7 August 2016

Up and Running

Saturday 6th August 2016
Vanarama National League
Boreham Wood 1-0 Forest Green Rovers
Meadow Park
Attendance: 504
TWELVE months ago Boreham Wood kicked off their debut season in the National League with a home win against FC Halifax Town, the opening goal coming from Ricky Shakes.

One year on, it was Shakes who again had the honour of opening Wood's account for the season, his strike just before the half-hour mark proving just enough to defeat title-favourites Forest Green Rovers on a scorching afternoon at Meadow Park.

Wood manager Luke Garrard's starting XI included seven summer signings - Grant Smith, Matty Paine, newly-appointed team captain Mark Ricketts, Kenny Davis, Bruno Andrade, Adriano Moke and Angelo Balanta.  On the bench there were places for striker Morgan Ferrier and defender Femi Ilesanmi, the latter having been recruited just yesterday.

Andrade looked particularly dangerous down Wood's left flank in the first half.  It was he who came closest to scoring in the early stages, forcing a parry from Rovers' keeper Sam Russell with a fierce cross-cum-shot on 11 minutes.

At the other end, Wood's new number 1 Grant Smith was called into serious action for the first time when he came out smartly to block after Christian Doidge had been played in from the left by Elliott Frear.

Just two minutes after that scare, Wood went ahead.  Dale Bennett did well to thwart Balanta's attempt to get on the end of a deep cross from the right, but Shakes was on hand to lash the loose ball past Russell.

Much of the threat from the visitors during the first half was coming from French youth international Mohamed Chemlal down the right flank.  It was his teasing cross three minutes before the break which was met on the volley by Frear, who could only send the ball flying well over Smith's crossbar.

Forest Green's new manager Mark Cooper introduced the dangerous Matt Tubbs to the attack just before the hour mark.  The former Salisbury, Crawley, Bournemouth and Portsmouth striker nearly made a swift impact too, but could only direct his header wide when rising to meet Rob Sinclair's cross from the right.

At the other end, Kenny Davis was unlucky to not to mark his Wood debut with a goal, the ex-Braintree Town midfielder seeing his shot on the turn come back off Russell's crossbar in the 64th minute.

Rovers were posing an increasing threat however as the game moved into its last 20 minutes.  There was a heart-in-mouth moment for Wood as Smith raced off his line to meet a cross floated in from the right, but was beaten to the ball by Tubbs, who again saw his header miss the target.

Luke Garrard's team had chanced to make the game safe too.  A neat one-two between Balanta and Moke ended with the latter's shot being blocked by the legs of Russell.  And on 86 minutes Ferrier, on as a substitute for the tiring Balanta, could only poke Shakes' low cross wide when well-placed.

Stoppage time eventually extended to six minutes, during which Wood's solid-looking back line comfortably cleared two corners, before the contest came to a close.

Wood will not be getting carried away by this one victory.  But claiming an opening-day three points against the promotion-favourites, who started last season with nine straight wins, gives early cause for optimism for the challenging months ahead.

BOREHAM WOOD: Smith, Nunn, Ricketts, Paine, Stephens (Woodards 84), Shakes, Davis (Clifford 67), Moke, Andrade, Balanta (Ferrier 73), Devera.  Subs not used: Ilesanmi, Boal.

FOREST GREEN ROVERS: Russell, Traore (Racine 69), Clough, Bennett, Doidge, Frear, Carter (Robert 62), Pinnock, Sinclair, Chemlal, Murphy (Tubbs 57).  Subs not used: Maxted, Moore.


5 August 2016

Match preview: Boreham Wood v Forest Green Rovers

FOURTEEN weeks after winning their relegation dogfight in a carnival atmosphere at Welling, Boreham Wood kick-off their second season of National League football at Meadow  Park tomorrow.

On paper, the start to the new campaign couldn't be tougher, with promotion-favourites Forest Green Rovers providing the opposition.  The Gloucestershire side fell at the final hurdle in last season's promotion race, losing the play-off final 3-1 against Grimsby Town at Wembley.
Twelve months ago Rovers started the new campaign looking as if their time had come, winning the opening nine National League games, including a narrow 1-0 success against Wood at Meadow Park in August.  However, subsequent inconsistent form allowed neighbours Cheltenham Town to steal the initiative in the title race before going on to seal top spot and automatic promotion.

Manager Ady Pennock was then sacked just before the start of the play-offs, with his assistant Scott Bartlett taking temporary charge of the team for the ultimately unsuccessful attempt to reach League Two.

With former Swindon Town boss Mark Cooper having taken over as manager at The New Lawn, Rovers are once again expected to be a leading light in the National League over the next nine months.

For Wood boss Luke Garrard, tomorrow marks the start of his first full season in charge at Meadow Park.  The 30-year-old began last season as assistant to Ian Allinson, before stepping up in October following Allinson's departure.

A tough start to life in the National League saw Wood lose eight of their first 11 games, before the club made a radical switch to a daytime training routine.  It was a move which led to the departures of several players and management staff, including Allinson, unable to combine the new schedule with their outside work commitments.

Throughout the season, poor home form combined with a chronic shortage of goals would continue to hamper Wood's quest to retain their place in non-league football's top tier.  Now Garrard is looking to his completely re-built strikeforce to improve on last season's poor return of 44 goals in 46 league games.

Daniel Uchechi, Morgan Ferrier and former QPR protégé Angelo Balanta all impressed sufficiently during pre-season to earn a contract at Meadow Park for the season proper.  They are joined by Anthony Jeffrey, back at Wood on a season-long loan from Forest Green, but unavailable for selection against his parent club tomorrow.

High profile departures during the summer include popular keeper James Russell, who had initially signed a new deal, before a promotion in his coaching role at the Chelsea academy left 'Rusty' unable to commit to a parallel career in National League football.

Centre-back Scott Doe and midfielder Luke Howell also both opted to rejoin Dagenham & Redbridge, the club which they had departed for Wood last summer.

But Garrard moved swiftly during the close season to bolster his squad.  Ex-Braintree Town pair Kenny Davis and Matty Paine, former Woking duo Mark Ricketts and Bruno Andrade, plus former York and Wrexham winger Adrian Moke all boast substantial experience at this level.  In goal, Grant Smith - previously on Brighton's books - has performed well in the pre-season fixtures and looks set to succeed Russell as Wood's number 1.

The coming season will be another tough test for Wood, as they again try to compete with numerous clubs who enjoy substantially larger fanbases and budgets.  But - a year older and wiser - Wood look ready to go again.

Boreham Wood v Forest Green Rovers

Vanarama National League
Meadow Park, Borehamwood, Herts WD6 5AL
Saturday 6th August 2016
Kick-off: 15:00 BST

22 July 2016

Kudus to Wood

Tuesday July 19th 2016
Pre-season friendly
Boreham Wood 1-0 Luton Town

Meadow Park
LEAGUE TWO Luton Town made the short journey to Boreham Wood for what has become another annual event in Meadow Park's pre-season calendar.

On the UK's hottest day of the year so far, the still powerful sun was beaming straight at the main stand at kick-off.  It was strong enough to force a few regulars - including me - to migrate to the white seats of the West Stand on the opposite side for the first half.

Wood's trialist striker Kudus Oyenuga, who spent last season at Hartlepool United, staked his case for a contract offer by scoring the only goal of the game midway through the first half.  With Shaun Jeffers and Angelo Balanta also getting game time in attack later, manager Luke Garrard seems to have options on the table in the strikers department.  Certainly that was Wood's weak spot last season, with only 44 goals scored in 46 National League games in 2015/16.

My full review of the evening in the sun is here...