|PREVIEW: CITY v Dorchester Town (30/12/07)
City’s return to the Conference fold – albeit in the second tier under the Blue Square banner – sees them revisiting the Boxing Day/New Years Day double-header against the same opposition that they last took part in during the 1991-92 season. Having been a shade unfortunate not to have beaten Dorchester Town last Wednesday in the 1-1 draw at The Avenue Stadium, City have got an almost immediate chance to right this wrong.
Five times during City’s years in the Conference they faced the same opposition on Boxing Day and New Years Day, the first time during the second season of the newly formed league, 1980-81. City travelled up the M5 the day after Christmas to face Worcester City where goals from Graham Withey and a Martyn Wheeler penalty gave them a 2-0 victory. And six days later they went one better with a 3-0 win at Twerton Park, Withey scoring again alongside a Kevin Griffin double. The following season it was a more local opponent that made-up the festive double-header in Trowbridge Town. Once again Withey showed that he was not a player to over indulge in the holiday celebrations with a goal in both games, but he couldn’t help City to victory as both matches ended 1-1. The 1983-84 season again saw City face Trowbridge twice but the second game took place on January 2, so for the purpose of padding out this preview doesn’t count. Although as a side note the Boxing Day clash at Frome Road was my first ever away match. The 1984-85 season once again provided Worcester as the opposition and City repeated their feat of four years earlier by recording a double over the Blues, winning 3-1 at home and 2-1 on the road. The next three seasons saw no such double-header and then City’s relegation in 1988 brought a halt these encounters until the 1990-91 season.
By the time City were back in the Conference so were Yeovil Town and they would provide the opposition for both the 1990-91 and 1991-92 clashes. Boxing Day 1990 saw goals from Sean Lundon and Paul Randall give City a 2-1 win but when they headed to Huish Park for their first ever visit to the recently build stadium they found a ground battered by gale force winds. With the floodlight bending precariously in the conditions City found themselves three goals down at half-time – not surprisingly they had played into the wind during the first period. The second half understandably was all City but despite Tiv Lowe scoring direct from a corner and an own goal they couldn’t complete the comeback with an equaliser. The following season City repeated their Twerton Park success, once again Withey getting on the scoresheet with a brace in the 3-1 win and six days later City secured another point against the Glovers through a Martin Boyle inspired 1-1 draw. And that was that for Boxing Day/New Years Day doubles until this season.
Complete record against Dorchester Town
The draw at The Avenue Stadium extended City’s poor run against the Magpies, with just a single win in their last eleven meetings. However, while City were beating Weston Super Mare thanks to goals from Darren Edwards and Lewis Hogg, Dorchester were going down 3-2 at home to Newport County in their final game of 2007 to slide back down to 21st position in the Blue Square South, so City will certainly be confident of recording a win to maintain their play-off position.
City ended an unforgettable 2007 – which saw them win the Southern League for the first time in 29 years – the way they started it, with a clean sheet and an away victory. The 2-0 win at Weston Super Mare meant they lost just five league games during 2007 and end the year comfortably placed in the Blue Square South play-off positions. The game itself saw a hard working City performance in increasingly difficult conditions as wind and rain swept across the Seagull’s basic Woodspring Stadium. After a bright start from the home side City dominated the first half but failed to really test Northmore in the Weston goal and they then had an escape just before half-time when an unmarked McGregor headed a great chance wide from just six-yards out. City made them pay for this miss within six minutes of the restart – Darren Edwards heading home at the far post from a Steve Jones cross. The goal allowed City to sit back and let Weston try to force the pace of the game but they rarely looked capable of breaching City’s backline and as the game reached it’s closing stages they had clearly run out of ideas. With three minutes left City secured the victory when substitute Scott Partridge created room down the right and centred for Lewis Hogg to score against his former club. City could have increased the margin of victory after this – Edwards, Partridge and McKay all going close – which would not have flattered them, but the three points lifted them back up to 4th place at the halfway stage of the season.
City will be looking to record their second double as a Blue Square South side on Saturday when they travel to Weston Super Mare having already recorded a single goal victory over them at Twerton Park back in August. They followed up this win with a 3-2 Setanta Shield success seven weeks later which lifted their record over the Seagulls to an amazing 29 wins from 34 meetings. Scott Rogers’ strike in the first game was City’s 100th in meetings between the sides and with Darren Edwards’ brace and Phil Walsh’s strike in the second game they now average a fraction over three goal per match, against less them 2/3 of a goal per game for Weston.
Complete record against Weston Super Mare
In common with Newport County, who City have also faced in more than just league games this season, there are a number of playing and managerial connections between the clubs, not least that City boss John Relish spent a period in the managerial hot-seat with the Seagulls. He was initially assistant to Len Ashurst before being promoted to the top job for the start of the 1998-99 season. Although his three seasons in charge at Woodspring Park saw a steady improvement with final finishes of 15th, 12th and 8th he was relieved of his duties in October 2001 as they looked for a new “progressive management team” to achieve the club’s aim of Southern League Premier Division football. Eventually his replacement was Frank Gregan but I’ve made my thoughts clear on him and his antics in a previous preview.
On the pitch four of City’s current squad have previous donned the white and blue of Weston. Lewis Hogg made 103 appearances during his 2½ years at Woodspring Park. He scored 12 goals for the Seagulls including the strike that was enough to give Weston their first win over City for 92 years in January 2004. Another former Bristol Rovers player Mark McKeever spent the longest time with Weston, joining them 4 months before Hogg and leaving just ahead of him with a short loan spell at Gloucester City. Striker Dave Gilroy was a Seagull for two years between December 2003 and 2005 before joining Chippenham Town so he could eventually earn his dream move to Twerton Park. Finally, Scott Rogers had a short loan spell with Weston just prior to making the switch to City.
On the other side of the fence is, first and foremost, Weston’s managerial team of Tony Ricketts and Chris Smith, both of whom will be immediately familiar to any City’s followers having made over 600 appearances for the club between them, and the former also spending five seasons managing at Twerton. On the pitch, goalkeeper Ryan Nothmore made three starts for City during a loan spell from Woking in December 2003, Barry McConnell made eight unremarkable appearances during the last two months of 2005 and striker Gareth Hopkins was another loanee who scored a single goal (from the penalty spot) during his four games almost exactly six years ago. Several other former City players started the season with Weston, including Billy Clark, Sam Bailey and Matt Hale but they have since moved on.
After a reasonable start to the season, including four successive victories in September/October their form had stuttered recently. They have not won in their last five outings, drawing 2-2 against Newport County on Boxing Day only after the Welsh side missed a stoppage time penalty, slipping back down to 14th place in this time. This has seen Ricketts looking to strengthen his squad with a number of new arrivals, amongst them the return of experienced midfielder Andy Gurney and strikers Sosthene Yao on loan from Cheltenham Town and Mike Whittington from Gloucester City. The most recent recruit is another name well-known at City having played for them as recently as this pre-season and been a non-playing substitute in the opening game of the season, Mike Green. The midfielder had joined Clevedon Town after spending three months on loan at the Hand Stadium with City retaining his Blue Square South registration. However, they agreed to cancel this and allowed Green to join the Seagulls, although there have been accusations on illegal approaches between the two North Bristol sides.
After his red card against Bognor Regis Town on Saturday, that saw him roundly (though in many cases unjustly) vilified, Lewis Hogg showed the positive side of his game with a goal that rescued a point for City against Dorchester Town yesterday. The struggling Magpie’s had shocked City by taking the lead against the run of play through Awuah’s close range finish from a mis-hit shot by Gleeson just before the hour. City were only behind for 12 minutes when Hogg fired home from the edge of the box after Dave Gilroy’s shot had come back off the post. The first half of the Boxing Day clash had been an even encounter although it was the home side who twice came the closest to breaking the deadlock – Rowe’s 25-yard effort striking the top of the crossbar and then ‘winning’ an indirect free-kick on the edge of the six-yard box after Matt Coupe’s inadvertant deflection was picked up by Paul Evans and adjudged a back-pass – Rowe’s shot was blocked by City’s mass ranks on the goalline. City’s reply saw a Steve Jones effort comfortably saved by Behcet and Darren Edwards fire a shot across the face of the goal. After the break despite the worsening conditions City appeared to be getting the upper hand only for Awuah’s goal to stun them and their 300+ followers. However, after Hogg drew them level the closing stages of the game saw City apply considerable pressure – winning a series of corners and free-kicks as Dorchester’s defending got increasingly desperate – but they couldn’t find a deserved winning goal and had to settle for their second successive draw over the Christmas period against relegation-haunted opposition.
City meet Dorchester Town for the first time since the sides clashed for a place in the Conference South back in May 2004. The play-off semi-final took place at Twerton Park after City had finished one place above the Magpies on goal difference and when Scott Partridge put them ahead after just ten minutes it had looked promising for the home side. However, Dorchester were level before the break and shortly after the interval Partridge was the victim of a crude challenge that soon saw him limp from the action. Then two quick goals either side of Partridge’s departure left City with a mountain to climb. Although Steve Tweddle did pull one goal back they could not find an equaliser and the Dorset side grabbed an injury-time fourth goal to spark unpleasant and unnecessary taunting of the City fans – rather than celebrating with the handful of Dorchester fans that had made the trip north – mainly led by Michael Walker. Fittingly he was thrown out of the Magpies before the end of that year after a catalogue of disciplinary incidents (and since suffered the same fate at his next club Tiverton Town ending up playing in the Wessex League) but by then Dorchester were a Conference South club after beating Tiverton in the play-off final.
Having spent most of their existence in Western League and lower reaches of the Southern League this represented the highest position in their history and they almost went one better during the 2004-05 season, only missing out on the play-offs due to an amazing final day 7-2 defeat against Bognor Regis Town. The next two seasons failed to see them challenging again for a play-off place – finishing 11th and 17th – and having narrowly missed relegation last season manager Mick Jenkins was sacked by new majority shareholder Eddie Mitchell. His response to the club’s struggles was to make it full-time and install Portsmouth youth team boss Shaun Brookes as Director of Football (or ‘manager’ in less pretentious terms) with a five-year plan to bring league football to the Avenue Stadium. Given the club’s relatively small stature (they averaged crowds of just 468 last season) this was an ‘interesting’ move and one that, so far, is showing little sign of success. Understandably the full-time players the club brought in were mainly youngsters and after an opening day 3-0 win over St Albans City they have recorded just two more league victories and currently lie 21st in the Blue Square South. And with crowds virtually unchanged from the previous season – nowhere near the 1000 mark that was talked of to finance the club’s ambitions – off the pitch rumours of administration have also dogged the club, although they have, as would be expected, been denied chairman Eddie Belt (although telling not by owner Mitchell). However, their season could have had a turnaround point last week when a late penalty gave them a surprise 2-1 FA Trophy win over Blue Square Premier side Stevenage Borough.
Complete record against Dorchester Town
In recent meetings between the sides City have largely come off second best with just two victories in the last 13 games – the most recent a 3-0 win at Twerton in March 2001 through goals from Martin Paul, a Jon Holloway penalty and Mike Davis. It was the meeting in Dorset earlier that season that has provided probably the most eventful clash between the sides. With teenage keeper Liam Bull stepping in for injured Sal Bibbo three headed goals gave Dorchester what appeared an unassailable 3-0 half-time lead. However, within 11 minutes of the restart City were level – Paul grabbing the first before two Graham Colbourne strikes made it 3-3. To their credit the Magpies regrouped and seven minutes from time they regained the lead only for City to lay siege to the goal after this. Holloway appeared to have equalised again when his shot clearly crossed the line only for the referee to fail to spot this. He made amends for this mistake in stoppage time though when he awarded City a penalty for handball. To the stunned disbelief of the City fans in the ground – comprising around half the 580 total – Paul’s spot kick was saved by Wells and Dorchester hung on to record an incredible victory.
A deserved red card for Lewis Hogg left City playing for over an hour against Bognor Regis Town at Twerton Park this afternoon in a game that ended goalless. The midfielder was shown a straight red – his first whilst at City – in the 27th minute for kicking out at an opponent and left his teammates with an uphill task. However, despite Hogg’s dismissal City rarely looked like they were a man down and against such poor opposition still controlled the game until the closing stages when they understandably began to tire. They couldn’t turn this upper hand into clear cut chances though and, in the end, it was the visitors who wasted the better openings, several times shooting wide when it looked easier to score. At the final whistle it was difficult to work out which side were happier with the point.
Since City faced Bognor Regis Town back in September, when a Dave Gilroy hat-trick fired them to a 3-1 win, there has been a major change at Nyewood Road. Just before their players ran out to face City’s FA Trophy conquerors Newport County, Jack Pearce announced that he was standing down as manager after an amazing 31 years in the role. His final match in charge saw Bognor earn a point in a 2-2 draw and end a five match losing run that had included their defeat against City. The 56-year old remains at the club, primarily overseeing the forthcoming share issue, which is considered crucial to their ability to continue playing in the Conference set-up. This combined with his roles as an FA Council member, a Sussex FA representative of the county’s senior clubs and on the board of the Conference, meant he felt he could no longer devote the necessary time to the actual playing side of the club. Taking over from him are ex-Portsmouth defender Michael Birmingham and Darren Kirkpatrick, although both are only in caretaker roles because of the possibility of new owners coming in before too long.
Although all parties concerned were quick to deny that Pearce’s departure from the managerial hot-seat had anything to do with the side’s results and struggles near the foot of the Blue Square South table there can be no avoiding the fact that since the change their results have improved considerably. They followed up the impressive point in Wales with another draw at Dorchester Town three days later. At this stage they had lost all six of their home game but this unwanted record finally ended a week after Pearce’s announcement when goals in the first and last minute gave them a 2-0 win over Cambridge City. Since then they have played another two games at Nyewood Road without conceding a goal ( a win and a draw) and recorded their first ever victory over local rivals Havant & Waterlooville in the FA Trophy. However, the new management team suffered their first league defeat at Braintree the week before this Trophy win and last Saturday joined City in exiting that competition with a disappointing 1-0 reversal against Eastleigh. There have not been major changes in the Rocks squad – unsurprising given the off-field uncertainty – with just striker Sam Gargan brought in on loan from Brighton & Hove Albion and Dave Birmingham – brother of the caretaker manager – returning to the club from Gosport Borough. The midfielder had previously spent five years at Bognor before switching to Privett Park 18 months ago.
Complete record against Bognor Regis Town
This meeting will see Bognor visit Twerton Park for the first time since October 1973 when a goal from Steve Stacey saved City a point in a 1-1 draw. This result meant the Sussex side maintained an unbeaten record in Bath having won the previous encounter by three goals to one the previous season, with City’s consolation goal coming from Barry Hayward – his one and only goal for the club. City go into the game welcoming back Chris Holland and Justyn McKay from suspension but joining the banned list is Adie Harris and Mark McKeever (rib) and Scott Rogers (calf) are also sidelined.
City’s FA Trophy hopes were ended at Spytty Park this afternoon when three second half goals saw Newport County through to the 2nd Round. The final scoreline flattered the home side but City could have few complaints about the result after they failed to turn a promising first half performance into goals then missed a great chance to go ahead three minutes before the home side opened the scoring. With the Welsh side strangely hesitant in the opening 45 minutes, City always held the upper hand but too often the final pass failed to match the build-up and the closing moments of the half saw Newport begin to look more threatening. They carried this improvement into the second period, although when Dave Gilroy picked out an unmarked Lewis Hogg on 53 minutes he should have put City ahead but could only shoot straight at keeper Thompson. Three minutes later a mistake by Jim Rollo allowed Griffin to race clear and pick out Hughes, whose scuffed shot had just enough strength to beat Paul Evans. On 67 minutes Newport increased their lead when Evans’ cross was headed home by Hughes. City keep trying and had Newport’s nemesis Phil Walsh headed home with five minutes left the game could have had a grandstand finish but instead the Exiles broke away in stoppage time and Griffin slotted the ball past Evans to complete the scoring.
Midfielder Jason Wood has joined Paulton Rovers on loan to regain his match fitness following a recent hernia operation.
When City were paired again with Newport County, this time in the FA Trophy, both clubs must have wondered if it was some sort of practical joke by the Football Association. However, the appointment of Steve McClaren aside, the FA is not especially known for it’s sense of humour, so for the fifth time this season City come face to face with the Exiles with a place in the 2nd Round of the competition at stake. The tie gives the Welsh side a chance to level the results this season. After the first – and only meeting at Twerton Park – game ended in a 1-1 draw, City have won the FA Cup and league clashes at Spytty Park, before Newport finally recorded a victory in the Setanta Shield four weeks ago.
Since that 3-2 win Newport’s form has tailed off slightly, with just the FA Trophy meeting with Ryman League Windsor & Eton ending in success. And it was only two late goals that secured victory in this game, before a goalless draw with Eastbourne Borough was followed with a Setanta Shield defeat at Hampton& Richmond and a disappointing 3-1 league reversal against Basingstoke Town. This most recent defeat came about despite leading 1-0 at half-time and left manager Peter Beadle angry at how his inconsistent side followed up a dominant first half performance with such a dismal second half display.
Complete record against Newport County/AFC Newport
If the Welsh side are searching for some optimism ahead of the game they can look back to the only other FA Trophy meeting between the sides back during the 2001-02 season at Twerton Park. City had already beaten Newport by two goals to one in a league meeting a month before the 1st Round clash and when Adrian Foster rolled home the ball from a narrow angle on 20 minutes it looked as if they could repeat this feat. However, within a minute the visitors were level when current City striker Martin Paul took advantage of an error by Colin Towler to score. It got worse for City two minutes before half-time when Ryan struck a 20-yard free-kick past Mark Hervin. Back then Newport were capable of performing well in both halves and with ten minutes left they deservedly went 3-1 up through a cross-shot from Shepherd. City did pull a goal back in the closing minutes via a Jamie Gosling penalty but this was not enough to deny Newport a 2nd Round tie with Walton & Hersham.
Of course, should the match end in a draw the sides will meet for a sixth time three days later at Twerton Park and given how they are both chasing a Blue Square South play-off place what are the odds they will clash for a seventh and eighth time in a two-legged semi-final in April/May 2008?
City could be without left-winger Mark McKeever for up to six weeks after he suffered a suspected broken rib in last week’s 2-0 win over Maidenhead United. He was forced to leave the game midway through the first half afer receiving a blow to his ribs and now looks set to miss the upcoming busy Christmas and New Year period. This is a further blow ahead of Saturday’s trip to Newport County in the FA Trophy with Lewis Hogg struggling to overcome an ankle injury and Chris Holland and Justyn McKay both definitely missing due to suspension.
If you’re struggling to find a great present for the City-supporting member of your family, the club has a few suggestions. You can pick up a copy of the 2008 version of the hugely popular SEGA Football Manager game for a PC for just £15 (+ £1 p&p) – compared to £24.98 on Amazon. And while they are playing the game they can look the part wearing a City polo shirt, available in either red, black or white at just £24.99. If they then get fed up with virtual football and decide they want to watch a game live, how about a half-season terrace ticket for £80. For any of these great Christmas ideas contact the club on (01225) 423087 or firstname.lastname@example.org. It’s also not too late to buy your Christmas tree from the club – they will be on sale at Twerton Park this Saturday (15th) and Sunday (16th). For full details just click on the little tree to the right.
City boss John Relish has moved quickly to distance himself from a newspaper story linking him with the managerial hot-seat at ambitious Western League side Truro City. The money-no-object Cornish side – who City dumped out of the FA Cup earlier back in September – are searching for a new manager ahead of their switch to a full-time set-up next season when they make the expected step-up to the Southern League. And local paper The West Briton included Relish’s name on a list with several other optimistic targets such as Torquay boss Leroy Rosenior and ex-Argyle player Sean McCarthy. However, the 54-year old, who works as the South West Regional Director for the PFA, has made it clear that he has had no contact with Truro and is not interested in the post.
The draw for the quarter-finals of the Somerset Premier Cup has paired City with Western League Division 1 side Shepton Mallet. City will travel to their West Shepton ground in March 2008 with a date to be confirmed.
A goal in each half from Darren Edwards and Dave Gilroy gave City an easy 2-0 win over Maidenhead United at a windy Twerton Park this afternoon. Despite the heavy rain in the morning the game was never in doubt, but a strong wind blowing toward the Bath end made conditions difficult for both sides. However, it took City just four minutes to go ahead when Gilroy and Lewis Hogg combined to set up Edwards with a simple finish. Hogg was forced off with a knee injury soon afterwards but City continued to control the game, reduced the visitors to a few long range efforts, with the elements in their favour. Gilroy had a header cleared off the line and Paul Keddle blazed over when well-placed. With the wind behind them in the second half City would have expected to come under greater pressure but it never transpired and when Edwards turned provider to pick out Gilroy just seven minutes after the restart City were in control. Maidenhead never gave up but rarely troubled Paul Evans and City comfortably saw out the game to move back up into fourth place in the Blue Square South.
Having taken just a single point from their last two games – and probably more disappointingly, put in two below-par performances – City will look to get back to winning ways against a side they hold a 100% winning record over, Maidenhead United, at Twerton Park this Saturday. In the four meetings between the sides City have ended up victorious each time, although never by more than a two goal margin. The most recent of these meetings took place back in August, when a single strike by Darren Edwards saw City head back up the M4 with three points under their belt. In truth the home side could consider themselves unfortunate to have not, at least, earned a share of the spoils after dominating the latter stages of the game but failing to turn this into all important goals. This was something of a recurring theme for Maidenhead – especially at York Road – and it was only last weekend that they broke their home duck for the season with a 3-1 victory over struggling Dorchester Town.
However, away from home Maidenhead have been a much tougher opponent, winning three and drawing four of their nine outings. This success on the road has meant that despite their woeful home record they sit above the relegation places, although they are only two places and four points ahead of 20th place St Albans City. Despite the club’s struggles since they came up from the Southern League alongside City last season their highly-rated manager Johnson ‘Drax’ Hippolyte signed a two-year extension to his contract in October. Ironically almost exactly a year to the day that he quit Yeading to join United he came face to face with his old side (albeit in their new guise as Hayes & Yeading United) in a Setanta Shield meeting, in which his current team came out on top by three goals to nil. A week later Hippolyte put pen to paper on the new deal and before the end of that month he was celebrating again as he put another one over his old club with a considerably more important 1-0 FA Cup win that carried Maidenhead into the 1st Round proper. When the draw then paired them with Ryman League side Horsham they would have expected to make further progress in the competition, possibly emulating the success that Hippolyte enjoyed with Yeading – making the 3rd Round in 2004-05 when they faced Premiership (sleeping) giants Newcastle United – but this all ended in tears when they crashed out 4-1 to the lower league side.
Complete record against Maidenhead United
If Maidenhead are looking for a place to take away their woes so far this season, it should be Twerton Park. Although in their only visit to face City they lost 2-1 through goals from Edwards and Martin Paul they did taste success there less than a month later. Happily this time the opposition was not City, although the attendance was boosted by a considerable number of City followers, but their tenants Team Bath. With City having already secured a place in the Conference South, the two sides met in the Southern League play-off final to earn the right to join them and it was the Berkshire side who emerged triumphant, beating the full-time University-based players by a single goal. No doubt after this game the supporters of City and Maidenhead both went home happy but, if City are to keep their play-off hopes on track, it will need to be just the former enjoying their Saturday evening in front of X-Factor and All-Star Family Fortunes.
City suffered a single goal defeat against league leaders Lewes at a dripping wet Dripping Pan this afternoon. In a disappointing game played in difficult conditions Lewes failed to show the form that has taken them to the top of the Blue Square South but always had the edge over a City side that played the last twenty minutes with ten men after Justyn McKay’s red card. The deciding goal came in the 11th minute when Groves’ mis-hit effort dropped perfectly for Booth to fire home. Conroy rattled the crossbar midway through the half but Rooks were looking little like title challengers even faced with such ineffectual opposition. City’s frustration at their performance saw Paul Keddle and Adie Harris fortunate to escape with just yellow cards for pushing an opponent to the floor, although the home side’s constant complaining and harassment of the officials did not show them in a good light either. Even with the wind at their backs in the second half City failed to put Lewes under any real pressure – Darren Edwards’ cross-shot the closest they came to an equaliser – and when McKay received his second caution for a mis-timed tackle their task became even harder. In the end only a stunning save by Paul Evans denied Lewes a second goal, but they saw the game out comfortably enough without this insurance.