With City’s play-off hopes firmly out of their own hands – and after two of their rivals recorded wins in midweek – they face a Good Friday meeting with Dorchester Town at Twerton Park in which anything other than a win will leave them all but out of the race for a top five place. This will be particularly galling as at the start of March, sitting in third place, a play-off spot looked theirs for the taking. However, three defeats in a row for the first time this season has left them in a painfully familiar eighth place, seven points behind fifth placed Braintree Town, albeit with one game in hand. Looking to inflict a fourth successive loss is a Dorchester side who have little to play for this season other then pride having already done enough to secure their Blue Square South place for another year.
A 4-2 win over Weston Super Mare last weekend guaranteed the Magpies could not finish in the bottom two, which are likely to be the only relegation spots this season, and has left them already planning for a more successful campaign next year. The first move to was award manager Ashley Vickers a permanent contract after a four-month caretaker spell in which he ensured their safety. He took over after Roy O’Brien was sacked in November, a day after the Magpies had suffered an embarrassing FA Trophy exit at the hands of bitter local rivals Weymouth. A legal dispute with former owner Eddie Mitchell – that was finally sorted this week – prevented the club making a quick appointment but this gave Vickers time to prove he was the right man for the job. Vickers has moved quickly to sign up Ryan Moss, Kyle Critchell, Nathan Walker and stalwart Mark Jermyn for the 2010-11 season and has offered a new deal to full-back Ryan Hills. With a number of the squad already on two-year contracts, including one-time City target Nick Crittenden, the club already well advanced in their planning for next year.
One familiar face to City who will not be facing them on Friday is former Roman front-man Phil Walsh. The 6’3 striker made over 100 appearances for City, scoring 25 goals, during three years at the club before spells with Newport County and Tiverton preceded a move to Dorchester in March 2009. He scored only once during the remainder of the season but remained on the south coast for this campaign. Again he was not a regular scorer and injury problems saw him switch to centre-back in October (ironically scoring during his first game in defence). It appears this versatility brought him to the attention of Coca-Cola League 2 side Dagenham & Redbridge and, after netting twice in a reserve game, he signed a two-and-half year deal in January 2010 for a nominal undisclosed fee. He made his debut for the Daggers in February as a second half substitute against Northampton Town. The one-time Twerton Park favourite has since made another four outings from the bench.
Complete record against Dorchester Town
Walsh was on target for the Magpies when the clubs met at the Avenue Stadium earlier this season. The hosts went ahead on 20 minutes thanks to Martin’s deflected shot but five minutes later Mark Badman bundled the ball home from close range to level the scores. Three minutes before the interval Darren Edwards put City in front only for Walsh to ensure the game would reach the break all-square, rising to head home Forbes’ cross with almost the final touch of the half. The second half failed to match the first although Dorchester were only denied a late winner by a fantastic double save from keeper Steve Perrin, with Walsh the unlucky first player. This stretched City’s unbeaten run against the Magpies to five games, even though it did end a three-game winning streak without conceding a goal. Dorchester have to go back to the 2003-04 season for their last win over City. However, this was a major victory as it took place in the Conference South play-off semi-final, with City surrendering a one-goal lead to lose 4-2. The Magpies would go on to win the final against Tiverton Town to become founder members of the new division while it would take City another three seasons to reach that level.
City’s final away league match of their 2009-10 Blue Square South season will now be in East Sussex after the Lewes clash that was abandoned after 52 minutes last week was re-arranged for Tuesday 20 April (ko 7.45pm). To make up for the long wasted trip the Rooks have provided City with 50 free passes for the new date. For details on how these tickets will be issued click here. Details on coach travel to follow.
City suffered another play-off setabck this afternoon as a late Basingstoke Town goal condemned them to a third successive defeat. Having missed a number of clear chances they paid the ultimare price when Webb headed home with four minutes remaining to secure the Dragon’s first home win since October. City had looked the stronger side for the majority of the game but in the end this counted for nothing. In the first half Kaid Mohamed went close on several occasions and after the interval it was only the inside of the post that denied him a stunning individual goal. The home side had forced Ryan Robinsin into a number of good saves but he was powerless to stop Webb’s looping header just when the game looked destined to finish goalless. With Dover Athletic and Staines Town both winning City are now six points adrift of the final play-off position and look to need at least five wins from their remaining half dozen games to have a chance of finishing in the top five.
After the disappointment of last night’s abandonment of their clash with Lewes when leading 1-0 and dominating the game, City will travel to Hampshire on Saturday hoping that they can repeat the performance and the elements allow them to claim the three points they desperately need to maintain their play-off push. Standing in their way is a Basingstoke Town side whose season has tailed off badly since the turn of the year. Although they struggled to keep up the sort of form that saw them unbeaten in the opening eight games of the campaign, they did enough to stay in play-off contention until December. However, since then they have managed just three wins in their last 13 league outings which has seen the Dragons slip to 14th place and out of contention for a top five place. One of their three victories was over rock-bottom Weymouth where young loan striker Mitchell Bryant netted all six goals in the 6-0 win. He has failed to score since that record-breaking effort and Basingstoke have only picked up single points against strugglers Weston Super Mare and Lewes in their last half dozen games.
Off the pitch Basingstoke were one of a number of Blue Square South clubs to face a winding-up order over unpaid tax. They had been paying £5000 a month to clear a debt of £140,000 but having got within £12,000 of clearing the arrears they missed an instalment which saw the HMRC demand immediate payment of the outstanding amount. A High Court hearing in December gave them 56 days to clear the unpaid sum. Chairman Rafi Razzak branded the action ‘a farce’ and threatened to fight the petition but in the end just paid the balance to bring the matter to a close. Razzak has also vowed to see the club playing in a new stadium before he steps aside and is currently looking to secure the services of manager Frank Gray with a new contract, a deal he claims is a ‘formality’.
Complete record against Basingstoke Town
City’s last two trips to Hampshire to face the Dragons have produced mixed results. In 2007-08 a Dave Gilroy hat-trick fired them to a 4-0 victory, with Lewis Hogg grabbing the other goal. By contrast last season they suffered a single goal defeat, thanks to a controversial penalty that started a run of three successive 1-0 losses against relegation battling sides that went a long way to ending their play-off hopes. The meeting at Twerton Park earlier this season was a seven goal thriller that City edged thanks to an injury-time strike from Mike Perrott. The visitors looked on course for a win when they raced into a two-goal lead in the opening half-hour. However, Gethin Jones pulled a goal back before the interval and within two-minutes of the restart Hankin put the ball past his own keeper from Florin Pelecaci’s cross and City were level. It got worse for the Basingstoke player when he was dismissed for a second booking on 70 minutes and from the resultant free-kick Jones fired home his second goal to put City ahead. The Dragons came back and levelled four minutes later through Mitchell but City had the last laugh thanks to Perrott.
City’s squad will once again be stretched with Sido Jombati missing due to the one game suspension he picked up for his dismissal at Eastleigh. With Scott Bartlett (shoulder) and Hector Mackie (hamstring) definitely out, City may recall winger Richard Evans from his loan spell at Weston Super Mare.
At the aptly named Dripping Pan, City’s hopes of a much needed win to keep them in the Blue Square South play-off race were dashed tonight as the game against Lewes was abandoned early in the second half due to a waterlogged pitch. City were leading 1-0 at the time thanks to Kaid Mohamed’s 18th minute strike but with the pitch already heavy from pre-match rain a torrential downpour at half-time left standing water in the goalmouths and on both flanks. The referee Mr Daly started the second period but after seven minutes decided the pitch was unplayable and called a halt to proceedings. A new date for the match will be announced in due course.
Recent signing Scott Bartlett has been ruled out for the rest of the season after he dislocated his shoulder against Braintree Town last Saturday. He is joined on the sidelines by Hector Mackie who picked up a hamstring strain in the same match and will be out for at least ten days. With Sido Jombati and Mark Badman facing upcoming suspensions City are likely to recall winger Richard Evans from his loan spell at Weston Super Mare.
Sekani Simpson has become the second City player to sign for the 2010-11 season, joining Badman in putting pen to paper on a new one-year deal.
Having picked up just one point from a possible nine in the last week, City travel to East Sussex on Wednesday in desperate need of a positive result to regain some of the Blue Square South play-off momentum they had on the back of their ten match unbeaten run. Although this dip in form has not fatally damaged their top five hopes it has allowed a number of the chasing pack to close in once again and made a quick return to winning ways imperative. If it is to happen this week they will have to manage something they’ve failed to do in their previous three meetings with Lewes. After narrowly losing the first clash between the clubs during the 2007-08 season the last two games have finished level, including a 1-1 draw at Twerton Park earlier this season.
The Rooks are currently languishing in 20th spot in the Blue Square South without a win in their last ten games. They trail 19th place Worcester City by seven points – albeit with two games in hand – which would normally leave them in serious danger of a second successive relegation. However, with the recent folding of Blue Square Premier side Chester City and Farsley Celtic of the Blue Square North, it is likely that at most only the bottom two sides will face demotion and at present Lewes have a six point cushion between them and perennial strugglers Weston Super Mare. Despite this they will no doubt prefer to climb out of the bottom three and ensure their survival is not dependent on the vagaries of the Conference and FA committees.
Retaining their Blue Square South status – through whichever means – would be a remarkable achievement for the Rooks given that their perilous financial status had meant even finishing the season was for a long time not a given. After a disastrous one season in the Blue Square Premier, where they finished bottom with just six wins from their 46 games, they began this campaign with three months to pay £30,000 of an £80,000 outstanding tax bill. They managed to find the £10,000 a month and in November survived a second winding-up petition by the HRMC, getting the hearing adjourned until January. Finally, thanks to a variety of donations and long term interest-free loans they cleared the last £48,000 owed to the tax man the day before the next court date, meaning they had paid off a debt of £110,000 in just six months.
Whilst this battle was going on in the halls of justice on the pitch they were not enjoying the same success failing to win any of their first 13 league games and making a costly early FA Cup exit to Ryman League Division 1 side Wealdstone. They finally broke their duck with a 2-1 victory over Bishop’s Stortford in October but since then have only managed another three wins, although one of these was a remarkable 6-2 success over then second-placed Dover Athletic on Boxing Day. They failed to build on this though following it with three successive defeats – including Dover gaining revenge on New Year’s Day – and have only secured one win so far in 2010 against Weston Super Mare in January. They looked on course for a second triumph when leading Worcester City 3-0 with just fifteen minutes remaining at the end of last month but the fellow strugglers staged a stunning comeback to draw 3-3 with a stoppage time equaliser. Manager Steve Ibbitson has tried to use his limited funds to freshen the squad recently, releasing Scott Chamberlain and Ryan Timms and bringing winger Steven Brinkhurst back for a second loan spell from Brighton & Hove Albion. He made his second ‘debut’ for the Rooks on Saturday but couldn’t inspire them to victory in a goalless draw with Bishop’s Stortford.
Complete record against Lewes
City’s only previous visit to the Dripping Pan took place during the 2007-08 season as the home side were on their way to the Blue Square South title, although making very few friends along the way. That game was decided by a single goal from Booth but it was the unpleasant antics of the Rooks, in particular by their odious little manager Steve King, which made the whole trip one to forget for City. The return match at Twerton Park that season saw little difference in Lewes’ behaviour but, at least, City could take some satisfaction from the game thanks to Scott Rogers’ goal earning them a point in a 1-1 draw. That was also the scoreline when the sides met earlier this season, Kaid Mohamed scoring for City before Pople grabbed a late equaliser for the visitors.
City could go into the match with a threadbare squad after two players picked up injuries in Saturday’s home defeat to Braintree Town. Scott Bartlett suffered a shoulder injury and his replacement, Hector MacKie, only lasted 16 minutes before picking a hamstring strain. They are also likely to be without striker Dave Gilroy after his loan deal from Newport County expired. However, this will mean the return of Stuart Douglas from the Blue Square South champions and City will also hope that Sekani Simpson has recovered from the neck problem that saw him miss the Braintree game.
City slipped out of the Blue Square South play-off places today after they were beaten 4-2 by Braintree Town at a damp Twerton Park. The scoreline does not truly reflect the balance of the game but it was the Iron who made the most of their handful of chances to head back to Essex with the three points. They took the lead on 16 minutes when Purcell fired home a free-kick from 20 yards but were forced back for long periods after this. Kaid Mohamed blasted a shot against the inside of the post after 26 minutes and Darren Edwards shot weakly at Holloway when well-placed moments later. Braintree’s only repsonse was to time-waste at every opportunity but just when a City equaliser looked only a matter of time a deflected 40th minute Quinton cross gave Marks a simple close range header. And on the stroke of half-time the same player shot past Ryan Robinson to make it 3-0. The second half saw Braintree slow the game down even more but with 15 minutes left Dave Gilroy gave City a lifeline when he lifted a volley over Holloway. Five minutes later Chris Holland headed home and a comeback was a real possibilty. A minute later City’s hopes received a set-back when Mark Badman picked up a second caution for his part in a melee following a Lewis Hogg challenge. However, City continued to press for an equaliser and they should have found it two minutes into stoppage time when Sido Jomati’s cross picked out an unmarked Mohamed but he choose to attempt a difficult volley rather than a header and the chance went begging. Then, with City committing men forward, Braintree broke and Purcell sent a dipping shot past Robinson to secure the victory.
Attacking midfielder Mike Perrott has joined Southern League Division 1 South & West Frome Town permanently after a successful loan spell with the club earlier this season. The 20-year old only joined City last summer from defunct Team Bath but found his first team opportunities limited, making 16 of his 24 appearances from the bench. He joined the Robins on loan in December, going on to spend three months at Badgers Hill before returning to City earlier this month. He was a 77th minute substitute in City’s defeat at Hampton on Tuesday which turned out to be his final outing for the club.
Following their disappointing defeat at Hampton & Richmond Borough on Tuesday, City will look to bounce back immediately with a positive result against one of their play-off rivals Braintree Town at Twerton Park this Saturday. Whilst City’s ten match unbeaten run was coming to a grinding halt, the Iron were also enduring a poor evening, missing the chance to go second in the Blue Square South table with a goalless draw at Maidenhead United. The stalemate was enough, though, to move them three points ahead of City. It would also have come as little surprise to Iron fans as they have drawn ten of their 16 away matches this season. With just two defeats on the road it suggests City will have to be at their best to break down Robbie Garvey’s side. By contrast at home they have won eleven times, including a 2-0 victory over City in December.
After leading the table in the opening weeks of the season, Braintree have never dropped lower than 8th place giving them a real chance to return to the play-offs they graced during the 2006-07 and 2007-08 seasons. Last season they finished in a disappointing 14th place and those struggles cost Lee Patterson then Bradley Quinton the manager’s post which saw Garvey take over in March 2009. He has regularly strengthened his squad throughout the season, recently bringing back winger Robbie Martin to the club after he was released by Havant & Waterlooville and capturing widely travelled striker Bertie Brayley from Chelmsford City, another player who had previously played for the Iron.
Complete record against Braintree Town
Last season’s meeting at Twerton Park ended with City winning by three goals to two. Star of the show for the home side was striker Dave Gilroy. He won, then converted, a penalty on 21 minutes to opening the scoring before firing home a second 14 minutes later after Sekani Simpson’s header found him just inside the box. He completed his hat-trick before the break, volleying past keeper Holloway. The visitors had also netted in an entertaining first-half, Hockton levelling before Gilroy took over. The second half failed to match its predecessor although both sides saw chances come and go. With two minutes left Braintree made it 3-2, O’Sullivan heading home, but they couldn’t find a late equaliser to deny City a deserved win. The previous campaign, in the first ever meeting between the clubs, there had been no such goal-filled entertainment as the Essex side set their stall out to frustrate City from the opening whistle. Content to get nine or ten men behind the ball whenever possible and with little attacking intent even the first home start of the season for talismanic forward Scott Partridge, City could not break down the Iron and the game finished goalless.
City will hope defender Gethin Jones has recovered from the neck injury he picked up at Eastleigh last Saturday, forcing him to miss the Hampton defeat, but should have no other injury worries ahead of the game.
City’s play-off hopes suffered a blow this evening as they lost 3-1 at Hampton & Richmond Borough. Despite taking a 37th minute lead through Kaid Mohamed this lead only lasted four minutes before two goals early in the second half set City on their way to their first defeat in ten games. After a scrappy opening half-hour Mohamed collected a Lewis Hogg pass to fire past home keeper Lovett but four minutes later a deflected Tarpey free-kick brought the Beavers level. And it got much worse for City within four minutes of the restart as Inman headed home a second goal and then Dundas shot past Ryan Robinson to make it 3-1. The home side were well on top now and should have scored a fourth when they were awarded a penalty, only for Matthew’s to hit the post from 12 yards. Despite this escape City never looked like getting back into the game and will need to bounce back quickly when they entertain play-off rivals Braintree Town on Saturday.
City will look to take another step in securing a Blue Square South play-off place when they travel to Hampton & Richmond Borough tomorrow night. Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Eastleigh stretched their unbeaten run to ten games but also saw them drop two places to fifth spot, three points ahead of the Spitfires and Dover Athletic as their nearest current challengers. A win could lift them back to third place, depending on how Braintree Town get on at Maidenhead United, but it is the three points in the increasingly tight play-off race that are so vital.
They will face a Beavers side just two places above the relegation zone but with an eight point gap to 20th place Lewes. However, the fact that at most only two sides are likely to be relegated from the Blue Square South this season following the recent demise of Chester City means they are realistically safe with Weston Super Mare a further five points back. This will not disguise that it has been a desperately disappointing season for Alan Devonshire’s side following their successive play-off final appearances during the previous two campaigns. Apart from a brief spell during the opening month of the season they have never been out of the bottom half of the table and since November no higher than their current position. The game was originally scheduled for early January but the cold spell put pay to that date and since then Hampton’s inconsistent form has reflected their whole season. Wins at Basingstoke Town, Bishop’s Stortford and Worcester City have ensured they avoided being dragged into a genuine relegation battle but it is their home form that has been so poor. Their last league win at the Beveree Stadium came on the final day of October when they swept aside Maidenhead United by four goals to nil. Since then though they lost four and drawn two of their outings at the basic home ground.
Complete record against Hampton & Richmond Borough
This form should give City every chance of recording their first ever win at Hampton. Their maiden visit to that corner of Middlesex ended in a goalless draw during the 2007-08 season. In contrast last year they managed to get on the scoresheet when Paul Cochlin’s header was adjudged to have crossed the line early in the second half. However by then City were trailing 2-0 and despite never allowing the over physical home side to intimidate them they couldn’t find an equaliser, instead Chris Holland put through his own net in stoppage time to seal the result.
City should go into the game with a full squad to choose from after Matt Coupe completed his two game suspension on Saturday.
City had to settle for a point at Eastleigh this afternoon after playing the last fifteen minutes with ten men following the dismissal of Sido Jombati for two bookable offences. Kaid Mohamed had given them a first half lead from the penalty spot before Bottomley levelled on 66 minutes for the home side. Both sides had created half chances during the opening half hour but it was City who struck first in the 29th minute. The Spitfires conceded an unnecessary corner and as Adam Connolly’s cross came in Darren Edwards was pulled back by Wilkinson, allowing Mohamed to fire home his 12th goal of the season. Boosted by this goal City took control of the game either side of the interval but failed to increase their lead. They were made to pay for this when Bottomly converted Butler’s cross at the far post. City’s hopes of regaining the lead faded after 75 minutes when Jombati received his second yellow card but the hosts failed to take advantage of their extra man and the game petered out to a stalemate, although Dave Gilroy almost grabbed a stoppage time winner when his shot was deflected into the side netting.
The draw sees City drop two places to fifth spot as their three closest play-off rivals all won. Second placed Chelmsford City came from behind to beat struggling Weston Super Mare thanks to a last minute Cook goal. There were no such late drama for Braintree Town and Staines Town as they recorded straightforward wins over Dorchester Town and Woking respectively. Dover Athletic kept in touch with the play-off places thanks to a 3-1 win at Basingstoke Town and St Albans continued their late run toward the top five with a single goal victory over Thurrock.
City have signed former Weymouth duo Martin Slocombe and Jordon Rose on Conference forms as defensive cover with the season reaching its climax. Full-back Slocombe will be immediately familiar to City fans having played for the club during the 2008-09 season before joining the Terras in the summer. However, with the Dorset club on the verge of financial meltdown he was offered a reduced contract, along with a number of his teammates, and choose to depart the Wessex Stadium. He has signed dual-registration forms with Southern League Chippenham Town, who he will play for unless required by City. Centre-back Rose soon followed Slocombe out of the club, who are struggling to finish the season, and will also play in the Southern League, in his case for Paulton Rovers, until needed at Twerton Park.
City’s play-off hopes face another test on Saturday when they travel to Hampshire to face sixth place Eastleigh. On the back of wins over in-form Welling United and Thurrock, City will be confident of extending their unbeaten run to nine games against the inconsistent Spitfires. Away from their Silverlake Stadium home they have won three matches in a row over Basingstoke Town, Staines Town and Lewes. However, in front of their own fans they have struggled with three back-to-back defeats. Last time out they suffered a single goal defeat against St Albans City and before this they were the latest side to suffer at the hands of champions-elect Newport County – going down 4-1 to the Exiles. In-between these games was the remarkable clash with Thurrock. With no warning Eastleigh capitulated to find themselves 6-0 down at half-time and end up on the wrong end of an 8-2 scoreline. Understandably their management team brushed off this as a freak result and their form since would suggest they are correct.
That has not stopped manager Ian Baird regularly looking to strengthen his squad. He brought in three new players a couple of days before the Thurrock embarrassment – Lee Roache from Braintree Town, AFC Totten’s Ross Bottomly, and Sam Butler, a wide player from Whytleafe. All three were on the bench against Thurrock, the latter two getting the dubious honour entering the fray. The aftermath of the defeat saw former Southampton player Jo Tessem and Matt Day released to allow Baird room to bring in 19-year old centre-half Luke Wilkinson on loan from Portsmouth. Not surprisingly the next new face was a goalkeeper, with 6’5 Billy Lumley joining the club having previously spent time with Wolverhampton Wanderers and Northampton Town. He was handed his debut against St Albans in place of long-time no.1 (and Bath born) Jason Matthews. And ahead of the meeting with City another player headed south to the Silverlake Stadium. Ashley Nicholls switched from fellow Blue Square South side Bishop’s Stortford having spent time on loan with Newport County this season.
City will have to be wary of the Silverlake Stadium pitch after it was held responsible not only for the Spitfire’s 1-0 defeat to the Saints but also two of the three injuries they picked up in the game that could sideline the players on Saturday. St Albans goal came after a back header appeared to hold up on the heavy surface allowing Roberts to nip in ahead of keeper Lumley. Striker Andy Forbes then suffered medial ligament damage after his boot got stuck in the mud and Anthony Riviere’s knee injury was also blamed on the pitch. The third player likely to be absent Saturday is influential defender Tom Jordan after he suffered a gashed shin in the game.
Complete record against Eastleigh/Swaythling
City have failed to beat Eastleigh in the last four meetings between the sides. Earlier this season at Twerton Park two early goals from Forbes and Jordan put the physical visitors on their way to a comfortable win. Last season City went down by the same scoreline in Hampshire which marked their first ever defeat against the Spitfires.
City go into the game with injury concerns of their own with Sekani Simpson (ankle), Lewis Hogg (back) and Adam Connolly (ankle) – the victim of a disgraceful tackle by Thurrock’s Swaine last Saturday – battling to be fit for the game.
Darren Edwards’ 23rd goal of the season was enough to give City a vital win over play-off rivals Thurrock as Twerton Park this afternoon. The visitors struck eight goals in their last outing but it was City who should have been dreaming of that sort of total after a one-sided opening half-hour. Kaid Mohamed was denied by Woolley, Lewis Hogg missed an open goal after being set up by Mark Badman and Edwards slid a Hogg cross inches wide. The Fleet’s only impact on the game during this spell was a disgraceful 15th minute challenge by Swaine on Adam Connolly. Incredibly the big no.4 escaped with just a booking and on several occasions after this Thurrock were guilty of dreadful play acting as they tried to take full advantage of weak refereeing. Just as City’s stranglehold on the game appeared to be slipping they finally went ahead on 38 minutes. In a rare piece of good officiating the linesman did not flag for the offside, but not interfereing with play Mohamed, which allowed Edwards to race clear and slot the ball past Woolley. The second half was a much more even affair and Ryan Robinson produced a stunning save to turn Swaine’s powerful header over the bar. Before this Hogg and Mohamed had wasted a two on one break and substitures Hector Mackie and Dave Gilroy almost combined to settle City’s nerves in stoppage time, but Edwards strike turned out to be the only goal of the game and the win lifts City back into third place.
Mike Perrott had returned from his loan spell with Southern League Frome Town and was an unused substitute against Thurrock this afternoon.
City begin what could be a make or break month in their Blue Square South play-off ambitions with a tough looking encounter at home to seventh place Thurrock on Saturday. An unbeaten eight match run – which saw Adie Britton narrowly miss out on the February Manager of the Month award – has lifted City into the top five with the Fleet the last side to inflict defeat on them back in January. Thurrock come into the game after a two-week break from action which denied them the opportunity to immediately build on their stunning 8-2 win at Eastleigh last time out. This victory was another notable success in a remarkable campaign for the Essex side after they were only saved from relegation last season by the demise of Team Bath.
March will also see City face another two sides with play-off dreams of their own in the shape of the aforementioned Eastleigh – who have recovered well from the Thurrock thrashing with back to back wins over Basingstoke Town and Staines Town – and Braintree Town, plus relegation battlers Hampton & Richmond Borough and Lewes plus mid-table Basingstoke. And a similar run to the one City enjoyed in February could almost see them with one foot in the play-offs ahead of the final month of the season.
Thurrock will also hope to extend their campaign into May having spent the majority of the 2009-10 season in the play-off positions. Since the turn of the year they have suffered just one defeat, to Dorchester Town, continuing to confound critics who doubted their ability to maintain a promotion push. They showed their resilience by following up the loss at the Magpies with a single goal win over fast-fading Woking before drawing a blank against St Albans in a goalless draw. This meant they had scored just once in three games but this was soon forgotten in an extraordinary clash at Eastleigh. After a fairly uneventful 14 minutes the home side gifted Thurrock the lead thanks to a freak 40-yard own goal. Three minutes later Bryant made it 2-0 and before the game was even half an hour old a brace from McKenzie – the second from the penalty spot – had put the Fleet into an unassailable lead. Thurrock’s top scorer then completed a 16 minute hat-trick and on the stroke of half-time Bryant netted his second to make it 6-0 at the interval. The second half finally saw the Spitfire’s get on the score-sheet thanks to Gillespie’s scrambled effort and Adeniyi’s penalty. However, in-between these goals Bodkin struck Thurrock’s seventh then in the final minute he scored again to complete the rout.
Complete record against Thurrock
The meeting between the sides seven weeks ago saw Thurrock score three times in a ten minute spell during the first half. Kaid Mohamed netted a last minute penalty, which was City first goal at Ship Lane, but this couldn’t prevent City suffering defeat in their first game of 2010. The result meant City had lost all three of their visits to that corner of Essex but at home they have yet to lose to the Fleet. Last season though they let a two-goal lead slip, with Orilonishe equalising in stoppage time, after Stuart Douglas and Dave Gilroy has scored early in the second half. The two previous Twerton Park meetings, both during the 2007-08 season, ended in victory for City – a 3-1 league win preceded by a 2-0 FA Trophy success.
City will go into the game without defender Matt Coupe after he picked up his 10th booking of the season two weeks ago against Weymouth. Returning though is Gethin Jones having missed last week’s win at Welling United due to illness. They also hope midfielder Lewis Hogg will be available again. He has completed his three-match ban for the red card he received against Weston Super Mare in a flare up with former City striker Josh Klein-Davies, but is still rated as only 50/50 due to the knee injury he suffered in the same incident.