Swapping Champions League for non-league
Champions League choices… Bayer Leverkusen v Spurs or Leicester v FC Copenhagen on TV in the comfort of my living room.
In the end, I went for neither and opted instead to catch Woking’s FA Cup replay against Torquay in the flesh.
Admittedly, the fact that Woking’s Kingfield Stadium is just 15 minutes from where I live helped to swing the decision, but ultimately it was one I didn’t regret.
Kingfield is an impressive venue by non-league standards, with one large stand and a capacity of around 6,000 – mostly standing, though.
In true football fashion, I kicked off my first-ever trip to a non-league match by heading straight to the bar for a pint of lager, followed by pie and chips.
During my fast-food workout, I watched the players warming up and immediately noted that the quality of their drills and footwork wasn’t too bad.
Having done some research, I knew a few of the Woking names likely to catch the eye, including Jake Caprice, a fleet-of-foot full-back.
“With Woking languishing near the foot of the National League, this was a much-needed victory”
Another was Charlie Carter, an industrious and playmaking central midfielder who has made his way through the academy ranks. Plus, Dennon Lewis, a young winger spending a season-long loan at Woking from Premier League outfit Watford.
Having drawn 1-1 in Devon three days earlier, Woking were determined to make an impact from the off and reach the FA Cup first round proper for just the second time in five years.
Let’s not forget, Woking have had their moments in the competition, including a giant-killing victory at West Bromwich Albion in the 1990/91 season.
Non-league teams like Woking and Torquay are desperate for good cup runs, because of the potential revenue it can produce. It was evident that this was a motivating aspect in this game.
With not even 10 minutes gone, Woking had a chance to open the scoring from the penalty spot after Carter made a nuisance of himself and was brought down by opposing keeper Brendan Moore.
However, a poor penalty from Delano Sam-Yorke and a fine save from Moore kept the ball out of the net.
Torquay capitalised on this and after gaining a corner, scored from the resulting set piece. Giancarlo Gallifuoco flicked the ball onto a post and Sam Chaney was on hand score just before half-time.
Whatever Woking boss Garry Hill said at half-time seemed to work as the hosts were fast out of the blocks again, and this time it proved fruitful.
End to end
Caprice, confirming that he has talent, was causing trouble on the wing and whipped the ball into the box. Gozie Ugwu was on hand to slide the ball past Moore and the Cards were finally level.
Five minutes later and the game was turned on its head as Woking completing their second-half comeback.
A Fabio Saraiva corner from the left was met by the head of Ugwu who looped the ball back past Moore and into the corner of the net for his second goal.
For the rest of the half, it was end to end stuff with chances for both teams – exciting to watch from a neutral’s perspective.
The game nearly took another turn in the 88th minute, with Torquay piling on the pressure and Woking looking weary.
A goal-line scramble ensued in the Woking area, with some amazing stops from home keeper Brandon Hall, aided by Caprice, who took one for the team and blocked a certain goal with his face.
With Woking languishing near the foot of the National League, this was a much-needed victory and an opportunity to progress further in the Cup.
Woking now host Macclesfield on November 5th, and with their opposition just outside the National League play-off positions, fireworks could ensue.
Photos courtesy of David Holmes.