Here we go again! It’s the third part of the Woking V Torquay 2021 trilogy, all played in the space of seven weeks. Another Johnson V Dowson battle, with the scores tied at one game a piece and the goals level at 1-1. A game between one team finding form at the top of the table and another stumbling aimlessly towards the end of the season. What can go wrong?!
The FA Trophy game at the Kingfield had almost as much goalmouth incident as that NL decider from 2019, but this time the chances were not taken and in the end a linesman’s flag denied us a late equaliser. Gary Johnson was understandably livid, he hadn’t progressed through the competition for this to happen, but this was very much the story of January and February – luck was not on our side and there was to be no cup double.
Thankfully by the 2nd April, super sub Danny Wright was back to provide a finish and take all three points at Plainmoor. At the time it appeared to be a decent rather than important 3 points, on a sluggishly dull afternoon in the Bay. Hindsight now tells us it was pretty big! A turning point in our season? Yeah alright go for it, with Wrighty back suddenly things were looking up.
This time around we are back up to Surrey to finish off the story, with the hope that this fixture will only occur in the future when we inevitably draw the Cards in the FA Cup 1st round (and lose!!). Safe to say we are due a win at their gaff. Since dropping back down to the Conference in 2014 we have a terrible record there, beginning with a 3-2 loss in March 2015.
The line-up that day under Chris Hargreaves (just for fun) was:
Downes and Briscoe scored quite early, before Woking fought back and none other than Scott Rendell popped up with the winner. How very Torquay!
The next season we did manage a 2-2 draw there in the league, but there was time for us to lose at the Kingfield in the FA Cup 4th qualifying! Then things got even worse, as the Cards beat us 3-1 in September 16 and then 4-1 in August 17 – James Gray probably scoring technically one of our finest ever Conference goals. Quite extraordinary considering what little else he provided in his brief Torquay career.
Enter the Gary Johnson era and the glorious chaos of Woking (a) at the end of 2018-19 National League South title winning season (I assume you remember that one!), followed by a hard earned 1-1 draw last season as Ben Whitfield popped up to equalise on his debut. Even that draw was bittersweet due to the injuries incurred on the evening, after that the squad never fully recovered before COVID called a halt to proceedings.
We won’t get a better chance to turn them over this week. Woking are a team beset by injuries, lacking key players and in a terrible run of form. Two big misses for them are Jamar Loza and Malachi Napa, who kept United’s makeshift defence busy throughout the Trophy game. Without players like that they have lost 5 out of the last 6 games, and have been leaking goals for fun – slightly surprising considering their first choice centre backs Ben Gerring and Moussa Diarra remain at the back. Diarra is uncompromising to say the least. His tackling is all or nothing (and often high); unsurprisingly he’s no stranger to a yellow card being wafted in his direction.
TT PLAYER PROFILlE – MOUSSA DIARRA
Date of Birth: 4th February 1990 – 31 years-old
Former Clubs: St Albans City, Hemel FC, Hampton & Richmond, Barrow, Dover Athletic, Havant & Waterlooville
National League Stats: Played 16, Goals 4, Bookings 6
Along with a number of other clubs, the Cards have nothing to play for and their players might have one eye on their summer holidays – so that may go some way to explaining 4 goals being conceded in three out of the last four games. Something tells me we won’t find it that easy. The rivalry that was forged in the National League South still lingers on a little, and Dowson and Gerring will both be desperate not to let the Gulls have their wicked way. Even with players missing at Plainmoor a few weeks back, we had the odd narrow escape as Woking occasionally threatened.
Meanwhile we haven’t soundly beaten anyone in the National League for a while and although wins have been gained, they’ve largely been nervy and tight affairs to have us biting our finger nails. But saying that, a repeat of last Tuesday’s intensity and pressure on the ball, will surely be enough to win this game. We have the better players, we have confidence back and we have high motivation to keep pushing – so replicate that energy from Sutton, get in behind the Cards defence at every opportunity and a precious win will be ours. A trouncing would be very sweet, but any 3 points will do.
Two other teams that have little to play for apart from pride are Altrincham (17th) and Wealdstone (18th), and they were comfortably thrashed on Saturday by Sutton and Hartlepool. There’s no denying it, that was a big win for Sutton – they needed it after the defeat to United. Whether it was down to their excellence or Alty being dreadful I’m not sure, but any 4-0 win gives you a shot in the arm. Meanwhile the Monkey Hangers keep ploughing on. They haven’t lost since February, have points on the board and sit at the top of the league, so must be fully respected. Those two meet on 22nd May, a game that could be huge – but we shall see.
It’s been brilliant to see Torquay United climb back into the title race, I just wish we were there to help push them on in the run-in. Missing out on seeing it in the flesh is hard to deal with. Don’t get me wrong I’ve enjoyed the victories but I am desperate to return. Here’s to Barnet at Plainmoor in May. Imagine that being a title clincher in the sunshine and Asa Hall holding the trophy aloft, could supporting TUFC ever be that perfect? Imagine. Enjoy Woking (a), no complacency you lovely lads…just win. On our way, on our way!