October 2011

FA Cup 1st Round draw pairs City with struggling League 2 Daggers (30/10/11)

The draw for the FA Cup 1st Round has handed City a trip to League 2 side Dagenham & Redbridge. The game will see Dagenham striker Phil Walsh come face to face with his former club having spent three seasons at Twerton Park between 2005 and 2008. City’s last trip to the Daggers, who have lost their last six league games, was in March 1996 where a single goal from Graham Withey was enough to bring the points back to the West Country. The tie will take place the weekend of the 12th November.

FA Cup brings welcome relief as Gallinagh goal edges City through (29/10/11)

An Andy Gallinagh header in the opening minutes of the second half was enough to secure City a desperately needed win over Dover Athletic this afternoon and earn a place in the FA Cup 1st Round proper. Knowing that a defeat could have huge reprecussions in their battle to retain their Blue Square Bet Premier place City produced a battling performance that was not pretty but always effective in keeping the in-form home side at bay. With Sean Canham unavailable due to personal reasons and Lewis Hogg missing after picking up a foot injury in the pre-match warm-up it was the Kent side who started the game on top. However, in a sign of things to come they struggled to turn this dominance into goalscoring chances. Increasingly the Whites tactic of looking to retain possession rather than getting the ball forward played into City’s hands as their five man midfield pressured them into mistakes. From two of these Alex Russell and Marley Watkins should have done better and when Galllinagh headed narrowly over the bar it was City who had created the better openings. An optimistic flick by Purcell just before the break forced Glyn Garner into a finger-tip save although the ball looked to be curling wide. The decisive strike came within two minutes of the restart when Gethin Jones headed a Marc Canham corner onto the bar and Gallinagh nodded in the rebound. Lee Phillips’ volley almost gave City some breathing space six minutes later before Purcell went equally close for Dover. Not surprisingly the hosts had to go more direct now they were chasing the game but this approach proved no more effective as they failed to put City under any real pressure even during the five minutes of stoppage time.

The draw for the FA Cup 1st Round will be screened live on ITV1 tomorrow (Sunday) at 1.30pm with City ball number 65.

City board give manager Adie Britton clear ‘vote of confidence’ (28/10/11)

Despite a dreadful start to the 2011-12 season, which has predictably led to a number of supporters calling for a change of manager, City’s Board of Director’s has made it clear they fully support Adie Britton and his assistant Lee Howells. Ahead of a potential make-or-break FA Cup match at Dover Athletic tomorrow the official City website has posted the following statement, “For the avoidance of doubt, the Board wholeheartedly and unanimously backs Adrian and Arch, thanks them so much for the time, effort, expertise, emotion and passion they bring to the club, and has no intention at all of changing the management team whatever happens in the remainder of the season … that is a decision, not the start of the next discussion, or a precursor to a change of opinion.”

PREVIEW: Dover Athletic v CITY – FA Cup 4th Qualifying Round (27/10/11)

City begin their 2011-12 FA Cup campaign on Saturday with a tricky away tie against Dover Athletic, no doubt hoping the competition, this season sponsored by American beer company Budweiser, will provide some welcome relief from their league struggles. Victory over the Kent side would secure much needed prize money of £12,500 but also a place in the 1st Round proper alongside local league sides Bristol Rovers, Swindon Town and Yeovil Town plus a number of former top flight teams including Charlton Athletic and the two Sheffield clubs, United and Wednesday.

They will meet a Dover side coming into form after a mixed start to the season that cost manager Martin Hayes his job last month. Having finished as Conference South runners-up in 2009-10 – losing to Woking in the play-off semi-final – the Whites endured a disappointing league campaign last year, a run of poor form during the first six weeks of 2011 contributing to a final position of 7th, two points off the place off positions. Any discontent at missing out on the chance to return to non-league’s top division would have been tempered though by an FA Cup run that saw them go beyond the 1st Round for the first time in their history. Wins over Erith Town, Cambridge City and Farnborough, after a replay, earned them a 1st Round tie at local rivals Gillingham. Goals from Adam Birchall and Luke I’Anson gave them a deserved 2-0 win over the League 2 side, a victory made all the sweeter by the fact Gills manager Andy Hessenthaler had quit Dover in the summer to take over at Priestfield Stadium. Dover’s reward for this win was a home tie against Aldershot and once again Birchall was on target, grabbing both goals in another 2-0 win. As with any non-league side who reach the FA Cup 3rd Round Dover would have gone into the draw dreaming of being paired with Manchester United or Liverpool – instead they were handed the somewhat less mouth-watering trip to Huddersfield Town. 1500 Whites fans still made the long trip to Yorkshire but two goals for the home side in the opening ten minutes gave them a mountain to climb and, despite a battling display, their FA Cup adventure ended with no further goals for either side.

Although they lost star striker Birchall – the former Arsenal trainee netted 45 goals in the 2010-11 campaign – to Gillingham during the summer, Dover were amongst the pre-season Conference South title favourites and when they began with back to back 4-0 wins over Dorchester Town and Thurrock it looked as if this backing was well-founded. However, a single goal loss to Conference South newcomers Truro City started a run of just one win in ten league games. Although seven of these games ended in draws this record saw Hayes sacked following a 1-1 draw against Havant & Waterlooville in September. He was quickly replaced by former Brentford manager Nicky Forster and the ex-England Under-21 player has yet to taste defeat with Dover. His first match in charge saw the club comfortably brush past Carshalton in the FA Cup. A goalless draw with Welling United began his Conference South career before they made Kent Senior Cup progress with a 6-3 win over Maidstone. They were given a scare in the next round of the FA Cup as Ridgeons Eastern Counties League side Wroxham took an early lead. Harris levelled for the Whites early in the second half but it wasn’t until the closing ten minutes that they made the three division gap show with two goals to secure a flattering 3-1 win. These cup games and the draw with Welling has seen Dover slip into the bottom half of the Conference South but wins over Thurrock and Bromley in the last week has seen them climb back up to 7th place, right back amongst the play-off chasing pack.

Complete record against Dover/Dover Athletic

City and Dover (in both their current guise and former set-up as Dover FC) have met on 35 previous occasions with City recording fourteen wins to the Whites ten. Their most recent trip to Kent took place in September 2009 in a match full of late drama. City went into the game missing eight first-team regulars and when Dover took a 65th minute lead through Hughes it looked as if they would maintain their 100% home record. However, a minute into stoppage time Schulz misjudged a long ball forward by Lewis Hogg and Darren Edwards lifted it over Hook to the delight of the travelling supporters. Their joy turned to despair within 60 seconds though, as Birchall found space in the City box to fire past Steve Perrin to give the hosts a remarkable win. All bar one of the clashes between the clubs have been league games, the exception a 1994-95 Bob Lord Trophy 2nd Round match. City came into the game on the back of four successive defeats but in an even first half created several chances to take the lead. As the game wore on though the visitors looked increasingly likely to grab a winner, especially during the closing ten minutes. Dave Mogg twice produced superb saves and then saw his crossbar rattled by Budden’s 30-yard effort. Just when it appeared the game was heading for a replay (which neither side probably wanted) Hall collected the ball 25 yards from goal and unleashed a shot that gave Mogg no chance and ensured City’s dismal record in the competition would continue.

City will go into the game with the welcome return of joint top scorer Lee Phillips after he missed the Fleetwood Town defeat due to suspension. They should also be boosted by the availability of defenders Gethin Jones and Joe Burnell after injury. Whether manager Adie Britton has the rare luxury of nearly a full squad to choose from will depend on the availability of loan quartet, Ben Swallow, Andy Gallinagh, Sean Canham and Charlie Clough, although the latter is likely to miss out with the injury he picked up against Braintree Town two weeks ago.

City announce development squad tie-up with University of Bath (25/10/11)

City and the University of Bath have joined forces to create a partnership unique in British sport. The result is the new Bath City Under 21 Development Squad, an event that manager Adie Britton describes as, “the most exciting footballing development that has happened in my seven years at the club.” Both the club and the University will provide players for the new team, which will start playing matches against development squads from local Football League teams this season. The University of Bath already attracts students who wish to combine high-performance training with studying at the University, recently named the Sunday Times University of the Year for 2011/12. Students from within this group will be selected to play in the Bath City Development Squad, which will also include Bath City players returning from injury, trialists, squad players, and possibly players from the Bath City Academy Under 18 squad. The Development Squad will also benefit enormously from the world-leading facilities at the University of Bath Sports Training Village. Matches will be played at Twerton Park, and the team will play in a Bath City kit.

Since the founding of City’s Academy at Writhlington School three years ago there has been an obvious gap in the club’s ability to develop young players. After finishing the Academy programme at age 18, most players still require further physical development and coaching to play at the required standard for the Blue Square Bet Premier. The new Development Squad will plug an important gap in City’s ability to develop and nurture new players and will be a huge step towards making its position as a top non-league club sustainable for many seasons to come. The partnership means that the University’s best players will have an opportunity to play at a higher level, and compete against the best professional football development squads in the southwest. The Bath City Academy, based at Writhlington School near Radstock, was expanded earlier this season to include a Youth Development Squad. With the addition of the Under 21 Development Squad, Bath City now have three separate youth programmes that can directly nurture young talent from age 9 to positions on the senior team.

City Manager Adie Britton said: “I believe that this co-operative venture with the University of Bath will, for the first time, turn Bath City into a club that is sustainable at a decent level of football. Very few clubs provide worthwhile programmes at this level, and a huge flow of talent is lost between the ages of 18-21. We’re hopeful that with a diligent recruitment campaign the two forces will be able to provide and nurture some exciting young players, and that an exciting flow of talent will start to come through to the first team.”

City Chairman Manda Rigby said: “It would be difficult to overestimate what a big moment this is for Bath City, and what a step forward this is for sport in the region. Finances are forcing more and more clubs, sometimes very big league clubs, to eliminate development programmes. This partnership with the University has enabled us to buck the trend, and to give Bath City a structure that many much larger clubs would envy.”

Wasteful City have only themselves to blame in heavy Fleetwood defeat (22/10/11)

City remain rooted to the foot of the Blue Square Bet Premier after another heavy defeat this afternoon on the North West coast, title-chasing Fleetwood Town running out 4-1 winners. The result was particularly galling for City after they created enough chances during the opening 30 minutes to have taken control of the match only for the home side to show a clinical side to their game that is desperately lacking in Adie Britton’s side. Marley Watkins, Alex Russell, Sean Canham and Andy Gallinagh all wasted good openings as City took advantage of a strong wind at their backs to trouble a defence that looked anything but a promotion chasing unit. Although their attacking threat was also limited during this spell, Wassmer had struck the bar with an 18th minute header, and City failed to heed this escape when McGuire headed the hosts into the lead on 42 minutes. And in first half stoppage time it got even worse for City as Vardy showed what largely unlimited funds can provide, shooting past Glyn Garner from Milligan’s pass. When home keeper Davies dropped a routine catch early in the second half, only for the ball to drop behind Watkins and Sean Canham, it looked like it was not to be City’s afternoon in front of goal but with 16 minutes left the ball broke in the box for Paul Stonehouse to lash home a right footed shot and give them a glimmer of hope. However, this hope was extinguished nine minutes later when Seddon shot home and in stoppage time Vardy headed his second and Fleetwood’s fourth to put a flattering slant on the scoreline, but one for which City only had themselves to blame.

PREVIEW: Fleetwood Town v CITY – Blue Square Bet Premier (20/10/11)

Much was understandably made of City’s record last season of not losing successive league matches until the closing weeks of the campaign, and how important this regular accumulation of points was in helping the club retain their Blue Square Bet Premier place with something to spare. So, this season their struggles can in part be attributed to a failure to record successive positive results. Four times they have followed up morale-boosting games, the opening day point at Mansfield Town, the stoppage-time draws at Hayes & Yeading and Braintree Town and the win over Darlington with desperately disappointing home defeats, the most recent the 2-0 loss to struggling Stockport County. This run has left them nine points adrift of safety and facing the daunting task of a trip to Big Spending© Fleetwood Town on Saturday, before they face a vital FA Cup game at Dover Athletic that could have a huge financial impact on the rest of the season.

The Trawlermen have firmly established themselves as title-contenders after a slightly shaky start to the season. Their debut campaign at this level ended with a heavy play-off semi-final defeat to AFC Wimbledon (largely due to ex-City striker Kaid Mohamed who netted four times in the 8-1 aggregate score) but still capped a remarkable success story for the club that as recently as 2005 were in the North West Counties Football League (the ninth tier of the English League system). Backed by the funds of energy supplier firm owner Andy Pilley the club spent big in the summer as part of their attempts to gain Football League status and the Fleetwood squad is packed with talent. Perhaps most notably the Lancashire side secured the signature of striker Richard Brodie on a year-long loan from Blue Square Bet Premier champions Crawley Town, with Mellon believed to have fought off stiff competition for the 23-year-old’s signature. Brodie – a former England C international who left York City for a non-league transfer record last year – scored 13 goals for Crawley last season and netted 34 times at York during the previous campaign, with Fleetwood rumoured to have paid around £80,000 for his services. However, Brodie’s arrival hasn’t been the only eye-catching acquisition amidst an array of big-money signings. Also now at Highbury is Andy Mangan, who was the Conference’s leading scorer in 2009/10 with 26 goals for Forest Green Rovers before adding a further 16 goals for Wrexham last term. The ambitious Lancastrians also signed Kidderminster captain Keith Briggs, Grimsby skipper Rob Atkinson, and highly-rated Barrow full-back Paul Edwards during the summer and then captured the much-sought-after Jamie Vardy from FC Halifax for an undisclosed fee last month.

Fleetwood began the 2011-12 season with seven points from their opening three games, without conceding a goal in the process. However, showing that money cannot buy you luck the side was beset by injuries during the opening weeks of the campaign as this finally appeared to catch up with Mellon’s side when they were thumped 4-0 by Barrow. They followed this up with a goalless draw against York City and a 2-0 loss to Wrexham to slip down toward mid-table. They ended this mini-slump with a 3-2 win over Kettering Town, racing into a 3-0 half-time lead before the Poppies gave them a nervous last 10 minutes as they pulled two goals back. Comfortable wins over previously unbeaten Gateshead, Ebbsfleet United and Kidderminster Harriers saw them back amongst the early pacesetters. Since then their away form has been perfect with four victories out of four, although at home they have been less convincing, with draws against AFC Telford United and Forest Green Rovers before a shock 4-1 defeat to struggling Newport County. As in last year’s play-off games it was another former City player, this time Sam Foley, who did the damage with a hat-trick. These results should give City a glimmer of hope for the game, all they need to do is have a current player amongst the goals.

Complete record against Fleetwood Town

Since City’s first ever visit to Fleetwood last season – which a number of fans viewed as the most unpleasant welcome they received during the whole campaign – the club has completed its £4.5 million redevelopment of Highbury Stadium which will hopefully mean a more pleasant day for those supporters prepared to make a return trip. On the pitch it was also a disappointing afternoon although for long periods it wouldn’t have been obvious which team cost about three times as much as the other. The home side went ahead after 30 minutes through Vieira but City came back well and were on top in the second half when Wright fired home from 20 yards to make it 2-0. The Trawlermen looked content to see the game out but City grabbed a goal three minutes from time, Mohamed scoring from the penalty spot after Joe Edwards was tripped in the box, however they couldn’t force an equaliser after this. The return match at Twerton Park saw City take the lead early on through a Marc Canham free-kick that eluded everyone to find the corner of the net. City saw a couple more chances come and go after this but the game was largely played in their half as Fleetwood dominated. In the end though they only had one goal to show for this, Rogan’s 65th strike, as City’s defence stood firm.

City look set to go into the games missing four first choice players. Striker Lee Phillips is suspended after picking up his fifth booking of the season against Stockport County, Gethin Jones limped out of that game with abductor muscle strain and Joe Burnell and Charlie Clough are unlikely to have recovered from the hamstring problems that saw them miss the 2-0 defeat. On the plus side Lewis Hogg will be available after recovering from flu and the squad will make their first overnight stop of the season as they look to end a run of 13 away league games without a win.

Police costs force City to switch Christmas/New Year Newport fixtures (19/10/11)

City and Newport County have agreed to switch their Christmas and New Year fixtures after police costs meant the club faced making a considerable loss on the original Boxing Day Twerton Park date. The match was identified as ‘Cateogory A’, the highest level, and City would have been prevented from opening the bar meaning that a crowd in excess of 3000 would have been needed just to break even. Therefore, City will now travel to South Wales on Boxing Day with the return fixture in Bath taking place on Tuesday 3 January (ko 7.45pm).

City’s league woes continue as Stockport inflict another home defeat (18/10/11)

City’s first ever meeting with Stockport County ended in disappointment at Twerton Park this evening as the Hatters struck twice in the second half to inflict a 12th defeat of the season on the home side. A scrappy first half saw County enjoy the majority of possession without ever looking particularly dangerous, in fact it was City who went closest to scoring when Lee Phillips flicked a Paul Stonehouse cross inches wide. The striker went ever closer on 56 minutes when he lifted a poor Glennon clearance back toward goal only for the keeper to get the slightest touch to see it drop agonisingly wide of the goal. And seven minutes later – with City’s defence still readjusting to the departure of injured Gethin Jones – County took the lead, Chadwick shooting home from eight yards out. City should have been gifted the perfect opportunity to level when Piergianni clearly handled a cross only for referee Amy Fearn – who was putting the cause of female officials back years with her performance – to miss the offence despite being only a few yards away. Jim Rollo was then inches away from capping his 450th appearance with a rare goal, just failing to get on the end of Sean Canham’s header across goal, and in stoppage time Paton’s stunning 25 yard shot ensured County would head back to the North West with the three points.

City handed tricky FA Cup tie at Blue Square South Dover Athletic (17/10/11)

City have been drawn away to Blue Square Bet South Dover Athletic in the FA Cup 4th Qualifying Round. The Whites reached this stage of the competition with a 3-1 win over Wroxham, although it took two late goals to overcome the Ridgeons Eastern Counties League side, and so far have suffered a disappointing league campaign. Although they have lost just two league games, seven draws from their 12 league games has left the Kent side in 12th place, eleven points behind leaders Woking, which cost manager Martin Hayes his job a couple of weeks ago. The tie will take place on Saturday 29 October (ko 3pm).

PREVIEW: CITY v Stockport County – Blue Square Bet Premier (16/10/11)

Tuesday sees City face Stockport County for the first ever time as they look to build on yesterday’s last gasp equaliser at Braintree Town and possibly lift themselves off the foot of the Blue Square Bet Premier. After the opening 13 league games of the campaign were City could barely buy a goal the switch in formation to a more conventional 4-4-2 has seen a positive avalanche of goals, with eight in their last three outings. This has come at the cost of defensive stability though – which wasn’t great before the change – and it is this balance that Adie Britton must find if City are to start reeling in the teams above them.

One such club is Stockport County as they struggle to adapt to life as a non-league club following their relegation last season. Just like Wrexham, Luton Town, York City, Cambridge United, Mansfield Town, Darlington and Grimsby Town before them, the Hatters have found it a lot easier to drop out of the Football League than even look likely to get back into it. After enjoying their most successful spell during the late 1990s and early 2000s, when they spent five seasons in Division 1, they have dropped steadily (with a brief respite between 2006 and 2009) before 106 years of Football League membership came to an end in May 2011. As is so often the case Stockport’s fall was against the background of financial problems, with the club forced into administration in April 2009 following a petition by one creditor owed £300,000. A year of uncertainty followed, with the Melrose Consortium attempting to take over the club. Successful and popular manager Jim Gannon switched to Scottish football with Motherwell and Gary Ablett, former manager of Liverpool reserves, was appointed manager in July 2009 following talks with the (prospective) new owners, even though they’d still not taken over. In March 2010 it was announced that a new consortium, the ‘2015 Group’ were set to take control and a couple of months later they completed the takeover. Unfortunately by then the club had been relegated to League 2 and three different managers failed to stop the rot during the 2010-11 season.

The last of these, Ray Mathias, began a clear-out of his squad but when Liverpool businessman Tony Evans was named a director in July 2011 his first action to appoint former Liverpool FC midfielder Dietmar Hamann as manager of the club. Evans also began moves to take over the club, promising the funds to get County back into the Football League. With the identity of his co-investors and the source and size of their proposed investment unclear, plus widespread rumours amongst the Hatters fans that Evans was a frontman for his friend Stephen Vaughan, a fellow Liverpool businessman and the former Chester City owner who became the first owner to fail the Football League’s fit and proper person test in November 2009, following his involvement in a £500,000 VAT fraud, the deal soon came under considerable scrutiny and last month it collapsed with Evans resigning his position.

Hamann, though, remains in charge, although whether that is the case by the time County face City is open to much debate in the North West, with a meeting set for Monday over his future. Having played over 200 games for Liverpool, in addition to spells with Bayern Munich and Manchester City, plus 59 caps for Germany, the 37-year olds appointment was something of a surprise, having spent the previous season working on the coaching staff at Leicester City under Sven Goran Eriksson. The Swede even advised him against taking the position, especially with just nine players contracted to the club at the time. However, he was soon rebuilding the squad, including making an (unsuccessful) £100,000 offer for Bury top scorer Ryan Lowe. When County made their non-league debut at Forest Green Rovers ten of the starting XI (plus two substitutes) had not played for the club before, with just goalkeeper Matt Glennon not making his debut. Against this background a 1-1 draw was a reasonable result and when they beat Kettering Town 1-0 next up it was a promising start to the season. Three successive draws followed as signs that life in the Conference was not going to be at all straightforward. A first defeat, 1-0 at home to Mansfield Town, preceded another two stalemates before the pressure was relieved somewhat with a 2-0 win over another BELT, Grimsby Town. The run of away draws continued at Newport County and Tamworth, meaning they had remarkably drawn 1-1 in each of their first six away games. Unfortunately home wins were now proving impossible to come by, Fleetwood Town, York City and Darlington all heading back home with three points. In-between a 2-2 draw at Cambridge United made it seven out of seven but this run came to an end at league leaders Wrexham on Saturday when they were beaten by four goals to nil, to leave them in 20th position.

Although it will be the first time Stockport have faced City at Twerton Park they visited the ground three times during Bristol Rovers tenure during the 1990s, going unbeaten with two draws and a win. City are likely to be without loan defender Charlie Clough after he injured his knee against Braintree Town on Saturday along with Joe Burnell who missed that match with a hamstring problem. The game could also see club captain Jim Rollo reach the milestone of 450 appearances for the club – where he would become just the fourth player to play that number of games – should he start or make an outing from the bench.

Memories of times past as City grab last gasp Braintree equaliser (15/10/11)

City provided a welcome reminder of their battling qualities this afternoon at Braintree Town as they recovered from 3-1 down to grab a point with a stoppage-time equaliser. As has been the case in several matches so far this season the first goal arrived in the opening minutes, but for once it was City who scored it when Gethin Jones looped a header home from Marc Canham’s free-kick. However, instead of building on this advantage two quick goals midway through the half turned the game in favour of the home side. First Wright curled a shot past Glyn Garner from 20 yards, then the Iron took full advantage of Charlie Clough receiving treatment off the pitch with McCammon scrambling the ball home from a corner. Within three minutes of the restart it got even worse for City as Paine was given too much time and space to head a free-kick home. They were handed a lifeline on 70 minutes though when Marley Watkins got on the end of a Marc Canham corner to head past McDonald. City now threw everything they could at an increasingly rattled home side and four minutes into stoppage got a deserved equaliser when Marc Canham completed a hat-trick of assists, crossing for a heavily bandaged Lee Phillips to head into the net.

PREVIEW: Braintree Town v CITY – Blue Square Bet Premier (13/10/11)

After scoring just five goals in their opening thirteen Blue Square Bet Premier games this season City have now doubled that tally in the last two matches and will hope to continue this improvement when they travel to Braintree Town on Saturday. After the euphoria (and relief) of ending their winless run on Saturday with the 2-0 victory over Darlington they were brought back to earth with a bump against Cambridge United in the week, but the performance in the 4-3 defeat was much more promising and confidence should still be high when they face the league newcomers.

The Iron have been the real surprise package of the 2011-12 campaign so far having won promotion from the Conference South last season. The club reached the play-offs during their first two seasons after winning the Ryman League in 2005-06 but lost to Salisbury City in the 2007 final and Eastbourne Borough a year later at the semi-final stage. They failed to match these achievements the following two seasons before storming to the title last year. Although not amongst the pre-season favourites Braintree lost just one of their opening eleven league games to top the table, a position they only relinquished once during the rest of the season. They secured the title on Easter Saturday when closest rivals Farnborough lost to Woking, the Iron having beaten Hampton & Richmond the day before on a very Good Friday. However, barely before the sound of popping champagne corks had faded manager Rod Stringer quit the club in bizarre circumstances. The former Aveley boss had only been in charge for a year, after his predecessor left after a disagreement with chairman Lee Harding over the club’s budget, and history repeated itself when the pair began planning for a debut season in the top flight of non-league football. Understandably the two disagreed on the finances needed to survive at this level but it appeared the issue that caused Stringer to depart was the quality of the company car he was offered. He was told he had about £4000 to find a vehicle at auction but claimed this was an ‘insult’ and Braintree were looking for their fifth manager in as many years.

The man they turned to was former West Ham United and England midfielder Alan Devonshire. The 55-year old had spent the previous eight seasons at Hampton & Richmond, leading them from the Ryman League Division 1 to within one match of the Conference National. In contrast to his playing career he had earned a reputation for building physical direct sides and immediately made it clear that his first aim was to reach 50 points to ensure there was no quick return to the Conference South. They opened their campaign with a long trip to Darlington where it took a late goal for the home side to secure the points in an even encounter. Their first home game though was a remarkable affair as, after riding their luck early on, they hammered Grimsby Town by five goals to nil. They backed this up with a draw against Mansfield Town and a first away win at Forest Green Rovers. Back to back defeats against Luton Town and Ebbsfleet United followed but they then embarked on a six match winning sequence that lifted them to second place in the league. This run was ended by Fleetwood Town before their honeymoon period was brought unceremoniously to an end with a 6-2 defeat against York City, where they also had two players sent off. They then slipped to a third successive defeat, struggling Kettering Town winning 2-1, and City will hope they are meeting the Iron at just the right time.

Although they are already halfway to the fifty point target with two-thirds of the season still to go their Blue Square Bet Premier place could be in jeopardy if they are refused planning permission to bring their Cressing Road home up to the required standards. Although plans are already in place for a new 6000 capacity stadium the club will need to bring their current ground up to scratch with new turnstile blocks, crush barriers and segregation zones among the improvements, which are expected to cost £175,000. Braintree Council are due to hear the planning application for this work on November 15 and if they receive the go ahead that have until March 31 to raise the money and carry out the work.

Complete record against Braintree Town

City’s record at Cressing Road is a mixed one with two defeats either side of a big win. Their first ever trip to that part of Essex took place during the latter stages of the 2007-08 season with both sides chasing a play-off place. A goal in each half was enough to give the hosts an important win and this was also the scoreline in the last meeting, a midweek match in December 2009 after the Iron went back on an agreement to rearrange the date if both sides went out the FA Trophy (which they did). However, in-between City enjoyed a thumping 4-0 win, although only after they had ridden their luck during a one-sided first period. For about 35 minutes the Iron cut City open time and again but a combination of wayward finishing and excellent goalkeeping from Steve Perrin kept the scores level. In the closing stages of the half City finally gained some control on proceedings and within seven minutes of the restart showed the hosts how to finish, Chris Holland heading home a Richard Evans corner. Ten minutes later a looping Gethin Jones header made it 2-0 and with just another three minutes gone Darren Edwards flicked home Dave Gilroy’s cross. Braintree were then reduced to ten men, Shinn seeing red for an elbow on Sekani Simpson, and on 82 minutes Edwards struck his second and City’s fourth from the penalty spot.

City are likely to have to make at least one change to the starting XI for the first time in three games after Joe Burnell limped out of the Cambridge United defeat with a hamstring injury. They will be boosted by the return of Sekani Simpson to the squad and hope that manager Adie Britton will be back on the touchline having missed the Cambridge game due to a bout of flu.

Cambridge take the honours in seven goal Twerton Park thriller (11/10/11)

City missed the chance to build on Saturday’s first win of the season tonight as they were beaten by Cambridge United in a seven goal thriller at Twerton Park. They twice lead through a Charlie Clough goal and Mark Canham penalty in the first half but found themselves 3-2 down with 15 minutes remaing. Canham’s second penalty of the night levelled the scores three minutes later but Shaw’s dipping long range effort on 84 minutes finally settled the game in favour of the visitors. City went ahead after just 12 minutes when Clough slid home Mark Canham’s free-kick at the far post but this lead lasted just four minutes, Gash controlling a long ball forward before firing past Glyn Garner. When Jennings blocked a Marley Watkins cross with his arm on 25 minutes City were awarded a penalty. Having missed both spot kicks so far this season Marc Canham made sure it was third time lucky, blasting the ball into the roof of the net. Once again the U’s came back and five minutes before the interval a great turn by Carew in the box presented him with a simple finish. Both sides continued to create openings after the break, an unmarked Clough heading City’s best chance wide on the hour mark, but it was United who struck next through Berry’s header from a corner on 75 minutes. City then won their second penalty of the night when Jarvis was harshly adjudged to have handled Jennings’ attempted clearance but Marc Canham did not turn the opportunity down, this time shooting into the bottom corner of the net. Given both sides efforts a draw would have been a fair result but it was United who secured all three points when Shaw’s 25-yard effort dipped over the desparing dive of Garner. City almost grabbed a deserved stoppage time equaliser, Gethin Jones headed a Scott Murray corner straight at keeper Naisbett, but the full-time outfit just managed to hold on.

PREVIEW: CITY v Cambridge United – Blue Square Bet Premier (9/10/11)

After Saturday’s massively important victory over Darlington at Twerton Park to finally end their winless run City know that a repeat on Tuesday against Cambridge United could lift them from the foot of the Blue Square Bet Premier table for the first time since the end of August. Should they manage to overcome a second successive BELT the first result to look for is Fleetwood Town’s clash with Newport County as a victory for Mickey Mellon’s side would dump the Welsh club to the bottom of the table. With City the only side in the bottom half of the table to record a win over the weekend it was as near to a perfect couple of days as they could have hoped and should give them a huge confidence boost ahead of the U’s visit to Bath.

Cambridge’s seventh season since returning to non-league has got off to a solid start following a desperately disappointing 2010-11 campaign where they finished in 17th place, just four points above the relegation places. Unsurprisingly these struggles cost manager Martin Ling his job in February 2011, with his final game in charge a 4-0 thrashing at Twerton Park. He was replaced by director of football Jez George on a caretaker basis. Although the U’s only won three games during the remainder of the season with the former youth coach in charge, and finished one place lower than when he took over from Ling, he was offered the job permanently during the summer. Various announcements at boardroom level made it clear that George’s appointment was against a background of a club looking to reduce its playing costs. Two of the club’s higher profile players Paul Carden and Daryl Clare were shipped out as George looked to youth to rebuild his squad. Amongst the nine players he brought in during the close season was England C international defender Michael Wylde from Tamworth and as one of the more experienced players, at 24-years old, he was named club captain on the eve of the new season.

It took a stoppage time goal from Conal Platt (another player since released) to avoid defeat on the opening day of the season at Wrexham and they followed this up with a fortunate 1-0 win over AFC Telford United. Their next game at home to Kidderminster Harriers saw a much improved performance but, as City can testify this season, it is results that matter and two goals for the visitors just before the break meant Michael Gash’s second half strike was nothing more than a consolation. An early red card for Harrison Dunk at Grimsby Town then set the U’s on their way to another 2-1 defeat which saw them slip to 15th place in the table. However, they then embarked on an eight match unbeaten run that lifted them back toward the play-off places. Although most of these results were against sides struggling in the lower reaches of the division they included holding early season leaders Gateshead to a 1-1 draw and beating perennial title favourites Luton Town by a single goal. This run ended with a defeat at Southport and in their last outing they twice came from behind to share the points with draw specialists Stockport County. They currently lie in 10th place but just three points off the play-off places.

Complete record against Cambridge United

City’s first trip to The Abbey Stadium since 1970 last season was widely considered the game where they found their feet at this level – a stunning late Kaid Mohamed goal giving them a 2-1 victory – and paved the way for the excellent campaign. The aforementioned Twerton Park meeting was equally memorable as City recorded their biggest win of the season, Mohamed netting twice from the penalty spot alongside Marc Canham’s free-kick and Scott Murray’s neat finish. This was not the first time United had been on the wrong end of a thrashing in Bath, their first ever trip finishing 5-1 to the hosts in December 1961. Cambridge were newly promoted from the Southern League Division 1 whereas City were amongst the Premier Division favourites having lifted the title two years earlier. They came into the game on the back of three successive wins over Wellington Town, Cheltenham Town and Gravesend & Northfleet, where they had netted 13 goals in the process, and the U’s never looked like ending this run as Charlie Fleming and Lol Chappell grabbed two goals each with Peter Thomas also on target.

City will hope to go in to the game with almost a full squad to choose from, only Sekani Simpson is a doubt with the groin problem that has side-lined him for the last three matches, but given the performance and (more importantly) result against Darlington an unchanged starting line-up must be a real possibility.

City end winless run with deserved Twerton Park Quakers success (8/10/11)

At the 14th attempt City finally recorded their first league victory of the 2011-12 season with a 2-0 win over Darlington at Twerton Park thanks to goals from Sean Canham and Lee Phillips. The strikes arrived within two minutes of each in a one-sided second half which, combined with a first clean sheet of the campaign, finally saw City earn full reward for a solid performance. After the visitors almost went ahead in the first minute, Arnison’s punt forward dropping just wide of Glyn Garner’s goal, the game settled into a low-key stalemate with neither side able to stamp any authority on preceedings. However, slowly but surely City began to gain the upper hand, Marc Canham seeing a free-kick tipped over, Charlie Clough twice going close and Sean Canham shooting over from a narrow angle. The second half continued in the same vein but given the number of games this season where City have looked the better side for long spells there was still the worry that a goal for the Quakers would change the whole pattern of the match. This pressure was lifted though on 69 minutes when Lewis Hogg battled to the byline and his cross eventually fell to Sean Canham to blast home. This was the first time City had led in a league game this season and within two minutes it got even better. Phillips dispossessed Greg Taylor before showing great composure to hold off two defenders and shoot past Soderberg. Darlington understandably looked stunned by this double blow and rarely threatened to repeat City’s comeback from the same deficit last season, a looping Campbell effort that Gethin Jones cleared off the line after the otherwise immaculate Clough and Garner had got in each others way, the closest they came to pulling a goal back.

PREVIEW: CITY v Darlington – Blue Square Bet Premier (6/10/11)

Having reached October with a first win of the season still proving painfully elusive the remainder of the month could prove pivotal in determining the direction for the remainder of the 2011-12 campaign. In addition to five league games in the next three weeks the final Saturday of the month will see City enter the FA Cup at the 4th Qualifying Round stage. And if November dawns with the nightmare scenario of the club still winless then the season would be in tatters two months before the turn of the year. However, taking the ‘glass half full’ outlook, two or three wins during October would see City close the gap on the teams above them (though probably not lift them off the foot of the table) and progress in the FA Cup should give the club a confidence and financial boost.

Therefore, where better to start than a win over Saturday’s visitors, Darlington, who, whilst not to the same extent as City, have got their season off to a disappointing start. Five wins in their final seven games of last year took the Quakers to a final league placing of 7th. They then lifted the FA Trophy at Wembley Stadium thanks to a last minute extra-time goal from Chris Senior to defeat Mansfield Town. Against this background manager Mark Cooper’s men began the season promisingly with a narrow 1-0 win over Blue Square Bet Premier newcomers then a goalless draw at one of the pre-season title favourites, Fleetwood Town. Although they then lost to Tamworth, seven points from the next nine lifted them to 4th place at the beginning of September. This good start was soon forgotten though as back to back defeats against Mansfield Town and Luton Town saw them slip to mid-table. A last-gasp equaliser prevented another loss to Hayes & Yeading United before they picked up a further point with a 2-2 draw at York City. Their winless run was increased to six games with a 2-0 defeat to Cambridge United and 3-0 home reversal against Southport. Suddenly Cooper’s position as manager was under threat with boos ringing around the Darlington Arena following the Southport match and the local newspaper running article headed ‘Should He Stay or Should He Go?’ along with a poll (which 61% voted in favour of him staying).

Cooper began his playing career in the West Country as a trainee with Bristol City but never made a first team appearance for the Robins. He went on to join Exeter City, where father Terry Cooper, the former England defender, was manager, before embarking on a well-travelled career, including spells with Birmingham City and Fulham. Having dropped into non-league football with Hednesford Town in 2000 he moved into management as player-manager at Tamworth four years later. He led the club to two successive FA Cup 3rd Round appearances but the club’s league form never matched this and when he left in January 2007 they were rooted to the foot of the Football Conference. He resurfaced at Kettering five months later and led the Poppies to the 2007-08 Conference North title. The following season saw Kettering reach the FA Cup 4th Round and finish in 8th position in the Conference National. It was no surprise then when Peterborough United identified him as Darren Ferguson’s replacement in November 2009. However, he was sacked by the Posh after just 12 games in charge. In May 2010 he was handed the task of restoring the Quakers to the Football League. Whether he gets the chance to see this aim through is still up in the air, although he gave himself some breathing space last Saturday with a 2-0 win over Newport County, who ironically had sacked their manager Anthony Hudson the previous week.

Complete record against Darlington

City faced Darlington for the first ever time last season, as they suffered two convincing defeats in the North East, 4-1 in the FA Trophy and 3-1 in the league, but enjoyed a much better afternoon (eventually) at Twerton Park. For 94 minutes though it had looked like a day to forget for City. After having the better of the opening 25 minutes they fell behind when Senior headed past Ryan Robinson at the second attempt. When the visitors doubled their lead on 69 minutes, Hatch firing home from the edge of the area, it looked all over for City. The announcement of six minutes stoppage time did get an optimistic cheer from the home supporters but four of these had already passed when Lewis Hogg stroked the ball past Russell to make it 2-1. However, there was still time for Kaid Mohamed’s back-heel to fall perfectly for Hector Mackie to curl an unstoppable shot into the top corner of the net and send the City fans into rapture.

City are confident that striker Lee Phillips will have recovered from the knee injury he suffered against Lincoln City last Saturday and he may partner Sean Canham in attack as manager Adie Britton considers switching to a 4-4-2 formation from his more favoured 4-5-1 or 4-3-3, as City look to improve their dreadful scoring record so far this season. Adam Connolly will also be back in the squad after coming through Tuesday’s Somerset Premier Cup defeat at Taunton Town and Joe Burnell may be available despite also limping of the Lincoln game as well. The only serious doubt is Sekani Simpson with a groin injury.

Nothing proud about Somerset Premier Cup exit at hands of Peacocks (3/10/11)

City’s search for a first win of the 2011-12 season continues after two late goals dumped them out of the Somerset Premier Cup at the hands of Southern League Division 1 side Taunton Town. Although a number of players were understandably rested City still lined up a strong starting XI, including former Cardiff City trainee James Bloom. After a goalless first half Josh Egan put City ahead from close range on 67 minutes. However, with eight minutes left Bloom conceded a penalty which was converted by Veal, who was playing in goal for the home side. And three minutes later it got even worse for City when Butler fired the Peacocks in front and earn them a place in the 2nd Round.

PREVIEW: Taunton Town v CITY – Somerset Premier Cup 1st Round (2/10/11)

City get what hopefully will be welcome relief from their Blue Square Bet Premier travails when they travel to Taunton Town tomorrow night in the Somerset Premier Cup 1st Round. Although Adie Britton is unlikely to field anything close to a full strength side, especially just two days after the long trip to Lincoln City, he must hope that the game will finally end the team’s long wait for a win this season and give them a small measure of confidence ahead of more important games to come.

However, given City’s record in the competition since winning it in 2008, a victory over the Evostick Southern League Division 1 South & West side is by no means a certainty. Five months after beating Paulton Rovers in the 2007-08 final, to lift the trophy for the 21st time, they scraped past Street in the 2008-09 1st Round but have not won a tie since. Frome Town, Bridgwater Town and Radstock Town have subsequently overcome City line-ups of varying strength and Taunton will now look to add their name to that list.

The Peacocks have endured a tough start to the 2011-12 campaign both on and off the pitch. The club suffered a massive blow during the summer when their newly refurbished clubhouse was destroyed by fire. An electrical fault caused the blaze and has left the club facing at least a 50% reduction in income whilst they make arrangements to rebuild the vital facility. The fire, plus the subsequent work to remove asbestos from the damaged building, also meant they had to switch their opening match of the season to Abingdon United and cancel a second home game scheduled for the following week. Against this backdrop it was no real surprise that they lost three of the first four games of the season, all played away from Wordsworth Road, albeit their one success coming against former Western League rivals Tiverton Town. When they finally got the chance to play in front of their own fans they did it style, thrashing Bridgwater Town by six goals to two. They then needed a replay to progress in the FA Cup against Carlsberg South West Peninsula League champions Buckland Athletic before beating Stourbridge Swifts by a single goal. Their FA Cup run ended at Weymouth, again after a replay, and they have won just one of their last four league games to currently lie in 14th place in the Evostick Southern League Division 1 South & West.

Complete record against Taunton Town/Taunton United

The clubs have met on 70 occasions in a number of different competitions over the years, although mainly the Somerset Premier Cup including the last eight encounters. The last time City travelled to Wordsworth Drive was on Good Friday in 1995 for the 1st leg of the final. The game itself finished 1-0 to City thanks to Nicky Brooks’ deflected header on 50 minutes but is was more memorable for the introduction of Tony Ricketts as an 81st minute substitute for his 503rd outing as a City player, which took him past Tony Gough as the club’s (then) record appearance holder. Brooks was also on target in the second leg, along with David Adekola and Gary Smart, as City ran out comfortable 4-0 winners on aggregate in what turned out to be the last time they won the competition until the aforementioned 2007-08 success.

No Indian summer for City as Imps barely break sweat to inflict latest defeat (1/10/11)

Despite weather more suited to the opening day of the season there was no fresh start for City this afternoon as they lost 2-0 to Lincoln City to make it 13 games without a win. With the temperatures in the high 20s and Sincil Bank bathed in bright sunshine the home side scored twice during the first half and never really had to get out of first gear in the face of another toothless City display. Their cause was not helped by losing striker Lee Phillips with a leg injury seven minutes before the break but by then they were 2-0 down and already staring defeat in the face. The opening goal arrived on 19 minutes when Smith headed McCallum’s cross past Glyn Garner. Eleven minutes later City lost possession in midfield and, although McCallum was several yards offside when Russell’s pass sent him clear there was no flag allowing him to fire home. Alex Russell’s deflected shot forced Imps keeper Anyon into his one and only difficult save of the game and Joe Burnell shot into the side netting from the resultant corner as City ended the half well. Any hopes they would build on this after the break soon faded as Lincoln comfortably dealt with their limited threat and they almost grabbed a third when Power struck the bar with a curling shot. Sean Canham flicked a header narrowly wide in the closing ten minutes but at the final whistle a first win of the season still looks a worryingly long way off for City.