March 2008

PREVIEW: Yeovil Town Reserves v CITY – Somerset Premier Cup Semi-Final (31/3/08)

City go into their first Somerset Premier Cup semi-final since the 2001-02 season with a trip to old foes Yeovil Town. Since the last meeting between the sides in an FA Cup tie in October 2002 their fortunes have headed in very different directions. That season the Glovers won the Vauxhall Conference to earn a place in the Football League and they currently are in League 1 having earned promotion to that level in 2005. Whilst City were battling to finally get out of the Southern League, Yeovil came within a play-off final victory of climbing to the 2nd tier of English football. Having beaten former European Champions Nottingham Forest in the semi-final they only missed out on promotion after a 2-0 defeat to Blackpool at Wembley Stadium. The current gulf between the sides means that for the first time it is Yeovil’s reserve side that City will face in this local cup competition.

Complete record against Yeovil Town

In total City have faced Yeovil on 269 occasions in their three different guises. The first ever meeting took place in 1901, when they were called Yeovil Casuals, at their Pen Mill Ground. It wasn’t until the sixth meeting between the sides that City avoided defeat, although after two successive victories they suffered a 12-0 reversal that remains the club’s record defeat. The Somerset side changed their name to Yeovil Town in 1907 but it wasn’t until after they merged with Petters United and joined the Western League in the early 1920’s that the two sides crossed paths again. They would now regularly meet each other in various competitions, and during the 1932-33 season they clashed an incredible ten times in six different competitions. Following World War II they dropped the Petters United part of their name to become Yeovil Town once again and for the next 57 years they would become City’s main rivals with many unforgettable encounters. It would be hard to find many – if any – of these meetings in the Somerset Premier (or Professional) Cup despite the sides facing each other 50 times in the competition. The most memorable meetings – although for the wrong reasons – took place during the 1986-87 season. It was at the semi-final stage, and after two draws – no penalty shoot-outs in those days – Yeovil won a second replay by two goals to one, Mickey Adams scoring City’s consolation. Bizarrely, the Glovers – who had fielded two ineligible players in the first replay but not been thrown out the cup by the Somerset FA – did the same again in the match they won. Understandably City protested, but by the time the Somerset FA ordered another replay the season was over and players were out of contract, so both sides refused to play and withdrew from the competition, handing the cup to Clevedon Town. The Somerset FA made various threats against the two clubs, including expulsion from the FA Cup, but with them standing firm the matter was soon forgotten.

This match will be the 36th time City have reached the semi-final stage and on 22 occasions they have progressed to the final, including five wins over their Somerset rivals. The last time they met at this stage of the competition was in 1993-94 and a Paul Chenoweth goal gave City a 1-0 victory that was their fourth win out of five encounters that season. These included a league double and an amazing FA Trophy where City came from two goals down to draw 3-3 at Huish Park before demolishing the Glovers 4-0 in the replay.

Yeovil’s reserve side ply their trade in the Wales & West Division of the Pontins Holiday Combination League and are currently in 2nd place, having lost 1-0 to league leaders Bristol City in their last game. To reach this stage of the Somerset Premier Cup they beat Western League side Frome Town by two goals to one. In common with previous rounds City are likely to rest a number of first team players, but both new loan signings Sam Foley and Aaron Ledgister are likely to start after their impressive cameo outings at Braintree Town on Saturday.

Play-offs hopes take a dip with Braintree defeat (30/3/08)

City’s play-off rollercoaster ride hit another dip yesterday with a 2-0 defeat against fellow contenders Braintree Town. In difficult windy and wet conditions City dominated the early stages of the game but too often their final pass or cross was poor and, against the run of play, they fell behind on 16 minutes through Burgess’ neat close range finish. City continued to look the better side but their failure to even test home keeper Morgan was to prove costly and within eleven minutes of the restart Hawes doubled the Iron’s advantage with a low shot from the edge of the box. The introduction of loan signings Aaron Ledgister and Sam Foley livened City up and they pressed Braintree back in the game’s closing stages, but despite several good chances they couldn’t even grab a consolation goal.

Double loan deal boosts squad ahead of Blue Square South play-off run-in (28/3/08)

City have brought in two players on loan from Coca-Cola League 1 side Cheltenham Town to boost their squad ahead of the final month of the season, that will decide their Blue Square South play-off fate. Midfielders Aaron Ledgister and Sam Foley have joined for the rest of the season and both go straight into the squad to face Braintree Town tomorrow. This will be Ledgister’s second taste of Blue Square South football having spent a month with Weston Super Mare earlier in the season, where he faced City in their 2-0 win at Woodspring Stadium.

A further new arrival is 18-year old defender Jamie Laird, signed on non-contract terms from Southern League side Bridgwater Town.

City have turned down an approach from Weston Super Mare for winger Mark Mckeever. The 29-year old has just returned from a loan spell at Mangotsfield United to regain match fitness after six weeks out with a broken rib and was back in the starting XI for Saturday’s win at Basingstoke Town. However, he is out of contract in the summer and looks set to join the Seagulls then as they are believed to have offered him a lucrative two-year deal.

City move scaffolding from back to front for 2008-09 season (28/3/08)

City have announced that next season’s main club sponsor will be SN Scaffolds. The Bath-based company, run by City fan and former youth team player Sean Noad, is already a sponsor of the club, with their name on the back of the team shirts and tracksuits, but for the next two seasons they take over from Tillys Bistro on the front of the shirts. SN Scaffolds was founded in 1984 and is currently located at on Windsor Bridge in Bath.

Play-off date changes promoted by Setanta television demands (27/3/08)

In a senario that could become a more common occurence if City find themselve in the Blue Square Premier next season, the dates of the Blue Square South play-offs have been changed to accomdate television coverage. The two-legged semi-final will now take place on Tuesday 29 April and Saturday 3 May, before the final on Thursday 8 May at a venue yet to be confirmed. The play-offs will take the usual format of 2nd v 5th and 3rd v 4th, with the lowest placed side home in the first leg. Now City just need to get into them.

PREVIEW: Braintree Town v CITY (27/3/08)

City make their longest away trip of the season to face Essex side Braintree Town with play-off hopes and confidence boosted by Easter Monday’s 4-0 victory at Basingstoke Town. However, they come face to face with a side in good form and also chasing one of the elusive four places that will earn an extension to the 2007-08 season. A play-off place had looked unlikely for the Iron during a large part of this season, despite starting the campaign as one of the title favourites. They got off to a poor start – winning, and scoring in, just one of their opening four games – and controversial manager George Borg was coming under increased pressure from fans. His position was not helped by being banned from the touchline for the whole of pre-season and first three weeks of the campaign for an incident during Braintree’s meeting with Havant & Waterlooville the previous season. He was finally relieved of his managerial duties in October to be replaced by former East Thurrock boss Lee Patterson and immediately their results improved, although a lack of goals meant they had struggled to rise above mid-table until the last month or so. Although their position was helped by the patchy form of the sides above them a run of four wins and a draw – including a very impressive 3-0 victory over title chasing Lewes – has lifted them to 8th place, just four points off the play-off positions, having played a game less than a number of other contenders.

Complete record against Braintree Town

City met Braintree for the first time in their history last month, when the sides battled out a goalless draw at Twerton Park. The game saw the visitors show little or no ambition to win the game and they should have headed back to Essex with no points but for a missed penalty by Lewis Hogg.

Braintree have played at their Cressing Road ground since 1923, bringing it up to Blue Square Premier standard in March 2007, but have plans to move to a brand new stadium. The proposed ground, which is at very early stages of planning, would be 1½ miles from Braintree town centre and include three pitches. The first as part of a 6,000 capacity stadium built to Football League requirements; the second built to Ridgeons League requirements for use by their reserve sides and as a training centre; and the third probably as an all weather surface for use by the Club and the community. Conference and banqueting facilities for weddings, parties, celebrations and community group events plus a new tennis club for racquet sports enthusiasts, would also make up the development.

In common with Cressing Road Stadium, which has undergone a number of major alterations during its history, the club itself has seen much change since it came into existence in 1898 as Manor Works FC, taking over from Braintree FC, who had folded, in the Essex Senior League. They were the works team of the Crittall Window Company – suppliers to the Titanic and once leading window makers in England – hence the nickname the Iron, which comes from the company’s iron window frames. To closer reflect the ties with the company they changed their name to Crittall Athletic two years before making Cressing Road their home. In 1968 they added Braintree to their name, becoming Braintree & Crittall Athletic, before links were ended with the company in 1981 and they adopted their current name (after a single season as just Braintree FC). The Crittall factory, which overlooked the club’s ground before being demolished in 2005, still adorns their badge.

Gilroy bags another hat-trick as City comfortably slay woeful Dragons (24/3/08)

Dave Gilroy’s fourth hat-trick of the season and a Lewis Hogg strike saw City beat Basingstoke Town 4-0 this afternoon to stay firmly in the Blue Square South play-off hunt. In a one-sided first half the home side were embarrassingly poor and City took full advantage of their inadequacies. It took just ten minutes to go ahead, Gilroy latching onto Darren Edwards’ pass to lift the ball over poorly positioned keeper Jones. Eleven minutes the same two players combined again and City’s top scorer went to 20 goals for the season with another perfectly executed lob. The game was effectively over as a contest a minute before the half-hour mark when Hogg took advantage of a poor clearance by Bristow to fire a left-foot shot into the net via a post. The second half was largley uneventful, although Paul Evans did produce a stunning double save from Charles to deny the Dragons a late consolation, but with two minutes remaining a rare burst into the box by Steve Jones saw him upended by Wells to allow Gilroy to complete his hat-trick from the penalty spot.

PREVIEW: Basingstoke Town v CITY (23/3/08)

City travel to managerless Basingstoke Town tomorrow knowing that, after the Good Friday draw with Havant & Waterlooville, nothing less than a victory is required to keep them in the Blue Square South play-off hunt. And they couldn’t meet the Hampshire side at a better time as they go through a testing spell both on and off the pitch. Having spent the first half of the season on the periphery of the play-off positions a run of just two league wins in their last sixteen outings has seen them slide down the table to their current position of 15th. Events off the pitch mirrored the club’s on-field struggles as the players and management were asked to take a 20% wage cut in January. They refused to accept this cut but at the beginning of this month manager Frances Vines was ordered to release three non-contract players, including first-choice goalkeeper Chris Tardif, plus a member of his coaching staff. Former Woking and Crawley Town boss Vines initially appeared to reluctantly accept this move, however a couple of days later he tended his resignation and looked set to depart the Camrose at the end of this season. When Basingstoke then suffered a 4-1 defeat against struggling St Albans City the board decided that Vines would have to go sooner than that and he was sacked. His assistant, Steve Richardson, was appointed caretaker manager and it seems unlikely that they will apply a permanent successor to Vines until the season is over.

Complete record against Basingstoke Town

This game will be City’s fifth visit to the Camrose Ground and all four previous meetings have ended in draws, a scoreline that will be of little use to them this time around. The first of these came back in September 1972 in a Southern League 1st Division South clash. City had been relegated from the Premier Division the previous season while Basingstoke were in just their second campaign at this level having spent 70 years in the Hampshire League. Under new manager Dave Burnside, and playing in a non-black and white kit for the first time in their history (instead they wore blue and white stripes – co-incidentally the colours of Burnside’s first love West Bromwich Albion), City would have had strong hopes of an immediate return to the top flight but a 1-1 draw at Basingstoke, top scorer Colin Norman grabbing City’s goal, did little to further these ambitions and they finished the season in 7th position. The next season City did return to the Premier Division, finishing runner-up to Wealdstone, but they could only repeat the result at Basingstoke, this time two Pete Harman goals seeing the game finish 2-2.

The clubs would not meet again for 23 years until they were drawn together in the 2nd Qualifying Round of the FA Cup. City were back in the Southern League, having been relegated from the Vauxhall Conference the previous year, and Basingstoke were by now plying their trade in the Ryman League, having moved across during the mid-1980’s. Despite Mike Davis giving them a 4th minute lead they were happy to head back to Bath still in the competition after the home levelled early in the second half and only a man-of-the-match performance from keeper Mark Hervin kept the scores level. There was no such escape in the replay as the Dragons won 3-1 to embark on a run that only ended against Northampton Town in the 2nd Round proper after a penalty shoot-out in front of the Sky Sports cameras. Three years later the sides meet again at the same stage of the FA Cup, this time it was a Jon Holloway strike, after City had trailed at the interval through a goal from ex-City star and current Chippenham Town manager Adie Mings, that ensured once again the game finished level. This time it was City who were victorious in the replay, although only through extra-time goals from Mike Davis and Graham McLean.

That was the last time the clubs met until earlier this season when Basingstoke inflicted City’s first home defeat of the season, heading back to Hampshire on the right end of the 1-0 scoreline. Tomorrow’s game could be the final outing of the season for midfielder Lewis Hogg. His red card against Havant on Saturday, the second time he’s been dismissed this season, means he is facing a four match ban on top of the three game suspension that begin’s next Saturday for picking up 15 bookings this season. Unless City reach the play-off’s and/or Somerset Premier Cup final that ban will cover their remaining seven league matches.

Havant show Premier League ‘class’ in holding City to Twerton draw (22/3/08)

One of the most inept refereeing performances seen at Twerton Park this season played a part yesterday in denying City a much needed victory against Havant & Waterlooville. Mr Coggins had already baffled both sides with his decisions but it was the 67th minute sending off Lewis Hogg that left such a sour taste in the mouth. It seems Hogg’s reputation goes before him now as his late, though in no way malicious, tackle on Watkins warranted, at worst, a yellow card. However, the referee was immediately surrounded by Havant players – showing they had learned at least one thing from their FA Cup meeting against Liverpool – and the clueless official brandished a red card. After this similar challenges and elbows from the visitors went unpunished as they realised they were exempt from any action by Mr Coggins. The game itself had seen City – with the gusting wind behind them – warrantedly lead at half-time when Darren Edwards charged down keeper Scriven’s 24th minute weak free-kick to cross for Dave Gilroy to head home from close range. Havant levelled on 63 minutes through a well-struck Poate shot that gave Paul Evans no chance. City kept looking for a win even after Hogg’s dismissal but it was Havant who came closest to grabbing the three points late on when Watkins – now miraculously recovered from the agony he was in after Hogg’s challenge – headed Collins’ cross toward goal only for Evans to produce a stunning low save and earn a deserved draw despite Mr Coggins’ ‘best’ efforts.

City recall Walsh & McKeever but miss out on Easter signing (20/3/08)

City have recalled Phil Walsh and Mark McKeever from loan spells at Tiverton Town and Mangotsfield United respectively to boost their threadbare squad ahead of a make-or-break play-offs Easter weekend. However, hopes of strengthening further have been put off until next week after they failed to bring in any new faces, despite holding talks with a number of Football League clubs over four or five potential signings. Walsh will go straight into the squad to face Havant & Waterlooville tomorrow, although McKeever is unlikely to feature until Monday after picking up a knee injury at Cossham Street.

City have recieved a boost with the news that Scott Rogers may play again this season despite picking up a hairline fracture of his ankle in last week’s draw at Hampton & Richmond Borough. It was thought the injury would keep him out for the rest of the campaign but following the removal of the plaster cast he has been told that he could be back in action in a soon as two weeks time.

Luke Prince has ended his loan spell with City after a disappointing two months at Twerton Park. Clearly lacking match fitness the Salisbury City winger made five starts and three substitute appearances. He has immediately started another loan spell, this time with Southern League side Chippenham Town.

PREVIEW: CITY v Havant & Waterlooville (18/3/08)

Good Friday sees City welcome to Twerton Park a side who became, for a few weeks in January 2008, the most well known non-league side in the country … probably. Havant & Waterlooville achieved the dream of all non-league clubs when they embarked on an FA Cup run that only ended with a 4th Round tie against Liverpool at Anfield. Entering the competition at the 2nd Qualifying Round they recorded a couple of narrow wins over local opposition in the shape of Bognor Regis Town and Fleet Town before a more comfortable 3-0 victory against Leighton Town carried the Hawks into the 1st Round proper. Their run began to pick up some momentum with a 1-0 win at Blue Square Premier side York City and they then repeated this scoreline at Coca-Cola League 2 Notts County to reach the 3rd Round of the competition for the first time in their history. The draw for this round was not kind as they missed out on Premiership opposition to be drawn against League 1 leaders Swansea City. In front of less than 400 Havant supporters they were outclassed for 75 minutes, although importantly the Swans could only score once despite their domination. When a disgraceful two-footed tackle by Poate reduced the Hawks to ten men it looked as if their run would end in controversial exit. However, with the Swan’s Tate also red-cared in the aftermath of the incident, Havant were still in with a chance and a Baptiste strike three minutes from time took the game to a replay.

Bizarrely due to different rules operating in non-league and Football League, Swansea’s Tate was suspended for the replay but Poate was free to play and the injustice of this anomaly was made clear when the latter was involved in Havant’s opening two goals. A missed penalty and three late strikes against the woodwork by Swansea followed and Havant could celebrate a final scoreline of 4-2 and a trip to Anfield. If they thought that would be the end of the controversy they were to be mistaken. In an attempt to avoid left-back Gregory missing the Liverpool game due to suspension they brought their league match with Thurrock forward a week, using the excuse that it would avoid fixture congestion later in the season. Showing unusual prescience the FA saw through this lame excuse and increased Gregory’s ban to two games. Ironically the Thurrock game – which Havant tried to return to its original date once it was clear it wouldn’t help Gregory – was abandoned after just 19 minutes due to floodlight failure. So, after all this controversy Havant travelled to Liverpool and, after leading the game twice, lost 5-2 to the once-great Premiership club – their travelling support now increased to 6000.

One of the hero’s of the Hawks FA Cup run was centre-back (and former City target) Tom Jordan, scoring the fourth goal in the Swansea replay. However, it is off the field that he has cast another shadow over the South Coast side. For what seems like ever he has been the transfer target of local Blue Square South rivals Eastleigh, where former Hawks manager Ian Baird is now in charge. Whilst Jordan has made it clear that he wants to leave Westleigh Park the increasingly petty squabbling between the two clubs has meant that he remains a Havant player, although he has not featured in their starting XI for over six weeks.

Complete record against Havant & Waterlooville/Waterlooville FC

Understandably the FA Cup run has meant they have played fewer league games than most Blue Square South sides and currently sit in 11th place, although only five points off the play-off positions. Off the back of the Liverpool match they won six out of eight league games but having taken just a point from their last two games, the increasingly tight race for a play-off spot may mean them missing out this season. However, with an estimated £750,000 banked from the cup run, next season expectation will be huge that they can take the league by storm. When City met them earlier this season they were unfortunate to end up on the wrong end of a 1-0 defeat, which ended a run of three successive victories for City.

Play-off hopes suffer set-back with Fisher defeat (15/3/08)

Despite a rare Sekani Simpson goal City’s play-off hopes were dented this afternoon with a 2-1 defeat against Fisher Athletic. Although City had legitimate complaints about both of the Fish’s goals their performance deserved little from the game. The home side’s patient passing game had controlled proceedings before they went ahead on 30 minutes through Batt’s low shot, though the goalscorer had clearly fouled Jason Wood in the build-up to the goal. And it got worse for City three minutes before the interval when Thomas bundled home Goulding’s flick despite looked several yards offside. City had created virtually nothing offensively in the first half but within six minutes of the restart Wood’s cross was superbly headed home by Simspson to get them back into the game. This clearly stunned the hosts and they suddenly looked nervous and lost their fluidity but despite this City failed to capitalise. In fact, on a couple of occasions swift breaks could have restored Fisher’s two-goal advantage. Even when they were forced to play the last five minutes plus nearly ten minutes of stoppage time with an outfield player in goal, after keeper Overland fell awkwardly and seemed to dislocate his shoulder, City could not take advantage to grab a point from the game.

PREVIEW: Fisher Athletic v CITY (14/3/08)

City’s threadbare squad goes into another vital Blue Square South match tomorrow against fellow play-off hopefuls Fisher Athletic. After two successive draws against Lewes and Hampton & Richmond Borough, City are desperately in need of a three point haul to keep themselves firmly at the heart of the increasingly crowded race for the post- season games and a possible place in the Blue Square Premier. They will come face to face with a Fisher side in even more need of a victory having lost their last two outings – 3-2 at mid-table Cambridge City and 4-0 against title challengers Eastbourne Borough – to leave them down in ninth place, although still only two points off the play-off positions. These back to back losses came after a run of just one defeat in twelve league games that lifted the Fish back into the play-off hunt. They got the 2007-08 season off to an excellent start, winning their opening three games, before just four more wins in their next seventeen games left them around mid-table. However, a 4-2 win over Havant & Waterlooville in December seemed to kick-start their season again and the predominantly young team were soon back amongst the top sides. Star of their season has been 23-year old forward Jeff Goulding. The former Reading & Crystal Palace trainee joined Fisher from Yeading in December 2006 and was soon attracting interest from a number of League clubs. Watford, Leyton Orient, Gillingham and Millwall have all taken the 10-goal striker on trial in the last month and a switch to professional football looks a strong possibility. Goulding also received a late call-up for the England C squad, making his debut as a second half substitute in their 2-1 win over Wales last month.

Complete record against Fisher Athletic

During their good run Fisher beat City by a single goal at Twerton Park in January. The deciding strike came from the penalty spot – after they had missed an earlier spot kick- and continued the Fish’s good record against City. This game was the seventh meeting between the sides and City have won just two of those, losing the other five. The only victory at Fisher came during the 1990-91 season, City’s first back in the Vauxhall Conference after their relegation two seasons earlier. City went into the game in October winless, having taken just three points from their opening ten games, and sitting at the foot of the table. However, they finally broke their duck with a convincing 3-0 win through a Paul Randall strike – his first goal since the opening game of the season – and a John Freegard brace. This turned out to be City’s only away league win that season, although it was the Fish who ended the campaign at the foot of the table and relegated back to the Ryman League, whilst City finished in 20th position to retain their Conference place.

This match took place at the Surry Docks Stadium, which was Fisher’s home from 1982 until 2004 when the departed the ground – which is on the London Marathon course (and I bet I’m one of the few runners who have looked out for the Stadium as they pass it around the nine mile point) – to allow for it’s redevelopment. The aim was to bring it up to Football League standards initially in time for this season. This was put back until the 2009-10 season and planning permission was obtained for a £30 million redevelopment, with houses, shops and a gym on the site. However, in November 2007 the club announced that it would prefer to move to a new 10,000 seat stadium on the site of the athletics track in Southwark Park. The plan is to build a state-of-the-art £35 million stadium as a centre for sports and entertainment which would be completed within three years if it was given the green light. The stadium would be three storeys high but only one storey above ground level. Car parking would be underground and the storey above would be covered in grass with an open roof, giving the appearance of a sloping hill from a distance. A few weeks later the club released the first images of the new stadium, but given that neither look remotely like a football ground – one looks like the front view of a library and the other a park (although this is no doubt aimed at showing how the stadium will blend into it’s surroundings) – it shows how little advanced the plans appear to be.

Since leaving the Surry Docks Stadium, Fisher have played their home games at Dulwich Hamlet’s Champion Hill Stadium. The ground sits on the same site as its much larger predecessor, which was formerly one of the biggest amateur grounds in England, with attendances often reaching 20,000 and beyond. However, when Dulwich Hamlet fell on hard times during the 1980’s the ground drifted into disrepair and much of the land they owned was sold for development of a Sainsbury’s supermarket. The subsequent stadium – built in 1993 – was previously the training pitch before the 1980’s.

Family illness sees Scott Partridge depart Twerton Park (13/3/08)

Scott Partridge may have played his last game for City after the club agreed to cancel the remainder of his contract to allow him to spend time with his ill mother. The 33-year old striker, who has scored 78 goals in 170 appearances for City, was out of contract in the summer and has missed most of this season due to a neck injury he picked against Hitchin Town last February. Although Partridge has not indicated his plans beyond this season the club are likely to discuss his future during the summer.

Rogers out for the rest of season after breaking bone in ankle (13/3/08)

Midfielder Scott Rogers will miss the rest of the season after breaking a bone in his ankle toward the end of Tuesday’s goalless draw at Hampton & Richmond Borough. He limped off with ten minutes remaining and had the extent of the problem confirmed the next day. With Adie Harris suspended for the next two matches, plus the departure of Scott Partridge, his absence will leave City’s squad down to it’s bare bones as the season reaches it’s climax. City are likely to recall two players currently out on loan – Mark McKeever and Phil Walsh from Mangotsfield United and Tiverton Town, respectively.

City could also be without keeper Paul Evans for Saturday’s trip to Fisher Athletic after his heavily-pregnant wife was rushed to hospital earlier in the week. Steve Perrin is on standby again.

Hampton & Richmond stalemate does little for play-off ambitions (12/3/08)

City and Hampton & Richmond battled out a goalless draw at the Beveree Stadium last night that will have pleased the other Blue Sqaure South play-off chasing sides more than the two clubs involved. Despite the recent stormy weather the game was played in cold but reasonably calm conditions on a good pitch, but apart from occasional spells in the first half there was little in the way of quality football to warm the small crowd. City shaded the first period – Dave Gilroy hooking a close range shot just wide on 17 minutes the best chance of the half – with late call-up keeper Steve Perrin, regular no.1 Paul Evans was missing due to family illness, little more than a spectator. After the interval the game descended into a turgid affair with neither team looking like a Blue Square Premier side in the making. However, the home side should have grabbed all three points with the last kick (header) of the game when a deep cross found an unmarked Harper at the far post but he headed the great chance wide, leaving City slightly relieved to have gained the point that lifted them back to 6th place.

PREVIEW: Hampton & Richmond Borough v CITY (10/3/08)

After the confidence boosting draw with league leaders Lewes on Saturday, City go into another tough match as they make a third attempt to face play-off rivals Hampton & Richmond Borough at the Beveree Stadium. The match was first due to take place on November 10 but Hampton’s continued involvement in the FA Cup meant it was rearranged for January 15 only for a waterlogged pitch to cause its postponement. The Beavers currently sit three places and four points above 7th place City, with an identical current form record of two wins, two draws and two losses from their last six outings. Whilst City were left largely content with their point from Saturday’s meeting with Lewes, Hampton will have been much less happy with the same haul from the 2-2 draw at Weston Super Mare two days ago. Leading 2-0 at half-time against a side who had only won once in their last sixteen league outings they would have expected to strengthen their hold on a play-off position. However, Domoraud’s cross-shot pulled a goal back for the Seagulls early in the second half and, just when it appeared the away side would hang on for the vital win; Powell fired home a last minute equaliser.

Even with the minor set-back the Beavers are still in a strong position to secure a play-off spot in their first Blue Square South season. In common with City they soon adapted to life in a higher league, losing just three of their opening twenty league games. One of these defeats, of course, came at Twerton Park in August, when goals from Matt Coupe and Mark McKeever gave City a comfortable 2-0 win in what was the first ever meeting between the clubs.

Complete record against Hampton & Richmond Borough

After this impressive run their form has been patchier with four losses in their last twelve games, including a 2-1 defeat at rock-bottom side Sutton United. As with many sides at this stage of the season injuries and suspensions have taken their toll. There was also some off the pitch uncertainty back in late 2007 following the departure of non-executive chairman David Cole in September. As the club’s major backer and first-team shirt sponsor Cole had largely bankrolled their rise to the Blue Square South but when his company MEM Retail Marketing went into liquidation he was asked to leave the club. This followed quickly on the heels of the recent departures of company secretary Nick Hornsey, director Bob Hayes and press secretary Les Rance, and, as Cole was a close friend of manager Alan Devonshire, the former West Ham United star’s future at the Beveree Stadium was put in doubt. However, club president Alan Simpson agreed to finance the club while they looked for fresh investors and, despite rumours linking him with then manager-less Sutton, Devonshire remains in charge at the Beavers.

In common with City, Hampton are having to spend money on bringing their Beveree Stadium home up to the required standard. It is reported that the ground, where the club has played since 1959, needs around £25,000 of improvements by the March 31 deadline.

City drawn to face old rivals in Somerset Premier Cup semi-final (10/3/08)

City face a trip to Huish Park for the first time since 2002 after they were paired with Yeovil Town in the semi-final of the Somerset Premier Cup. Although technically it is the Coca-Cola League 1 side’s reserve team, the game will revive memories of the rivalry the club’s enjoyed before the Glovers won promotion to the Football League in 2003. They have met an incredible 269 times, the most recent of these in October 2002 when despite a goal from Adrian Foster, City suffered a 3-1 defeat in a 4th Qualifying Round FA Cup tie. The match will take place on Tuesday 1 April (ko 7.45pm).

City’s possible involvement in the final of the Somerset Premier Cup has seen them bring their final home league match of the season against Thurrock forward a week. This game was scheduled for Tuesday 22 April – having already been switched from the following Saturday to accomodate the end of season play-offs – but will now take place on Tuesday 15 April (ko 7.45pm) to avoid clashing with the final of the county cup competition. Even if City lose against Yeovil Town in the semi-final the Thurrock match will still remain on the 15th.

League leaders unpleasant antics overcome as City prove a point (8/3/08)

City drew one-all with Blue Square South leaders Lewes at a wet and windy Twerton Park this afternoon. As expected the odds-on favourite’s for the title proved to be unpleasant visitors, disputing every decision and constantly haranguing the officials, but City rose above these antics and with more composure in front of goal could have won the game. The opening ten minutes saw the Rooks’ more palatable side as Paul Evans produced a stunning one-handed save from Ide’s point-blank header on four minutes. Four minutes later though Evans was beaten when Jim Rollo defelcted Drury’s header into the net. This blow woke City up and within four minutes they were level, Chris Holland heading down a Lewis Hogg free-kick for Scott Rogers to lash the ball into the roof of the net. Dave Gilroy then saw a shot cleared off the line after Lewes keeper Williams spilled Darren Edwards shot and Holland had a header tipped over. Evans had to be at his best again to block Ide’s deflected shot before half-time. However, he was largely a spectator for the second half as City dominated the game and the visitors became more and more obnoxious – clearly taking their lead from the touchline behaviour of manager Steve King. Unfortunately City could not shut them up in the best manner, Gilory wasting their best chance firing over when clear in the box. Lewes had won their last three outings with late goals but it was City who came closest to grabbing a deserved victory in stoppage time when Scott Partridge’s far post header was gratefully claimed by Williams just under the bar.

PREVIEW: CITY v Lewes (6/3/08)

With a painful sense of inevitability City come face to face with the odds-on favourites for the Blue Square South title during their poorest run of form this season. Whilst they have managed just three wins in their last nine outings, all against sides struggling near the foot of the table, Lewes has been reasserting themselves at the head of the table after a small blip that threatened to hand the initiative to title rivals Eastbourne Borough. Successive home defeats against Hampton & Richmond Borough and Bognor Regis Town plus a goalless draw at Maidenhead saw them slip to second place behind their East Sussex rivals. However, they were soon back in pole position with three victories in a row against Bishop’s Stortford, Newport County and Thurrock, although they left it late in all three games scoring the winning goals in the 86th, 89th (plus another two minutes later) and 95th minutes respectively. With Eastbourne’s surprise home defeat against Cambridge City and reversal at in-form Havant & Waterlooville, Lewes now sit four points clear at the top of the table and look almost certain to be playing Blue Square Premier Division football next season.

With the on-field position seemingly looking sound the only concern for Rooks fans would be whether or not their Dripping Pan home is brought up to the necessary standard required for promotion. Any doubts they harbour would be understandable as twice in the last three seasons they have been denied a play-off place due to the inadequacies of the ground. This time around though with three-quarters the ground redeveloped, including a new main stand and terracing behind each goal, it would seem they are nearly there. Although one side of the ground is still a grass bank – that forces players to jump over the perimeter fence to retrieve the ball as it is deemed too dangerous to even place ball boys on – and the floodlights appear to be powered by candlelight, the club’s manager Steve King has assured their supporters that they will reach the required grading.

Complete record against Lewes

If City’s play-off ambitions and chance to topple the league leaders are not sufficient incentives to get a positive result on Saturday, they need only look to the meeting between the sides back in December for a further motivation. Whilst City could have few complaints about losing by a single goal in the first ever meeting between the sides it was the antics and attitude of the Rooks that left a bad taste in the mouth. Unfortunately, the harsh dismissal of Justyn McKay midway through the second half handed the moral high ground to Lewes, but it failed to disguise the unpleasant streak that appeared to run through their side. On the pitch this showed itself in the constant haranguing of the officials that would have embarrassed a Barclay’s Premier League side plus overreacting and play-acting to get opponents in trouble. It was clear that this behaviour originated from manager King as his touchline antics led to a final whistle confrontation with City assistant boss Adie Britten. And reports from other Blue Square South clubs show that this behaviour was far from a one-off but, of course, with the side sitting in such a strong position it is easy to argue the end justifies the means. To finish on a positive note I think Lewes’ badge is the smartest in the division.

Stunning Wood strike enough to ensure Somerset Premier Cup progress (5/3/08)

City progressed to the last four of the Somerset Premier Cup last night with a single goal victory over Western League Division 1 side Shepton Mallet. The deciding goal came midway through the first half when Jason Wood fired home a stunning 30-yard shot that was very much out of character for the rest of the low key game. The hosts deserve credit for never letting City settle but they rarely stretched their backline, only a deflected shot in the closing minutes giving the visiting fans a nervous moment that the game might go into extra-time. By contrast City wasted a number of chances to record a bigger victory, in particular during the second half, although none fell to Martin Paul looking for the goal to make him City’s second all-time top goalscorer. City’s cause was not helped having to play the majority of the second half with ten men when Sekani Simpson limped off after they had already made their three substitutions.

Havant clash brought forward to allow for longer Easter break (4/3/08)

City’s Blue Square South Easter game against Havant & Waterlooville has been brought forward a day by mutual agreement of both clubs to Good Friday, 21st March, retaining the 3pm kick off time. Both clubs opted to have an additional 24 hours between the Easter weekend fixtures, with City facing a trip to crisis-club Basingstoke Town on the Monday and the Hawks home to play-off rivals Newport County.

PREVIEW: Shepton Mallet v CITY – Somerset Premier Cup Quarter Final (3/3/08)

City take a break from their Blue Square South play-off hunt with a trip to Somerset to face Shepton Mallet in the quarter-finals of the Somerset Premier Cup. This will be the first time they have faced the Western League club in their current set-up, although they have played them competitively in a previous incarnation three times previously. The first of these clashes was an FA Amateur Cup 1st Qualifying Round in 1907 before two slightly more recent encounters during the 1980’s. The first of these was in the 1st Qualifying Round of the FA Cup, where goals from Dave Singleton (2), Peter Hayes and Ricky Chandler eased City into the next round. The most recent game, like tomorrow’s match, was a Somerset Premier Cup quarter-final, although this tie took place at Twerton Park. In front of 169 hardy souls a Paul Bodin hat-trick was the highlight of the 5-1 victory that helped City on their way to winning the competition.

Complete record against Shepton Mallet Town

This game took place during the 1985-86 season and at the end of that campaign Shepton Mallet Town went into liquidation, not surprisingly given the on-field struggles of the club that had seen them win just eight league games in the previous two seasons. They reformed under the name Shepton Mallet FC and joined the Somerset Senior League, taking over their reserve side’s place in Division 2. It took the club 15 years to return to the Western League (unlike a certain nameless club not a million miles from here, who were just handed a place in the league), winning the Somerset Senior League Premier Division in 2000-01. After two top ten finishes in 2001-02 and 2002-03 they have struggled, finishing in the bottom three for the last four seasons, including a bottom spot in 2004-05. This season they have improved and currently lie in 9th place with 14 wins and 14 defeats from their 30 league matches. To reach this stage of the Somerset Premier Cup they had an excellent 2-1 away win at Premier Division Chard in the 1st Round before beating Welton Rovers by the same scoreline in the 2nd Round.

The competition represents City’s last realistic chance of silverware this season but given their recent record this shouldn’t be stocking up on the Brasso quite yet. The success in 1985-86 that followed their win over Shepton Mallet Town was one of seven in the 1980’s, however after also lifting the trophy in 1993-94 and 1994-95 it is now twelve seasons since they won the competition. Only once in those barren years have they even reached the final – losing 3-2 to Bristol City at Clevedon Town’s Hand Stadium in 1999-2000 – and they have been on the wrong end of a number of embarrassing defeats in that time. The most infamous of these took place during the 2002-03 season when they faced a local derby against Western League side Odd Down. Despite fielding a full-strength line-up and twice leading at 1-0 and 3-2 an injury time equaliser took the game into extra-time – where City also missed a penalty – and with three minutes remaining Odd Down struck again to record a shock 4-3 victory. Putting this defeat into perspective, four days later City’s reserve side faced the same opposition in a Western League game. As punishment for the cup loss manager Alan Pridham made the same players turn out for the second string side – it was a free Saturday for the first team – and this time City ran out 6-1 winners (although not before they’d gone a goal down).

The game tomorrow could see a small piece of City history with Martin Paul likely to return to play from his spell with Chippenham Town, needing just one goal to become City’s all-time second highest goalscorer. He is currently level with Paul Randall on 112 goals, and one of just four players to have scored over 100 times for the club, but still remains a long way behind the top scorer, Charlie Fleming who scored 216 goals in his 300 appearances for City.

City left feeling sick by heavy Hayes & Yeading defeat (1/3/08)

With a number of players suffering the after effects of the stomach bug that hit the camp during the week City crashed to their biggest defeat of the season this afternoon 3-0 at Hayes & Yeading United. The impressive home side struck the bar twice in the opening fifteen minutes as the pattern of the match was established early. City should have had a penalty on 20 minutes when Collins blocked Scott Partridge’s shot with an arm but United were soon on the offensive again, Sekani Simpson clearing off the line after Paul Evans blocked Knight’s effort. The opening goal finally arrived after 29 minutes when Scott’s free-kick beat Evans at his near post. Dave Gilory wasted a great chance to equaliser straight from the restart and three minutes before the interval Scott struck again – this time from the penalty spot after Scott Rogers had bundled over Palmer. City never looked likely to find a way back into the game as they had against the same opposition at Twerton Park when two goals down and the hosts made sure of the win in the 69th minute when a wind-assisted goal kick allowed Palmer to slide the ball past a stranded Evans.