City are sweating on the fitness of last season’s top scorer Dave Gilroy and goalkeeper Paul Evans with their opening match of the 2008-09 Blue Square South season against Welling United just eight days away. Both players are suffering from knee injuries that will require a scan to determine the extent of the injuries. Gilroy picked his up in the friendly match with Oxford United, although it wasn’t until the following day that his knee swelled, and despite missing City’s last two pre-season games the problem has not gone away. Evans played the first half of City’s 1-0 win over Paulton Rovers on Wednesday but has been troubled by his knee during the last few weeks.
City complete their pre-season campaign on Saturday with a meeting against Blue Square Premier side Salisbury City at Twerton Park. And manager John Relish has confirmed that there are still several places in the starting XI up for grabs when the 2008-09 season kicks off for real on August 9. He also made it clear that the line-up he picks against the Whites will not be a good indicator of the one that will face Welling United, as he continues to give his full squad time on the pitch. This will be particularly true in the case of Paul Cochlin and Steve Jones, who have missed chunks of pre-season due to holidays so will get extended run-outs against Salisbury. With Sekani Simpson and Paul Evans overcoming minor knocks to feature in last night’s game at Paulton, City will hope to see Jason Wood and Dave Gilroy return to action, leaving just fractured ankle victim Ali Gibb sidelined. The game will also be the final chance for the various trialists to impress Relish and earn a contract. It is unlikely to be former Salisbury defender Jon Beswetherick as he is currently training to become a police officer, which would clearly impact on his availability. Ex-Bristol City youngster Martin Slocombe could sign on non-contract terms, as he continues to look to get back into league football, as could former City midfielder Lee Collier, currently player-coach with Western League Larkhall Athletic, providing cover if required. This leaves Mark Badman as the most likely final permanent addition to the squad.
Salisbury City arrive at Twerton Park on the back of a successful first season in the Blue Square Premier. Having won back-to-back promotions – lifting the 2005-06 Southern League title and the Conference South play-offs in 2007 – they immediately settled at the highest level of non-league football, spending the majority of the season in the top half of the table before finishing in a very creditable 12th place. A familiar face in the Wiltshire club’s team is former City winger Andy Sandell. He initially joined Salisbury on loan from Bristol Rovers in August 2007 before making this move permanent a few months later. Their 2008 pre-season has mirrored City’s in that they have lost a new signing for the opening months of the season through injury. Rob Sinclair joined the club from Luton Town in July 2008 – having spent the final few months of last season on loan at the Raymond McEnhill Stadium – but suffered a knee injury in a friendly against Port Vale that will sideline him for a couple of months.
The Whites began their 2008-09 season build-up with a 3-0 defeat against a strong Southampton side, before they suffered two defeats on the same day – the first team losing 3-1 to Port Vale and a reserve side going down 2-1 to City’s Blue Square South rival’s Basingstoke Town. They finally opened their summer account with a 2-0 win over Swindon Town – trialists Djoumin Sangare and Jamel Easter on target – and have since beaten AFC Wimbledon 2-1 – Sandell netting their first goal – and Southern League Bashley by the same scoreline. Subject to international clearance Salisbury boss Nick Holmes hopes to complete the signing of Sangara shortly, but despite a couple of pre-season goals Easter was not offered a deal and has now surfaced on trial with Newport County.
City recorded their third narrow pre-season victory against Paulton Rovers this evening at Winterfield Road. The deciding goal came on the stroke of half-time when a cross from Gethin Jones flew over poorly positioned home keeper Kyle Phillips. He did redeem himself somewhat in the second half with a great save from Stuart Douglas. City complete their pre-season campaign on Saturday when Blue Square Premier side Salisbury City visit Twerton Park.
City make their penultimate pre-season outing tomorrow night against the side they faced in their last competitive game, Paulton Rovers. That game was the replayed Somerset Premier Cup Final – after the first attempt was abandoned eight minutes into extra-time due to floodlight failure at Weston Super Mare’s Woodspring Stadium – back in April, where goals from Dave Gilroy (2) and Martin Paul, his 113th for the club, saw City lift the trophy with a 3-0 victory.
Winterfield Road has been a frequent pre-season destination for City, going back to the days when Paulton were still a Western League side. They last made the short trip during the summer of 2006 with a first half header from Phil Walsh and second half strike by Scott Partridge giving them a comfortable 2-0 win. The game also saw an impressive 45 minute appearance from triallist Nat Pepperell, which convinced John Relish to sign the 18-year old striker. Unfortunately, that performance was as good as it got for Pepperell and he remains one of the few ‘misses’ among Relish’s signings. A year earlier the sides had met as part of the deal that took Andy Sandell from Paulton to City, in game tinged with controversy. The cause was the home side’s second goal in a 2-0 win, scored by Ben Cleverley after City had put the ball out of play so a Paulton player could receive treatment. They then compounded the error by refusing to let City score, as has been the case in a number of higher profile games than that one. Previous encounters have seen mixed results for City, with defeats in 1999 and 2000, a 1-1 draw in 2003 thanks to a Steve Tweddle penalty and wins in 2001, 1988 and 1987.
Paulton’s last two pre-season games have both ended in victory. Goals from Ben Cleverley (this time not taking advantage of opponent’s sportsmanship), Ricky Hulbert and a Chris Lane penalty gave them a 3-0 win over Shepton Mallet, before two Dan Flower strikes saw off Welton Rovers by two goals to one. Welton, now managed by former City and Paulton midfielder Mark Harrington, grabbed a consolation goal through another ex-Twerton Park player, striker Graham Colbourne. He was one of a number of past City stars in action with Rob Cousins, Mike Trought, Jon French, Ben and Dan Cleverley, Josh Jeffries and Ricky Hulbert all currently plying their trade with Paulton.
City will be without Ali Gibb (ankle), Steve Jones and Paul Cochlin (both holiday), and Sekani Simpson could also be missing after picking up a slight thigh strain in last week’s 1-0 win over Melksham Town. However, they may welcome back Paul Evans, Jason Wood, Martin Slocombe and Dave Gilroy, who were all rested from that game. Triallists Mark Badman, Jon Beswetherick and Lee Collier are all likely to feature again.
Ali Gibb could miss the first six weeks of the season after fracturing his ankle in last night pre-season victory over Melksham Town. The former Bristol Rovers and Hartlepool midfielder, who only signed for City in July, picked up the injury during the first half of the 1-0 win and faces three to four weeks in plaster. Although City have strength in depth in the midfield department, this is a real blow with the start of the 2008-09 Blue Square South season just two away.
City’s 1-0 friendly win over Melksham Town this evening was overshadowed by an injury picked up by summer signing Ali Gibb midway through the first half. The 32-year old midfielder was stretchered off the pitch after falling awkwardly 34 minutes into the game and taken to hospital for x-rays to his injured ankle. The match itself was decided by a great solo goal from Lewis Hogg after just four minutes, although it was a less impressive performance than in previous pre-season outings. They did create several other openings to increase their lead over the Western League side, but also had one or two nervous moments at the back. The second half saw the introduction of another triallist, former City midfielder Lee Collier.
City’s new home (pictured) and away replica shirts are now available to buy from the club. The Joma produced shirt, that the team wore for the first time in Tuesday’s pre-season match against Oxford United, is priced at £37.50 for adult and £27.00 for child sizes. However, supporters club members can get a discounted price of £35.00 and £25.00 respectively. To download an order form click here.
City will be holding talks with striker Martin Paul to decide on his role at the club for the 2008-09 season. The 33-year old, who became the club’s 2nd all-time top scorer when he netted his 113th goal in the 3-0 Somerset Premier Cup Final win over Paulton Rovers in April, has provided cover up front for City since returning to the club in January 2007 for his 3rd spell. Birdy has expressed an interest in continuing this role next season and City boss John Relish will make a decision on this in the next week or so.
City continue their 2008-09 Blue Square South build-up with a Friday night trip to Western League Melksham Town at The Conigre. The game could divide the loyalties of City’s no.2 goalkeeper Steve Perrin – man-of-the-match in their last friendly outing against Oxford United – as he is likely to be playing for both clubs next season. The 37-year old has provided cover for Paul Evans – including several last minute dashes to Twerton Park – since the latter stages of the 2006-07 season, whilst continuing to play for his home town side. Which shirt he pulls on on Friday night remains to be seen, but he could play a half each for both teams!
The Wiltshire side are managed by former Chippenham Town and Gloucester City defender Wayne Thorne. Despite being just 27 years old he took over the hot-seat in May following the surprise sacking of Kevin Highmore after three seasons in charge. Thorne – whose brother Gary made 81 appearances for City in the early 2000s – joined Melksham from Chippenham in the summer of 2006 as player-coach before moving up to assist Highmore last season. This partnership looked to be a success as the club lifted the Wiltshire Senior Cup – Thorne scoring one of the goals in a 5-2 victory over Laverstock and Ford – after two successive final defeats and finished in a creditable mid-table position in the Western League Premier Division. However, chairman Mick Perrin – father of the aforementioned Steve – didn’t view the season in such a positive light and Thorne was handed his first managerial post.
The Conigre has been a fairly regular port of call for City in pre-season, including last summer when goals from Dave Gilroy and Darren Edwards gave them a 2-0 victory. The game did have a controversial moment when Martin Paul was ‘sent-off’ for an alleged elbow, though, as tends to be the practice in pre-season games, City were allowed to bring on a substitute. Prior to that the clubs met before the 2000-01 season when a largely City reserve team lost by four goals to three. City’s goals came from Graham MacLean, Mark Harrington and an own goal by future Team Bath keeper Darren Chitty, when he dropped a Craig Hopkins cross into his own net. A year earlier the sides battled out a goalless draw and in August 1988 a Micky Tanner goal could not prevent City going down 2-1.
Gethin Jones and Ali Gibb, who both missed the 1-0 defeat to Oxford, should return to the squad as will trialist Martin Slocombe, who was rested with a slight groin problem on Tuesday. Mark Badman and Jon Beswetherick will continue their efforts to earn a contract with the 2008-09 season kick-off just over two weeks away.
A goal within ninety seconds of the start of the game condemned City to their first pre-season defeat against Blue Square Premier side Oxford United last night at Twerton Park. Odubade capitalised on hesitant defending to shoot past Paul Evans, and for all that City matched their higher league opponents they couldn’t find an equalising goal. City, resplendent in their new home kit, were given another excellent work out by the U’s and could have got at least a draw out of the game. Their best chance came near the end of the game when Stuart Douglas appeared to be felled just inside the box by Oxford keeper Hincliffe. The referee seemed to play advantage as the ball broke to Dave Gilroy, however, his goalbound shot was headed away for a corner by Clarke and the offical failed to pull play back to award City a penalty. The game also saw City keeper Steve Perrin make a series of excellent saves to deny Odubade, Constable and Haldane, plus the first appearance of triallist Jon Beswetherick.
Teenage defender Jamie Laird, who joined City on non-contract terms last season, making one non-playing substitute appearance, has joined fellow Blue Square South side Weston Super Mare.
Tomorrow night sees the highlight of City’s pre-season friendly campaign as Blue Square Premier, and former league, side Oxford United travel to Twerton Park. The U’s spent 44 seasons in the Football League, including three in the top flight between 1985 and 1988, when they also won the League (Milk) Cup in 1986. However, relegation from Division 1 began an 18 year decline that culminated with a return to non-league football at the end of the 2005-06 season. They looked set for a quick return to the Football League, winning 14 and losing just three of their first 25 games of the 2006-07 season, but a run of eleven matches without a win in November and December saw them hand the initiative to Dagenham & Redbridge, which they never conceded. Oxford had to settle for the runners-up spot and a play-off place, but a penalty shoot-out defeat to Exeter City in the semi-final meant another season ended in disappointment. Last season they were never up amongst the promotion hopefuls, as lack of goals saw them spent most of it in mid-table. This form cost manager Jim Smith – who had led the club to the 1st Division in 1985 – his job, and he was replaced by first team coach Darren Patterson.
Before their elevation to Football League status, Oxford played in the Southern League and were a regular opponent of City’s. They were promoted from the Sparten League – at the time called Headington United – in 1949 and first faced City at Twerton Park in October; a game the home side won 2-0. In total the clubs met on 27 occasions, with City winning nine and losing 14 times. Three titles and two runner-up spots, plus a name change to Oxford United in 1960, saw them replace Accrington Stanley for the 1963-64 season. This kept the two clubs apart until the mid-1980’s when a couple of pre-season matches saw them cross paths again. In 1984 a Garry Smith goal was enough to give City a 1-0 victory before a year later United ran out comfortable 3-0 winners.
The game will be Oxford’s fifth outing of the summer having faced three Southern League Premier Division sides and a Blue Square South rival of City’s. A goal by former Chippenham Town striker James Constable – on a season long loan from Shrewsbury Town – gave them a single goal victory over local rivals Oxford City in their opening friendly before two second half strikes condemned them to a 2-1 defeat at Brackley Town. The U’s goalscorer was another name familiar to local football fans, Trowbridge-born Lewis Haldane. The one time target of City is another season long loan for Oxford, this time from Bristol Rovers. He grabbed another two goals on Oxford’s last pre-season outing, a 3-1 win at City’s second opponent of the 2008-09 season, Maidenhead United. In between those games they comfortably beat Banbury United by four goals to nil. Constable and Haldane are not the only loan arrivals at the Kassam Stadium, keeper Jake Cole has signed on a 3-month deal from QPR, although he picked up a groin injury in the Maidenhead match. Busy manager Patterson has also signed striker Jamie Guy from Colchester United, Bristol Rovers’ Chris Carruthers and Joe Burnell from Northampton Town.
City’s squad for the match is likely to be boosted by the return of several players who missed Saturday’s trip to Cinderford Town. Stuart Douglas, Sekani Simpson, Darren Edwards and Steve Perrin should all feature, with just Steve Jones still absent, and triallist Jon Beswetherick could make his first appearance in a City shirt.
It was honours even in the Relish household as City and Cinderford Town battled out a goalless draw at The Causeway this afternoon. The Forest of Dean side, managed by Lee Relish, son of Bath boss John, provided another good workout for City as they continued their build-up for the 2008-09 season. It was a slimmed down squad that travelled up to Gloucestershire, with Steve Perrin, Sekani Simpson, Steve Jones, Stuart Douglas and Darren Edwards all missing, although Birmingham City youngsters Deneiro Moore and Tom Ellis were given 45 minutes each. City dominated possession in the first half with Ali Gibb and Jamie Gosling impressing on either side of midfield, the latter almost setting a goal for Martin Paul only for a goalline clearance to deny Birdy. The second half was a more even affair, with Paul Evans producing a smart stop to prevent the home side taking the lead. Dave Gilroy almost grabbed a late winner, with a shot across the face of the goal, but the draw was a fair result and one that meant father and son relations were maintained.
City’s second friendly outing of the summer is very much a family affair as Roman’s boss John Relish comes face to face with a Cinderford Town side managed by his son, Lee. Relish Jnr took over the reigns at the Southern League South & West club just before Christmas last year and successful lifted them out of the relegation zone to a final placing of 16th. As a player he played under his father at Weston Super Mare, and not surprisingly turns to him for managerial advice – although Relish Snr’s initial opinion was not to touch football management ‘with a barge pole’!
The game will be the Forest of Dean-based club’s third pre-season outing, having already gained two creditable draws again higher league opposition. The first of these was a goalless draw against City’s Blue Square South rivals Newport County, before they held Gloucester City to a 1-1 draw with Lewis Sommers netting their goal. City’s last visit to the Causeway Ground was also for a friendly in August 2002, where a penalty from Jason Drysdale and an Ellis Willmot strike – both in the opening 15 minutes – gave them a 2-0 victory. In City’s line-up for that game was currently captain Jim Rollo, having signed for the club a couple of months earlier. A more infamous trip to Gloucestershire came in October 1995 when then Conference club City met a Cinderford side in their first season as a Southern League side in the FA Cup 4th Qualifying Round. Having reached at least the 1st Round proper in the previous three season’s City would have been confident of progress, only to find themselves two goals down at half-time. When Dean Birkby and Adie Mings struck to level the scoreline, it appeared City had rescued at least draw only for the Foresters to grab a last minute winner. They went on to beat another Conference side, Bromsgrove Rovers, in the 1st Round before going out to Gravesend & Northfleet, missing out on a 3rd Round meeting with Aston Villa.
As in City’s first summer outing they will use the game to look at a number of trialists, including Birmingham City academy youngsters Deneiro Moore and Tom Ellis, plus Mark Badman who played 45 minutes against Mangotsfield United. Their line-up may also include former Bristol City defender Martin Slocombe after he featured at Cossham Street, but Relish (Snr) is not optimistic of attracting the Slocombe to Twerton Park, with Coca-Cola League 2 outfit Exeter City a possible destination. The only squad player likely to be missing is Steve Jones, who was given the full 90 minutes against Mangotsfield, as he is off on a two-week holiday.
Although mainly including action from the Blue Square Premier, City fans can claim a free DVD review of the 2007-08 season. In addition to league action the DVD includes the Play-Off Final at Wembley Stadium and also features the promotion moments from the Blue Square North and South, along with the Blue Square Premier Fan Awards. To receive a copy of this DVD please follow the link here.
City began their pre-season campaign with a 2-1 victory at Mangotsfield United this evening. A deflected first half shot from Dave Gilroy and a neat second half strike from Stuart Douglas (pictured) put City two nil ahead before the home side grabbed a late consolation. City fielded 21 players in total, including all four of their new signings, plus trialists Mark Badman, ex-Bristol City defender Martin Slocombe and Millfield School teenager Callum Stewart. A familiar first half line-up, including Paul Evans and Sekani Simpson both back from their overseas travels, containing none of the new faces played some neat football, forcing a series of corners and number of good stops out of home keeper Westlake. He was at fault for City’s opening goal though, handling a back pass to allow Gilroy to fire in the free-kick that was deflected into the roof of the net three minutes before the interval. City made nine changes at the break and understandably took a while to settle but on 73 minutes they went 2-0 up, Douglas lifting the ball home from Badman’s pass over the top. Then five minutes from time Mangotsfield pulled a goal back when a cross was headed past Steve Perrin by Rawlins.
City begin their 2008 pre-season campaign with a short trip to the edge of Bristol to face a Mangotsfield United side managed by former Twerton Park striker Paul Milsom. He only joined the Cossham Street club in July 2007, switching from Chippenham Town. With the Mangoes struggling near the foot of the table he took over from sacked manager Frank Gregan in March 2008 in a caretaker capacity, and when a five match winning run guaranteed their Southern League Premier Division status he was offered the job full-time. Milsom will not be the only familiar face, with recent summer signing Scott Hendy and Ellis Willmott both Twerton alumni. Hendy had looked set to join Blue Square South side Weston Super Mare, before a late change of mind took the centre-back from Clevedon Town to their Southern League rivals. There have been a number of comings and goings at Cossham Street this summer. The biggest losses were Gary Thorne – another ex-City player – who joined Cirencester Town, despite being named player of the season, and top scorer Alan Griffen. Also heading to pastures new are Luke Ballinger, Jack Allward and Ryan Jerwood. In addition to Hendy, Milsom has snapped up Clevedon Town duo Rob Scott and Geraint Bater plus James Simpson from Newport County, after he spent a couple of months on loan with them last season.
This will be City’s first trip to Cossham Street since April 2007, when they made the 14 mile trip on the verge of lifting the 2006-07 Southern League title. A victory would have secured the championship but two disallowed goals meant the champagne had to remain on ice for another few days after a goalless draw. Cossham Street was a regular pre-season destination for City during the late 1990’s and early 2000’s. In May 1999 only a 20-yard strike from Lee Collier denied the then Western League side a victory in the 1-1 draw – Mangotsfield’s goal coming from Dave Elsey, who had only joined them from City a few days earlier. Two years later – with Mangotsfield now in the Southern League – there was no such escape for City as strikes from David Seal and Rob Claridge gave the home side a 2-0 win.
The match will give City boss John Relish the first chance to see his new signings in action, with Ali Gibb, Paul Cochlin, Stuart Douglas and Jamie Gosling all set to feature alongside trialists Mark Badman and Jon Bestwetherick plus, possibly, Alex Lapham and Jamie Laird. Two regulars from last season’s side will be missing as keeper Paul Evans has yet to return from his native South Africa and Sekani Simpson is on holiday in Canada.
The financial incentive for a decent run in the 2008-09 FA Cup will be greater for City after the FA announced an increase in the prize fund. Naturally the biggest increases are in the latter stages – the winners getting £2million up from £1 million – but the early rounds – where City start at the 2nd Qualifying stage – also see more modest rises. If City were to repeat their 2004-05 run to the 2nd Round proper – where they lost 2-0 to Peterborough United – they would receive £44,500, up from £34,750 they would have received last season.
The draw for the 2008-09 FA Youth Cup has given City a trip to Portishead in the Preliminary Round. If they win that they will face a home tie against Wootten Bassett Town in the 1st Qualifying Round.
City will once again be holding their successful Summer Football Schools in July and August, with central-defender Chris Holland coaching the sessions. They will take place on 29-31 July and 19-21 August at Culverhay School and Twerton Park, with all children aged between 5 and 16 welcome. To download an application form click here. You can also download a poster advertising the sessions here. For further details contact the club on 01225 423087.
Former City midfielder Mark Badman and Jon Beswetherick have joined City for their first pre-season training session at Bath University this evening in an attempt to earn a contract for the 2008-09 season. Badman spent the majority of the 2001-02 season at Twerton Park, making 21 appearances, before joining Chippenham Town, where he has spent the last six seasons. He decided to leave Hardenhuish Park this summer and will train with City and feature in their pre-season campaign. Left-sided defender Beswetherick was with Blue Square Premier side Salisbury City last season having previously played for Plymouth Argyle, Sheffield Wednesday and Bristol Rovers.
City have been drawn away in the 1st Round of the 2008-09 Setanta Shield but they won’t have to travel far as it is against Twerton Park tenants Team Bath. The tie will be played the week commencing Monday 8th September.
City will begin their second season in the Blue Square South with a home game against Welling United on Saturday 9 August. This will only be the second time in seven seasons that City have been handed a Twerton Park opening fixture, which they then follow with two away trips, to Maidenhead United on the Tuesday and Bishop’s Stortford the following Saturday. As with last season the Christmas/New Year doubler-header fixture will be against Dorchester Town – home on Boxing Day and away on New Years Day – with the final league match in Essex against Thurrock on Saturday 25 April. For the full 2008-09 fixture list click here.
City supporter and world renowed film director Ken Loach started the Bath to Bristol Summer Stroll on Saturday to raise funds for Meningitis UK. Over 200 walkers set off from Twerton Park to cover the 14 miles to Bristol City’s Ashton Gate. Amongst those walkers were assistant manager Adie Britten, captain Jim Rollo and Managing Director Paul Williams. Last year the event raised £18,000 and organisers hope this year’s Summer Stroll, sponsored by Edward Ware Homes with associate sponsor Sytner Mercedes Benz in Bath and Bristol, will make even more. To find more about the work carried out by Menigitis UK visit their website at www.meningitisuk.org.