City secured a top 10 Blue Square Bet Premier finish this afternoon with a 2-0 win over Mansfield Town at a warm and sunny Twerton Park. Second half goals from Marley Watkins and Scott Murray were enough to beat a Stags side whose focus appeared to be on their trip to Wembley Stadium next weekend for the FA Trophy Final. And their cause was not helped by the dismissal of Istead after just 15 minutes for a challenge on Joe Burnell. From this point City dominated possession, knocking the ball around confidently, but with the visitors content to keep their remaining ten men behind the ball and playing a high line they failed to create any clear cut chances. This pattern continued after the interval, although Adam Connolly should have done better than drag a shot wide when set up by Burnell’s pass on 52 minutes. However, within a minute the deadlock was broken as Watkins rounded keeper Marriot to roll the ball home after Lee Phillip’s header sent him clear on goal. City were increasingly committing more bodies forward in search of a second goal which led to a few nervous momeents at the back but with 15 minutes left Murray collected the ball on the right flank before cutting across the pitch leaving three defenders in his wake and firing past Marriott. The keeper almost joined Istead in missing out on the Wembley game when he appeared to block Watkins lob with his arm well outside the box but this time the officials were more lenient and suggested it had hit his chest. He went on to deny Murray, Watkins and Phillips as City finished the game well on top but that mattered little as results elsewhere saw City finish their first season back in non-league’s top flight in an impressive tenth place.
With the Blue Square Bet Premier title, play-off places and two of the four relegation placed decided before today the only outstanding issue was who would join Histon and Eastbourne Borough in dropping to the Conference North/South. And in a fluctuating afternoon it was Altrincham, who came from 3-0 down against Eastbourne only to lose 4-3 to an injury time goal, and Southport, 3-1 losers to Kettering Town, that suffered relegation heartbreak.
Twerton Park will host a very special match on Sunday 8 May in memory of former City player Dave Palmer who sadly passed away in March. He spent 16 years with the club, thirteen as a player and three as assistant manager, making over 400 appearances during that time. The game will see a Dave Palmer XI take on The Other Team and amongst the ex-City stars hoping to feature are Scott Partridge, Martin Paul, Paul Bodin, Graham Withey, Mark Harrington, plus many others. The game kicks off at 3pm and cost £4 for adults, £2 for OAPs/Students and £1 for children with all monies raised being shared between the Jessie May Trust and City’s playing budget for next season.
Central defender Charlie Clough has been recalled from his loan spell by Bristol Rovers meaning he will miss City’s final game of the season against Mansfield Town on Saturday. The 20-year old gave a series of impressive performances for the club during his 11 appearances, netting two late equalising goals against Gateshead and Grimsby Town in the process. He will return to a Rovers side desperately battling against relegation to League 2.
City also look set to lose Sido Jombati after he revealed he was considering moving to Paris during the summer. The verstile Portuguese player, who has become a firm Twerton Park favourite in his two seasons with the club and is amongst the favourities to win this year’s player of the season award, has recently attracted interest from Scunthorpe United and Swindon Town but looks set to play in France after his parents moved to the country. Should this move fall through City still hope to see the 23-year old return and will retain his registration.
City manager (and acting chairman) Adie Britton has completed his climb to the top of Ben Nevis, the UK’s highest mountain. The ascent, that took about three and a half hours to complete, was done to raise money for Bristol Children’s Hospital and Bath City FC. If you have not yet had an chanceto contribute to Adie’s fund-raising then you will get an opportunity at Saturday’s match where collection buckets will be available. Others who have made pledges but not yet paid can do so at the Bath City office directly. A big thanks goes out to everyone who has pledged and paid already.
With ‘Project Promotion’ showing that if you throw enough money at the title it can be yours, the play-off positions sorted now Wrexham have found the means to clear their outstanding tax bill and two of the four relegation places filled by City’s most recent opponents, the only outstanding issue of the regular 2010-11 Blue Square Bet Premier season is which two clubs will join Histon and Eastbourne Borough in dropping into the Blue Square Bet North/South (accepting that if it is Forest Green Rovers (and possibly Altrincham) the AGM Cup is likely to take place again). Back in August even the most optimistic City fan would have thought City would have been amongst the clubs battling against the drop. Instead, they go into the Twerton Park meeting with Mansfield Town knowing that a win will ensure a top half finish which could, other results permitting, be as high as 10th place.
It has been a remarkable campaign for City, easily exceeding all pre-season expectations. After just one victory in their opening eleven league games it looked as if it would be a season of struggle but back to back wins over two former league clubs Kidderminster Harriers and Cambridge United, the latter thanks to a wonder stoppage time goal from Kaid Mohamed, showed that they could compete at this level and just one further league defeat up to Christmas lifted them to a comfortable mid-table position. And that’s where they remained for the rest of the season, never dropping below 14th place again, and fittingly reaching manager Adie Britton’s pre-season target of 48 points with a win over Grimsby Town. Two weeks later City were mathematically safe from a bottom four finish with seven games remaining, but in truth any relegation fears had long since been dispelled. Undoubtedly the most memorable feature of an extraordinary year has been the number of late goals City have scored. Despite being a part-time side in a predominantly full-time league, time and again it was City who finished games on top, netting 15 goals after the 85th minute, including 94th and 95th minute strikes to recover from a two-goal deficit against Darlington.
So, to the final game of the season as FA Trophy finalists Mansfield visit Twerton Park, with City looking to gain revenge for the 2-0 defeat in Nottinghamshire two weeks ago. The Stags have had a hectic final month of the season, Saturday will be their ninth game in April, as they prepare for their first visit to Wembley Stadium in 24 years where they will face Darlington. The club have sold over 12,000 tickets for the showpiece non-league final but despite understandingly focusing on this game they came from two goals down to beat Gateshead 3-2 in their final home game of the season last week. Man of the match in that game was captain Adam Murray but he suffered a recurrence of a long-standing back problem during the week and looks certain to miss the game with City as he battles to be fit for Wembley. Against this backdrop the Stags’ legal fight to regain ownership of their Field Mill home continues, with former chairman and owner of the stadium Keith Haslam contradicting his successor John Radford’s comment that he hopes an agreement will be reached sooner rather than later in an out of court settlement. Radford has promised to inject £2m into the playing squad next season if he gets control of the stadium meaning Blue Square Bet Premier clubs could have a whole new ‘Project Promotion’ to content with for the 2011-12 season.
Complete record against Mansfield Town
The game will see the Stags make their first ever trip to Twerton Park to face City although they did meet former tenants Bristol Rovers on four occasions there when they were Division 3 rivals during the late 1980s. Three draws and a defeat against the Pirates mean they will be searching for their first win in Bath but they will face a City side looking to put their disappointing performance at Eastbourne on Monday behind them. After perfectly reasonable experiment in personnel and formation for that game Britton is likely to revert to a more familiar line-up with Scott Murray and Marley Watkins available again. Adie Harris could also feature although City will be without centre-back Charlie Clough after he was recalled from his loan spell by Bristol Rovers.
City final away match of the season ended in disappointment this afternoon as a much changed line-up lost 2-0 to already relegated Eastbourne Borough. With Ryan Robinson, Scott Murray and Marley Watkins all missing with minor knocks, keeper Giancarlo Borhy was handed just his second league outing with Lewis Hogg and Danny Webb making their first starts since January. City also lined up with Gethin Jones playing left wing-back and Sido Jombati moving from his usual left-back position to play just off lone striker Lee Phillips. Given this unusual set-up it was no surprise that the home side dominated a one-sided first half, twice striking the frame of the goal as City rode their luck on several further occasions. They did have the ball in the net midway through the half by Phillips’ tap-in was ruled out for a foul on Borough keeper Banks. The interval saw City revert to 4-4-2 with Jombati dropped back and Webb pushed up front alongside Phillips but within 60 seconds of the restart a deep cross found an unmarked Pacquette to slide the ball past Borhy. City wasted a great chance to level on 73 minutes when Webb somehow missed Sekani Simpson’s cross with the goal at his mercy and ten minutes later Eastbourne ensured their home Blue Square Bet Premier swansong would end on a winning note, Taylor firing home from just inside the area.
City’s final away trip of the season sees them head to the south coast tomorrow to face an Eastbourne Borough side whose three year stay in non-league’s top flight is about to come to an end following a difficult 2010-11 season. Relegation back to the Conference South was confirmed just over a week ago following a 1-1 draw against Kidderminster Harriers which ended a remarkable run of success since the club (then known as Langley Sports) joined the Sussex County League in 1983. Steady progress up the non-league pyramid culminated with promotion to the Blue Square Premier in May 2008 thanks to a 2-0 win over Hampton & Richmond Borough in the Conference South Play-off final at Broadhall Way, Stevenage.
After an excellent first season at this level – finishing in 13th place with 60 points – Eastbourne struggled the following year, only avoiding a bottom four finish thanks to a last day victory over eventual play-off winners Oxford United. This season began promisingly with seven points from a possible twelve but inconsistency was soon seeing them slip back down the table. They finally seemed to overcome this erratic form in October but unfortunately not in a positive way, going on a 19 match run without a victory that dumped them to the foot of the table. Back to back wins over play-off chasing Fleetwood Town and fellow strugglers Southport briefly gave hope of an improbable escape before seven defeats in their next eight games meant the draw with the Harriers condemned the club to its first ever relegation.
Despite this long serving manager Gary Wilson looks set to sign a new deal at Priory Lane to extend his time at the club to a 13th season. The one bright spot in this otherwise disappointing campaign has been the Sussex Senior Cup run. The combined might of Mile Oak, Rustington, Rye United and Crawley Down (I’m not making these teams up, honestly) were dispatched to earn Eastbourne a final place against either Brighton and Hove Albion Reserves or Horsham. Whilst normally a county cup final place is hardly something to get over-excited about this time the match will be the first ever game to take place at Brighton’s new home, the American Express Community Stadium (I guess the ‘Credit Card lots of shops don’t accept’ Community Stadium didn’t have the same ring to it) in July 2011.
Complete record against Eastbourne Borough
This will be the sixth meeting between the two clubs and City have yet to suffer defeat with the scores ending level four times alongside a single victory during the 2003-04 season. The last time City visited Priory Lane was during the closing weeks of the 2007-08 Conference South season. It was an important game for both teams, with City chasing a play-off place and Eastbourne hoping to avoid the same fate by catching local rivals Lewes in the race for the title. The game pitted the league’s top scorers against the best defence (I’ll let you guess which was which) but it was largely a strong wind blowing across the exposed ground that had the greatest influence. The closest either side came to scoring was when City’s Aaron Ledgister rattled the crossbar with a 19th minute shot and the final score of 0-0 did little for either sides ambitions.
City manager (and acting chairman) Adie Britton will once again be faced with the decision whether to shuffle his starting XI for a second game in just three days. With more than half an eye on next season it will be interesting whether Lewis Hogg features after he made a goalscoring return to action following two months sidelined with a pelvic problem. The injury has ruined his season and Britton made it clear he will need to be sure Hogg has overcome the complaint before any decision on a new contract for the 2011-12 season can be made.
Without ever finding their best form City narrowly overcame the challenge of already-relegated Histon at a warm and sunny Twerton Park this afternoon. When Marley Watkins headed them in front on just eight minutes it looked as if it would be a straightforward win but after Sparkes – scoring against City for the third time this season – levelled just past the hour mark it was the visitors who suddenly looked the likelier winners. However, it was City who struck the decisive blow 15 minutes from through a great dipping shot by Lewis Hogg. Charlie Clough had already been denied by a last ditch tackle before Watkins headed home a Scott Murray cross. After this bright start, with neither side having anything but pride to play for, the game soon had a real end of season feel about – at one stage after a stoppage for an injury two players from each side were still making their way back onto the pitch after taking on liquid when play restarted. Little changed after the interval, although City were looking the slightly more threatening side, but in the 62nd minute Sparkes burst clear from a Riza pass to round Ryan Robinson and roll the ball home. Lifted by this the Stutes all of a sudden could see their first win since 15 February a real possibilty and Robinson had to produce an excellent stop to deny Riza. Hogg soon dashed their hopes though, lifting a 30-yard shot into the net after keeper Foderingham failed to get any real distance on a clearance under pressure from Lee Phillips. City wasted several chances to extend their lead after this and had a narrow escape in stoppage time when Smith’s free-kick clipped the top of the bar, although Gethin Jones also struck the woodwork moments later, before the final whistle saw them climb back into the top half of the table and, once again, within reach of a top ten finish.
Following Geoff Todd’s announcement that he is to step down as chairman at the end of the season, the club has confirmed that manager Adie Britton will take over on a temporary basis until a permanent successor can be found. Britton joined the board of directors last month, combining the role with managing the football team, as he looks to continue the club’s on the pitch progress whilst boosting it’s off the field activities. He will be joined by two new board members, Andrew Weeks stepping up from an associate position and former Paulton Rovers manager Andrew Jones appointed as director of football.
Geoff Todd has confirmed that he will be bringing his six-year spell as City’s chairman to an end at the conclusion of this season. He initally announced his intention to step down twelve months ago, having overseen the rise from the Southern League to the top flight of non-league football, and hand over to a new investor who could finance the next stage of the club’s progress. And although nobody has so far come forward he is hoping his departure will encourage any potential investor, particuarly on the back of such a successful first season in the Blue Square Bet Premier, to make themselves known.
City finally return to Twerton Park after three weeks on the road with Histon the opposition for the penultimate home match of the 2010-11 Blue Square Bet Premier season. The Cambridgeshire side arrive already condemned to relegation (AGM Cup issues aside) back to the second tier of non-league football, ending their remarkable four year stay in the top flight which at one stage saw them just three games away from a place in the Football League.
This was during their second year at this level, the 2008-09 season, when a third place finish earned them a spot in the play-offs only to lose 2-1 to Torquay United at the semi-final stage. This was still an incredible achievement given the club was based in a village with a population of under 5000. That season also saw the Stutes reach the 3rd Round of the FA Cup for the time in their history, beating Swindon Town and Leeds United on the way before losing narrowly to Swansea City. This success had come under the management of Steven Fallon and John Beck, both former Cambridge United players, but their tenure at the club came to an end in January 2010, a few months after Tony Roach took over as chairman from long-serving Gareth Baldwin.
That campaign ended with Histon avoiding a bottom four finish by just a single point but there has been no repeat of that narrow escape this season. Their cause was not helped by a five point deduction in January for submitting misleading financial information along with an 11-week embargo on signing players due to an outstanding VAT issue. The points loss dumped them to the foot of the table but even before this they were firmly amongst the relegation strugglers, having seen their crowds drop from over 1100 during their play-off campaign to under 600 this year, along with budget cuts that forced manager David Livermore to build a squad made up of a mixture of academy prospects, free signings and loanees. A run of just one defeat in seven games in late January, early February briefly lifted them out of the drop zone but since then they have lost eleven successive games, including the last six without scoring, to relinquish their Premier division place with a whimper. Whether they return to the Conference South or face the less attractive option of the Conference North remains to be decided but Livermore looks set to continue in charge as the club plan to restructure their entire academy and reserve set-up ahead of next season, including withdrawing the reserves from the Eastern Counties Premier Division.
Complete record against Histon
This will be the third time the sides have met this season with City having already enjoyed two wins over Histon at their Glassworld Stadium home. The first came during each clubs only appearance in front of the Premier Sports TV cameras thanks to goals from Sido Jombati and Lee Phillips either side of the interval before Sparkes grabbed a late consolation goal. The Stutes had an immediate chance to gain revenge for this defeat when the sides met in the FA Trophy just over two weeks later (although neither had played a game during that time due to the weather) and when goals from Sparkes and Attwood put them 2-0 up it looked certain they would do exactly that. However, with 20 minutes left Alex Russell’s 20-yard free-kick made it 2-1 and three minutes later Scott Murray levelled the game. City were now in complete control and four minutes into stoppage time the comeback was completed thanks to Russell’s second goal. Histon have only visited Twerton Park on one previous occasion, in a controversial 2-2 draw during the second half of the 2004-05 season. With Histon chasing the title and City struggling in mid-table it was no surprise when Haniver put the visitors ahead on 25 minutes, although it was thanks to a dreadful mistake, bizarrely electing to try to punch a harmless high ball and missing it completely, from keeper Paul Evans that gifted them the goal. City bounced back from this and drew level of the stroke of half-time through a Martin Paul volley. With fifteen minutes left City were reduced to ten men after the harsh sending off of Matt Coupe but eight minutes later a Scott Partridge cross was turned into his own net by Hipperson. There was still time for one final twist though as referee Wendy Toms (no Andy Gray/Richard Keys-esq comments here) awarded a penalty for what appeared to everyone else in the ground a perfectly timed tackle by Graeme Power on Nightingale. Cambridge made no mistake from the spot to deny City a deserved win.
City’s squad will include Cheltenham Town teenager Josh Egan for the first time as manager Adie Britton looks to coax a final effort out of his team to break through the 60-point barrier before they all earn a very well merited summer break. Two players who may not feature are Adie Harris and Danny Webb. The pair have only returned to action of late after long term injuries but with the recent run of away games limiting training to just one full session in the last few weeks neither is likely to be risked for the Histon game or Easter Monday’s trip to Eastbourne Borough.
City added yet another chapter to their incredible series of late comebacks this season, recovering from a two-goal deficit against Grimsby Town thanks to goals from Scott Murray and Charlie Clough in the final ten minutes, before Ryan Robinson produced a stunning injury-time penalty save to deny the home side. During a one-sided first half the Mariners took full advantage of another tired looked City performance. On twelve minutes an Eagle cross eluded Robinson to give Connell a simple far post tap-in and ten minutes later Peacock’s centre was volleyed home by the same player to make it 2-0. Although Grimsby failed to add to this lead they looked comfortably in control of the game and there was no sign of any shift in fortune as the second half progressed. However, with ten minutes remaining City conjured up a goal from nothing as Murray’s low 20-yard free-kick beat the dive of Croudson. Having thrown away several leads in recent weeks the hosts suddenly looked nervous and Sido Jombati’s spectacular hooked effort almost levelled the scores, Croudson producing a great save, but City weren’t to be denied and on 90 minutes Clough rose highest to head home a Murray free-kick. Incredibly their was still time for Grimsby to win a penalty when Gethin Jones was ajudged to have tripped Connell just inside the area. He stepped up to try to complete his hat-trick, and give new managerial duo Scott and Hurst their first win at the club, only to see Robinson save his shot and ensure City’s 2000 mile, four game road-trip ended on a high note.
City complete the four-game road trip tomorrow as they return to the scene of their 2009-10 FA Cup giant-killing success, Grimsby Town’s Blundell Park. Having suffered their first back to back league defeats of the campaign against Darlington and Mansfield Town they will be desperate to avoid a third consecutive loss against a side they beat at Twerton Park just four weeks ago, and avoid what has been a remarkable season drifting to a slightly downbeat finish.
Complete record against Grimsby Town
Since goals by Marley Watkins and Hector Mackie fired City to that 2-1 win the Mariners have finally appointed a permanent replacement for Neil Woods who was sacked in February, turning to Blue Square Bet North side Boston United’s managerial duo of Rob Scott and Paul Hurst. The pair had been teammates for over seven years with Rotherham during their playing days before going into management at Ilkeston Town in January 2009. They led the club to promotion via the Northern League play-offs at the end of that season but financial uncertainty at the Robins (they folded in September 2010) saw them move to Boston United. They repeated this feat at York Street and with the Pilgrims well-placed in the Blue Square Bet North this season a third promotion in a row looked a strong possibility. However, following Woods dismissal they were soon linked with the Grimsby post. An initial approach was turned down by Boston but shortly afterwards the duo resigned and a couple of days later were announced as the Mariners new joint bosses. Not surprisingly Boston were less than impressed at this turn of events and have begun legal moves to obtain compensation for the move.
At the time of Scott and Hurst’s arrival Grimsby still harboured outside hopes of mounting a late challenge for a Blue Square Bet Premier play-off place. They were ten points off fifth place with two games in hand but four games into the duo’s tenure they have yet to record a victory and face at least one more season as a non-league club. When goals from Eagle and Hudson gave them a 2-0 lead in their opening match in charge against Tamworth it looked as if they would get off to the perfect start. However, two late goals for the relegation strugglers showed the side of task they face and subsequent results have done little to lighten the mood around Blundell Park. A single goal defeat at home to Darlington was followed by a long and fruitless trip to Newport County, as they went down by two goals to one. In their last outing they were involved in a six goal thriller against play-off hopefuls Kidderminster Harriers, leading 1-0 and 3-2 before having to settle for a point. This run has seen them slip to 14th, once place below City in the table.
With the City squad having stayed in Nottingham since facing Mansfield last night manager Adie Britton will hope his players can avoid the tiredness that has no doubt played a part in the two defeats during the last five days. He was boosted by the return to action of Adie Harris against the Stags and he could be in line for a place in the starting XI as could Jim Rollo who missed that match. Scott Murray and Joe Lennox could also be given starts having impressed from the bench against Mansfield.
City’s proud record of not having lost back to back league games this season was ended this evening when they were beaten 2-0 by Mansfield Town. After an even first half, which saw Gethin Jones go closest for City, the home side lifted their game after the break to run out deserved winners. City’s best chance of taking control of the game appeared to be putting Stags keeper Grof under pressure, as he looked desperately poor all evening, but they failed to do this regularly and as soon as Higginson found the net on 62 minutes, firing home after Sido Jombati had blocked his first effort, there was only going to be one winner. Nix’s 20-yard free-kick 12 minutes later ensured this outcome and City need to lift themselves for the final leg of their 2000-mile road trip at Grimsby Town on Saturday.
After the disappointing defeat on Saturday against one of the 2011 FA Trophy finalist, Darlington, City will hope for more joy on Thursday when they travel to the other club looking forward to a trip to Wembley Stadium next month, Mansfield Town. Whilst a place in non-league’s showpiece event is some consolation, the Stags would have hoped to still be involved in the promotion hunt at this stage of the season but, against the backdrop of on and off the field problems they currently lie in 14th spot, two points and two places behind City, and facing at least a fourth year as a non-league club.
On the pitch the 2010-11 season began well and, with just one defeat in their opening six games, they led the table at the end of August. Although they began the following month with a poor home defeat to Tamworth, big wins over York City and Eastbourne Borough lifted them back to the summit before September was over. That was as good as it got though and just a single victory in their next eight outings saw them slide down the table. The spell cost manager David Holdsworth his job after less than two years with the club and he was replaced by assistant Duncan Russell, initially in a caretaker capacity before earning a deal until the end of the season in December. A three-game unbeaten start to his managerial career suggested the Stags could rekindle their play-off hopes but since then they have failed to record successive league wins, suffering heavy defeat against Grimsby Town and Fleetwood Town in the process. The Blue Square Bet Premier campaign hit a new low at Hayes & Yeading United last Saturday when they crashed 4-0 to the relegation strugglers. Their cause was not helped by the 30th minute sending off of joint top scorer Briscoe – although they were already 3-0 down at this stage – in an incident which saw Stags manager accuse Hayes’ Bygrave of being a cheat. They bounced back somewhat from this embarrassment tonight with a 1-1 draw against Barrow but it is this inconsistency that has blighted their league campaign.
By contrast they have enjoyed a great run in the FA Trophy to secure a first visit to Wembley since 1987 when they beat Bristol City on penalties in the Freight Rover Trophy Final. It began with a convincing 5-0 win over Worksop then the disposing of Blue Square Bet Premier rivals Newport County, racing into a 3-0 half-time lead before withstanding a second half fight-back from the Welsh side to run out 4-2 winners. They were drawn to face Blue Square Bet North title challengers Alfreton Town in the next round and after drawing 1-1 at Field Mill they came from a goal down at half-time to win the replay 2-1. Once again they needed two attempts to progress past the quarter-finals, drawing 2-2 with Evostick Premier side Chasetown before comfortably winning the second match by three goals to one. The semi-final saw them paired with Luton Town and a 62nd minute Mitchley goal gave them a slender advantage to take to Kenilworth Road for the second leg. The Hatters levelled the tie early in the second half of this game but when they were reduced to nine men in the final ten minutes of normal time the game appeared to Mansfield’s for the taking. However, they failed to turn this numerical advantage into clear cut chances but there was still time for one final twist. With just two minutes remaining Luton’s Graham was harshly adjudged to have handled in the box. Briscoe’s initial effort was saved by Pilkington but he blasted home the rebound and the Stags fans could begin planning their trip down the M1 on May 7.
This cup success and league struggle has been overshadowed by off the field events that for a time had the club locked out of Field Mill and looking for alternative playing venues to ensure they could continue to compete in the Blue Square Bet Premier. The path to this situation began in December 2008 when former owner Keith Haslam obtained ownership of the stadium under his holding company, Stags Limited. The £1.9m he paid to take control of Field Mill came from a final dividend of £2.4m paid to STAGS Ltd and from that moment Mansfield were required to pay rent to carry on playing at the ground. They continued to do this until John Radford took over the club in September 2010. Almost immediately he began legal action against Haslam claiming he had acquired the ground illegally and, understandably, stopped paying rent. After the bailiffs were called a verbal agreement was reached between Haslam and the club but the latter then refused to sign amid allegations that the former had attempted to change the terms. The matter was then taken to the local County Court where a judge decided the club could remain at Field Mill until at least the end of the 2011-12 season. Since then Radford has continued to try to regain control of the ground – he has had one offer turned down – but with the matter of how Stags Limited obtained it in the first place still to be tested in court the future is far from certain.
Complete record against Mansfield Town
This will be the second ever meeting between the sides after they were paired together in the FA Cup 3rd Round during the 1987-88 season. The draw itself was something of a disappointment for City as, having reached this stage of the competition for the first time in 24 years, they missed out on a trip to Old Trafford or Anfield, instead travelling to the less glamorous surroundings of Field Mill. This, though, was of nothing to the let-down of the game itself as they were comfortably brushed aside by the Third Division club. As is often the case in these games City could look back to a missed early chance that may have sent the match down a different path. Paul Williams sliced a great close range opening wide in the first minute and four minutes later a mistake by Dave Palmer allowed Ryan to shoot past Len Bond. The rest of the half was an even encounter but just before the hour mark Graham Withey turned a Ryan cross into his own goal. The home side could relax after this and two more strikes from Charles in the space of 12 minutes left City on the wrong end of a 4-0 scoreline.
City may add Adie Harris to the squad that travelled to Darlington and manager Adie Britton is likely to rotate his starting XI with another tough away trip to Grimsby Town two days later, with Hector Mackie and Joe Lennox possible starters. He will also hope that Gethin Jones has recovered from the leg injury he picked up at Gateshead that forced him to miss the Darlington game. Acadamy duo Danny Collins and Danny Rosser could also feature before the end of the season after they were allocated squad numbers, 18 and 21 respectively, as could assistant manager Lee Howells (no. 28) and former midfielder Lee Collier (no.31) after they were registered to play.
City second visit of the week to the North East ended in disappointment this afternoon as they lost 3-1 to Darlington at the Northern Echo Arena. The game was effectively over as a contest by half-time as the Quakers raced into a three goal lead, with Lee Phillips’ second half effort never likely to be more than a consolation. It took just a minute for the home side to open the scoring as City failed to deal with a Arnison cross allowing Hatch to fire past Ryan Robinson. City then forced a succession of corners but from their next meaningful attack Darlington struck again, Hatch heading his second from another Arnison centre. Nine minutes before the interval Campbell burst through the middle of City’s defence to slide the ball home and make it 3-0. The introduction of Scott Murray gave City more attacking imputeus after the break, although they had a close escape when Arnison crashed a volley against the bar, and it was from his cross on 75 minutes that Phillips bundled the ball home at the second attempt. That, at least, gave City small band of travelling fans something to cheer but they never threatened a serious recovery and the FA Trophy finalists comfortably saw out the remainder of the game.
Saturday’s sees City embark on the second leg of their four game 2000 mile road trip with the North East once again the destination, this time to face FA Trophy finalists Darlington. Since the Quakers secured their visit to Wembley Stadium next month their hopes of reaching the Blue Square Bet Premier play-offs have all but disappeared with three losses in four games. This came after a run of one defeat in 14 league games that had lifted them within reach of a top five finish but from the moment they beat Gateshead 3-2 on aggregate in the semi-final it was obvious where their focus was directed. Their official website contains little news not connected with Wembley and manager Mark Cooper admitted, after the 2-1 reversal at Newport County in the week, it is clear his players already have the May 7 trip on their minds.
Against this background City will hope to continue their good form and take another step toward a top ten finish. Results in the week mean City are now mathematically safe which is a remarkable achievement with six games remaining but, as their latest last-gasp goal at Gateshead on Monday showed, there is no sign of them coasting to the end of the campaign. They will also be keen to avenge one of the few disappointments of their season, the 4-1 FA Trophy defeat at The Northern Echo Darlington Arena back in January. Potentially this could be City’s last trip to the stadium that has been a 25,000 capacity millstone around the Quakers neck since they moved there in 2003. The holding company that own the ground and surrounding land went into receivership in February and this week a property firm was instructed to advertise its sale after talks between receivers and club owners broke down. It is hoped that any sale would clear the £2million debt owed on the land but whether any potential buyer would allow the club to remain is unclear, even though they are just two years into a 15 year lease.
Against this background it is unsurprising that most supporters are focusing on Wembley whilst Cooper begins to look ahead to the 2011-12 season and how they can regain the league status they lost last year. With 48 goals in 39 games (only four BSBP teams have scored fewer goals this season) their main weakness is clear, although they are likely to welcome back top scorer Liam Hatch after he missed the Newport game with a sore calf. One player who looks unlikely to remain with Darlington next season is 18-year old central defender Dan Burn. The 6’6 former youth team player has attracted numerous scouts to the Darlington Arena, with Everton manager David Moyes present at Newport to watch him.
Complete record against Darlington
As already mentioned City’s one previous trip to County Durham to face the Quakers ended in disappointment as they were dumped out of the FA Trophy. With less than 1000 supporters rattling around the stadium it was a low-key first half that looked to be ending goalless but a minute into stoppage time Arnison produced a neat piece of skill in the box to put the hosts in front. It got worse for City within moments of the restart when Hatch made it 2-0 netting at the second attempt after Carl Pentney had saved his initial effort. In the previous round City had recovered from a two-goal deficit at Histon to win 3-2, so when Adam Connolly’s low shot made it 2-1 hopes of a repeat were sparked. However, within four minutes Verma restored Darlington’s two-goal lead before Hatch was on target again to leave City on the wrong end of an unflattering 4-1 defeat.
City could welcome two of their long term absentees back for the trip with Danny Webb and Adie Harris both in line for a return to action. Webb has been out of action since fracturing his cheek bone during a 4-0 win over Cambridge United at the end of January. He still has the metal plate inserted to repair the damage but has been given the go ahead to play with a protective mask. Harris’ last appearance was also back in January when he suffered a hamstring injury against AFC Wimbledon but he could also re-join the squad if he comes through training tonight with no problems.
With City’s Blue Square Bet Premier place now mathematically safe manager Adie Britton has set himself a new target, climbing Britain’s highest mountain Ben Nevis. Straight after the match against Eastbourne Borough he will fly to Scotland to tackle the 4,409 ft peak and in the process raise money for the club and Bristol Children’s Hospital. You can download a sponsor form and poster from here and before, during and after the Histon match Adie and members supporters club committee will be going around the ground asking for you to sponsor him. For those who can’t get to the Histon but would still like to sponsor Adie you can email email@example.com with your name, address and how much you would like to sponsor Adie.
City will hold their annual end of season presentation evening in Charlie’s and Randall’s at Twerton Park on Friday 6 May. The event will begin at 7.30pm and include a buffet, auction and disco in addition to the end of season awards. Tickets are £17.50 (over 60 concessions £15.00) and can be purchased from the club during office hours or the supporters’ club shop at the remaining two home games of the season.
Charlie Clough’s first goal for the club earned City a point against Gateshead this evening at a cold and windy International Stadium. He flicked home Scott Murray’s 88th minute cross to ensure City’s 600 mile round trip was not a pointless one. This came after the home side had taken the lead with just 14 minutes gone, Fisher firing past Ryan Robinson, and dominated the game but in common with the meeting at Twerton Park two days ago fail where it really matters, in front of goal. As the chances came and went for the Heed they began to look increasingly nervous at the back, no doubt aware of their opponents incredible ability to find late goals this season, and their worst nightmare came true with just two minutes left to the delight of the small band of City supporters who had made the journey. The draw lifts City up to 9th place, their highest position of the season so far before they return to the North East on saturday to face Darlington.
City have signed Cheltenham Town teenager Josh Egan on a work experience deal until the end of the season. The 17-year old winger is a second year scholarship player with the Robins having previously spent five years at the Jamie Shore Soccer International. He has made handful of reserve team starts for the League 2 strugglers and will wear the no.25 shirt whilst at Twerton Park.
City drew first blood in their double header against Gateshead thanks to a solitary goal from Lee Phillips early in the second half. Despite both sides firmly in mid-table another excellent Twerton Park crowd were treated to an entertaining spectacle that could have gone either way. The visitors controlled possession for much of the opening stages without ever looking particularly dangerous up front. Just when the game appeared to be drifting toward the interval both sides struck the frame of the goal within the space of 60 seconds. Gateshead’s Shaw saw his header hit the underside of the crossbar before City went straight up the other end. where Marley Watkins’ 20-yard effort crashed against the post. This finally woke the hosts up as Watkins brought a fine stop out of keeper Deasy and Adam Connolly shot narrowly wide following a great run by Sido Jombati. The half ended with Phillips clearing a corner off his own line but two minutes after the break he was in more familiar terrority, running on to Watkins’ pass to net his 15th goal of the season. Gateshead responded well, Turnball having his shot turned over by Ryan Robinson then seeing a header hit the bar, but City also had chances to extend their lead, Watkins and Phillips both shooting wide when well placed. The closing quarter saw the Heed continue to press but they could not fashion an equaliser their performance probably deserved, however they only have just over 48 hours to wait before getting the chance to gain revenge.
City have announced that Moore Stephens have extended the deal as the club’s main sponsor for the 2011-12 season. The accountancy firm took over in November after the previous deal with Inter Payroll fell through and since then the relationship has gone from strength to strength, and this early commitment for next season allows the club to plan for the future with a very important part of its finances already settled.
Danny Rosser and Danny Collins have become the first two Academy players to earn a deal with the senior squad since its creation in September 2009 under the leadership of former Bristol Rovers player Billy Clark. The pair have signed non-contract terms and will train with the first team and could potentially feature in a squad between now and the end of the 2010-11 Blue Square Bet Premier season.
Joe Burnell has become the latest player to committ himself to the club for the 2011-12 season. He joins Marley Watkins, Lee Phillips, Adam Connolly and Danny Webb in agreeing new deals.