It was expected with Woking put a strong team out, that they would become comfortable winners, but Celtic attacked right from the off, and Wilford made enough space for a powerful shot, but Jalal in the Woking net was well positioned, and caught comfortably.
Woking?s first chance came moments later when Parr tangled with Sharpling forty yards from goal. The free kick was knocked sideways to Murray who sent a scorcher of a shot towards goal. Dootson had plenty of time to watch it, and caught comfortably.
Celtic really should have taken the lead in the opening ten minutes when Atkins lifted a lovely little ball over the defence to Wilford. Wilford saw Parr arriving at the back post and found him with a pinpoint cross. Parr?s header was down and powerful enough, but Jalal got across superbly and made the save. Eastwood, recalled from his loan spell, put a lovely ball through the six-yard box, but Wilford didn?t quite have the pace to reach it.
Woking were not just sitting back and letting Celtic attack, and mounted an attack of their own through Murray who whipped in a good ball for Oliver, but Steve Smith had tracked back well and put the ball over his own crossbar. The resulting corner was well taken, but missed by everybody.
The game was a free flowing spectacle, and the referee was excellent. When Wharton was brought down just outside the box, he had a quite word with Neil Smith, and that was that. The free kick whipped in by Atkins saw consternation in the Woking box, and Smith ended up hoofing the ball high into the air forcing the keeper to challenge Wilford for the descending ball. Celtic were more than matching their full time hosts, and causing them all kinds of problems at the back. Wilford and Wharton interchanged nicely with Wilford putting a well weighted ball into the box for Eastwood to chase. Eastwood beat the offside trap and Jalal had to scoop the ball off his feet.
A burst of pace from Steve Smith looked like carrying him past Evans, but the Woking defender slid through Smith conceding a free kick and earning a yellow card. The free kick was cleared comfortably, but Oliver conceded a corner under pressure from Eastwood who had covered a lot of distance to close the Woking man down. Sykes got his head on the corner, but headed narrowly wide.
Steve Smith bundled Sharpling over some forty yards from goal. Nade?s free kick was powerful and took a deflection for a corner, but there wasn?t enough time left in the half for Woking to take it.
Woking tried to get an early initiative, but Keeling was massive, nodding out Nade?s cross ahead of Richards. The corner was half cleared as far as Evans, and his ball back in was put out for a second corner by Parr. Richards got his head on the ball, but put it wide.
Eastwood was desperate for a goal, and when Wilford laid him off at the edge of the box he tried a curling effort that zipped past the upright. Eastwood was brought down by Evans on the half way line, and the free kick was only cleared as far as Wharton outside the box, his powerful shot back in took a deflection off Oliver for a corner.
The corner was cleared and once again Woking broke with amazing speed, and forced a hurried clearance at the other end from Keeling, that freshly on substitute Louis latched onto it, blasting it towards goal and producing a good stop from Dootson.
Atkins was fouled by Sharpling on the half way line. His free kick was nodded down by Wilford to Eastwood who burst past Oliver and took the shot as he entered the box, but it went over the bar. Oliver then fouled Steve Smith near the dug outs. Atkins? free kick was lofted to the near post. Eastwood kept it in, nodding it to Parr who nodded it over the defence. Wilford got his head on the ball and produced a stunning save from Jalal to tip the ball around the post.
Woking cleared the corner and Nade raced into the Celtic half, pushed wide by Whealing, he took the shot from a narrow angle, and Dootson was forced into making a good parry, and then scrambled across the penalty area to collect the ball as Nade had followed in.
Oliver made a very clumsy challenge on Wilford just outside the box; Atkins? free kick was well executed and forced Jalal into another acrobatic save to tip the ball over the bar. Woking cleared, but Celtic contained them this time and a great cross field ball from Wilford was struck on the volley by Wharton. Neil Smith stuck his foot out and diverted it for a corner at the last moment. Again Woking cleared and again Celtic contained the breakaway. Selley then brought down Eastwood in the centre circle and earned a free kick.
The free kick was brought down by Wharton, his shot was blocked, it came to Sykes, his shot was blocked, it came to Wilford, his shot was blocked and it came to Keeling whose shot wasn?t powerful enough to beat Jalal. Moments later Steve Smith drove through the Woking defence and laid off Eastwood with a deft touch. Wilford was arriving at the back post, but Eastwood?s curling cross was just too far ahead of him, and went for a goal kick.
Parr fouled Nade near the corner flag, earning a yellow card for persistent fouling, but Parr made up for it, by being the head that cleared the ball. On the other side, Whealing conceded a similar foul on Evans. Nade met the free kick, but lacked accuracy.
Denham came on for Steve Smith and immediately began causing a nuisance of himself. He won the throw that Eastwood flicked onto Wilford. Wilford struck his shot on the half volley and it zipped narrowly wide. Atkins put a superb ball into the box that caused no end of problems for the Woking defence. Wilford?s initial shot was blocked by Jalal, coming to Eastwood. Neil Smith threw himself in the path of the shot, the rebound coming to Denham. Murray closed him down, and the bouncing ball caught both of them on the hand before Denham blasted it towards goal (blocked), but handball was given against Denham.
Oliver found himself stretched when he went up against Denham, and Denham won a corner off the tall centre back. The corner was flicked on by Parr and Eastwood swung at the ball, missing by a fraction.
Eastwood was then handed a glorious chance to give Celtic the cup: a looping ball in, Jalal misjudged the bounce, Eastwood was free at the edge of the box a yard from the touchline. Jalal and the defence were closing in so Eastwood took the virtually impossible shot trying to get the ball into the goal from an acute angle. The ball smacked against the upright and came back to Eastwood. Eastwood tried to get closer, but Selley?s challenge put the ball out for a corner that Woking cleared.
To add insult to injury, Murray tried a speculative effort in stoppage time from thirty-five yards that was heading straight towards Dootson until it rebounded off Keeling?s thigh. Dootson tried to get across but the deflected ball crept in at the far post.
Celtic had less than a minute left and from the restart went for the throat with virtually the whole of Celtic?s team racing towards the Woking goal. Sykes got the shot that deflected off MacDonald for a corner, Woking packed the box and smuggled the ball clear. The referee had seen enough and Woking were crowned inaugural Conference Cup winners.
It was not the fairy tale ending that Celtic?s performance from the arrival of Reed deserved, but just getting as far as we did was a miracle nobody could have foreseen. Add in that we outplayed our illustrious hosts for huge sections of the game, and lost only to a jammy deflection, and Celtic can hold their heads up high.