end, much has already gone on at Kingfield, with much more happening behind closed doors while I type this, no doubt. That includes new playing contracts for Keiran Murtagh and Ismail Yakubu, and the appointment of a new chairman – following the departure of Mike Smith – long-time fan and former supporters’ trust chairman Rosemary Johnson. Early days, but I’m guessing Rose will be a breath of fresh air in her new role, and is certainly someone with a track record suggesting real potential in getting various factions within and outside the club talking to each other properly.
We’ve lost Bruno Andrade to Boreham Wood, loanee Matt Robinson to Dagenham and Redbridge, and player of the season and top-scorer John Goddard to Swindon Town, set for League One football. But let’s hope he can emulate Bournemouth’s Harry Arter and new England Under-15s coach Kevin Betsy from here. He’s certainly made a lot of friends and earned plenty of respect during his three seasons with us.
Apparently, Garry Hill and Steve Thompson are talking with the club about a new deal, having just one more season left on the contract. And that’s promising from where I’m sat. The gaffer had called for a return to full-time status, and while that’s seemingly not an option short of a new wealthy sponsor arriving, a boost is definitely needed behind the scenes to get the club competing over a whole season. Then again, we lost £450,000 last term, I understand, and clearly can’t afford to carry on much longer at that rate of return.
You may have seen word of a league restructure that would increase the number of League clubs from 92 to 100, split into five equal 20-club divisions to save money and reduce fixture congestion, but that won’t be until 2019/20 at the earliest. That gives us three seasons to get there of our own accord, but all the same is a proposal WFC director of football and all-round Cards legend Geoff Chapple told the Surrey Advertiser was the ‘best thing I’ve heard in 25 years’. It needs to get 90% support from the current 72 clubs outside the Premier League first though, in time for next summer’s AGM.
In the meantime, here’s to 2016/17. I’m not offering any predictions yet, but I’m looking forward to a return to York City (after eight seasons apart, following our 2009 relegation to the Conference South) following four more years back in the Football League. I’d have preferred AFC Fylde to see off North Ferriby in the National League North play-off final, but they lost in extra-time, so I miss out on a 15-mile journey from mine and instead have a 216-mile round-trip. It’ll be nice to make up for our dreadful 4-0 FA Trophy exit at Grange Lane in late 2013 though. Finally, there’s the return of old foes Dagenham & Redbridge (relegated from League Two) and Sutton United (National League South champions), plus a chance to sample the delights of Maidstone United (NLS play-off winners) and Solihull Moors (NLN champions). Bring it on. But not too soon, I’ve got the Euro Championships and my holidays first.