City chairman Manda Rigby has been named the Bath Chronicle Woman of the Year in their annual People of the Year awards announced today. The lifelong Bolton Wanderers supporter took over the Twerton Park hot seat back in August after long-serving predecessor Geoff Todd had stepped down in May. A few months earlier she had been elected as a BANES councillor for the first time. With a real ‘hands-on’ approach she had driven a number of initiatives with the club and 2012 promises to be an eventful year with the long running subject of the leaving and/or redeveloping Twerton Park looking set to reach a possible conclusion.
City have allowed defender Danny Webb to stay on loan at Blue Square Bet South side Sailsbury City for the rest of the season. Mark Preece has returned to the club after a loan spell with Weston Super Mare but a decision on whether he will remain at Twerton Park has yet to be decided.
Despite only light rain during Christmas Day and Boxing Day morning, yesterday’s game at Newport County was postponed due to a waterlogged pitch. The surprise decision was made by referee Steve Martin at 1pm with standing water in the centre circle of the notoriously poor Spytty Park pitch. A new date for the match has yet to be arranged but it will have to be played within 42 days. City will hope their playing surface is more resilient with the sides due to meet at Twerton Park on Tuesday 3 January (ko 7.45pm).
The 84th minute goal conceded against Kettering Town last Saturday ensured City would finish 2011 rock bottom of the Blue Square Bet Premier table regardless of the result in the first of their Christmas and New Year double header against fellow relegation strugglers Newport County. This is in complete contrast to how they begun the year, notwithstanding ending 2010 with a 4-2 home defeat against Forest Green Rovers they sat in 12th place with at least ten more points despite having played five fewer matches. However, hope springs eternal and two positive results against Newport would keep them fully in touch with the sides above them including, contrary to nearly all pre-season predictions, the Exiles themselves.
The Welsh side are arguably the biggest under-achievers of the first half of this season*. They featured amongst most pundits play-off contenders and the Spytty Park faithful appeared to harbour genuine hopes that their club was on the verge of regaining the Football League place it lost in 1988. This optimism was in part based on how they finished the 2010-11 campaign with six wins out of eight, including a final day 7-1 victory at Gateshead, and with highly-rated young manager Anthony Hudson just a month into his first managerial post. The former Tottenham Hotspur coach has arrived at the club with a glowing reference from Spurs (and next England?) boss Harry Redknapp, likening him to “a young José Mourinho”. He was handed the task of overseeing the club’s switch to full-time status and brought in several impressive new faces during the summer, including striker Craig McAllister and defender Ismail Yakubu, both of whom enjoyed promotion last year with Crawley Town and AFC Wimbledon respectively. Although they lost Paul Bignot to Blackpool they did hold onto the services of the much-coveted Danny Rose to give the club, on paper at least, an impressive looking squad.
These high hopes received an early dent when they opened the new season with a 3-2 defeat at Kettering Town but bounced back to trounce Hayes & Yeading United by four goals to nil in their opening home match. This was a false dawn for Hudson and his team though as, after draws against Grimsby Town and Ebbsfleet United, they suffered five successive losses, including an embarrassing 5-0 reversal to Mansfield Town in front of the live Premier Sports cameras, to slip into the relegation zone. Though he appeared to retain the support of his players unsurprisingly this was not the case for a large part of the club’s supporters and when this winless league run reached double figures Hudson was sacked. Showing that the Newport board had learnt from the mistake of hiring a manager with no previous non-league experience they turned next to Justin Edinburgh. Although his CV also included Tottenham Hotspur amongst his former sides it was the managerial spells with Grays Athletic and Rushden & Diamonds in the Conference that would have played the greater part in securing him the post. His first match in charge ended in a 3-0 home defeat to in-form Southport but this was followed up by a stunning 4-1 win at title-chasing Fleetwood Town, thanks largely to a hat-trick by former City player Sam Foley. Since then Newport have struggled for consistency, with three wins, two draws and four defeats in the league, which has been just enough to lift them out of the bottom four, albeit only by a single point.
Complete record against Newport AFC/Newport County
Given their relative positions City would almost certainly settle for a repeat of the four points they took off Newport last season. When the sides met at Spytty Park on New Year’s Day the Exiles sat in second place but after edging a poor first half they fell behind 12 minutes into the second half when Kaid Mohamed beat the offside trap before slotting the ball past Thompson. Eight minutes from time the home side levelled through Reid and were pushing for a winner when City earned a 94th minute corner. And after Danny Webb’s effort had been cleared off the line Gethin Jones was perfectly placed to head home the winner. The return match at Twerton Park seven weeks later saw a remarkable four goals in the opening 20 minutes. City were gifted the lead in comical style on nine minutes when Exiles keeper Thompson completely missed his attempted clearance to give Scott Murray a simple tap-in. However, within five minutes the visitors levelled in equally bizarre circumstances. City defence appeared to stop thinking the ball had gone out of play before Montgomery hooked it back into the six-yard box, but a whistle or flag never came and Odubade stabbed the ball home. What the opening two goals lacked in quality was soon made up for by the next two strikes. In the 21st minute Hartswell picked up the ball on the edge of the area before unleashing a stunning shot that flew past Ryan Robinson. Within 60 seconds the scores were tied once again as Lee Phillips ran onto a Marc Canham pass, held off his marker, and fired across Thompson into the net. This was the end of the goalscoring excitement with neither side able to gain the upper hand.
City should go into the games with no injury concerns. They did suffer a scare when Marley Watkins and Sekani Simpson were involved in car accident on the M32 whilst on the way to training at Thornbury Leisure Centre on tuesday but both players escaped the crash unharmed.
*Possibly beaten only by Stockport County.
City allowed another two desperately needed points to slip through their frozen fingers this afternoon as they conceded a late equaliser against crisis club Kettering Town at a bitterly cold Nene Park. Despite dominating the game only Scott Murray’s stunning long-range strike had found the net so when Jones’ 84th minute shot beat Jason Matthews it was enough to level the scores. And in truth it could have got even worse for City as the Poppies spurned several great chances after this to win the game. After the (sort of) home side had the better of the opening exchanges City soon took control of the game with the midfield getting forward well in support of lone striker Jamie Cook. However, too often the final pass or cross was poor as City’s lack of a cutting edge was all too apparent once again. That the closest they came to scoring in the first half was when a Lewis Hogg cross struck the crossbar summed up their struggles but within six minutes of the restart they finally went ahead when Murray unleashed a swerving 30-yard effort that flew over Walker into the roof of the net. Although City rarely looked like adding to their lead after this Kettering appeared equally toothless and it seemed as if the three points would be heading back to the West Country. This all changed though with eight minutes left when Meechan forced a fine low stop out of Matthews before two minutes later he was beaten by Jones’ low shot. If the City keeper was at fault for the goal he redeemned himself with two point-blank stops after this as a revitalised Poppies side laid siege to the City goal in the final minutes.
Like an old uncared-for relative who has been made to spend their last few months in a cold and sterile place to which they have no emotional attachment rather than the comfortable and familiar place where they have previously spent nearly their entire life, Kettering Town FC look set to end their days 11 miles from home at Nene Park in Irthlingborough. And to stretch this rather heavy-handed analogy to breaking point, whilst this is happening the club’s kids (the youth team) are still playing at their true home, Rockingham Road. There is no evidence to show that the 42-year old Nene Park stadium was built on an ancient Indian burial ground but if the Poppies do follow previous owners Rushden & Diamonds and fold at the end of this season (or even before) then there is unlikely to be a big queue of sides interested in taking over the apparently cursed venue. Against this background of the Poppies struggle for survival City know that in their position there can be no place for sentiment and Saturday’s meeting really is a must-win match for the Romans.
After switching from Rockingham Road to Nene Park in the summer – a move which, even without the benefit of hindsight, never looked like a brilliant long-term plan – it wasn’t until November that the Poppies condition took a turn for the worse. Although they had hardly set the Blue Square Bet Premier alight during the opening months of the campaign – surprise summer managerial appointment Morrel Maison had been replaced by Mark Stimson in September – they had shown enough to suggest a mid-table finish was not beyond their reach. However, before the end of that month the cracks were beginning to appear, with teammates fighting on the pitch and eleven players transfer listed. After a quiet October, during which time the Poppies recorded two league wins and progress in the FA Cup, the following month saw the club plunged into a full-blown crisis. It was revealed that the players had not received their full wages and the whole squad was then put on the transfer list. Five players were almost immediately on their way but just when Stimson looked set to fill these gaps using the loan market the Football Conference placed a transfer embargo on the club.
Kettering were suddenly forced to turn to a handful of previously registered youth team players to bulk out their depleted squad, which had been further weakened through injuries and suspensions. And in a move that rather neatly summed up the situation at Nene Park midfielder Steven Meechan was unavailable as he was working in Scotland to earn extra money. Following a narrow 2-1 defeat against Grimsby Town and a fully expected 3-0 loss against title-chasing Fleetwood Town their problems were put in stark relief with a 7-0 thrashing at York City, where Stimson had only been able to name two substitutes. This result left the Poppies one point and one place above the relegation zone although since then they have produced two more promising performances. A goalless draw against Darlington (a fitting scoreline given that zero had been the figure on the payslips of players at both clubs the previous month, with the North East club in a similar struggle to the Poppies) ended the three-match losing run and they then followed this up with an undeserved 3-2 FA Trophy loss at Gateshead.
These two results show that City cannot approach the game complacently and Kettering look set to receive further boosts through the return to the squad of injured duo Phil Ifil and Djoumin Sangare, plus the aforementioned Steven Meechan after his time north of the border. They also look set to be allowed to keep on loan midfielder Josh Dawkin. The Norwich City youngster’s, who has impressed in spite of the Poppies struggles, latest loan spell ended this week but, despite the continued transfer embargo, looks set to be allowed to remain at Nene Park for a third and final month. Off the pitch chairman Imraan Ladak had reached an agreement with the contracted players to get them paid up to date by January 2 and revealed that there are several parties interested in taking over the club. Despite this the Football Conference has made it clear there are still issues to be cleared up before Kettering are allowed to begin signing new players and Stimson has admitted he has heard nothing new on the parties interested in a takeover at Nene Park.
Complete record against Kettering Town
If City do travel back from Northamptonshire with a desperately needed three points it will mark a first ever win at Nene Park – at the fourth time of asking – and end a run of five games without a win at Kettering Town. The last time City won an away match there was in February 1994 with a rookie keeper making his debut. Regular no.1 Dave Mogg was sidelined after an x-ray discovered that he’d been playing with a broken bone in his wrist for three games which forced manager Tony Ricketts to hand the gloves to Spanish shot-stopper Rafael Torres. He had recently moved to Bath after studying at Leeds University but became an immediate cult hero with City fans as he produced a wonderful performance to keep the Poppies at bay. And with ten minutes remaining it got even better for City when Paul Adcock fired home a winning goal after Gary Smart sent him racing clear. Unfortunately a week later it all went rather wrong for Torres as he conceded six goals at Sutton United in the FA Trophy, but he still retains a fond place in the hearts of those City fans who made that midweek trip to Kettering (and for kicking the ball away as a non-playing substitute to time-waste in the FA Cup game with Hereford United earlier that season).
Manager Adie Britton has also seen his squad reduced this week with the ending of Charlie Clough and Andy Gallinagh’s loan spells. Mark Preece and Danny Webb are still a week away from being allowed to return from their loan deals at Weston Super Mare and Salisbury City respectively so the game could see either Paul Stonehouse or Jim Rollo restored to the left-back position. On the plus side City will hope that Marley Watkins and Lee Phillips will have recovered from the knocks that sidelined them for the FA Trophy win at Chelmsford City last week which would give Britton a full squad from which to select.
Andy Gallinagh and Charlie Clough have returned to Cheltenham Town and Bristol Rovers respectively following three-month loan spells at Twerton Park. Gallinagh only missed City’s Somerset Premier Cup match at Taunton Town during his time with the club, making 18 appearances, scoring the only goal in the FA Cup win at Dover Athletic. Clough, in his second loan spell at City, added another 15 games to the eleven he made last season, also netting once against Cambridge United.
When those City fans who enjoy a pre-match drink next head to Twerton Park on 3 January to see the Romans take on Newport County they will do so in a newly decorated Charlie’s bar. With no home matches at Twerton Park for a solid month, City are busy upgrading the club’s bar facilities to help maximise club revenue off the pitch. A major renovation of the bar and decor inside Charlie’s is under way that should make the venue much more attractive for pre-match punters and private functions. This will be the first step in a series of improvements over the coming months that will take place across most of the club’s function rooms, including Randall’s and the Moore Stephens Sponsors Lounge.
City have been drawn at home to Basingstoke Town in the FA Trophy 2nd Round to end a run of five successive away ties in the competition stretching back to the 2008-09 season. The last time an FA Trophy match graced Twerton Park City ran out 5-1 winners over East Thurrock United in November 2008. The Dragons will become the third Conference South side City have faced this season, and the Romans will hope the wins over Dover Athletic and Chelmsford City are good omens. Basingstoke are currently 7th in the Conference South but have several games in hand over the sides above them. The tie will take place on Saturday 14 January (ko 3pm).
Following a scoreless first half City and Chelmsford City shared five goals after the interval with the Romans doing just enough to overcome the lower division Clarets and secure a place in the FA Trophy 2nd Round. After the home side had shaded the opening 45 minutes it took City just four minutes into the second period to take the lead. Gethin Jones rose highest to head goalwards where the ball struck Miller’s arm and the referee pointed to the spot. Marc Canham made it five out of five successful penalties this season but if Chelmsford felt aggrieved at going behind in this manner four minutes later they were awarded an even softer penalty when Jones was adjudged to have fouled Ibe allowing Parker to level the tie. The Clarets briefly threatened to take control of the game after this but as City showed in the FA Cup at Dover Athletic even though they are struggling at the foot of the Conference Premier they still have the quality to deal with Conference South sides. Jamie Cook had seen a shot cleared off the line but on 66 minutes Scott Murray collected a cross-field pass from Marc Canham before firing past Searle in the Clarets goal. With two minutes left City made sure of the win, and £5000 prize money, thanks to Cook’s first goal for the club, shooting into the roof of the net after Lewis Hogg’s shot had come back off the bar, although Chelmsford did grab a consolation goal deep into stoppage time when Parker grabbed his second of the game. The draw for the 2nd Round will take place on Monday morning.
City’s 2011-12 FA Trophy campaign begins on Saturday in a similar manner to the FA Cup with a trip to face Blue Square Bet South opposition. And having beaten Dover Athletic in the Budweiser sponsored competition they will hope for an equally successful outcome when they face Chelmsford City at Melbourne Park Athletics Stadium. However, this will be no easy task as the Clarets have only lost three games so far this season, with just one defeat in their last 22 matches.
This impressive form has not only placed them firmly amongst a group of sides chasing Conference South leaders Woking but also seen them embark on an FA Cup run that could yet see a Premier League club heading to Essex. Qualifying Round wins over Tonbridge Angels, Lowestoft Town and, after a replay, Gloucester City earned them a 1st Round tie with Conference Premier side AFC Telford United. The higher division were swept away thanks to two goals in each half and for the second successive season Chelmsford were in the 2nd Round draw. There they were paired with League 2 Macclesfield Town and when Cornhill gave them a 35th minute lead a giant-killing result was on the cards. These hopes were (temporarily, at least) dashed just after the hour mark when Diagane levelled for the Silkman to take the game to a replay. In common with City after their 1-1 draw with Dagenham & Redbridge, any disappointment at failing to win the tie was tempered when the second meeting was selected for live ESPN coverage. That clash will take place four days after this FA Trophy meeting and the prize for the winners is a home game against Bolton Wanderers in the 3rd Round. The Clarets have already announced their intention to erect two temporary stands at Melbourne Park to ensure the tie does not have to be moved elsewhere should they overcome Macclesfield.
Whilst a FA Cup 3rd Round appearance against Premier League opposition would be an unforgettable experience it is still the league campaign that will determine whether the season is judged a success or not as the Clarets look to win a place in non-league’s top division. With Woking looking strong favourites to lift the title it seems Chelmsford will have to settle for a play-off spot at best and if they can secure a top five finish it will mean a fourth consecutive post-season place. As the fact they are still in the Conference South shows the previous three years have ended in play-off heartbreak, all at the semi-final stage, including in 2010 to City, and the Clarets have yet to manage a single play-off win, a record that will hardly install confidence in fans of the Essex club should they fail to top the league against this season. Just one win in their opening four games left them in 16th place and playing catch-up to the likes of Woking and Welling United but an unbeaten run of 13 league games has lifted them up to 4th position and, with over half the season left, the 11 point gap to the Cards is far from insurmountable.
Complete record against Chemlsford City
The aforementioned play-off game was the last time City travelled to Essex to face the Clarets, coming at the end of the 2009-10 season. Chelmsford had finished one place and three points above City but a Kaid Mohamed penalty and a late strike from Hector Mackie had given the Romans a two goal cushion to take to Melbourne Park, despite the visitors dominating the majority of the match. Against this background, and with Clarets manager Glenn Pennyfather claiming ‘the pressure was all on City’ and they would ‘[face] a cauldron of noise’, the outcome of the tie was far from guaranteed. However, there was little sign of either prediction as City were happy to sit back and soak up what pressure the hosts could generate whilst looking threatening on rare forays forward. And when Kaid Mohamed stabbed the ball home from close range on 53 minutes the tie was effectively over and City moved a step closer to the Conference Premier. The sides have previously met once in the FA Trophy during the 1985-86 season. The 1st Round tie took place at then Southern League Chelmsford’s previous New Writtle Street home and the hosts ran out 2-1 winners, with City’s goal coming from a Dave Palmer penalty.
Although City are largely injury free at the moment – with just Jamie Cook doubtful with a rib injury – their preparation has been disrupted with a sickness bug that has claimed Joe Burnell and Andy Gallinagh, forcing them off at half-time against AFC Telford United and Kidderminster Harriers respectively, and Adie Britton will hope that no further members of his squad go down with the problem.
City’s mini-revival came to an abrupt halt this evening as they crashed by four goals to one at Kiddermimster Harriers to remain rooted to the foot of the Blue Square Bet Premier. And this after Scott Murray had put them in front on six minutes with a deflected free-kick. The former Bristol City man then missed a great chance to double City’s lead ten minutes later but his lob dropped the wrong side of the post. As the half progressed the home side increasingly took control of the game and it was no surprise when Guinan headed them level in the 33rd minute. With a minute left in the half Harriers took the lead when Matt fired in a shot that Jason Matthews got a hand to but couldn’t prevent trickling into the net. The host’s third goal arrived on 64 minutes as Matt was allowed to race clear on goal despite being several yards offside and after his first effort hit the post he headed home the rebound. Kidderminster were then awarded a penalty with 13 minutes left only for the referee to correctly reverse the decision for an earlier offside but this was only a temporary let off for City as Byrne took advantage of an 88th minute goalmouth scramble to stab home the fourth goal.
Earlier in the day City’s U21 Development Squad played its first ever game against Exeter City at Twerton Park. City raced into an early two-goal lead through strikes from Hector Mackie and Andre Carvallo-Landell before the Grecians pulled a goal back on the stroke of half-time. And the levelled the scores midway through the second half which is how the game finished. City’s line-up for the game was: 1. Austin Byfield 2. Nick Lawton 3. Ruaridh Kay 4. Noah Keats 5. Mitch Harrison 6. Callum Elms 7. Hector Mackie 8. Robin Nicholls 9. Andre Carvalho-Landell 10. Simon Dunn 11. Tom Andrews. 12. Martin Lenihan 14. Brendan Hackett 15. Damien Crudup 16. Matt Corner 17. Dan Marioni 18. Rosario Jombati.
Coming off of their second league win of the season and by far the best performance of the campaign City will travel north to face Kidderminster Harriers tomorrow full of confidence as they look to break their 2011-12 away duck. The 3-1 victory over AFC Telford United was as much welcome as deserved and means City have now picked up five points in the last three matches, a rate of return that should see them comfortably retain their Blue Square Bet Premier place come April next year. Of course, it is unlikely to be as simple as that but the last three games have certainly shown that City aren’t as bad as their league position would suggest and a positive result at play-off chasing Kidderminster is definitely within their reach.
The Harriers have enjoyed an up and down first half of the season, their seventh back in non-league, at one point sitting in third place then slipping into the bottom half of the table in October before climbing back to the edge of the play-off places more recently. After coming within a few hours of liquidation last year Kidderminster fans would have been happy just to still be playing at this level this season and they got off to an excellent start, winning four of their opening six games to lead the chasing pack behind early pacesetters Gateshead and Wrexham. However, since then they have struggled for consistency, going two months before they again recorded back to back wins. These successive victories at the start of November came after the Harriers crashed out of the FA Cup to Conference North side Corby Town. After a goalless draw at Aggborough Stadium it was looking good for the higher division club, as they went into half-time leading through Guinan’s header, before two goals in six minutes for the Steelmen turned the game around. Even a 40 minute delay due to the failure of a floodlight did not disturb the home side and they struck twice more in the partial gloom to run out 4-1 winners. Kidderminster have bounced back from this defeat though, coming into the meeting with City unbeaten in their last four outings. The most recent of these games was a controversial encounter at Ebbsfleet United. After Hankin put Harriers in front on five minutes the home drew level from the penalty spot when the referee adjudged that Briscoe had blocked a shot with his hand. The fact that the defender was stretchered off with concussion before Willcock converted the spot kick suggests the official got the decision wrong and when Ebbsfleet then netted twice in as many minutes it looked like being an afternoon to forget for the Midlands side. However, goals from Wright and Matt in the closing ten minutes ensured they would travel back north with a share of the points.
The FA Cup defeat to Corby saw manager Steve Burr threaten to ring the changes in his squad. In the end there was no major upheaval but he did bring in former Aston Villa and England midfielder Lee Hendrie. The 34-year old had been playing for Southern League Division 1 Central club Daventry Town alongside his younger brother, Stuart. He had previously spent 14 years with Aston Villa, during which time he made over 250 league appearances and earned a single England cap in 1998 against the Czech Republic, but after leaving the club in 2007 he struggled to recapture this success, spending time with a number of league clubs including Sheffield United, Derby County and Bradford City. He almost joined Conference National side Mansfield in January 2011 but instead switched to Bandung FC, becoming the first Englishman and player with Premier League experience to sign for a Liga Primer Indonesia club. Although Hendrie had signed a two-year deal he was released at the end of the season and after a short spell with Hinckley United ended up at Daventry. In a slightly bizarre twist to this story former Kidderminster Harriers player James Francis, son of Britain’s first ever £1 million player Trevor Francis, has just been charged with breaking into a property on Hendrie’s £1.7 million estate in Warwickshire. Hendrie was living in another of his properties in Solihull at the time of the break-in in July, which concerned a cottage close to the main six-bedroom house in the village of Rowington that was being used as a storage room. The main property, in perfect ‘Footballers’ Wives’ style apparently has a pool table in the dining room, an indoor swimming pool and a fully-kitted out pub in the cellar.
Complete record against Kidderminster Harriers/Kidderminster FC
City will hope for better fortune than they enjoyed in the fixture at Aggborough Stadium last season. City had struck the bar through Adam Connolly before Shaw fired the home side ahead in the 33rd minute. The bumpy pitch and strong blustery wind did little to help either side although the conditions almost gifted Harriers a second goal when Byrne’s wind-assisted cross struck the inside of Ryan Robinson’s post. With the elements more in their favour after the interval City began to take control of the game. Kaid Mohamed become the second visiting player to be denied by the frame of the goal and despite further chances falling to Lee Phillips, Joe Burnell, Ben Watson and, with almost the last kick of the game, Marley Watkins, City could not fashion a deserved equaliser.
With just Jamie Cook currently (rib) and Marley Watkins (back) in the treatment room City should make the relatively short trip to Kidderminster with nearly a full squad available to manager Adie Britton..
City recorded their second league win of the season against AFC Telford United this afternoon as they finally turned the recent improved form into a much needed victory. Although luck was on their side for all three goals this should not disguise a dominant performance over the Bucks, where City’s remarkable total of 25 efforts on goal was a more accurate reflection of the game. A number of these shots had come and gone before, on 26 minutes, Scott Murray’s effort took a slight deflection to beat Young in the Telford goal. Initially it appeared the goal would be ruled out by a linesman’s flag but finally a referee had the guts to overrule a dreadful decision and the strike stood. City continued to do all the running but a minute before the interval the visitors levelled completely against the run of play when a Jones took advantage of a quickly taken free-kick to round Jason Matthews and slot home. Despite this setback City began the second half on top with only Young’s performance keeping them at bay. The game changing incident arrived on 55 minutes when the sides captains clashed at a corner and the referee ajudged that Kissock has pulled down Gethin Jones, awarding City a penalty and sending the defender off. Canham made no mistake from the spot and the game was there for the taking. However, it looked as City would be forced to hold on to a narrow advantage as Young produced a string of excellent saves. Therefore it was a real surprise when with seven minutes left he allowed a Joe Bryan shot to squirm under his body to give City breathing space and they comfortably saw out the remainder of the game.
City reach the halfway point of the 2011-12 season on Saturday when they face AFC Telford United at Twerton Park. At the same point of the last campaign City were sitting proudly in 11th place with 30 points. This time around the Blue Square Bet Premier table makes for much grimmer reading, with the Romans rock bottom of the division, eight points adrift of safety with a meagre total of ten points from their opening 22 games. Even a win over the Bucks would leave City the monumental task of matching the records of play-off chasing Luton Town, Cambridge United or Gateshead over the second half of the season to give themselves a realistic chance of avoiding relegation back to the Conference South. There have finally been signs over the last few weeks that Adie Britton’s side is capable of producing the sort of form that could achieve this remarkable escape, however after two particularly strong performances against Mansfield Town and Cambridge United that have only generated two points, they desperately need a win over Telford to kick-start a climb up the table.
They will meet a Telford side who appear to have steadied their ship after a run of just one point from six games had seen them slip from mid-table to the fringes of the relegation zone. A 1-0 home win over Alfreton Town in September lifted them to 13th place but defeats to Barrow, Ebbsfleet United, Forest Green Rovers, Gateshead and Darlington, with just a draw against Kidderminster Harriers during this run, dropped them to 20th spot. Their struggles came to a head when the crashed out of the FA Cup in the 1st Round to Conference South Chelmsford City (City’s FA Trophy opponents next week) by four goals to nil. Not surprisingly manager Andy Sinton was soon strengthening his squad on the back of this embarrassing result, bring in former Northern Lreland international forward Steve Jones from Droyslden plus Tamworth duo Ashley Cain and Jay Smith on loan. After a goalless draw with Mansfield Town there was a further new arrival in the shape of Leicester City forward Elliot Chamberlain, also in a loan deal. They finally ended their winless run with a controversial 1-0 victory over Barrow. The deciding goal was scored by Jones when the lineswoman ruled that his header had crossed the line despite protests from the Bluebirds. At this stage the Bucks were already down to ten men, after Sharp had been sent off for kicking out at an opponent, but rode their luck to hang on for the win. No doubt lifted by this they enjoyed another good result during the week, coming from behind to draw with Luton Town at Kenilworth Road, with keeper Ryan Young producing an excellent display to deny the Hatters.
Complete record against AFC Telford United/Telford United/Wellington Town
City will hope to end a run of seven matches without a win against Telford, both in their current set-up and before the AFC was added following their liquidation in 2004. Their last win over the Shropshire side took place in April 1994 with City chasing a top 6 finish in the GM Vauxhall Conference. They came into the game on the back of a disappointing 3-0 defeat at Dagenham & Redbridge and for 42 minutes the visitors, with a strong wind at their backs, frustrated City with a well-worked offside trap. It took a stunning goal to break the Bucks resistance as Adie Mings flicked on a Gary Smart cross and Paul Adcock launched an acrobatic overhead kick into the net. With the elements in their favour after the interval City were in complete control of the game although it took until 69 minutes to increase their lead when Adcock beat the offside trap and raced clear before sliding the ball past Hughes. The striker completed his hat-trick, taking his season’s tally to 22, five minutes later when Grantley Dicks unselfishly squared the ball to him for a simple tap-in. The win lifted City into fifth place but remarkably they scored just one more goal (Adcock again on target) in the final eight league games of the season to end up in a disappointing 12th position.
Adie Britton could enjoy the luxury of a full squad from which to choose his starting XI for the game. On loan defender Charlie Clough is available again after missing Tuesday night’s 1-1 draw at Cambridge United due to a one-game suspension for reaching five bookings. The return of loan striker Sean Canham to Hereford United is likely to see last season’s top scorer Lee Phillips recalled after five games on the bench. Jason Matthews is also expected to continue in goal and teenage loan signing Aaron Amadi-Holloway should make his first Twerton Park start after a man-of-the-match performance at the Abby Stadium.