City squandered a two-goal lead against relegation strugglers Thurrock at Twerton Park this evening to drop two points in their quest for a play-off place. After a forgettable first half it took City less than a minute after the restart to go ahead when Stuart Douglas lifted the ball past the visitors keeper Woolley. Nine minutes later Lewis Hogg waltzed though the Thurrock defence to net his first goal since August and the game looked safe. Even when with 13 minutes left Hughes shot through a crowded box to make it 2-1, City still looked in control and this was further strengthened when the goalscorer was sent off for a second bookable offence. However, with the game three minutes into the four of stoppage time a long ball forward dropped behind Martin Slocombe and Orilonishe slid it past Paul Evans to cap a remarkable comeback.
City have signed left-sided player Ronayne Marsh-Brown as they go into the final four weeks of the season still chasing a play-off place. The much travelled 24-year old has spent the 2007-08 season with Blue Square South rivals Dorchester Town before departing the Avenue Stadium ten days ago. He played for Southern League side Wincester City on Saturday but goes straight into City’s squad to face Thurrock this evening with both Jim Rollo and Martin Slocombe struggling to overcome knocks. However, he will miss three of City’s seven remaining matches due to a suspension picked up for a red card in his final game at Dorchester.
City begin a run off six successive Twerton Park outings tomorrow night with Thurrock making the long trip from Essex to the West Country. Despite the season being less than four weeks from its conclusion this is the first meeting between the sides – the original date was cancelled during the January cold spell – with the return match at Ship Lane taking place on the final Saturday of the 2008-09 Blue Square South campaign. Both sides could still have everything to play for then with City currently just keeping in touch with the final play-off place and the Fleet in a desperate battle to avoid finishing in the relegation zone.
City’s play-off hopes looked dead and buried following their three consecutive 1-0 defeats against relegation struggling opponents at the end of February and beginning of March, but wins over Havant & Waterlooville, Newport County and Basingstoke Town plus a draw with Bromley has kept fifth place just about in view. This ten from twelve point haul has left them in 7th place, nine points behind faltering Chelmsford City. Realistically they are the only side City could overhaul, making the Thurrock game even more vital as it is their game in hand over the Clarets before the two sides meet in City’s final home league game of the season on April 18. One team City do not have to concern themselves with is current sixth-placed Maidenhead United after they announced they would not be able to complete in the play-offs. The cash-strapped Magpies had applied for a grant to enable them to install the extra seating required to bring York Street up to necessary standard but this was turned down, leaving them with no option but to suspend the plans. There have also been various rumours circulating about whether Hampton & Richmond Borough will be allowed to compete in the play-offs due to the amount of seating at their Beveree Stadium home. Last season they installed temporary seats to take place in the play-offs – they lost in the final to Eastbourne Borough – but this loophole has been closed and the silence has been deafening from Hampton over whether they have permission to put in permanent seats.
So, whilst City’s attention is concentrated on the play-off places, Thurrock are concerned with avoiding finishing in the third relegation spot and possible relegation back to the Ryman League. Although in the previous four seasons of the Blue Square South not once have the side finishing in 20th place been relegated the Fleet will not want to take the risk of becoming the first to suffer this fate. They currently trail 19th placed Dorchester Town by six points but have two games in hand over the Dorset side. They have only won once in their last 18 games – a 2-1 victory over Fisher Athletic – although they held in-form St Albans City to a goalless draw on Saturday.
Complete record against Thurrock
Last season saw the clubs meet on three occasions, with City recording a 2-0 and 3-1 victory at Twerton Park in the FA Trophy and Blue Square South respectively, in between going down to a single goal defeat at Ship Lane.
City dropped two points this afternoon in a 1-1 draw with Bromley but other results meant they moved up to 7th place, one point nearer the play-off positions. City should have really had the game won by half-time as they dominated proceedings but failed to convert this into goals. Twice they struck the woodwork, Darren Edwards heading an Ali Gibb cross against the post and Adam Connolly crashing a shot against the bar. City had a couple of nervy momments toward the end of the half and within two minutes of the restart they fell behind when Paul Evans could only parry a low skidding Chabaan shot into the path of Harding for a simple tap-in. They were only behind for three minutes though as Mark Badman celebrated his 50th appearance for City with his first goal, hooking the ball into the net from just inside the area. Connolly was then denied by keeper Williams as City took advantage of the wind at their backs but as this dropped so did their control of the game and it was the hosts who finished the game strongly. The closest they came to grabbing a winner was when top scorer McBean hit the bar from just eight yards out. Elsewhere Welling United’s defeat to Maidenhead United – who will not be allowed to enter the play-offs due to ground grading issues – saw City move up to 7th place and Chelmsford City’s 2-0 reversal against Team Bath means they are now nine points off the vital 5th position.
City’s home match against Bishop’s Stortford has been arranged for Tuesday 7 April (ko 7.45pm).
Adie Britton will host a Meet the Manager evening at Twerton Park on Thursday 23 April starting at 7.30pm.
City travel to Kent on Saturday where they will look to make it four wins in a row against mid-table Bromley. The victories over Havant & Waterlooville, Newport County and Basingstoke Town have kept their season alive but they are reaching the point where any more slip-ups will extinguish the flickering flame of the play-off hopes. The Lilywhites currently sit in 11th position after another season that has been characterised by inconsistent league form. An early season 5-1 hammering of Eastleigh suggested they would be amongst the play-off chasing pack, and they followed this up with a single goal win at title challengers Chelmsford City. However, in between these two impressive wins they suffered defeats against then struggling Braintree Town and Newport County. Their record since the turn of the year sums up their season, with six wins, six defeats and two draws.
In their last outing they triumphed 1-0 over Bishop’s Stortford thanks to a goal from striker Warren McBean. This was the former Barnet youth player’s 18th strike of the season and he has been the major success at Hayes Lane this campaign. After progressing through the ranks at Underhill, where he was part of the squad that won promotion to the Football League in 2005, he then spent a season with Farnborough Town before joining Sutton United in May 2006. He was the U’s top scorer for the next two seasons but after they were relegated back to the Ryman League in May 2008 he switched to Bromley. He has enjoyed his last two appearances against City, netting a brace in both games. It was while still in the brown and yellow of already-relegated Sutton that he grabbed the first of these, when the sides met in the penultimate league game of last season. After a Sam Foley strike had cancelled out an early Sutton goal, McBean took over beating Paul Evans from 10 yards before a stunning solo effort made it 3-1. Despite Phil Walsh pulling a goal back shortly after the break the visitors held on for the win that ultimately cost City a play-off place.
Complete record against Bromley
This season it took him just two minutes to continue his scoring streak against City, turning the ball home from close range after a long throw was flicked on to him. He then turned provider to set up I’Anson to make it 2-0 midway through the first half. His second goal came after the interval, following up a shot against the bar for a simple tap-in. Adam Connolly’s late goal – currently his only strike for the club – was nothing more than a consolation as Bromley recorded their first win over City. The sides had drawn both of last season meetings – the first ever clashes between the clubs. Bromley and City were making their debut in the Blue Square South – having won the Ryman League and Southern League respectively the previous season – in August 2007 when they lined up against each other at Hayes Lane. Williams looked to have won the game for Bromley when he put them ahead with just nine minutes remaining but in stoppage Chris Holland fired home to grab a point. In the return match Bromley again scored first – McDonnell netting on 13 minutes – before City levelled 16 minutes later thanks to Dave Gilroy’s low shot.
City go into the game definitely missing Lewis Hogg (suspended) and Richard Evans (broken jaw), and have doubts over Mark Badman (groin), Martin Slocombe (thigh), Stuart Douglas (head), Chris Holland (calf), Matt Coupe (knee) and Adam Connolly (knee and ankle). These problems mean City have suspended their usual training session this evening and could see Ali Gibb make his long-awaited first start in a City shirt.
City made it three wins in a row this evening with a 1-0 success over relegation strugglers Basingstoke Town at a cold and damp Twerton Park. Darren Edwards headed the decisive goal after just seven minutes but it was a strangely lethargic performance from City, especially after they had enjoyed a rare free weekend. Visiting keeper Kitteridge had already looked shaky and when he completely misjudged Sekani Simpson’s cross it gave Edwards a simple header at the far post. For a spell after the goal it looked like City would take control of the game but as the half progressed they seemed to lose their momentum. The interval brought little change in proceedings and Basingstoke began to see the majority of possession without ever looking capable of turning this into a real goal threat. The only semblance of excitement for the small crowd came when Stokes no.7 Jombarti was booked for petulantly clapping the referee after he was awarded a free-kick then ending in-form striker Stuart Douglas’ evening with a stray elbow a few minutes later. The closing stages of the game continued with City struggling to retain the ball and Basingstoke failing to test Paul Evans when they did have it. City managed to spend the majority of the game’s four minutes stoppage time holding the ball in the corners before energetic referee Mr Serrano put both sides out of their misery.
Richard Evans will not play again this season after he suffered a broken jaw in a mystery attack in the toilet of a bar on Saturday night. The 25-year old was spending the evening with friends at the bar in Caerphilly when the assult occurred, leaving him with his jaw broken in two places. He also had cash and bank cards stolen in the incident. Evans underwent an operation yesterday to insert a metal plate in his jaw and realign his teeth, and he is now recovering at home.
Following the strange quirk of the 2008-09 Blue Square South fixture list which left them with a free Saturday five weeks from the end of the season, City return to action with a home game against Basingstoke Town. It was the Hampshire side who inflicted the first of three successive 1-0 defeats to sides struggling at the bottom of the table that effectively ended City’s play-off ambitions, so the home side will have further reason to gain a small degree of revenge with victory tomorrow night.
City’s single goal defeat at the Camrose was put into perspective a week later when Basingstoke were beaten 5-0 by Hayes & Yeading United, but since then they have gone on a four-game unbeaten run. This began with a creditable goalless draw against Welling United before they beat another play-off chasing side Maidenhead United by two goals to one. A fifth consecutive clash with a top 10 side saw them face Chelmsford City where another point was earned thanks to a 2-2 draw. They repeated this scoreline in their last match, although this would have seemed more like two points dropped as the opposition was bottom club Fisher Athletic. To their credit they twice came from behind against the Fish but couldn’t then find a winning goal that would have gone a long way to ensuring their Blue Square South survival for another season. This run has moved them eight points clear of 20th placed Thurrock and another couple of victories should be sufficient to avoid a bottom three finish.
Stoke manager Frank Gray strengthened his squad before the Maidenhead game with the loan signing of Portsmouth defender Callum Reynolds. The young centre-back has previously played for Rushden & Diamonds before joining the Premiership club. However, they suffered a blow last week when long serving defender Jason Bristow was forced to retire from football due to a knee injury. The local born player joined the club in 1999 and played 372 times, scoring 17 goals. The 28-year old – who has been named Basingstoke’s player of the season on three occasions – picked up the knee problem back in November and has now been advised by doctors to give up playing.
Although City and Basingstoke are hardly local rivals a surprisingly high number of players have featured for both clubs in recent years. These include Jamie Gosling who started this season with City before being released. He spent a short spell at the Camrose during the closing weeks of the 2005-06 season, making seven appearances. Justyn McKay had a more successful time with the Stoke, playing exactly 50 games in two stints between September 2005 and April 2007, before joining City for the 2007-08 season. Another player who joined City from Basingstoke was striker Jason Eaton in the 2002 close season. The former Bristol City and Rovers forward had netted 13 times in 34 games at the Stoke and went on to be City’s top scorer during the 2002-03 campaign. Two players who moved the other way were Mike Davis and Jimmy Fraser. Both switched from City to Basingstoke during the summer of 2001 after they were released at the end of Paul Bodin’s Twerton Park managerial reign. Neither tasted great success at their new club, Fraser leaving halfway through the season and Davis making to the end of the year before joining Mangotsfield United. Completing the role of honour is Adie Mings, who spent the 2000-01 season with Basingstoke after making nearly 200 appearances for City during the 1990s, Chris Honor, who followed Eaton in July 2002 having been the Stokes first choice right-back for two seasons, Don Forbes, a defender who played 61 times for Basingstoke between July 2000 and May 2002 to add to his 25 outings for City between April 1994 and March 1995, and goalkeeper Sal Bibbo who made a single appearance for his home town club in the 1992-93 season.
Complete record against Basingstoke Town
Last season’s meeting at Twerton Park in October ended with the visitors winning by a single goal, which was City’s first home defeat in 2007. City hit the woodwork four times in the game and found Stoke keeper Hamann in excellent form. The deciding goal came three minutes after the half-time interval – Charles taking advantage of hesitation by keeper Paul Evans and it got worse for the big South African when he was stretchered off eight minutes from time with an ankle injury – Lewis Hogg taking over between the posts. This defeat ended an 18 match unbeaten record at Twerton Park, which stretched back to December 2006 when fellow Hampshire side Farnborough Town had knocked City out of the FA Trophy thanks to an extra-time goal just as the fog descended on the game to make it all but invisible to the 438 strong crowd for the remaining 20 minutes.
City are to team up with local rivals Chippenham Town in a series of fundraising events. The first event will be a golf day, taking place at Cumberwell Park Golf Club, Bradford on Avon, on Thursday, April 30. There will be plenty of trophies and prizes to be won, including a £10,000 car for a hole-in-one. The clubs will also launch a summer draw in May, with the winning prizes to be drawn before a pre-season friendly between the teams at Twerton Park at the end of July. There will also be a game between both sets of supporters and the Chippenham Town Gateway Club. For more information on any of these events, call Sandie Webb on 07834 817777 or Dave Gane on 07855 390217.
Having scored four goals in his first 34 appearances for City, Stuart Douglas has now beaten that total in the last two games after netting a hat-trick in tonight’s 4-0 win at Newport County. He added to his brace against Havant on Saturday with a rebound from his own missed penalty and two well taken strikes, with Darren Edwards netting City’s other goal. After an even opening ten minutes City went ahead on 14 minutes when Douglas was bundled over by Stephens in the box. His weak penalty was saved by Thompson but he slid home rebound. Four minutes later Edwards’ header sent him racing towards goal and he held off two defenders before slotting home goal number two. As in the game at Twerton Park the Exiles only real threat was from Leek’s long throws but despite one or two nervous moments City held firm and eleven minutes into the second half Edwards followed up Chris Holland’s shot that was parried by Thompson to make it 3-0. Douglas completed his hat-trick on 62 minutes, his angled shot flying past a stunned Thompson. City could have added to their tally after this against a throughly beaten home side but were more than content with matching their previous biggest league win of the season.
City will look to keep their slim play-off hopes alive when they travel over the Severn Bridge to face Newport County on Wednesday. Following Saturday’s fully deserved win over Havant & Waterlooville, City meet another side whose season has been one of considerable underachievement. Unlike the Hawks though they seem to have opened up enough of a gap from the relegation zone to relax for the final six weeks of the season and begin to plan for their 2009-10 campaign. Two successive victories over Hampton & Richmond Borough and Braintree Town has lifted the Exiles up to 15th place, with a 13 point cushion over third from bottom Thurrock. It looked as if they had done enough to put any relegation fears to bed at the beginning of February when a 2-1 win over Bognor Regis Town moved them into the top half of the table for the first time this season. However, they then followed this up with four defeats on the spin to slide back down toward the drop zone.
This run was brought to an end in a wet and windy meeting with title chasing Hampton where the winning goal was scored by a player who started the season at Twerton Park. During his short spell with City Paul Cochlin had showed his goalscoring prowess, netting against Clevedon Town in the FA Cup and, coincidently, at Hampton in City’s 3-1 defeat. Both of these goals had come from his natural centre-back position but for Newport he had been drafted into an emergency forward role due to the lack of striking options at the club. With their only two strikers Reid and Armitage missing due to injury and a Wales schoolboy call-up respectively, Cochlin was moved up front where his 35th minute strike decided the match. He followed this up with another winning goal against Braintree, although this was from his more familiar position, having dropped back following a second half substitution. Bizarrely given their real problems up front, manager Dean Holdsworth’s only recent move in the transfer market has been to bring in another defender, Paul Bignot joining from Kidderminster Harriers having spent a month on loan at Spytty Park earlier in the season.
Another name and face in the Newport line-up that will be familiar to City fans is Sam Foley. The midfielder (although he was unsurprisingly touted as a striker when joining Newport) spent the last month of the 2007-08 season at Twerton Park, making seven impressive appearances and scoring twice. City had hoped to keep him when he was released by Cheltenham Town in the 2008 close season but he choose to join Blue Square Premier side Kidderminster Harriers. He struggled to break into their first team and spent a spell on loan with Redditch United before joining Newport.
Complete record against Newport County/Newport AFC
This will be the third meeting between the clubs this season (and the eighth in the last two seasons) with City running out winners in the first two. The initial clash came in the Setanta Shield back in October when a four-goal haul by Dave Gilroy guided City to a 4-1 win. More recently the first league meeting of the campaign took place at Twerton Park, with a much closer outcome. It took City just six minutes to go ahead, Darren Edwards slotting home after Lewis Hogg’s header had sent him racing clear, and City went on to dominate the first half. However, they couldn’t add to this lead and two minutes into the second half Reid latched onto a fortunate deflection to fire past Steve Perrin. The visitors were now looking the stronger side but Perrin wasn’t seriously troubled again and with just a minute left on the clock Chris Holland’s low left-foot shot grabbed all three points for City.
City returned to winning ways this afternoon with a 2-1 victory over relegation strugglers Havant & Waterlooville at Twerton Park thanks to a Stuart Douglas double. After three successive 1-0 defeats against bottom four opposition it was a desperately needed result and one City fully deserved against a very poor Havant side. They got off to an excellent start when Douglas reached a Lewis Hogg corner ahead of keeper Scriven to head home. Just after the half-hour City gifted the visitors an equaliser when Matt Coupe tried to play the ball out from inside his own box only to lose possession to Watkins then haul him down. Although City have been on the wrong end of several shocking penalty awards recently there were no complaints this time and Nightingale sent Paul Evans the wrong way from the spot. Mark Badman almost restored City’s lead right on half-time but the second half started with neither side able to get control of the game. The introduction of loan signing Josh Klein-Davies seemed to lift City and with twenty minutes left Douglas’ neat flick was handled by Hinshelwood inside the box, allowing the striker to step up and net his second of the afternoon. Klein-Davies almost made it 3-1 with a lob that dropped inches wide but City comfortably held out against a Hawks side who never looked likely to find another equaliser.
With City having failed to score in their last three matches, all against sides at the foot of the Blue Square South table, boss Adie Britton has moved to strengthen his forward options with the loan signing of Josh Klein-Davies from Bristol Rovers. The 19-year old joined the Pirates in May 2007 after being released by Bristol City and following a short loan spell with Yate Town, where he scored five times in eight games, he went on to make ten appearances, scoring once. This season he has spent loan spells with Luton Town, Newport County and Lewes. He goes straight into the squad to face Havant & Waterlooville tomorrow.
After three games in nine days that should have put City right amongst the Blue Square South play-off chasing pack, they are instead facing little more than attempting to restore some pride to the club during the final six weeks of the season and begin planning for the 2009-10 campaign. Three successive 1-0 defeats against Basingstoke Town, Bognor Regis and Fisher Athletic has left them 13 points behind 5th placed Hayes & Yeading United, and even with a couple of games in hand that gap now looks far too wide to be breached. Those City fans who can still face watching their stuttering club will hope that another relegation struggling side, Havant & Waterlooville, will face a backlash when they visit Twerton Park on Saturday.
If is fitting that the Hawks are their next opponents as it puts City’s recent poor form into perspective when compared with how the pre-season Blue Square South title favourite’s campaign has gone. Back in August, Havant – celebrating their tenth season since merging with Waterlooville – were widely expected to be the team to watch following a summer spent assembling an expensive and impressive looking squad, including four arrivals from 2007-08 Blue Square South winners Lewes, financed by the club’s memorable FA Cup run the previous season that took them all the way to Anfield for a 4th Round tie, where they twice lead Liverpool before finally bowing out of the competition. Perhaps understandably this newly assembled group of players took a while to settle and the Hawks failed to win any of the opening four matches of the season. They finally broke this duck with a 5-1 victory over Hampshire rivals Basingstoke Town which heralded a run of four wins and a draw, and their season looked to be finding its expected course. However, they then suffered five successive league defeats and before this week’s 3-0 home win over Bishop’s Stortford had won just three of their last 21 league outings. This run plunged them into a relegation battle that would have appeared unthinkable before the season began, and they currently sit just six points and two places ahead of third from bottom Thurrock.
This underachievement in the league would have seen many clubs dispense with the services of their manager but the Hawks have commendably stuck by Shaun Gale. His cause had been helped by impressive runs in both the FA Cup and FA Trophy. Although not on a par with the Liverpool adventure, Havant once again reached the 1st Round of the FA Cup, beating Blue Square Premier side Crawley Town along the way to set up a meeting with Brentford at Westleigh Park in front of the ITV cameras. They couldn’t repeat last season’s giant-killing act though, losing 3-1 to the Bees in a game ruined by wind and rain (and made almost impossible to watch on television). They toppled another two higher level clubs in the FA Trophy, Lewes and Crawley again, to reach the last eight of the competition before losing 2-0 to York City. With these two runs over the pressure appears to building on the Hawks management team and this boiled over following their 2-1 loss at Welling United last Saturday. Assistant manager Charlie Oatway was involved in a remarkable altercation with a group of Hawks fans after the final whistle, twice launching a foul-mouthed tirade at them. The club’s board of directors are investigating the incident and are expected to shortly announce whether any action will be taken against Oatway.
Complete record against Havant & Waterlooville/Waterlooville
The first meeting this season between the sides back in September at Westleigh Park was a lively affair that saw no goals but a red card for each side. Lewis Hogg was the player dismissed for City – his second successive early bath against the Hawks – following a late lunge at keeper Scriven before the numbers were evened up after Havant captain Holloway aimed a headbutt at Darren Edwards. This was the first goalless game in 22 meetings and there have been a number of high scoring matches involving the clubs, especially the clash at Twerton Park early in the 2001-02 season. Having scored just once in their opening three matches of the season the last thing City needed was going behind in the first minute but when Mark Hervin failed to reach a Ferrett corner, Taylor’s header achieved just that. This was the only goal in the first half, however with four minutes of the restart O’Rouke doubled the Hawks lead with a low shot from the edge of the area. He then made it 3-0 from the penalty sport on the hour mark and the game was all but over. Eight minutes later it was all over when Taylor grabbed his second of the game. Adrian Foster netted his first goal for the club on 72 minutes, lashing the ball into the net despite looking several yards offside, before a second penalty kick – this time from Hambley – restored the visitor’s four goal advantage. The south coast had future manager Liam Daish sent off shortly after this and with the last kick of the game Mike Wyatt made it 5-2 from close range. The rest of the season reflected the result with City spending it battling against relegation, whilst Havant ended up finishing third, albeit a fair way behind Tamworth and Kettering Town.
City’s hopes of regaining a little bit of pride from their final eleven games of the season received a timely boost with the return of Ali Gibb from his loan spell at Yate Town. The 33-year old winger broke his ankle in pre-season which sidelined him until January, but after a month at Lodge Road looks set to make his first start in a City shirt against Havant & Waterlooville at Twerton Park on Saturday.
City suffered one of their most embarrassing defeats for years last night as they lost 1-0 to Fisher Athletic, a side who had lost their previous 16 successive league matches. The home side who cannot afford to pay their players and do not train together still managed to inflict a defeat on City that all but ends their play-off hopes. Whilst City dominated the game for long periods, had the ball in the net four times as a linesman’s flag went up, missed a series of clear chances and saw the home side ride their luck at times, it cannot hide the fact Adie Britton’s stuttering side have now failed to score against three of the four bottom sides in their last three outings. After starting the game brightly, creating three chances in the opening five minutes, City fell behind on seven minutes, Schoburgh’s dipping volley flashing past Paul Evans. The game continued to be played mostly in the Fisher half but City still managed to waste the openings they created, Stuart Douglas and Darren Edwards guilty of missing the clearest chances. The game began to get more scrappy after the interval which suited the home side perfectly and for all City’s possession an equaliser looked increasingly unlikely. Chris Holland had a header cleared off the line and then a low Adam Connolly shot was touched onto the post by home keeper Robinson. City were almost caught on the break several times as the game reached it conclusion but one goal was sufficient for the home players to understandably celebrate loudly at the final whistle.
Following yesterday’s desperately disappointing defeat against Bognor Regis Town, a side who, even with the deserved three points they picked up, look destined to be relegated from the Blue Square South, City next face the side that look certain to finish bottom of the pile, Fisher Athletic. The Fish aren’t even 100% guaranteed to make it to the end of the season, although that fate became less likely last week after they escaped an immediate winding-up order in the High Court. The hearing took place over a six-figure sum – thought to be between £150,000 and £250,000 depending on which side of the case you ask – owed by the club to the Inland Revenue. The Fish were given 49 days to pay, which takes them to three days before the end of the Blue Square South season. It remains unclear whether the owners of the club plan on trying to clear the debt or let the club fold and reform at a lower level. However, if it is the latter they still hope to complete the season, either by bringing their last fixture against Braintree Town forward a few days or being allowed to complete that match even after officially being wound up.
Whatever happens it is fairly certain by then the Fish will be assured of finishing bottom of the Blue Square South. They currently lie five points behind Bognor Regis having lost their last 16 successive league matches. The last time they avoided defeat was in a 1-0 victory at Bishop’s Stortford in mid-November but since then it has been one defeat followed by another. This run is hardly surprisingly given the upheaval that has plagued the club all season. Not a single player that featured in their opening game of the campaign against Team Bath is even with the club now. One recent new arrival is a name familiar to City fans, Caleb Kamara-Taylor. The former team Bath striker made three appearances for City early in the 2005-06 season. Apart from his memorable afro there was little to make this short spell stick in the mind. He made his first start for the Fish in their recent meeting with Eastleigh that was more memorable for the fact turnstile operator Donna Powell took charge of the side for the night. The 27-year old, who coaches the under 11s Red Lion Boys club, raised £500 in sponsorship to take over from normal boss Dave Mehmet for the match. The move was not without its critics – mainly due to the implication that Fisher had given up on the season and how this undermined the integrity of the Blue Square South – however it certainly brought nationwide attention to the club, which in their tenuous position was very welcome. The game itself – which finished in a narrow 2-1 win for the Kent side – also ended in controversy with accusations that Bromley manager Ian Baird refused to shake Powell’s hand after the final whistle.
Complete record against Fisher Athletic
Given the run Fisher are currently on the game is almost a ‘can’t win’ match for City, that they can’t afford not to win. Even after the Bognor reversal it is still a match that should pose City few problems, and this will no doubt mean if they do head back to Bath with the three points it will be viewed as proving little or nothing for their play-off potential. However, if they do fail to win even the most optimistic City fan will be forced to admit that the play-off dream has died for another season. Clearly, a defeat tomorrow night would easily be the low point of this season but City only have to go back to the 2000-01 season to remember when a trip to Fisher earned that same label (although the final game of the season at Halesowen Town probably trumped it). It was at their previous home, the Surrey Docks Stadium, as the reign of manager Paul Bodin was coming to its inglorious conclusion. As now, Fisher were deep in a relegation struggle and City were in mid-table (although without the play-offs to aim at). The game itself saw a painfully poor performance by City that was decided by a single goal just before the interval by Manning for the home side. And City’s woes were compounded by a red card for Marl Clode midway through the second half.
Second from bottom Bognor Regis Town inflicted a single goal defeat on City at Twerton Park this afternoon that has put an almost fatal dent in the home side’s play off hopes. Once again City could legitimately complain about the validity of the decisive goal but overall they only had themselves to blame for their failure to test a side who had won only four games all season before today. City saw the majority of possesion in the first half, Scott Rogers, Chris Holland and Dave Gilroy all going close to putting them ahead but after the break they began to lose their way, resulting to aimless balls forward as both players and the small home crowd began to get increasingly tense. And on 64 minutes it got even worse for City when Bognor took the lead despite the linesman raising his flag for offside during the build-up. He almost immediately lowered it, however that indecision allowed Downes to race clear and square for Gazet du Chattelier to tap the ball home. City never looked like finding a way back into the game and Bognor could have doubled their lead when Paul Evans picked up a Matt Coupe back pass seven minutes from time only for the massed ranks of black and white shirts to charge down the free-kick. The defeat leaves City ten points adrift of the play-off positions and facing an increasingly uphill task to keep in touch with the clubs above them.
Blue Square, proud sponsors of the Football Conference, are looking to make Saturday 14 March a special fundraising day for Comic Relief through their exciting keepie uppie challenge “Square Up”. By taking part, you the fan will have the opportunity to win £10,000 and a trip to Wembley! In order to raise money for Comic Relief, Blue Square are appealing to home clubs and fans to join in with the spirit of Red Nose Day by getting involved on Saturday 14 March. At half time at each home game on the 14th March we would like to see as many clubs as possible invite four fans, home or away aged 18 and over, to take part in the keepie uppie “Square Up” Challenge. To be in with a chance of being invited onto the pitch to take part, we would like clubs to choose fans who have come dressed for the occasion …… wearing their Comic Relief Red Nose! Each fan will have 3 attempts to do as many keepie uppies as possible with the square ball. The fan who scores the highest on a single attempt will win a £25 Blue Square betting voucher and £25 will be donated by Blue Square to Comic Relief for each club taking part. Blue Square’s Sponsorship Manager, Matt Cook, says, “This is a great opportunity to encourage clubs to get their fans involved in the ‘Blue Square’ challenge and at the same time raise valuable funds for comic relief. Just £15 can pay for two months’ worth of basic provisions, giving an orphaned child in South Africa the chance to go to school rather than have to work or walk miles a day to fetch wate. If all 30 games taking place on the 14th March partake in the ‘Square Up’ challenge, we will be donating £750.00 to Comic Relief.” So come on fans, get your Red Noses on and get down to your local Blue Square Premier, North or South club on Saturday 14th March and help those less fortunate. Who knows, your generosity might lead you onto the Wembley pitch at the play-off final with the chance to win the phenomenal £10,000 prize!
City face two games in three days against the bottom two Blue Square South sides which could determine whether they remain in the play-off hunt or their season fades into mid-table obscurity for its final two months. First up are second bottom Bognor Regis Town, who make the trip up from the South coast on Saturday, before City then head along the M4 to face rock-bottom Fisher Athletic on Monday evening. Anything less than six points against these two clubs, who can only boast eight league wins between them in total this season, will almost certainly leave City further adrift from the play-off positions, and it would also suggest that they do not in fact warrant an extension to the season, let alone a place in the Blue Square Premier.
Bognor Regis Town’s season has been a story of one disaster after another. Even before it began the financial problems that were plaguing the club saw them announce that they would be unable to pay players for the 2008-09 season. This understandably lead to a player exodus, with just two of last season’s squad, plus coach Dave Killpartrick, remaining at Nyewood Lane. This nightmare scenario was avoided in June which allowed new manager Mick Jenkins to begin building a squad that were capable of competing at this level but then just two games into the campaign their clubhouse was destroyed in a fire. This deliberately started blaze removed a vital revenue stream for the club, forcing a reduction in the playing budget, and only now are plans beginning to surface for its replacement.
On the pitch the Rocks were faring no better with just two wins in their opening 29 league games (unsurprisingly both against fellow crisis club Fisher Athletic) plus a costly first hurdle FA Cup exit against Ryman League Division 1 South side Burgess Hill. If they thought things couldn’t get worse than this in January it did when they were docked seven points for fielding an unregistered player during the opening three months of the season. The player involved was former Havant & Waterlooville defender Sam Pearce, who it was discovered during a random check by the league in November had not been registered with the Football Conference. The Rocks decided not to appeal against the points deduction, and £250 fine, which dumped them back to the foot of the table. The matter took a further twist when the Rocks were also chucked out of the Sussex Senior Cup for fielding the same player against Hassocks early in the competition. This was not before they had played – and beaten – Chichester in the next round, having been told to go ahead by the Sussex County FA with the game despite admitting playing an unregistered player.
One further blow came just before the points deduction when, on the back of successive 5-1 home defeats against Havant & Waterlooville and AFC Wimbledon, manager Jenkins quit the club. Coach Killpartrick took over the hot seat in a caretaker capacity and saw the side draw their next four games. After narrow defeats against Basingstoke Town and Newport County, Bognor finally recorded their first league win since November by beating big-spending Weston Super Mare. They followed this up with an even more impressive victory against title chasing Chelmsford City at Nyewood Lane, which lifted them back off the bottom of the Blue Square South table. However, hopes of a remarkable recovery still look unlikely after they suffered defeats in their last two outings, including another five-goal home reversal, this time against St Albans City. They also lost goalkeeper Anthony Elder with a suspected fractured ankle in that match (although only after he’d let in the five goals).
Complete record against Bognor Regis Town
Last season’s meeting between the sides at Twerton Park ended goalless and will mainly be remembered for Lewis Hogg’s red card midway through the first half. This was the Rocks first trip to Bath since October 1973 when both sides were in the Southern League Division 1. That game finished 1-1 with former Wrexham and Bristol City full-back Steve Stacey grabbing City’s goal. The previous season, in the first ever clash between the clubs, Bognor had run out 3-1 winners at Twerton Park, meaning the Rocks come into this match unbeaten in Bath. If they remain so by 4.50pm on Saturday, City’s play-off ambitions will be beginning to look gutted as Bognor’s clubhouse was seven months ago.
City will face a trip to London next Monday (9/3) to face Blue Square South bottom club Fisher Athletic after they were reprieved from a winding-up order earlier today. The Fish have been given 49 days to clear an estimated £150,000 debt to the Inland Revenue, which means City will face the London club as planned. Had the decision at The Royal Courts of Justice gone against Fisher their Blue Square South record would have been expunged. Having already beaten them 1-0 at Twerton Park back in October City would have lost three points, which would have left them an extra point away from the final play-off position. However, Fisher may still not complete the season as the 49 day deadline runs out on April 22, three days before the end of the season, although they may try to bring their final match forward to ensure the 2008-09 season does not end in farce.
City’s Blue Square South meeting with Bishop’s Stortford at Twerton Park this evening has been postponed due to a waterlogged pitch. Persistant rain in Bath since early afternoon, which got heavier around 5pm, eventually began to leave puddles on the playing surface. Despite the efforts of a number of volunteers to fork the pitch and remove the surface water, eventually the elements won and at 7.10pm City had no other option than to cancel the game. City are next in action on Saturday against Bognor Regis Town at Twerton Park (ko.3pm).
Following Saturday’s surprise defeat against lowly Basingstoke Town on Saturday, City’s stuttering play-off hopes face a tough test against in-form Bishop’s Stortford at Twerton Park. The match was originally arranged for the first Saturday of 2009, with the Blues then in 19th place and facing a relegation struggle, only for a frozen Twerton pitch to put pay to City’s hopes of deepening their problems. Since then the visitors have lost just two games – against the top two sides AFC Wimbledon and Hampton & Richmond Borough – in their last nine outings, this run lifting them up to the relative safety of 14th spot. The streak has included wins over play-off hopefuls Maidenhead United, Welling United and Team Bath, showing what a difficult task facing City. They trumped these three results in their last match with an incident-packed 2-1 win over Chelmsford City at Woodside Park. Although the Essex side’s title hopes are fast-fading they are still a considerable scalp and the success was all the more impressive as Stortford played for 74 minutes with ten men. Jackman had put them ahead on three minutes but it looked to be going wrong when Barnard was dismissed for a foul in the box. The Clarets had actually scored during the incident, although a linesman’s flag would have ruled that effort out, but the referee had spotted an infringement before this and pointed to the spot. However, Eyre saved Minton’s kick and six minutes later Deen – in his final appearance for the club – made it 2-0 with a well-struck shot. Chelmsford pulled a goal back just before the hour mark but Stortford held on – helped by the foot of their post – to record a great victory.
This improved run of form has seen caretaker manager Mark Simpson handed the job on a permanent basis until at least the end of the 2008-09 season. He took over in November 2008 after long-serving manager Martin Hayes was sacked. The former reserve team boss has regularly lookied to strengthen his squad with various loan deals and permanent signings. Recently these have included midfielder Bai Mas Lettejallow from Dagenham & Redbridge, the aforementioned Narada Bernard on loan from fellow Blue Square South side Maidenhead United plus the permanent capture of former loanee Grant Copper from the same club. Also arriving at Woodside Park were ex-AFC Wimbledon, and member of the England Learning Disabilities team, Scott Curley, Mark Wright, returning to the club after spells with Thurrock and Fisher Athletic, goalkeeper Ed Thompson, Marlon Patterson and Steveland Angus. The latter was the player involved in the dispute with Fisher Athletic over unpaid wages, which saw the Blue Square South bottom club under a transfer embargo for several weeks.
Complete record against Bishop’s Stortford
City go into the game defending an unbeaten record against the Hertfordshire side from their six previous encounters. The meeting at Woodside Park earlier in the season saw City register their first win and goals – having drawn a blank in their opening two matches – of the season, thanks to a Lewis Hogg free-kick in the first half and a close range finish from Darren Edwards after the interval. Last season City took four points off the Blues, with a 4-0 Twerton Park win and a 1-1 draw in the final match of the campaign. The other three games took place in one epic FA Trophy tie during the 1984-85 season, with City finally overcoming the then Isthmian Premier Division side in a 2nd replay.