July 2011

China bound midfielder Canham to miss start of 2011-12 campaign (31/7/11)

City midfielder Marc Canham will miss the opening three games of the 2011-12 season after he was selected to be the assistant manager of the British University Women’s football team at the World University Games in Shenzhen, China. The event runs from August 11-21 meaning he will miss the trip to Mansfield Town then the home matches against Wrexham and Barrow. This will exceed the total he missed last season when he started 44 of City’s 46 league games.

Three late goals condemns City to heavy Robins friendly defeat (30/7/11)

Three goals in the closing 15 minutes condemned City to a 4-0 defeat against Cheltenham Town at a warm Twerton Park this afternoon. In what was at times a physical game City more than held their own against the League 2 side during the first half, with the clearest early opening falling to Lee Phillips as he was denied by Brown after running clear on goal. City then lost captain Gethin Jones with an ankle injury and five minutes before the interval Low cut inside his replacement Danny Webb to fire the Robins in front. The second half saw the introduction of Sido Jombati from the Cheltenham bench to warm applause from the small crowd and it was the visitors who were now in control of the game. They had spurned several chances before Low set up Pack to make it 2-0 on 76 minutes. Within a minute Low netted his second and Duffy’s close range finish in the 81st minute completed the scoring. Phillips did force another smart stop out of Brown after this on what was a tough afternoon all round for City.

PREVIEW: CITY v Cheltenham Town – Pre-Season Friendly (29/7/11)

City’s penultimate outing of the 2011 close season takes place this Saturday as they welcome Cheltenham Town to Twerton Park in probably their most eagerly anticipated pre-season game. The match will see the return of two former City stars who played a major part in the club’s return to the top flight of non-league football in Kaid Mohamed and Sido Jombati. Although they departed in contrasting manners the part they played in City’s recent success cannot be underestimated and both deserve recognition for this fact.

Mohamed and Jombati are amongst a number of new arrivals at Whadden Road as manager Mark Yates looks to improve the Robins’ fortunes following two disappointing seasons where they have struggled at the wrong end of the League 2. Since winning promotion to the Football League in 1999 the club have enjoyed something of a yo-yo existence, never staying in the same division for more than three years. After finishing just four points and one place above the relegation zone in 2009-10 they improved last season to secure 17th position, albeit just one more point away from a return to non-league football. Yates’ busy summer began with the capture midfielders Russell Penn from Burton Albion and Marlon Pack from Portsmouth. Former Republic of Ireland international defender Alan Bennett was then snapped up after his release from Wycombe Wanderers to add experience to the Robins’ backline. At the other end of the pitch striker Darryl Duffy made the short switch from Bristol Rovers and 18-year old Huddersfield Town frontman James Spencer signed a six-month loan deal. Two trialists put pen to paper on contracts this week – ex-Queens Park Rangers winger Bagasan Graham and defender Harry Hooman, who played for City in their opening pre-season match at Bishops Cleeve. Not surprisingly, given all these changes, Cheltenham’s pre-season campaign has taken a while to get going. After an opening 1-1 draw at Cirencester Town they suffered a 2-0 defeat against Stourbridge. A 1-1 draw at Blue Square Bet Premier newcomers AFC Telford was followed up by single goal losses to Bristol City and Newport County before they finally recorded their first victory of the summer in a Kaid Mohamed inspired 3-2 win over Walsall.

Mohamed netted his first goal in Cheltenham colours in that game as he looks to grab a second opportunity of a Football League career after a season with Swindon Town in 2007-08 having initially enjoyed success in the Welsh Premier League. After spells with Forest Green Rovers and Newport County he joined City in August 2009 on non-contract terms and soon formed a potent strikeforce with Darren Edwards. He went on to score 18 goals that season, including a nerveless penalty in the play-off final against Woking to send City back to non-league’s top division. The 27-year old continued this form last season, largely on the left flank, regularly finding the net including several stunning strikes, especially the late winner at Cambridge United in October. However his time with the club ended somewhat sourly in March when, having announced his wish to return to full-time football next season, he refused to sit on the bench for the match with Grimsby Town. A couple of days later he joined AFC Wimbledon for a nominal fee. He netted a single league goal for the Dons but came alive in the play-offs, scoring four times in their 8-1 semi-final aggregate win over Fleetwood Town, including a second leg hat-trick. He couldn’t repeat this feat in the goalless final against Luton Town, in fact he missed his spot-kick in the penalty shoot-out, but the Dons 4-3 win meant he could celebrate a second successive play-of win.

If the circumstances behind Mohamed’s Twerton Park exit have left a bad taste with some City fans the departure of Sido Jombati was on a much more positive note. He joined City during the 2009 close season after a year with Basingstoke Town, where he was named player of the season. Almost immediately he became a fans favourite with City as his 100% effort and remarkable tackling became a feature of many a City game. Even missing the 2010 Boxing Day match with Forest Green Rovers after getting confused about the kick-off time did nothing to reduce his popularity and it was as much his enthusiasm for helping with off the field activities, in particular community events, which made him such a well-liked figure in the club. After lifting the 2010-11 player of the season award he announced he was leaving to move to France but when this did not work out he was recommended to Cheltenham by City assistant manager, and former Robin, Lee Howells and soon signed a one-year deal.

Complete record against Cheltenham Town

Prior to their meteoric rise to the Football League, Cheltenham had been on-off league rivals with City in the Southern League and Alliance Premier League. The last competitive games between the sides all took place in the FA Cup during the mid 1990s. Both meetings were 4th Qualifying Round ties that went to a replay. After City were victorious in 1993 the Robins gained revenge in emphatic style three years later. The first match finished goalless at Twerton Park, where the home side played the final 20 minutes with 10 men after Eddie Murray’s last act as a City player was to kick out at Lee Howells. When the teams met again three days later, with the prize of a 1st Round meeting with Peterborough United on offer, City looked on course for victory thanks to a Mike Davis goal, as the game entered stoppage time. However, the Robins, at the time a league below City, had other ideas and when Grantley Dicks’ sliced clearance fell to ex-City striker Boyle he fired home to send the game into extra-time. And within two minutes of the restart Cheltenham were 3-1 ahead, thanks to Eaton, another former City player, and Smith. There was no coming back from this and Howells made it 4-1 ten minutes from time. More recently the clubs met in a 2007 pre-season friendly with Connor, Lindegaard, Finnigan and Gill on target in the 4-0 win for the Robins.

Saturday’s game will also see a number of City’s squad face their former club, including Marley Watkins, Adam Connolly and Scott Murray. City will hope that Gary Mills and Albanian trialist Albjon Blloku will be fit to play after picking up knocks during Tuesday’s 3-0 win at Paulton Rovers. One player who won’t be involved is Hector Mackie after he announced via Twitter that he had left the club.

Season Ticket holders offered the TR Hayes Premier Lounge experience (28/7/11)

City have invitied all season ticket holders the chance to enjoy the newly refurbished TR Hayes Premier Lounge before Saturday’s pre-season match against Cheltenham Town. To gain entry, simply pay, as normal, at any of the turnstiles and then show your season ticket to a member of staff at the entrance to the Main Stand, inside the ground. If, having seen the new facilities, you would like to upgrade your season ticket an application form can be obtained from the club.

Twerton Park set for Family Open Day ahead of new season (26/7/11)

With the new season fast approaching, City are holding a family open day at Twerton Park on Sunday 7 August 2011. The event, which runs from 11am to 4pm promises to be a day for the whole family with entertainment, a bouncy castle, music and various prize competitions, including a penalty shoot out against City’s new keeper, Jason Matthews. There is also the opportunity to have your photo taken with the City players and Bladud, the City mascot, will also be in attendance. Refreshments, including a bar, will be available throughout the day and admission is free.

City enjoy comfortable pre-season victory over Southern League Paulton (26/7/11)

First-half goals from Gary Mills, Danny Webb and Alex Russell fired a strong City line-up to a 3-0 win over Paulton Rovers at Winterfield Road this evening. With Gethin Jones, Paul Stonehouse, Lewis Hogg, Lee Phillips and Alex Russell all restored to the starting XI after being rested on Saturday at Weston Super Mare, the Southern League South & West Division 1 side had little answer to City in a one-sided opening period. A steady stream of substitutions disrupted City’s flow after the interval but they will be pleased with another solid pre-season outing.

PREVIEW: Paulton Rovers v CITY – Pre-Season Friendly (25/7/11)

City will make their regular pre-season trip to North Somerset tomorrow evening to face Paulton Rovers as the summer campaign reaches that stage where interest begins to wane and supporters start to count down the days (19) until the 2011-12 season starts for real. Adie Britton has done his best to maintain curiosity amongst the City faithful with a steady stream of triallists, including three new faces in Saturday goalless draw at Weston Super Mare on Saturday. Centre-back James Fawkes, a former Cheltenham Town trainee who was at Gloucester City last season, played the full 90 minutes, with Spanish born Ian Uranga and Jason Pena (who I nothing about) appearing as second half substitutes. They were joined by further triallists Mark Preece and Albjon Blloku as Britton looks to fine-tune his squad ahead of the trip to Mansfield Town on Saturday 13 August.

Paulton are preparing for their eighth season as a Southern League club and will be hoping to be back challenging for a play-off place after a disappointing 2010-11 season. Since promotion from the Western League in 2004 they have enjoyed continued success, finishing South & West Division 1 runners-up in 2006-07 and reaching the FA Cup 1st Round in October 2009, where they lost 7-0 to Norwich City in front of the ITV cameras. The figure behind these achievements was manager Andrew Jones (now City’s Director of Football) but he stepped down in February 2011 and was replaced by former City duo Mark Harrington and Paul Milsom. They led Rovers to a mid-table finish and will look to build on this for the new season, with Harrington now officially manager and Milsom his assistant. They have brought in Tyler Sibbick, who was instrumental in Larkhall Athletic’s successful campaign last season which saw them lift the Toolstation Western League Premier Division title, scoring 23 goals in his 33 appearances, plus three former Almondsbury players Scott Brice, Marcus Mapstone and Adam Madhi. They will join several former City players, including Dan and Ben Cleverley, striker Jamie Taylor and defender Raiff Gwinnett. A 5-0 win against Shepton Mallett opened their pre-season campaign before they slipped to a two-goal defeat at Western League Longwell Green. On Saturday they twice came from behind to beat Bishop Sutton 4-2 with Dan Cleverley and Taylor each netting twice.

Complete record against Paulton Rovers

City have faced Paulton competitively on 25 occasions, although most of these took place pre-World War I. Most recently the clubs met in the 2008 final of the Somerset Premier Cup where, after the first attempt was abandoned during extra-time due to floodlight failure at Weston Super Mare’s Woodspring Stadium, City ran out 3-0 winners thanks to a Dave Gilroy brace and Martin Paul’s late strike, his record breaking 113th goal for the club. Recent pre-season encounters have largely seen City come out on top although last summer it took a late goal from Jake Reid to ensure the game finished level after Cooper had given the home side the lead on 72 minutes.

City’s day trip to the seaside ends in goalless stalemate (23/7/11)

An experimental City side, missing a number of likely starters when the Blue Square Bet Premier season kicks off in three weeks time and featuring several new trialists, was held to a goalless draw at Weston Super Mare this afternoon. Jamie Cook spurned City’s best first half chance after racing clear before ex-City striker Nat Pepperell fired wide for the Seagulls when well placed. The second half saw Marley Watkins and Scott Murray both go close but in the end neither side could break the deadlock.

PREVIEW: Weston Super Mare v CITY – Pre-Season Friendly (21/7/11)

City will look to continue their improved pre-season form on Saturday when they travel to Blue Square Bet South side Weston Super Mare. Back to back wins over Merthyr Town and, in particular, a strong Bristol City side will have no doubt boosted confidence at Twerton Park with the opening game of the 2011-12 Blue Square Bet Premier season at Mansfield Town now just three weeks away.

The Seagulls will be looking forward to the forthcoming campaign with confidence after one of their most successful seasons in their recent history. Having been reprieved from relegation three times in the previous four years, despite bottom three finishes, two wins in their opening nine games suggested they would once again need to rely other clubs actions to avoid dropping back into the Southern League. However, although they struggled for consistency, results improved sufficiently to see them climb toward mid-table in October/November where they remained for the rest of the campaign. The highlight of the league season was a remarkable 7-0 win over, at the time, league leaders Bromley. They also enjoyed cup success, lifting the Somerset Premier Cup for the first time in their 63-year history. Wins over Bishop Sutton, Taunton Town and Radstock Town carried them to the final where they faced Yeovil Town at Huish Park. In what was, at times, a lively encounter Ben Kirk struck the decisive goal with 18 minutes left and, despite late pressure from the Glovers, ten-man Weston held out for the historic win.

Much of this improvement must be attributed to manager Craig Laird who joined the club from Bridgwater Town in June 2010. He had enjoyed considerable success with the Somerset club, taking them back into the Southern League after a 23-year absence, then narrowly missing out on promotion to the Premier Division, losing the play-off final 4-3 after extra-time to Cirencester Town in May 2010. Not surprisingly Laird brought a large number of the Robins squad with him to Woodspring Park and they soon adapted to the higher level of football. Laird has managed to keep the vast majority of this squad together for the 2011-12 season, including top scorer and former City youth team star Kane Ingram, adding another former Bridgwater player in striker Chris Young. They have suffered one blow, losing highly rated central defender and captain Craig Rand, who had been linked with City from time to time, after he moved back to his native North East. Weston opened their pre-season campaign with a 2-1 defeat against Bideford and now face a very busy schedule of four games in five days. After playing Bristol Rovers this evening they travel to Street tomorrow. Then following the meeting with City they will take on Torquay United on Monday.

Complete record against Weston Super Mare

City’s competitive record against Weston must rank as one of their most one-sided with 34 wins from the 39 meetings, including the last seven on the spin. The pre-season clashes between the sides have been less successful though, with City still looking for a first victory in three attempts. Last summer the sides met in their final close season outings and shared the spoils with Porter giving the hosts the lead only for Marc Canham to level a minute later.

Murray cheers both sides with winning goal in Robins friendly (20/7/11)

City enjoyed a morale-boosing 1-0 win over a strong Bristol City side at Twerton Park this evening, with the winning goal fittingly coming from former Robins legend Scott Murray. He struck on 58 minutes, latching onto a Alex Russell pass to round keeper Carey and slot the ball into the net to the delight of both home and away fans. In a competitive match City just about deserved the win as their preparation for the 2011-12 season took a big step forward. After a bright start by the visitors City soon settled without ever looking particularly threatening until just before the interval when Russell wasted a clear opening, appearing to get caught in two minds whether to shoot or pass to an unmarked Murray which allowed a defender to nick the ball away from him. Despite making a series of substitutions after the interval City continued to enjoy the upper hand and only several fine saves by Carey prevented them running out more comfortable winners. The game saw two new trialists line up for City, with experienced defender Ashley Westwood playing the first half and French striker Boubou Diallo, who also played against the Robins last night for Cheltenham Town, featuring as a second half substitute.

City’s pre-season trip to Paulton Rovers, which originally been scheduled for this evening, will now take place on Tuesday 26 July (ko 7.30pm).

City receive big 2011-12 boost with the signing of Russell (19/7/11)

City have received a big boost for the forthcoming 2011-12 Blue Square Bet Premier season with the news that Alex Russell has agreed to a one-year deal. The 38-year old midfielder enjoyed a short but very influential spell at the club last season before joining League 1 side Yeovil Town. He turned down the offer of a new contract and, after initially being linked with a move to Torquay United, returned to Twerton Park. He has featured in all three of City’s pre-season matches so far and will add further quality to the team’s midfield as they prepare for their second season in non-league’s top flight.

PREVIEW: CITY v Bristol City – Pre-Season Friendly (18/7/11)

City’s build-up to the 2011-12 Blue Square Bet Premier season continues on Wednesday evening when Bristol City make the short journey to Twerton Park. After initially indicating they would be bringing an under-21 side to Bath, with another pre-season game the previous evening against Cheltenham Town, the Ashton Gate club have now confirmed that their squad will be considerably stronger, most likely a mixture of first, reserve and academy team players, giving Adie Britton’s men another tough warm-up match ahead of the forthcoming campaign.

After narrowly missing out on a place in the Premier League back in May 2008, losing by a single goal to Hull City in the Championship play-off final at Wembley Stadium, the Robins have suffered three disappointing campaigns. After a poor start to the 2008-09 season they improved considerably after Christmas but, despite briefly climbing into the play-off places, they finished in 10th place. They repeated this position the following year, albeit after fading during the second half of the season. This slump in form cost manager Gary Johnson his job in March and he was replaced by assistant Keith Millen in a caretaker capacity. Millen resumed his assistant role during the 2010 close season when Steve Coppell was announced as the club’s new manager. Having guided Reading to the Premier League the Robins would have hoped he could repeat this feat at Ashton Gate. However, after just two competitive games (both defeats) he resigned, repeating a similar abortive spell he had spent at Manchester City back in the mid-1990s. Millen was re-appointed, this time on a permanent basis, but the first few months of the season saw City rooted firmly to the foot of the table. November and December witnessed an upturn in form which saw them climb toward mid-table where, although never entirely out of the ‘looking nervously over the shoulder’ area they remained for the rest of the season.

City’s poor 2010-11 campaign was not helped by the knee injury suffered by top scorer Nicky Maynard during pre-season. The £2.25m signing from Crewe Alexandra in June 2008 was the Championship’s joint top scorer for the 2009-10 season, netting 21 goals in 45 appearances, but was sidelined until February 2011. The 24-year old scored six times in 13 games following his return to action and has been the target of a number of clubs this summer, including Leicester City, Nottingham Forest and Southampton. Although he has only one more year on his contract the Robins have so far resisted any enquires and Millen will desperate to retain his services if City are once again to become play-off contenders. One big name player definitely staying at Ashton Gate is former England goalkeeper, David James. He was a surprise signing by Coppell in July 2010 but remained with the club after the manager’s departure and agreed a further one-year contract in February 2011. Millen has brought in three new players so far this summer, striker Ryan Taylor from Rotherham United, Leeds United midfielder Neil Kilkenny and Yannick Bolasie, a winger from Plymouth Argyle. City have enjoyed a mixed pre-season, opening with a 2-1 defeat to Charlton Athletic in a match played in St Lepe, Huelva, Spain. Back on English soil, two goals from Maynard and a Kilkenny strike helped them to a 3-2 win over Plymouth before they next day they lost 2-0 to Torquay United.

Complete record against Bristol City/Bristol City Res

Unlike their rivals from the blue half of Bristol, City have not been regular pre-season visitors to Twerton Park, the last game taking place five years ago. The Robins raced into a three goal half-time lead before adding two further late strikes to run out 5-0 winners that was every bit as comfortable as it sounds. The last competitive encounter between the clubs was a Somerset Premier Cup tie in November 2001 that City edged by a single Iain Harvey goal after extra-time at a bitterly cold Ashton Gate but it is the two-game 2nd Round FA Cup tie back in 1986 that remains the biggest meeting. In front of over 10000 fans at Ashton Gate, City were under the cosh for long periods but as the game reached the closing minutes they were only a single goal down. Up popped Paul Bodin to write his name into City history with a stunning volley from a Dave Payne cross that earned City a money-spinning replay. Unfortunately City were unable to stage this replay at Twerton Park and three days later they returned to Ashton Gate. This time there were no such heroics and a disputed penalty plus two late goals gave the Robins a 3-0 victory.

The match will see a number of City’s squad face their former club, Alex Russell and Joe Burnell were both first team regulars during their spells at Ashton Gate whilst Sekani Simpson came up through the ranks but failed to break into the 1st team, but it is Scott Murray who will be most familiar to any Robins’ fans who make the trip to Bath. During two spells the Scottish born winger played 426 games and is frequently named as one of the best players to ever turn out the club. He still works and coaches at Ashton Gate and has confirmed Wednesday’s game will be the first time he has ever lined-up against the Robins.

Watkins and Cook on target to fire City to first pre-season victory (16/7/11)

City picked up their first pre-season win this afternoon at the expense of Toolstation Premier Division side Merthyr Town at a windy Penydarren Park. The Martyrs took the lead on six minutes with former City winger Ryan Dorrian got the better of Luke Ruddick on the left and saw his resulting cross headed home by Merthyr player-boss Garry Sheppard from an acute angle. City fielded Albjon Blloku in their starting line-up for the first time, and he created a chance for Jamie Cook five minutes later, the latter eventually shooting straight at the legs of home keeper Joe Perry. Perry was beaten on 25 minutes with a rather unusual goal. A clearance from the Merthyr defence struck the back of defender Adam Thomas and looped in the air right underneath the crossbar. Perry flapped under pressure from Marley Watkins, who hammered the ball into the roof of the net from barely a yard out. Adam Connolly’s long range drive whistled just over, whilst at the other end Sheppard’s shot on the turn struck the outside of the post before being cleared to safety. The Welsh side started the second half well but couldn’t test keeper Jason Matthews, the nearest they came to scoring was a Kris Leek long range effort which flew just over the bar. Cook spurned City’s best chance on the hour, latching on to Lewis Hogg’s through ball and seeing off a defender before blazing a shot off target. He made amends on 72 minutes with a goal from the penalty spot, all stemming from a half-cleared Scott Murray cross which eventually saw Hogg’s effort handled on the line by home captain Steve Williams, much to the amusement of everyone. As it was a friendly Williams was not dismissed, and Cook dusted himself down to send replacement keeper Mike Ley the wrong way from 12 yards. Murray forced a good save from Ley minutes later after linking up well with Joe Burnell, and Matthews’ only real moment of action saw him easily smother Adam Carpenter’s shot from distance. Merthyr had a late penalty appeal turned down when they believed Ruddick had handled a goalbound shot, but City comfortably held on to a 2-1 victory.

City blanked as Premier Sports announce first set of TV games (15/7/11)

In news that will please many fans and disappoint a few, but surprise neither group, City do not feature in the first set of Blue Square Bet Premier games to be screened by Premier Sports TV. They will open their 2011-12 coverage with Forest Green Rovers v Stockport County on Friday 12 August, and the Hatters go on to appear another three times in the 13 game schedule. The only other ‘non-fashionable’ teams to appear alongside Forest Green are Newport County, Braintree Town and Kettering Town, with the focus once again on ex-League clubs, plus big-spending Fleetwood Town. The full schedule is:

Friday 12th August 2011 – 19:45 – Forest Green Rovers v Stockport County
Friday 19th August 2011 – 19:45 – Lincoln City v Wrexham
Friday 26th August 2011 – 19:45 – Fleetwood Town v York City
Friday 2nd Sept 2011 – 19:45 – Stockport v Luton Town
Saturday 3rd Sept 2011 – 19:00 – Braintree Town v Lincoln City
Saturday 10th Sept 2011 – 17:15 – Mansfield Town v Newport County
Tuesday 27th Sept 2011 – 19:45 – Kidderminster Harriers v Grimsby Town
Thursday 6th Oct 2011 – 19:45 – Cambridge Utd v Stockport County
Friday 14th Oct 2011 – 19:45 – Lincoln City v Fleetwood Town
Friday 21st Oct 2011 – 19:45 – Grismby Town v Luton Town
Thursday 3rd Nov 2011 – 19:45 – Mansfield Town v Cambridge Utd
Saturday 19th Nov 2011 – 17:45 – Fleetwood Town v Stockport County
Thursday 24th Nov 2011 – 19:45 – Kettering Town v Grimsby Town
(Fixtures are subject to change)

PREVIEW: Merthyr Town v CITY – Pre-Season Friendly (14/7/11)

When City last travelled up the A470 to face Merthyr Tydfil in April 2007 the teams were league rivals and on that day the home side inflicted City’s only league defeat in a run of 25 games that would propel them to the 2006-07 Southern League Premier Division title. Since that meeting though the fortunes of the two clubs could not be further apart. As Adie Britton’s side continues its preparation for a second campaign in non-league’s top flight, where they will face the likes of Luton Town, Stockport County and Wrexham, the Martyrs are looking forward to two trips to Bath, but instead of Twerton Park their destinations will be Plain Ham and the Lew Hill Memorial Ground, the homes of Larkhall Athletic and Odd Down respectively. The 2011-12 season will be their second since reforming under the name Merthyr Town and their first in the Western League Premier Division after lifting the Division 1 title last year.

When the aforementioned game took place Merthyr were already lurching from one financial crisis to another. Plans for a new ground as part of the Merthyr Village development were already looking doomed to failure and eventually owner Wyn Holloway announced he would no longer fund the club. Only a massive effort by the supporters trust prevented Holloway liquidating the club in June 2009, instead they went into administration. However, this only delayed the inevitable as a year later, after the club had overcome a ten point deduction to retain their Southern League Premier Division place on the final day of the season, against the background of uncertainty over the future of their Penydarren Park home, Merthyr Tydfil FC’s 65-year existence came to an end and they reformed as Merthyr Town, the name they had previously played under pre-World War II. This meant a drop of three divisions to the Western League Division 1 and a temporary home at Taffs Well, 18 miles from Merthyr.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, given the budget cuts imposed on the club in its previous guise, manager Garry Shephard managed to retain most of his squad despite the drop in level and hopes were high that the side could begin the climb back up the non-league pyramid immediately. This optimism looked well-founded when the Martyrs opened the season with a 5-1 win over Shepton Mallet, although only after they had gone a goal down, and they were soon involved in a battle with Oldland Abbotonians for the top spot. After losing to the Bristol-based club in early November they went onto suffer just two more league defeats and secured the promotion in April with a 3-0 win at Hengrove then the title a week later. This marked a double celebration as a week earlier the club had received confirmation they could return to Penydarren Park for the 2011-12 season after the failure of the administrator to sell the lease, and an invitation from Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council to return to the ground. Fittingly they played the final home league game of the campaign back on their true home and the summer has been spent bringing the ground back up to the required standard.

Merthyr’s pre-season did not start in the best fashion when Llanelli put nine goals past them in their opening friendly. However, given that the Welsh Premier League full-time side were just days away from their first competitive game of the season, against Georgian club Dinamo Tbilisi in a Europa League clash, the difference in class was always going to be apparent and they improved last night, going down to City’s Blue Square Bet Premier rivals Newport County by four goals to one. That game was arranged as a tribute to long-serving player Dean Clarke, who had announced he was leaving at the end of last season after making nearly 400 appearances in four spells with the club. The tough-tackling midfielder will be familiar to City fans after he spent two seasons at Twerton Park, where he was a vital part of the squad that lifted the 2006-07 Southern League title.

Complete record against Merthyr Tydfil/Merthyr Town/Merthyr Town Res

City and Merthyr have been regular opponents for over 100 years in both their Town and Tydfil guises, including a few seasons when they were league rivals with the formers reserve side, playing 120 competitive games. The meeting in April 2007 saw City travel to Wales with a 12 point lead over their nearest rivals, the now long-forgotten Team something or other, but on a pitch that was more sand and dust than grass the home side went ahead on 17 minutes when Paul Evans misjudged a Kift corner. City suffered a further blow when striker Darren Edwards was forced off the pitch with a back injury five minutes late, however the familiar combination of Mark McKeever and Chris Holland levelled just past the half hour mark. Despite this City’s performance still lacked any real urgency, although Martin Paul wasted a great chance when raced clear only to slice his effort well wide, and with 20 minutes left Kift headed home what turned out to the winning goal. In the end though this was just a minor blip and three weeks later they secured the Southern League crown.

The friendly should see the first appearance of the summer of midfielder Adam Connolly after he came through a practice match at Twerton Park on Monday as Adie Britton looks set to take around an 18-man squad to Merthyr.

Rovers enjoy happy Twerton return as City suffer second pre-season defeat (9/7/11)

City suffered a second defeat in the opening week of the 2011 pre-season as Bristol Rovers scored in each half to finish 2-0 winners in front of 1200 fans at a damp Twerton Park this evening. They were unfortunate to trail at the interval, having twice struck the post, but after substuting their two most effective players, Scott Murray and Alex Russell, at the break the second half was much more straightforward for the Pirates as they ran out comfortabe winners. Murray was the first to be denied by the frame of the goal with the game just a minute old and then from their first attack the visitors went ahead, Anyinsah firing across Glyn Garner into the corner of the net. City were enjoying the majority of possession, Lee Phillips heading against the same post on 15 minutes and Rovers keeper making a great double save to deny Lewis Hogg and Russell. Both sides made a number of substutions at half-time and it was the League 2 side who seemed to benefit from the changes, going close on a couple of occasions before Brown fired past Jason Matthews to make it 2-0 just after the hour mark. City never looked like getting back into the game after this and they will now turn their attention to the next outing when they head to Wales to face Merthyr Town in eight days time.

PREVIEW: CITY v Bristol Rovers – Pre-Season Friendly (7/7/11)

City will make their second 2011 pre-season outing tomorrow night as League 2 side Bristol Rovers make the short trip to their former home, Twerton Park. The Pirates have become regular summer friendly opponents and are normally well-supported, as a number of their followers enjoy a nostalgic evening at the ground their club spent ten years, between 1986 and 1996, in exile. It was during this period that Rovers last enjoyed a title-winning season, lifting the Division 3 championship in 1989-90, and they will be looking for a repeat of this during the forthcoming campaign after slipping back into the Football League’s basement division last season.

The 2010-11 season was definitely one to forget for Gasheads. Having returned to League 1 in 2007, thanks to a Wembley Stadium play-off win over Shrewsbury Town, they made steady progress with finishes of 16th, 11th and 10th, and would have harboured hopes of continuing this trend. However, a 3-0 opening day defeat at Peterborough United was followed by an embarrassing 6-1 League Cup reversal at league newcomers Oxford United and this set the tone for the rest of the campaign. A FA Cup exit to City’s Blue Square Bet Premier rivals Darlington in November heaped further pressure on manager Paul Trollope and, with Rovers lying in the relegation zone, he was sacked the following month, ending five years in charge at the club. Initially, assistant Darren Patterson took over, but after two defeats in two games he was replaced by former Doncaster Rovers, Darlington and Oldham Athletic boss Dave Penny. Rovers’ fortunes were to change little though as they picked up just eight points from a possible 39, at first only being kept off the foot of the table due to Plymouth Argyle’s points deduction. But even this small silver lining was soon removed as, not long after a 6-1 defeat to relegation rivals Walsall, they found themselves rooted to 24th place. With two months of the season left Penny was sacked and club captain Stuart Campbell took over. Under his stewardship results finally began to improve and as the season’s finale approached they briefly climbed out of the relegation zone. However, just a single point from their final four games condemned them to a 22nd place finish.

Unsurprisingly, Campbell returned to just playing duties and in May it was announced that Rovers’ new manager would be former Torquay United boss Paul Buckle. He had led the Gulls back into the Football League in 2009 but after missing out on promotion to League 1 last season thanks to a play-off final defeat to Oxford United he stepped down, looking for a new challenge. He has been busy in the transfer market since arriving at the Memorial Stadium with 12 new signings already. These include Torquay’s top scorer Chris Zebroski, Gillingham goalkeeper Lance Cronin, experienced Leyton Orient striker Scott McGleish and, most recently, winger Joe Anyinsah on a free transfer following his release from Charlton Athletic. One player who will look to flourish under Buckle is defender Charlie Clough, having spent two months on loan with City last season. Although he was recalled a couple of weeks before the end of the campaign, City has cautiously expressed a desire to bring him back to Twerton Park on a permanent deal, but with a year still to run on his contract the 20-year old will look secure a regular starting place with the Pirates. He was one of two players to feature for the full 90 minutes in Rovers’ opening pre-season match at Mangotsfield United on Wednesday, where goals from Brown, McGleish, Richards and Swallow (2) fired them to a 5-1 victory.

Complete record against Bristol Rovers

Although the two clubs have not met in a competitive match since the 1994 FA Cup tie that saw the Rovers run out comfortable 5-0 winners against their landlord in front of over 6700 fans at Twerton Park, this will be the seventh pre-season meeting in the last eight years. A run of four successive wins for the Pirates was ended last summer when a goal from Lee Phillips, just 43 seconds into his first outing for City, was added to by Yan Klukowski’s neat finish seven minutes from time to complete a 2-0 win.

After giving 22 players a half each in Monday’s 3-2 defeat at Bishops Cleeve, City boss Adie Britton will look to field a squad of around 17 players for this game. This should include Adam Connolly, who missed the Cleeve match following a summer knee operation, but new signing Gary Mills may miss out after picking up a hamstring problem, and Scott Murray could also be absent after it was reported he would be playing darts against Phil ‘The Power’ Taylor at Ashton Gate tomorrow night.

City have made a change to their pre-season schedule, replacing the trip to Paulton Rovers with a home match against a Bristol City XI on Wednesday 20 July (ko 7.45pm).

Jombati says bonjour to Robins after French switch plans fall through (5/7/11)

City’s 2010-11 player of the year Sido Jombati has signed for League 2 side Cheltenham Town. The 24-year old Portuguese-born full-back was recommended to the Robins by City assistant manager, and former Cheltenham player, Lee Howells after his planned move to France fell through. Having retained his registration City will receive a nominal fee in the deal and he will make a quick return to Twerton Park when the two sides meet in a pre-season match on Saturday 30 July. Jombati will also join up with former City teammate Kaid Mohamed after the striker returned to the West Country following his successful short spell with AFC Wimbledon.

City face costly midweek games as 2011-12 fixture list announced (5/7/11)

City’s 2011-12 Blue Square Bet Premier season will start and finish on the road but it is the scheduling of several midweek games that could have a greater impact on their season. They will begin with a trip to face one of the title favourites Mansfield Town on Saturday 13 August before ending the campaign at nearby Alfreton Town, last season Conference North champions. However, it is the scheduling of the Luton Town and Stockport County home games for midweek that will be received with disappointment at Twerton Park. As the two best supported sides in the league a Saturday fixture would have expected to attract 2000+ crowds but this figure is likely to reduced considerably on a Tuesday evening. Add to this City being handed a midweek trip to Barrow in March and it is a remarkably bizzare set of fixtures. For the full sorry details click on the results and fixtures link above.

Slow start condemns City to defeat in pre-season opener (4/7/11)

City couldn’t quite recover from gifting Bishops Cleeve a two-goal lead just six minutes into their opening pre-season match this evening, finishing on the wrong end of the 3-2 scoreline. The opening goal came after keeper Glyn Garner could only parry an initial shot giving a simple tap-in for the home forward and then he was beaten from the penalty spot following a clumsy Gethin Jones challenge. He made up for this mistake on 15 minutes, heading home Scott Murray’s free-kick to make it 2-1. The home side restored their advantage as half-time approached thanks to Garner mis-controlling a back pass but with the last kick of the half Lewis Hogg struck despite looking several yards offside. The second period saw City field an entirely different XI and although they went close on several occasions they couldn’t find an equaliser. The game saw City field a number of trialists including former Forest Green Rovers duo Mark Preece and Jon Else, ex-Bristol Rovers youth player James Tyrell and Harry Hooman, previously a trainee with Shrewsbury Town.

PREVIEW: Bishops Cleeve v CITY – Pre-Season Friendly (1/7/11)

City make one of their earliest ever starts to a pre-season campaign when they travel to Gloucestershire on Monday evening to face Southern League Division 1 South & West side Bishops Cleeve. Given that City’s squad have only returned to training this week and the start of the 2011-12 Blue Square Bet Premier season is still six weeks away it is likely to a low key start to Adie Britton side’s preparation for the club’s second season back in the top flight of non-league football.

The Villagers are managed by former City player Alex Sykes. The ex-Forest Green Rovers winger spent two seasons at Twerton Park between September 2004 and May 2006, making 54 appearances and scoring 13 times during this time, before joining Gloucester City. He was a major success with the Tigers, especially during the 2008-09 season when his 27 goals played a major part in the club’s promotion via the Southern League play-offs. However, after a few months of Conference North football he joined Bishops Cleeve as player assistant-manager. The 37-year old continued in this role until the surprise departure of long-serving manager Paul Collicutt in May 2011 handed him the chance to take over the reins. The forthcoming season will be the club’s sixth in the Southern League and Sykes will no doubt be looking to improve on their best finish of 11th two years ago. He will have to do this without Julian Allsop, after the experienced striker called time on his eventful football career that included two spells with Cleeve, and fans favourite Kevin Slack who joined Shortwood United. Sykes has moved quickly to restore his attacking options with the capture of speedy Cirencester Town forward Carl Brown. There is also likely to be another familiar face in the home side’s line-up as Steve Jones embarks on his third season at Kayte Lane, having played nearly 250 games for City during six years at Twerton Park prior to joining Cleeve.

Complete record against Bishops Cleeve

City have twice faced Bishops Cleeve in competitive matches, the first taking place in the 2006-07 FA Trophy at Twerton Park. Two goals from Arek Zarczynski were just enough to see City through with Curtis netting for the visitors. Three years later the clubs were once again drawn to play each other, this time in a FA Cup 3rd Qualifying Round tie. The Villagers had disposed of fellow Blue Square South side Weymouth in the previous round but there was no repeat as a Darren Edwards penalty and two Mark Badman goals saw City race into a 3-0 half-time lead. Slack pulled a goal back for the home side on the hour mark but Edwards’ second goal ensured there would be no comeback. The one pre-season meeting between the clubs in July 2005 ended more happily for Cleeve as a first-half strike gave them a single goal victory.

City are set to take a squad of 22-24 players to Gloucestershire with a different side playing each half. Amongst the players will be a number of trialists including former Bristol City and Port Vale defender Clayton Fortune. Two players who will probably not feature are Adam Connolly, as he continues his rehabilitation from a knee operation four weeks ago, and new signing Gary Mills, who is suffering from a minor hamstring injury.