January 2012

Familiar tale of woe for City as they slip to Wrexham defeat (28/1/12)

City slipped to ten points from safety at the foot of the Blue Square Bet Premier table after losing 2-0 to title-chasing Wrexham at the Racecourse Ground this afternoon. It was the fourth time in as many games they had lost by that scorline to the Welsh side and in common with the previous three could have few complaints over the result. It took just 13 minutes for the hosts to break through when a neat one-two between Obeng and Speight saw the former fire past Glyn Garner. City then suffered a further blow losing Scott Murray with a hamstring injury but they responded with their best spell of the game. Paul Stonehouse and Marley Watkins – on for Murray – both forced Dragons keeper Mayebi into good saves before the latter had a goalbound shot cleared off the line by Harris. Wrexham also had chances during this period and four minutes after the interval Mark Preece’s challenge on Speight in the City box was ajudged a foul and the same player netted from the spot. City enjoyed decent possession after this but always lacked the quality to really test the home side who could have extended their lead which would have ruined the uniformity of the scorlines between the sides.

City reluctantly decide against red card appeal for captain Jones (26/1/12)

City have announced via a statement on their official website that they are not going to appeal against captain Gethin Jones’ red card against Alfreton Town last Tuesday. At the time the decision seemed incredibly harsh and City’s sense of injustice was furthered when a video of the incident not only appeared to show that Jones’ challenge was perfectly legal but it was Alfreton’s Wilson who went in two-footed and should have been the player dismissed. The video also shows the linesman flagging for a foul on the City player but after consulting with the referee it was Jones who was sent from the field of play. However, after consulting with a former Premier League referee the club has reluctantly decided against appealing given the cost involved and the fact the ban could be extended if the FA uphold the decision. The move has also been influenced by a minor injury that Jones has been carrying, which the two-week break will give him a chance to overcome, although the club has also made it clear that it should not be interpreted, however, as an endorsement of the referee’s decision or a lack of support for Gethin, who remains one of the most important players at the club. Jones has also posted on his Twitter account that he fully backs the club’s decision. For anyone who has not seen the video it can be viewed here.

PREVIEW: Wrexham v CITY – Blue Square Bet Premier (26/1/12)

On the back of the 6-0 thumping at Grimsby Town and an even more demoralising 3-0 home loss to fellow relegation strugglers Alfreton Town, City are now faced with the challenge of taking on title chasing Wrexham when they head to North Wales on Saturday. Add the fact that they will be without top scorer Sean Canham, captain Gethin Jones and influential midfielder Lewis Hogg, all suspended following the controversial match with the Reds on Tuesday, and the size of the task becomes even more daunting. However, even with the odds stacked against them City know that if they could pull off, what would be one of the shock Blue Square Bet Premier results of the season, the increasingly grim picture at the foot of the table could suddenly look a lot brighter.

Having lost in the play-off semi-final against Luton Town last season the Dragons are involved in a two-way title battle with Fleetwood Town to reclaim the Football League place they lost in 2008. This is a remarkable effort given that the club had to provide the Football Conference with a bond of £250,000 in August 2011 just to be allowed to start the season. This was due to ongoing uncertainty over the takeover of the club by Wrexham Supporters’ Trust (WST). Despite one or two last minute hitches this was finally completed in December 2011 and within the last week the bond was returned to the club. The WST have already predicted losses in the region of £700,000 in their first year in charge, on top of the current debt and anyone unknown liabilities, which suggests that the road ahead is still a rocky one. Whether this means that promotion is a must this season will only be know within the (now Glyndwr University owned) walls of the Racecourse Ground but, at least, they are in a good position to secure this aim.

After opening the 2011-12 campaign with a draw at home to Cambridge United they enjoyed six successive wins to become the early front-runner. This momentum was halted by back to back defeats against Barrow and York City and a run of one win in five games saw the Dragons slip back to fourth place. However, they then embarked on a 16-match unbeaten run in the league that appears to have shaken off all challengers with the exception of Fleetwood Town. This record was brought to a surprise end on Tuesday when they lost 1-0 at Forest Green Rovers. They fell behind on 48 minutes but should have levelled deep into stoppage when player manager Andy Morrell was brought down in the box only for Keates’ to see his penalty kick saved. This was the second week in a row that Wrexham have suffered late spot-kick heartbreak after the bowed out of the FA Cup to Brighton & Hove Albion in a penalty shoot out. Wins over York City, Cambridge United and Brentford earned them a 3rd Round tie with the Seagulls and after drawing on the South Coast they returned to Wales with the prize of a home match against Premier League side Newcastle United on offer. In front of over 8000 fans and the ESPN cameras a stunning 18th minute strike by Morrell gave the home team the lead. They held this advantage until 13 minutes from time when former Paulton Rovers striker Ashley Barnes levelled for Brighton. Both sides had chances to win the game – several of Brighton’s falling to Toby Agdestein, who spent time on loan with City this season – after this but failed to take them and it went to a shoot out. Keates’ missed the first spot kick and this turned out to be the only wayward effort as the Championship side ran out 5-4 winners.

Morrell only took over the managerial hot-seat back in September 2011 following the departure of Dean Saunders to Doncaster Rovers. He was initially handed the post on a temporary basis but after leading the club to seven wins in nine games, he was appointed player-manager until the end of the 2011–12 season. The former Coventry City and Blackpool striker’s smooth transition to management did receive one setback when star midfielder Lee Fowler handed in a transfer request last month. The widely travelled former Welsh Under-21 player had signed a two-year contract during the summer having joined the Dragons from Forest Green Rovers in January 2011 but following a knee injury in October and the departure of Saunders announced he was unhappy at the club. Despite rumours of interest from several Football League clubs in the end Fowler remained in the Conference, joining title rivals Fleetwood Town.

Complete record against Wrexham

For those who class betting as one of their interests a small flutter on Wrexham to win 2-0 (11/2 with Blue Square) could be profitable as the Welsh club have won all three previous meetings by that scoreline. When the sides met in the second game of the season there was little sign of that they would spend much of the rest of the season separated by 22 other clubs. They both came into the game with a point from their opening fixture and for 77 minutes although the visitors looked the stronger side they couldn’t break down City’s stubborn resistance. This all changed though as Morrell struck twice in as many minutes to set the two clubs on their divergent paths. Last season in their first ever visit to the Racecourse Ground, City also made the Welsh side battle hard for the victory. Although they went in front on 34 minutes, Taylor converting from the spot following a clumsy challenge by Kaid Mohamed on Obeng, it wasn’t until the 77th minute when the previously woeful Pogba secured the win with a well taken goal.

As previously stated City will go into the game with the squad stretched to almost breaking point. With the club deciding not to appeal against Gethin Jones’ red card he will now miss the next three matches along with striker Sean Canham, whilst Lewis Hogg will be sidelined for two games after picking up his tenth booking of the season in the same game. Sean Canham’s absence is likely to see Lee Phillips make his first start since the Kidderminster Harriers match in December, whilst either Mark Preece or Jim Rollo are likely to slot into the centre of defence. City will hope Marley Watkins has recovered from his ankle injury but if not their bench could be very thin looking.

City left seeing red as once again they are let down by officials (24/1/12)

City suffered a damaging 3-0 defeat at home to fellow relegation strugglers Alfreton Town this evening in yet another game that turned on a scandalous decision by the referee. Adam Connolly’s 17th minute own goal had given the Reds a narrow advantage but only a series of excellent stops by keeper Lowson has kept this lead intact. Just before the hour mark a great tackle on the edge of the Alfreton box by Gethin Jones looked to have set Scott Murray up for an effort on goal. Instead the linesman flagged and after speaking to the referee the City captain was shown a straight red card. He was immediately followed down the tunnel by Sean Canham for throwing the ball in the direction of the official and City were left facing an almost impossible task to get back into the game. Despite their two-man advantage the visitors continued to time-waste at every opportunity, as they had been doing since the 18th minute, before Glyn Garner was adjudged to have pushed Clayton over in the box on 88 minutes – Jarman firing home the penalty – then Clay making it 3-0 two minutes later.

City have rearranged their home match with Hayes & Yeading United for Tuesday 21 February (ko 7.45pm).

PREVIEW: CITY v Alfreton Town – Blue Square Bet Premier (23/1/12)

City will need to bounce back immediately from Saturday’s 6-0 drubbing at the hands of Grimsby Town when they face Alferton Town for the first ever time at Twerton Park tomorrow night. Although few connected with the club would have harboured more than optimistic hopes of getting a positive result at the in-form Mariners, the magnitude of the defeat still came as a shock but this will be become less of an issue if City beat one of the sides they must realistically finish above if they are to avoid a return to the Blue Square South. The Reds currently occupy 21st place but are only four points ahead of City and will travel south knowing this is a game they really cannot afford to lose.

The Derbyshire side will have some sympathy toward City’s struggles on Saturday having twice been on the wrong end of a 5-2 scoreline against Grimsby, most recently at home two weeks ago which brought to an end their best run of form of the season. The current Conference North champions have struggled to adapt to life at the top table of non-league football, winning just two of their opening 20 league games. This run included heavy defeats against Forest Green Rovers, Fleetwood Town and Wrexham but, much like City, the last couple of months have seen an improvement in form that has given them genuine hopes of securing a second campaign at this level. A run of four games without defeat, either side of Christmas, brought them right back amongst the group battling to stay out of the relegation places before, as City also found out, Grimsby showed they were no respecters of improved form. Then in their last game they suffered an even more demoralising reversal than City’s heavy defeat. Despite losing loan striker Moult to a straight red card just before half-time as the game reached stoppage time the Reds were still holding Kidderminster Harriers to a goalless draw, only for the play-off chasing side to strike twice in added time against the tiring hosts.

Moult, who will now miss the game with City, is one of a number of recent arrivals as manager Nicky Law understandably looked to strengthen his squad. Amongst them was central defender Adam Quinn from crisis club Darlington and 19-year old Chesterfield midfielder Craig Clay, who is set to make his debut at Twerton Park. Law took over at North Street in 2007 after two successful seasons with Buxton and two years later led the club to the Conference North play-offs. There they lost to big spending© Fleetwood Town but a year later they lifted the title by ten points from AFC Telford United. Although City have lined up alongside Derbyshire clubs during their Southern League days (most recently Ilkeston Town) this is the first time the two sides have been league rivals.

City will go into the vital game with nearly a full squad from which to choose. Only Marley Watkins is likely to be unavailable as he continues his rehabilitation from an ankle injury.

Hat-trick Hearn leads the charge as Grimsby hit City for six (21/1/12)

City crashed to their biggest defeat since 2003 this afternoon as Grimsby Town hit them for six with red-hot striker Liam Hearn leading the way with an imperious hat-trick. And this all came about after City pinned the Mariners in their own half for much of the opening 20 minutes, despite playing into a gale force wind. However, this counted for nothing when on 21 minutes the ball dropped for Hearn to fire past Jason Matthews from 10 yards. The home side still failed to build on this advantage and City should have been awarded a penalty after 39 minutes when Garner clearly handled under pressure from Sean Canham but for the second time this season referee Amy Fearn missed the infringement. Within a minute City were left to further rue her incompetence as Grimsby won their first corner of the game and Andy Gallinagh could only slice the wind affected cross into his own net. With the wind at their backs after the interval, and on the first-half balance of play, City were far from out of the game but less than a minute after the restart a dreadful backpass by Gallinagh gifted Hearn his second and Town’s third. For probably the first time this season City players’ heads dropped and ten minutes later Hearn completed his hat-trick with a superb lob. Hughes-Mason slid home the fifth with 13 minutes left before Church’s shot through a crowded area made it 6-0 on 85 minutes. Remarkably no team in the bottom half of the table recorded a victory today so City’s position (apart from in terms of goal difference) remains much the same but they will need to lift themselves ahead of Tuesday’s must-win game against fellow strugglers Alfreton Town.

Gallinagh makes Twerton Park return for rest of 2011-12 season (20/1/12)

Andy Gallinagh has rejoined City on a permanent basis from Cheltenham Town until the end of this season. The versatile defender spent three months on loan at Twerton Park between September and December before returning to the Robins. However, he failed to regain a first team place, having previously played over 150 games for the club, so has now made a welcome return to City. The 26-year old will go stright into the squad for the game at Grimsby Town tomorrow.

City and Newport County will make a third attempt to play their Spytty Park encounter on Tuesday 7 February (ko 7.45pm).

PREVIEW: Grimsby Town v CITY – Blue Square Bet Premier (19/1/12)

City return to Blue Square Bet Premier action on Saturday when they make the long trip to in-form Grimsby Town. Although the ongoing uncertainty at Darlington (and Kettering) is muddying the waters at both ends of the table City’s run of only one defeat in their last seven league games has moved them to within four points of safety and, once again, into a position where a win over the Mariners could lift them out of 24th place. However, their improved form is put into the shade by Grimsby’s recent record, with just once loss in all competitions since October.

This run appears to show that the Lincolnshire club have finally adapted to non-league football, some 20 months after losing their Football League place. After finishing last season in 11th place it looked as if this campaign would be even more disappointing as after 20 games the Mariners were languishing in 16th position, 14 points adrift of the play-off places. Back to back league wins over struggling Kettering Town and Stockport County, the latter by seven goals to nil, finally kick started their season and following a goalless draw with Mansfield Town they have now recorded five successive victories. They now sit in 9th place just five points behind fifth place York City. During this spell they have also enjoyed FA Cup success with a 1st Round win over League 2 Port Vale although they suffered a shock extra-time defeat in the next round, losing 3-2 at home to Conference South Salisbury City after a goalless draw in Wiltshire. They have also progressed to the FA Trophy 3rd Round, with wins over holders Darlington and AFC Hornchurch, where they will travel to Twerton Park in two weeks time.

One of the chief architects in this turnaround has been striker Liam Hearn. The 26-year old netted 32 goals for Alfreton Town last season, helping them to the Conference North title and picking up the divisional player of the year award. This record prompted the Mariners to pay £30,000 for his services and he has scored 21 times in 34 games, including four against his former club in October. Unsurprisingly this has drawn attention from a number of Football League sides, with Peterborough United director of football Barry Fry publicly speaking of his side’s interest in Hearn, while Premier League Chelsea, and Posh’s Championship rivals Reading and Coventry, have also reportedly had him watched. However, Grimsby director John Fenty has insisted there have been no official approaches for the player and they are determined to hold on to him to lead their increasingly realistic play-off chase. To this end joint managers Rob Scott and Paul Hurst have boosted their squad since the re-opening of the transfer window by raiding the two Conference crisis clubs, with the capture of Darlington captain Ian Miller and Kettering Town striker Kiernan Hughes-Mason.

Complete record against Grimsby Town

Despite Grimsby’s much improved form City will travel north aware they have become something of a bogey side for the Mariners, remaining unbeaten in four clashes over the last three seasons. The 2-0 FA Cup win at Blundell Park, whilst the hosts were still a Football League side, in November 2009 remains one of the high points in City’s remarkably successful recent period and last season’s return of four points from the two league meetings showed just how far Adie Britton’s team had come in this time. The game at Twerton Park earlier this season was another incident packed encounter with the Mariners looking set to finally end their poor run, leading 2-0 shortly after half-time. However, when Gethin Jones was bundled over in the box on 57 minutes it allowed Marc Canham to reduce the deficit from the penalty spot. The previous campaign City had recovered from two goals down to draw 2-2 at Grimsby with late strikes from Scott Murray and Charlie Clough so there would have been a considerable sense of deja-vu amongst both sets of supporters when Sean Canham levelled with 18 minutes left. It looked as if City would go on to win the game against the clearly demoralised visitors but their hopes were quashed when three minutes later Marc Canham was harshly shown a straight red card for a challenge on Disley. Grimsby failed to take advantage of their extra man although City did have several nervous moments in the closing stages.

City look set to be without midfielder Marley Watkins for a couple of weeks after he picked up an ankle injury in training and will assess Lewis Hogg before they travel north after he suffered a recurrence of the back and pelvic problems, that sidelined him for much of the 2010-11 season, during the FA Trophy win over Basingstoke Town last weekend.

Canham on target again to head City into FA Trophy last 16 (14/1/12)

A first half header by Sean Canham was enough to secure City a place in the FA trophy last 16 with a 1-0 win over Basingstoke Town at Twerton Park this afternoon. The in-form striker converted Alex Russell’s 23rd minute cross after which City created enough chances to overrun the Blue Square Bet South side before suffering a few nervous moments in the closing stages. Scott Murray should have put City in front after just two minutes, dragging a shot wide after Adam Connolly sent him clear on goal. Jason Matthews was then forced into two excellent saves from Sills before the game settled down follwing this breathless start. This suited City as their greater quality began to show and after several openings Sean Canham deservedly put them ahead. They continued to dominate the game but couldn’t add to this goal and little changed in the balance of play after the interval. The second goal still would not come though, substitute Jamie Cook wasting the best chance, completely missing his kick from six yards out. As the visitors began to commit more men forward they suddenly began to threaten an equaliser. A Sills header was well held by Matthews and Sam-Yorke shot wastefully wide when handed a clear sight of goal. In stoppage time a challenge by Matthews on Lake gave City fans a nasty flashback to last weekend’s last-gasp penalty against Braintree Town but this time the referee showed he did have a clue and awarded a corner. When Sills blazed over moments later the Dragons last chance was gone and City could look forward to Monday’s 3rd Round draw.

City’s Blue Square Bet Premier trip to Newport County on Tuesday 20 January has been postponed after the Exiles’ FA Trophy with Worksop Town fell victim to a frozen pitch today. The Welsh side will now make a second attempt to play the game on this date instead.

Boss Britton goes ape to raise funds for City and local hospital (13/1/12)

City manager Adie Britton has engaged former England wicket-keeper Jack Russell to create for him a truly unique Gorilla. The life-sized fibreglass sculpture was one of two unused gorillas from the recent Wow!Gorillas project in Bristol. Britton, who was a big fan of the gorillas during the campaign, sought out the manufactures and bought the statue, which he has named ‘Roman’ in honour of the Bath City FC nickname. The statue will be painted by renowned local artist, and former England wicket-keeper Jack Russell. Once completed, the statue will be sold at auction at a venue to be specified later, and the profits will be split between Bath City FC, and the Wallace and Gromit’s Grand Appeal, which raises funds for the Bristol Royal Hospital for Children. The Wow!Gorillas project also auctioned their sculptures recently, with one going for as much as £27,000. It is hoped that Roman will be equally as successful and raise much-needed money for two wonderful causes.

PREVIEW: CITY v Basingstoke Town – FA Trophy 2nd Round (12/1/12)

City will turn their attention once again to the FA Trophy on Saturday as they look to secure a rare appearance in the last 16 of the competition. In 42 attempts City have made it to that stage on just six occasions, the last time back during the 1995-96 season. Standing in their way are Basingstoke Town, currently sitting mid-table in the Blue Square Bet South but still harbouring hopes of a play-off challenge during the second half of this season.

Despite being a founder member of the Conference South back in 2004-05 the Dragons have yet to claim a top five place, their best effort coming during the inaugural campaign when they finished in sixth. They began this season with back to back victories over Eastleigh and Weston Super Mare but a run of four games without a win saw them drop back from the early pacesetters. Five wins and two draws in their next seven outings soon lifted them back into the play-off places in October, however they have only added a further two league victories since and are currently eight points behind fifth placed Sutton United. Their last league outing took place in the West Country against Weston Super Mare. They fell behind after just two minutes but when MacDonald levelled seven minutes before the interval the game looked to be turning in favour of Basingstoke. This all changed on the stroke of half-time when one-time City target striker David Pratt was red carded for a tackle on Price. The decision left manager Frank Gray furious and his mood would not have been improved when Weston regained the lead thanks to ex-City striker Kane Ingram’s goal direct from a 59th minute corner, which turned out to be the decisive strike. Basingstoke have already enjoyed cup success this season, reaching the FA Cup 1st Round where they lost by a single goal to League 1 side Brentford. To reach this stage of the FA Trophy they have beaten Sutton United and Didcot Town, both away from home.

In November 2011 the club announced ambitious plans to move from their Camrose ground home to a new, purpose-built stadium on land to the west of the Hilton Basingstoke hotel, in Eastrop. The Camrose would be replaced by a retail park, creating 300 new full-time jobs, with the money raised from the development of that land being used to fund the new 5,000-capacity stadium on the other side of Basingstoke. New all-weather training facilities, which would be available for community use, also form part of the new stadium project, which would cost between £9million and £10million. The plan is the culmination of many years of hard work for Town chairman Rafi Razzak, who suffered the disappointment of seeing plans for a multi-sports hub at Down Grange scuppered in the last couple of years. Mr Razzak said that the club have neither the space nor the funds to redevelop The Camrose to the necessary standards, and he insists that developing, or selling, the land and moving to another location is the only way forward. The club hope to be in their new home by the 2014-15 season.

Complete record against Basingstoke Town

Basingstoke’s last visit to Twerton Park was in October 2009 in an incident packed seven goal thriller. The visitors were fastest out the blocks and within 30 minutes led 2-0 thanks a Downes brace. City grabbed a foothold back in the game just before the break when Gethin Jones headed home from close range and inside two minutes of the restart Florin Pelecaci’s cross was turned into his own net by Hankin to make it 2-2. The afternoon got worse for the Dragon’s defender when he was sent off for a second bookable offence and from the resultant free-kick Jones fired home his second goal to put City in front. However, within four minutes the game was all-square again as Mitchell headed past Steve Perrin. It looked as if this would be how the game would finish but two minutes into stoppage time Basingstoke failed to clear a free-kick and Mike Perrott stabbed home to secure a remarkable victory.

Once again City should have a near full squad from which to select, with Scott Murray likely to be available again after missing the Braintree Town game due to personal reasons. The only doubt is defender Joe Burnell after his tweaked his hamstring in that game.

Controversial stoppage time penalty denies City deserved Braintree win (7/1/12)

City were denied a second victory of the week at Twerton Park thanks to a baffling penalty decision in stoppage time that gifted Braintree Town an undeserved point. The home side had dealt solidly with Braintree’s one dimensional long ball approach all game and that looked to be the case when the ball was lumped into their box three minutes into added on time but instead Mr Barratt pointed to the spot to the astonishment of both sets of players. And the Iron’s luck continued when Marks’ weak spot kick was saved by Jason Matthews only for the rebound to fall to him where he made no mistake second time around. City had led the game as early as the fifth minute when Lewis Hoggs’ cross-shoot was converted from close range by Sean Canham and they should have been out of sight by half-time. Canham sliced an effort wide shortly afterwards before Marley Watkins twice went close, the second effort coming back off the post. The second half was more even although City always looked the likelier to add to the scoring. Marc Canham saw two efforts clear the bar when well-placed and Watkins was then denied by keeper McDonald, Hogg and Adam Connolly spurning chances in the follow up. Braintree’s approach largely consisted of diving to earn free-kicks then pumping them into the area so it was fitting when this tactic paid dividends right at the death. With the five sides directly above City all losing City did close the gap but in a way that just increased the frustration at what could (and should) have been.

January 17 pencilled in for second attempt to make Newport trip (6/1/12)

City and Newport County have rearranged their postponed Boxing Day game for Tuesday 17 January (ko 7.45pm). The clubs initially hoped to schedule the game for a week earlier but doubts remain that the Spytty Park pitch will have recovered sufficiently by that date from the problems that caused the previous cancellation. However, with both sides involved in the FA Trophy three days before a draw for either would see them involved in a replay on that date and force a further delay to the relegation clash.

PREVIEW: CITY v Braintree Town – Blue Square Bet Premier (5/1/12)

City go in search of the uncharted territory of back to back 2011-12 wins when they welcome mid-table Braintree Town to Twerton Park on Saturday. The 3-2 victory over fellow relegation strugglers Newport County during the week lifted City to eighth place in the current form table and, more significantly, moved them to within just five points of the Welsh side, who currently occupy the all-important 20th position. A remarkable fact during this turnaround in form is that City have now scored in 13 consecutive games, a record they have only bettered twice this century (14 games in 2006/2007 and 16 games in 2000). Unfortunately just one clean sheet during this time (and that in the FA Cup) has negated this effort somewhat but is does provide proof that City are certainly capable of putting their dismal first half of the season behind them and retaining their Conference Premier place come April.

Braintree arrive in the West Country with their pre-season aim of securing at least a second season in the top flight of non-league football well within their grasp after an opening four months of the campaign that was the polar opposite of City’s. They confounded all pre-season predictions of a quick return to the Blue Square Bet South with a run of six wins in a row during September that saw them sitting in 2nd place. Suddenly talk in Essex, amongst the more fanciful Iron fans, was of play-offs and promotion to the Football League (much like the optimism that floated around Twerton Park in the latter stages of last season) which even the ending of this run thanks to a narrow defeat against big-spending Fleetwood Town did little to dampen. However, that started a run of just one win in their next twelve outings and a steady drop down the table. They halted this slide with a 2-1 win over AFC Telford United before Christmas then, after a Boxing Day defeat at Cambridge United, recorded a 3-2 win over the same opponents that was more comfortable than the scoreline suggests. Despite these two victories City’s hopes will be boosted by Braintree’s away form that has seen them pick up just a single point from the last 21 available, and on their travels they have conceded more goals than every Blue Square Bet Premier side outside of the bottom four.

In a similar vein to his previous successful spell with Hampton & Richmond Borough, manager Alan Devonshire has crafted a team that are the antithesis of the West Ham United side he graced during the 1970s and 1980s as a player. Whilst this more physical approach has clearly paid dividends (as it did at Hampton) it has also played a part in the recent struggles as the club saw their small squad reduced further with a number of suspensions. This led to chairman Lee Harding discussing the club’s poor disciplinary record with Devonshire ahead of the home game with Hayes & Yeading United, with promises made of an immediate improvement. Unfortunately midfielder Jai Reason failed to back this up as he became the sixth Iron player to see red this season, after which Braintree slumped to a 3-0 defeat.

Complete record against Braintree Town

The first meeting between the clubs at Cressing Road earlier this season saw a reminder of City’s battling qualities, so evident last season, as they recovered from 3-1 down to grab a point with a stoppage time equaliser. This was after getting off to the perfect start when Gethin Jones headed them in front on just three minutes. However, goals from Wright and McCammon put the home side ahead before the interval and when Paine headed home early in the second half it looked as if City were set for another dispiriting defeat. They were given a lifeline on 71 minutes when a Marley Watkins header made it 3-2 and with the game four minutes into stoppage time Marc Canham flicked the ball into the six-yard box where Phillips applied the finishing touch. Braintree’s last visit to Twerton Park was during the closing weeks of the 2009-10 season with both clubs in the hunt for a play-off place. The visitors took the lead on 16 minutes through Purcell’s free-kick and from then on looked to time-waste at every opportunity. This meant City enjoyed the majority of possession but they were then stunned as Braintree struck twice in the final five minutes of the half. It was until 15 minutes from time that City hauled themselves back into the game thanks to Dave Gilroy’s volley. And when Chris Holland made it 3-2 five minutes later the comeback was a real possibility. They suffered a set-back though a minute later when Mark Badman received a second yellow card and Braintree ensured they would head back to Essex with the three points when Purcell fired home a fourth goal in stoppage time. City did have the last laugh though as they claimed a play-off place (and subsequently promotion) whilst Braintree ended the campaign in seventh place.

City will hope to go into the game with a full squad available although manager Adie Britton has allowed Bristol City youngsters Joe Bryan and Aaraon Amadi-Holloway to return to Ashton Gate after short but largely positive loan spells at Twerton Park.

City begin 2012 in perfect style with battling Newport victory (3/1/12)

City began 2012 in perfect style as they withstood considerable second half pressure to record a 3-2 win over Newport County at Twerton Park this evening. Although the game was played on an excellent playing surface a strong blustery wind made it difficult for both sides and it was these conditions that helped the visitors open the scoring on 14 minutes when Hughes’ cross swerved beyond Jason Matthews to crash against the post and give Jarvis a simple tap in. City responded strongly and ten minutes later Adam Connolly latched on to a Marley Watkins pass to fire past Potter in the Exiles goal. And within seven minutes City were in front as Lewis Hogg’s cross was turned in at the far post by Sean Canham, on his return to the club. City were well on top now but it wasn’t until two minutes after the interval that they extended their advantage as Scott Murray netted his fourth goal in as many games, shooting home from the edge of the box after easily wrongfooting Newport captain Warren. The Bath-based teacher showed more quality at the other end of the pitch on 54 minutes, heading Knight’s corner into the net, after Matthews had missed the cross. With the wind in their favour the Welsh side were now firmly in control of the game, although City’s inability to retain possession did little to help their cause. Despite this dominance Newport only looked threatening from set-pieces and even though they won a series of corners there was no repeat of Warren’s earlier header. Sean Canham was denied by Potter with eight minutes left in a rare City attack and this meant several further nervous moments before the referee’s whistle signed what could be a huge result for City come the end of April.

New Year boost as Canham make swift return to Twerton Park (1/1/12)

Sean Canham has rejoined City a month after being recalled from his loan deal by Hereford United and will now remain at Twerton Park for the rest of the 2011-12 season. The former Team Bath striker scored four goals in 13 appearances during his two months at the club and his return boosts City’s attacking options ahead of their 2012 relegation battle. He will go straight into the squad to face Newport County on Tuesday evening.