City could be without influential centre-back Chris Holland for up to six weeks following a scan on his knee problem. Last year’s player of the season saw a specialist yesterday and has suspected cartilage damage, which if an operation is required to correct would sideline him until mid-March. However, Dutch, who has been playing through the pain barrier, hopes that rest will allow him to continue playing and postpone the operation until the close season. With Gethin Jones also out injured with a knee problem, if Holland is unfit for Saturday’s trip to Thurrock, City will be forced to reshuffle their backline, with Steve Jones, Jim Rollo or Sekani Simpson likely to partner Matt Coupe.
Striker Scott Partridge is likely to be in the squad for Thurrock after several potential loan deals fell through. The 33-year old is looking for a loan spell to regain match fitness after recovering from a serious neck injury but turned down moves to Dorchester Town and Cirencester Town due to the travelling involved. He did agree a switch to Chippenham Town but the Bluebirds were unable to afford the share of his wages.
City chairman Geoff Todd has hailed the Promotion Turnstile initiative a success after it raised £1400 during last Saturday’s match with Fisher Atheltic. Fans were given the chance to pay an extra £10 to watch the game with over 100 choosing to do so – some paying more than the requested ammount. Todd and his fellow directors will match the sum raised and the money will be given to manager John Relish to strengthen his squad as the race for promotion the the Blue Square Premier reaches it’s closing stages.
After such a below-par performance against Fisher Athletic last Saturday which led to their first defeat of 2008 City travel to Thurrock looking to get their play-offs hopes back on course. Amazingly the 1-0 loss means that all five of City’s league defeats this season have come in single goal games. Whether this means their best approach to the meeting with Thurrock is to let them score at least twice is debatable, but they should be confident of doing well against the mid-table side that they have already comfortably beaten once this season. This encounter took place back in November when the sides met for the first ever time in an FA Trophy 3rd Qualifying Round tie. A goal in each half from Phil Walsh was enough to see City safely through to the next round.
Complete record against Thurrock
City’s first visit to Thurrock’s Ship Lane home comes ten days after a controversial meeting with Havant & Waterlooville at the ground. The Hawks, whose FA Cup exploits briefly brought them to nationwide attention, had been due to face Thurrock today but in an attempt to clear the suspension of defender Justin Gregory, and allow him to face Liverpool three days later, they requested that the game was brought forward a week. Understandably, the Essex side agreed to the switch, no doubt hoping to face a side with their minds focused on the trip to Anfield. The next twist in this story came when the Football Association saw through Havant’s blatant attempt to bend the suspensions rules and imposed a second game ban on Gregory. Havant immediately tried to cancel the game at Thurrock, showing that despite any claims otherwise there was only ever one reason to arrange the match, but the Fleet justifiably refused. There was then talk of Havant taking legal action against the FA but this was all rendered irrelevant when 19 minutes into the game, and with the visitors leading 1-0, the floodlights failed and the match had to be abandoned, meaning that Gregory’s ban was not served and he would miss the Liverpool match regardless.
Thurrock have only played at Ship Lane since 1985 when they were formed until the name Purfleet. At first the ground was a part of the Thurrock Hotel and consisted of two pitches and dressing rooms in the main hotel building. Due to this set-up the club could only compete at Junior level. The playing area was turned around 90° to make one full pitch and dressing rooms were built so the football club could become a separate entity away from the Hotel. Floodlights were erected in January 1988 after planning permission was accepted from Thurrock Council to add these features as well as a grandstand. The club have recently received a grant from the Football Foundation that will allow them to develop the land adjacent to Ship Lane, with the creation of mini-soccer pitches and first team training facilities.
Currently lying in 13th place, with nine wins and ten losses from their 26 games, Thurrock have had a mixed season so far. After getting off to a poor start, losing six of their first eight matches, they then got their season going with a 5-0 win at St Albans City which led to a seven game unbeaten run. This ended with a narrow defeat against then unbeaten Eastbourne Borough and their season hit a low-point in Boxing Day when they crashed 8-1 to local rivals Bromley. They did manage to recover from this humiliating loss by beating the same opposition 2-1 on New Years Day and have now lost just one of their last five outings.
City crashed to their first defeat in 2008, as a 78th minute penalty saw Fisher Athletic leave Twerton Park with a 1-0 win. The visitors also missed a spot kick fourteen minutes earlier on an afternoon that saw City produce one of their poorest performances of the season. Fisher deserved the win, as they always looked the livelier side, but it was a much more distasteful side to their game for which the encounter will be remembered. A series of crude challenges were clearly aimed at disrupting City’s play, and on top of this they were guilty of play-acting to get City players booked and goading the home supporters when they got away with their actions. Unfortunately, they continually did get away with it due to a desperately weak refereeing performance from Mr Rock. A stronger official could easily have sent off two or three Fish players, but instead only seemed capable of brandishing yellow cards to black and white clad players when his failure to protect them got too much. The first penalty was as a direct result of his incompetence as moments after Sekani Simpson was the victim of a disgraceful challenge, that went completely unpunished, he reacted his revenge by diving through McCollin in the box. Justice was done though when Thomas fired the penalty against the top of the bar. Their was no such escape on 78 minutes when Paul Evans pushed McCollin to the floor and Thomas keep his nerve this time. The rest of the game saw City struggle to produce any cohesive football, time and again giving the ball away cheaply, and even though they dominated possession in the first half they failed to create any clear-cut openings. The second half saw Fisher get on top but they rarely tested Evans and it was no surprise that when a goal arrived it was from the penalty spot. The closing minutes did see City exert some pressure, with keeper Overland pushing Dave Gilroy’s header over the bar the closest they came to grabbing an equaliser.
Chairman Geoff Todd hopes City fans will be prepared to back the club’s Blue Square Premier ambitions by digging a bit deeper than normal to watch Saturday’s match with Fisher Atheltic. A special ‘Promotion’ turnstile will be in operation where fans can pay £20 to gain admission to Twerton Park. The extra £10 will go toward manager John Relish’s playing budget with Todd and his fellow directors promising to match the ammount raised.
For the second time in the last fortnight City will reacquaint themselves with a side they faced during their years in the Vauxhall Conference – Fisher Athletic making the trip up the M4. And the Fish will arrive at Twerton Park in form having won their last five Blue Square South outings. Although three of these wins came against sides struggling near the foot of the table they will provide another serious test for City’s promotion ambitions. The undoubted star of their last match was striker Andre McCollin who struck all four goals in the 4-2 win over Sutton United. This run has lifted Fisher back on to the fringes of the play-offs positions, lying in 9th place but just three points behind fifth place Basingstoke Town. The 2007 pre-season at Fisher saw a major upheaval in their squad following the return of manager Wayne Burnett for his second spell at the club. The former Grimsby Town player’s first act was to axe the whole of the squad that had carried the side to a 10th place finish in their first season at this level, having won promotion from the Ryman League via the play-offs in May 2006. In the end four of the previous season’s squad escaped the cull but new players were soon arriving thick and fast, including a number from Burnett’s previous club – and currently Fisher’s landlord’s – Dulwich Hamlet. Despite these changes Fisher got the 2007-08 season off to a flying start, winning their opening three matches. However, a brace of 3-0 defeats signalled the end of this run and their form has fluctuated since, including a spell of just one win in nine league games before their current run.
Historically, Fisher have had an up and down existence, reaching the pinnacle of non-league football during the late 1980’s and early 1990’s but within a couple of seasons finding themselves back in the lower tier of Southern League football. They were founded in 1908 and named after the Catholic martyr, Saint John Fisher, making them one of the few sports clubs in the world to take their name from a person rather than a place. Until the 1970’s they largely played in local leagues before joining the Spartan League in 1974. Despite the name this didn’t mean clubs had to play in very basic stadiums with simple facilities, rather it was a London-based competition. Back-to-back league wins in 1980-81 and 1981-82 saw them elected to the Southern League, where a third successive title followed in 1982-83. Four seasons later they won the Southern League Premier Divisions to earn a place in the Vauxhall Conference. Although never finishing higher than 15th they survived four seasons at this level before a double relegation in 1990-91 and 1991-92 saw them dumped back in the Southern League Southern Division. With crowds plummeting the club found themselves in financial difficulties and in 1993 they reformed under the name Fisher (1993). In 1996 they readopted the Athletic suffix, although they added London in brackets, which remains their official title, and during the 1997-98 a new limited company was formed. The made a one season return to the Premier Division of the Southern League in 2000-01, where they again crossed paths with City, but it was until the last three seasons that they have earned sustained success to now play in the Blue Square South.
Complete record against Fisher Athletic
This will be the fourth season that City and Fisher have been in the same league, although in each of the previous three one of the clubs have been relegated. The 1987-88 campaign saw the sides meet for the first ever time, with the South East London club recording a double over City, winning 2-0 at their Surrey Docks Stadium and 3-1 at Twerton Park. These two defeats contributed to City’s relegation at the end of that season and it wasn’t until the 1990-91 season they met again. In what turned out to be City’s only away league win that season, goals from Paul Randall and John Freegard (2) helped them to a 3-0 victory. The return match at Twerton should have ended in a similar scoreline but despite dominating the game from start to finish City suffered a 1-0 defeat. However, this time it was Fisher who would finish in the relegation positions. The 2000-01 season saw the sides share seven goals in an incredible game at Twerton Park. For a large part of the game the Fish looked little better than a pub side – including their logo-less kit – but with youth keeper Ian Ganfield in goal City’s defensive frailties were constantly exposed and they were left hanging on at the end of the match to record a 4-3 win. The less said of the 1-0 defeat in London that season the better.
After struggling with jut 12 fit players in recent weeks City’s squad will be boosted by the return of Lewis Hogg from suspension and the arrival of loan signing Luke Prince. Gethin Jones is likely to be missing due to his knee injury, Mark McKeever is still a week away from a return after breaking a rib and Jason Wood is severing the last game of his ban. Another player possibly missing is Scott Partridge as he may be heading out on loan to regain match fitness.
City have announced the date for the latest Meet the Manager evening with John Relish and Adie Britton. The session will take place in Charlie’s at Twerton Park on Monday 4 February, starting at 7.30pm. The managerial duo will answer questions on any any area of City’s successful first season at Blue Square South level, where no doubt the names Craig Davidge, Mike Green and Scott Partridge will feature.
City have rearranged their Blue Square South trip to Hampton & Richmond Borough for Tuesday 11 March (ko 7.45pm).
Dave Gilroy continued his hot streak, scoring his seventh goal in the last three games, but City were left to settle for just one point in a 1-1 draw against Bromley at Twerton Park this afternoon. Despite the difficult conditions both teams tried to play football, with City looking the better side during the first period. With Phil Walsh causing the Ravens backline all sorts of problems a couple of half-chances came and went but against the run of play Bromley took a 13th minute lead. Unusual hesitation in the City defence allowed McDonnell all the time and space he needed to slot the ball past Paul Evans. City continued to dominate the game and deservedly drew level on 29 minutes when a neat build-up ended with Gilroy’s 20-yard effort going under keeper Walker’s dive. A deflected Walsh cross-shot almost gave City the lead just before the interval, which would have been a fair reflection on the half. Although the rain had eased, football was becoming harder as the pitch understandbly cut-up and the second period failed to match the quality of the first. The visitors were looking slightly more likely to score again, McDonnell tamely chipping their best chance into the arms of Evans. The final stages of the match saw City regain the upper hand, Gilroy almost grabbing his second from a Luke Prince pass and Chris Holland seeing a powerful header pushed out by Walker in stoppage time, but in the end a draw was the right result.
After Tuesday night’s postponement of their trip to Hampton & Richmond Borough, City will look to get back into action as Bromley make their maiden trip to Twerton Park. The opening Saturday of the 2007-08 season saw Bromley and City meet for the first ever time at a warm and sunny Hayes Lane, having earned promotion to the Blue Square South the previous season via the Ryman League play-offs and Southern League title, respectively. When Williams put the Kent side ahead with just nine minutes remaining it looked as they would get their campaign off to a winning start but in stoppage time Chris Holland’s low shot ensured the points were shared.
Complete record against Bromley
Since that opening game, like City, Bromley have adapted well to the higher standard of football, although they haven’t quite matched City’s consistency and currently sit in 7th place, one point off the play-off positions even though they have played more games than all but one of the sides above them. In direct contrast to City’s 2nd best league defence their main struggle has been keeping clean sheets. Whilst City have shut out the opposition twelve times in their 24 league games, Bromley have only stopped Fisher Athletic from scoring in their 3-0 win back in August. In fact, only Weston Super Mare, Sutton United and St Albans City have conceded more goals so far this season. However, scoring goals has not been a problem and they possess one of the deadliest front pairings in the Blue Square South – Gareth Williams and Danny Hockton boosting 25 goals between them. Their total of 53 league goals is only bettered by leaders Lewes and overall the 96 goals that have been scored in their matches is an amazing 17 more then the next most ‘entertaining’ club (Weston Super Mare).
Their up and down season can also be seen in individual results. They have already been beaten twice by rock-bottom St Albans City (therefore responsible for 2/3 of the Saints wins this season) plus a disappointing 3-1 defeat against another struggling team, Welling United, in early November. On the other hand they have recorded excellent wins over fellow play-off hopefuls Basingstoke United (3-2) and Eastleigh (4-1). Their inconsistency was best shown over the Christmas and New Year period when they twice faced Thurrock. The Boxing Day clash saw a Hockton hat-trick and Williams brace help them to an incredible 8-1 victory. However, less than a week later when the sides met again the Ravens couldn’t repeat even a small part of this performance and ended up losing by two goals to one.
They have also seen off-the-pitch upheaval with the unexpected resignation of high-profile manager Mark Goldberg in December. The former millionaire, who lost his entire fortune trying to keep Crystal Palace in the Premiership during the late 1990’s, cited being unable to commit enough time to managing the club as the reason for his shock departure. He was replaced on a caretaker basis by Simon Osborn (player manager), Del Parnham (assistant manager) and Bobby Bowry (player coach) before all were handed these roles permanently just this week.
The postponement of the Hampton & Richmond games means City will be without Lewis Hogg again as he completes the final match of his three game suspension, plus Jason Wood, in the first game of a two match ban for his red card at Eastleigh, although Scott Partridge and Gethin Jones should be in the squad having been doubtful for the Hampton trip due to family illness and injury respectively.
If City are involved in the play-offs for a place in the Blue Square Premier they now know when these matches will take place. The two legs of the semi-final will be on Thursday 1 May (ko 7.45pm) and Monday 5 May (ko 3pm) with the final at a neutral venue on Friday 9 May (ko 7.45pm). As usual the format of these play-off matches will see the 2nd place team face the 5th pace finishers, and 3rd and 4th meet in the other semi-final.
City’s quarter-final meeting with Shepton Mallet in the Somerset Premier Cup will take place on Tuesday 4 March (ko tbc).
Heavy rain overnight and this morning in the London area has put paid to City’s clash with Hampton & Richmond Borough at the Beveree Stadium this evening. The Beavers called a local referee in to inspect the pitch at 1pm and he decided that it was unplayable, particularly with more heavy rain forecast for that part of the country this evening. A new date for the clash will be announced in due course.
City boss John Relish has boosted his squad with the loan signing of Salisbury City winger Luke Prince. The 27-year old watched City beat Sutton United 4-0 on Saturday before signing initially for a month. This will be his second spell at Twerton Park having spent a few weeks with City at the beginning of the 2001-02 season, making a couple of substitute appearances. The former Coventry City and Aston Villa trainee then went onto play for Gloucester City, Team Bath, Redditch United and Mangotsfield United before joining Salisbury in March 2006. Helped the Whites win the Southern League that season and then played a major part in their Conference South success during the 2006-07 campaign. However, unlike a number of the Salisbury squad Prince did not go full-time this season and has found his first team opportunities more limited. He will go straight into the squad to face Hampton & Richmond Borough tomorrow evening.
City go into the clash with Hampton & Richmond Borough at the Beveree Stadium tomorrow night knowing that victory will lift them up to second place in the Blue Square South table. On the other side of the coin a defeat will see them drop back to 4th spot, with the Beavers currently sitting two points and one place behind City. They dropped below City on Saturday after surprisingly losing 3-2 at home to Thurrock, which sums up their recent inconsistent form. Four goal victories over Hayes & Yeading United and Welling United have been sandwiched between taking just a single point off struggling Sutton United in home and away games over the Festive period. These games followed a great run that saw them lose just once – albeit a 6-2 loss against Bishop’s Stortford – in fifteen league matches which carried them from mid-table to lie firmly amongst the sides battling for a play-off place.
Complete record against Hampton & Richmond Borough
In common with City this is Hampton’s maiden season at Blue Square South level having won the Ryman League Premier Division last year for the first ever time in their history. After an opening day defeat to Eastbourne Borough they recorded their first victory at this level with a 4-2 win at Bognor Regis Town. Their next match saw them travel to Twerton Park to face City for the first time, where first half goals from Mark McKeever and Matt Coupe were enough to see them heading back up the M4 empty handed. Apart from the Stortford blip this would turn out to be their only defeat until Christmas as they began to adapt to the higher level. They also reached the 1st Round proper of the FA Cup for only the second time in their history with wins over Braintree Town, Worthing and Wealdstone to face Coca-Cola League 2 side Dagenham & Redbridge. There was to be no first win over a league club though as the current Conference champions ran out 3-0 winners.
Off the pitch the club has experienced some uncertainty following the departure of non-executive chairman David Cole in September. As the club’s major backer and first-team shirt sponsor Cole had largely bankrolled their rise to the Blue Square South but when his company MEM Retail Marketing went into liquidation he was asked to leave the club. This followed quickly on the heels of the recent departures of company secretary Nick Hornsey, director Bob Hayes and press secretary Les Rance, and, as Cole was a close friend of manager Alan Devonshire, the former West Ham United star’s future at the Beveree Stadium was put in doubt. However, club president Alan Simpson agreed to finance the club while they looked for fresh investors and, despite rumours linking him with then manager-less Sutton, Devonshire remains in charge at the Beavers.
City will go into the match welcoming back Darren Edwards after he was suspended for the 4-0 win over Sutton United and hope that Scott Partridge will be available again after missing the game due to family illness. Also in the squad is new loan signing Luke Prince. Lewis Hogg will miss the match as he completes his three game suspension as will long-term injury absentee McKeever (ribs) and defender Gethin Jones will have a late fitness test after picking a knee injury in the warm-up before Saturday’s win.
Dave Gilroy struck a second successive hat-trick to fire City to a 4-0 win over Sutton United at Gander Green Lane yesterday. He netted in the 21st, 40th and 70th minutes to record his third treble in City colours. The other goal came from Chris Holland, following up Justyn McKay’s stunning free-kick that struck the post. The struggling U’s could have few complaints about the final scoreline, although they almost took the lead after just 12 minutes when Paul Evans produced a great point-blank save from Henry’s volley. This was a rare scare for City and after Gilroy had been denied by a smart block from keeper Wilson a minute later they only had to wait another ten minutes to go ahead, Gilroy lobbing the ball home after latching onto Phil Walsh’s header. Two goals in a minute, Holland tapping home his seventh goal of the season and Gilroy racing clear from McKay’s pass to slot the ball past Wilson, then made the game safe before half-time. The second half saw the home side dominate possession without ever really troubling Evans and with 20 minutes left Scott Rogers was tripped in the box and Gilroy completed his hat-trick from the penalty spot. The win lifts City up to third place after Tuesday’s opposition Hampton & Richmond Borough were surprisingly beaten 3-2 at home by Thurrock.
Paul Keddle and Craig Davidge have both left City after finding their first team opportunities limited at Twerton Park. Keddle only joined City during the 2007 close season from Carmarthen Town but failed to dislodge captain Jim Rollo from the left-back spot, making just 13 starts and 18 substitute appearances. The 23-year old has returned to the League of Wales side. Davidge has been at Twerton Park since November 2005 having arrived from Western League Brislington. The pacy winger soon became a fans favourite with a number of impressive cameo performances and important goals but he understandably became frustrated at being largely confined to the substitute bench, spending loan spells at Clevedon Town and Yate Town – the latter who he has now joined permanently. Davidge made 60 appearances in total for City – although just twelve starts – scoring seven times.
After the breathless excitement of their eight-goal thriller against Eastleigh last Saturday, City will hope for a more familiar defensively sound performance – although another four goals scored would be equally welcome – as they renew rivalries with an opponent that they faced regularly during the late 1980s and early/mid 1990s – Sutton United. However, if those previous clashes are any indication City followers could be in for another eventful afternoon. The thirteen matches between the sides have averaged nearly four goals a game, with the U’s contributing over two-thirds of them. In fact, in six league meetings Sutton have yet to taste defeat against City, racking up four victories including a 4-0 win at Twerton Park and an incredible 7-2 scoreline in November 1986. Add to this the memorable (for all the wrong reasons) 6-1 FA Trophy reversal City suffered in 1994 and it is clear that City are facing one of their bogey sides.
This latter clash remains one of City’s more embarrassing defeats in recent years. At the time City were a Vauxhall Conference club with Sutton back in the Ryman League having been relegated at the end of the 1990-91 season. At half-time it appeared as if the match would go to form with City leading by a single goal from Nicky Brooks. The second half saw a complete turnaround with the home side firing six goals past goalkeeper Rafael Torres. City did earn a small degree of revenge the following season when the sides were again paired together in the same competition and an Adie Mings goal in extra-time in a Twerton Park replay gave them a narrow win. And the last time the sides met, in an FA Cup 3rd Qualifying Round tie, in October 2000 City ran out comfortable 3-0 winners.
Complete record against Sutton United
Another memorable encounter between the teams was the last league clash that took place in March 1991. Both sides were struggling at the foot of the GM Vauxhall Conference table and three days earlier a 1-0 home defeat against Stafford Rangers had signalled the end of George Rooney’s tenure as City’s manager. He was replaced by long-serving central-defender Tony Ricketts and one of his first moves was to bring back striker Graham Withey for his fourth spell at Twerton Park. Sting immediately repaid this faith with a goal in the 1-1 draw at Gander Green Lane that began City’s climb to safety and ended with them finishing three points and one place above the Us, condemning them to relegation rather than City.
As founder members of the Conference South this is Sutton’s fourth season at this level. Finishes of 15th, 13th, and 14th have shown that the side has struggled somewhat and until recently it looked as a repeat of these lowly finishes may be beyond them. Just one win in their opening 15 league games left them rooted to the foot of the Blue Square South table and cost manager Ian Hazel his job following a particularly embarrassing 0-3 home defeat to Weston Super Mare in October. He was replaced by former Basingstoke United boss Ernie Howe and he slowly seems to turning around the fortunes of the Surrey side. It took until New Years Day for the side to record their first league win under Howe but they followed this 2-1 victory over Hampton & Richmond Borough with a similar scoreline against fellow strugglers St Albans City. These back-to-back wins lifted them off the foot of the table for the first time since the opening weeks of the season.
City came back from 2-0, 3-1 and 4-2 down to earn a point in an incredible 4-4 draw at Eastleigh this afternoon, despite playing the last half an hour with ten men after Jason Wood’s red card. The goalscoring hero was Dave Gilroy, with a hat-trick including two penalties, but it was a remarkable team performance in a game that had looked dead and buried by half-time. By then City found themselves 3-1 down and forunate to only be two goals behind. A Gethin Jones mistake gave Sales a simple tap-in on nine minutes and two minutes later Marshall finished off a great move with the Spitfires second goal. The on-loan winger was giving City endless problems but as good as Eastleigh were as an attacking force, defensively they looked much less secure and on 22 minutes a handball by Everitt gave City hope, which Gilroy took confidently from the penalty spot. However, within three minutes Marshall produced another surging run to cross and give Riviere a straightforward far post finish. Only a couple of great saves by Paul Evans kept the deficit to two and at half-time City replaced Scott Rogers with Wood but this change backfired when the midfielder attempted to block a Byles clearance only to catch the defender as he slide through. It looked nothing more than a booking but the hysterical reaction of the home side’s bench – plus Byles staying down like he’d been shot until the referee had made his decision – saw the official show Wood a straight red card. Although Eastleigh has rarely shown any attacking intent since the break that appeared to be that for City, but when Chris Holland rose to head home Justyn McKay’s 65th minute corner the match was on again. With 15 minutes left Marshall fired home a stunning 25 yard free kick to restore Eastleigh’s two-goal lead. If they hoped this would finally break City’s resistence they were to be disappointed four minutes from time when Gilroy lashed home Steve Jones’ headed cross. And the comeback was completed in style a minute from time after Gilroy had been felled in the box by Riviere’s clumsy challenge. He got up to complete his second hat-trick in City colours with an audacious chip shot that looped over the desperately failing keeper Howells.
City’s first away trip of 2008 sees them heading to Hampshire to face play-off rivals Eastleigh. The big-spending Spitfires currently sit in 6th spot in the Blue Square South table, only trailing 5th place Newport County on goal difference and three points behind City, although they have played one or two more games than the four sides occupying play-off positions. They had a mixed Christmas and New Year period with defeats at Havant & Waterlooville and Eastbourne Borough, a draw with Basingstoke Town before they finally recorded a much needed victory on New Years Day, this time edging out Basingstoke in a seven-goal thriller.
The first of these matches against Havant will have caused much celebration at Westleigh Park after the bad feeling between the clubs that has surfaced this season. After Eastleigh won four of their opening five games (the only defeat coming against City) it seemed that they were set for a season that would back-up their financial outgoings. However, when they lost four of their next five matches, manager Phil Handford surprisingly quit. His replacement though, was an even bigger shock – especially to Havant – as Iain Baird choose to leave the Hawks and join their local rivals. And it wasn’t long before Baird was back raiding his old side with the signature of experienced midfielder Fitzroy Simpson and goalkeeper Gareth Howells. The final fall-out between the clubs occurred when Eastleigh had an offer turned down for Hawks captain (and once City target) Tom Jordan. Almost immediately after this Jordan resigned from the captaincy and made it clear he wished to join the Spitfires. With accusations of illegal approaches, underhand tactics, tapping up players and underming and unsettling players and managers, plus a second increased bid turned down, the matter has still not been resolved and Jordan has not played for Havant since. Eastleigh have had more success with other targets, signing Weston Super Mare striker Ashley Holgate, left-back Adam Everitt and Bromley’s Peter Adeniyi, as money seems to be no object in their attempts to secure Blue Square South success.
One player going the other way is Damian Scannell after a series of impressive performances brought him to the attention of Coca-Cola League 1 side Southend United. The winger only joined Eastleigh from Fisher Atheltic in the 2007 close season and after an inauspicious start – on and off the field problems almost led to his departure in October – was soon interesting a number of league sides including Nottingham Forest, Southampton and Southend. With a clause in his contract that Eastleigh had to accept any offer of at least £5000 for the 22-year-old south Londoner they will make little money initially from the transfer but hope – with a 25% sell-on agreement – that if he is a success at Roots Hall they could reap real rewards for a player who only made 26 appearances for them. His final outing in the 2-1 defeat against Eastbourne saw him set up a goal for Forbes with a typical piece skill and earn the man-of-the-match award.
Complete record against Eastleigh/Swaythling
Saturday’s clash will see City defending an unbeaten record against the Hampshire side in both their guises having faced them back in 1977, when they played as Swaythling, in an FA Cup 2nd Round Qualifying match. The then Hampshire League side took City to a replay before goals from Martin Wheeler, Martyn Rogers and Kevin Griffin secured a 3-1 win at Twerton Park. The second game of this season was the first time City had faced the club under the name Eastleigh (they changed in 1980) and a stunning strike from Jim Rollo (his only goal so far this season) and Darren Edwards’ close range finish from a Mark McKeever cross was enough to give them a 2-0 victory.
A trademark Chris Holland header was enough to get 2008 off to a winning start for City in a 1-0 victory over Dorchester Town at Twerton Park yesterday. He rose to power home Lewis Hogg’s 14th minute corner which capped a great start to the game by City and they should have had it sewn up by half-time. Holland and Justyn McKay had already tested the Magpie’s keeper Evans before the goal, and Dave Gilroy, Gethin Jones, Darren Edwards and Hogg all wasted openings as City totally outclassed the Dorset side. Two Awuah mis-placed headers before the interval could have made City pay for their failure to put the match beyond Dorchester and the second half saw the visitors dominate possession as City appeared to tire. However, they rarely looked capable of forcing an equaliser, with only one stunning save from Paul Evans, turning Awuah’s shot on the turn over the bar, coming close to levelling the scoreline with 22 minutes remaining. And in the stoppage time City could have grabbed a second goal when Scott Rogers just failed to convert Scott Partridge’s driven cross.