City manager John Relish has been linked with the vacant managerial position at fellow Blue Square South side Newport County after the Exiles sacked Peter Beadle at the weekend following their 9th place finish. Relish made over 300 appearances for the Welsh side during his 13 years there, and was also the first manager of the newly-formed Newport AFC in 1989, winning promotion from the Hellenic League. The 54-year old, who became the first City manager to win the Southern League in 29 years last season, is reported to have expressed a guarded interest in the job but having recently signed a two-year contract with City it would be a major shock if he were to leave Twerton Park for Newport.
City have announced their matchday prices and season ticket prices for next season. As usual, there is a considerable saving to be made if you buy a season ticket, and an even bigger saving if you buy before 1 June. Terrace admission has increased by 50p to £10.00 for adults with concessions £7 and under-16’s £4. Stand admission will cost £12, £8 and £5. A terrace season ticket purchased before June 1 will cost £175 (concessions £112.50 and Junior Stripes (under-16’s) just £30), which works out at about £8, £5.50 and £1.50 per game. A Stand season ticket will cost £202.40 (£140) or approximately under £10, and under £7 per game. All season ticket holders get in free to pre-season friendly games. After 1 June they will go up a bit, by an average of about £15, so worth getting in quick!
Director Phil Weaver said, “We feel these are very modest increases; in most cases, it just gets rid of the 50p and makes things easier on the turnstiles. The Junior Stripe ticket remains completely unchanged and represents excellent value at under £1.50 per game. We have had an excellent first season in the Blue Square South and fully expect to push on further next season with the experience gained. We encourage supporters old and new to get on board with us.”
In tonight’s Blue Square South play-off 1st leg matches, Eastbourne Borough put one foot in the final with a 2-0 win at Braintree Town through a Tait brace. The other game is more evenly balanced with Fisher Athletic and Hampton & Richmond Borough level at a goal apiece, the visitors taking a first half lead via Hodges’ strike before Tomlin equalised for the Fish just before the hour mark. The second legs take place on Saturday.
Following confirmation that City and Paulton Rovers will make a second attempt to play their Somerset Premier Cup finals at Twerton Park tomorrow night, it has been announced the admission will cost £5 (concessions £2.50) with gate receipts split 50/50 between the two clubs.
City manager John Relish has a list of 15 or 16 players from which he hopes to strengthen his squad for the club’s second season in the Blue Sqaure South. Having lead the side to a creditable 8th place finish following Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Bishop’s Stortford, Relish is looking for up to five new faces to push them to the next level, a place in the Blue Square Premier. With the six members of the defence – which conceded a Blue Square South low of just 36 goals – Paul Evans, Sekani Simpson, Gethin Jones, Chris Holland, Matt Coupe and Jim Rollo, all signed on for next season, it is the midfield that is the likely area for strengthening. So far just Lewis Hogg has put pen to paper on a new deal, with strikers Dave Gilroy and Darren Edwards also contracted for the 2008-09 season. News on other players is likely to be announced following Wednesday’s second attempt to play the Somerset Premier Cup final against Paulton Rovers.
City came up just short of a place in the Blue Square South play-offs after a 1-1 draw at Bishop’s Stortford yesterday. In the end even a win at Woodside Park would not have secured them a top 5 finish as Braintree Town’s 1-0 victory was enough to earn the last play-off spot. Their effort could not be faulted and with the game’s outstanding player in Sam Foley they briefly led the match, keeping the dream alive. However, the lead only lasted seven minutes and they had to settle for a final placing of 8th. The first half was largely uneventful with the home side, playing with no pressure having blown their play-off hopes during the week, looking stronger, as City understandably producing a nervous performance. After the interval, though, City began to get on top with Foley forcing a fine save from keeper Welch on 58 minutes, then 13 minutes later substitute Darren Edwards wasted a superb chance to put them ahead, firing over an open goal from just six yards out. Five minutes later this miss was forgotten as Foley showed the composure Edwards hadn’t, taking a touch from Dave Gilroy’s pass before slotting the ball home. That seemed to be enough to fufil City’s part of the play-off conundrum but with seven minutes left Stortford grabbed an undeserved equaliser through top scorer Pearson and ensured City would being playing Blue Square South football for at least another season.
Subject to ratification by the Somerset FA, City and Paulton Rovers will replay their abandoned Somerset Premier Cup Final on Wednesday 30 April. The game will take place at Twerton Park (ko 7.45pm) after the club’s tossed a coin for the choice of venue.
City have ensured their Blue Square South league best defence will remain intact for the 2008-09 season, with the signature of centre-back Chris Holland on a new one-year deal. Dutch joins keeper Paul Evans, Jim Rollo, Matt Coupe Sekani Simpson and Gethin Jones in committing themselves to City for another season, with Lewis Hogg, Dave Gilroy and Darren Edwards also contracted for next year.
The Somerset FA will meet next Tuesday (29/4) to decide what to do about this season’s Somerset Premier Cup final following the abandonment of Tuesday’s meeting between City and Paulton Rovers due to floodlight failure. It is still possible that the game may be replayed this season, however this will largely depend on whether either of the finalists are involved in end of season play-off matches. Paulton boosted their hopes of this last night with a 5-0 win over Gosport Borough just 24 hours after the 98 minutes they played against City.
City go into the final league match of their first season in the Blue Square South still with a chance to reach the play-offs, which represents a great season whatever the final outcome. It will mean that the thoughts of City fans will not only be focused on the events at Woodside Park, but also 20 miles down the A120 in Braintree and another few miles further south in Essex at Thurrock. However, regardless of the outcome of the Braintree Town v Eastbourne Borough and Thurrock v Eastleigh, first and foremost City’s concentration must be on the meeting with Bishop’s Stortford, the only game they can directly influence.
For the last few months of the season it appeared that City’s trip to Bishop’s Stortford could be a play-off for the play-offs, with both sides firmly at the heart of the battle for a top 5 finish. A run of five games without a win though, culminating in last Tuesday’ 2-1 defeat at Welling United, for the Bishop’s has put paid to their play-off hopes and they are now guaranteed at least one more season in the Blue Square South. This downturn in form at the worst possible time has seen the Hertfordshire side drop to 11th position, their lowest placing since the second Saturday of the season, and represents a step back for the club having reached the play-offs last season before losing 4-2 on aggregate to the eventual winners Salisbury City. Although it was the Welling defeat that ensured no play-off place this season, the shock 5-0 reversal at Maidenhead United two weeks earlier put the skids under their season. The Magpies had won just a single home league game all season but four second half goals produced one of the surprise Blue Square South results of the season. Before this game Stortford’s biggest defeat of the campaign had come at Twerton Park when first half goals from Mark McKeever and Chris Holland, plus two late strikes from Dave Gilroy, had seen City to a 4-0 victory. In truth, not only did the final scoreline flatter City, had they lost the game they could have had few complaints, as between the first half goals the visitors played some of the best football City had faced this season. However, despite boasting one of the league’s top scorers in Greg Pearson – although he was dropped for the Welling match after five blank games – they failed to turn this domination into goals, which City made them pay for in no uncertain terms.
Complete record against Bishop’s Stortford
City have twice before faced trips to Stortford – both during the 1984-85 season in the FA Trophy, when a 1st round replay ended 2-2, forcing a second replay that also took place in Hertfordshire four days later that City won 2-1 – but this will be this time they have visited their Woodside Park ground. For 78 years they played at Rhodes Avenue before leaving the ground at the end of the 1996-97 season. Delay in completing their new ground meant during the next two seasons they played home games at Boreham Wood, St Albans City, Hitchin Town, Dagenham & Redbridge and Ware, and given this disruption it was no surprise that they were relegated at the end of the 1998-99 season to the Ryman League Division 1. They finally opened the new ground on 17 July 1999 with a pre-season friendly against Norwich City, with the official opening two months later performed by George Graham followed by a match against a strong Tottenham Hotspur side including Hans Segers, David Ginola, Chris Armstrong, Ruel Fox, Jose Dominguez, Mauricio Tarico, Steffen Freund, Stephen Clemence and Justin Edinburgh. The first couple of seasons at Woodside Park were dogged by a poor pitch but once this was sorted, and with the uncertainty of the ground move behind them, they began to climb back up the non-league pyramid. West Ham United Reserves currently play their home games at Woodside Park.
City had hoped the game would see the return to the squad of midfielder Lewis Hogg. He was due to complete his seven match ban after the Somerset Premier Cup final on Tuesday, but the 98th minute abandonment of the game means he is likely to have to miss this match as well. On the positive side, fellow midfielder Scott Rogers looks set to get a place on the bench after six weeks sidelined with a broken bone in his ankle.
Back in the Blue Square South, City now know exactly the combination of results they need to grab the final play-off place. Newport County’s shock 4-1 home defeat to Thurrock on Tuesday means that regardless of the result between the Exiles and Fisher Athletic a win for City over Bishop’s Stortford – whose defeat at Welling eliminates them from the play-off race – will seem them overhaul one of those side’s. However, Braintree Town’s 1-0 win at already relegated Dorchester Town means that City are now reliant on both the Iron and Eastleigh – home to Eastbourne Borough and away at Thurrock, respectively – dropping points if they are to make the play-offs.
Last night’s Somerset Premier Cup final between City and Paulton Rovers ended in farce after the floodlights failed eight minutes into extra-time after the game had ended 1-1 in normal time. Despite Weston Super Mare’s Woodspring Stadium being in darkness for less than ten minutes by the time the lights were back on both sides had agreed to abandon the game, with vague comments about sharing the trophy or replaying the game in pre-season, leaving the small crowd of just over 300 to drift away still very much in the dark. With both clubs still facing vital league games in their respective play-off hunts, the decision was not a surprise but still failed to take into account the efforts both sets of supporters had made to get to Weston, especially when it was only the Somerset FA that insisted on a neutral venue, with City and Paulton happy to toss a coin for home advantage before the match. The game itself reflected the lack of importance attached to it, with City going ahead after nine minutes after Rovers keeper Phillips failed to deal with a high ball giving Dave Gilroy a simple tap-in. He should have increased City’s lead just before the interval, shooting tamely straight at a poorly positioned Phillips, but the second half saw the Southern League side on top and former City striker Dan Cleverley deservedly levelled from close range with seventeen minutes remaining. They then wasted several good chances to win the game during the 90 minutes, forcing the game into extra-time and the farcical scenes that followed.
City take a break from the pressure of chasing a Blue Square South play-off place with the chance to lift the Somerset Premier Cup for the first time since the 1994-95 season. Standing in their way are Southern League South & West Division Paulton Rovers, also a side whose main target of the season is promotion via the play-offs, having reached them last season only to lose 4-1 to local rivals Taunton Town. The Rovers currently sit in seventh place, five points off the play-off position with a game in hand (which they play the day after their meeting with City) over the sides above them. Paulton’s line-up contains a number of faces familiar to City fans, including Rob Cousins, Mark Harrington, Ricky Hulbert and Ben and Danny Cleverley.
Following their formation in 1901 Paulton spent the next 103 years playing in the Western League – apart from a few short spells early in their existence when they dropped out the competition. They were never league champions but a run of top five finishes during the late 1990’s and early 2000’s culminated in promotion to the Southern League in 2004. They narrowly missed out on making the play-offs during their first season at that level, before the 2005-06 season saw them struggle in the wrong half of the season, finishing 17th. Last campaign though they finished runners-up – albeit 26 points behind champions Bashley – and this season they been on the fringe of a top five position. This meeting with City will be their first ever final appearance in the Somerset Premier Cup. To reach this stage they beat City’s Blue Square South rivals Weston Super Mare in the 1st round after a penalty shoot-out. The game itself finished 4-4, Paulton twice coming from a goal down to level and then go ahead with a few minutes remaining, only for Weston to equalise two minutes into injury-time. Paulton regained the lead in extra-time but another late Weston strike took the game to penalties, which the visitors finally won 7-6. Another higher level opposition were dispatched in the 2nd Round, this time Southern League Premier side Clevedon Town, before Bridgwater Town were beaten in the quarter-final. And they earned their trip back to Weston’s Woodspring Stadium ground with a 2-0 semi-final win over Taunton Town, gaining some revenge for their play-off defeat the previous season.
Complete record against Paulton Rovers
City and Paulton have met on twenty four previous occasions, although all but five of these were pre-World War I when both clubs plied their trade in the Western League. They then met twice between the wars in the FA Cup, the first game ending 10-0 to City which remains their record victory in the competition. Another FA Cup clash in 1953 ended in a big City win – this time by seven goals to two – but it was another 51 years before the clubs met again in a competitive match (they did play each other regularly in pre-season friendlies). This came in the 2003-04 Somerset Premier Cup, where the Twerton Park 1st round tie finished 4-2 to City through a Steve Tweddle penalty, Josh Jeffries (now playing for Paulton) and two strikes from Drew Shore. It was only another two years before they faced each other again, in the same competition but this time at Paulton’s Winterfield Road home. The host’s hopes of a giant-killing victory were not helped by an early red card for Dando and City took full advantage of their extra man to run out 3-1 winners, with Martin Paul grabbing one of his nine hat-tricks in City colours.
In contrast to Paulton’s maiden appearance in the Somerset Premier Cup final this will the 28th time City have reached this stage. On 18 occasions they have gone on to lift the trophy (plus two earlier successes when the competition was played in group stages), the last of these being during the 1994-95 season when they beat Taunton Town 4-0 on aggregate. Back then the final of the cup was played over two legs, and the win was the ninth time City had secured the silverware in fifteen seasons. The most memorable final during this spell took place in the 1993-94 season when City faced Bristol Rovers. At the time the Pirates were sharing Twerton Park, so both legs took place at the ground with City nominally the away side in the first leg. Within 23 minutes of this game City found themselves 2-0 down, with both Rovers goals scored by one Martin Paul! However, goals from Gary Smart (2) and Martin Boyle turned the game around completely in the second half to give City the advantage going into the second leg. Paul couldn’t get on the scoresheet in this game (in fact, he was replaced on the hour by another future City star, and now Paulton player, Mark Harrington) but Rovers still drew level just before half-time through Skinner. With just 18 minutes left Nicky Brooks headed City back in front. Boyle then made the aggregate score 5-3 and, despite Pounder pulling a goal back, City could celebrate their Somerset Premier Cup victory.
Following yesterday’s shock 3-2 defeat against Sutton United, City held their end of season award ceremany where Matt Coupe was named supporters player of the year. It is the second time the defender has won the award, having also picked it up after the 2003-04 season. Players’ player of the year was Jim Rollo, who made his 301st City outing in the Sutton match, and Dave Gilroy was awarded the Golden Boot top scorer trophy for his 24 (so far) goals this season. Other winners were Andy Field (Dennis Hibberd Memorial supporter of the season), Kelly Burraston (young supporter of the season) and Owen Pass (special achievement award).
An incredible first half performance against already relegated Sutton United at Twerton Park yesterday has left City’s play-off hopes hanging by a thread. A defence that had only let in nine goals in twenty previous home league games was breached three times in 41 minutes to trail 3-1 at the break, and despite pulling a goal back in the second half and the visitors being reduced to ten men, City could not avoid a shock defeat. It took Sutton just six minutes to go ahead, Dundas heading past Paul Evans, but when Sam Foley rolled the ball home to level the score six minutes later it looked as if City were back on course. However, the U’s hadn’t read the script and on 25 minutes hesitant defending allowed McBean to fire home then four minutes before the break the same player went on a weaving run through the City defence to place the ball into the net. City threw everything at Sutton in the second half and on the hour mark Cuff saw red for a foul on Jason Wood that sparked a 21-man brawl. Six minutes later Phil Walsh headed home after a the ball had come back off the crossbar but City could not find another goal, although Dave Gilroy did have the ball in the net with a couple of minutes left only for a linesman’s flag to halt the celebrations. At the final whistle the dejected reactions of the City players said everything and they now go into the final week of the season needing results elsewhere to go their way, even if they can beat Bishop’s Stortford, to make the play-offs.
The club are pleased to announce that JJ of the Comedy Walk, is putting on a second Benefit night in aid of Bath City. JJ owns his own pink pillar on the poplar side (pictured), as well as advertising on an arena board. This event was held last year and raised a lot of money for the club. If you went last year, you will want to go again; if you haven’t, DO GO. You won’t stop laughing. It’s on Thursday, 1 May, starting from the Huntsman at 8pm.
City face already relegated Sutton United in their final regular season home game on Saturday knowing that anything other than victory will leave their play-off hopes all but extinguished. Fisher Athletic’s one goal defeat against Lewes on Wednesday evening – a result that virtually secures the Blue Square South title for the Sussex side – ensured City remained in the final play-off spot, albeit only ahead of sixth place Newport County on goal difference. The Welsh side also have a game in hand on City, but face a tough game on Saturday at home to second place Eastbourne Borough. A win over Sutton could see City climb as high as fourth place, if Eastleigh fail to beat relegation battling St Albans City, which would also guarantee their fate was in their own hands on the final day of the season, knowing a win over Bishop’s Stortford would secure a top five placing.
In contrast to the various scenarios facing City, Sutton United know exactly their final position this season and it is rock bottom of the division. Their fate was confirmed two weeks ago with a 2-0 defeat at Havant & Waterlooville, although, in truth, after just one win in their opening twenty-one league matches relegation had long since looked a likely outcome. Quite what has gone wrong at Gander Green Lane this season is not clear, although 46 different players and three managers can hardly have helped the situation. The second of these bosses, Ernie Howe, quit a week before the club’s relegation was mathematically confirmed and former midfielder Jimmy Dack took over until the end of the season. Sutton come into the game with City on the back of eight successive defeats, scoring just three times and conceding twenty in that time, although City will still be wary of a side that can play with no pressure on them.
Complete record against Sutton United
Overall City’s record against the U’s does not make great reading with just four wins in the thirteen meetings, and several heavy defeats including a brace of 4-0’s, a 6-1 and 7-2. However, the last two games at Twerton Park have ended in City victories. The most recent of these took place during the 2000-01 season when the sides were paired together in the 3rd Qualifying Round of the FA Cup. Having struggled to dispose of another Ryman League side, Basingstoke Town, in the previous round City would have expected another tough battle. This did not turn out to be the case as Sal Bibbo in the City goal enjoyed a quiet afternoon. Graham Colbourne gave City the lead with a close range finish in the first half before a stunning solo goal, beating three players on a weaving run from near the halfway line, by Jon Holloway made it 2-0. When Sutton then had Harford sent off for an off-the-ball incident with Jimmy Fraser any hope of a comeback disappeared and Scott Walker completed the scoring in the final minute. The last time the sides met at Twerton Park in a league game was in December 1990, where goals from Sean Lundon and John Freegard earned City a point in a 2-2, ending a run of five successive victories for Sutton over City in the process.
City are likely to field an unchanged starting XI from the one that beat Thurrock 3-1 on Tuesday evening, meaning starts for loan players Aaron Ledgister and Sam Foley, but may welcome back Darren Edwards and Justyn McKay to the bench having overcome hamstring and ankle injuries respectively.
City climbed back into the play-off positions last night with a 3-1 Twerton Park victory over Thurrock. After a largely uneventful opening half hour an Aaron Ledgister corner was headed home by Chris Holland to give City the lead. Phil Walsh and Dave Gilroy wasted openings to increase City’s advantage before the interval and just before the hour mark they were nearly made to pay for these misses when Jim Rollo almost marked his 300th appearance with an own goal, looping a header onto Paul Evans’ crossbar. Three minutes later though Gilroy struck for the 23rd time this season, racing onto Walsh’s through ball to round keeper Blackmore before slotting home. City then made the game safe on 70 minutes after Ledgister was tripped in the box and Gilroy converted the penalty. The striker wasted a great chance to register his fifth hat-trick of the season, shooting Jason Wood’s cross against the bar from just three yards, and in stoppage time Thurrock grabbed a consolation goal through Anderson’s glancing header.
Following Havant & Waterlooville’s 1-1 draw with Weston Super Mare – the Bluebirds equalising in the 96th minute – on Monday the win sees City move up three places to fifth position, now just two points behind fourth placed Eastleigh. They could slip back out of the play-off positions tonight if Fisher Athletic get at least a draw against champions-elect Lewes and Newport County – 2-0 winners at Cambridge City last night – are still level on points with a game in hand.
John Skinner, one of City’s longest standing supporters sadly passed away at the weekend. John was 86 and can claim to have been one of just a small number of supporters who witnessed all three of the club Southern League title victories in 1959/60, 1977/78 and, of course, last season. John still sold programmes at home matches, alongside his wife Ruth, helped paint Twerton Park each summer and was an active member of the Supporters Club. He also regularly travelled away to watch City and was never afraid to give a succession of managers and chairman the benefit of his advice. John will be very sadly missed by everyone connected with the club and our thoughts are with Ruth, his son Steve, another dedicated City fan, and all his family and friends. A minute’s applause will be held at this evening’s match with Thurrock. The funeral service will be held at St Luke’s Church, Wellsway at 2pm on Monday 21 April followed by a private cremation.
City captain Jim Rollo is due to make his 300th appearance for the club in tonight’s Blue Square South meeting with Thurrock. He will become just the 18th player to reach this milestone and the first since Rob Cousins during the 1995-96 season. The 31-year old former Cardiff City defender initially made nine outings during two loan spells with City during the 1990’s before joining them permanently from Merthyr Tydfil in May 2002. Since then he has only missed a handful of games, playing in a number of positions before settling in the left-back spot (despite being right footed) in the last couple of season. Jimmer was named player of the season in 2004-05 and is one of the most popular City players of all-time both on and off the pitch.
Thurrock make their second long trip to the West Country to face City this season on Tuesday as the season fast approaches its climax. Their previous visit was for an FA Trophy 3rd Qualifying Round tie back in November, where two goals from Truro City target Phil Walsh helped City to a 2-0 victory. Thurrock gained revenge in the first ever league meeting between the sides at their basic Ship Lane ground in front of just 227 spectators with a single goal win, despite finishing the game with ten men. Tuesday will be the third scheduled date for the clash, after it was originally planned for Saturday 26 April before being brought forward to Tuesday 22 April when the Conference officials remembered they had to fit in end of season play-offs – condemning the Fleet to a lengthy midweek trip in the process. The game was then brought forward by another week in case City reached the final of the Somerset Premier Cup. Which they did.
Complete record against Thurrock
Whilst City are still firmly at the heart of the Blue Square South play-off race, Thurrock’s hopes of extending their season all but disappeared following a 2-0 defeat at Fisher Athletic on Saturday. The reversal left them in 12th place, nine points off fifth spot and, although they have played a game less than most of the teams above them, relying on a lot of teams slipping up between now and the end of the season. For the majority of the 2007-08 season they had looked destined for mid-table obscurity but a run six successive home wins – including their victory over City – and then four wins and a draw in March suddenly lifted them to the periphery of the increasingly crowded play-off hunt. They have sampled the excitement of play-off football back during the first season of the Conference South. A third place finish in 2004-05 saw them face Eastbourne Borough in the (then just one leg) semi-final but a 4-2 home defeat ended any promotion dreams. The last two campaigns have seen final finishes of 10th and 18th, the Essex side only avoiding relegation that season with a last day win over Welling United.
That Thurrock – lying in the bottom half of the table – are still within a mathematical chance of reaching the play-offs shows how tight the race is for promotion. It seems very likely that it will go right to the last Saturday of the regular season and even if City end Thurrock’s outside hopes they could still have a vital say in the final placings, with games against Braintree Town, Newport County and Eastleigh to come after their Twerton Park outing. After their goalless draw at Eastbourne Borough on Saturday, City are now in the position that nothing less than three wins will keep their Blue Square Premier ambitions intact.
Midfielder Adie Harris and striker Phil Walsh are the subject of offers that could see them leaving City in the summer. Harris has attracted interest from Blue Square South sides Bromley, Eastleigh, Havant & Waterlooville and Weston Super Mare, all with offers City are unable to match, and the 27-year old looks set to switch to the latter. The possible destination for Walsh is big-spending Truro City, who City dumped out of the FA Cup earlier this season. The Cornish side are to go full-time in their first season in the Southern League next year and they have offered Walsh a deal that is way out of City’s financial league, but manager John Relish hopes that being two leagues in the footballing sense above the White Tigers may convince him to remain at Twerton Park.
City and Eastbourne Borough battled out a goalless draw at Priory Lane this afternoon in a game that was a victim to strong winds gusting across the exposed ground. The home side had the elements behind them in the first half, dominating possession without ever looking particularly dangerous. Archibald headed their best opening wide and Paul Evans produced a fine save to deny Crabb, as City showed why they have the best defence in the league, with Matt Coupe especially impressive in the difficult conditions. In fact, it was City who came closest to scoring in the first half when Aaron Ledgister’s 20-yard shot crashed against the bar in the 19th minute. After the break City saw more of the ball but like the title-chasing hosts struggled to create any clear-cut chances. Evans twice had to be at his best to save from Harding and Treleavan as Borough broke forward threateningly on several occasions. City almost grabbed a late winner after keeper Hook spilled a cross but it was a point that both sides seemed satisfied with at the final whistle.
The draw left the battle for the play-off positions largely unchanged as only Fisher Athletic in the chasing group recorded a victory. The shock result of the day came at Maidenhead where fifth place Bishop’s Stortford suffered a 5-0 defeat, giving the Magpies just their second home league win of the season. City remain in eighth place, three points behind Fisher who are the new fifth place side.
The venue for the final of the Blue Square South play-offs has been confirmed as Stevenage Borough’s Broadhall Way.
City’s youth side completed their league season with a 3-1 defeat against New College Academy last week which left them bottom of the South West Counties Youth League Division 1 without a victory all season. However, manager Ali Belcher is looking forward to the 2008-09 season with optimism, labelling this campaign as a ‘transition’ one. As recently as just three years ago City were league champions but with an increasing number of academy sides training full-time as part of college courses, they have found themselves overtaken by these sides. Having finished in 9th place last season, meaning they were the final side to be placed in the top group when the competition was split into two divisions, they found it very hard going, garnering just three points from three draws. Despite this an improved second half to the season, which included league cup wins over Newport County and Hamworthy, plus a good FA Youth Cup run earlier in the year, has given Belcher confidence that next season will see a return to better times. The second half of the season also saw Belcher work with a number of younger players, who will still be eligible for the side next season, which he hopes will improve their chance of success.
City make the long journey to second place Eastbourne Borough with their play-off hopes still alive following last Saturday’s 2-0 win over Cambridge City. The Sports are in an almost opposite position to City, hoping not to have to face the end of season play-off lottery and go up to the Blue Square Premier as league champions. That is beginning to unlikely, however as despite returning to winning ways on Tuesday with a 2-1 success at relegation strugglers Weston Super Mare a recent poor run has handed the advantage to title rivals Lewes. Eastbourne currently sit just one point behind the unpopular Rocks but have played two games more and, with just three games left to play, they are relying on their Sussex rivals to slip up in the final few weeks of the season.
Before the start of the 2007-08 season no doubt Eastbourne would have been more than satisfied with a play-off berth as they were not considered one of the stronger Blue Square South sides. However, it was clear they had been making steady progress during the last couple of seasons. They had a stunning first campaign at this level, finishing the 2004-05 season in 5th place before play-off victories over Thurrock and Cambridge City put them into the Conference North v South final against Altrincham. They missed out on promotion after a 2-1 defeat at Stoke City’s Britannia Stadium and the 2005-06 season saw them struggling at the wrong end of the table. It wasn’t until a 6-2 win at relegated Maidenhead on the penultimate day of that season that they were certain of another season at that level. Last season, though, they were back amongst the play-off hopefuls, finishing in 7th place, just four points off the top five.
An opening day 2-0 win over Hampton & Richmond Borough then set the Sports on a 20 match unbeaten start to the 2007-08 season. This remarkable run almost came to an end on Boxing Day when they trailed Lewes 2-0 with just a few minutes of the game left, before goals from Smart and Atkin rescued a point and the record. However, six days later Lewes managed to hang on to a two-goal lead and inflict Eastbourne’s first league defeat of the season. Since then they have lost another six games but for a spell they looked like they could hold off the challenge of Lewes, however a run of four games without a win prior to the Weston match, alongside mounting injury and suspension problems, looks to have put paid to their challenge. The dismissal of top scorer Atkin and long serving defender Austin two weeks again in the 2-2 draw with Weston Super Mare means they with both miss the City game and further stretch their limited resources. Atkin’s absence in particular is a huge blow (he will also miss their final two league games) as it means Eastbourne’s three first choice strikers are all missing from the game.
Complete record against Eastbourne Borough
This will be City’s second visit to Eastbourne’s neat Prior Lane Stadium. The ground, which they moved into in 1983, includes cover on all four sides and is certainly one of the more impressive in the Blue Square South. City’s one and only previous visit took place in September 2003. They fell behind to a Ramsey (still at Eastbourne and one of their currently injured strikers) penalty on 71 minutes but six minutes later Mark Salter headed home to earn City a point. The game was memorable for two debutants in City colours. Starting the game during his first, short loan, spell with City was Alex Sykes, who would go onto make much more of an impact when returning permanently a year later. The other new face was Dwayne Plummer, the controversial ex-Bristol Rover winger. He made an immediate impact with the cross for Salter’s goal but after just five more substitute appearances he departed the club following a confrontation with City’s fans after the FA Cup defeat against Thame United.
With just three weeks of the 2007-08 season left there are still ten teams chasing three Blue Square South play-off places. Whilst Lewes and Eastbourne Borough battle for the title – the former looking increasingly likely to take the crown – the play-off race is much more open, with even twelfth place Thurrock still mathematically in the hunt for fifth spot. Firmly in the middle of this race are City, currently sitting in 7th place and just two points off the all important fifth position. The below table shows the games left for each side:
With every side involved facing at least one meeting – in some cases four or five – with another top ten team (as highlighted in the grid), there is no side who can be confident of making the cut off for the post season games. Exciting, isn’t it?
To celebrate the 75th anniversary of Twerton Park, a Bath City XI will take on a Bristol Rovers XI on Sunday 11 May (ko 5pm). Not only did the Pirates spend ten years playing at Twerton Park between 1986 and 1996, they were also involved in the first ever competitive match the ground back on 27 August 1932, which City won by two goals to nil. The match will feature numerous former Bath City and Bristol Rovers stars, including Paul Randall, Geoff Twentyman, Paul Bodin, David Mehew, Tony Ricketts plus many others. After the game the celebrations will continue in the bar, with film of both clubs history at the ground.
In a game that didn’t kick off until 4.30pm, after visitors Cambridge City were held up by an accident on the M4, City recorded a vital victory to keep them in the Blue Square South play-off hunt. They took full advantage of the Lilywhite’s pre-match disruption by taking the lead on 3 minutes, Phil Walsh holding off a defender before slotting the ball home. Cambridge saw a lot of possession after this without ever testing Paul Evans and City finished the first half the stronger with Aaron Ledgister and Walsh spurning chances to increase their lead. Twelve minutes after the break City went 2-0 up when Sam Foley was tripped in the box and Dave Gilroy fired the penalty kick past keeper Herbert. That was the signal for City to shut up shop and despite a couple of openings at both ends there were no more goals.
Lewis Hogg has signed a contract for the 2008-09 season. The midfielder – who is currently in the middle of a seven match ban for accumulated bookings and his harsh sending-off against Havant & Waterlooville last month – had been offered a new deal back in February but decided to consider his options. However, despite interest from several other Blue Square South sides, including better financial offers, the 25-year old has put pen to paper on a new one-year contract.
City will face Southern League side Paulton Rovers in the final of the Somerset Premier Cup after they beat Taunton Town in the second semi-final on Wednesday evening. Goals from former City strikers Ricky Hulbert and Josh Jeffries gave them a 2-0 win over their league rivals, twenty four hours after City had beaten Yeovil Town Reserves by the same scoreline. The final will take place at Weston Super Mare’s Woodspring Stadium on Tuesday April 22 (ko 7.45pm).
City take another step along the knife-edge of their play-off ambitions with the visit of mid-table Cambridge City to Twerton Park on Saturday. The two sides met at Milton Road back in September and fought out an entertaining 2-2 draw, with Adie Harris and Darren Edwards on target for City. Harris also scored in his own net but it was the Lilywhite’s star player, Michael Gash, who showed why he is so highly rated with a wonderful solo goal. The 21-year old striker has scored 23 league goals this season, following his return to Milton Road in the summer after a season with local rivals Cambridge United, but surprisingly has only been linked to a move down the non-league pyramid when King’s Lynn showed optimistic interest back in January.
Complete record against Cambridge City
At the time of the first meeting Cambridge’s concerns were considerably greater than just the result. Off the field problems meant the game could have been the club’s last one at Milton Road. They had a potential ground-share agreement with Bishop’s Stortford in place as they awaited a High Court decision on their future. The events stemmed from the sale of Milton Road in 2004 to a company called Ross River, owned by former director Brian York. The price was £1.3million plus 50% of future profits (“overage”) and a lease until 2010. In 2005, the overage was bought out by Ross River for £900k and the lease altered to last only until May 2006 (later amended to May 2007) – so the total sale price was £2.2million. In July 2007 the club was involved in a seven day High Court action seeking to overturn the sale of the ground. Four days after the 2-2 draw the club won the case when Mr Justice Briggs agreed with them that they had been the victim of a fraudulent misrepresentation made by a representative of Ross River. They will now have a lease of Milton Road running to 2010 and can share in 50% of future profits from development of the site.
Understandably with these events happening in the background their season got off to a slow start from which they have never really recovered. After winning two of their opening three games they failed to record back to back league victories again until three successive victories at the end of February, beginning of March – including an excellent 1-0 win at title-chasing Eastbourne Borough – banished any lingering relegation worries. Their recent form has once again dipped with defeats in their last two outings, although it is clear when manager Gary Robert’s lays the blame for these reversals – keeper Ashley Timms. His post match comments about the goalie include, “Our goalkeeper cost us the game yesterday”, “the mistakes that Ashley Timms made”, “hit straight at Ashley and he should have simply held it … he completely fumbled it”, “had we possessed someone dependable and reliable between the sticks”, “they went in at half-time ahead due to another goalkeeping error”, “there were other occasions where he was at fault … nearly flapped one into his own goal in the second half … didn’t come for two others that would have been routine catches” and “our outfield players did really well up until our keeper handed them the game”. Unsurprisingly, Roberts released Timms on Monday, re-calling Shane Herbert from his loan spell at Boreham Wood and he will play against City. Damn.
This will be the 46th meeting between the two clubs with Cambridge just edging the record by way of 16 wins to City’s 15, the other 14 matches ending all-square. The last Twerton Park encounter took place during the early stages of the 2003-04 season. A Danny Cleverley goal put them ahead after 30 minutes, firing home following Mitch Counsell’s header against the post, but a brace from Lilywhite’s Simpson turned the game around and when Mike Trought saw red for stamping on an opponent any hope of a comeback disappeared. Prior to that victory Cambridge had to go back to 1974 – and ten visits – to remember their last successful trip to Bath, although it was a memorable one, ending 5-1 to the Lilywhite’s.
Mark McKeever has joined Blue Square South strugglers Weston Super Mare with immediate effect. The 29-year winger was expected to switch to the Seasiders during the close season after they offered him a deal City couldn’t match, but has completed the move just before yesterday’s transfer deadline. Mark made 76 appearances for City during his just under two seasons at Twerton Park, scoring eight times, although it was the numerous assists from free-kicks and corners, particularly for Chris Holland, that he will be remembered for most at the club.
City reached the final of the Somerset Premier Cup for the first time since the 1999-00 season with a 2-0 victory over Yeovil Town Reserves at Huish Park tonight. They got off to the perfect start when Glovers keeper Bechet – who played against City twice before this season for Dorchester Town – dropped the ball into his own net with just a minute gone. Then a spell of City pressure ended with Phil Walsh heading home a second goal on 33 minutes. The second half saw the home side come more into the game but City’s defence largely restricted them to long range efforts and secure a place n the final where they will face the winner of tomorrow night’s second semi-final between Paulton Rovers and Taunton Town.
Twerton Park has obtained the Grade B ground ruling required for Blue Square South level. When the deadline for the necessary work passed yesterday City had completed the two required items, bigger dugouts and a door to the treatment room, and sent photos of the work to the FA as required. The work was funded by the Supporters Clubs. Should City reach the play-offs and win a place in the Blue Square Premier they have until May 31 to carry out further small items of work.