Prior to yesterday’s 4-0 thumping of Cambridge United, City boosted their squad with the arrival of former Cardiff City midfielder Jonathan Brown. The 20-year old, who has represented Wales at U17, U19 and U21 level, has signed on non-contract terms. And on a busy day for the club the signing of Marley Watkins from Cheltenham Town was completed for a nominal fee. He has out pen to paper on a deal that will keep him at Twerton Park until the end of the 2011-12 season.
City brightened up a cold and overcast Twerton Park yesterday with four second half goals to fire them to their biggest win of the season over Cambridge United. After an uneventful first half, with Kaid Mohamed’s open goal miss the only real moment of note, the game came to life two minutes after the restart when Marc Canham’s free-kick found the net via the underside of the crossbar and back of U’s keeper Brown. He redemned himself with a smart block at the feet of Ben Watson shortly afterwards and the visitors then saw a couple of good chances come and go. It was City who struck again though on 77 minutes when Scott Murray was tripped in the box and Kaid Mohamed confidently netted from the spot. Any remote hopes United had of getting back in the game decreased further four minutes later when Thorpe was dismissed for a second bookable offence, although Carl Pentney had to produce a fine low save moments later to ensure his final game for the club ended with a clean sheet. And from the resultant corner City broke away with Mohamed racing three-quarters the length of the field before sliding the ball through for Murray to drive home City’s third. A throughly enjoyable afternoon for City was completed two minutes from time as Carden’s wild lunge on Mohamed gave the referee no option but to point to the spot again, from where Mohamed struck home his second and City’s fourth.
Cheltenham Town winger Marley Watkins is set to sign for City until the end of the 2011-12 season. The 20-year old spent three months on loan with City earlier this season and it was initially reported that he was returning on a similar arrangement but, in fact, he is set to make a permanent move after the clubs agreed a nominal fee. The deal is due to be finalised over the weekend and Watkins should be back in City’s squad for the trip to Kidderminster Harriers next weekend.
City will look to end a remarkable sequence of results when Cambridge United are the visitors to Twerton Park on Saturday. They have now drawn all seven of their Saturday homes game this season, with only midweek Twerton Park outings ending in positive results (good and bad). This run goes back one further game to the 2009-10 campaign where a 0-0 draw with St Albans City completed their league schedule, meaning the last team not to share the points with City at Twerton Park on a Saturday was Staines Town thanks to second half goals from Chris Holland and Darren Edwards.
No doubt Cambridge will be as keen to avoid drawing the match as City after under-pressure manager Martin Ling identified their next three outings as must-win games. This comes on the back of successive league defeats against Wrexham and Crawley Town and an embarrassing FA Trophy replay exit to Blue Square Bet North promotion chasing Alfreton Town by six goals to three. In the last four games the Us have conceded 15 goals which comes after a run of just one defeat (albeit a heavy home loss to Mansfield Town) in eleven league matches which had lifted them from the relegation zone to 10th place and breathed life back into their play-off ambitions. However, the inconsistent form that has blighted their season so far looks set to ensure they face at least one more year in non-league football after losing their Football League place back in 2005. And their hopes could suffer a further setback with star winger Robbie Willmott the subject of a five-figure bid from an unnamed Blue Square Bet Premier rival (Crawley Town?) after two offers from Grimsby Town were rejected.
In common with so many clubs at this level the U’s on the field struggles have been exacerbated by financial problems. The club’s board announced last week that they were putting the club up for sale due to rising costs and falling crowds. This followed an internal review which saw General Manager Robert Smith (not the former Cure front-man I think) and Football Secretary Lisa Baldwin hand in their resignation, although they will both remain with the club until the end of the season. One possible avenue out of their current predicament is a move away from the Abbey Stadium. The owners of the ground, Grosvenor Estates, published ten possible new sites for a new community stadium last week and hope that the club could relocate by 2017.
Complete record against Cambridge United
The meeting between City and Cambridge at the Abbey Stadium earlier this season summed up the U’s inconsistency perfectly. For the opening 20 minutes they produced some dazzling football and could have led by a greater margin than just Russell’s 5th minute strike. However, against the run of play Marc Canham’s free-kick drew City level just before the half-hour mark and the confidence appeared to visibly drain from the home side. They enjoyed the majority of possession in the second half without ever recapturing the quality of their opening spell and it was City who grabbed all three points in stoppage thanks to Kaid Mohamed’s stunning solo strike. This was only City’s second ever win at Cambridge the first coming back in the 1962-63 season thanks to a Ken Owens double.
City are likely to go into the game with almost a full squad from which to select. Joe Burnell should be available again after missing the last four games with the hamstring injury he suffered in the goalless draw with Luton Town. The match will probably see the last appearance of keeper Carl Pentney as his three-month loan spell from Colchester United expires next week but manager Adie Britton hopes to add to his options with another as yet unnamed loan signing possible in time to feature against Cambridge.
It was another remarkable night under the Twerton Park floodlights this evening as City recovered from two goals down at the interval to hold league leaders AFC Wimbledon to a 2-2 draw. And but for a series of stunning saves by Dons keeper Brown it could have been an even better night for City. This will not worry them unduly though as they fully played their part in a high quality match in which a draw was about the right result. Both sides saw early chances come and go but it was the visitors who went ahead on 32 minutes when Moore was allowed to weave his way into the box where Danny Webb’s lunge sent him flying and Kedwell made no mistake from the spot. Brown has already tipped a swerving Kaid Mohamed shot over the bar before he saved from the same player after he burst clear. These saves looked even more important in first half stoppage time when Moore’s cross was sweetly lifted over Carl Pentney by Hudson to make it 2-0. However, within seven minutes of the restart City were back in the game thanks to Marc Canham’s 20 yard free-kick that gave Brown no chance. Suddenly City were dominating the game but Brown was looking unbeatable with incredible saves from Mohamed and Adam Connolly. Lee Phillips then just failed to turn home a Ben Watson cross and Sido Jombati’s header bounced off the top of the bar. Just when it looked as if the visitors had weathered the storm Phillips broke into the box down the right where he shot was blocked back toward Scott Murray. He drove in a cross that struck Phillips on the knee and flew into the roof of the net to send the City players and supporters into rapture. There was still time for Wimbledon to almost grab a last-gasp winner, Pentney blocking Kedwell’s shot with his legs, but this would have been desperately unjust on City, who once again showed they are more than capable of matching the best the Blue Sqare Bet Premier has to offer.
City welcome league leaders AFC Wimbledon to Twerton Park on Tuesday as they complete their quick-fire run of home games against the three sides battling it out for the Blue Square Bet Premier title. The performances against Luton Town and Crawley Town probably deserved more than the single point they garnered so, on the back of Saturday’s confidence boosting 3-0 win over Altrincham, City will hope that they can reproduce their showing against the Hatters and Red Devils but secure a victory that would see another big step in securing their top flight status for a second season.
The Dons reclaimed top spot on Saturday with a convincing 5-0 home win over struggling Southport after four successive league draws had seen them slip from the summit for the first time since October. During this spell this also crashed out of the FA Trophy to Blue Square Bet South side Woking. This will have had AFC fans fearing a repeat of last season when their promotion hopes began to fade during the early months of the year. Combine this with a similar FA Trophy exit to lower division opposition a year ago and you could understand their concern. However, the dismantling of the Sandgrounders will no doubt have restored their confidence, although they are only a point ahead of Crawley having played three games more. Amongst the scorers on Saturday was James Mullay who was one of four new players brought in by manager Terry Brown since the transfer window re-opened to strengthen his squad. He switched from Chelmsford City on non-contract terms at the same time as Brentford winger Kirk Hudson arrived on loan for the season. Brown has also boosted his defensive options with the capture of Rushden & Diamonds centre-back and captain Jamie Stuart for an undisclosed nominal fee along with left-back Gareth Gwillim on another season long loan deal from Dagenham & Redbridge. One familiar name who will be missing from the Dons line-up is striker Jon Main after he joined Dartford on a month’s loan last week. Main’s goals were instrumental in Wimbledon’s Blue Square South success in 2008-09 – netting 33 times in the league (including the first against City in the 3-2 win at Kingsmeadow). Last season injury restricted his appearances, though he still scored 15 times, but a single goal this campaign in a London Senior Cup tie has seen him shipped out to the Conference South side.
Complete record against Wimbledon/AFC Wimbledon
Back in September Wimbledon inflicted City’s biggest defeat of the season (and heaviest away league defeat since October 2004) when they struck four times without reply. The result was an eye-opener for City as, although they matched their illustrious opponents for periods of the game, individual mistakes and an inability to defend set-pieces cost them dear. The result dropped them to 23rd place but since then they have more than adapted to the rigours of Conference Premier life and will be optimistic of proving much stiffer opposition this time. The Dons one previous visit to Twerton Park in their current guise finished 2-2 during the opening month of the 2008-09 season. The visitors arrived boasting a 100% start to the season and when Godfrey gave them a deserved first-half lead it looked as if this record would remain intact. However, goals from Martin Paul and Gethin Jones turned the game around and in the end Wimbledon were grateful just to avoid defeat thanks to Inns’ strike five minutes from time.
City should go into the game with the same squad to choose from as travelled to Altrincham on Saturday, with just Joe Burnell likely to be sidelined with his hamstring injury. This will leave manager Adie Britton with the decision whether to stick with the more attacking formation he selected against the Robins, loan signing Ben Watson partnering joint top scorer Lee Phillips up front, or revert to the more familiar 4-5-1 line-up he has tended to use against the top teams in the division.
City enjoyed their biggest win of the season so far this afternoon as goals from Lee Phillips (2) and Kaid Mohamed fired them to a 3-0 success over Altrincham. They could even afford for Mohamed to miss his first ever penalty for the club in a very enjoyable trip to the North West. After a lively start the game soon stagnated with neither side able to gain the upper hand. However, on 36 minutes City took the lead thanks to a piece of quick thinking from Marc Canham. Gethin Jones was tripped on the edge of the box and whilst the home players were disputing the decision Canham slipped the ball to an unmarked Jones. Although his shot was well saved by Coburn, Phillips was perfectly placed to net the rebound. There was still little to choose between the sides into the second period but on 70 minutes City were gifted the chance to double their lead. Mohamed raced clear only to be felled on the edge of the box by Baynes. The referee pointed to the spot but, after Baynes had been shown a red card, Mohamed saw his penalty saved by Coburn. The home side had a strong penalty shout of their own a couple of minutes later and it looked like City could be in for a testing closing 15 minutes. Their nerves were settled nine minutes from time though when Mohamed attoned for his miss by firing home after Canham’s corner had been flicked on by Sido Jombati. And the victory was sealed in the 88th minute when Phillip’s struck his second goal from Scott Murray’s cross.
City’s recent acquisition Leon Jeanne has joined Cinderford Town in an attempt to improve his match fitness.
After two matches against top three sides (with the third of the set to follow next week) City turn their attention to the foot of the table on Saturday when they travel to Altrincham. Having deservedly taken a point off Luton Town and then tested big-spending Crawley Town more then the 0-2 scoreline would suggest, they’ll be confident of securing a result against Alty but will face a much improved Cheshire side following the weather-induced mid-season break during November and December. Prior to this blank month they had suffered four successive league defeats, conceding 14 goals without netting once in reply. However, after returning to league action on New Year’s Day with a confidence boosting goalless draw at Wrexham they enjoyed back-to-back away wins at Mansfield Town and Rushden & Diamonds. The lifted them off the foot of the table for the first time since the opening month of the season and they secured another point in a 1-1 draw against Tamworth during the week, despite playing the majority of the second half with just ten men. Their only setback so far this year was a 2-1 FA Trophy defeat to Blue Square Bet North Blyth Spartans.
After picking up just a single point in their opening nine matches it looked as if Altrincham were in for a long and difficult season but the appointment of Ken McKenna as manager, following the sacking of long-serving boss Graham Heathcote in September, has seen sufficient improvement that they are now just three points adrift of 20th place Southport. McKenna enjoyed two highly successful seasons are a player with the Robins during the early 1990s, scoring 56 goals in just 100 appearances. As a manager he led TNS to three successive Welsh Premier League titles between 2004 and 2007 before being named as Heathcote’s assistant in July 2009.
Complete record against Altrincham
McKenna certainly enjoyed facing City as a player, netting the first of those 56 goals when the sides met during the opening weeks of the 1990-91 season in a 2-0 win at Moss Lane. At the time City were managed by George Rooney, who had spent six years with Altrincham in two spells. By the time of the return fixture in March City were deep in a relegation battle – Tony Ricketts having taken over from Rooney a couple of weeks earlier – whereas the Robins were challenging for the GM Vauxhall Conference title. A late fight back from City was not quite enough in the 3-2 defeat and though McKenna was not on target he set up two of his teams strikes. The following season (with City having avoided relegation and Altrincham still a non-league club after a third place finish) McKenna was back amongst the goals, doubling Altrincham’s lead 50 seconds into the second half, although it was his strike partner Anderson who grabbed the headlines with a hat-trick in the 4-0 win. In his final on the pitch encounter with City he added another two goals to his total but this time he was on the losing side as a comical own-goal from Wiggins and strikes from Martin Boyle and Graham Withey gave City a 3-2 victory.
City will welcome back striker Lee Phillips – who netted twice in the 2-2 draw at Twerton Park when the sides met earlier this season – after he missed the Crawley match to be at the birth of his son. Although that did give him extra time to recover from the thigh strain that had sidelined him for the FA Trophy defeat at Darlington. They will also hope to have finally received international for Albjon Blloku and that Lewis Hogg has suffered no reaction to his surprise 20 minute outing against Crawley. Definitely out is Joe Burnell as he continues his recovery from the hamstring injury he suffered against Luton Town.
Two goals from league top scorer Matt Tubbs was enough to give his Crawley Town side a 2-0 win over City at Twerton Park this evening and lift them back to the top of the Blue Square Bet Premier. He struck at either end of a game where the massive difference between the two clubs resources was never apparent, in fact until the second goal the visitors were looking distinctly nervous and had been reduced to time-wasting at every opportunity. And this was all after City had got off to the worst possible start, gifting the Red Devils a goal after just nine minutes. Danny Webb’s attempted clearance appeared to hit Luke Ruddick and drop perfectly for Tubbs six yards out. Despite this setback it was City who would create the best openings during the rest of the half, as Gethin Jones, Webb and Kaid Mohamed all spurned clear chances. MacFadzean was lucky to only see yellow for tripping Mohamed as he looked to burst through just before the interval and after a slow opening to the second half it was once again City who looked the better side. Clearly frustrated by their expensively assembled side’s struggles Crawley’s management duo of Steve Evans and Paul Raynor were reduced foul-mouthed touchline ranting but unbelievably even this failed to lift their team. Several last-ditch blocks kept their lead intact but just as City were building pressure for a tense closing spell a rare moment of class from the visitors decided the game, Tubbs collecting a quick throw-in on the edge of the box before sending a dipping shot over Pentney. ‘Project Promotion’ could now relax and see the game out leaving City to reflect how close they had come to showing that even a bottomless pit of money does not automatically ensure everything goes your way.
City have boosted their forward line ahead of tonight’s meeting with title challengers Crawley Town with the loan signing of Ben Watson from Exeter City. With Kaid Mohamed currently City’s only fit striker the arrival of Watson will increase Adie Britton’s options ahead of ‘Project Promotion’ rolling into town. The 25-year old scored twice for the Grecians against City in pre-season and has already teasted Blue Square Bet Premier football this season with a loan spell at Forest Green Rovers, where he netted once in six outings.
City will look to achieve what League 1 Swindon Town and Championship Derby County have both failed to do and beat Crawley Town when they visit Twerton Park on Tuesday evening. The Red Devils focus on ‘Project Promotion’ has been diverted somewhat in recent weeks with an FA Cup run that has seen them dispose of the aforementioned League clubs to reach the 4th Round where they will face Torquay United. As manager Steve Evans is never shy of pointing out though most of his squad are of League 1 and League 2 quality, which hardly fits with the usual giant-killing glamour such a run would normally generate. There are no plumbers, van drivers or dustbin men in the Crawley squad but it still would be a remarkable achievement should they beat the Gulls and become just the sixth non-league side since World War II to reach the FA Cup 5th Round.
If Crawley’s Blue Square Bet Premier title-chasing rivals hope that this run will divert their attention away from the race for a Football League place they are likely to be disappointed. The cup adventure has seen them slip to 2nd place behind AFC Wimbledon but if they better the Dons result against Fleetwood Town this week in the clash with City they will regain top spot and still have three games in hand over their closest rivals. The January transfer window has already seen Evans bring in another five bodies, James Dance and John Dempster from financially stricken Kettering Town, Brentford’s David Hunt on loan, Wrexham goalkeeper Scott Shearer plus Josh Simpson, the latest player to drop out of the Football League and join the Red Devils, making an already impressive squad even stronger.
This ability to continually attract players from higher level football has had a knock-on effect at the other end of the Football Conference as a number of players have been shipped out to league rivals. City suffered from this when former Crawley captain and first team regular for three seasons, Adam Quinn, was loaned out to Forest Green Rovers, where he produced a man of the match performance at Twerton Park in December. He is now with Darlington, so could again face City later in the season, but Forest Green’s relegation fight has been boosted by the loan of Danny Hall, who only joined Crawley during the summer, as has Hayes & Yeading United’s with the return of striker Ben Wright. He netted twice against City for Hayes whilst on loan from Peterborough United in the opening game of the season and was soon snapped up by Evans. However, the arrival of bigger name strikers soon saw him surplus to requirements and, after a spell with Newport County, he is now a Hayes player until the end of the season.
Crawley will come into the game with City on the back of four successive league wins, including a 2-1 success over Kettering Town on Saturday when they came from a goal down thanks to strikes from Brodie and Tubbs. That was the latter’s 22nd league goal of the season, although it was Brodie, who by contrast has been a relative failure with just five league goals since his £275,000 move from York City back in August, who attracted a bid from an unnamed League 2 club earlier in the month. Incredibly after failing to score in their opening league match of the season Crawley have not drawn another blank since. Their only minor blip of the campaign so far was an FA Trophy defeat to Blue Square Bet South side Dartford in a 1st Round replay last month.
Complete record against Crawley Town
This shows the size of the task facing City but they only have to go back to the 1999-2000 season for a record breaking win over Crawley and the last visit Evans made to Twerton Park, which ended in disappointment for the Scottish manager. It was a week before Christmas when Evans brought his Boston United side to Bath, with the two clubs involved in a close battle at the top of the Southern League Premier Division table. The Pilgrims had only lost two league games up to that point but a Graham Colbourne double sent them back to Lincolnshire pointless and Evans’ – who was involved in a touchline row with midfielder Rob Skidmore and blamed the officials for the result – mood would not have been helped when their return journey was badly affected by heavy snow around Oxford. Of course, he had the last laugh when Boston lifted the championship four months later (though history now looks less kindly on that success) but not before City enjoyed their biggest league win of the current century so far three weeks later over his current club. Crawley’s case was not helped by losing their keeper Little to a red card for handling outside his area during the 1st half, although by then they were already 4-0 down, Martin Paul netting a 15-minute hat-trick and on-loan star Bobby Zamora scoring the first of his eight goals in City colours. Jon Holloway made it 5-0 from the free-kick after Little’s indiscretion before Colin Towler and Mark Harrington completed the rout after the interval. Crawley gained revenge for this defeat in a much postponed match at the Broadfield Stadium later in the season, winning 4-1, and since then they have won five of the nine encounters between the sides including the meeting earlier this campaign, with Danny Webb’s header just a consolation in the 2-1 scoreline.
City will once again be missing Lewis Hogg and Joe Burnell but hope that eight-goal striker Lee Phillips will have recovered from the thigh injury that sidelined him for Saturday’s FA Trophy defeat at Darlington. City manager Adie Britton is also hoping to bring in one or two new faces before the game, but for some reason attracting new players to the club seems a lot tougher task than Evans has at Crawley.
City’s FA Trophy hopes disappeared for another season today in front of under 1000 fans in the 25,000 capacity Northern Echo Darlington Arena. Two goals within three minutes either side of half-time put the home side in control of the game and despite Adam Connolly pulling one back the Quakers scored twice more to finish 4-1 winners. City had comfortably dealt with Darlington’s attacking threat for 45 minutes but just when it looked as if the game would reach the break goalless Arnison was allowed too much room in the box to fire past Carl Pentney. And it got worse for City within two minutes of the restart when Hatch netted from close range after Pentney has blocked his first effort. However, just before the hour mark Scott Murray’s pass found Connolly and he shot home via the post. Hopes of a similar comeback to that in the previous round at Histon evaporated four minutes later, Verma beating Pentney at his near post to restore Darlington’s two-goal lead. And they secured a place in the 3rd Round on 75 minutes thanks to Hatch’s second goal after City had failed to clear a free-kick.
Albanian forward Albjon Blloku could feature for City in their FA Trophy 2nd Round match at Darlington on Saturday after the club moved to obtain international clearance for the player. The 27-year old has been training with the club in recent weeks having recently been on the books of fellow Football Conference side Hayes & Yeading United and Albanian First Division outfit KF Kamza.
City will make the long journey to the North East tomorrow ahead of Saturday’s FA Trophy 2nd Round tie with Darlington. A place in the last 16 of the competition is on offer as the two sides put aside their Blue Square Bet Premier efforts for the weekend. City and Darlington’s best run in the Trophy was to the quarter finals during the 1989-90 season and had they not lost to Stafford Rangers and Leek Town respectively they would have met in the semi-finals. However, this was the Quakers one and only appearance in the competition until this season, whereas City have entered every season since its inaugural year in 1969.
In common with City, Darlington overcame Blue Square Bet Premier opposition by three goals to two in the 1st Round. Twice Tamworth – despite being reduced to ten men with the game still goalless – drew level before, with eleven minutes remaining, Verma netted the decisive goal for the home side to ensure a 2nd Round clash with City. No doubt Darlington will view the Trophy as of secondary importance to returning to the Football League at the first time of asking, as they did back in 1990. Inconsistent league form though has left them currently in 10th place, eight points off the play-off places. In their last outing they comfortably saw off bottom placed club Histon thanks to goals from Verma, Arnison and Hatch. Manager Mark Cooper has been strengthening his squad during the transfer window, capturing Greg Taylor from Kettering Town and Crawley’s Town Adam Quinn. The latter will be familiar to City after his man of the match performance for Forest Green Rovers – where he spent several months on loan – just after Christmas but having played in their Trophy match at Cambridge he will be cup-tied for Saturday’s game.
The meeting will see City make their first ever visit to The Northern Echo Darlington Arena. The stadium was built in 2003 and can hold 25,000 people, which makes it the largest capacity ground ever seen in the Football Conference. However, local planning restrictions have restricted the capacity to 10,000 and crowds are normally in the region of 2-3000. And this gap was one of the main reasons the club went into administration in 2009 which then culminated in its relegation back to non-league. Prior to their move to the Arena (now under its seventh name since construction) the Quakers had played at Feethams for 120 years. The club shared the ground with Darlington Cricket Club and it was also the venue for a number of Durham CCC matches, including their first ever County Championship home win over Somerset in 1992. It was the building of the new East Stand in 1997 which would financially cripple the club and start the chain of events that now sees them at The Northern Echo Darlington Arena.
Complete record against Darlington
The first game between the teams at Twerton Park earlier this season was a remarkable affair that saw City score twice in stoppage time to rescue a point. Neither of City last-gasp goal heroes in that match will feature this time, with Hector Mackie now at Gloucester City and Lewis Hogg sidelined with a recurrence of the groin strain which kept him out for three months earlier in the season. Also missing is Joe Burnell after picking up a hamstring injury in last week’s goalless draw with Luton Town. On the plus side Luke Ruddick will return to the squad having completed his three-match suspension and Albanian forward Albjon Blloku, who has been training with the club in recent weeks, could feature if international clearance is received in time.
City secured a throughly deserved point this afternoon in a goalless draw with Luton Town at Twerton Park. Although the title-chasing visitors enjoyed the greater possession and came the closest to scoring, City were never outclassed and had chances to pull off a memorable victory. The tone of an entertaining game was set early on with the Hatters looking a threat going forward but City also producing several dangerous moves. Both sides had seen chances go wide before Carl Pentney made the first of a number of good saves from Crow’s well-struck shot. Danny Webb’s header from a fiercely struck Marc Canham cross nearly gave City the lead on 38 minutes before moments later Gnpaku somehow headed wide from a couple of yards out when he looked certain to score. Ten minutes into the second half City had their best chance when Lee Phillips raced clear only to slice his shot well wide. Luton’s Drury then struck the post and Pentney blocked the same player’s effort after he got free in the box. Sido Jombati was also denied by the woodwork, his curling shot hitting the crossbar with 15 minutes remaining. Both sides has chances to win the game late on, the closest when Lawless’ shot cannoned off the bar for Town, but it would have been harsh on either side to lose by then.
City’s man of the match today, goalkeeper Carl Pentney, has extended his loan deal with the club for a third and final month.
Two of City’s Blue Square Bet Premier rivals has been deducted five points for a breach of leagues financial regulations. Kidderminster Harriers and Histon were also hit with suspended fines of £5000.
City have rearranged their home game against Newport County for Tuesday 22 February (ko 7.45pm).
Twerton Park was an unusual honeymoon location before this afternoon’s match with Luton Town for singer Cerys Matthews and her new husband Steve Abbott. The former Catatonia – who enjoyed two number 1 albums during the 1990s – front woman tied the knot with her manager, who is a big Hatters fan, in Cardiff yesterday and began life as a married couple watching the goalless draw. Following the match the couple were picked up by a limo to travel to Heathrow airport on their way to Africa.
In what is being hailed as their biggest ever home league game City welcome title-chasing Luton Town on Saturday for their first visit to Twerton Park. The magnitude of the encounter can be explained by going back just 19 years to the 1991-92 season. Whilst City were facing two matches against their main rivals of the time Yeovil Town (taking four points off the Glovers), the Hatters were enjoying back to back wins over Arsenal and Chelsea in what turned out to be their final season in the top flight. And in a strange coincidence Luton’s place in the soon to be renamed Premier League was taken by Blackburn Rovers whose recently appointed manager Steve Kean scored for City in the first of those games against Yeovil.
That relegation began the downward spiral that finally saw Luton drop out of the Football League in 2009. Having missed out on the expected immediate return to League 2 thanks to a play-off semi-final defeat to York City the Hatters look set to be in a three-way battle for the 2010-11 Blue Square Bet Premier title with Crawley Town and AFC Wimbledon. With season now at its halfway stage Luton currently sit in 3rd place, a point behind Crawley and a further two back from the Dons. They come into the game with City on the back of four successive league wins, although they struggled to overcome Hayes & Yeading United in their last outing, a 75th minute goal from Gnapka finally ending the resistance of the relegation threatened home side. During this spell they also pushed League 1 side Charlton Athletic all the way in the FA Cup. Two goals from highly-rated midfielder Andy Drury saw them twice come from behind to draw 2-2 at The Valley and earn a replay. When Kroca put them ahead toward the end of the first half a shock looked on the cards, with a trip to Premier League Tottenham Hotspur the reward. However, the Addicks levelled before the break and, despite Luton dominating much of the game, two second half goals ensured the Hatters would be visiting Twerton Park instead of White Hart Lane this weekend.
With the transfer window reopening this week Luton manager Richard Money has secured the signing of three players, although all had already joined the club on loan deals. Midfielders Alex Lawless and striker Jason Walker plus Charlie Henry are now officially Hatters players. Lawless had been on loan from York City and Walker from Barrow, whilst Henry joined from Newport County. That name should be familiar to the Twerton Park faithful after his goal gave the Exiles a rare success over City last season but a foot injury discovered shortly after he joined Luton has meant he has yet to make his debut for the Bedfordshire club. The vast difference in the two clubs resources are highlighted by the size of their respective squads. Whilst Money has a potential pool of 28 players (plus a reserve team) to select from, his counterpart Adie Britton is now down to just 19 players (including three goalkeepers) following the departure of Marley Watkins and Alex Russell in the last week.
Complete record against Luton Town
When the sides met at Kenilworth Road back in October, with Luton celebrating their 125th anniversary, City arrived on the back of a disastrous FA Cup defeat at home to Southern League Swindon Supermarine whilst the hosts had put six goals past Forest Green Rovers in their previous outing. And when they raced into a three-goal lead before half-time it looked as if City were in for a similar defeat. However, Lee Phillips pulled a goal back early in the second half and, although they couldn’t find a second goal that would have put Luton under real pressure, the home fans were soon turning on manager Money, booing and cries of ‘you don’t know what you’re doing’ ringing around the ground following a substitution 15 minutes from time.
City’s threadbare squad could be stretched even thinner after Lewis Hogg picked up an ankle injury during Monday’s 2-0 defeat at Wrexham which may sideline him for the game. Definitely out is defender Luke Ruddick as he completes the final match of the ban for his sending off against Forest Green. Callum Hart is likely to added to the squad after recovering from illness and Britton hopes to bring in an unnamed attacking player on loan in time to play.
City returned from North Wales today empty-handed after a goal in each half condemned them to defeat against Wrexham. The win flattered the home side who needed a penalty to break through City’s rearguard in the first period before, with City pushing forward, grabbing a late second to secure the three points. The Dragons produced some neat approach play duing the opening half hour but rarely troubled City to the increasing frustration of the home supporters. This pressure was lifted though on 34 minutes when City conceded a needless penalty. Obeng burst into the City box where he was clipped by Kaid Mohamed for a clear spot-kick and Taylor confidently slotted home from 12 yards. Clearly lifted from this lucky break Wrexham controlled the remainder of the half but after the interval City began to see more possession against their increasingly nervous hosts. Mohamed, Lee Phillips and Scott Murray all has efforts on target but with four minutes left City gave the ball away in midfield allowing Harris to send Pogba through on goal and fire past Carl Pentney, bringing an end to City’s run of four successive away victories.
As widely expected midfielder Alex Russell (pictured) has left City to join npower League 1 strugglers Yeovil Town. The 37-year old former Bristol City player joined City on a 3-month contract in September whilst continuing to train full-time with the Glovers. And he impressed sufficiently for manager Terry Skiverton to offer him a deal until the end of this season. Russell made 15 appearances for City, scoring four times.
City make a second trip of this fledging 2011 to Wales tomorrow, this time heading to the north of the Principality to face Wrexham and begin the second half of their 2010-11 Blue Square Bet Premier campaign. The shock win over Newport County yesterday took City to 30 points from 23 games, a total that has exceeded the expectations of all but the most optimistic supporter and well ahead of manager Adie Britton’s overall target of 48 points that should guarantee the club a second season in the top flight on non-league football. In fact, City are now as near to the play-off places as the relegation zone, a statistic not missed by the aforementioned ‘glass half full’ fans.
Having disposed of one play-off chasing side City will not be short of confidence coming up against another team with designs on extending their season into May and regaining the Football League place they lost in 2005. Before the unexpected winter break Wrexham had steadily been climbing the table following a poor start to the season. Their last league defeat was back in October against current leaders AFC Wimbledon and they are currently unbeaten in seven. However, the break appeared to do them few favours as they were held to a goalless draw by bottom club Altrincham yesterday. Despite part-time Alty also playing their first league match since November 27, Wrexham manager Dean Saunders put the blame for his full-time side’s showing on ‘rustiness’. The draw saw the Dragons slip back one place to seventh, six points behind Fleetwood Town who occupy the final play-off place currently.
Complete record against Wrexham
Although this season marks the first time the sides have faced each other – the match at Twerton Park back in August ending 2-0 to Wrexham after City produced easily their worst performance of the campaign – they were rivals of a sort during the Second World War. With City elevated to the Football League during the hostilities they played in the West Division and in 1944, with a better average than sides from the other zones, were crowned Second Division champions, pipping Wrexham on goal difference to the title.
City will go into the match without the suspended Luke Ruddick and Alex Russell is likely to miss out after picking up a pelvic injury against Newport.
2011 began in perfect style for City with a stunning 2-1 win at promotion chasing Newport County this afternoon. And it was once again City’s never-say-die attitude that won the game with Gethin Jones’ winner coming in the 94th minute. The home side looked the stronger during a poor first-half but City’s reorganised backline held them at bay and twelve minutes after the interval took a shock lead. Kaid Mohamed beat the offside trap from the impressive Adie Harris’ header to slot the ball through keeper Thompson’s legs. With eight minutes to go though Newport levelled, Reid sliding home Knights cross, and they were suddenly looking the more likely winners. However, City managed to win a 93rd minute corner and, after Danny Webb’s effort had been cleared off the line, Jones was perfectly placed bury a close range header to secure a remarkable victory.