It makes something of a change today to be up against higher-division opponents after four matches against Ryman Premier sides. I’d like to welcome Woking this afternoon which will be my first match against National League opposition as a manager, other than the Welling United game in my caretaker period two years ago.
I know Garry Hill very well – he knows the level inside out and he’s been competing at it for years. Every season he builds a good team, a competitive one, even when budgets get cut. And it’s no different this year with some talented players in the Woking squad. It’ll be a real test for our players but the boot is on the other foot for once – it’s a “free hit” for us against a team in the league above who should be favourites to win. Our players have the chance to perform and see where we’re at in the process in terms of our development.
You will of course have read about (or if you went to Oxford, seen for yourselves) the signings of Andy Drury and Yado Mambo. Andy’s capture was one we had to move quickly on when we were alerted to his situation. He has two young kids and was travelling a long way to Eastleigh. I played with him years ago and always kept in touch, he let me know of his situation, and so we had to try and wrap up a deal before he went somewhere else in Kent – it’s a competitive corner of the country for players so I’m delighted he’ll be playing his football at Stonebridge Road. It’s a big signing for us: I know him and what a good character he is and anyone who has watched football at this level for a while knows what a good player he is. The fact he’s been here before also played a big part and I thought bringing him in would give everyone a lift.
Yado Mambo is another one who needs no settling in. Louis John tweaked his hamstring last week, Dave Winfield and Mark Phillips were obviously still suspended, so we were short in that department and he was the first player I thought of and he more than fulfilled my expectations with a top performance at Oxford City.
We’ve done OK since my last set of programme notes. The Hampton game, I’ve made my feelings known, but we bounced back against Harrow (pictured below) while giving a few people a runout who haven’t been playing much lately. Saturday’s clash at Oxford was a big one – they’ve been on a good run and have got some capable players. We dealt with the pitch which wasn’t great, plus with injuries and suspensions, the group as a whole approached everything positively.
It’s a difficult place to go. We didn’t beat them at all last year in three attempts and they’re a tricky side for us, so to perform like we did, especially in the second-half, was terrific. Andy Drury had a real impact on the game, Yado was solid and Bradley Bubb got a goal despite my worries over a hamstring strain. But he’s fully fit again now and another goal will give him confidence.
The travelling support was great once again last weekend and we need you to make some noise (for the last time as a three-sided ground!) to get us over the hurdle that Woking will no doubt present.