City’s Blue Square Bet Premier meeting with title-chasing Crawley Town scheduled for tomorrow night has been cancelled due to a frozen Twerton Park pitch. An inspection at 7pm this evening found the pitch unplayable and with temperatures unlikely to rise about freezing during the next 24 hours the decision to cancel the game was made. A new date for the match will be announced in due course. The postponement means City’s next game is due to be Saturday’s trip to face Kettering Town.
Weather permitting Tuesday evening will see the ‘Project Promotion’ tour of England and Wales make it stop in Bath as Crawley Town look to climb back to the summit of the Blue Square Bet Premier. Led by charismatic manager Steve Evans the Red Devils’ expensively assembled squad has increasingly begun to live up to its understandably high expectations, netting 12 goals in the last three league outings, including seven without reply against rock-bottom Altrincham. On top of this they have progressed in the FA Cup, holding League 1 side Swindon Town to a 1-1 draw on Friday night to … oh, I can’t keep going like this.
I’m fairly sure nobody going to the trouble of reading this preview wants a straightforward account of Crawley’s season so far followed by a recap of a previous meeting or two between the clubs then a short paragraph on City’s team news for the game. You’re expecting (hoping for?) another extensively researched and carefully worded rant directed at Crawley and their controversial manager Steve Evans. I’m afraid I’m going to disappoint you. Those who read my previous match preview for the first meeting between the clubs this season, before I removed it from the website, will have seen everything I had to say on both subjects. If you weren’t quick enough off the mark and are still interested to find out what all the fuss was about I’m sure you could find the piece, it was reproduced on a few other sites (either in full or summarised) without my consent. Equally, my opinion on Evans in particular has been reflected in a number of articles published over the years since he came to widespread notice during his time with Boston United. Wikipedia, as ever, would be a good starting point.
For what it is worth I still stand by my opinion that there was nothing in the preview that was factually incorrect (apart from perhaps a reference I made to who owned Crawley Town at one point in their recent history) but also that it was the right thing to do to remove it given that it was Bath City FC that was bearing the brunt of the complaints rather than myself. Of course, it would be interesting given that now the club has its own official site whether there would be a repeat of the method of Crawley’s complaints – their argument being that although my website has always been unofficial the lack of an official site at time meant it would be regarded as a club-sanctioned article – if I did simply reiterate what I said back in August but I’m sure we’ve all learnt from the episode and moved on.
Complete record against Crawley Town
So, anyway Crawley have spent loads of money in an attempt to reach the Football League for the first time in their history, their manager Steve Evans has a chequered past and they have named their campaign ‘Project Promotion’ without (it appears) any concern about how arrogant this could potentially sound. It looks as if they are set to be part of a three-way contest for the title with AFC Wimbledon and Luton Town, but the defining moment of the season could be the January transfer window when a rumoured £1m transfer pot will be at Evans’ disposal. Whether this sees renewed bids for the Dons Kedwell and the Hatters Drury is of course nothing more than idle speculation on my part. All this shows the size of the task facing City on Tuesday, although the current form of the two sides is identical over the last six games and Crawley could only manage a narrow 2-1 win over City back in August. And many City fans will still remember the Bobby Zamora inspired 7-0 win over Crawley back in 2000, though it may be a little too much to hope for a repeat of that scoreline.
Following a number of departures in recent weeks City have boosted their squad with the non-contract signing of midfielder Leon Jeanne. The 30-year old has had an eventful football career that has never been too far from controversy but after training with the club for the last month he has been given the chance to show his off-the-pitch problems are in the past. He will go straight into the squad to face Crawley Town next week after the club received international clearance following a spell with Cardiff Corinthians.
City moved into the top half of the Blue Square Bet Premier this evening with a 2-1 win at Histon in front of the Premier Sports TV cameras. There was little to entertain the 470 crowd at the ground or the watching TV audience for 46 minutes, a Histon shot against the top of the bar the closest either side had come to scoring, but in first half stoppage time Sido Jombati made space in the Stutes box before finding the corner of the net with a left foot shot. Ten minutes after the break Jombati turned provider, crossing for Lee Phillips to bundle the ball home to put City in control of the game. However, the home side pulled a goal back with 13 minutes left thanks to Sparkes’ close range finish and they should have levelled in the closing minutes when Mills fired over from a couple of yards out. That was City’s final scare and the final whistle was greeted with joy by City’s travelling supporters and around 150 considerably warmer fans who had watched the match in Charlie’s at Twerton Park.
City’s 2009-10 top scorer Darren Edwards has joined Blue Square Bet North side Gloucester City. The former Yate Town and Mangotsfield United forward joined City in December 2006 for around £4000 and netted 12 goals in 25 games that season to help the club win the Southern League title. After a couple of seasons where he struggled with a number of injuries he hit a rich vein of goalscoring form last year, scoring 25 times plus winning the penalty kick that earned City a place in the Blue Square Bet Premier. This season though the has found his first team opportunites with just five league starts and had been looking for a loan spell away from Twerton Park ahead of this permanent switch. In total he made 185 appearances for City, scoring 59 goals.
City make the first of their two long trips to Cambridgeshire to face a vital Blue Square Bet Premier match against Histon on Thursday. The sides will meet each other again in the FA Trophy in three weeks time but with survival in the league the primary aim of both there is no doubt this first encounter is the one with greater potential significance. The game will be covered by Premier Sport TV (hence the Thursday evening timing) marking City’s second ever screened live league appearance and only their third in any competition.
On the back of just one defeat in nine league games City come into the game knowing a win would lift them into the top half of the table but they’ll face a Histon side whose form has also improved in recent weeks, although they did suffer a setback last weekend with a heavy defeat at Luton Town. Now in their fourth season amongst the elite of non-league football the Stutes opened the 2010-11 season with a promising 3-1 win over Barrow. However, they followed this with just one further victory in their next 12 league games, including five successive defeats before they finally stopped the rot with a 2-1 win over fellow strugglers Southport. Wins over Altrincham and Forest Green Rovers lifted them out of the relegation zone before they made a disappointing FA Cup exit to Blue Square Bet South side Havant & Waterlooville. Since then they have picked up just a single point in their last three outings, slipping back to 21st place. Manager David Livermore recently strengthened his squad with the loan signing of Jack Ainsley from Ipswich Town, although the 20-year old had a nightmare debut at Luton, making mistakes that led to three of the Hatters’ five goals.
Histon have enjoyed a remarkable rise up through the non-league pyramid in recent years. As recently as the mid 1990s they were playing in Division 1 of the Eastern Counties League but under the leadership of manager Steve Fallon they were soon on the rise. He led them to the Eastern Counties League Premier Division title in 1999-2000, promotion from the Southern League Eastern Division four seasons later then, at the first attempt, they won the Premier Division to earn a place in the Conference South. The upward moment continued as, after losing the 2005-06 play-off final to St Albans City, they ran away with the Conference South title to reach the pinnacle of non-league football for the first time in their history. Incredibly for a club situated between two villages with a total population of less than 9000 and average gates under 1000 they ended the 2007-08 season in 7th place then a year later made the play-offs, finishing third just five points behind winners Burton Albion, and well ahead of a number of ex-League clubs including Torquay United, Oxford United , Mansfield Town and Wrexham. They were now just three games away from reaching the Football League but this dream was ended by Torquay in the play-off semi-final. That season also saw the club come to national attention with an FA Cup run which saw them defeat Swindon Town and Leeds United before losing 2-1 to Swansea City in the 3rd Round.
Unfortunately for the Stutes they could not build on this narrow miss and everything began to unravel during the 2009-10 season. In November long-serving chairman Gareth Baldwin stepped down to be replaced by local businessman Tony Roach. Within less than a month a disagreement between Baldwin and manager Fallen over a restructuring of the club’s wage bill saw the latter suspended from his duties. In January Fallon was reinstated only to be sacked three days later after further falling out with the new chairman, this time over the future of assistant manager Alan Lewer, who had taken control during Fallon’s suspension. Lewer took the reigns once again but, against the backdrop of financial problems that saw a number of player depart, could manage just three wins in 22 games, with the team only avoiding relegation thanks to a late own goal on the final day of the season against Barrow. In May it was announced by the club that Lewer’s contract had ended and they would be looking for a new manager. This move was not without controversy though as the former Weymouth boss threatened to take the club to court for unfair dismissal and breach of contract. Only in the last week has this threat been removed with Lewer withdrawing his claim following the presentation of both parties’ cases to ACAS. Former assistant John Beck was named as the club’s new manager a couple of weeks later but with the season just two games old he quit after a disagreement over finances. He was replaced by former Millwall midfielder David Livermore after a knee injury brought a premature end to the 30-year olds league career.
Complete record against Histon
City have faced Histon on only two previous occasions as the Stutes bypassed them on their climb from local league football to the Conference. These games took place during the Cambridgeshire’s Southern League Premier Division title winning campaign in 2004-05. With City spending most of that season struggling in mid-table it was no surprise that Histon enjoyed the meetings, taking four of the six points on offer. City went into the first game at the Glassword Stadium missing nine first-team players (seven injured, one on county duty and one playing for the England Futsal team) which forced them to recruit four youth team players to ensure they had a full bench. Against a Histon side who had won their previous six games, netting 25 goals in the process, it was destined to be a difficult afternoon for City and it was a surprise that it took the home side 24 minutes to open the scoring. With a direct approach that City never came close to dealing with by the interval Histon were three goals to the good. A Darren Hawkins header a minute into the second half proved a false dawn and before the hour mark it was 4-1. City were already fielding 16-year old Mark Branton at full-back by then and for the last few minutes Tom Wood, another teenager, replaced keeper Justin Shuttleworth after he was stretchered off. His only involvement was picking the ball out of the net five minutes into stoppage time to complete the 5-1 rout. The return match at Twerton Park was a much closer affair, with just a late penalty denying City a win. A dreadful mistake by keeper Paul Evans gifted Histon the lead on 25 minutes but on the stroke of half-time Martin Paul volleyed City level. City were reduced to ten men with 15 minutes left when Matt Coupe received a second caution, however seven minutes later Scott Partridge’s cross was turned into his own net by Hipperson. They could not hang onto this advantage though as Graeme Power was harshly adjudged to have tripped Nightingale in the box to allow Cambridge to net from the spot.
Thursday’s match sees City make their debut appearance on Premier Sport TV. The company rose from the ashes of Setanta Sports in September 2009 initially cover Gaelic Football, Australian Rugby League and League of Ireland football before signing a deal with the Football Conference to cover 30 games per season for the next three years in August 2010. The deal with the Football Conference is a revenue sharing arrangement whereby clubs receive 50% of revenue from subscriptions, on top of the normal rights fee paid by the broadcaster, once the costs of production have been met. The Conference will also earn 50% from all internet revenue associated with the deal and allow them to retain advertising rights allied to those adverts shown with their matches. This will be City’s first appearance on live television since the 1993-94 season. Most City fans will remember their giant-killing FA Cup win over Hereford United in front of the Sky cameras that year but the club also featured on Wire TV later in the season when the short-lived cable channel covered their match against Woking at Twerton Park. This game did not turn out as well with Clive Walker’s side heading back to Surrey with the three points after a single goal win.
City are likely to go into the game with an unchanged squad from the one that drew 1-1 with Fleetwood Town last Saturday. Although Lewis Hogg, Sekani Simpson and Marley Watkins are approaching a return to action this game may come slightly too soon. The match will see City wear their new sky blue third kit for the first time this season with both their home and away shirts clashing with Histon’s red and black striped kit.
City will face a quick return to Cambridgeshire after they were drawn to face fellow Blue Square Bet Premier side Histon in the FA Trophy 1st Round. The clubs are due to meet in front of the Premier Sports TV cameras this Thursday but will also now clash on Saturday 11 December (ko 3pm). City will hope the match with the Stutes starts a decent run in a competition that they have a dismal record in over the years. Since it began in 1969 City have only once got as far as the quarter final and that was over 20 years ago during the 1989-90 season. The winner of this 1st Round tie will collect £5000 prize money.
An excellent rearguard action by City this afternoon at Twerton Park earned them a point in a 1-1 draw against high-flying Fleetwood Town. The visitors were on top for long spells of the game but could only find a way past goalkeeper Carl Pentney once to cancel out Marc Canham’s first-half goal. This came after 16 minutes when his free-kick eluded everything to curl inside the far post. Fleetwood keeper Davies redeemed himself with a fine block from the same player moments later and then reacted quickly to deny Lee Phillips after a slip by lumbering defender McNulty had left him in the clear. Despite these chances the Cod Army were enjoying the majority of possession only to find City’s defence marshalled superbly by Joe Burnell. The second half continued in the same vein and they finally drew level on 65 minutes when Rogan’s pace allowed him to slide the ball under Pentney. Fleetwood looked the likelier winners now, although on a couple of occasions City came close to regaining the lead, and in stoppage time were only denied by a superb double save from Pentney.
City will hope to continue their climb away from the lower reaches of the Blue Square Bet Premier table when the entertain Fleetwood Town at Twerton Park on Saturday. The back to back wins over Hayes & Yeading United and Southport has lifted them to 14th place and opened up a five point gap to the relegation zone. However, City will know, despite this and a run of just one league defeat in their last eight games, they cannot risk complacency and will need to be at their best to get something from the meeting with the play-off contenders.
The Cod Army are currently in 4th place having lost just three of their 19 league matches so far. They also boast the meanest defence away from home in the division, by way of just five goals conceded on their travels. Their league form has dipped slightly in recent weeks with a 1-0 defeat to bottom club Altrincham and five draws out of six since the beginning of October – their only league win in this time coming against fast-dropping Tamworth. It could that their focus has been diverted by the FA Cup after they took League 1 strugglers Walsall to a 1st Round replay. They had to come from behind to beat Northern Premier League side Buxton thanks to a stoppage time goal in the 4th Qualifying Round. This earned them a home tie with the Saddlers and, despite dominating the match, they couldn’t force a giant-killing win. Having fallen behind after just five minutes Fleetwood then missed a 29th minute penalty. Their hopes were boosted six minutes before the interval when Walsall were reduced to ten men and on 50 minutes Mullan fired them level. Despite considerable pressure after this the Lancashire side could not find a deserved winner and the sides met again at the Bescott Stadium last Tuesday. In front of watching City manager Adie Britton the Cod Army were once again the better side for long periods of the game, particularly in a one-sided first half, but found home keeper Walker in fine form. It was against the run of play that Walsall went ahead just before the hour mark and, with Fleetwood committing numbers forward in the closing stages, they scored again late on to complete a flattering 2-0 win.
Manager Micky Mellon’s – who made a handful of appearances for City during the early 1990s – response to this defeat was to strengthen his squad with the capture of Oldham Athletic midfielder Jon Worthington on loan. He joins Boundary Park teammate Sean Gregan who is five games into a three month loan period with the Fylde coast club. The player City will no doubt be most wary of is highly-rated striker Magno Vieira who joined the club from Ebbsfleet United back in the summer. The Brazilian born player had already netted 12 league goals this season including the opener in the 2-1 win over City at Highbury Stadium back in September. In this first ever meeting between the clubs City matched the big-spending full-time side for much of the game but Kaid Mohamed’s late penalty was nothing more than a consolation in the end.
Complete record against Fleetwood Town
City will welcome back defender Luke Ruddick into their squad for the game after three months sidelined with a hamstring injury. They will still be without Sekani Simpson, after he suffered a setback in his recovery from a knee injury during the week, Lewis Hogg, who is still a few weeks away from a return to action, and Joe Edwards following his return to Bristol City after two months on loan at Twerton Park.
After several conflicting reports it has been confirmed that Joe Edwards will not spend a third month on loan at Twerton Park and has rejoined Bristol City with immediate effect. He was back in action on Tuesday for the Robins, netting from the spot in a remarkable 13-12 penalty shoot-out win over Forest Green Rovers, but after an initial annoucement that his loan spell had ended it was revealed that the two clubs were in negotiation to extend the agreement. However, the deal fell foul of the Emergency Loan rules set by the Football Conference. The 20-year old could return to City during the January transfer window.
City other Edwards, Darren, could also be on his way from Twerton Park after requesting a short-term loan spell with a Conference South club to gain match fitness. Last season’s top scorer has found his first-team opportunities limited this year behind Lee Phillips and Kaid Mohamed, making just five league starts and netting two goals.
City staged a remarkable second half comeback at Haig Avenue this afternoon to beat Southport by three goals to two. First half goals from Barrett and Powell had put the home side in full control of the game but Kaid Mohamed, Danny Webb and Lee Phillips struck after the break to complete a stunning turnaround. The Sandgrounders had dominated the opening 45 minutes and could have been further ahead than just Barrett’s 25-yard volley and Powell’s scrambled effort after City failed to clear a corner. However, after Mohamed pulled a goal back for City on 49 minutes the whole outlook of the game changed. Suddenly on the back foot the hosts were far removed from their first half showing and on 78 minutes Webb headed City level from a Marc Canham cross. This was the second successive Saturday that City had recovered from a two-goal deficit and with seven minutes remaining it looked as if they would get a perfect chance to go ahead when Joe Edwards was brought down in the box. Incredibly the only person in the ground who missed the foul was referee Mr Khatib but within two minutes his incompetence was forgotten when Phillips crashed the ball home from Mohamed’s cross to send City’s travelling fans wild and lift the club to the dizzy heights of 14th place in the Blue Square Bet Premier table.
City’s promotion winning players, staff and volunteers were honoured last night with a mayoral reception held at Bath Guildhall. The reception, hosted by Mayor of Bath, Shaun McGall, and also attended by Bath’s MP, Don Foster, was held to celebrate City’s promotion to the Blue Square Bet Premier, the top flight of non-league football, following their play-off final win over Woking at Twerton Park back in May.
City make the long trip to Southport on Saturday with both sides looking for a victory that could give them some breathing space from the relegation zone as the 2010-11 Blue Square Bet Premier season approaches its halfway point. City’s win over Hayes & Yeading United lifted them above the Sandgrounders, who were otherwise engaged on County Cup duty in the week, to 16th place, two points and three places better off.
Southport hold the dubious honour of being the last side to lose their Football League place through the re-election system when in 1978 they were replaced by Wigan Athletic. The Merseyside club had spent 57 years in the Football League, all bar four seasons in the bottom division. The mid-1970s saw the club finish second bottom of Division 4 on three successive occasions and having avoided demotion twice it was third time unlucky. They were joined in the re-election process that year by York City, Hartlepool and Rochdale (who had finished below them) plus two non-league sides, Wigan and Bath City. As Southern League Champions City were optimistic that a Football League place was within their grasp as it was widely thought before the vote that Southport and Rochdale were in trouble. However, it was clear that Wigan would prove formidable opposition, with 34 previous attempts behind them and a ground, Springfield Park, much bigger than Twerton Park. York, Hartlepool and Rochdale were all safely re-elected with Wigan and Southport receiving 26 votes each and City just three less. In a second ballet Wigan comfortably beat Southport and the Sandgrounders League tenure was at an end.
So Southport found themselves back in the Northern League for the 1978-79 season where they remained until they lifted the title in 1992-93 to earn promotion to the Football Conference. They immediately established themselves at this level with three successive top six finishes and in 1998 reached the FA Trophy Final at Wembley, losing by a single goal to Cheltenham Town (former City striker Jason Eaton netting the winner). However, the 2002-03 season saw them relegated back to the Northern League where they spent a single season before becoming founder members of the Conference North. The 2004-05 campaign saw the Sandgrounders become the inaugural winners of the competition to return to the top flight of non-league football. A quick return to the Conference North looked likely as they spent much of the 2005-06 season at the foot of the table but a five-game unbeaten run in April lifted the club out of the drop zone. This prompted them to turn full-time for the following season but, with just six of the previous year’s squad remaining at Haig Avenue, this move backfired and they were relegated in April 2007. They remained full-time the next year but lost in the play-off semi-final on penalties to Stalybridge Celtic. The surprise departure of manager Gary Brabin to Cambridge United in June 2008 saw former boss Liam Watson return to the club, bringing with him numerous part-time Burscough – his former club – players and other arrivals and departures saw Southport end their short full-time experiment. They suffered another play-off semi-final defeat in 2008-09 before winning the Conference North title in 2010, holding off big-spending local rivals Fleetwood Town in the process.
They opened this season with a narrow 1-0 defeat at home to AFC Wimbledon before embarking on a five-match unbeaten run to climb to the dizzy heights of the fifth place. Since then though they have won just one of their last eleven league matches to slide back down the table to their current 19th position. They were involved in a remarkable FA Cup tie against Sheffield Wednesday at Haig Avenue in front of the ITV cameras last Sunday. The League 1 side took an early lead but it wasn’t until the second half that the game exploded into life. Seven minutes after the break a neat finish from Barrett drew the Sandgrounders level but within two minutes they fell behind again. Only another four minutes had passed when substitute McGinn, with his first kick, made it 2-2. It was this stage it all went wrong for Southport as Wednesday struck three times in as many minutes to complete a crazy spell of six goals in twelve minutes and end the home side’s cup dreams.
Complete record against Southport
City have met Southport on eight previous occasions, all during the 1990s when the clubs were Conference rivals. After taking four points from the first two clashes during the 1993-94 season City have come off second best in the encounters, only avoiding defeat once with a 4-0 win at Twerton Park in September 1995. The first ever meeting between the sides took place at Haig Avenue in September 1993. City had begun the season in fine style with three wins and two draws in their opening five games to sit in second place behind early pacesetters Dover Athletic. By contrast Southport had yet to record a win in their maiden Conference season so City would have travelled north in confident mood, even though they were missing both regular full-backs – Grantley Dicks suspended and Ian Hedges after an accident at work. In an end to end match played at a furious pace City went ahead 12 minutes before the interval thanks to Paul Chenoweth’s first goal for the club, firing home from a narrow angle after a one-two with Martin Boyle. This lead was to last only five minutes though as Chris Banks’ misplaced back-pass beat a stunned Dave Mogg in the City goal. The second half continued in a similar manner but both keepers made a series of fine stops and the game finished 1-1.
City should add Sekani Simpson to the squad that faced Hayes & Yeading having recovered from his knee injury but Luke Ruddick is still a week away from returning to action. Lewis Hogg (groin), Marley Watkins (ankle) and keeper Ryan Robinson (ribs) are all still sidelined meaning on loan goalkeeper Carl Pentney will keep his place between the posts.
Gethin Jones went from villan to hero tonight as City recorded a desperately needed victory over fellow strugglers Hayes & Yeading United. A dreadful mistake by Jones with eight minutes remaining looked to have gifted the visitors a point, cancelling out Kaid Mohamed’s first half strike, but five minutes later he headed City back in front before an injury-time goal by Lee Phillips completed the 3-1 victory. In truth United can feel unfortunate not to have got something out of the game as their passing and pace continually stretched City. However, their finishing failed to match the approach play and even when they managed to get a shot on target they found City’s on loan keeper Carl Pentney in excellent form. It was against this background that City went ahead against the run of play with 20 minutes gone. A long ball forward looked harmless but Mohamed burst away from his marker before blasting the ball past Bulmer at his near post. The Middlesex side continued to create – and waste – chances as City were guilty time and again of giving the ball away. Just when it looked as if City might hang onto their slender lead Jones’ mis-kick in his own six-yard box allowed Deen to bundle the ball past Pentney. However, he made amends for this slip with three minutes left when his header from a Joe Edwards free-kick was adjudged to have crossed the line. Then two minutes into stoppage time Mohamed raced away down the left flank and crossed to give Phillips a simple tap-in.
City will look to climb out of the Blue Square Bet Premier relegation zone with a win over fellow strugglers Hayes & Yeading United at Twerton Park on Tuesday evening. Just goal difference separates the two sides after City’s comeback from two goals down against Altrincham yesterday. Whilst Lee Phillips’ brace was earning City a point that could (should?) so easily have been three, United were suffering injury-time FA Cup heartbreak against Wycombe Wanderers.
The first meeting between the clubs this season took place on the opening day and City were left feeling somewhat hard done by in the 2-1 defeat. The scorer of both United goals, Ben Wright, will not be a threat after he was snapped up by Crawley a couple of weeks later. However, the league leaders were soon signing other bigger name strikers so Wright was shipped out on loan last week to Newport County. United followed up their win with a 5-0 drubbing at Eastbourne Borough before shocking league newcomers Grimsby Town, winning 2-1 at Blundell Park. This inconsistency has bedevilled their season so far, with defeats against Forest Green Rovers and Altrincham, alongside a draw at Luton Town and a win over in-form Darlington. Their FA Cup meeting with Wycombe was set up thanks to two injury-time goals seeing off Wessex League Poole Town. It looked as if Holmes’ 70th minute goal would earn the club a replay at Adams Park but five minutes into stoppage time Ainsworth struck to end their FA Cup dreams for another season.
Complete record against Hayes & Yeading United/Hayes/Yeading
If City are to secure the three points they keenly require it will be with their first ever win over the merged side. They enjoyed three victories over the Hayes half of the club in the 1990s before losing to Yeading in a 2005 FA Trophy tie. However, since those two clubs merged in May 2007 the five meetings have seen three wins for the Middlesex side and two draws. The last Twerton Park game between the sides took place in September 2008 and it was an evening to forget for the home team. Both sides had goals disallowed in the opening five minutes, Stuart Douglas’ effort for City ruled out for offside, but soon the visitors gained the upper hand with only keeper Steve Perrin preventing them taking the lead. However, he was finally beaten on 65 minutes, an offside looking Fitzgerald tapping home after the ball had rebounded off the post. City rarely threatened to deny United the win after this, Chris Holland’s looping header that was cleared off the line the nearest they came to an equaliser.
A second half brace by Lee Phillips helped City recover from a two-goal deficit against Altrincham this afternoon but for a superb performance by visiting keeper Coburn it could have been an even better result. Phillips had the ball in the net in the 17th minute after Coburn had touched Joe Burnell’s long-range effort onto the bar only for a linesman’s flag to rule the effort out. The Robins took the lead seven minutes before the interval when Clee’s shot was defelcted past debutant goalkeeper Carl Pentney and it looked as if the Cheshire side were on course for a second successive away win when Twiss made it 2-0 just after the restart. Densmore wasted a clear chance to put the game beyond City moments later and just past the hour mark Phillips ran onto a Scott Murray pass to halve Alty’s lead. Then eleven minutes later Adam Connolly’s shot was deflected into his path and he confidently slotted the ball home. It was all City now, Coburn blocked Kaid Mohamed’s shot from a narrow angle, Williams clearing the ball as Phillips looked set to pounce for his hat-trick, then City’s top scorer’s low cross somehow eluded Phillips and Murray. The Robins keeper saved his best for last, turning away Connolly’s 25-yard effort at full stretch in stoppage time, leaving both sides unsure whether to be happy or disappointed with the result.
City have announced Moore Stephens as their new main sponsor after terminating the contract with previous sponsors Inter Payroll. The payroll services company, who only joined forces with the club in the summer, have been unable to meet its recent payment obligations to City, therefore to avoid any potential financial implications City began a search for a new sponsor. Moore Stephens are an international accounting and consulting group with offices in 98 countries, including two in Bath.
City could have a new goalkeeper between the posts against Altrincham on Saturday after signing Carl Pentney from Colchester United on a months loan. With first choice no.1 Ryan Robinson under pressure following a number of mistakes in recent games and untested Giancarlo Borhy the only other keeper with the club, manager Adie Britton has boosted his options in this area. The 21-year old former Leicester City player will go straight into the squad for the vital match against the bottom of the table Robins.
One player going the other way is midfielder Hector Mackie after he was allowed to join St Albans City. The 22-year old, who has made four starts and eight substitute appearances this season, scoring twice, will continue to train with the club.
This weekend sees City begin a potentially season defining November where they face four teams in or around the relegation zone. Trips to Southport and Histon later in the month follow Twerton Park clashes with Hayes & Yeading United and, first of all, Altrincham this Saturday. Despite a recent improvement in form the Cheshire side currently sit at the foot of the Blue Square Bet Premier and the match will renew a rivalry that saw the sides meet on over 30 occasions during the 1980s and 1990s.
The Robins can claim to be one of the most successful non-league clubs of recent times. They won the first two Alliance Premier League titles in 1979-80 and 1980-81 as well as reaching the FA Trophy Final at Wembley three times in 1978, 1982 and 1986, winning the first and third of those appearances. It was the FA Cup that brought the club to national attention and they hold the record of 16 victories over League sides. Between 1979 and 1982 they achieved the unique feat for a non-league team of reaching the 3rd Round proper of the competition on four consecutive occasions and in 1986 went one better, making it to the 4th Round. On the way they beat 1st Division Birmingham City at St Andrews, which remains the last time a non-league side won away against top flight opposition. Unfortunately, despite clearly being amongst the elite non-league clubs, their success came before automatic promotion and they failed to win election to the league, missing out in 1980 by just a single vote. They enjoyed another four top five finishes during the 80s but by the introduction of one up-one down in 1987 they had begun to fade, only in 1990-91 maintaining a genuine title challenge, and in 1997 were relegated (for the first time in their history) from the Conference (alongside City) to the Northern Premier League.
They bounced back two seasons later but suffered immediate relegation and spent the next four seasons around the middle of the Unibond League. The non-league re-organisation in 2004 saw the Robins secure a place in the Conference North and a year later they won promotion via the play-offs, beating Conference South Eastbourne Borough in the final. Their first three seasons back in the top flight saw the club finish in the relegation zone but avoid the drop due to other clubs’ issues. Initially they finished the 2005-06 season in a creditable 18th place, however they were found to have fielded an ineligible player for 15 matches, during which he scored 6 goals and Altrincham won 18 points. This led to an 18 point deduction which saw them finish in bottom place but instead of another immediate relegation the resignation of Canvey Island and Scarborough’s expulsion saw the Robins retain their Conference National status. The following season it was Boston United’s double-relegation that saved them and they completed a remarkable treble thanks to Halifax Town’s liquidation in 2007-08. Given these three chances to establish themselves the next two campaigns were much more successful with 15th and 14th place finishes, the latter after spending the early part of the season on the fringes of the play-off places.
This season so far has seen a return to the performances of those first three campaigns. After a narrow opening day defeat at Luton Town and a point against Darlington (the Quakers netting twice in the last ten minutes in a 2-2 draw) they suffered seven successive defeats. Not surprisingly this poor start saw manager Graham Heathcote depart, ending an eight-year spell as manager and almost 40 years of service as a player, administrator, coach and manager with the club. On the same day long-serving chairman Geoff Goodwin stepped down due to business pressures. Assistant manager Ken McKenna took over on a temporary basis and after losing his first game in charge 5-0 to Eastbourne Borough finally guided the club to their first win of the season over Barrow. Three successive draws followed and the former TNS boss was offered the post permanently midway through last month. Since then the Robins have won back to back league games against Fleetwood Town and Hayes & Yeading, although they did suffer a disappointing FA Cup exit at the hands of Blue Square Bet Premier rivals Gateshead.
Complete record against Altrincham
City and Altrincham have met previously on 32 occasions since both becoming founder members of the Alliance Premier League in 1979. Not unexpectedly, given Altrincham’s success during the early years of the competition, it wasn’t until the eleventh meeting that City recorded their first win and overall they have come off second best in the encounters with just eight wins to Alty’s sixteen. The last meeting at Twerton Park took place in October 1996 with both sides struggling near the foot of the table. City came into the game on the back of a hard-fought point at Dover Athletic during the week and when in the closing minute of a largely uneventful first-half debutant Steve Cross headed home a Mike Davis cross an important win looked on the cards. Davis and Graham Withey came close to extending City’s lead after the interval but the visitors hit back with two goals in as many minutes, Johnson firing a loose ball past Dave Mogg and France sliding home Terry’s centre from close-range. City’s attempt at a comeback was largely restricted to long-range efforts and Mogg produced several good stops to prevent the Robins going further ahead.
City should welcome Sekani Simpson back to their squad after he missed the last three games with a knee problem but loan signing Marley Watkins is set for several weeks out after picking up an ankle injury in last weekend’s defeat at Luton Town. He joins Luke Ruddick (hamstring) and Lewis Hogg (groin) on the sidelines, although the former has resumed training and could be back into contention in time for the Fleetwood Town match later this month. City also field a new goalkeeper following the loan capture of Colchester United’s Carl Pentney as manager Adie Britton considers dropping under-pressure no.1 Ryan Robinson following a number of costly mistakes in recent games.