|PREVIEW: Welling United v CITY (29/8/07)
City go into their second month as a Blue Square South side, following an almost perfect August, and come face to face with a old foe from their Vauxhall Conference days, Welling United. The Kent side had a meteoric rise from local youth league football in 1963 to the pinnacle of non-league football just 23 years later, winning the Southern League by 23 points in 1986 to join City in the Vauxhall Conference. The two sides would meet for the first time on Saturday 23 August 1986 and go on to face each other another 31 times before the last clash in City’s final league match of the 2003-04 season. Two goals from Scott Partridge – including a retaken penalty – was enough to beat Welling and secure City a play-off spot for a place in the newly formed Conference (Welling had already clinched their place) although they missed out two days later when they crashed 4-2 to Dorchester. Amongst City’s 26 league meetings with the Wings, twice they have run out 5-0 winners at Park View Road. The first in 1992 when a brace from Paul Randall set them on their way was followed three years later, this time Dean Birkby going one better with a hat-trick. However, it is two FA Cup and one League Cup (for off the field reasons) meetings between the clubs that are the most memorable. The FA Cup games were both 2nd round ties in successive seasons, 1987-88 and 1988-89. The first saw a City side destined for relegation at the end of the season (although Welling only finished one place above them) travel to Park View Road and, through a second half strike from Dave Singleton, book themselves a place in the 3rd round for only the 5th time and the first for 24 seasons. Twelve months later the sides were drawn together again this time at Twerton Park. That game ended goalless so by the time they met again three days later the 3rd round draw had been made and the winners would face Blackburn Rovers. And when first half goals from Dave Payne and Mickey Smith gave City a 2-0 lead it looked as they would be hosting the then Second Division side. However, the home side pulled a goal back and the game changed early in the second half when John Freegard was sent off for an alleged elbow. Welling took full advantage of this travesty, scoring twice more to win 3-2 and secure their first 3rd round appearance. The other memorable meeting was the somewhat lower key Bob Lord Trophy 1st round 2nd leg match in 1994. City were already 3-1 up from the 1st leg and ended up winning by the incredible aggregate score of 9-3, as goals from Adie Mings, Gary Smart, Dean Birkby (2), Paul McLouglin and Paul Adcock gave them a 6-2 victory. It was after the match that any joy the small band of City fans felt as, on leaving the ground, they found their minibus had been stolen. It has never been found.
Complete record against Welling United
After struggling in the first season in the Conference South, lying near the foot of the table for the opening three months of the season which cost former England international Paul Parker his job as manager, but they have improved over the last two years, finishing 9th in 2005-06 then narrowly missing out on the play-off’s last season. This summer saw a change in manager at Park View Road, Adrian Pennock heading to Stoke City in a coaching capacity and being replaced by former Woking caretaker boss Neil Smith. He has not got off to the best start though, with just one win in his first five games, a narrow 1-0 victory over Hayes & Yeading United, and his side currently sit in 18th place.
Despite probably their most disjointed performance of the season so far, City recorded a fourth successive win as a single goal was enough to beat Weston Super Mare at Twerton Park this afternoon. Luckily for City they came up against easily the poorest opposition they’ve face as a Blue Square South club, the Seasiders hardly testing Paul Evans during the whole 90 minutes. Darren Edwards should have put City ahead in the opening minutes, heading straight at Northmore, but this was a rare opening as both sides attempts’ to gain any momentum were frustrated by over fussy officials. Fittingly the goal that decided the game was a scrappy effort, Scott Rogers’ cross-shot beating everyone and ending up in the corner of the net five minutes before the interval. The second half showed little improvement, City rarely looking likely to add to their lead but an equaliser looking even more improbable. And unlike Saturday’s narrow win over Maidenhead there was no late flourish by the opposition and City ran out the game looking increasingly secure.
City’s next opponents Weston Super Mare have no right to be in the Blue Square South. This is not just because they finished second bottom in the league last season, but also due to the circumstances that surrounded them gaining a place in the division back in 2004-05. First, how they were saved last year. Having finished in 21st place it took events at three other clubs to prevent them ending up back in the Southern League. Farnborough Town going bust on their own would have not been enough, but when Hayes and Yeading announced they were to merge this meant City would face one local game this season. Now we go back three years to how the Seagulls got into the Conference South in the first place. For most of the season it appeared they would miss out on making the re-organisation cut, at best having to go through the lottery of the play-offs. This all changed on April 17 2004 when just after half-time one linesman pulled a muscle and, despite several possible replacements being acceptable to opponents Stafford Rangers, then manager Frank Gregan refused to play on and, with Weston one goal down, the game was abandoned. When the sides met again twelve days later the visitors were in the middle of a hectic spell of games which allowed Weston to run out 5-1 winners and ‘earn’ their place in the Conference South. To their credit finishes of 11th in 2004-05 and 14th in 2005-06 saw them take full advantage of their actions. And even when it seemed they would end up back where they belong fate intervened once again. At the beginning of their first season at this level Weston moved into a new ground Woodspring Stadium, built next to their old ground Woodspring Park. Although basic in the extreme with crowds rarely exceeding 300 it is more than sufficient for their needs. Several ex-City players now ply their trade at Weston, Ryan Northmore, Barry McConnell, Billy Clark, Gareth Hopkins and Matt Hale. Between them they total just 26 appearances (and one goal) for City, but when you include their management team it adds another 616 games (and 26 goals). Assistant manager Chris Smith played 110 matches between October 1988 and January 1991 and manager Tony Ricketts is City’s second highest appearing player with 506 games. The latter, of course, also managed City for over five seasons and it will be the first time he has come face to face as a manager with the club he spent the majority of his career at. Ricko got his Weston career off to a perfect start with a 3-1 opening day win against Thurrock and has followed that up with a draw Hayes & Yeading United, a defeat at Fisher Athletic and a win over Sutton United to lie in 7th place, three points behind City.
Complete record against Weston Super Mare
City’s last meeting with Weston was back during the infamous 2003-04 season and the only goal of the game was scored by Lewis Hogg. Unfortunately back then he played for Weston. This was only the second time they had beaten City, the other coming back in 1912 in a Bristol Charity League match. Overall City have won 27 of the 32 games between the sides, scoring exactly 100 goals to Weston 20.
City withstood a late barrage from Maidenhead United to secure a 1-0 victory that lifted them to the top of the Blue Square South at a hot and sunny York Road this afternoon. Darren Edwards had put City ahead with a close range finish on 38 minutes from Lewis Hogg’s cross but several other chances went begging, the main culprit being Dave Gilroy, to increase the lead. After the break the home side looked much more threatening, hitting a post and forcing a fine save out of Paul Evans within the opening minutes. City were still dangerous on the break, however again chances were not taken and this lead to a nervous closing quarter of an hour. Davis and Romeo both went close then it looked as if James’ header was destined for the net only for a teammate to deflect the ball over the bar. After five minutes stoppage time the referee finally ending proceedings and once other results came through it became clear that City were sitting proudly atop the table.
For the third time in their opening four games City come face to face with a side promoted to the Blue Square South last season. Unlike Bromley and Hampton & Richmond, though, it is not Maidenhead United’s first season at this level, having made the cut when the leagues were re-organised at the end of the 2003-04 season. However, the Magpie’s immediately struggled at this level, only avoiding relegation at the end of the next season by the demise of Hornchurch. They were no so fortunate the next year, finishing bottom of the table and relegated to the Southern League. For a while it looked as if they could face a second successive relegation, struggling near the foot of the division. A change in management, though, saw a major upturn in their fortunes, Carl Taylor leaving the club in September and being replaced by Johnson ‘Drax’ Hippolyte. He led the club to their first FA Cup First Round proper appearance in 35 years and, even more amazingly, twelve wins in the final fourteen league matches (their only two defeats coming against City and Team Bath) carried them into the play-off places. Victories over King’s Lynn and Team Bath, at Twerton Park, then saw them join City in the Blue Square South. Whereas City appear to adapted to higher level football, Maidenhead’s first three games have only yielded a single point and they currently lie fourth from bottom in the table. An opening day 3-2 defeat at home to Fisher Athletic contained, according to Hippolyte “Sunday morning defending”. They responded well to this reversal, taking a point off highly-fancied Newport County in a 1-1 draw but then lost their next game at Eastbourne, where they also had two players sent-off in a match marred by accusations of racism and spitting. Their cause has not been helped by injuries and suspensions even at this early stage of the season, although these problems appear to be easing ahead of the clash with City.
The clubs have met three times before with City holding a 100% record. They completed the double over the Berkshire side last season, including a 2-0 win at York Road when the game went ahead despite non-stop rain turning the pitch into a lake. Prior to this the only other meeting was an FA Cup 1st round tie during the 1963-64 season. Goals from Johnny Cartwright and Keith Sanderson beat the then Athenian League side and went on to set up one of the club’s biggest ever matches, the 3rd round clash with Bolton Wanderers.
Summer arrival Jason Wood has returned to Yate Town for a month to recover his match fitness. The 23-year old midfielder impressed sufficiently in pre-season to be offered a short-term deal after recovering from a serious knee injury last season. However, with City’s excellent start to the season, rather than leave him on the bench City boss John Relish has allowed him to return to his former club Yate. City can recall him with immediate effect and he will not be allowed to play in the FA Cup so as not to be cup-tied. Relish also revealed that Wood is likely to sign a permanent contract if the month back at Lodge Road proves successful.
City midfielder Mark McKeever had promised young City fan Owen Pass the City Shirt he wore helping the club win the title last year. And he fufilled this promise by meeting up with Owen at the Hampton & Richmond Borough game on Saturday, presenting the shirt just before kick off. Owen is a regular at Twerton Park and is pictured with his brother Thomas. The shirt is going to be framed by Owen’s Dad Nigel and take pride of place at home.
City made it seven points from a possible nine at Twerton Park this afternoon as their great start to the season continued with a 2-0 win over Hampton & Richmond. Mark McKeever opened the scoring after 27 minutes when he beat two Hampton defenders before firing the ball into the corner of the net. Nine minutes Dave Gilroy beat Lovett in the visitors goal to a McKeever cross and as the ball looped toward the goal Matt Coupe applied the finishing touch. City were good value for this two goal advantage and for the first twenty minutes of the second half they went close on numerous occasions to extending their lead. The third goal didn’t arrive though and they then sat back and comfortably dealt with Hampton’s attacking threat, only once was Paul Evans – back in goal after overcoming his neck injury – called into action, blocking a close range shot. The victory leaves City in third place, behind Fisher Athletic and Lewes, the two sides with 100% records after three matches.
This Saturday sees the reigning champions of the Southern League and Ryman League face off at Twerton Park. Back on the last Saturday in April, as City were enjoying a party atmosphered final day of the season having clinched the league seven days earlier, the Beavers were going through a rollercoaster of emotions as they met already relegated Slough Town needing a victory to ensure they held off title-rivals Bromley. And when the Rebels scored to level the match at 2-2 with just five minutes left it looked as they would face the lottery of the play-offs, however they regained the lead 90 seconds later and guaranteed their place in the Blue Square South with a last minute penalty. This represented a steady improvement for the club having been promoted back to the Ryman Premier League in 2003-04, narrowly missing out on the play-offs in 2004-05 then losing to Fisher Athletic in the play-off final the following season. The architect of this rise is manager Alan Devonshire, who was appointed in the summer of 2003. The former West Ham United winger spent 14 years with the East London club, also making eight appearances for England during that time. Whether he spent the summer closely watching his former club’s troubles in the Carlos Tevez affair is not clear, but it was not spent strengthing his squad for new campaign. Just one new player arrived at the Beveree Stadium, central defender Orlando Jeffrey returning to the club from Hayes & Yeading United. To be fair, much like City, there was little action going the other way either, as only Victor Asombang and Marvin Bartley left to join Staines and AFC Bournemouth, respectively. A reasonable pre-season, which saw them face reserve/youth teams from Chelsea and Arsenal, was soon forgotten when they lost 2-0 in their opening league match at home to Eastbourne Borough. Devonshire blamed this reversal on the 51st minute dismissal of midfielder Kelvin McIntosh and his view seemed to be backed up when three days later his fully-manned side beat Bognor Regis Town by four goals to two, to open their Blue Sqaure South account. City have never faced Hampton & Richmond before, either in their current guise or before the “& Richmond” part was added in 1999 when they changed their name in an attempt to draw a wider support base from around the Borough.
A rare, but spectacular, Jim Rollo strike and a Darren Edwards tap-in helped City to their first Blue Square South victory against Eastleigh at Twerton Park last night. Rollo stunning 25-yard screamer, his first goal since an equally memorable effort against Yeading in November 05, put City ahead on 28 minutes before Edwards converted Mark McKeever’s low cross to make it 2-0 seven minutes after the interval. This as no less than City deserved as they built on Saturday’s late equaliser at Bromley with another assured performance. In contrast to that game, Eastleigh’s physical approach was more like City faced last season, although they also had pace through the side that looks to be something that City will face regularly this season. However, a number of City’s players are no slouches either and after a couple of early scares they began to comfortably deal with the Spitfire’s limited threat. In the end City could have won by a greater margin as Chris Holland, Dave Gilroy Scott Rogers and substitute Phil Walsh all went close.
Mike Green has joined British Gas Business Football League Premier Division side Clevedon Town on loan. The versatile 22-year old made 36 starts last season but found his first-team opportunities limited in the closing months of the campaign and, with the arrival of Paul Keddle during the summer, has slipped further down the pecking order. He will spend a month with the Seasider’s to retain his match fitness.
Whilst City were scoring their injury time equaliser at Bromley on Saturday, down on the south coast Eastleigh where grimly hanging onto to a single goal advantage to open their Blue Square South season with a win over Cambridge City. This will be their third campaign at this level have won promotion via the play-offs at the end of the 2004-05 season, finishing 8th in 2005-06 before slipping back to 15th last year, only guaranteeing their place in the league with a 4-1 win over Yeading on the final day of the season. As recently as 2003 the club were playing in the Wessex League before moving up through the divisions via a switch from the Southern League to the Ryman League in 2004. When City were promoted to the Blue Square South last April it looked as if the meeting with the Spitfires (a nickname they only adopted a couple of years ago as The Supermarine Type F37/34 Spitfire was assembled at Eastleigh (now Southampton International) Airport) would see a return of one of the club’s most famous ex-players, Jason Dood. The Bath-born defender made just 18 appearances for City before joining Southampton for a transfer that in the end totalled £80,000. He went on to become one of the Saints longest serving players, playing over 400 games during his 16 years with the club. He joined Eastleigh in July 2006 only for an ankle injury to force him to hang up his boots four months later, when he was named coach. A month later he was named their new manager, taking over from Paul Doswell, who became Director of Football. However, a reuinion with City was dashed in July 2007 when he returned to the St Mary’s Stadium as first-team coach. His replacement as manager at Eastleigh was David Hughes. His main summer activity saw three players arrive from Fisher Athletic, Chris Piper, Anthony Riviere and Damien Scanell, plus Ellis Green (Welling) and Warren Ryan. Pre-season saw them record wins over Poole (4-0), Gosport (4-0), Christchurch (2-0) and Weymouth (1-0) with defeats against Southampton (2-4), Portsmouth (0-1) and Oxford United (1-0).
Whilst this will be the first meeting with Eastleigh in their present guise, City did face the club when they were called Swaythling, in the FA Cup during the 1977-78 season. Although City would go on to lift the Southern League title that season they were pushed all the way by the then Hampshire League side, only a penalty by Kevin Griffin forcing a replay which City comfortably won by three goals to nil, with strikes from Martin Wheeler, Martyn Rogers and Griffin.
A 90th minute goal from Chris Holland rescued a point for City as they began life as a Blue Square South side with a 1-1 draw at Bromley this afternoon. He struck with a low shot after the home side failed to deal with a Mark McKeever corner just as it looked like City would be travelling home empty-handed. They had gone behind on 81 minutes when the Lillywhite’s capped their best spell of the game with Williams taking advantage of a slip by Gethin Jones to fire the ball past Steve Perrin. The stand-in keeper had made a number of excellent stops to keep the scores level before this as the two teams contributed to an entertaining game. The first half had been an even encounter with both sides looking to find their feet at the higher level. Darren Edwards spurned City’s best opening in this period, shooting straight at Walker after being sent racing clear, and he was unfortunate to block Holland’s goalbound header early after the interval as City started the second period brightly. However, soon the home side took control and looked to have won the game before Holland’s late strike.
City are still sweating on the fitness of goalkeeper Paul Evans ahead of their first league game of the 2007-08 season at Bromley tomorrow. The former South African international is rated as no better than 50/50 to recover from the neck injury he suffered in last week’s pre-season friendly at Yate Town. If Evans misses out City are likely to turn to Melksham, and former City keeper, Steve Perrin, although another unnamed shot-stopped that played for Salisbury City during pre-season may also stand-in between the posts. City’s only other injury absentee is last season’s top scorer Scott Partridge, who will be sidelined until October, also with a neck problem.
City begin life as a Blue Square South club with a trip to Kent to face another side making their debut in this league. Unlike City, though, they only secured promotion via the play-offs after being pipped to the Ryman League league title by Hampton & Richmond. Having beaten AFC Wimbledon in the play-off semi-final they took on Billericay in the final and sneaked into the Blue Square South via a penalty shoot-out. Despite this rather back-door entry they were installed as one of the pre-season favourites, largely due to the percieved view of them as an ambitious, big-spending club. No doubt this impression is furthered by their manager, Mark Goldberg, the former millionnaire who lost his entire fortune trying to keep Crystal Palace in the Premiership during the late 1990’s. He returned to football in during the 2005-06 season when Bromley chairman, and Goldberg’s brother-in-law, Jerry Dolke, installed him as Bromley manager, taking over from successful and popular boss Billy Smith, who had taken the club back to the Ryman Premier Division (again via the play-offs). Whether it was despite or because of this change the Lilywhite’s upward momentum continued and an excellent pre-season campaign will have bolstered optimism at Hayes Lane. Draws against league opposition in the shape of Crystal Palace and Colchester United, plus a victory over a Charlton Athletic reserve/youth side, were backed up with wins over Margate, Ashford and Folkestone and a draw with Blue Square Premier side Ebbsfleet United. Their only reversal came against Carshalton Athletic. Unike City they have been big movers during the summer bringing in Simon Glover from Ashford, Danny Hockton from Margate, Ali Chabaan from Staines and Tony Quinton and Richard Harris from Sutton. Going the opposite way were Jerome Sobers (Braintree), Kirk Watts (Lewes) and Tony Boot (Billericay). Behind the scenes changes saw goalkeeping coach Derek Parnham promoted to assistant manager. With both sides new to this level the meeting is unlikely to define either club’s season, but will still be an interesting test as to where they stand at the higher level. It will be City’s first ever competitive meeting with Bromley.
City have revealed that season ticket sales for their 2007-08 Blue Square South debut are up a third on last year’s numbers. They have sold nearly 200, compared to around 150 for last season Southern League campaign. With their opening home game against Eastleigh a week away they hope to sell more tickets and the target for the season is an average crowd of around 800-850, which would almost certainly make them one of the top 5 supported Blue Square South clubs. Last season the average Twerton Park crowd was 819, which represented a 15% increase on the previous year, with a high of 2044 for the 1-0 win over Chippenham Town in April that completed the double over their former local rivals.
Following City’s penalty shoot-out defeat to Tiverton Town in Saturday’s Championship match at Twerton Park, supporter Martin Powell was presented with a Red Letter Day Voucher worth £200 by League Chairman’s wife, Margaret Turner, as the winner of the British Gas Business Local Hero Competition. The recently semi-retired Frome-based teacher organises the club’s away travel, is vice-chairman of the supporters’ club and was also named as Pete McCormack’s successor as chairman of the supporters’ society on Saturday. He is also very tall, doesn’t like 20/20 or one-day cricket, hate’s the overpaid prima-donna Premiership players and England’s football team, views all cup competitions (including the FA Cup and Trophy) as distractions from the league, earned his nickname ‘Pinky’ due to the colour of an away travel coach to Clevedon Town several seasons ago, is very tall, is the second highest poster on the message board, is very tall, bought a new winter coat last season to keep him warm at god-forsaken outposts like Stamford and Rugby, plays Boules with a Bear, doesn’t believe in watching pre-season matches (unless he get some award after the game), has a number of funny anecdotes of the York’s antics in the 1970’s, is very tall, is very bald and goes to Glastonbury every year in direct contrast to Michael Evis’ attempt to attract a younger crowd. He is also quite tall.
City will have been relieved to come through their final pre-season outing of the summer without any serious injuries, rather than worry about a penalty shoot-out defeat against Tiverton Town, who get the ‘honour’ of lifting *deep breath* The British Gas Business Football League Challenge Cup. Despite the game being a glorified friendly the visitors seemed soley intent on kicking anything in a black and white, time-wasting even before they realised a penalty shoot-out was their only hope of winning the game, and, mainly through lead resident thug Nathan Rudge, hoofing the ball as far out of Twerton Park as possible. The game itself finished 1-1 after 90 minutes – with Lewis Hogg putting City ahead after 34 minutes from the penalty spot before Young levelled six minutes later following a mistake from ex-youth team keeper Eddie Quelch. Weak refereeing throughout culminated in a disgraceful challenge by Gardener on Hogg midway through the second half which sparked the familiar sight of Tiverton involved in a on-pitch brawl, and after this City looked content to avoid any injuries and the game headed to penatlies. Hogg and Jason Wood were both successful for City but Darren Edwards and Adie Harris saw former City keeper Ray Johnston save their efforts and, with Gardener, Clarke, Booth and Rudge all beating Quelch, Tiverton finished 4-2 winners.
City Youth’s 2007-08 FA Youth Cup campaign begin’s at the preliminary round stage with a trip to Bridgwater Town. The match will take place on Tuesday 11 September (ko 7.45pm) and the winners face a trip to either to Weston Super Mare or Bishop’s Cleeve in the 1st Qualifying Round. The youth side also face a slightly different set-up in their league season. The South West Counties Youth League has been split into two divisions of nine teams, with City placed in Division 1. There will also be a League Cup compeition featuring two groups of nine teams, playing each other once. Their new season begins with a home match against Aldershot Town on Saturday 1 September.
City are optimistic that keeper Paul Evans will be fit to face Bromley in the opening 2007-08 Blue Square South match on 11 August. Former youth team shot-stopper Eddie Quelch played against Caerleon on Wednesday evening – and may feature in tomorrow’s British Gas Business Football League Challenge Cup meeting with Tiverton Town – but it is hoped that Evans will have overcome the whiplash-type injury he suffered when landing heavily at Yate on Monday.
Following a series of impressive pre-season outings defender Paul Keddle has signed non-contract terms for the 2007-08 season. The 23-year old Welsh non-league international was brought in by manager John Relish having previous played for him with Merthyr Tydfil, before joining Welsh Premier League side Carmarthen Town during the 20067-07 season. His signature fulfill’s City’s main summer target, a left-sided defender, and takes their squad to 20 players, which is likely to be how they start the season.
Last night City drew 1-1 with Welsh League side Caerleon in a low-key pre-season friendly. City’s goal was scored by Mark McKeever.
With the start of the 2007-08 Blue Square Conference South season just ten days away City are sweating on the fitness of keeper Paul Evans following his awkward fall in Monday’s friendly at Yate Town. The South African was taken to Frenchay Hospital having shown signs of concussion but also appears to have aggravated his long-standing back injury, which will be of greater concern to the City management. For this evenings pre-season match at Caerleon either Tony Malessa, former youth team keeper, now at Trowbridge Town, Eddie Quelch or current youth no.1 Shane Mason will stand-in for Evans but should he be unfit for the Bromley game on August 11 City are likely to turn to their former keeper Steve Perrin.