The only movement of transfer deadline day at Twerton Park was the loan signing of Bristol Rovers winger Ben Swallow. The 21-year old has come up through the ranks at the Memorial Stadium, with 40 first team appearances now under his belt since making his debut in August 2009 against Aldershot Town in the Carling Cup. The left-sided player will hopefully add some much-needed pace to City’s attack and has signed a three-month deal.
This Sunday (4/9), AFC Durbin United will play Bath City Supporters FC at Twerton Park hoping to retain the Anthony Durbin Memorial Trophy. AFC Durbin United, formally WESA United, were renamed following the tragic death of their team-mate Anthony Durbin. The Saturday league team came under threat as many players did not want to continue without the 22-year-old, who they described as an instrumental member of the squad. Anthony’s father Kevin, of Oldfield Park, who works as a driving instructor, said: “I am very grateful that Bath City Football Club are, once again, honouring the memory of Anthony in this way.” Director and organiser, Andy Weeks, said: “As a Club we are very happy to be associated with this fitting memorial occasion.” Kick off is at 2pm and admission is free.
The opening month of the 2011-12 Blue Square Bet Premier season ended with City at the foot of the table following a 3-0 defeat at Forest Green Rovers this afternoon. Although the home side rarely had to step out of first gear they comfortably overcame a City side that, with its complete lack of attaching threat, looked increasingly low on confidence and can have no complaints about the result. It took just 14 minutes for Rovers to go ahead, Styche capitalising on a poor clearing header from Paul Stonehouse to fire past Glyn Garner. Sekani Simpson missed a rare chance for City on 27 minutes and shortly after this Stokes’ deflected shot made it 2-0. Any optimistic hopes City haboured of a comeback were ended just after the hour mark when Garner could only parry a cross onto the head of Styche’s for a simple finish. With Alfreton Town and Southport both registering their first wins of the season the defeat leaves City in 24th place, facing a 12-day break from action that will hopefully give them a chance to regroup ahead of the visit of the latter of those teams.
Before the game City signed former Wolverhampton Wanderers U21 player Andre Carvalho-Landell. The striker went straight into the starting XI and played for nearly an hour before being replaced by Scott Murray.
Although City’s poor start to the 2011-12 Blue Square Bet Premier season cannot yet be described as a crisis they will be doubly keen to record their first win of the campaign tomorrow when they make the short journey up the A46 to face Forest Green Rovers. A first ever league victory over the Gloucestershire club would not only lift any pressure Adie Britton and his players are feeling it would also send them into their enforced 12-day break from action on a positive note. Although the game was identified as the final in a run of four matches against sides more likely to feature in the lower reaches of the table, Rovers may have finally shaken off their tag as perennial strugglers following a solid start to the season.
Forest Green can proudly boast that they are the current longest serving member of the Conference National with 13 years uninterrupted participation in non-league’s top flight. Remarkably though in just two of these campaigns they have not been involved in a relegation fight, several times taking the battle right to the last game of the season and twice finishing in the drop zone only to be reprieved when other clubs were expelled. The cost of hanging on to their place at this level looked finally to have brought the club to its knees during the summer of 2010 when then chairman, Trevor Horsley, revealed they was in serious, describing the clubs position as a “crisis”. However, the arrival of green energy tycoon and Ecotricity owner Dale Vince in August saved the club and almost overnight they were effectively the richest Conference member with their new chairmen reportedly worth around £100m. It was clear immediately he was not the sort of owner who would quietly take a back seat or shy away from publicity, recently posing in the clubs official team photo wearing torn jeans and a t-shirt amongst the more traditionally clad players and staff.
If Forest Green fans hoped his arrival would signal the end of their struggles at the wrong end of the league they were to endure a disappointing 2010-11 season as Vince introduced a number of enterprises at The New Lawn but none that improved matters on the pitch. The most high-profile of these was a ban on red meat, initially for the players and then extended to the food served to supporters at the ground. Results and attendances showed no sign of benefitting from this move but it did earn the club – and Vince and Ecotricity – considerable national coverage, plus much ridicule from the traditional burger chomping football fan. Other initiatives saw the club move toward the first fully organic football pitch and begin plans to replace the traditional badge. For all this, as the season reached its climax, the team was trailing against Tamworth and facing another bottom four finish before Southport conceded two late goals to ensure they stayed up on goal difference.
Surprisingly manager David Hockaday, increasingly unpopular amongst the Rovers faithful given his record over the two seasons in charge, clung onto his position and, with the Vince revolution now seeming to include improving the team, he will be under greater pressure to ensure the narrowly avoiding relegation become a thing of the past. Non-league stalwarts like Chris Todd, Luke Graham and Charlie Griffin were brought in, although the highest profile signing was former Premier League (with Watford) star Al Bangura. The 23-year old had made national headlines in 2007 when he was threatened with deportation back to his native Sierra Leone and it was a major coup for the club when he agreed to play for Hockaday, who had been his youth coach with the Hornets. However, he has yet to make his Rovers debut after picking up a knee injury in pre-season training. The change in the club’s fortunes was also shown as they resisted interest for last season’s top scorer Reece Styche from Conference big-guns Luton Town. He finally signed a new three-year contract last week, although the story ended on a slightly bizarre note when Vince announced they had made an undisclosed bid for the Hatter’s highly-rated midfielder Robbie Willmott, which appeared to be as much about making some public point as a realistic attempt to bring the player to The New Lawn.
Forest Green’s 2011-12 season began a day early than 22 of their rivals when they took on Stockport County in front of the Premier TV cameras. Styche gave them a first half lead before Chadwick levelled for the non-league newcomers with just 12 minutes remaining. Another draw followed, this time with Luton Town, before they showed what they could be capable of be hitting Alfreton Town for six. However, they then suffered a desperately disappointing 2-0 home defeat against Braintree Town. On Saturday another Styche goal earned them a point in a 1-1 draw at Ebbsfleet United but the result saw them slip back into the bottom half of the table.
Complete record against Stroud/Forest Green Rovers
If City are to break their winning duck it will be against a side who they have yet to beat in a league match. They did enjoy Welsh Cup success over the club in 1988 and then three years later in the FA Cup, whilst they briefly played as Stroud FC, but since then Rovers have definitely come out on top in the meetings. They faced each other at The New Lawn exactly a year ago today and, despite Lewis Hogg’s sixth red card in City colours midway through the second half, City withstood late pressure to earn a point in a goalless draw. The return match at Twerton Park was a much more exciting clash but unfortunately for City it was the visitors who enjoyed the greater part of it. The recent bad weather meant both sides had played just twice in the preceding five weeks but it was Rovers who shook off any rustiness first when Quinn headed them in front after just four minutes. He went from hero to villain on 26 minutes though, pushing Lee Phillips in the box to give Kaid Mohamed the chance to fire City level from the penalty spot. Despite this by half-time Rovers led 3-1 thanks to goals from Jones and Styche. Phillips pulled a goal back with 22 minutes left but any hope of a comeback were dashed when Dyer fired home five minutes later.
City will hope that Marley Watkins will have recovered from the knock that forced him to miss yesterday’s defeat against Tamworth although they look set to be without fellow midfielder Alex Russell after he departed that game during the second half with an injury picked up in a heavy challenge on the halfway line.
City’s poor start to the season continued at Twerton Park this afternoon when they were beaten 2-0 by Tamworth. The visitors started brightly but City were soon in control of the game, although with much of the play congested in the midfield. Slowly they began to stretch the Lambs and Paul Stonehouse drew the first save from Hedge on 26 minutes with a well-struck shot. When Mark Preece had a close range effort blocked moments later it looked only a matter of time before City went ahead. However, their momentum was halted (in truth, for the rest of the game) after 32 minutes when Glyn Garner mis-hit a clearance straight to Thomas who lifted the ball over the desperately back-peddling keeper to give his side an undeserved lead. The balance of play was now with Tamworth and either side of the break they wasted chances to increase their lead. City would see the majority of possession after this but apart from Lee Phillips’ 80th minutes shot that flew inches wide an equaliser never looked on the cards and deep in stoppage time a breakaway ended with Shariff tapping home Bradley’s low cross. The result means City have now suffered the same number of home defeats they managed all last season and will go into Monday’s game at Forest Green Rovers knowing that the pressure is building to open their 2011-12 winning account.
City will hope Scott Murray’s injury-time equaliser at Hayes & Yeading United on Tuesday will be the springboard that catapults them to their first victory of the 2011-12 season when Tamworth visit Twerton Park on Saturday. Although the return of two points from their first four league games represents City’s poorest start to a season since 1990-91 (when they only managed two points in their opening ten games) there were positive signs in the second half at Kingsfield Stadium and the late goal shows that the ‘never-say-die’ attitude that the team displayed on so many occasions last season is still very much alive.
By contrast they will face a Tamworth side who have begun the season positively, although they did suffer their first defeat of the campaign at Darlington in the week. Having only avoided a bottom four finish last year thanks to a final day win over Forest Green Rovers, the Lambs appointed a new manager during the summer when Marcus Law moved from league rivals Kettering Town. The former Bristol Rovers goalkeeper – whose playing had been ended prematurely by a hip injury – made his managerial name with Barwell. He guided the Leicestershire club to the Midland Alliance title and the semi-finals of the FA Vase and, when he switched to the Poppies, they were on a 60-game unbeaten league run. Despite Kettering’s off-the-field problems Law kept them away from the relegation dogfight but quit to join Tamworth a few weeks after the season had finished. Clearly taking the approach of quantity over quality (given he admitted that the club’s budget puts them amongst the league’s have-nots) he has brought in a dozen new players and currently boasts a squad of 25 players from which to select his side. Although the majority of that squad are understandably young he has recruited some experience, including widely travelled striker Iyseden Christie, who played under him at Kettering and former Lincoln City defender Paul Green, alongside last season’s captain Jay Smith.
His new-look side began the season with a 1-1 draw at Barrow, Christie giving them a first half lead from the penalty spot before Boyes netted a 69th minute equaliser. They followed this up with back to back single goal victories over Ebbsfleet United and Darlington at the Lamb Ground which left them in 4th place, only behind Gateshead, Wrexham and Fleetwood Town on goal difference. The chance to travel to City as league leaders was theirs for the taking when they travelled to the middle of these three teams on Tuesday. However, when they fell behind to an 18th minute own goal by Reynolds it looked as if was not to be their night. Both sides hit the bar after this but eventually the Welsh side, just like they did against City, struck twice in the closing 12 minutes to run out 3-0 winners. That defeat dropped the Lambs to 7th place.
Complete record against Tamworth
Last season City recorded their first victory over Tamworth in six attempts when the sides met at Twerton Park in February. At the time the visitors were in mid-table along with City having fallen away after an excellent start to the campaign. For 80 minutes it was a forgettable game, both sides struggling to stamp their authority on proceedings, before a goal arrived completely out of character to what had gone before. A Sido Jombati flick fell to substitute Ben Watson 25 yards from goal and he unleashed a dipping volley that flew past Atkins in the Tamworth goal to register his one and only strike for the club. Tamworth were now forced to show attacking intent but it was City who struck again in stoppage time through Scott Murray’s low finish from a narrow angle. The game at the Lamb Ground earlier in the season had ended 2-2, City racing into a two-goal lead thanks to Kaid Mohamed and a 35-yard wonder strike from Adam Connolly before the Lambs recovered through Rodman and Smith either side of the interval.
City will hope that striker Lee Phillips is available after picking up a head and thigh injury against Hayes & Yeading United but they should welcome Marc Canham back to the squad after he returned from China following the World Student Games.
Scott Murray struck in the final minute of stoppage time to earn City a point in a 1-1 draw with Hayes & Yeading United at their temporary Kingsfield Stadium home this evening. He calmly slotted the ball home after Lewis Hogg’s pass had set him up to secure a draw their second half performance fully warranted. The ‘home’ side had largely controlled the first period although it wasn’t until added time in that half that they took the lead. Just when City looked to have reached the break level Crockford’s speculative 25-yard effort crashed against the bar and dropped perfectly to Pacquette to tap into the open goal. City came out strongly after the interval, especially following the introduction of Murray on 53 minutes. Almost immediately he was denied by a superb save by United keeper Arnold and, as the game entered its closing stages, it was Arnold who again prevented Murray with an even better stop. However, he was powerless to prevent the experienced ex-Bristol City star’s 94th minute finish as justice was finally done. City’s only concern at the final whistle was the sight of striker Lee Phillips struggling with a badly cut head and leg injury.
A memorial fund, unique in English football, has been established in memory of former City player and assistant manager Dave Palmer in order to give young players a chance they might not otherwise have with his former club. The first beneficiary of the Dave Palmer Memorial Fund will be Josh Egan (pictured). Palmer passed away after suffering from heart trouble in March this year at the age of 49 and his former employers, Lane’s Health, contacted City recently to discuss a way to remember their friend and colleague. Because of his passion for helping young people, football, and City in particular, Lane’s suggested that they provide an annual fund to give a young player who may not otherwise get the chance an opportunity to play with Bath City each season. Although there have been instances of companies sponsoring players for a short term during a promotion push or relegation battle, there is no known precedent in football for a company to make an on-going commitment to pay the wages of a young player every season, especially as a memorial for a colleague and former footballer.
18-year old Egan is a product of the Cheltenham Town youth system, but was released by the Robins in the closing days of last season. He was signed by City on the same day of his release, and made one appearance. Although he was not on the pitch for long, he did make an assist for a match-winning goal. In early May, Josh was given a great opportunity when Premier League side Blackpool signed him for their development team. This team was disbanded, however, after Blackpool’s relegation back to the Championship. With the normal playing budget already allocated, manager Adie Britton would normally have had to pass on re-signing this top local talent. The Dave Palmer Memorial Fund has allocated the funds to pay Josh’s wages for the season, however, and he will now get the opportunity to play a high standard of football with his local team.
City trip to York City will now take place on Tuesday 13 September (ko. 7.45pm).
City’s match against York City scheduled for Saturday 3 September has been postponed due to three of the Minstermen – Andrew Boucard (Trinidad & Tobago), Lanre Oyebanjo (Republic of Ireland U21) and Paddy McLaughlin (Northern Ireland U21) – being called up for international duty. No doubt the irony of this happening on Non-League Day, when fans are encouraged to support their local club with no top-flight games due to the international weekend, will not be lost on City as they are now facing another long midweek trek. A new date for the game will be announced shortly.
City’s search for their opening victory of the new campaign reaches a fourth game on Tuesday evening when they travel to pre-season relegation favourites Hayes & Yeading United. Having gone until the final month of the 2010-11 season before they suffered back-to-back league defeats, City’s successive home losses against Wrexham and Barrow last week will have come as a real disappointment to Adie Britton’s men. There were a few signs of improvement in the second of those games though with enough chances created to have comfortably won the game even without including Lee Phillips’s second half penalty miss.
They will meet a club who have been given little chance of retaining their Blue Square Bet Premier place this year but even after just three games have shown signs that relegation may not be the forgone conclusion most pundits have predicted. Since Hayes & Yeading were promoted to the top-flight of non-league football in 2009 they have been tipped to drop back down but finishes of 17th and 16th have defied expectations. However, this season their cause will not have been helped by the resignation of Garry Haylock, their only manager since the club was formed in 2007, in May 2011 and having to play home games at Woking FC. As manager of Yeading, Haylock was awarded the post with the newly merged club and led them to higher placed finishes in each of his four years in charge, but stepped down shortly after the end of the last season and joined Farnbourgh FC a week later. He was replaced by former Reading player and coach Nas Bashir. Although the 41-year old has also coached England’s U19 and U21 teams this will be his first taste of non-league football as well as management. And all this at a club who are facing a year on the road whilst they await the completion of their new ground.
When Hayes FC and Yeading FC merged in May 2007 the newly formed club played their first team games at the formers Church Lane home whilst The Warren, previously Yeading’s ground, was used by the reserve and youth sides. The long term aim was always to sell off Church Lane for housing and switch to a redeveloped The Warren. In March 2011 the club announced they would be leaving Church Lane at the end of the season but, as work at The Warren was nowhere near complete, they would have to arrange a ground share for the 2011-12 season. In the end a deal was struck with Woking FC to use Kingsfield Stadium. Given the club was far and away the lowest supported Conference side last year they will now be hoping their small but loyal band of followers regularly make the 40 mile round trip to watch the side this season. However their opening attendance of 262 was over 100 down on their 2010-11 average suggesting that it could be tough battle on and off the pitch for the club.
The Hayes and Yeading supporters who did make the trip for this game went home happy though as Bashir began his management career with a 3-1 win over league newcomers Alfreton Town. They were indebted to goalkeeper Steve Arnold, a summer loan signing from Wycombe Wanderers, as he saved two penalties from the Reds. He could not repeat these heroics in their next outing though, picking the ball out his net four times as Newport County cruised to a comfortable win. They then suffered their second defeat of the season when a late goal was enough to give title favourites Fleetwood Town a narrow 1-0 win. Bashir will have been much more encouraged with his side’s performance in this game nonetheless as they matched their expensively assembled opponents for long periods and, but for a penalty miss of their own, could have got at least a deserved point from the match.
Complete record against Hayes/Yeading/Hayes & Yeading United
Although City had enjoyed some success over the pre-merger sides (three wins out of three over Hayes FC and a single defeat against Yeading FC) they struggled against the newly formed club. After picking up just two points from the first five meetings between the sides they finally registered a first win at Twerton Park last season. Kaid Mohamed gave City a 20th minute lead with a stunning strike from the edge of the 18-yard box and it looked as this would be the decisive goal. But with seven minutes remaining a spell of pressure for the visitors ended with Webb firing past Carl Pentney, although it was a slip by Gethin Jones that gifted him the opening. The City no.4 redeemed himself in perfect style three minutes later, rising highest to head a Canham corner goalwards where despite several defender’s efforts to clear it was correctly adjudged to have crossed the line. And two minutes into stoppage time City made it 3-1 when Mohamed raced three-quarters the length of the pitch before crossed for Lee Phillips to slide the ball home.
Boss Adie Britton will no doubt be faced with the dilemma of whether to retain the 4-4-2 formation he employed against Barrow or revert to a more familiar 3-5-1 that proved so successful last season. A lot may depend on whether Marley Watkins and Joe Burnell recover from the knocks that forced them to sit out Saturday’s defeat. Midfielder Marc Canham could also be available against after missing the opening three games of the season whilst on coaching duty with the British Women’s University football side. However, given he is only due to fly back from China tomorrow he may have to wait until Saturday’s game with Tamworth to make his first appearance of the campaign.
City suffered their second home defeat of the week at Twerton Park as a single second half strike secured the three points for Barrow, with Lee Phillips missing a penalty three minutes later to make it an afternoon to forget. Gary Mills and Jamie Cook were handed starts and manager Adie Britton switched to the 4-4-2 formation many fans had been crying out for. And for 25 minutes the changes looked to have paid dividends as City pushed foward almost at will. Alex Russell and Lewis Hogg had both gone close before the pair combined along with Adam Connolly in a superb move that ended with Phillips’ diving header forcing a great block from Bluebirds keeper Hurst. Cook shot into the side-netting shortly afterwards but this bright opening began to fade and the rest of the half belonged to the visitors, although they rarely looked to possess enough quality to break the deadlock. The second half began with both sides struggling to create any clear openings and it was something of a surprise when MacKreth’s low cross was turned home from close range by Boyes in the 66th minute. City were gifted a perfect chance to level three minutes later when Russell was felled in the box by Smith but Phillips’ spot-kick was hit too close to Hurst. Murray should also have struck on 77 minutes after knocking the ball past Hurst only to shoot into the side-netting from a narrow angle. City continued to press after this, including sending centre-back Mark Preece up front to partner Phillips, but Barrow stood firm to secure their first win of the season and leave the Romans still searching for that important milestone.
City and Barrow go into Saturday’s meeting at Twerton Park both hoping it will be third time lucky in the search for a maiden win of this fledgling 2011-12 Blue Square Bet Premier season. After a respectable 1-1 draw at Mansfield Town last Saturday it was a disappointing performance that saw City allow a second BELT, Wrexham, to run out 2-0 winners thanks to a late Morrell brace. Although a return of just one point from the opening two games is far from ideal, City will now look to the next four matches against sides more likely to battling in the lower reaches of the division to get their campaign up and running.
Following a memorable 2009-10 season where the Bluebirds reached the FA Cup 3rd Round, losing 3-0 to Premier League side Sunderland at the Stadium of Light, then lifting the FA Trophy at Wembley Stadium with a controversial 2-1 win over Stevenage Borough, they suffered a poor year just gone. There was no repeat of this cup success and only a final day victory against Hayes & Yeading United ensured they would retain their Blue Square Bet Premier place. Joint management team Darren Sheridan and David Bayliss brought a number of new players during the summer, including defender Gavin Skelton, the brother of current Blue Peter presenter, Helen Skelton, after he spent the majority of his career north of the border with Gretna, Kilmarnock and Hamilton Academical. Also returning to Holker Street is teenage striker Louis Almond on loan from Championship side Blackpool. The 19-year spent the second half of last season with Barrow, scoring six times in twenty games.
They opened their campaign with a home game against Tamworth, falling behind when Adam Quinn handled in his own box and Christie blasted home the resultant penalty. However, Barrow equalised through Adam Boyes and despite going close several times after this, and the Lambs having a stoppage time strike ruled for offside, that game finished level. In the week they faced a York City side including former Barrow star Jason Walker. The striker, who netted their FA Trophy winner in 2010, had vowed not to celebrate if he scored against his home town club and he was true to his word after giving the Minstermen a seventh minute lead. McLaughlin doubled this advantage in first half stoppage time and, although Boyes was on target again with eight minutes left, a third goal at the death left Barrow on the wrong end of a 3-1 scoreline. And the night was made worse when Lomax was sent off for two cautions moments before York’s third goal. He will be suspended for the game against City and, with several other players out injured, Sheridan and Bayliss could be down to just 14 available players for the game.
Complete record against Barrow
Last season was the first since the early 1990s where the clubs were league rivals, and City enjoyed the greater success taking four points off the Cumbrian side. The Twerton Park meeting in September began badly for Barrow after they arrived late to the ground, despite staying overnight just 13 miles away in Bristol. The opening half-hour saw City enjoy the upper hand without creating any clear cut chances and against the run of play Pearson fired the visitors in front. Barrow then spurned several good chances to increase their lead and Darren Edwards headed City back on level terms with 13 minutes remaining. Both sides went close after this but a draw was probably the right result. When they met again in March Barrow came into the game on a four-match winning run that had pulled them clear of the relegation zone. However, City took the lead after just six minutes, top scorer Lee Phillips glancing home Marc Canham’s free-kick, and this turned out to be the decisive goal. City withstood several spells of pressure in the second half although their cause was helped by the 63rd minute red card for Baker after a clash with Marley Watkins, the latter somewhat fortunate not to also earn an early bath. In the 20 games between City and Barrow, the Bluebirds have only won three times, with their one and only Twerton Park success coming during the 1984-85 season.
City should go into the game with just Canham unavailable, as he continues his Chinese adventure with the British Women’s University football side. Despite his coaching skills the side missed out on a quarter-final place after losing their final group match by three goals to two against the host nation, having previously lost 2-0 to Canada and drawn 1-1 with Chinese Taipei. In a rather convoluted arrangement the team are now playing in a 9th – 12th place group (don’t tell Sepp Blatter or he’ll try to introduce this format into the next World Cup) meaning their final game is not until Sunday and he is unlikely to be available until the home game against Tamworth on August 27. Manager Adie Britton has also revealed he hopes to bring in a young striker on loan before the game as he looks to boost City’s limited forward options.
City opened their Twerton Park campaign in disappointing fashion this evening, two late goal condemning them to a 2-0 defeat against a physical Wrexham side. They looked to have weathered the storm as the game reached its final 15 minutes only to be undone by two almost identical strike from Morrell in the 78th and 79th minutes. In truth City deserved little from the game as they rarely got the ball down, too often resulting to long balls forward toward Lee Phillips, where he was receiving little or no protection from the referee as time and again Creighton crashed into the the back of him. The visitors were also content to get the ball forward as quick as possible which made for a forgettable first half. There was little improvement after the break and the game appeared to be drifting toward a goalless darw. However, with 12 minutes left Pogba broke free down City’s left and although Glyn Garner got a hand to his cross-shot the ball fell perfectly for Morrell to fire it into the roof of the net from a couple of yards out. And within 90 seconds he was in almost exactly the same far post spot to convert Cieslewicz’s cross, ensuring the points would be heading back to North Wales. To their credit City did not let their heads drop at this double blow and Lee Phillips was denied by a stunning save from Maxwell in the 89th minute, but that it took until then to test the Dragons keeper sums up the overall below par performance from the home side.
City’s first home game of the 2011-12 season sees Wrexham travel down from North Wales in a fixture that as recently as one week ago looked in doubt. The Welsh club were given four conditions regarding their financial position, all of which had to be fulfilled by last Monday to allow them to retain membership of the Football Conference. One of these conditions was to deposit a bond or bank guarantee of £250,000 into the competitions accounts but, as the deadline passed, they were still £100K short of this sum. However, in a remarkable effort from their supporters the money was raised through individual donations and Wrexham’s future was safeguarded, for the time being at least. No doubt City will be relieved that the Dragons managed to avert being thrown out of the league as they could ill-afford to lose their first home game of the season. It was believed that the £250,000 bond was to cover any losses incurred by the 23 other Blue Square Bet Premier clubs should Wrexham fail to complete the season but that is not an issue City should need to concern themselves with after Tuesday.
The background to this is the saga of the club’s protracted takeover by the Wrexham Supporters’ Trust (WST). Owners Geoff Moss and Ian Roberts had been looking to offload the club since the beginning of 2011. Around the same time the ownership of the Racecourse Ground was transferred to a holding company, Wrexham Village. The financial position of the club was thrown into stark relief toward the end of the 2010-11 season when they were issued with a winding-up order by the HMRC over an unpaid tax bill of £200,000. With the team battling for a play-off place this caused understandable anger amongst other BSBP clubs and, to their great credit, the Football Conference made it clear that unless the debt was cleared in full the Dragons would not be allowed to take part in the play-offs. The money was raised but it was clear the club were far from out of danger and by mid-July it was announced another tax-bill, this time ‘just’ £45,000, was outstanding and wages had not been paid that month. As an aside, it was reported that 115 employees had not been paid, a number which may show why the club was in such a mess and puts further into perspective the task City have to compete with such set-ups. Initially the WST had been looking to take control of both the club and ground but the latter now looked to be heading to Glyndwr University, where they would allow the football club to continue to playing. This move took a further twist when it was announced that the Crusaders Rugby League team, also owned by Moss and fellow tenants at the Racecourse Ground, would be withdrawing from the Super League in 2012. It was this series of events that led to the Football Conference issuing their ultimatum. As Wrexham kick-off the 2011-12 season the sale of the ground to Glyndwr University has been completed and it now remains to be seen whether the WST can take control of the club and secure its long-term prospects.
Whilst all this was going on manager Dean Saunders was faced with the job of building a team capable of regaining the Football League place they lost in 2008. Having raised the money to allow their participation in the 2010-11 play-offs they found themselves 3-0 down by half-time in the first leg at home to Luton Town, a deficit they only briefly (1-0 up in the 2nd leg with a penalty – which they missed) looked like recovering from. His plans were disrupted by the cancellation of two pre-season matches as his unpaid squad refused to play, although just one defeat in the games that did take place meant it was a promising summer. He also managed to bring in four new players despite the financial uncertainty within the club. Striker Jake Speight arrived from Bradford City, along with ex-Histon and Cambridge United Danny Wright, another front-man. Saunders strengthened his defence with the capture of experienced centre-back Chris Westwood before adding winger Glen Little. The latter had initially looked to be joining the club in March after a successful trial but a transfer embargo at the time prevented the deal going through. Against the backdrop of saving the club’s BSBP place over 4000 supporters packed into the Racecourse Ground on Saturday to watch their opening game against Cambridge United. And for 90 minutes it looked as if it would be the perfect start to a new chapter in the club’s history. Leading thanks to Morrell’s 16th minute the game had reached stoppage time when the visitors spoiled the party through Platt’s equalising strike.
Complete record against Wrexham
Last season was the first in which City and Wrexham were had met competitively and the Welsh side were one of just two opponents City failed to take at least one point off (the other was runaway champions Crawley Town) and the only side that prevented them scoring. The match at Twerton Park took place on August Bank Holiday and City’s hectic opening schedule of five games in 14 days finally appeared to catch up with the part-time players. After an even opening 20 minutes the visitors took the lead through Morrell’s close range header before another header, this time from Smith on the hour mark, completed the scoring. It was the same scoreline when the sides met again three days into 2011. Again City started well but after Kaid Mohamed tripped Obeng in the box on 34 minutes, Taylor converting the penalty, the home side looked in control of the game. Despite this City were still in the contest until substitute Pogba secured the win with a second goal in the closing minutes.
After their encouraging 1-1 draw at Mansfield Town on Saturday, City will go into the game hoping for a repeat of last season’s opening Twerton Park match, a 2-1 win over another financially troubled, former league club, Rushden & Diamonds. With no players reported as picking up knocks at Field Mill, manager Adie Britton will pick from the same squad again with the addition of summer signing Gary Mills after he completed his suspension.
City got their 2011-12 season off to the worst possible start, conceding a goal after just three minutes, but battled back to earn a hard-fought point in a 1-1 draw at Mansfield Town this afternoon. After the kick-off was delayed for ten minutes to get the near 4000 crowd into Field Mill, City were still asleep three minutes later when an unmarked Connor headed Bell’s cross past Glyn Garner’s despairing dive. The debutant keeper denied the Stags a second goal, blocking Green’s shot, four minutes later before Lee Phillips fired City’s first effort on goal narrowly wide. Gethin Jones then headed a corner over as City looked to have recovered from their slow start. They had a close escape though on 20 minutes when Bell’s header hit the foot of the post then Garner twice blocked Taylor’s attempts to force home the rebound. Then on 34 minutes Lewis Hogg picked out Adam Connolly on the edge of the box and his well-struck shot was deflected past Marriott in the home goal. City had their best spell of the game early in the second half, Phillips heading the clearest chance into the arms of Marriott, but as the match wore on the hosts began to get on top. However, with Mark Preece and Gethin Jones looking increasingly solid City withstood this pressure and even when Mansfield got a sight of goal Garner produced several excellent saves to ensure the points were shared at the final whistle.
City begin their second season as a Blue Square Bet Premier club facing the same opponent against which they finished the 2010-11 campaign, Mansfield Town. A 2-0 win over the Stags back in May ensured a 10th place finish and completed a remarkable season for the club that exceeded expectations of all but the most wildly optimistic Twerton Park devotee. As ever though August heralds a new season and manager Adie Britton knows that, as one of just a handful of part-time oufits in a division increasingly comprised of full-time ex-Football League clubs, it will be another battle just to survive and anything more than that will be a real bonus. However, the signings he has made this summer, plus the experience of a season at this level for the rest of the squad, mean City certainly look a stronger unit on paper, it now just remains to be seen if this is the case on the pitch.
The Mansfield side that they travel to face on Saturday will be much changed from the one that finished the 2010-11 season two places below City and with the disappointment of a 1-0 defeat to Darlington in the FA Trophy Final at Wembley Stadium. This led to manager Duncan Russell, who had only taken over the role after David Holdsworth was sacked in November 2010, not having his contract renewed and he was replaced by Eastwood Town’s Paul Cox. The former Notts County and Kettering Town defender had led the Badgers from the lower reaches of the UniBond Division 1 South to the Blue Square Bet South. Last season the club finished fourth but were denied a play-off place due to a technicality over the seating at their Coronation Park home. Understandably after this disappointment Cox stepped down and saw off several higher profile names to secure the vacant position at Field Mill.
Despite the ongoing uncertainty of the ownership of Field Mill – the club is still involved in a legal dispute with former owner Keith Haslam over this and alleged withdrawal of funds from the club – Cox has been handed a rumoured budged of around £600K (which could rise to £2million if the club regains control of the ground) and a play-off place will be the minimum of their ambitions this season. He has been busy all summer attempting to build a squad capable of fulfilling this aim with an extraordinary 15 new arrivals so far. Amongst these is Bath-born striker Matt Green on a six-month loan deal from Oxford United, where he enjoyed promotion to the Football League. Several of the new players have previously played under Cox at Eastwood, including former Republic of Ireland Under-21 goalkeeper Shane Redmond and defender Andy Todd.
The Stags were enjoying a fairly unremarkable pre-season campaign – early defeats to Nuneaton Borough, Notts County and Doncaster Rovers were followed up with wins against FC Halifax, Hednesford Town and Boston United – before all hell broke loose in a match with Ilkeston Town that was anything but a friendly. Leading 4-2 with around 20 minutes left Cox took his team off the pitch after a third of his new signings, John Thompson, was hospitalised by Ilson player Gary Ricketts. Thompson suffered a serious facial injury after being pushed into a metal hoarding to join Richie Sutton (dislocated shoulder) and Martin Riley (head wound) in A&E. Ricketts was suspended by the Northern Premier League Division 1 South club but it safe to assume the clubs won’t be meeting pre-season again in the near future. Their summer campaign was completed on a more positive note last Saturday with a 4-1 win at Chasetown. Sutton and Thompson look set to miss the match with City and Cox has further injury problems with Lindon Meikle, Paul Bolland and Rhys Day all rated doubtful. Another new signing, Joe Kendrick, will definitely be unavailable due to suspension.
Complete record against Mansfield Town
Honours were even between the two sides last season as they lined up as league rivals for the first ever time. Both games took place in the final month of the campaign, the first at Field Mill where a City side, in the midst of five long-distance away games in the space of three weeks, faded after an even first half to concede twice to set-pieces during a one-sided second half. The return match at Twerton Park 16 days later saw goals from Marley Watkins and Scott Murray earn City a degree of revenge, although the Stags hopes weren’t helped by the 15th minute sending off of Steven Istead after an altercation with Joe Burnell. The only other competitive meeting took place in the FA Cup 3rd Round during the 1987-88 season where the home side ran out comfortable 4-0 winners.
Two of City’s summer signings will hope to put one over their former club having spent the 2010-11 season at Field Mill. Paul Stonehouse made 25 appearance for the Stags, including the two games against City, but missed out on a Wembley appearance and was released shortly afterwards. Mark Preece also spent a year with the Nottinghamshire club but after picking up a knee injury in pre-season had loan spells with Eastwood Town and AFC Telford United. Both will hope to make their debut for City alongside fellow new arrival Glyn Garner, after he appeared to secure the starting goalkeeper berth ahead of Jason Matthews. City expect Gethin Jones, Sekani Simpson and Lewis Hogg to have recovered from minor knocks picked up during the summer but will definitely be without the suspended Gary Mills and Marc Canham, who is coaching in China with the England Women’s student team.
City have released Luke Ruddick with the start of the 2011-12 season just five days away. The 21-year old left-back joined the club from Salisbury City last summer but after suffering a hamstring injury in the opening game at Hayes & Yeading United he struggled all season with the problem, making just nine starts and two susbstitute appearances. He was offered a non-contract deal for this season but the arrival of Paul Stonehouse and the continuing presence of the evergreen Jim Rollo means City are well covered at the left-back spot.
Former Forest Green Rovers defender Mark Preece has joined City after impressing during pre-season. The ex-Bristol Rovers trainee spent an injury disrupted season with Mansfield Town last year, including time on loan with Eastwood Town and AFC Telford. The latter were reportedly interested in signing the 24-year old after he played 45 minutes for the Blue Square Bet Premier newcomers against Stafford Rangers last week but he has choosen to return to the West Country with the 2011-12 season now just a week away.
City brought their pre-season campaign to an end today with a 1-1 draw at Blue Square Bet South side Salisbury City. Lee Phillips gave City the lead in the first half before ex-City striker Jake Reid netted a second half equaliser from the penalty spot.
City have announced their squad numbers for the 2011-12 Blue Square Bet Premier season. They are: 1. Glyn Garner; 2. Sekani Simpson; 3 Paul Stonehouse; 4. Jim Rollo; 5. Gethin Jones; 6. Gary Mills; 7. Scott Murray; 8. Adam Connolly; 9. Jamie Cook; 10. Lee Phillips; 11. Lewis Hogg; 14. Danny Webb; 15. Mark Preece; 16. Marc Canham; 17. Jason Matthews; 18. Marley Watkins; 19. Joe Burnell; 20. Luke Ruddick; 21. Alex Russell.
Heritage Volkswager Van Centre of Bristol and Westbury have been announced as City’s latest sponsor. The commerical van retailers will sponsor thetraining kit for players, management and staff. Heritage are part of the authorised Volkswagen Van Centre network, and their staff are trained to Volkswagen’s stringent standards. They can provide you with standard panel vans or specialist conversions, maintenance and repair using specialist tools and equipment, parts and accessories, finance and insurance. With two convenient locations in Bristol and Westbury, be sure to visit Heritage for all of your commercial vehicle needs (discounts are available for Bath City fans!).
City’s 2011 pre-season campaign comes to an end on Saturday with a trip to face Blue Square Bet South newcomers Salisbury City. It has been a typically mixed summer with wins over Merthyr Town, Paulton Rovers and, most impressively, a strong Bristol City side, alongside defeats to Bishops Cleeve, Bristol Rovers and Cheltenham Town. And in-between these results a goalless draw with Weston Super Mare. However, City boss Adie Britton will be pleased to have got through these games without his squad picking up a serious injury and hope this luck lasts for another 90 minutes.
When City won promotion to the Blue Square Bet Premier in May 2010 it looked as if they would renew a league rivalry with Salisbury for the first time since the 2005-06 season when they finished runner-up to the Whites in the Southern League Premier Division. However, although the Wiltshire enjoyed another promotion twelve months later, plus a great and money-spinning FA Cup run, as with so many other clubs, the cost of reaching non-league’s top flight soon proved unsustainable. By the autumn of 2008 the begging bowl was out and players were being shipped out to reduce costs but a year later the club was in administration. Despite the standard ten point deduction the Whites finished the 2009-10 season in 12th place but their failure to agree a CVA by the Conference set deadline saw them demoted two divisions to the Southern League.
Remarkably against this backdrop, and now playing back at level 7 of the football pyramid, the club remained full-time and continued to run at a loss. New manager Darrell Clarke assembled a squad of young players discarded by professional clubs and for the first half of the 2010-11 season looked on course to repeat the success of five years earlier. A 6-0 home defeat to closest rivals Truro City (ironically a club spending their way up the leagues much like Salisbury did previously) in February began a dip in form and in the end they had to settle for a play-off place. A 1-0 win over Cambridge City set up a final against Hednesford Town and, after a pulsating 2-2 draw, Salisbury won 3-2 on penalties to secure a Blue Square Bet South place.
Chairman William Harrison-Allan has confirmed they will remain full-time this season and the majority of last year’s squad has re-signed, including two players who featured for City last season, Jake Reid and Callum Hart, with just two new arrivals so far, striker Dan Fitchett from Wycombe Wanderers, after he spent much of last season on-loan with the Whites, and 17-year old Claudio Herbert. Their pre-season began with a 5-2 defeat to Bristol Rovers which they followed up with draws against Hamworthy United (0-0) and Alton Town (3-3). A largely second-string line-up then lost 4-2 to Sholing before a stronger side twice came from behind to draw 2-2 with AFC Totten. They finally registered their first win of the campaign last Saturday by beating City’s league rivals Hayes & Yeading United 2-1, player-manager Clarke netting the winner three minutes from time. And on Tuesday this week they drew 1-1 with Southern League Frome Town.
Complete record against Salisbury City/Salisbury
The last league meeting took place in March 2006 with both sides level on points involved in a four-way battle for the title with then league leaders King’s Lynn and 4th placed Chippenham Town. However, the Whites had played at least two games less than their rivals and the game itself was a disappointment with both sides looking happy with a point from the first kick, so it was no real surprise that it finished goalless. This was in complete contrast to the meeting in October 2000 at the same venue. City fell behind to a long range Turk effort on 20 minutes only for two Martin Paul strikes to put them ahead before the interval. Turk then levelled on the hour mark but when Sam Allison converted Paul’s cross with ten minutes left it looked as if City were on course for their first away win of the season. However, two goals in a minute, from Sales and Bond put Salisbury 4-3 up. There was still time for one final twist as in stoppage time Kevin Lloyd rose highest to head home a Mike Davis corner and rescue a point for City. City have played Salisbury once previously in pre-season where a Darren Edwards goal was enough to decide the game ahead of the 2008-09 season.
City are likely to field close to their starting XI for next Saturday’s Blue Square Bet Premier opener at Mansfield Town for at least half the game, although Gethin Jones may not feature after picking up an ankle injury in last week’s game against Cheltenham Town. Definitely missing will be midfielder Marc Canham as he is in China for the World Student Games.
City unveiled Manda Rigby as their new chairman at Twerton Park this afternoon. The former UKI managing director of global IT firm Netgear, will take over the chairman’s duties from Adie Britton, who has combined the role of interim chair and team manager for the past four months, with immediate effect. Miss Rigby, whose first football love is Bolton Wanderers, has also represented the Abbey Ward on BANES since the local elections back in May and sits on the Board of Trustees of the Recreation Ground as a non-voting member.