With their already optimistic hopes of a Skrill South play-off spot receiving another setback on Saturday thanks to Sutton United’s last minute equaliser, City will look to end the 2013-14 season on a positive note with a place in the Somerset Premier Cup final when Taunton Town visit Mayday Trust Park tomorrow evening in the semi-final of the competition. Having lost to Southern League Division 1 South & West opposition– Paulton Rovers – at the same stage last season, City will aim to go one better this year and reach the Somerset FA’s showpiece final for the first time since 2007-08, where either Odd Down or Frome Town will await.
The Peacocks have enjoyed a reasonable 2013-14 season as they look to earn a top ten spot for the first time since the 2010-11 campaign. After winning just one of their opening eight league games their performances picked up in October/November when they recorded five successive victories to pull away for the lower reaches of the table. Since then their form has been up and down, as reflected in their 14 wins and 14 defeats during the season so far. In the Somerset Premier Cup – a competition they have won twice in 2002-03 and 2005-06 – Taunton reached this stage thanks to wins over Welton Rovers (9-0), Bridgwater Town (1-0) and Wells City (2-0).
Complete record against Taunton Town/Taunton United
The clubs have been regular opponents in the competition, under its current name and the previous Somerset Professional Cup title, meeting a total of 26 times. Although City have enjoyed the greater success, with 15 wins to Taunton’s four, the Peacock’s have emerged victorious in the two most recent clashes. Two seasons ago two late goals cancelled out Josh Egan’s strike at Wordsworth Lane and it was the same scoreline when the sides last met at Twerton Park for a 2nd Round tie during the 2006-07 season. City got off to a perfect start as Craig Davidge’s first minute cross was converted by John Phillips but this was as good as it got until the closing minutes. The visitors spurned several good openings to level in the first half before, nine minutes after the break, Beadle fired home an equaliser and seven minutes later Cook put Taunton ahead from the penalty spot. Scott Rogers almost took the game into extra time in the final minute but substitute keeper Classen pushed away his 20-yard effort and the small crowd were denied another 30 minutes out in the cold.
City are only likely to be missing captain Andy Gallinagh from their squad after he limped out of the Sutton United game with a back injury. Keeper Jason Mellor may miss out ahead of his three-game suspension starting on Saturday with loan signing Stuart Moore handed the gloves in his place. Admission prices will be: adults £6, concessions £3 and U16 £1.
City came within a few minutes of ending Sutton United’s unbeaten league record in 2014 at a warm and sunny Gander Green Lane this afternoon but a 90th minute equaliser saw the match end all-square in a 2-2 draw. The goal came just four minutes after City had taken the lead thanks to Dave Pratt’s second goal as the game finished in a dramatic fashion that the preceeding 80 minutes had rarely matched. The 3rd placed hosts started brightly but failed to test Jason Mellor in the City goal and as the half progressed both sides struggled to gain the upper hand. Just when it looked as if the interval would be reached without a goal City struck in stoppage time. Ross Stearn lifted a free-kick into the box when Pratt rose highest to head past Brown’s despairing dive. Ten minutes into the second half Chris Allen was desperately unluckly not to increase City’s lead when his curling shot crashed against the bar. Sutton were enjoying plenty of possession but again they failed to turn this into clear openings. Andy Watkins was denied by Brown as the game reached it’s final ten minutes but a couple of minutes later the home side levelled when McCallum’s free-kick evaded Mellor allowing ex-City defender Clough to turn the ball home. Sutton suddenly sensed a late turnaround to boost their play-off hopes but four minutes later a clearance by Mellor was allowed to bounce and suddenly Pratt was clear on goal where he made no mistake, sliding the ball past Brown. There was still time for further drama though, as Dundas converted Haysman’s cross from close range to make it 2-2 and it nearly got even worse for City in stoppage time when Clough headed home only for the linesman’s flag to half the celebrations. In the end a draw was probably the right result but City will no doubt feel the more disappointed of the two sides having led so late in the game.
City have announced the date for their 2014 Academy trials. The programme, managed by former Bristol Rovers defender Billy Clark, who holds a UEFA A licence, is now in its fifth year and has gone from strenght to strength since its launch in 2009. The players will study the National Diploma in Sport (Level 3). This is a two year course and will run alongside the football programme, where they will train for 10-12 hours per week and play in the South West Counties Youth League on Saturday mornings with home fixtures at Mayday Trust Park in Twerton. The course offers a natural pathway from youth academy to senior football and has links to City’s development squad based at the University of Bath. The first trial date is Thursday 10 April 2014. Anyone interested in attending can obtain more information from Billy Clark on 07968 086836 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
City have strengthened their squad ahead of the 2013-14 transfer deadline with the signing of midfielder Danny Wring and goalkeeper Stuart Moore. Wring, who has been training with the squad recently, has played for a number of local non-league clubs including Team Bath, Mangotsfield, Yate Town and Chippenham Town. 19-year old Moore has signed on loan from Sky Bet Championship side Reading as cover for regular no.1 Jason Mellor who will miss the Eastbourne Borough, Hayes & Yeading United and Gosport Borough matches following his sending off against Chelmsford City.
Following the success of the Community Day match v Chelmsford City on Saturday, City are introducing a new family ticket. This will allow two parents and two children to come to the game for just £18. Accompanied children are already allowed in for just £1. Director Phil Weaver said, “We have good deals already for children with adults, but we were recommended by some fans to make it even more family-friendly, to include both parents. We are delighted to welcome more people to City matches.” These tickets need to be bought from the matchday ticket office, not the turnstiles.
City’s single goal defeat at Havant & Waterlooville on Monday evening may turn out to be point at which this season’s Skrill South play-offs became a step too far, but the Romans will still look to secure as many points as possible from their final six games to ensure they are in the right place should results fall their way during the final four weeks of the 2013-14 campaign. Realistically this means a full house of eighteen points and they will hope to take a first step to this demanding target with a trip to third-placed Sutton United this Saturday.
The U’s come into the game unbeaten in 2014 so far but hopes of a late title challenge appear to have faltered thanks to successive goalless draws in their last two outings against sides near the foot of the table. Five wins in a row in March had moved Paul Doswell’s side to within five points of leaders Eastleigh and, with trips to Dorchester Town and Hayes & Yeading United next up, they would have been confident of keeping pressure on the Spitfires and second place Bromley. However, first they were unable to find a way past the rock-bottom Magpies then were left even more frustrated with Hayes’ timewasting and some refereeing decisions as two more points were dropped. Despite these results they are still well-placed to secure a play-off place – currently eleven points ahead of sixth-placed City – and look to return to the top flight of non-league football after a 14-year absence.
Off the pitch the club has announced major plans to redevelop their Gander Green Lane home, unveiling a £1m project, all designed to turn the venue into a sports hub for the community as well attract more fans through the gates. A £750,000 community pavilion and new terracing will replace the old stand on the recreation ground side of the Lane. In addition, the oval terracing at the Collingwood Road end will be replaced with a covered terrace that skirts the pitch in a project totalling around £180,000. Manager Paul Doswell – who has just signed a new four-year deal with the club – is the man behind the work and the funding and he has also been very vocal in his support for 3G pitches. Sutton proposed a vote to allow the use of such playing surfaces in the Conference last month but it was defeated by 21 votes to 11, a result Doswell slammed as ‘undemocratic’ and ‘self-serving’.
Complete record against Sutton United
City’s last three trips to south London has been profitable with two wins and a draw, including a thumping 4-0 during the 2007-08 season. However, the clash before these more enjoyable visits must rank as one of City’s lowest points in recent history. Just over 20 years ago the sides were drawn against each other in the 2nd Round of the FA Trophy. At the time City were a Vauxhall Conference club with Sutton back in the Ryman League having been relegated at the end of the 1990-91 season. And when a deflected Nicky Brooks shot put them ahead after just three minutes it looked as if the game would go to form. Although Sutton responded well, scrambling home an equaliser eight minutes later, City were unlucky not to be ahead at the interval when Gary Smart crashed a shot against the bar. So there was no indication of the carnage that followed after the break. Within five minutes a mistake by Ian Hedges allowed Feltham to put the hosts in front and three minutes later Morah made it 3-1. When the same player added his second on 59 minutes any hopes of a comeback were gone and two further goals in the final five minutes capped an embarrassing afternoon for City, although by then most of their supporters had headed to the bar to spare themselves any further humiliation.
The return of defender Phil Walsh – after he missed the defeat at Havant due to a family illness – should see a full strength squad head up the M4 to face Sutton.
City’s Somerset Premier Cup semi-final meeting with Calor Southern League Division 1 South & West side Taunton Town will take place at Mayday Trust Park on Tuesday 1 April (ko 7.45pm). The winners will face either Odd Down or Frome Town, who meet the following night in Somerset, in the final of this year’s competition. Admission prices will be: adults £6, concessions £3 and U16 £1.
A deflected strike early in the second half condemned City to a 1-0 defeat at Havant & Waterlooville this evening which almost certainly ends their Skrill South play-off hopes. After a first half that the Romans just about shaded, the hosts controlled the second half to deservedly earn the victory that moves them to within three points of City but still with six games in hand. Noah Keats should have put City ahead after just eight minutes, heading against the bar from just a couple of yards out, before Dave Pratt forced a fine low stop from Hawks keeper Buchel. Both sides probed for openings after this, Pratt denying Strugnell with a great last ditch tackle, before Joe Burnell failed to get a free header on target. Dan Bowman and Prat drew further stops from Buchel but the host ended the half strongly with Donnelly curling a free-kick against the foot of the post. The decisive goal came on 56 minutes when Jason Mellor could only punch a corner as far as Ciardini and his shot through the crowded box found the net. City couldn’t find their first half rhythm after this blow and their second period performance was summed up with a Ross Stearn free-kick that threatened the vehicles in the car park more than Buchel’s goal.
City will have no time to reflect on one of their best performances of the 2013-14 season as they are quickly thrust back into Skrill South action with a trip to the south coast to face Havant & Waterlooville tomorrow evening. The win over Chelmsford City yesterday saw City net four times at home for the first time since the final game of the 2011-12 campaign, and with nearly 1400 supporters at the game the club will hope the entertainment they witnessed will see them return to Mayday Trust Park for City’s three remaining home league games. Before they worry about that though, City will need to keep their winning run going in two away trips against rivals for a play-off berth, with Sutton United on Saturday following the Hawks meeting.
Havant are currently involved in a remarkable run of fixtures, the meeting with City is their 10th in March so far with another two to come, after playing just once in the Skrill South during January and February. Despite this they would no doubt prefer the game against City not to be taking place as it would mean they were at Wembley Stadium this afternoon competing in the FA Trophy Final against Cambridge United. Whilst, in common with many clubs, they have suffered a series of postponements – particularly at home where they went over 2 ½ months without playing a league game – their fixture backlog was exacerbated by a long FA Trophy run. Wins over Sutton United, Basingstoke Town, Whitehawk, Ebbsfleet United and, most memorably, Aldershot Town carried the Hawks to the semi-final stage. And when they avoided Conference Premier big guns Cambridge United and Grimsby Town, instead drawing local rivals and Conference South strugglers Gosport Borough, a first ever trip to Wembley looked a real possibility. A 1-1 draw at Westleigh Park in the first leg left the tie finely balanced but a desperately disappointing performance at Gosport saw their dreams evaporate in a 2-0 defeat.
So March began with manager Lee Bradbury and his players having to bounce back from this disappointment and start to catch up with their Skrill South fixtures. Although they were down in 15th place they had up to ten games in hand on the teams above them and, with the exception of title challenging duo Bromley and Eastleigh, all were eminently catchable. Their league form was already good, having won four and drawn one of the five previous outings, and when they opened the month with successive away victories at Hayes & Yeading United, Boreham Wood and Eastbourne Borough they began to climb back toward the all-important top five positions. Since then though this demanding fixture schedule appears to have caught up with the team, with home defeats to Staines Town and Dover Athletic, the latter an extraordinary 4-3 reversal, either side of further wins over Ebbsfleet United and Basingstoke Town. The last of these kept the Hawks within six points of City, still having played six games fewer, so the Romans will know that their own play-off hopes will take a real blow if they do not return to the West Country with all three points.
Complete record against Havant & Waterlooville/Waterlooville
Westleigh Park has not been a happy hunting ground for City since the sides became Conference rivals in 2007-08, with the four meetings in Hampshire ending in two draws and two defeats. Last season it looked as if City might end this run when Noah Keats fired them in front after just nine minutes. Both sides saw several half chances come and go after this, with Elliott 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.
A bumper Community Day attendance of over 1300 was richly entertained at Mayday Trust Park this afternoon as City overcame Chelmsford City by four goals to one despite an early penalty miss and the sending off of keeper Jason Mellor. The ‘pay want you want’ crowd had barely settled when Andy Watkins was brought down by Clarets keeper Forecast but he redeemed himself, pushing away Chris Allen’s 10th minute spot kick. City did not let this miss unsettle them though and deservedly opened the scoring on 27 minutes after Forecast could only knock down Watkins’ cross to Ben Adelsbury to fire into the net. Forecast was then rescued by Miller, clearing the ball from under his own bar with Watkins ready to pounce, when Ross Stearn’s cross looped over him. And it was Stearn who celebrated his recall to the starting XI with a low drive on 55 minutes after his inital free-kick had hit the wall. The visitors had posed little in the way of an attacking threat all afternoon but just past the hour mark substitute Callander slid the ball past Mellor with his first touch to reduce the arrears. However, six minutes later Adelsbury’s shot was parried by Forecast and Watkins latched onto the rebound to make it 3-1. The Clarets were given a ray of hope with 15 minutes left when Mellor reacted angrily to Callander’s late challenge and was shown a straight red card by the referee. Adelsbury took over between the posts but he was rarely troubled and it was City who completed the scoring in stoppage time when Dave Pratt raced onto Joe Burnell’s pass to fire past Forecast.
City welcome Chelmsford City to Mayday Trust Park on Saturday looking for successful day both on and off the pitch. Whilst a victory – which would be the Romans third successive Skrill South win – is a must to keep their play-off hopes alive, they will also hope for a bumper crowd with all supporters able to ‘pay what they want’ to get in as part of the club’s Community Day. 10% of all donations received will also be going to the RUH Forever Friends Cancer Appeal and everyone who enters through the turnstiles will receive a raffle ticket for a free draw.
The Clarets will travel west boosted by a vital win over Dorchester Town in the week as they look to avoid slipping back into the relegation battle with the 2013-14 season fast approaching its final month. After picking up four points from their opening two games it looked as if they once again would be challenging near the top of the table, having reached the play-offs four times in the previous five seasons. However, when they lost eleven of their next fourteen league games, along with FA Cup and Trophy exits to lower league opposition, suddenly the Melbourne Park faithful were witnessing a relegation fight rather than a promotion challenge. A run of four successive defeats, with no goals scored and 18 conceded, in November saw high profile manager Dean Holdsworth relieved of the position. The Essex side turned to Mark Hawkes, boss of Ryman League Divison One North high-flyers Heybridge Swifts, and his arrival had an immediate impact as they recorded home wins over Farnborough and Basingstoke Town in his first two games in charge. This remarkable turnaround continued as they lost just one of their next seven league games to go into February in 13th place, nine points clear of the relegation zone, albeit having played more games than all the sides beneath them. A home defeat to Ebbsfleet United ended this run and four defeats in their next five outings suddenly left them nervously looking over their shoulder at the drop zone once again. However, the 4-1 win over bottom side Dorchester has eased these fears somewhat and another positive result in Bath would go a long way to ensuring they remain a Conference South side next season.
Complete record against Chelmsford City
The clash will be Chelmsford 37th trip to face City, with eleven wins and 16 defeats in their previous visits. Last season only a stoppage time City goal denied them a 12th success. City opened the scoring after just nine minutes when the Clarets failed to deal with a low Aaron Brown free-kick and Gethin 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. However, three minutes into stoppage time, with the pitch a carpet of white after a sudden hail storm, Josh Low lifted the ball toward the far post where Noah Keats was perfectly placed to head home to the delight of the majority of the 512 crowd.
For the second week in a row City should go into the game with a full squad from which to choose, although striker Jake Reid will no longer be an option having returned to Bromley at the end of his month loan deal.
Bath City’s Community Day takes place this Saturday 22nd March when City host Chelmsford City at Mayday Trust Park and it’s a “Pay What You Want” game. Ten percent of the money taken on the gate will be donated to the RUH Forever Friends Appeal for the new Cancer Unit at the RUH. People who enter the ground through the turnstiles will receive a raffle ticket for a free draw. The Football Association have kindly donated three prizes: firstly an autographed England Football signed by the Under-21 team who played Wales, at Derby recently; secondly the goalkeeping gloves used by Jack Butland in this game – the gloves are also signed by the player and thirdly a programme from this Under-21 international fixture. The draw will be made, on the pitch, at half-time, by ex-Bristol Rovers and Bath City legend Paul Randall and as an extra prize there will be a signed copy of Paul’s book – Punky: The Paul Randall Story.
A rare goal from Joe Burnell early in the second half was enough to see City overcome bottom of the table Dorchester Town at Mayday Trust Park this afternoon. The visitors were also reduced to ten-men in the closing stages of the game as City kept alive their play-off hopes. The early exchanges saw the Magpies belie their lowly league position but Craig and Losasso both failed to hit the target when openings fell to them. City slowly began to impose themselves on the game after this and, with both sides creating a number of half-chances, the scores were deservedly level at the interval. Within two minutes of the restart though City went ahead. Scott Wilson’s cross was fumbled by keeper Waker-Harris and although Andy Watkins’ inital effort was blocked he returned the lose ball across to Burnell to apply a composed finish into the roof of the net. Lifted by this goal City took control of the game but Dorchester almost stunned them with an equaliser on 59 minutes when Losassa crashed a shot against the outside of the post. This would be as close as the Dorset side came to a goal as City carved out numerous chances to extend their lead. Phil Walsh headed a Ross Stearn free-kick against the bar, Chris Allen shot narrowly wide and Stearn’s well-struck effort was bravely blocked by Jermyn. Dorchester’s hopes suffered a further set-back 13 minutes from time when Crittenden was dismissed for two bookings. Chances continued to come and go for City after this but in the end one goal was enough to secure the three points for a second successive Saturday.
City face two games at Mayday Trust Park in the next week that will go a long way to shaping the remainder of their Skrill Conference South season. Chelmsford City will travel west next Saturday looking to avoid slipping back into the relegation fight but before that Dorchester Town head to Bath desperate for points in their battle at the foot of the table. With tough trips to in-form Havant & Waterlooville and title dark horses Sutton United to follow, City know that anything less than two wins will all but end their play-off hopes.
The Magpies looked relegation certainties following five successive league defeats between Boxing Day and the beginning of February. After picking up just seven points from their opening 13 games they more than doubled this tally with wins over Sutton United and Tonbridge Angels plus draws with Eastbourne Borough and Concord Rangers during November and December. However, a narrow loss against title challengers Eastleigh was followed by heavy defeats against Weston Super Mare, Boreham Wood and Dover Athletic. When they then suffered a 3-2 reversal against fellow strugglers Farnborough it looked as if a Southern League return was inevitable. Manager Phil Simkin bemoaned his side’s luck during this run, claiming their performances were much improved on earlier in the season. And this faith was rewarded when they beat play-off hopefuls Eastbourne Borough 3-2 in their next outing. Although the Dorset side then lost to Havant & Waterlooville – labelled the “best side in the league without a doubt” by Simkin – they stunned league leaders Bromley thanks to a last minute winner despite surrendering a two-goal lead in a remarkable game. This victory was enough to lift them off the foot of the table for the first time since November and they then produced another stoppage time winner to beat Tonbridge Angels. Since then they have picked up two further points with draws against Staines Town and Bishop’s Stortford, either side of a 4-1 loss at home to Boreham Wood.
Complete record against Dorchester Town
Dorchester enjoyed a first ever double over City last season in the 35th and 36th meetings between the clubs. Having beaten the Romans 2-1 during the opening month of the campaign on the south coast, Dorchester arrived at Mayday Trust Park in February to face a City side who had lost their previous three home games. The visitors capped a bright start by going ahead on 20 minutes when former City striker Ben Watson was allowed the room to fire past Jason Mellor. Up to that point City had struggled to impose themselves on the game but seven minutes later Griffin was bundled over right on the edge of the area and stepped up to curl the free-kick past leaden-footed keeper Matthews. Lifted by this City enjoyed their best spell of the game, however on 38 minutes their failure to clear the ball was punished by Malsom to restore the Magpies advantage. Once again Griffin was the man to re-establish parity two minutes before the interval, executing a great lob that Matthews could only push into the roof of his net. The second half saw both sides search for a winning goal, City’s passing game contrasting with Dorchester more direct approach, and it was the latter which secured the three points ten minutes from time, Pugh climbing highest to head home a corner.
With Ben Adelsbury and Aaron Brown both coming through 90 minutes of action in the 3-1 Somerset Premier Cup win over Cheddar last night, City head coach Lee Howells could be in the almost unheard position this season of a fully available squad from which to name his team on Saturday.
Two goals from Scott Wilson and a Ben Adelsbury free-kick saw City past a spirited Cheddar FC side 3-1 at Bowdens Park this evening to secure a Somerset Premier Cup semi-final spot. City fielded a mixture of first team and Academy players, with Adam Connolly captaining the side and Adelsbury and Aaron Brown returning from injury. Despite the difficult playing surface both sides contributed to an entertaining game and City had gone close on several occasions before Wilson’s left-foot shot via the post put them in front on 38 minutes. The Cheesemen started the second half strongly but it was City who struck again on 49 minutes when Adelsbury’s free-kick crept just inside keeper Talbot’s near post. Cheddar responded well and Ham maide it 2-1 with a neat turn and finish. City suffered a few nervous moments as the Western League side battled to find an equaliser and take the game into extra-time before Wilson made the tie safe with a composed finish in the final minute. City will face Taunton Town at home in the semi-final during the week commencing March 31.
City and Cheddar will make a second attempt to play their Somerset Premier Cup quarter final tomorrow night at Bowdens Park. After nearly ten weeks without a home game the Cheesemen finally returned to action in front of their own supporters a week ago when Wellington headed up the M5 for a Western League Division 1 clash. The hosts started the game strongly but it was Wellington who struck first on 25 minutes, Cleal netting from close range after an initial shot came back off the bar. And this turned out to be the only goal of the game to make it a disappointing return to Bowdens Park. On Saturday they travelled to promotion chasing Cribbs FC and got off to a great start when Day gave them a 15th minute lead. However, this was as good as it got as the Bristol-based side levelled just after 20 minutes through Truan then made it 2-1 before the interval. The second half saw former City striker Dave Gilroy add a third before Truan net his second to complete the scoring. The two defeats leave Cheddar in 18th place with 31 points from their 28 games.
The 2013-14 season marks City’s 69th Somerset Premier (or Professional) Cup campaign – they have won the trophy on 22 previous occasions. In comparison this is just the Cheesemen’s second time in the competition, having won promotion to the Western League in 2011-12. They received a 1st Round bye last season and were then drawn against Larkhall Atheltic in the 2nd Round. With the Bath-based Larks flying high in the Western League Premier Division it was a tough draw for Cheddar but they gave a good account of themselves, Strading scoring the only goal of the game for Larkhall with a neat lob during the first half. This season after another 1st Round bye they enjoyed a first ever win in the competition, beating division rival Wincanton Town by three goals to one at Bowdens Park. The winners of the tie will meet Taunton Town at home in the semi-final.
A dreadful mistake by Maidenhead United keeper Putnins gifted City a vital three points at a sunny York Road this afternoon. Josh Low pounced with just five minutes left to tap home the only goal of the game after the keeper had spilled a Ross Stearn cross despite being under no pressure. After an even first half, where David Pratt came the closest to scoring against his former club and Jason Mellor produced a fine stop to deny Miller-Rodney when he was clean through, City started the second period strongly. Putnins was quickly off his line to block Jake Reid’s effort then pushed away Andy Watkins’ well-struck shot. The hosts then began to press City back but couldn’t turn this dominance into clear cut chances. Just when the game looked to be heading for a goalless outcome Low took full advantage of Putnins horror moment and despite six minutes of stoppage time the Magpies could not deny City a 12th win in 14 meetings between the sides.
After two excellent performances that yielded a brace of 2-2 draws against top four sides Bromley and Ebbsfleet United, City know they will need to go one better when they travel to Maidenhead United on Saturday and return back down the M4 with a victory under their belt. Although the point they earned against Ebbsfleet lifted them back up to 6th place, with just ten games remaining City will need a very strong finish to the season to reach the play-offs. Only twice in the nine year history of the Conference South has a team secured a top five finish with fewer than 70 points (2004-05 Eastbourne Borough 64 points and 2007-08 Braintree Town 69 points), which leaves City needing to win at least eight of their remaining games just to get near that mark. Therefore, a victory over the Magpies, who City have beaten eleven times in their previous thirteen meetings, is more or less a must for Lee Howell’s men.
For a fifth successive season Maidenhead are firmly involved in the battle to avoid relegation, although they have begun to show signs in the last two or three weeks that they have the quality to pull away from the lower reaches of the Skrill South table. The 2013-14 season started very positively for the Berkshire side, with three wins and two draws from their opening five games. However, a first defeat against Eastleigh started a run of 13 league games without a win which saw them slide from the play-off zone to one off the foot of the table. They finally ended this run with a Boxing Day victory over Staines Town then two days later beat Hayes & Yeading United. Any momentum Johnson Hippolyte hoped his side was building was dashed by the weather as they only played a single game in January (a goalless draw with Staines) then began February with back to back defeats against Weston Super Mare and Dover Athletic. A vital 3-0 win over Chelmsford City eased the pressure at York Road and they then came within a few minutes of securing a point against title-chasing Eastleigh, the Spitfires grabbing an injury-time winner. These improved performances were put down to a clear the air meeting between the Maidenhead United players, management staff and chairman, and they then picked up another point with a 2-2 draw against Basingstoke Town, despite trailing 2-0 early in the second half. And in the Magpies last outing they enjoyed a 4-2 win over fellow strugglers Tonbridge Angels – Danny Green netting all four goals – to climb to 17th place in the table.
Complete record against Maidenhead United
Having first met during the mid-1960s in an FA Cup tie (which City won 2-0) the clubs became more regular rivals from the 2006-07 season onwards and City have won ten of the eleven league meetings – a goalless draw in the opening week of the 2008-09 season at York Road the only time the Romans have not bagged all three points. City came into the game on the back of an opening day 4-0 home defeat to Welling United but bounced back well from this heavy loss. The defence looked back to its rock solid best, especially the second half, but once again City rarely looked threatening going forward. In an even first half Scott Rogers twice went close for City, firing a 25-yard effort narrowly wide then forcing a smart block from Gore, the rebound just evading the following up Darren Edwards. The home side also created a couple of openings but after the interval they began to dominate, reducing City to an occasional break. However, City’s defence stood up well to the pressure though and Paul Evans was only called into action once, late on, to turn away Pacquette’s well-struck shot.
City were twice pegged back by Ebbsfleet United this evening at Mayday Trust Park in a second entertaining Skrill South 2-2 draw in the space of four days. Two stunning goals from Andy Watkins were cancelled out by quality strikes by Bricknell and Cook, but City will feel their performance deserved better having outplayed the Kent side for much of the game. Jake Reid headed narrowly over before Dan Ball forced a sharp save from Fleet keeper Edwards. He was powerless to deny Watkins on 21 minutes though, the striker producing a perfect lob from 18-yards. The visitors had looked more like a bottom four side than one in the thick of the play-off battle, time and again thumping aimless balls forward much to the obvious displeasure of their vocal bench. However, from their first effort on goal after 30 minutes they levelled, Bricknell firing past Jason Mellor after a slip by Joe Burnell. Edwards then blocked a Watkins shot before the half ended with Cook’s volley flying narrowly over Mellor’s goal. Reid should have restored City’s lead early in the second half only to completely miss his kick with the goal gaping. City weren’t to be denied as a corner was cleared as far as Watkins on the edge of the box and he lifted a right-foot shot into the top corner of the net. Ebbsfleet made several tactical and personnel changes but still struggled to raise their game. They found themselves level again with 13 minutes left though, as the referee, who had frustrated City on several occasions, awarded a free-kick for a Phil Walsh challenge and Cook curled home the ball from 25 yards out. Briefly the Fleet looked the more likely side to grab a winner but fittingly it was City who came closest to netting again when Acheampong sliced a Ball cross toward his own goal only for Preston to gratefully grab the wayward attempt at a clearance.
City will hope their fluctuating form says on an upward trajectory when they host in-form Ebbsfleet United at Mayday Trust Park tomorrow night. The 2-2 draw at table-topping Bromley on Saturday ended a three-game losing run but this has left City facing an uphill task to secure a top five finish. However, with ten matches to go after the Ebbsfleet game, City know that a strong finish to the season could yet see them grab a play-off place.
The Kent side, by contrast, are currently in an excellent position to reach the play-offs, lying in fourth place with a seven point advantage over Dover Athletic in sixth. This came after opening the season with just one win in their first nine games. This was perhaps not a major surprise given the major turnover of players during the summer following the takeover by Kuwaiti company, KEH Sports Ltd. Long serving manager Liam Daish stepped down to be replaced by ex-Dover Athletic assistant manager Steve Brown and he brought in twelve new faces after being handed a transfer budget for the season of £100,000 and a wage budget of £8,000 per week. Their performances finally began to justify this outlay with a 6-0 win at Weston Super Mare in early October and they won seven of their next eight league games to climb to third place in the Skrill Conference South table. The Fleet also enjoyed a FA Cup run to the 4th Qualifying Round where they suffered a narrow 1-0 defeat to local rivals Dartford. Any hopes of making catching top two, Bromley and Eastleigh, suffered a setback over the Christmas and New Year period when they picked up just one point from a possible nine. Since then, though, they have won five of their last seven league games, including the last three, to keep their hopes of a quick return to the Skrill Conference Premier alive.
Complete record against Gravesend & Northfleet/Ebbsfleet United
Ebbsfleet visited Twerton Park 32 times in their previous guise as Gravesend & Northfleet, winning just five times but they emerged victorious on their only trip since changing name in 2007. This came in February 2012 with City ten points adrift at the foot of the Conference Premier and desperate for a win over mid-table Ebbsfleet. And playing a 4-4-2 formation that some supporters had been crying out for City began brightly only to gift the visitors the lead on 11 minutes. Glyn Garner looked to have collected an over-hit pass but the ball inexplicably squirmed from his grasp allowing Ugwu to set up Pinney for a simple tap-in. Sean Canham then had an effort ruled out for offside before Lewis Hogg and Lee Phillips both shot wide when clear through on goal. Phillips also had a penalty shout turned down after he was strongly challenged by keeper Edwards. As the half progressed City began to lose their momentum and the Fleet saw more possession but another chance fell to Phillips just before the break where he again failed to test Edwards. However, on 61 minutes City finally levelled when Gethin Jones powerfully headed home Hogg’s cross. And five minutes later they were handed a great opportunity to complete the turnaround when Ebbsfleet were reduced to ten men. Sean Canham was felled by an elbow that the officials missed but in the aftermath Edwards raised his hands to Jones giving the referee no option but to show him a red card. Although the Kent side had a replacement keeper on the bench City were now clearly in the driving seat. However, their understandable desire to commit men forward cost them after 80 minutes when a quick break ended with Shakes restoring United’s lead. Ugwu then ensured it would be another bleak afternoon for City, sliding home his side’s third on 90 minutes, and although there was still time for Sean Canham to make it 3-2 when he fired home off the underside of the crossbar, it was too little too late.
City ended their three-game losing run with a battling 2-2 draw against league leaders Bromley at Hayes Lane this afternoon. The home side will probably feel they had enough chances to have won the game but City contributed sufficiently to an entertaining encounter to deserve a share of the points. Returning Phil Walsh had already seen a header unwittingly blocked on the line before Dan Ball’s looping header gave City a 14th minute lead. The advantage only lasted six minutes though as Goldberg latched onto May’s header to fire past Jason Mellor. Waldren and Jarrett wasted chances as Bromley showed why they came into the game eight points clear at the top of the Skrill Conference South table. City responded well, and Josh Low should have done better when he broke clear only to allow keeper Welch to block his flicked shot. Mellor produced an excellent stop to deny Goldberg and Joseph-Dubois dragged a shot wide as the hosts ended the first half on top and five minutes after the break Waldren’s stunning 20-yard volley deservedly put them in front. Kiernan should have extended that lead after rounding Mellor only to tamely shoot toward goal where Sekani Simpson blocked the effort. And within moments this miss proved even more costly as Low’s perfect through ball allowed Andy Watkins to slide home an equaliser. Mellor produced another excellent save to keep out May’s shot before Ross Stearn fired over after a great run by Watkins. Bromley understandably threw all the could at City in the closing stages but they could not find a winning goal to deny City a confidence-boosting result.