Woking travel to Derbsyshire on Saturday in search of their second win of the season. Things haven’t been going to plan of late for the Cards, who have lost their last three games, and they now face a tough game against Alfreton Town who boost a 100% home record so far this season.
Garry Hill now has a full-strength side to pick from as Josh Payne comes back from suspension. They also now boost further attacking options after bringing in Rodrigo Branco and Kema Darboe.
I talked to Reds fan Ashley Wilkinson @WilkinsonAshley to find out more before our trip to the Impact Arena.
After two solid seasons in the Conference Premier, do you see yourselves as an established Conference side now or are you still wary of relegation?
I’d say Alfreton Town are an established Conference side by any definition. They successfully avoided relegation in their first season, avoided that old cliché of “second season syndrome” and improved their position last campaign, and this one has begun with victories over very good Kidderminster and Hereford sides.
Relegation was probably at the back of some minds, but the Reds never looked in serious danger. They left it late to confirm their status in a very tight bottom half of the Conference Prem, but this season, despite reverting to part-time status, all the noises are about building once more.
What are your realistic expectations for this season?
As I mentioned, Alfreton have reverted to being part-time after two seasons, which has inevitably meant cuts to an already shoestring budget. Despite that, Law has built what many think is the finest squad the Reds have had at the Impact Arena. The departures of key players like midfielder Anton Brown and striker Ben Tomlinson have been nullified; ex-Burton veteran John McGrath anchors the Reds’ midfield superbly and Tomlinson has been replaced with a number of hungry, young forwards such as Danny Wishart from Hayes and Yeading.
With that in mind, you would have to expect Alfreton to build on last season’s 13th. But with the side only training two nights a week, anything around midtable would be a superb accomplishment. I think the Reds will surprise a few this season.
You’ve won 3 and lost 3 so far this season, which include good wins against Hereford and Kidderminster, what is the mood among your supporters after six games?
Home form at 100% and away form at 0%, it’s hard to have a more mixed start to a season! The home performances have been, without hyperbole, superb. Kidderminster were played off the park and the Reds really should have been four or five up against Hereford by the time Josh Law hit a 90th minute winner (they’d hit the woodwork three times). The mood amongst fans is one of cautious optimism, I feel. This has been, by and large, a good start to the season for part-time Alfreton and if Law can toughen up his defence and midfield on the road, you feel the Reds are capable of big things. Playoffs may be just out of reach, but with a bit more luck and some steel…who knows??
John Akinde was trialling with Woking in pre-season but it was then revealed you offered him a better deal than ourselves, has he been a good summer signing?
Akinde has been excellent since signing, and it’s clear this is a division below his level. He arguably isn’t at 100% and, given his record of 4 goals in 4 games (including a stunning hattrick against Kidderminster), you feel there’s still more to come. He’s become the focal point of Alfreton’s attack and, much as I hate the “good feet for a big lad” cliche, his composure on the ball does surprise given his height and build. He uses his strength to bully defenders, as all good target men should, and he doesn’t let it get taken from under him often. He wasn’t at his best v Forest Green and spurned several good chances inside the area, but you take a game like that for what he offers you in a game like Kidderminster.
Who else should Woking fans be looking out for on Saturday?
McGrath, as mentioned, knows the non-league game like the back of his hand and will look to break up attacks before distributing out wide. Dan Bradley is an excellent “box-to-box” midfielder and is capable of killer passes, blinding runs and top quality goals, as is his wide-right man Josh Law. Nick Fenton is a man machine at centre-half and makes up for a slight lack of pace with a superb aerial presence. Keep an eye too on Wishart, who has come very close to opening his Alfreton account so far.
It’s Non-League Day on Saturday, do you think this will help boost your crowd?
Possibly, and hopefully. Alfreton’s gates have fallen in recent years as ticket prices have increased, and with two well-supported league clubs nearby in Derby County and Burton Albion it’s difficult to get people through the gates. But Non-League Day, along with the fact that Derby are on an international break, will hopefully see a few more tickets sold.
Finally, what is your prediction for the game?
Tough one. Woking picked up a great win at the Impact last season and finished just above the Reds, but the Cardinals have had a tough start to 2013/14. If I had to stick my neck out, I’d say Alfreton to continue their excellent home form and make it 4 wins from 4 at the Impact.
Questions and article by Jacob Greenwood @JGreenwood91
Photo by David Holmes. A full set can be found at wokingfc.co.uk
Come on you Cards!