Good Game: The series looking at the amazing, utterly memorable, unbelievably dramatic and downright ludicrous games that involved Stevenage
Borough over the years. But we’ll insist that we accept no blame for memories warped by time, age or alcohol consumption at the time. We’ll never refer to any games involving Macclesfield Town either – particularly any at Broadhall Way. Those sort of things never happened, dontcha know…
Woking 1-5 Stevenage Borough
Kingfield, Surrey — 28 September 2002 — Nationwide Conference
If there was ever a big win when Boro’ met Woking, it usually ended with us being on the wrong end of the score. Not here, not this time. Now, don’t get us wrong. We’re not saying that we didn’t ever get the better of the Cards. Of course we did; 12 times in 40 meetings if you include this one. Just ignore the fact they have 19 victories to their name. And you’re not really a proper Boro’ fan if you haven’t heard all about Easter Monday 1996. Multiple times. The point we’re making is that Woking had a knack of pulling daddy wins out of the bag. We’ve lost 4-1 on two occasions and 3-0 on four other occasions.
Us? Well, apart from that 1996 epic and a 5-0 win in April 1999, our wins were harder fought. It was if they didn’t want us to lose face. Well, tough cookies guys. We’re partly writing this up in honour of St Woking Day, which we guess now happens during the summer on the basis that it’ll be a long time before we’re ever in a position to celebrate the point of a season where they can no longer finish above us.
Woking 1-5 Stevenage Borough: The background
Right, gloating over. Onto the game itself. And we find ourselves in the 2002-3 season. After reaching the FA Trophy Final the previous term, our fortunes took a massive nosedive as Wayne Turner embarked on his first full campaign as Boro’ gaffer. Spoiler alert – he’d never get to complete a full season. We came to Kingfield fearing the worst after a run of one win in seven games. Oddly, the win was a comfortable 3-0 affair at Forest Green Rovers. The season was a mere 11 games old and we’d won three; losing five in comparison. Worse still was that we’d just lost at home to Barnet. So, there was a very real prospect that we could lose to both our main rivals in the space of a week.
Joyously, as is always the case with them lot, Woking were also in a bit of a rut. They actually went five unbeaten at the top of the season; winning three of them. Coming out of a great August, what did September hold in store? It held abject misery and utter despair. They went on a run of six straight defeats. It included a 5-1 home defeat to Margate, 5-0 away defeat to Morecambe, and a 4-1 home defeat to Yeovil Town. Up next after that little run of mayhem came us. We’d at least had the decency to spread our three wins to date out over the course of the campaign. The Cards got them all out of the way in the first few weeks and somehow found themselves below us in the table.
Indeed, we were a positively lofty 16th position compared to the depths Turner would soon take us. Woking, meanwhile, sat 19th.
Woking 1-5 Stevenage Borough: A performance that no-one expected?
So, on one hand, the form table said Boro’ had a three-point haul lined up here. On the other, of course, was the fact this was Woking; a fact that had burned us before. We weren’t exactly looking in great nick either, so perhaps the smart money was on a cagey win either way. Or, more likely, a draw between two struggling sides who used to dominate this division. What we got, though, was a result that no-one probably predicted.
Boro’ raced out of the blocks at Kingfield. Martin Williams put us ahead after just 11 minutes with a sweet volley. It didn’t exactly start a tidal wave in our favour, however. The hosts – to the limited credit we’re prepared to give ’em – did rally in search of an equaliser. The threat posed wasn’t that serious thankfully. And, when Charlie MacDonald doubled our advantage on 33 minutes, the game swung wildly in our favour. There was no way back for the Cards.
Four minutes later, Michael Blackwood nabbed our third; handing us a formidable and dream-like advantage going into the half time break. The Boro’ faithful may have travelled with hope, instead of expectation. But this was beyond our wildest dreams. To be three up at Kingfield? Unheard of.
Luckily, the interval changed little. MacDonald scored his second shortly into the second half. The question was now a case of ‘how good could it be’? That was being asked even louder when they were reduced to 10 men when Barry Moore got himself sent off for abusive language. Mind you, it wasn’t all plain sailing and this Boro’ side were not the most defensively resolute. Woking bagged a consolation goal on 65 minutes thanks to Grant Payne.
Boro’ didn’t quite ease up for the final 25 minutes. It was more a case that Woking had belatedly got their act together and decided that absolute humiliation was not the order of the day. If any hopes of a comeback were starting to spread through the Kingfield Road End, Kirk Jackson made sure they were nipped in the bud; making it 5-1 just three minutes after Payne’s consolation.
Kirk was one of five-or-six veterans from the Boro’ side that lost 4-1 at home to Woking just seven months beforehand. Hopefully it felt like a cathartic release for the Barnsley boy.
Woking 1-5 Stevenage Borough: What happened next?
In the short term, this stonking win reduced our goal difference to -1; lifting us to the lofty heights of 14th in the table. The Cards, on the other hand, slipped into the drop zone on goal difference. It was a delightful way to end September. But we couldn’t revel in this victory that much. If anything, it was all a bit pyrrhic – not least for Wayne Turner.
Fact alert: this was Turner’s LAST-EVER three points as Boro’ boss.
Yep, that’s right – and a clear sign of how awful things were to get. Not that we should necessarily overlook victories over Swansea City (LDV Trophy), Grays Athletic, or Hastings United (both FA Cup) in the following weeks, but they were only cup ties. It was 11 games and exactly three months until we won in the league again. That was a five-goal romp too; GW’s Farnborough put to the sword on 28 December. We’d booted out Turner two days before after defeat at Kettering saw us go bottom.
It was a far cry from the halcyon afternoon at Kingfield. But what about the Cards? By the time we would win again in the league, they’d at least managed four victories of their own. As we sunk to the foot of the table on Boxing Day 2002, Woking sat three points above the relegation zone. Their goal difference was twice as worse as ours (-24 vs -12) – but they at least had points to their name. Maybe part of that was binning Geoff Chapple as boss in October?
We met again, this time at Broadhall Way, on 15 March 2003. Both of us were now on a bit more of an even keel. It was reflected in our 1-1 draw that day; the result leaving us one point behind them – but, crucially, not in the relegation zone. Bizarrely, our goal difference at this point was 0.
By the end of the season, history will record that we soared up to 12th in the table; wrapping up a fifth straight St Woking Day in late April. Woking may have rallied after Chapple’s dismissal, but it wasn’t a comfortable end to the campaign. It needed a final day home win against Telford United to secure their Conference status; Nuneaton Borough losing at home to Farnborough and allowing the Cards to leapfrog them into the sunlit uplands of league survival.
If anything, the 2002-3 season was a reminder that we were no longer top dogs in the Conference. But we’ll always have that 5-1 win. Until next time…