August 2008

Late goal denies City victory in Twerton Park thriller (30/8/08)

An equalising goal five minutes from time denied City a win over league leaders AFC Wimbledon at a warm and sunny Twerton Park this afternoon. The visitors led 1-0 at the interval but a close range finish by Martin Paul and a stunning solo goal by Gethin Jones turned the game around. However, the Dons had the last laugh and could even have won the game in the closing minutes. The first half had seen Wimbledon knock the ball around confidently but rarely hurt City. By contrast the home side saw less possession but looked more threatening when they had the ball. And it was a rare piece of sloppy defending that allowed Godfrey to nip in ahead of Steve Perrin and stab home on 25 minutes. Within four minutes of the restart Paul shot home via the post to stun the Dons and with 20 minutes left Gethin Jones won the ball on the halfway line, advanced unchallenged to the edge of the box before shooting low into the corner of the net. Wimbledon threw everything at City after this and finally drew level on 85 minutes when Inns had the space to place the ball past Perrin. There were a few nervous moments for City after this but at the final whistle they could be satisfied with ending another 100% record.

PREVIEW: CITY v AFC Wimbledon – Blue Square South (28/8/08)

For the second successive Saturday City welcome a side to Twerton Park sitting proudly at the summit of the Blue Square South table and boasting a 100% record. After ending Team Bath’s perfect start to the 2008-09 season last week with a 1-1 draw, City will hope to at least repeat the feat against AFC Wimbledon, although a first home win of the campaign would be even more welcome. Having won promotion to the Blue Square South via the Ryman League play-offs last season the Dons have surprised no-one with their flying start. They began with a 4-1 away thumping of Newport County before following this up with wins over Thurrock (2-1), Bognor Regis Town (3-1), Basingstoke Town (1-0) and Bromley (3-1), although three of these four wins have all come about with late goals.

AFC Wimbledon’s rise up the non-league pyramid has been remarkable since they were formed in May 2002 following the disgraceful decision by the FA to allow Wimbledon FC to relocate 56 miles north to the new town of Milton Keynes. Within a couple of months the side had found a home at Kingstonian’s Kingsmeadow ground, held trials to form a squad and played their first match, a friendly against Sutton United in front of 4,657 supporters. They joined the Combined Counties League and despite an understandable slow start finished in 3rd place, narrowly missing out on promotion. They averaged crowds that season of just over 3,000, compared to less than 1,500 for Wimbledon FC in their final season under that name playing at Selhurst Park. The next two seasons saw successive promotions, winning their opening 21 games in 2003-04 and going through the season unbeaten in the league. Their seemingly unstoppable progress was checked during the next two campaigns as they suffered successive play-off semi-final defeats. However, it was third time lucky in May 2008 as they beat Staines Town 2-1 in the Ryman League play-off final to secure a place in the Blue Square South. During this period the club raised sufficient funds to purchase Kingsmeadow – Kingstonian becoming their tenants rather than vice-versa – giving them a permanent home, although not in the London Borough of Merton which remains their long-term aim.

Complete record against Wimbledon

While clearly this is City’s first meeting with AFC Wimbledon they regularly faced Wimbledon FC during the 1960’s and 1970’s after the club joined the Southern League in 1964. It wasn’t until the 1966-67 season the sides met for the first time in the league but they had already faced each other in the FA Cup 2nd Round in 1963 – with Wimbledon then still an amateur club. Over 3000 City fans travelled up to London to see their side draw 2-2 thanks to Johnny Cartwright and an own goal. By the time of the replay the draw for the 3rd Round had given the winners a tie at home to 1st Division Bolton Wanderers. Even though the match was held on a Thursday afternoon 5,627 were present to see City win 4-0 and go onto one of the biggest games in their history. Their first league meeting in March 1967 was less of a success as the Dons ran out 6-2 winners. City did regain some pride with a single goal win in the final match of that season, although this was not enough to prevent their relegation, and during their league meetings over the next few seasons City generally came off second best. It was once again the FA Cup that was to provide a memorable clash between the sides in 1974. With City fans making up around 1,000 of the 5,000 Plough Lane crowd it was an end to end tie, but with both goalkeepers in fine form it looked to be heading for a goalless draw and replay, only for a stunning injury-time Mick Mahon shot to finally beat Kenny Allen. The win saw Wimbledon into the 2nd Round and their FA Cup run would only end in the 4th Round after a replay defeat against Leeds United. In the league that season City took three points off the Dons despite them adding the Southern League title to their famous FA Cup run. They would repeat this league success for the next two seasons, despite losing three times to City, including a double in 1976-77 when they were elected to the Football League in place of Workington.

So, although City go into the game facing a side top of the league with a 100% record they can look back to a record of four wins and a draw in the last six meetings between the clubs … even if the games were over 30 years ago.

City grind out Bank Holiday win thanks to penalty hero Perrin (25/8/08)

City had to thank goalkeeper Steve Perrin for an excellent penalty save with just eight minutes remaining to secure their second win of the season at Worcester City this afternoon. They had led from a penalty of their own, Stuart Douglas converting after he was pulled back in the box on the stroke of half-time, but when Steve Jones was harshly adjudged to have fouled Owen it looked like the game would follow a similar pattern to Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Team Bath. However, Perrin – playing because of Paul Evans’ knee problem that had not had sufficient time to recover after the game against their Twerton Park tenants – had other ideas and produced a great low stop from Owens spot-kick then watched gratefully as Adaggio blasted the rebound high over the unguarded goal. City had been good value for their half-time advantage, having what appeared a good goal from Danny Carey-Bertram ruled out in the fifth minute and a strong penalty shout moments later. The second half was a different story though, as they began to get penned back by the home side. Perrin had already made one stunning stop before his penalty heroics and this miss understandably deflated Worcester allowing City to see the game out fairly comfortably.

PREVIEW: Worcester City v CITY – Blue Square South (24/8/08)

Following the not unexpected news at last week’s AGM that they are around £750,000 in debt, City come face to face on Bank Holiday Monday with a club that make that seem relatively insignificant amount. It was revealed in July that Worcester City are currently £2million in the red – a figure twice what had previously been made public – which has left a huge question mark over their future. Just under a year ago it had all looked so different for the Midlands club when they sold their St Georges Lane ground to St Modwen Properties with ambitious plans to build a £8million, 6000 capacity new stadium in Nunnery Way, close to the M5. However, the revelation of the club’s true financial position plus ongoing concerns of the design of the new stadium has put the whole project in doubt. This led to a Shareholders Action Group proposing to take over the running of the club from the current board but with talks between the two parties breaking down last week the club is now left in limbo.

For the first two games of the 2008-09 season it appeared that these off-the-field problems were not affecting the team as they recorded back to back wins over Bognor Regis Town (2-1) and St Albans City (2-0). This good start though came to a grinding halt when they crashed 3-0 at home to Hayes & Yeading United and they then followed that up with a 1-1 draw against perennial relegation dodgers Weston Super Mare. This is Worcester’s first season in the Blue Square South having switched from the North division during the summer. Having made the cut for the newly formed divisions with a 5th place finish in the Southern League back in 2003-04 they struggled to make a real impact at that level with steadily lower finishes each season, culminating in a final spot of 12th last year. Not surprisingly given the change from North to South manager Richard Dryden spent the summer overhauling his squad with eight new arrivals. Amongst these signings was former striker Mark Owen. During his first spell at St Georges Lane he netted an incredible 104 goals in just 174 games before a broken leg in October 2001 sidelined him for 6 months. He returned to play in the final game of that season (coincidently against City but more on that game later) but failed regain this prolific form and went on to play for Moor Green, Malvern Town and Evesham Town. He scored 33 times for the latter of those clubs last season which convinced Dryden to bring him back to Worcester.

Complete record against Worcester City

City make a first return since the 2003-04 season to St Georges Lane, the scene of two of their most memorable matches this decade for vastly differing reasons. The first of these took place in April 2002 with City staring relegation to the Southern League Western Division firmly in the face. It was the final game of the season (the aforementioned return to action of Mark Owen) and they required a victory to guarantee their Premier Division place. Facing a side including former (and subsequent) City favourite Jon Holloway they got the vital win through a single Adrian Foster goal. Following a largely uneventful 2-1 defeat the following season they once again travelled up the M5 in September 2003 but their was no celebratory final whistle pitch invasion as in 2002 after they headed back to Bath on the wrong end of the 7-0 scoreline. This was the club’s biggest defeat since a similar reversal against Chelmsford City in April 1972. Monday’s meeting will be the 104th between the two teams and it is the Royals who edge the overall record slightly with 42 wins to City’s 38.

City and tenant’s are spot on to share the Twerton Park spoils (23/8/08)

City ended Team Bath’s 100% Blue Square South record at Twerton Park this afternoon as both sides netted from the penalty spot to share the points. City went ahead on 14 minutes when Lewis Hogg was tripped in the box and Stuart Douglas opened his account for the club with a confident spot kick. City’s tenants levelled ten minutes after the interval when Paul Evans blocked Llewellyn in the box, allowing Canham to fire home. The first half had largely been a forgettable event, with just Scott Rogers’ early shot against the bar livening the proceedings. Team Bath started the second half strongly, deservedly equalising, but it was City who twice went close to winning the game after this with Danny Carey-Bertram and Rogers bringing fine saves out of keeper Meredith.

PREVIEW: CITY v Team Bath – Blue Square South (21/8/08)

City will look to build on their first win of the 2008-09 season at Bishop’s Stortford last Saturday when they come face to face with early league leaders and Twerton Park tenants Team Bath. The University of Bath based side have adjusted to Blue Square South life remarkably, having been promoted to this level via the Southern League play-offs last season, winning their opening three league matches, scoring 14 goals and conceding just two in the process. And all this despite losing last season’s top scorer Sean Canham to Notts County during the summer.

Team Bath – or Team Taxpayer as they are widely referred to in non-league circles due to the belief they are funded using public money, hidden behind the front of University funding – were formed as recently as 1999 with the laudable aim of taking on young players released by professional clubs and providing them with full-time training and a University course, mainly Sports Management, in an attempt to give them a chance to return to the pro-game. They began their life as a Western League side but were soon on the way up, winning the Division 1 title at the first attempt then two years later moving into the Southern League. The re-organisation of non-league football in 2004 saw them ‘promoted’ to the Premier Division, meaning they were playing at the same level as City for the first ever time. During this speedy rise up the pyramid they had been playing their home games at the University of Bath Sports Village but it’s basic facilities were not up to the required standard – although the size of their support rarely warranted anything more with only away fans pushing it occasionally over the three figure mark – and in November 2004 they signed a 4 ½ year deal with City to share Twerton Park. On the pitch success continued, finishing runners-up to City in 2006-07 but losing the play-off final to Maidenhead United before going one better the next season. They also tasted FA Cup success during this time, playing in front of the Sky cameras during the 2002-03 season against Mansfield Town in the 1st Round.

Complete record against Team Bath

Since Team Bath reached the same level as City the sides have met on seven occasions. Only once, a goalless draw during the 2004-05 season, have they avoided defeat and they’ve been on the wrong end of several heavy losses including 5-0 in December 2006 and 4-0 in August 2005. The club’s most recent meeting was last season in the Somerset Premier Cup 1st Round, where goals from Martin Paul, Lewis Hogg (penalty) and Phil Walsh fired City to a comfortable 3-0 win. Prior to these meetings Team Bath played City’s reserve side on four occasions, with the first ever meeting ending in a 13-0 win for the University-based side. The crowd for that game at Twerton Park was a Team Bath-esq 110. The other three meetings all ended in wins for Team Bath, though by more respectable scoreline’s.

Although one of the original stated aims of the set-up was to give young players a route back into the professional game only a handful of players had made such a move, though they did have a notable success last month when Sean Canham joined Notts County. The former Exeter City player scored a remarkable 41 goals last season, attracting interest from Coca-Cola Championship side Charlton Athletic before joining the Magpies. Three other players who it could be argued have gone on to greater things since playing for Team Bath are Chris Holland, Jamie Gosling and Paul Cochlin – all who should be in City’s squad for Saturday’s game.

Frequently referred to as ‘the students’ – although the University of Bath does also field a true student team who compete in the British Universities and Colleges Sport (BUCS) competitions – they began their 2008-09 Blue Square South campaign with a stunning 6-0 win at last season’s play-off contenders Fisher Athletic before recording back-to-back 4-1 victories over Hayes & Yeading United and Thurrock at Twerton Park. Despite this great start to the season they still only attracted 125 to the latter of these games – showing that even with almost uninterrupted success on the pitch they have yet to endear themselves to either the football supporting public of Bath or a more natural target, University of Bath staff and students. However, it is clear that the aims and ambitions of Team Bath supremo Ged Roddy are in no way limited by the general lack of interest – and in some quarters, genuine dislike – of his club and with it’s unique, and very flexible, set-up in non-league football further progress is a real possibility.

Rollo and Rogers join City’s ever expanding injury list (19/8/08)

City’s first victory of the season at Bishop’s Stortford on Saturday came at a cost as two more players joined their ever increasing injury list. Captain Jim Rollo limped out of the game with a twisted ankle after just 17 minutes and Scott Rogers also picked up an ankle injury in the closing stages of the match. Both are now doubts for Saturday’s meeting with Team Bath, joining Ali Gibb, Dave Gilroy, Jason Wood and Jamie Gosling on the sidelines, although it is hoped that latter may have overcome his back problem to return to the squad to face City’s Twerton Park tenants.

AGM reveals losses falling and Rec future still a possibilty (19/8/08)

City held their AGM at Twerton Park last, revealing the current financial position of the club. Around 60-70 shareholders heard that the club made a loss of £68,009 during the 2005-06 season (down from £85,008 the previous season) and £56,330 in their title-winning season 2006-07. During this two year period, despite the success on the pitch, the club cut their total wage bill by 22%. Overall, the club are currently approximately £315,000 in debt, with a further £450,000 owed in director loans.

The meeting also heard from chairman Geoff Todd of the club’s progress in its attempts to secure its long-term future, either through redeveloping Twerton Park or moving to a new ground. He revealed that a number of meetings have been held with Bath Rugby Club and Bath & North East Somerset Council with regard to a possible ground share at the Recreation Ground. However, with both parties still waiting to hear from the Charities Commission on the future of the site he could give no firm details on this front. The club also put into position the framework for a future share issue aimed at raising funds to allow for redeveloping Twerton Park, but again there was no further information or timescale on any potential scheme.

Birdy makes Paulton Rovers switch on dual-registration deal (18/8/08)

City’s all-time second top scorer Martin Paul has joined Southern League side Paulton Rovers on a dual-registration non-contract deal. The 33-year old, who has played in all three of City’s opening matches as a substitute, will play for the Winterfield Road side to maintain his match fitness, but City retain first call on his services. Ironically it was against Paulton that Birdy netted his 113th goal in last season’s Somerset Premier Cup Final to overhaul Paul Randall as City’s 2nd greatest goal scorer.

Hogg and Edwards on target to fire City to maiden victory (16/8/08)

City broke their winning and scoring duck for the 2008-09 season with a 2-0 victory at Bishop’s Stortford this afternoon. In truth City should have won the game by a greater margin against the poor home side, but after failing to score in their opening two games will be more than happy with goals from Lewis Hogg and Darren Edwards. Stuart Douglas, Chris Holland and Scott Rogers all had openings before Hogg’s sweetly struck 21st minute free-kick gave them a deserved lead. Holland and then Steve Jones saw efforts strike the frame of the goal as City continued to dominate. The Blues had their best spell of the game at the start of the second half but on the hour mark Edwards doubled City’s lead from close range after Hogg’s corner dropped to him. City comfortably defended this advantage and could have scored again through Hogg and Gethin Jones.

City boost attacking options with signing of striker Carey-Bertram (15/8/08)

After watching his side draw blanks in their opening two Blue Square South matches, City boss John Relish has moved quickly to strengthen his attacking options with the non-contract signing of Danny Carey-Bertram. The ex-Hereford Utd and Cambridge Utd 24-year old was released by Forest Green Rovers during the summer, having scored 14 times in 27 starts for the Blue Square Premier side. He will go straight into the squad to travel to Bishop’s Stortford tomorrow.

Relive City’s 2007-08 Blue Square South season on DVD (15/8/08)

The 2007-08 season review DVD is now available to order. The 4 hour 2-DVD set contains action from every match of the season, City’s debut in the Blue Square South, with over 140 goals, match commentary from Radio Bristol’s Mike Kay and post-match interviews with John Relish and Jim Rollo. The set also includes improved match selection menus and costs just £14.99. To order a copy visit the Bath City DVD site where you can also order individual match DVDs.

The DVD included the final two goals in City colours for Scott Partridge, and the striker has joined Northern Premier League side Sheffield FC, opening his account with a strike in the their final pre-season match against Chengdu Blades last Saturday.

PREVIEW: Bishop’s Stortford v CITY – Blue Square South (14/8/08)

City continue their quest for a first goal and victory of the fledgling 2008-09 Blue Square South season with a trip to Hertfordshire to face Bishop’s Stortford. Like City the Blues have garnered just a single point from their opening two games of the season, although they have at least found the net on two occasions. They began their season with a trip to the West Country to face the un-relegatable Weston Super Mare and despite a Piers Wixon penalty they suffered a 2-1 defeat. On Tuesday they opened their home campaign with a 1-1 draw against Bromley, although it took a late equaliser from defender Craig Edwards to rescue the point.

Last season Stortford looked likely play-off candidates only to fall away in the last few games, failing to win in their last six matches, and finish in 10th place. This disappointment saw manager Martin Hayes immediately release four players, Rob Gillman, who signed for Blue Square South rivals Bromley, Tom Williamson, Sosthene Yao and Steffan Gaisie. Bromley also snapped up Loui Fazakerley, left back Ahmed Deen joined Macclesfield Town and keeper Andrew Young switched to Thurrock. The biggest loss, though, was striker Greg Pearson. His 27 goals saw him top the Blue Square South scoring charts, attracting the attention of a number of higher level clubs. After an extended trial with Coca-Cola League 2 side Notts County he eventually joined Blue Square Premier Burton Albion.

Their attempts to bring in replacements were complicated by a court case hanging over the club during the summer due to an unauthorised park and ride scheme operated at their Woodside Park ground. East Herts District Council sought a winding-up order against the club but this was dismissed at the beginning of August, although they are still likely to face a five-figure fine for breach of an enforcement notice. Once this was out of the way they brought in a new keeper in the experienced Nicky Eyre, defender Precious Koko, former Ipswich Town trainee Luke Webster, Steve King, Dee Okojie, Michael Hyem , George Jermy , Piers Wixon , Kyri Kyprianou and striker Peter Dean from Wealdstone, to give their squad a very different look this season. The Blues had a mixed pre-season campaign with heavy defeats against Histon (0-4) and Ware (0-4), although their line-up in the latter match consisted largely of triallists, and a narrower loss to a West Ham United side by two goals to nil. They did record victories over Southend United XI (3-1), Dartford (1-0) and AFC Sudbuy (5-0).

Complete record against Bishop’s Stortford

This will be the sixth time City have faced Bishop’s Stortford, with the most recent meeting the final league game of last season. City went into the game needing a victory to give them a chance of making the play-offs but despite Sam Foley putting them ahead midway through the second half, a late equaliser by Pearson denied them the win, although results elsewhere meant even a victory would not have been enough. Earlier on in the season City won 4-0 at Twerton Park, with goals from Mark McKeever, Chris Holland and Dave Gilroy (2), although the game was a lot closer than the final scoreline would suggest. Before that clubs had faced each other in a three-game, 16-day FA Trophy epic in January 1985. After a 0-0 draw at Twerton bad weather delayed the replay for 12 days, but with City taking a two-goal lead it looked as if they would progress to the 2nd round. However, Stortford turned the game around with two second half goals. City then missed an extra-time penalty to send the game into a second replay, again played at their former Rhodes Avenue ground, where they finally overcame the home side thanks to goals from Dave Palmer and Keith Brown.

Shot-shy City get off the mark with goalless Maidenhead stalement (13/8/08)

City bounced back from Saturday’s embarrassing 4-0 home defeat against Welling Utd to earn their first point of the season with a goalless draw at Maidenhead United last night. The defence looked back to its rock solid best, especially during a one-sided second half, but once again City rarely looked threatening going forward which must be a concern even with the season in its embryonic stages. In an even first half Scott Rogers twice went close for City. firing a 25-yard effort narrowly wide then forcing a smart block from Gore, the rebound just evading the following up Darren Edwards. The home side also created a couple of openings but after the interval they began to dominate, reducing City to an occasional break. However, City’s defence stood up well to the pressure though and Paul Evans was only called into action once late on to turn away Pacquette’s well-struck shot.

City included former Forest Green Rovers midfielder Ashley Caldwell on the bench for last night’s match at Maidenhead United. They have also expressed an interest in signing former Cheltenham Town keeper Steve Book as additional cover for when Paul Evans undergoes knee surgery in the next few weeks.

PREVIEW: Maidenhead United v CITY – Blue Square South (11/8/08)

If City could have chosen an opponent to face after their dreadful opening to the 2008-09 Blue Square South season top of the list, apart from possibly Team Bath and Weston Super Mare, would be Maidenhead United. This will be the sixth time City have faced the Berkshire side and they have won the previous five encounters. However, with City still reeling from their 4-0 embarrassment against Welling United and Maidenhead buoyed by an impressive opening day 2-1 victory at Bromley, if ever this 100% record is under threat it will be at York Road tomorrow evening.

Complete record against Maidenhead United

Maidenhead came up from the Southern League with City at the end of the 2006-07 season, via the play-offs, but struggled to adapt to the higher level and spent the majority of the 2007-08 season flirting with the relegation zone. Their main struggles came at York Road where they won just two league games all season, although the second of these, a 5-0 hammering of play-off contenders Bishop’s Stortford, began a five-match unbeaten end to the season that ensured their Blue Square South place for another season. This carried the Magpies to 17th spot, which represented their highest placing, having finished in 20th in 2004-05 (only to be saved from relegation by Hornchurch’s demise) and rock bottom in 2005-06.

Maidenhead had a busy pre-season campaign, playing nine matches, winning four and losing five times. Four of these five defeats came in their opening four games against Farnborough (1-2), Wycombe Wanderers (0-1), Oxford United (1-3) and Aldershot Town (1-5). They finally recorded a victory at the fifth time of asking, with a 2-0 win over Blue Square Premier side Woking. Another heavy defeat against Coca-Cola League 1 side Reading followed, but their completed their friendly campaign with three wins over lower league opposition, Holyport (3-0), Windsor & Eton (1-0) and Bracknell Town (4-0). Manager Johnson ‘Drax’ Hippolyte has been busy reshaping his squad through the summer, with the biggest task replacing last season’s top scorer, 26-goal Manny Williams, who joined Woking in July. Drax targeted various strikers, with Mustafa Tiryaki looking set to sign, but he did not feature in the 2-1 Bromley win, with Lee Newman, who missed most of last season due to a hernia injury, partnering former Havant & Waterlooville striker Richard Pacquette, the former grabbing both the Magpie’s goals. Amongst the new arrivals were ex-Boston United midfielder Ashley Nicholls, left-winger Dale Binns from last season’s Blue Square South champions Lewes, Shane Gore a goalkeeper formally with East Thurrock United, plus Tyron Smith and Ben Surey from Basingstoke Town. Stevenage Borough right-back Jack Bradshaw also returned to York Road on a loan deal, having spent the latter stages of last season with the club, also on loan. Joining Williams on the way out was keeper Chris Tardif, who joined Farnborough but had his contract cancelled last week due to a change in employment, Dwaine Lee to Kettering Town, and Wes Daley and Darti Brown who were both released.

City’s on-going injury nightmare had another chapter added on Saturday with Jamie Gosling limping off after 30 minutes with a back injury, making him doubtful for the Maidenhead trip. If he is missing he will join Ali Gibb (ankle), Jason Wood (leg) and Dave Gilroy (knee), who is due to have his knee operation on Wednesday, on the sidelines.

City start season with embarrassing home loss to Welling (9/8/08)

City’s 2008-09 season got off to the worst possible start this afternoon as they crashed 4-0 to Welling United at Twerton Park. The defeat was City’s heaviest home loss since September 1995 and their first opening reversal since the 1996-97 season. Although three of the goals came from free-kicks, two down to errors by keeper Paul Evans, it was still a desperately disappointing performance from City. There was no sign of the problems to come in the opening exchanges, Scott Rogers shooting inches wide in the open minute, but with their first attack the visitors went ahead through Martin’s 14th minute shot. City continued to dominate but in first half stoppage time Martin struck again with a low free-kick. Any hopes of a second half comeback were dashed on the hour as the Wings no.11 completed his hat-trick when another set-piece slipped through Evans’ grasp. The rout was completed with seven minutes left through Pinnock’s shot that again appeared to deceive Evans to find the corner of the net.

PREVIEW: CITY v Welling United – Blue Square South (8/8/08)

City begin their second season as a Blue Square South club with Welling United making the trip West to Twerton Park. This will be the 35th time the clubs have met – having been regular Vauxhall Conference rivals during the 1980’s and 1990’s – with an even record of 13 wins each and eight drawn matches. Last season the sides shared the points, the Kent side winning 1-0 at Park View Road in early September thanks to a late goal by Sinclair, before a Scott Partridge brace – his final goals for the club – saw City home 2-0 in the return match. Coincidentally the last time the teams had met at Twerton Park in the final league game of the 2003-04 season the same player had netted twice for the same end result. Last season was one a difficult one for the Wings and for a large part of it they were staring relegation back to the Southern League firmly in the face. This struggle cost manager Neil Smith his job in February – after just seven months in charge – and he was replaced by Andy Ford. After a poor start he led the side to seven wins in their final eleven league games to guide them to safety and a final position of 16th place.

Complete record against Welling United

Welling will hope for a much better 2008-09 campaign on the back of a promising pre-season and several new signings. One face (or, at least, name) that will be familiar to City fans is Matthew McEntegart. The central-defender, who joined Welling in July from Chippenham Town, was at the heart of a controversial meeting between City and the Bluebirds back in April 2006. The game was just 22 minutes old when McEntegart fell to the ground under a challenge from Phil Walsh. The referee immediately adjudged that Walsh had led with his elbow and brandished a red card. However, City appealed against the decision and, with video evidence proving it was an accidental clash of heads, he was cleared and the red card was rescinded. Further new arrivals at Park View Road have included Jack Parkison, a young midfielder from VCD, Graeme Andrews from Dover Athletic, striker Joe Healy and Frankie Chappell, a defender from Folkestone Invicta. Their highest profile new arrival – although more for his heritage than actual achievements so far – was Charlie Sheringham, son of former England international, Teddy. Sheringham Jnr switched from Cambridge City, where he scored six goals in five games toward the end of last season. Going the other way has been Chris Moore, Robin Trott and Joe Howe, all released.

Sheringham has already been on target four times for his new club in pre-season, helping them to big victories over Ramsgate (5-2) and Maidstone United (4-0). They have also beaten Thamesmead Town (3-0), Sittingbourne (2-1), Ashford Town (1-0) and Dover Athletic (1-0). Their friendly programme has also seen a narrow single goal defeat against League 1 side Charlton Athletic in their annual meeting and a 2-1 reversal to AFC Hornchurch.

Despite this being the first game of the season both sides are already affected by injuries and suspension. Welling will be without new signing Chappell after he was sent-off in his final game for Folkestone. City are hit harder though, with new signing Ali Gibb missing due to the ankle injury he picked up in the pre-season match at Melksham Town, and goalkeeper Paul Evans and striker Dave Gilroy both facing knee operations. The game is likely to see debuts for Stuart Douglas, Paul Cochlin and Martin Slocombe plus the return in black and white stripes of Jamie Gosling and Mark Badman.

City complete pre-season campaign with morale-boosting Salisbury win (2/8/08)

City brought their injury plagued pre-season campaign to an end on a high note with a 1-0 win over Blue Square Premier side Salisbury City at a sunny Twerton Park. Darren Edwards scored the winning goal and the margin of victory should have been greater but for an astonishing second half miss by Stuart Douglas. Edwards struck for the first time this close season when he shot past Bitner at the end of a great move involving Douglas and Lewis Hogg. In an even first half both sides could have added to the scoring but after the break City took control of the game against their higher league opposition. Jamie Gosling had a shot deflected inches wide, Hogg had the ball nicked off his toes by keeper Book and when Douglas took advantage of a static Whites defence to round Bartlett he just had to roll the ball into the unguarded net – only to somehow hit the post from eight yards out. Salisbury almost made him pay for this miss late on but Sekani Simpson headed off the line after Paul Evans had failed to claim a cross.

Evans and Gilroy both face knee operations in double injury blow (1/8/08)

City’s worst fears have been realised with Paul Evans and Dave Gilroy both facing knee operations just a week before the start of the 2008-09 Blue Square South season. The South African keeper has the more serious problem with surgery required to shave nodules off his knee, which will sidelined him for up to ten weeks. Gilroy, last season’s top scorer, has a slight tear in the cartilage, but should be fit to return by the end of August.

And in a further blow Ali Gibb is likely to be out of action for more than twice as long as first expected. A second scan of the injury revealed a full fracture of the ankle rather than the avulsion fracture that was first diagnosed. The midfielder will require an operation to pin the ankle and be in plaster for around 12 weeks, meaning he is unlikely to play again before Christmas.

Trialists Badman and Slocombe set to be offered contracts (1/8/08)

City are set to offer contracts to Mark Badman and Martin Slocombe after they both impressed boss John Relish during pre-season. This will be 28-year old Badman’s second spell at Twerton Park having spent seven months with the club during the 2001-02 season. Left-sided player Slocombe was an early summer target for Relish after being released by Bristol City, but looked to be lining up a deal with Exeter City. However, with that move not coming off Relish is hopeful the 19-year old will sign a deal with City. One further player likely to be offered a pay-as-you-play deal is ex-Salisbury City defender Jon Beswetherick. His job as a trainee policeman will impact on his availability but City hope an agreement can be reached.