The emphasis is on Woking
Relegation, it turned out, was just what Woking needed. The Cardinals were stagnating in their messy latter years in non-league’s top tier with an insecure financial background and unsuccessful, short-lived managerial appointments. But while the financial situation may not yet be utterly rosy, the club is looking up again under Garry Hill.
A savvy operator, Hill was the ideal man to guide the Cards back into the Blue Square Bet Premier. He did so with few hiccups along the way, and after a topsy-turvy first month back he appears to be engendering further progress. The Surrey side are far from the finished article but after three successive victories, take them to make it four with a trip to Ebbsfleet United on Tuesday night.
The visitors may already have lost five times this term but a four-match losing run in late August and early September was used as something of a weeding out process. After the fourth of those games – a 2-1 defeat at Hereford, Hill admitted: “We're having to learn the hard way at the moment but if people aren't going to learn then were going to have to make changes.”
In terms of rhetoric, it was nothing new or dramatic but the chief has been around long enough to know how to carry out those threats.
He duly tweaked his line-up for the clash with Nuneaton, a 6-1 victory which came as a timely confidence boost. Their opponents may not have put up much of a fight but this was about releasing the shackles and the nerves which came with the early days back at this level: the team-wide equivalent of a striker on a goal drought tapping one in with his shin pad.
So it was no surprise to see confidence return in the subsequent pair of 2-1 wins, at Stockport and at home to Gateshead. Canadian forward Gavin McCallum notched in both while Aldershot loanee Bradley Bubb struck four in the Nuneaton triumph and it is the Cards’ mobile forward line which encourages us to side with them at Stonebridge Road.
With former Wycombe winger Kevin Betsy back on board, 15 years after breaking onto the scene with the Surrey club, and Loick Pires also in reserve, Hill’s men have the attacking intent to hurt a Fleet outfit struggling for defensive confidence. Liam Daish continues to make his sides competitive but with one of the smaller budgets, consistency remains elusive. While he too has useful forward options, including Liam Marum and Moses Asikodi, United’s back line is short of experience.
They shipped four in a game for the fourth time this season with Saturday’s home defeat against Barrow and can expect further punishment in midweek. Given both sides’ propensity to concede – they have kept one clean sheet between them in 20 fixtures – Woking to win not to nil may be worth a play. But instead we’re happy to get on board with the newly-confident visitors at 9/5.
Cambridge United have also seen their defensive solidity vanish in recent weeks and the U’s, who were our each-way tips for the title, look to be a club in trouble. With three key men, including summer arrivals Robbie Willmott and Adriano Moke, mysteriously frozen out, all is not well at the Abbey.
United’s winless run hit a seventh game at the weekend as they twice threw away the lead to collapse 4-2 at Hereford. And it is now 14 goals conceded in four matches for Jez George’s men, who based their relative success on a study back line in 2011/12.
Centre-half Josh Coulson and loanee full-back Danny Andrew were exposed with embarrassing ease at Edgar Street, and the pair were afforded little protection by a midfield shorn of the injured Rossi Jarvis. Even with winless Kidderminster in town on Tuesday, the hosts look like a team worth opposing.
We were with Harriers more than once in the early part of the campaign but the reliance on inexperienced forwards appears to have hit Steve Burr’s side harder than we anticipated. However, after four straight losses, Kiddy have since drawn five in a row and we reckon they stand an excellent chance of turning that potential into points in Cambridge.
Harriers have a fine record against United down the years and have triumphed on each of their last two visits to the Abbey: take a chance on Burr’s men finally kick-starting their campaign.
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