Question of the WeekWho should start in goal?
By: Andrew Doherty
IT'S been a busy couple of weeks since the draw at Maidenhead. The bubble burst at Bromley, since when we had last Saturday's sensational win against Dover, and another great performance and result at high-flying Altrincham.
Looking at it coldly I have always thought that to be playing at this level rather than higher means that the players are either inexperienced, past it, lacking in attitude, concentration or ability. So you can never expect the perfect combination or performance. It's just up to the manager to identify and make improvements, and up to the players to respond. It's still early days yet but my word, what an outstanding response against Dover and Altrincham. Town showed flair and resilience over these two games and over the season as a whole so far. May this be the new normal.
I'd driven past Kingfield ground, the home of the Cardinals as Woking are known, a few times in the past but today was the first time I'd been inside it. In a leafy area, the ground itself is a hybrid with a gleaming stand at one end, a shed at the other, a couple of rickety old stands down one side and a long open terrace in front of a leisure centre opposite. The highlight for me though is a section between the rickety stand and the modern structure called Moaner's Corner. It ought to be a matter of law that every ground should have one of these. In the case of Notts County, according to my mate Darren, it would apply to the whole of the main stand. We all had to hope that we were going to give those moaning Woking fans something to get their teeth into today.
Town's team this afternoon was: McKeown - Sears, Waterfall, Towler, Crookes - Sousa, Hunt, Fox, Clifton - McAtee - Taylor. It's James McKeown's 500th appearance. He has had his critics but he's been a great servant, literally saved the day many times and is a good goalkeeper. You wouldn't play 500 times if you weren't. He comes across as a really nice and intelligent person too.
Town, in all blue, played on this sunny afternoon away from the imposing new stand in the first half. Town's fans in today's crowd of 4,478 lined the open side and a section in the big stand. A large banner with Dutch Cards was hung up behind the goal at the shed end, no doubt to impress us with the home side's hitherto unknown international credentials. I've never heard my mate Erik enthusing about Woking FC but then maybe I haven't been listening. The game got off to a fast start. A quick break by Effiong was well cut out by Towler. Clifton came close with a curled shot after a break from the resultant corner and a one-two with Taylor. The gargantuan Diarra headed inches wide from another Woking corner. Town had a good chance when the ball came across from the right but escaped everyone. Fox won a corner but a Woking defender anticipated the short corner and set up a break. Up charged Woking, Effiong rounded McKeown after a neat pass from Allarakhia but impressively three Town defenders had got back to the line to block the shot. It was an open game. Woking looked dangerous going forward. Town defended solidly. Going forward Town were passing quickly. Clifton and McAtee were particularly busy. But Woking's goalkeeper wasn't being tested. McAtee had a speculative long-range shot and then won a corner. Sousa had a run and cross. Town were coming more into the game but still weren't posing any threat on goal. Effiong got booked after poleaxing Waterfall before forcing McKeown to race out and defend as he bore down on goal. But Town continued to pass. McAtee had a good chance on 37 minutes from a Sousa cross but the defender managed to cause enough distraction. Town pressed, and Clifton got a shot in on 45 minutes but was penalised for a foul. Woking had a brief attacking spell in added time, winning a foul in the corner after a Waterfall tackle but McNerney headed over. Both sides could claim to have been the more dominant in the first half. For Town, the positive interplay wasn't coming off and at halftime it was goalless.
A great through ball from Crookes signalled Town's intent. Neither McAtee nor Taylor was unable to latch on to it, and Woking broke away. Sears was booked for tripping Allarakhia. On 54 minutes as Town probed, great work on the left led to Fox winning a corner for Town who couldn't capitalise. As in the first half, play moved from end of the pitch to the other, and on 58 minutes great anticipation by Waterfall cut out a good Woking opportunity to score. Town's build-up was patient and on 60 minutes McAtee won a corner after a move from the back via Sousa. On 63 minutes Woking's keeper Ross finally had to make a save following a crisp shot from Fox. Woking attacked shortly after when Campbell shot just wide with McKeown well beaten. Town countered. Human dynamo Clifton found space and crossed but Taylor couldn't clip it in. More good work followed from Clifton who stuck in a low cross but no one again was there to get on the end of it. The game was dying with neither side's endeavour coming off. Town made a change on 75 minutes, with John-Lewis replacing Taylor. John-Lewis immediately provided a physical presence but Town were unable to break through. Woking had two free-kicks after fouls by the irrepressible Clifton. Towler headed clear for the first, and the second was cleared with ease. On 84 minutes Sousa was tripped outside the Woking penalty box after a passing move. Hunt's free-kick was poor and led to a counterattack from which Effiong shot wide. Woking followed up by winning a corner when Casey's cross was headed out by Crookes - safety first. McKeown took the cross from the corner kick at the second attempt. Fox then had a shot blocked for Town, and Woking once again counterattacked. Effiong teed up Ince who seemed to miss the ball altogether when presented with a great opportunity to score. Wright came on for Hunt on 86 minutes. Town tried, John-Lewis used his muscle, everyone battled hard but there was no breakthrough. As 90 minutes came up, Town passed the ball around and switched play to try to break down the Woking defence. From the left, the ball was played to Wright, who looked up and took his time to fr:\Crap\20211009001.jpgind Clifton in the middle in space. Clifton received the weighted pass, picked his spot and from outside the box blasted his shot low past the helpless Ross. Woking 0, Town 1. The players and fans celebrated wildly. Three minutes were added. Pearson replaced McAtee. There were no scares. Town saw out the remaining time with ease. So it finished 1 - 0 to Town. Brilliant. Cue more wild celebrations. Euphoria.
A few days ago, the subject of abstract art came up and I was relating it to football. I reflected that for the last few seasons, watching Town was a form of abstract art where nothing happens, and the experience was a mirror of human suffering. Those times have evaporated. Now it's about colour, energy, personality, character and teamwork. The epitome of it all, our engine room Harry Clifton but let's give credit to all the team for their contributions. The hills are alive with moaning Woking supporters. They may be happy to moan, but we're happy too. Very happy. Top of the table. Dreamland.
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