By Jacob Greenwood
After two narrow losses on the road last week, Woking return to Kingfield to take on fellow play-off contenders, Kidderminster Harriers.
Following defeats against both sides relegated from League Two last season, Woking were buoyed by the announcement on Thursday that Jack Marriott had returned on loan until January.
Marriott, who is joining on his third loan spell from Ipswitch Town, had previously been at Carlise United this season before being let back out to The Cards.
Pacy Marriott scored an impressive 12 goals for Woking last season and after training with the squad on Thursday, is expected to be in the squad to face Kidderminster.
The Harriers, who finished two places above Woking last season, have the aim of reaching the play-offs but have made a steady start and find themselves 12th after 11 games.
We talked to Kidderminster fan Adam Matthews to find out about what happened over the summer and how he thinks they have started.
Q) A good season last year, but you must have been so frustrated to miss out on the play-offs after a strong first half to the campaign?
There was quite a bit of expectation last season on the back of missing out on the title on the final day of the previous campaign. We seemed to be doing okay up until Christmas, but an unforgivable decision to sack one of non-league’s brightest managers in the shape of Steve Burr backfired quickly. His replacement, Andy Thorn, lasted only a matter of weeks in the wake of a fan backlash and with Chairman Mark Serrell quitting shortly before Thorn’s sacking, it left the club in a perilous position both on and off the pitch. Thankfully the club saw fit to re-appoint Burr’s assistant Gary Whild, who had been on gardening leave, to the manager’s hotseat and we eventually finished the season with a flourish.
Q) How much changed over the summer at KHFC?
The club have made no secret of the fact they are looking for new investment and if rumours are to be believed, the situation could become critical in the next few months. With a major backer from last season having pulled out, and questions arising over what has happened to the money from the sale of Joe Lolley to Huddersfield, and the cash from the FA Cup run (we were knocked out in the Fourth Round by Premiership side Sunderland), things haven’t been easy off the pitch. But Gary Whild and has team, which now sees former defender Mark Creighton operate as his Assistant Manager, have worked hard to strengthen the squad and also hold on to some of the more exciting assets. Full backs Lee Vaughan and Mickey Demetriou departed to Cheltenham and Shrewsbury respectively but both had earned their chances in the league after clocking up 300 appearances between them in Harriers colours. He replaced them with experienced campaigners Jared Hodgkiss and Kevin Nicholson, who have slotted in seamlessly, whilst former Newport County hitman Craig Reid was another notable arrival, along with ex-Forest Green frontman Reece Styche. Both are starting to find their feet upfront with Michael Gash and Nathan Blissett.
Q) We are approaching a 1/4 of the way through the season, how have things gone so far and what is your expectation for the season?
We, like Woking, started the season well with an encouraging unbeaten run but were brought down to earth with two successive defeats. We didn’t concede a goal in the first four games of the season, something we haven’t been used to in recent campaigns, and we seemed to be working on the premise that without conceding, we only needed to score one to win the game. However, after those couple of setbacks we hit Altrincham for four without reply to boost the goal tally and despite a 1-0 reverse against Grimsby Town at Aggborough last week, it was actually one of our better performances and we should have found the net in the first half, before the visitors were able to complete a ‘smash and grab’ victory in the 85th minute. Most fans are reasonably satisfied with the start but we certainly have had chances to increase the points tally and we should really be already entrenched in the play-off positions, which is our aim for the season as a whole.
Q) Who have been your key players so far this season and who will Woking have to watch out for on Saturday?
Marvin Johnson has looked a completely different player this season which seems to come from having confidence shown in him, and his enjoyment of a run in the side. He’s been with the club for a number of seasons now and the skilful winger often showed flashes of brilliance, but this was too regularly coupled by lacklustre performances. He has been outstanding though so far this term, being our major attacking threat and if the strike force can start latching on to some of his creativity then the league’s defences will need to be on their game. Our centre-back partnership is also vitally important to the make-up of the team. Josh Gowling, who now has a player-coach role with the club, and England C International Chey Dunkley, read the game so well and put their bodies on the line for the team. They were a major part of our watertight beginning to the season, and over the past couple of years, Gowling, who is the more experienced campaigner, has brought youngster Dunkley on as a player alongside him and both form the fulcrum of the Harriers’ defence.
Q) Finally, what is your score prediction?
I think it will be tight but over the years the Kingfield has generally been a kind ground to us, so I’ll go for a 2-1 Harriers win. Goals from Gash and Johnson, and Guiseppe Sole for Woking.
Picture by David Holmes. A full set is available at wokingfc.co.uk