Long-serving midfield player Steve Jones has been released by manager Adie Britton as he continues to reshape his squad for next season. The 38-year old was the club’s second longest serving player having joined from Forest Green Rovers in October 2003. During his five and a half years at Twerton Park he made 242 appearances, scoring six times, and his versatility saw him fill a number of positions, including on several occasions between the posts, most memorably last season in the 3-2 win at Chelmsford City.
Four more players have committed themselves to the club for the 2009-10 season. Chris Holland, Gethin Jones, Sekani Simpson and Adam Connolly have joined Matt Coupe, Mark Badman, Richard Evans, Jim Rollo and Lewis Hogg in putting pen to paper on new contracts. Striker Darren Edwards is considering a new deal and Britton is due to have talks with Stuart Douglas, Ali Gibb and Martin Slocombe in the next few days.
City’s top scorer for the past two seasons, Dave Gilroy, has left Twerton Park to join up with Dean Holdsworth’s Newport County. The ex-Bristol Rovers and Chippenham Town striker joined City from the latter in May 2007, having previously spent a short loan spell with the club at the end of the 2001-02 season. He netted 26 goals last season and then added another 22 this campaign to reach the 50 mark from just 98 appearances.
City have announced their season ticket prices for the 2009-10 campaign and they are up to 15% lower than than the 2008-09 price. An adult terrace ticket purchased before June 1 will cost £150, compared to £175 last season. With the matchday entrance unchanged at £10 this equates to six free games on the turnstile price. Tickets purchased after June 1 are also reduced between £5 and £20. A full list of the prices can be found below.
To download an order form click here.
Australia bound Paul Evans ended his City career on a low note at Thurrock this afternoon as he was dismissed in the final minute of the 2-0 defeat. He was adjudged to have brought down Malik when he raced clear despite looking several yards offside and this capped a disappointing final match of the season for City. With their hopes of a last-ditch play-off place dashed after the Conference finally confirmed that Hampton & Richmond Borough were eligible for promotion it was an understandably below-par performance from City, although they weren’t helped by a pitch that would embarrass park football and a strong wind that made passing football even more difficult. City almost scored in the opening minutes but Gethin Jones couldn’t force the ball home from close range and this was about as good as it got for the visitors. Each side did create several openings but a goal rarely looked likely during a poor first half. Seven minutes after the interval though the Fleet broke the deadlock when Evans appeared to lose a high ball in the wind allowing Stadhart to head home. And nine minutes later the game was effectively over as Malik slid home Dean’s low cross. City huffed and puffed after this but failed to trouble home keeper Woolley and the afternoon finished on an even more unhappy note with Evans’ red card. The defeat meant City matched last season’s final placing of 8th, ironically with two more points but three points more adrift of the final play-off place. And despite the win Thurrock ended the season third from bottom but unlikely to face relegation due to Team Bath resignation from the Blue Square South.
Before the game two more players signed for the 2009-10 season, with Mark Badman and Richard Evans putting pen to paper.
Matt Coupe, Lewis Hogg and Jim Rollo have become the first three current players to sign for the 2009-10 season. The trio, who can boast 768 appearances for the club between them, should be joined by six or seven players over the coming weekend. Manager Adie Britton has stated that he hopes to keep 13 of the current squad and add three or four new players. One familiar face who may be returning the club is all-time second highest scorer Martin Paul. Birdy joined Britton in last night’s Meet the Manager evening and may return to the club in a player/coach capacity.
It appears that City’s hopes of a play-off place have finally been dashed with news that Hampton & Richmond Borough’s ground has been accepted by the Conference despite the uncertainty over whether it meets the necessary grading. However, fittingly there still has been no official announcement by either the Beavers or the Conference.
Adie Britton faced around 50 City fans at Twerton Park last night in the latest Meet the Manager evening. After giving his thoughts on the 2008-09 season he answered questions from the audience, along with Martin Paul and assistant coach Lee Howells. The second half of the evening saw chairman Geoff Todd and managing director Paul Williams face the questions, in particular the financial position of the club. For full details of the evening visit the Bath City Message Board.
With just a couple of days until their final Blue Square South match of the season City are in the bizarre position of not knowing whether they are still playing for a play-off place or the rather less rewarding target of finishing in either 6th, 7th or 8th spot. This uncertainty is down to the ongoing saga of whether Hampton & Richmond Borough’s Beveree Stadium home has passed the ground grading requirement that will allow them to enter the play-offs. Despite the official deadline for any work to be completed passing on April 1, both the Conference and the Beavers have made no comment on the matter which has just fuelled speculation and rumour and, more importantly, left those clubs chasing a play-off place (now just City and Welling United) in limbo. The problem lies with the number of seats at the Beveree Stadium. Last season Hampton also reached the play-offs after finishing in 3rd position, quickly installing temporary seating to allow them to take part. However, this loophole has been closed meaning this time the seating must be permanent and while a new 250-seater stand has been built it appears it was without the necessary planning permission, hence the doubt over whether this will be sufficient to pass the normally rigid ground grading rules. It is believed that an official announcement will be made on Friday but given the farcical delay already that may be nothing more than another rumour.
If a decision is finally made and Hampton are refused permission to enter the play-offs it will leave City and Welling United to battle it out for the prize of meeting Eastleigh in the semi-final. This is despite Maidenhead United currently sitting in 6th place as, unlike the Beavers, they confirmed they would not be allowed to take part in the play-offs immediately they knew they their York Road base could not be brought up to the required standard. Welling currently have the advantage over City, although only on goal difference (+6) with both clubs on 68 points, after beating Team Bath 1-0 at Twerton Park on Tuesday evening. Whilst City travel to Thurrock, the Wings have a home match with mid-table Newport County, and Adie Britton’s men know that they must better Welling’s result if they are to snatch that (potentially) vacant play-off spot.
Fittingly City’s opponents Thurrock also go into the game with a degree of uncertainty hanging over them. They presently occupy the final relegation place in the Blue Square South table but a win over City could lift them above 19th placed Dorchester Town if the Magpies drop points against Bromley. However, Team Bath’s resignation from the league means that even if Thurrock do not overtake Dorchester they are likely to be reprieved. Naturally though as this is non-league football that is not 100% certain with the possibility that the side finishing 20th in the Blue Square North could be saved instead. If you then bring in the situation at Kings Lynn, who may be demoted from the Blue Square North due to ground grading issues, it gets even more complicated and you’ll probably need to go and lie down in a darkened room (which may be where the Conference and Hampton officials are hiding, hence the deafening silence from them both). So, the only way the Fleet can avoid being embroiled in this state of affairs is to beat City and hope Dorchester don’t win at Bromley.
Complete record against Thurrock
Thurrock gave themselves a chance of deciding their own destiny by ending a 13 match winless run on Tuesday with a single goal victory over Braintree Town. Fola Orilonishe netted the winning goal with just 12 minutes remaining and he will be a familiar name to City having grabbed a stoppage equaliser for Thurrock when the sides met at Twerton Park less than a month ago. That game ended 2-2 after City had led by two goals with just 13 minutes remaining. This return meeting will only be City’s second ever trip to Ship Lane having lost 1-0 in their previous visit last season, where once again Orilonishe was the thorn in their side, taking advantage of a uncharacteristic mistake by Matt Coupe to fire past Paul Evans. Even when the home side had Rob Swaine sent off with nine minutes remaining City could not fashion an equaliser to make it a day to forget in Essex. They will hope that is not the case this season and for a second successive campaign do not suffer final day play-off disappointment. Last season it was their failure to beat Bishop’s Stortford plus other results that denied them a play-off spot, but this time round it is still up in the air whether they will even be in control of their own destiny, which is even more frustrating.
City boss Adie Britton has begun to look forward to the 2009-10 season after agreeing a playing budget with the board. Members of the current squad who he wishes to keep will be offered new contracts by Monday and then attention will turn to the three or four new players he hopes to sign. Two players who definitely won’t be at Twerton Park next season are goalkeeper Paul Evans and midfielder Scott Rogers. South African-born Evans, who has spent over five years with City, making 216 appearances, and is widely regarded as one of the greatest keepers to play for the club, is emigrating to Australia in September. Popular midfielder Rogers is also leaving the country, but he will make the slightly shorter trip to Wales to join Blue Square South rivals Newport County, having spent a spell on loan with the Exiles earlier this season. The 29-year old played 122 games, scoring nine times, for City. Both players will make their final appearance for the club on Saturday at Thurrock.
Britton will face City supporters in a Meet the Manager Evening at Twerton Park tomorrow night. The event, which will also see chairman Geoff Todd discuss the club’s future, begins at 7.30pm.
Following City’s 2-1 victory over Chelmsford City in their final home game of the season yesterday they held their end of season award ceremony in Randall’s. And it was a double Dutch award as Chris Holland was named both supporters’ and players’ player of the season. He collected both trophies from manager Adie Britton. Captain Jim Rollo also received a special award in recognition of his contribution to the side on the day of his 350th appearance as did goalkeeper Paul Evans after he confirmed that next week will be his final game for the club, as he is emigrating to Australia in September. Further awards went to Dave Gilroy (Golden Boot), Ray Franks (Dennis Hibberd Memorial supporter of the season), Paul Hudd (young supporter of the season) and Dave Phillips (special achievement award).
City finished their Twerton Park campaign on a high note, coming from a goal down at half-time to beat Chelmsford City by two goals to one. And they did this despite playing with ten men for over half the game after Lewis Hogg was sent off for two yellow cards seven minutes before the interval. It was from the resultant free-kick for the second of these that the Clarets went ahead, Rainford neatly heading Sloma’s ball into the corner of the net. Given the visitors had spent most of the first period time wasting, even before they took the lead, the chances of an eventful second half looked slim by within just six minutes of the restart an unmarked Dave Gilroy headed City level from Adam Connolly’s free-kick. And it got even better for City on 69 minutes when keeper Harrison needlessly shoved Stuart Douglas to the floor and Gilroy easily netted his second from the penalty spot. Even though they were now behind Chelmsford rarely looked interested in trying to fight back and City comfortably held on to secure the win.
City complete their 2008-09 Blue Square South home campaign on Saturday with the visit of play-off bound Chelmsford City. Two goals in the final four minutes of their Bank Holiday Monday game at Braintree Town guaranteed the Clarets a play-off spot, as although 6th place Maidenhead United could still match their points total, the Berkshire side are not allowed to enter the play-offs due to their York Road ground failing to meet the necessary criteria. Their 2-1 victory at Braintree ended City’s outside hopes of overhauling the Essex club, but there still remains the possibility that a 7th place finish could see them sneak into the play-offs due to the ongoing uncertainty regarding Hampton & Richmond Borough’s eligibility, meaning the match is still an important one for City.
No doubt at the start of the season Chelmsford would have willingly accepted a play-off place during their maiden season in the Blue Square South but for the first half of the campaign they looked likely champions – at one point having a nine point lead at the top of the table. This lead evaporated in the closing months of 2008 and a 3-1 defeat against closest rivals – and now champions elect – AFC Wimbledon on the last day of January saw them knocked off top spot. Their form then completely deserted them, with just two wins in their next nine games, which not only ended any hopes of the title, also left them in danger of missing out on the play-offs. A 2-0 win over Worcester City steadied the ship and when they emerged on the right side of a five-goal encounter with Hampton & Richmond at the start of April they more or less ensured their season would be extended for at least one more week.
Complete record against Chelmsford City
The meeting will see Chelmsford face City at Twerton Park for the first time since February 2004, with the clubs coming into that game sitting 22nd and 21st in the Southern League Premier Division respectively. The game only went ahead after City supporters spent the morning clearing snow from the Twerton Park pitch but they will have wished they hadn’t bothered as a single goal on the half hour mark was enough to win the game for the Clarets. In the end both sides dragged themselves away from the foot of the table, with City suffering a play-off semi-final defeat for a place in the newly formed Conference South and Chelmsford getting switched to the Ryman League after finished one place behind them. City have to go back to 1989 for their last home success over Chelmsford, when a Paul Randall hat-trick and a brace from Gary Smart fired them to a 5-1 win.
The game should a notable one for captain Jim Rollo as he becomes only the 10th City player of all time to reach 350 appearances for the club. The Birmingham-born 32-year old spent two short loan spells with the club during the 1996-97 and 1998-99 seasons before joining permanently from Merthyr Tydfil in May 2002. Since then he has only missed a handful of games (he is the only player not to have missed a league match this season) and was named player of the year in 2004-05.
Chairman Geoff Todd has revealed that City and Team Bath FC had been in discussions over a possible merger between the two clubs before the University based outfit resigned from the Conference earlier this week. In a letter to the Bath Chronicle Todd said that, “[he] and managing director Paul Williams had discussed with Team Bath the idea of a merger, with the aim of forming one club capable of taking Bath into the Football League. Because of league competition rules, it was decided that, until this season’s fixtures had been completed, it was inappropriate to put this in the public domain until all details had been discussed.” However, the talks came to a sudden end last week after Team Bath decided to quit the Blue Square South at the end of this season when it was ruled they would not be allowed to progress any further up the non-league pyramid due to the set up of the club.
Chris Holland’s 22nd minute header ensured City recorded an Easter weekend brace of 1-0 Twerton Park victories. He rose highest to head Lewis Hogg’s corner into the net despite the desperate efforts of several defenders. Prior to the goal the game had lack spark but it lifted City and they dominated the rest of the half, Ali Gibb, Gethin Jones and Stuart Douglas, twice, missing chances to extend their lead. Paul Evans had to be alert to turn a close range header over the bar in the first minute of the second half and this hearalded an improved performance from the visitors. However, they struggled to fashion any clear-cut openings and City should have doubled their lead with eleven minutes left when Douglas headed over an unguarded goal after Worcester keeper McDonnell had parried substitute Josh Klein-Davies’ effort. They nearly paid for this miss when Adaggio crashed a shot against the bar moments later but in the final minute Klein-Davies struck the frame of the goal as well with an acrobatic overhead kick. He also shot into the side netting as City finished the game well and overall they were just about good value for the victory.
After the unusual sensation of being the away team at Twerton Park in Saturday’s final ever meeting with Team Bath, City once again get use of the home changing room and dugout as long time adversaries Worcester City travel down the M5 to provide Easter Bank Holiday Monday opposition. While City’s season looks to set to finish in disappointment as regards the hoped for play-off position, the Royals campaign, which started promisingly with two wins soon, descended into mid-table obscurity and is now ending in an even more lowly fashion without a win in their last eight outings.
The 2008-09 season is definitely one Worcester will be happy to see the back of, as the on the field struggles have been overshadowed by off the pitch problems. It was revealed just weeks into the campaign that the club is around £2million in debt, which put their plan for an £8million, 6000 capacity new stadium in Nunnery Way close to the M5 in doubt. At the same time there was a power struggle going on for control of the club with a Shareholders Action Group making several attempts to oust the board of directors. They were finally defeated at an AGM in November when the existing regime was re-elected. A few weeks later the players were forced to take a pay cut but in December the club managed to enter an agreement with the banks to prevent having to enter administration. The club are still placing all their hopes on the new Stadium at Nunnery Way and a planning decision is due very shortly.
One bright spot in the season has been the 50th anniversary celebrations of the club’s most famous game, a 3rd Round FA Cup win over Liverpool on 15 January 1959 that took place in front of over 15,000 fans at St Georges Lane. An own goal by Tommy Skuse gave the home the lead after just nine minutes and then in the 81st minute Dick White made it 2-0. Within a minute though Liverpool, then in the Second Division, pulled a goal back from the penalty spot through Geoff Twentyman (father of Geoff Jnr, the former Bristol Rovers player and now Radio Bristol sports presenter). However, the Royals stood firm and after a premature pitch invasion, when the crowd mistook Halifax referee Tirebuck’s intervention for a free-kick as the final whistle, they could celebrate a memorable victory. The celebrations will climax with a meeting with AFC Liverpool on Monday 4 May.
Complete record against Worcester City
This will be the 105th meeting between City and Worcester, the latter just edging the overall record with 42 wins to City’s 39. The two games that took place during the season Worcester faced Liverpool saw an incredible 15 goals, with City’s attack led at the time by Charlie Fleming and Stan Mortensen. In the first game at St Georges Lane in August the former netted a hat-trick but was powerless to prevent the Royals running out 6-3 winners. In the return game, 12 days before Worcester faced the Reds, Fleming was again on target with a brace and with Mortensen also on the scoresheet this time City managed to grab a point in a 3-3 draw. There was no such goal scoring exploits when the sides met earlier this season in a game of two penalties. City won theirs on the stroke of half-time when Stuart Douglas was felled in the box. He confidently converted from the spot to give City a deserved lead having dominated the first half. After the interval though it was the home side who took control and it appeared there would be a certain degree of symmetry to the match when they were awarded a spot kick eight minutes from time. However, keeper Steve Perrin had other ideas, saving Owen’s effort, and City held out to record a single goal win.
A 6th minute Lewis Hogg strike was enough to give City a 1-0 win over tenants Team Bath at a warm and sunny Twerton Park this afternoon and ensure an unbeaten record against the soon to disappear University-based side. Hogg converted Sekani Simpson’s cross at the far post as City dominated the opening exchanges. Hogg twice fired narrowly over and Darren Edwards brought a finger tip save out of keeper Meredith. Midway through the half Edwards was shoved to the floor in the box only for the inconsistent referee Mr Amphlett to wave away the penalty appeals. He also let Team Bath get away with a nasty cyncial approach to the game but City refused to get dragged down to this level. The second half was a more even affair but City still looked the stronger side and Meredith was always the busier keeper, saving Edwards’ attempted lob and turning a Chris Holland header over the bar. He did drop one cross under pressure from Stuart Douglas but was rescued by Warren and then Douglas blasted wide when well placed. The game slowed in the final quarter with only another fine stop by Meredith denying Dave Gilroy netting a deserved second for City.
City go into their tenth and final meeting with their soon to disappear tenants on Saturday looking to ensure that, as Team Bath become a small footnote in the history of football in the city, they never lost or finished below the University based club. Since their formation as a Western League side in 1999 Team Bath have avoided defeat just twice against City, a goalless encounter toward the end of the 2004-05 season and a 1-1 draw earlier this campaign, both in the league. The other seven meetings have all ended in victories for City from the 4-1 hammering in the first meeting to an extra-time win in a Setanta Shield when the sides last met back in September. The biggest winning margin came in December 2006 when goals from Gethin Jones, Steve Jones, Darren Edwards, Mark McKeever and Lewis Hogg fired them to a 5-0 success and started them on a run that would end with the Southern League title four months later.
Complete record against Team Bath
Although they have never tasted victory over City’s first-team, Team Bath did beat their reserve side four times in the first three years of their existence. In fact, one win remains their record victory when they put 13 goals past City’s second string side without reply in August 2000. They ended this campaign winning the Western League Division 1 (City’s reserves finished 5th) and two seasons later repeated the feat in the Premier Division to earn a place in the Southern League. This would be the final league title they won but the reorganisation of non-league football plus a play-off win saw them reach the Blue Square South for this season.
Having got their 2008-09 season off to the perfect start with a 6-0 win over Fisher Athletic it looked for several months that this meteoric rise up the non-league pyramid could continue. Six successive Twerton Park wins followed and when they beat Worcester City midway through October they sat atop the Blue Square South table ahead of such famous non-league sides as Chelmsford City, AFC Wimbledon and, of course, Bath City. A first home defeat against Maidenhead United at the beginning of November would then start a run of nine losses in their next eleven home games though to first drop out of contention for the league title then the race for a play-off place. However, while on the pitch struggles put pay to progress this season, it was off the field that any hope of future advancement was dashed. Since day one of their existence the true nature of their structure and funding has been difficult, if not impossible, to determine so intertwined it is with the whole Team Bath sports brand. This has led to a widespread suspicion that the club is supported using tax revenues, although on the rare occasion the Team Bath FC hierarchy has commented on such accusations it has understandably denied them. In the end though this unique set-up has brought an end to the club as the Football League ruled that it would not accept them should they ever win promotion, forcing the Conference to adopt a similar stance (although it does beg the question why they were allowed into the Conference South in the first place).
Four promotions and two appearances in the 1st Round of the FA Cup (including one in front of live TV cameras) in just nine years is a record that few non-league clubs can rival but it is clear their demise will have little impact outside the cosy confines of the University (and even the majority of that seems to have no interest in the club). Normally the downfall of a football club – for whatever reason – will hit it supporters the hardest but this is not an issue with Team Bath, as despite this success their crowds have struggled to exceed 100 and it is safe to say there will not be an AFC Team Bath appearing any time soon. Ironically the only supporters who may suffer are City’s as their club lose the income (and training facilities) they have enjoyed in the four and a half seasons Team Bath have played at Twerton Park.
Another regret for City fans on Saturday, no doubt, is that there is little more than local pride to play for in the game. By the time the game kicks off even their mathematical chance of reaching the play-offs could have disappeared with Chelmsford City playing 24 hours earlier. A win for the 5th placed side over St Albans City would put them out of reach of City and ensure that they face another season in the Blue Square South. However, this disappointment would certainly be softened slightly knowing that City had never tasted defeat against Team Bath.
City could face cuts in their playing budget for next season following the confirmation that tenants Team Bath are to resign from the Blue Square South at the end of the season. Rumours had been rife for several weeks that the University based club would fold at the end of the season after they had failed to renew their lease on Twerton Park that runs out at the end of this campaign. This week it was also revealed that Team Bath would not be accepted into the Blue Square Premier (and also the Football League) due to it’s set-up, and that appears to be the reason why the decision has been made. Whilst a number of City fans will understandably be pleased to see the back of the club, it will not only leave a hole in the budget but also mean City will need to find new training facilities. City managing director Paul Williams said, “It will reduce our income and any reduction in income will obviously have an affect on our expenditure. Wages – including players’ wages – are our largest overhead and unless that income can be replaced by some other source then there will be less money to spend. We haven’t had to look at training facilities for five years and I dread to think what the cost might be now.”
For the second time in a week City surrended a two-goal lead to leave their play-off ambitions nothing more than a mathematical dream. Having drawn 2-2 with Thurrock last Tuesday after leading 2-0 with just 13 minutes left, they went one better (or worse) against Bishop’s Stortford, losing 3-2 despite first half goals from Lewis Hogg and Gethin Jones putting them firmly in control of the game. They went ahead just after the half-hour mark when Hogg fired the ball into the roof of the net from 15 yards out. Darren Edwards should have made it 2-0 shortly afterwards and then Stortford keeper Eyre denied Dave Gilroy but three minutes before the break Gethin Jones struck after Scott Rogers’ mis-hit shot fell to him. Six minutes into the second half a poor back header by Chris Holland gifted the visitors a way back into the game, Lindie taking full advantage. Fourteen minutes later another piece of dreadful defending, Holland and Matt Coupe leaving the ball for each other, allowed Essandoh to centre for Lindie to head his and Stortford’s second goal. The turnaround was completed with 15 minutes remaining when Green was allowed to waltz past four City defenders before easily beating Paul Evans. The defeat leaves City eleven points behind 5th places Chelmsford City with just four games remaining.
City will make their third attempt to play Bishop’s Stortford at Twerton Park this season on Tuesday as they look to keep in touch with the final Blue Square South play-off place. Yesterday’s 3-2 win over Braintree Town failed to close the gap on 5th placed Chelmsford City, as they ran out 2-0 winners over Worcester City at Melbourne Park. This kept them eight points ahead of City, a lead they could stretch to eleven tomorrow night when they face title challengers Hampton & Richmond. Whatever the result against the Beavers, City cannot afford any more slip-ups ahead of when the face the Clarets in their final home game of the season on April 18.
Complete record against Bishop’s Stortford
The meeting with Stortford has already been postponed twice, the first in January due to a frozen pitch before the rearranged game at the beginning of March went the same way following a heavy rain in Bath all day that, despite the club’s best efforts, eventually made the Twerton Park pitch unplayable. Since that postponement the Hertfordshire club has played seven games, winning four and losing three. Three of these wins have come against struggling clubs but in their last outing they pushed third placed Eastleigh all the way before being edged out by the odd goal in seven. They found themselves 3-0 down after an hour before Prestedge and Lindie struck to make it 3-2. Eastleigh moved back two goals in front with four minutes remaining but in-form striker Smith – he netted a hat-trick against Fisher Athletic in Stortford’s previous outing – blasted home from a corner in the final minute to set up a grandstand finish, however they couldn’t find another goal to complete the comeback.
Despite little or nothing to play for this season manager Mark Simpson has been one of the busier Blue Square South bosses in the last month. He brought in teenage Gillingham defender Ritchie Jones and Harlow’s Danny Green then on the transfer deadline added former player Mervyn Abraham from Cheshunt, Eastleigh goalscorer Lindie, who had previously been with Southend, and Ashely Taylor-Forbes, also from Cheshunt.
Top scorer Dave Gilroy celebrated his return to the starting XI after a month on the bench with a first-half hat-trick in City’s 3-2 win over Braintree Town at a sunny Twerton Park this afternoon. He struck in the 21st, 35th and 39th minute to keep City’s outside chance of making the play-offs alive. The opening 20 minutes of the game had been uneventful before Bruce handled in the box to allow Gilroy to send keeper Holloway the wrong way from the the penalty spot. This lead only lasted 12 minutes though when City failed to deal with a corner and Hockton volleyed past Paul Evans from six yards out. Two minutes later City were back in front, Sekani Simpson nodding the ball forward to Gilroy who fired past Holloway into the corner of the net. And just four more minutes had elasped when Scott Rogers set up Gilroy to complete his hat-trick with an emphatic volley. The second half failed to match the first, Simpson coming the closest to extending City’s lead with a low shot that Holloway turned behind. Two minutes from time O’Sullivan headed Riddle’s cross past Evans but there was no repeat of Tuesday’s injury-time drama and City suffered no further scares.
City face mid-table Braintree Town at Twerton Park on Saturday knowing they are almost in the position that anything less than winning their final six games of the season is likely to see them miss out on the Blue Square South play-offs. With 77 minutes gone against Thurrock on Tuesday it had looked as if the gap to the final play-off place would be down to just six points, thanks to goals from Stuart Douglas and Lewis Hogg giving them a two-goal lead. It was over 4½ years since City had surrendered a two-goal lead at Twerton Park* so even when the visitors pulled a goal back with 13 minutes left nobody in the ground could claim to have foreseen the 93rd minute equaliser that denied City two vital points. This means the highest points total City can now reach is 74, which though that has always been enough to secure a play-off spot in the pervious four Conference South seasons, this time it looks as even that amount may be insufficient.
While City do still have something to play for at the moment, the events of the last few days mean so do 14th placed Braintree Town. Although their influence at the top and bottom of the Blue Square South is so minimal they have be allowed to bring their final game of the campaign against Fisher Athletic, who face a winding up order on April 22, forward to next week to ensure the London side can complete their season. The Iron will clearly be looking toward next season when they face City having appointed a new manager today. Robbie Garvey has joined the club from Dagenham & Redbridge where he had spent six years in various coaching capacities. As a player he turned out for a number of Essex and London clubs, including coincidently Thurrock. And he has made it clear that all the current Braintree squad are playing for their futures with the club, so City are likely to face a tougher game than would normally be the case against a side with little or nothing for which to play.
Garvey is Braintree’s third manager this season, following Lee Patterson and Bradley Quinton in the Cressing Road hot-seat. After losing the first four games of the season Patterson looked to have steadied the ship but two early cup exits against lower league opposition cost him his job and he was replaced by player assistant Quinton. Although he kept the side from slipping back toward the relegation zone, he failed to engineer a real rise up the table (they are two places higher, 13th to 15th, than when he took over) and despite applying for the post on a permanent basis he was replaced by Garvey. Braintree’s current form is typical of their season, with two wins and three losses from their last six outings. The wins though were an impressive 4-1 success at Bromley and a 3-1 victory at Twerton Park over Team Bath.
Off the pitch the Iron suffered a setback last month in their plans to move from their Cressing Road home to a new stadium complex in the town. The club had been pushing for the new stadium to built at Flitch Way but a recent vote by the local council choose Panfield Lane as their preferred growth location for the town as part of the District Council’s Local Development Framework Consultation. Although the club’s new stadium would form part of this development they remain committed to their chosen site, citing issues of access, flood risk, drainage, ecology, open space and utilities against Panfield Lane. There are preparing a detailed plan which will incorporate a 6,000 seater sports stadium and new tennis courts, two additional sports pitches, a new Primary school and playing fields, up to 1,500 new 2, 3 and 4 bedroom dwellings plus much needed affordable housing, new access of Pods Brook Road and Rayne Road, footpath/cycleway links from the Flitchway Settlement to the town centre and Great Notley Garden Village and business park, opportunity for a 20 hectare Country Park to the east of Rayne and structural planting, 6 hectares of employment land and a new local centre and facilities.
Complete record against Braintree Town
The first meeting between the sides this season was a remarkable game at Cressing Road which City ran out 4-0 winners. The scoreline does not tell the true story of the game though as City could have easily been three goals down with just three minutes of the start. Having withstood this flying opening by the home side they continued to ride their luck and somehow reached the interval still on level terms. The second half saw a complete turnaround in fortunes as within seven minutes of the restart Chris Holland headed City in front. Ten minutes later Gethin Jones made it 2-0 and with City as clinical as Braintree had been wasteful, a Darren Edwards brace completed the win. The Holland goal was City’s first against the Iron after they drew a blank in both meetings last season, a goalless encounter at Twerton Park followed by a 2-0 defeat in Essex.
*Saturday 11 September 2004 against Hednesford Town, when City lost 4-3 despite leading 2-0 early in the second half. And just like Thurrock, the Pitmen had a player sent off. Jim Rollo and Matt Coupe were the only two players to have played in both games, although Paul Evans was an unused sub in this match.