City will look to move to fifty points tomorrow, furthering their claims on a top 10 Blue Square Square Bet finish, when Salisbury City visit Mayday Trust Park for the Easter Monday encounter. The hard-fought win over Maidenhead United yesterday – during which City rode their luck at times, with the home side wasting a number of good chances across the 90 minutes – stretched the Roman’s unbeaten run to four games but they will need an improved performance to secure a positive result against the high-flying Wiltshire side.
During the first half of the 2012-13 season it looked like the Whites would romp to the title – losing just three of their first 24 league games. However, a record breaking run of 12 successive victories by Welling United meant the Wings keep right on their tails. Their form then dipped at the worse time possible as they picked up just two wins in nine games to firmly hand the title initiative to the Kent club. Even though City helped them out by beating Welling, the Whites have slipped to nine points adrift, albeit with a game in hand. However, having finally steadied the ship thanks to back to back wins over Weston Super Mare (3-0) and Tonbridge Angels (2-0) and with the Wings travelling to the Raymond McEnhill Stadium next Saturday they will certainly not have given up hope taking the title battle right to the wire.
Complete record against Salisbury/Salisbury City
Salisbury have enjoyed their last two competitive visits to Bath, recording a 1-0 Setanta Shield win in November 2008 and 2-0 success in the Southern League during the opening month of the 2005-06 season. City came into the latter game unbeaten, with three wins and a draw from their opening four league games. However, when a deflected shot by Widdrington that gave keeper Andy Fisher no chance put the Whites in front after 31 minutes, City never looked like getting back in the game. Tubbs doubled the visitors lead early in the second half and City’s poor afternoon was capped off by the needless dismissal of Matt Coupe. Having been booked earlier in the half he complained to the referee about a challenge by a Salisbury player and, despite several warnings from Mr Linington, wouldn’t shut up eventually giving the official no option but to show him a second yellow card.
City are back on target for a top half finish in the Blue Square Bet South after inflicting a sixth successive defeat on Maidenhead United this afternoon. The only goal of the game came from Elliott Chamberlain early in the second half as City produced a solid defensive performance to secure the three points. The hosts created a greater number of openings during a scrappy first half although it was City who came the closest to breaking the deadlock when Chamberlain struck the post. The second half began in a similar fashion but on 52 minutes a break forward by City saw Chamberlain net from close range after keeper Lunley could only parry Josh Low’s shot. Apart from an occasional foray in the Magpies half, City were largely on the backfoot following the goal. However, Paul and Tabiri headed good chances wide and Jason Mellor maintained his excellent recent form with a fine stop from Pratt, which turned out to be the home side’s final chance to deny City the victory.
City continue their search for the two wins that will all but ensure their Blue Square Bet South place in two games over the Easter weekend. On Monday they welcome second place Salisbury City to Mayday Trust Park but before that will head up the M4 to face Maidenhead United. The creditable five points they took from the three successive home games against Chelmsford City, Welling United and Basingstoke Town lifted them to 44 points and, with six games left in their 2012-13 campaign (the fewest in the division), within touching distance of safety.
The Magpies, conversely, are in a dismal run of form that has seen them slip from mid-table at the start of the month to just two points above the relegation zone. They have lost all five games played in March which contrasted with an unbeaten run in February that looked to have moved them to the brink of safety. However, they began the penultimate month of the season with a dispiriting defeat against Welling United, the league leaders netting twice in the last 15 minutes, the second deep in stoppage time, to defeat the Magpies 3-2. This was followed by two home defeats against Athletic Dover (1-2) and Eastleigh (0-2) before Basingstoke inflicted a fourth straight loss thanks to two goals in the opening twelve minutes. Any hope this run would be halted in their last outing at Havant & Waterlooville suffered a blow within eight minutes when they fell behind. The Hawks added a second goal just before the interval making Pacquette’s strike 20 minutes from time nothing more than a mere consolation.
Maidenhead’s hopes ahead of the game with City are not being helped by a defensive crisis. They lost centre-back Devante McKain, on-loan from Gillingham, when he was recalled by the League 2 leaders on the morning of the Havant match. With Alfie Mawson all but ruled out for the rest of the season through injury and captain Mark Nisbet struggling to play through a knee problem, it could leave manager Johnson ‘Drax’ Hippolyte with just one fit central defender, 18-year old Rhys Paul, who made his debut in the Hawks defeat. To overcome these problems Hippolyte signed up reserve and youth team defender Brandon Bater-Timms on 1st team forms and will hope to bring in more experienced cover ahead of this afternoon’s 5pm transfer deadline.
Complete record against Maidenhead United
City boast an impressive record versus Maidenhead, winning nine of the eleven meetings between the sides. Although the one defeat against the Magpies came during their last visit to York Road in a 2009-10 FA Trophy 3rd Qualifying Round tie, they have enjoyed a number of successful trips to Berkshire, not least during their 2006-07 Southern League title winning campaign. The match was in doubt right up to kick-off as persistent rain left the pitch covered in puddles but the referee decided to start the game and, despite the conditions worsening as the rain continued to fall, the game lasted the full 90 minutes. The opening half hour saw the sides adapt well to the conditions, supporting the referee’s decision, both hitting the frame of the goal and forcing excellent saves out of the keepers. City also had the ball in the net from a Darren Edwards header only for the linesman to rule that the ball had gone out before Scott Partridge crossed it. Just as it seemed that the game would descend in a watery stalemate City struck twice in a minute with the half time interval imminent. First, Partridge fired home after keeper Ramos had parried Mark McKeever’s shot, then City’s top scorer turned provider supplying Lewis Hogg to roll the ball home – although there was a nervous moment when the ball almost stopped in the mud. After the interval both sides increasingly struggled to cope with the deteriorating conditions, though Scott Rogers did strike the crossbar with a shot early in the half. The referee was coming under increasing pressure from the home side’s bench to abandon the game but at no point was the players safety in doubt and he sensibly allowed the match to be completed.
A goal seven minutes from time by Basingstoke Town denied City a second 1-0 Mayday Trust Park win in the space of four days. On a bitterly cold afternoon Elliott Chamberlain had put City in front after 31 minutes but Sills deservedly levelled for the visitors after they enjoyed the upper hand during the second half. Both sides took a while to get going on the understandably heavy playing surface but eventually began to create a few openings, the best of these falling to Basingstoke’s Williams, when he could only direct a free header into the arms of Jason Mellor. Two minutes later Chris Allen broke forward before feeding the ball to Ryan Charles. His low cross looked to have been dealt with by Jefford only for the defender to appear to handle the ball. However, Chamberlain spared the referee a decision by reacting quickly to the loose ball and firing it past Bayes. The rest of the half belonged to City but they couldn’t add to their lead and after the interval it was the Dragons who began to get on top. The increasingly assured Mellor was equal to their threat though, producing excellent stops to deny Rice and Holder-Spooner, and the frustration got too much for Stoke manager Bristow when he was sent to the stand for comments directed at the officials with 12 minutes remaining. Just when it seemed City would hold out for the victory their luck ran out as Mellor once again did well to keep out Holder-Spooner’s low shot but Sills was on hand to bury the rebound from close range, to the estatic reaction of the Hampshire side’s players and fans. At this stage they looked the more likely victors but it was City who almost grabbed a late winner when Charlie Griffin’s 93rd minute shot was turned around the post by Bayes.
Following the morale boosting win over league leaders Welling United at Mayday Trust Park on Tuesday evening City will hope for a repeat performance and result when Basingstoke Town head up to the West Country on Saturday. The fully deserved three points took City to a total that has been sufficient to avoid a bottom three finish in every Blue Square Bet South season apart from the maiden one on 2004-05. However, the closeness of this campaign means that City are still another couple of wins away from guaranteed safety, so will hope the first of these come against the Dragons this weekend.
Given that Basingstoke are only one place beneath City on goal difference they will be equally keen to ensure the final month of the season is not spent with relegation concerns and come into the game in probably their best form of the season. The month of March has seen them come within a few minutes of recording a remarkable double at title chasing duo Salisbury City and Welling United. After a disappointing 3-3 draw at home to struggling Billericay Town they travelled to Wiltshire to face a White’s side unbeaten at home all season. With just two wins on the road they would have headed north with hope rather than expectation of getting a positive result but goals from Dunn and Sam-Yorke earned them a great victory, all the more notable given they were missing both their first choice centre-backs. A quirk of the fixture list meant four days later they were heading to another side boasting an unbeaten home record, Welling United. And, when the game reached stoppage time with the visitors leading through Williams’ 44th minute overhead kick, it looked like another notable victory was in the bag, but one lapse of concentration allowed Gallagher to fire home an equaliser. Despite this late blow, four points from the two games was an excellent return and they consolidated this with a solid 2-0 win over Maidenhead United in their last outing ten days ago.
Complete record against Basingstoke Town
Basingstoke travelled to Bath last season for a FA Trophy 2nd Round tie which turned out to be a welcome respite for City from their Conference Premier struggles. Scott Murray should have put them in front after just two minutes, dragging a shot wide after Adam Connolly sent him clear on goal before Jason Matthews was forced into two excellent saves from Sills. The game settled down following this breathless start and in the 23rd minute Sean Canham headed home Alex Russell’s cross to put the home side ahead. City were in control of the tie but couldn’t find a vital second goal, enduring a few nervous moments in the final quarter before seeing out the game for the narrow win.
Sekani Simpson’s first goal since November 2008 was enough to give City a 1-0 win over league leaders Welling United at Mayday Trust Park this evening. His 36th minute strike capped a superb performance from City as they never allowed the Wings to settle and their frustrations boiled over three minutes from time when substitute Fakinos was sent off for a challenge on Noah Keats. The Kent side very occasionally showed glimpses of why they are six points clear at the top of the Blue Square Bet South but Lafayette’s mis-kick with the goal at his mercy on 13 minutes turned out to be their only clear opening of the game. Despite missing captain Gethin Jones, City’s backline dealt confidently with anything the visitors could produce, given added protection by man of the match Joe Burnell in one of his finest games in City shirt. City were no less impressive going forward, Aaron Brown and Elliott Chamberlain both testing keeper Turner before Simpson latched onto Burnell’s beautiful chipped pass to round Turner and roll the ball into the empty net. The second half began with Turner pushing Chamberlain’s effort away then producing the save of the night from Adam Connolly’s low shot through a crowd of players. Welling were increasingly forced to hopeful punts forward and even the introduction of ex-City striker Kurtis Guthrie failed to spark a late rally. City should have made the game safe as the Wings left space at the back pushing forward in search of an equaliser but when Fakinos received his straight red card that virtually assured the Romans of their throughly deserved win.
City welcome league leaders Welling United to Mayday Trust Park tomorrow night looking to, at least, put a slight blip in the Kent side’s apparent relentless march back to the top tier of non-league football. The last gasp equaliser against Chelmsford City on Saturday was a second successive home game where City rescued a point thanks to injury time goals, showing that whatever the team has lacked in consistency this season there can be no doubting their battling qualities and they will certain need these if they are to overcome this year’s stand-out Blue Square Bet South side.
A league record run of 12 successive victories between November and February set the foundation for Welling’s title challenge and, with the form of closest rivals Salisbury City dipping in the last six weeks, a return to the Conference Premier – a level they last graced in 2000 – is now very much in their own hands. However, since a 4-0 win over Boreham Wood made for the glorious dozen the Wings have stuttered slightly, suffering three defeats in the following five games – which doubled their total for the season – all on the road at Dover, Sutton and Weston Super Mare. Fortunately, their home form remained almost perfect during this spell, just City’s next opponents Basingstoke Town avoiding leaving Park View Road empty-handed (with only an injury-time denying them the three points). They also ended their away losing run on Saturday thanks to a hard-fought 2-1 win at struggling Billericay Town, which means they head to the West Country with a five-point advantage over Salisbury having played a game fewer.
Complete record against Welling United
Highly-rated player-manager Jamie Day strengthened his squad last week with a loan signing which could see the Wings fielding an all ex-City forward line. Already with the club was Kurtis Guthrie after he began the 2012-13 season at Mayday Trust Park. The Jersey born 19-year old scored six goals in 13 games for the Romans earlier this season but when his contract was not renewed he joined Welling – having initially played for the club in a pre-season trial. Although he has yet to find the net for United in 18 appearances, City will be fully aware of the threat he can possess and he is certain to be keen to break this duck against his former side. His new teammate is Jake Reid – making the loan move from Blue Square Bet Premier bottom side AFC Telford – who had a similar length spell with City at the beginning of the 2010-11 season. The former Team Bath striker didn’t enjoy the same success as Guthrie though, making just four substitute outings without finding the net before heading to Salisbury City.
Supporters should note that as usual for Tuesday evening matches only those with pre-booked parking spaces will be allowed to park in the Mayday Trust car park.
On a pitch whitened by a sudden hail storm City grabbed a 93rd minute equaliser to end their losing run in a 2-2 draw with play-off hopefuls Chelmsford City at Mayday Trust Park today. It had looked like being another frustrating afternoon for Lee Howells’ side as Gethin Jones’ 9th minute strike had been cancelled out by goals from Miller and Bakare before half-time. However, when Josh Low lifted the ball toward the far post Noah Keats was perfectly placed to head home to the delight of the majority of the 512 crowd. City’s early opener came when the Clarets failed to deal with a low Aaron Brown free-kick and Jones side-footed past Searle. Jason Mellor produced an excellent point blank save from Vassell midway through the half but was powerless to prevent Miller’s 25-yard shot finding the net on 33 minutes. Then after Ryan Charles had missed a great chance to restore City’s lead the visitors went in front with a fluke goal right on the stroke of half-time – Jones’ attempted clearance rebounding off Bakare into the net via a post. As the conditions worsened both sides saw openings come and go, City’s best during a goalmouth scramble seven minutes from time. City even threw keeper Mellor forward for a late corner but when this danger was averted by the Essex side it looked like they would hold on for a much-needed boost to their play-off hopes but Low and Keats had other ideas.
After three successive defeats on the road City return to Mayday Trust Park on Saturday to begin a triple header of home games that will go a long way to defining their final month of the 2012-13 season. The disappointing reversals at Dover Athletic, Havant & Waterlooville and AFC Hornchurch have certainly put pay to any lingering hopes of a late play-off run, dropping City back to within five points of the drop zone. With league leaders Welling United and in-form Basingstoke Town to follow the first visitors are play-off chasing Chelmsford City.
Since the 2008-09 season a Conference South table without the Clarets in the play-off positions has been a rare sight and this campaign is no different. Last year a sixth place finish saw the club miss out on the play-offs for the first time since winning promotion to this level in 2008. Unfortunately their record in the post season battle for promotion has been very poor, with five defeats in six games meaning they have failed to get past the semi-final stage on each occasion. They will be hoping it is fourth time lucky this season although a dip in form in the last few week’s means there is still much work to be done until they can look to end this unwanted record. Having headed the pack chasing early pacesetters Salisbury City back in November, a number of postponed games plus a run to the FA Cup 2nd Round saw the Clarets slip back from this promising position. In common with a number of Blue Square Bet South sides – City included – the last six weeks have seen a hectic schedule as they caught up with this backlog of games. And with just two wins in their last seven league outings it looks as if this busy time has caught up with the team. The last two games, in particular, have seen an injury and suspension depleted side suffer disappointing defeats, 3-0 at Weston Super Mare then, last night, 4-1 at home to AFC Hornchurch. This run will have left the Clarets nervously looking over their shoulders as a number of sides close in on the all-important top five positions.
Complete record against Chelmsford City
The Clarets last visit to Bath was for the first leg of the 2009-10 Conference South play-off semi-final. The Essex side had finished one place above City in the final table and enjoyed much the better of the first half. However, keeper Ryan Robinson made three excellent saves and Adam Connolly produced an outstanding goalline clearance to keep them at bay. And the game turned in City’s favour after they were awarded a penalty on the hour mark when Darren Edwards was pulled back in the box, which Kaid Mohamed coolly converted. Mark Badman and Ricky Modeste were both sent off following an altercation before substitute Hector Mackie sent the City fans into dreamland when he doubled the lead with just three minutes to go. Fittingly, given his return to the club this week, the game was also Jim Rollo’s 400th appearance for the Romans.
With three home games coming up in the next week against play-off chasing Chelmsford City, title favourites Welling United and in-form Basingstoke Town, City are offering a 3 for 2 deal on tickets. To take advantage of this offer – over 270 minutes of Blue Square Bet South football for just £24 (all concessions also apply) – supporters should go to the Mayday Trust Park ticket office before 3pm on Saturday 16 March.
Jim Rollo is once again a Bath City player after re-joining the club today from Chippenham Town, subject to the completion of the paperwork. The 36-year old switched to the Bluebirds on the final day of 2012, having made 476 appearances for City, but the switch did not pan out entirely as planned. Once again Jim will combine a playing and coaching role at Mayday Trust Park and said, “Ten weeks ago I had the hardest decision I’ve made in football, today I had the easiest. I am really looking forward to seeing all the lads and being part of Bath City Football Club again. Accept the past, manage the present, and work hard towards the future.” City chairman Manda Rigby added, “I am beyond delighted Jim is back with Bath City. I know that, in whatever capacity, he will give the best he can, and his return is a huge boost to the club.”
A City side ravaged by injury and illness crashed to a third successive defeat at a cold and dismal AFC Hornchurch this afternoon. When Urchin keeper Woolley inexplicably missed a Adam Connolly’s 72nd minute corner and Charlie Griffin stabbed home the ball to cancel out Tuohy’s opening goal four minutes earlier it looked as if City would, at least, grab a point. However, seven minutes later Smith restored the home side’s lead and this time they held out for a first league win of 2013. With neither side looking comfortable on a difficult playing surface it was a poor quality first half, although both probably should have got on the scoresheet. City – with four players unavailable plus several more playing despite not being close to full fitness – saw Ryan Charles three times get goalside of the Hornchurch defence but fail to convert the chances and Connolly and Dan Ball both strike the frame of the goal. At the other end Jason Mellor twice produced excellent saves to ensure the game reached half-time goalless. In a worrying repeat of several recent performances City were very much second best after the break and the Urchins had gone close on several occasions before Smith crossed to give Tuohy a simple tap-in at the far post. Apart from a deflected Kerry Morgan shot into the side-netting City had been almost non-existent as an attacking force but Griffin’s 16th goal of the season appeared to have rescued a point for the Romans. This would have been harsh on the hosts and justice was done when Smith’s mis-timed header from a Tuohy cross appeared to wrong-foot Mellor and bounce over his despairing dive into the corner of the net.
City’s up and down campaign continued during the last week with back to back defeats at Dover Athletic and Havant & Waterlooville that saw them slip back into the bottom half of the Blue Square Bet South table. And with four of their next six opponents after this weekend firmly involved the promotion race City will be keen to return to winning ways when they travel to Essex on Saturday for their first ever visit to AFC Hornchurch.
With ten matches remaining the Urchins are battling to avoid a swift return to the Ryman League – having won promotion last season via the play-offs – currently sitting second from bottom of the table having played more games than the majority of their nearest rivals. After winning four of their final six games on 2012 Hornchurch are yet to record a league victory this year, with six draws and four defeats so far in 2013 – a run which has seen them drop from eighth position at the turn of the year. With four successive away matches following the clash with City – including trips to top five sides Dover Athletic, Chelmsford City and Boreham Wood – they will be desperate to end this spell. They have shown signs in their last two games that they may yet be able to climb out of trouble with promising draws against Staines Town and Farnborough. The first game saw a spirited display that culminated with a late penalty from Tuohy to earn a share of the points before same player netted against Boro’ with 20 minutes left only for the struggling Hampshire side to level nine minutes later. They have also enjoyed some cup success with wins over Colchester United and Waltham Abbey earning them an Essex Senior Cup Final place against local rivals Grays Athletic.
Complete record against AFC Hornchurch
The meeting at Mayday Trust Park earlier this season was the first ever between the clubs and they came into the match level on points in the lower half of the Conference South. The opening exchanges were all the City although it took 19 minutes for them to open the scoring, Chris Allen curling a low shot past Woolley into the corner of the net. The Urchins had shown nothing up to that point but within a minute they stunned City by finding an equaliser, Gray beating Glyn Garner via the post. Despite this blow City continued to dominate, Sean Canham flicking a free-kick against the post moments later and on 34 minutes another set-piece dropped to Joe Burnell six yards out to net his first goal for the club. The second half failed to live up to the first as City struggled to reproduce their performance and the visitors looked bereft of any real attacking threat. The late drama in the previous week’s 4-3 win at Tonbridge Angels would still have been fresh in City’s mind though but they secured the three points four minutes from time when Aaron Brown’s free-kick was fired into the roof of the net by Sean Canham.
City saw a one goal half-time lead evaporate during the second period at Havant & Waterlooville this evening to suffer a second away defeat in three days. Noah Keats fired City in front after just nine minutes but Palmer levelled on 56 minutes before Harris netted what turned out to be the winning goal with 20 minutes remaining. New signing Ryan Charles headed an early chance narrowly wide before a swift break from a Havant corner saw Elliott Chamberlain skip past two defenders to cross for Keats to steer the ball home. Both sides saw several half chances come and go after this, with Chamberlain forcing a fine save from Masters before finding the net only for the referee to rule out the effort. However, after an even first half it was the home side who gained the upper hand after the break and on 56 minutes Kabba set up Palmer to deservedly level the scores. Then 14 minutes later Hutchinson flicked on Arthur’s cross for Harris to convert at the back post. Even the introduction of Josh Low and Kerry Morgan failed to spark City and it was the hosts who could have added to the scoring, Ball clearing Nanetti’s effort off the line and Jason Mellor saving Ramsey’s long range shot.
City have signed former Luton Town and Cambridge United player Ryan Charles after putting in seven days notice to his current side Southern League Premier Division Hemel Hempstead Town. The 23-year old, who can player as a striker or winger, came through the youth ranks with Luton Town and also played for Rushden & Diamonds and, earlier this season, Newport County. He goes straight into the squad to face Havant & Waterlooville this evening.
City will hope it is third time lucky tomorrow night when they travel to Havant & Waterlooville for the twice postponed Blue Square Bet South match. It is an immediate opportunity to bounce back from Saturday’s disappointing 2-0 defeat at play-off chasing Dover Athletic. Two avoidable goals in that match meant the long trip to Kent was ultimately pointless but City’s performance deserved better and a repeat on the South Coast should give them an excellent chance of returning to winning ways.
Complete record against Havant & Waterlooville/Waterlooville
Whilst City were suffering the reversal at Crabble Atheltic Ground, Havant were recording a much needed home win over Sutton United. Three wins in four games either side of Christmas had lifted the Hawks away from the relegation zone to the dizzy heights of 12th place. However, one further victory in their next eight league games saw them slip back toward the bottom three. This spell did include promising draws at Chelmsford City and home to title-chasing Salisbury City and this improvement in form was continued in the 3-0 win over the U’s. It took a fluke goal – keeper Lovelock’s attempted cleared hitting Palmer and rebounding into the net – late in the first half to break the deadlock before Palmer flicked home Kabba’s pass and Bossman netted on his debut during the second period. Palmer’s brace took his tally to 17 this season and he committed himself to the Hawks until the end of the 2014-15 campaign last week despite rumoured interest from a number of higher league clubs.
City’s five match unbeaten away run was ended this afternoon by Dover Athletic but they can consider themselves very unfortunate to have returned from Kent empty-handed. City enjoyed the majority of possession, twice seeing efforts come back off the bar, but in the end a goal in each half, both with a fair share of good fortune about them, was enough to secure three points for the Whites. Both woodwork strikes came during the opening 20 minutes, first from Adam Connolly’s curling shot then Charlie Griffin’s point-blank header to which keeper Walker got a vital touch. Then on 23 minutes May appeared to mis-control the ball in the area only to wrong-foot Jason Mellor and leave him with a simple tap-in. Despite this setback City continued to look the better side but with 20 minutes left luck deserted them again when captain Gethin Jones sliced the ball into his own net leaving the hosts to comfortably see out the remainder of the game.
Former Bristol City and Plymouth Argyle winger Joe Lennox – who played three games for City last season whilst on loan from the Robins – has signed non-contract terms.
Title chasing Salisbury City have become the third Blue Square Bet South side to be deducted points this season after they lost one for fielding an ineligible player against AFC Hornchurch in January.