|Below-par City relieved to make FA Cup progress (30/9/07)
A trademark header from Chris Holland in the 2nd minute was enough to see City through to the 3rd Qualifying Round of the FA Cup but not before big-spending Truro City had given them a huge scare. It had all looked so comfortable when Holland rose to head a Mark McKeever cross home from just inside the six yard box. However, after the opening ten minutes where City threatened on a couple of further occasions, the Cornwall side began to show what you can do when money is no object. They should have levelled on 17 minutes when they were awarded a penalty, only for Wills to pull the kick well wide. Truro were now dominating possession but Gethin Jones and Holland were dealing with the threat well, a couple of headers straight at Paul Evans and a succession of corners the extent of the danger. Scott Rogers wasted a great chance to give City breathing space just before half-time, directing a free header straight at Chapman.
An injury to the over-fussy referee Mr Powell at half-time saw Truro goalkeeping coach Deba Sidhu take over running one line. City’s play became even more disjointed after the break and the home side continued to dominate, Gethin Jones clearing one shot off the line, but slowly they seemed to run out of steam and even the introduction of top scorer Yetton failed to lift them. Darren Edwards should have put the result beyond doubt with two minutes left when clean through and there was one final scare for City in stoppage time. Yetton clearly dived in the box when Holland slid in on him, but the replacement referee was fooled into pointing at the spot. Thankfully a linesman’s flag (not by Truro’s official) for an earlier offside ruled out the mistake, and justice was done. Overall, though, maybe that was not the case.
City’s final two matches of the season have been brought forward to accomodate the end-of-season play-off matches. City were due to travel to Bishop’s Stortford on Saturday 3 May for their final match of the season, but will now make the trip a week earlier on Saturday 26 April. The clash with Thurrock previously arranged for that date will take place on Tuesday 22 April instead, handing the Essex side a long and difficult midweek journey.
The last time a City side travelled to Cornwall was exactly 15 years ago today, when they faced South Western League side Falmouth Town. As with Saturday’s meeting against Truro City this was an FA Cup 2nd Qualifying Round tie. Goals from Graham Withey, Martin Boyle and Grantley Dicks gave City a 3-0 victory and moved them another step along the road to a 2nd Round proper meeting with Northampton Town, including the famous 3-2 win at Cardiff City on the way. No doubt, the current City team would settle for a similar scoreline and, possibly, cup run as during the 1992-93 season. And on paper a three goal victory for a side currently sitting third in the Blue Square South against Western League opposition should be the minimum of their aims. However, Truro City are certainly no ordinary Western League side.
Until the 2006-07 they were members of the South Western League (winning it five times including the 1992-93 season when City faced Falmouth Town), having only missed three seasons (in the 1970’s due to losing their ground for road widening) since it’s formation in 1951. The runners-up spot in 2006 saw them accept promotion to the Western League. Their first season at this level saw them win the league by 22 points, winning 37 of their 42 matches, losing just one (against Bath-based Larkhall Athletic) and scoring an incredible 185 goals in the process. They also won the FA Vase at the new Wembley Stadium, beating AFC Totten 3-1 in the final. This season so far they have a 100% record, winning seven league and two FA Cup games.
This incredible turnaround in the club’s fortunes all stemmed from the arrival at Treyew Road of Kevin Heaney in 2004. The 44-year old property developer, who is ranked 458th in the Sunday Times rich list with an estimated wealth of £154million, was only approached with regard to youth sponsorship, but found a club on it’s knees with debts of around £1/4milion – massive for a step 7 non-league club. Eight months later Heaney had cleared these debts, was owner of the club and has stated his ambition to make them Cornwall’s first professional club.
To this end they began bringing in players (and, therefore, paying wages) well above Western League standard. These included two names familiar to City – Graeme Power and Scott Walker, from Tiverton Town and Chippenham Town respectively – plus another ex-Tivvy player striker Stewart Yetton, who scored an astonishing 72 goals last season. During almost uninterrupted success on the pitch Truro did receive a setback to their ambitions two weeks ago when Carrick councillors refused planning permission for the club’s £6 million training ground on farmland at Kenwyn. This means the club will not be able to relocate from its cramped location at Treyew Road in the near future. How this will affect Heaney’s long-term aims for the club is, as yet, unclear.
City’s hopes of denying Truro their first major scalp in the FA Cup will be boosted by the return of Lewis Hogg from suspension, and Adie Harris (back) and in-form striker Dave Gilroy (hamstring) should have overcome minor injuries that saw them substituted during last Saturday’s 3-0 win over St Albans City.
City’s great start to the season continued this afternoon at Twerton Park as they swept aside St Albans City by three goals to nil. The visitors got off to the worse start possible when after just five minutes Elphick pulled down Dave Gilroy on the edge of the box as he was bearing down on goal to receive a straight red card. City did have a scare five minutes later when Clarke looped a header past Paul Evans, only for a linesmans’ flag to rule the ‘goal’ out. It took City until the 22nd minute to make their man advantage count, Gilroy converting from the penalty spot after he was brought down by Deen. This was how the score stayed until the second half before two goals in six minutes from City guaranteed them the three points. On 50 minutes excellent work by Mark McKeever saw the ball break to Darren Edwards to stroke it into the unguarded goal. Six minutes later keeper Eyre picked up a back-pass and Scott Rogers laid the ball back to Adie Harris who lashed it high into the net. The game understandably petered out after this, although City did create several half-chances to add to the scoring, but was still the perfect preperation as they turn their attention to the FA Cup next Saturday.
Midfield Jason Wood has returned to Twerton Park following his spell with Yate Town, although he is currently sidelined with a stomach muscle injury.
Craig Davidge has joined Southern League side Clevedon Town on loan for a month. This will be the second time the 23-year old has joined the Seasiders, having spent a month on loan there last season. City’s excellent start to the season has, once again, limited the winger’s starting XI chances and he has only made three substitute appearances despite being on the bench for all ten games. He will not be allowed to play FA Cup games to avoid being cup-tied, although according to Clevedon he will be permitted to take part in Somerset Premier Cup and FA Trophy ties. He joins fellow midfielder Mike Green at the Hand Stadium, after he extended his deal into a second month.
Actress Kierston Wareing who plays “Angie” in Ken Loach`s latest film It’s a Free World paid a visit to Twerton Park prior to the screening of the movie in Bath on Monday. Kierston met up with City player of the year Chris Holland at the ground and despite her allegiance to West Ham is now a fully confirmed City fan. It’s a Free World tells the story of Angie, who sets up an employment agency for immigrant workers, and is a gritty portrayal of 21st century life. The film had a special preview at The Little Theatre and raised close to £1500 for Ken and Kierston`s favourite team, Bath City FC. The film is going out on Channel 4 on Monday 24 September 2007.
For the second game running City come face to face with a side who have made a poor start to the 2007-08 Blue Square South season. Whilst Tuesday’s vanquished opponents Bognor Regis Town may not hope for much more than avoiding relegation this season, St Albans City will have had much greater expectations having only been relegated from the Conference National back In May. The tone for the opening six weeks of the season was set on day one as the Saints suffered a 3-0 home defeat against Dorchester Town. They only scored in one of the opening six games before finally getting their first victory in a seven-goal thriller against Bishop’s Stortford. They followed this up with a creditable draw against league leaders Lewes (although Lewes did miss a last minute penalty), however, if they thought that these results would kick start their season they were to be stunned three days later. Facing a home match with bottom side Thurrock, who had lost all four of their away games, scoring just once in the process, they would have been fancied their chances. A 5-0 win for the visitors deflated these hopes in the most extreme style. In truth, these struggles may not be such a surprise give the upheaval that has gone on at Clarence Park since they club finished rock bottom of the Conference last season. Vastly experience manager Colin Lippiatt resigned to be replaced by rookie boss Ritchie Hanlon, who had only retired as a player in January 2007 due to injury, becoming the club’s youngest ever manager as just 29 years of age. Wage restrictions meant a number of senior players departed, including Nick Roddis, Chris Watters, keeper Paul Bastock (who made a single appearance for City in 1988), Leon Archer, Tom Davis and Dean Cracknell. The new boss has brought in a number of replacements, So Solid Crew Rapper and former AFC Wimbledon player Junior Harvey amongst them, but with a number of injuries hampering the new players settling in, it has been a tough start for Hanlon. It was all so different for the Hertfordshire club in May 2006 when they won a place in the Conference with a 2-0 play-off victory over Histon in front of 3,175 supporters at Stevenage’s Broadhall Way. This concluded a season where they had pushed big-spending Weymouth all the way for the Conference South title, only a 3-2 defeat at Wessex Stadium in April finally allowing the Terras to shake off their determined challenge. This rivalry was further bolstered by the presence of Ian Ridley on the St Albans board, having previously played such a prominent role with the Dorset club. Ridley quit midway through the 2006-07 season following a disagreement with other board members (déjà-vu?). With the Saints having spent most of their 99 year history in the Isthmian League this is the first time they have met City.
Despite giving a debut to former Welsh international goalkeeper Paul Jones, Bognor Regis Town had no answer to City last night as a Dave Gilroy hat-trick fired them to a 3-1 victory. Jones, who made 50 appearances for Wales, was picking the ball out of the net after just three minutes, Gilroy latching onto a Mark McKeever free-kick to flick home. The Rocks, who has lost all four of their previous home games this season, were understandbly shocked by this start and, although dominating possession, they rarely looked like equalising. The closest they came was just before the interval when a close-range effort by Beck was superbly turned away by Paul Evans. With 22 minutes remaining City doubled their lead, Gilroy racing onto a great pass by Scott Rogers to roll the ball past Jones. He completed his hat-trick ten minutes later with another neat finish from a quickly taken McKeever free-kick. Bognor grabbed a last minute consolation goal from Nightingale.
After two successive draws City make the long midweek trip to the West Sussex coast to attempt to return to winning ways against Bognor Regis Town. And the timing couldn’t be better as they come face to face with a side struggling at the wrong end of the Blue Square South. The Rocks – so-called due to a formation of rocks which lie about a mile from the beach at Bognor – have lost all four of their home games so far, including a 5-0 thrashing by leaders Lewes. Away from Nyewood Lane they have done slightly better, with wins at Welling United and Maidenhead United, although their season took another setback at Weston Super Mare last Saturday, when they threw away a two-goal lead to lose 3-2, conceding two very late goals. Having finished 12th the last two seasons at this level, even at this early stage of the campaign another mid-table finish may be the height of their ambitions. This poor run of form does not seem to concern manager Jack Pearce, claiming ahead of the Weston defeat, “I think for us the league table should say played seven, won four, drawn one and lost two. If we hadn’t made schoolboy errors that’s what it would look like. Silly mistakes have cost us and we’re not taking our chances when we get them.” While this may seem somewhat optimistic if anyone knows the Bognor side well it is Pearce, having spent 38 years at the club with over 1500 games in charge.
Complete record against Bognor Regis Town
This will be the fifth time City have faced the Rocks, although the last meeting took place in March 1974. The four meetings took place during the 1972-73 and 1973-74 seasons with City in the Southern League Division 1 following relegation at the end of the 1971-72 campaign. Whilst City returned to the Premier Division in 1974 Bognor remained in Division 1, their highest finish – 11th place – coming that same season. The 1981-82 saw them switch to the Isthmian League where they stayed until becoming founder members of the Conference South in 2004.
The draw for the 2nd Qualifying Round of the FA Cup has handed City a long trip to Western League side Truro City. The Cornish side were runaway winners of the Western League Division 1 last season and also lifted the FA Vase at Wembley. They currently boost a 100% record this season and look certain to step up to Southern League football next year. These achievements has been bankrolled by chairman and owner Kevin Heaney as he aims to make Truro Cornwall’s first professional club. The side is largely made up of players plying their trade well below their level, including former City stars Scott Walker and Graeme Power. However, the club did receive a set-back in their ambitions last week was planning permission for a £6million academy was turned down by the local council. The tie will take place on Saturday 29 September (ko 3pm).
In what could be their final ever visit to Milton Road, City had to settle for a share of the points in a 2-2 draw with Cambridge City. With the Lilywhite’s mired in a High Court battle to remain at the ground, home supporters had their minds taken off these troubles for 90 minutes in an entertaining encounter with City. It was City who struck first, Adie Harris heading home a near post Mark McKeever corner on 12 minutes. His, and City’s joy was short-lived though, as five minutes later he turned Midgley’s low cross past Paul Evans to leve the scores. Darren Edwards was denied by a goalline block shortly afterwards but the home side were beginning to dominate. They deservedly went ahead five minutes before the interval when Gash raced clear of a static City backline. He looked to have wasted the opening, allowing several City defenders to recover their positions but cut back inside, rounded Evans and slotted the ball home. City boss John Relish made two changes at half-time, replacing Matt Coupe and McKeever with Gethin Jones and Paul Keddle, and switching to 3-5-2. This paid dividends immediately as City started the second half on top and on 53 minutes Sekani Simpson crossed for Edwards to head past Davies. After this both sides had chances to win the game but in the end it was fair result, as neither side really deserved to lose.
Scott Partridge hopes to be back in action next month, with October 13, his 33rd birthday, penciled in as a possible return date. The striker has been sidelined with a neck injury since February which has required two operations to insert artificial discs to correct a prolasped disc problem. He is due to meet with his surgeon on October 4 – three months since the second procedure – and hopes to be given the green light to return to full training.
City’s latest Blue Square South outing on Saturday sees them renew acquaintances with a side they regularly played during the 1960’s and 1970’s, then again in the late 1990’s and early this decade, Cambridge City. In total they have met the Lilywhite’s 44 times following their first meeting during City’s 1959-60 Southern League winning season. Back in those day’s City were the top club in Cambridge, getting crowds in excess of 5000. However, this all changed in 1970 when Cambridge United were elected to the Football League in place of Bradford Park Avenue. This was particularly galling to City as they had finished higher than their close neighbours in 8 of the 12 seasons they had both played in the Southern League, and in 1951 when Cambridge was awarded City status it was the Lilywhites who won the race to adopt that title. Crowds soon began to fall, eventually bottoming out at around 200, and they were forced to sell off large parts of their Milton Road home to clear debts, the capacity dropping from an estimated 20,000 to the 3000 it can hold now. Events on the pitch mirrored this decline as they slipped into the regional divisions of the Southern League – missing out on making the cut for the newly formed Alliance League (now Conference) in 1979. An attempt to return to amateur status – which they had successfully been during their early years as Cambridge Town – was rejected by supporters in 1977 and a recovery began during the mid-1980’s when they returned to the Premier Division and they comfortably made the Conference South in 2004. Despite the return of better times on the pitch, events surrounding the club, in particular their ground, have cast a cloud over these achievements. In 2004 the ground was sold off to an Isle of Man company called Ross River, owned by former director Brian York.* The price was £1.3million plus 50% of future profits (“overage”) and a lease until 2010. In 2005, the overage was bought out by Ross River for £900k and the lease altered to last only until May 2006 (later amended to May 2007) – so the total sale price was £2.2million. In July 2007 the club was involved in a seven day High Court action seeking to overturn the sale of the ground. The basis of the club’s claim was that that the former Chairman in charge of the sale, Arthur Eastham, acted illegally, and that Ross River’s representatives deliberately withheld information that the club was entitled to see in considering the ground sale, which amounted to fraudulent misrepresentation. The club is remaining at the ground at least until the outcome of the legal case is determined. The judgement is expected in September 2007 and should they lose they will switch to a ground-share with Bishop’s Stortford and City could be one of the last sides to play at Milton Road. Whether these events have affected the team isn’t clear but they have got off to a mixed start this season and, having won two of their first three matches, have not won in the last four to lie in 13th place.
Complete record against Cambridge City
This will be City’s first trip to Cambridge since a goalless draw in January 2004 and they have only lost twice in their last ten visits. One of these defeats took place in the opening game of the 1989-90 season, when despite a John Freegard goal the Lilywhite’s ran out 2-1 winners. This turned out to be one of only four league defeats that season for City, and they gained revenge in the penultimate game of the campaign when Freegard struck again, along with two Paul Randall goals.
*Not, as far as I’m aware, City’s Brian York.
Dave Gilroy got his first goal in a City shirt since signing from Chippenham Town in the summer to earn City a 1-1 draw against Newport County last night which at half-time never looked likely. The Welsh side totally outplayed City but only had a Hillier’s 40th minute strike, following a mistake by Paul Evans, to show for this. Both sides also had a goal disallowed, Newport’s for offside and a minute later a handball decision denied Gilroy after his neat finish. The second half, though, saw a complete turnaround as City dominated. The equaliser arrived on 64 minutes when Gilroy slide the ball home after a Mark McKeever free-kick. They couldn’t find a winner though and the game began to get slightly ill-tempered toward the end, but the draw was a fair result.
City’s four wins and a draw in August have earned manager John Relish the August Blue Square South manager of the month award. The award was judged by a panel of experts including Setanta commentator Paul Parker. Relish is joined by Salisbury City manager Nick Holmes in the Blue Square Premier and Mark Cooper of Kettering Town in the Blue Square North as August winners. Details of the presentation to follow.
After the late goal at Welling United condemned City to their first defeat of the season they will look to return to winning ways at Twerton Park on Friday when the visitors are Newport County. The Welsh side were one of the Blue Square South pre-season favourites but have begun the season in stuttering fashion with two wins, two draws and two losses in their opening six games to leave them in 10th place. Their last match was a 1-0 defeat at Lewes – a game that was moved to a midday Sunday kick-off on police advice following previous incidents between the clubs both on and off the pitch. This meeting saw the Newport chairman and directors refuse to enter the boardroom as a protest against the actions of the Sussex side. Trouble has tended to follow Newport in recent years – in particular, an incident in last season FA Cup when the fourth official was knocked unconscious by a coin thrown from the home terrace following the dismissal of manager Peter Beadle – however, recent meetings against City have always been competitive but fair encounters, with excellent support from both sets of fans. The most unforgettable of these took place during the 2003-03 season when City overturned deficits of 2-1 and 3-2 to run out 4-3 winners, with Frankie Bennett grabbing the stunning winner. Another memorable meeting was the first time City met County in their current set-up, although not for the narrow 1-0 victory that a late Mark Clode goal gave them on 3 January 2000, rather that the game saw one Bobby Zamora make his City debut. This was the first time City had faced Newport County since the 1965-66 season, when the then league side were on the wrong end of an FA Cup giant-killing. City did face Newport AFC, also in the FA Cup, during the 1996-97 season, as the club went through several identity (and location) changes following their bankruptcy in February 1989. They had been relegated from the Football League the previous season but failed to make it through their first season in non-league football. City suffered in two ways from these events. In January 1988 they sold star player Paul Bodin to the Welsh side recieving a £16,000 transfer fee. Almost immediately he was sold on to Swindon Town for £30,000, of which City were entitled to a third, however the finanical troubles at Somerton Park meant City never saw a penny of this money. The departure of top-scorer Bodin then contributed to City finishing 3rd from bottom of the Conference and relegated back to the Southern League. For a time it looked as if they could be saved by the demise of Newport, only for them to drag out their existence for another seven months, no doubt aided by the money they still owed City.
Complete record against Newport County
The newly reformed club began the climb from Hellenic League football in July 1988, initially with current City boss John Relish at the helm, having made over 300 appearances for the club during 13 years with them. During this time they were forced to play home games in Gloucestershire, and take legal action to be allowed to remain in the English non-league pyramid, before finally returning to Newport at the newly built Newport Stadium. They are currently managed by former Bristol Rovers player Peter Beadle, who also had a spell as one of Team Bath’s numerous ‘coaches’. He was a surprise appointment to replace John Cornforth in October 2006, but took the Exiles to within three points of making last season’s Conference South play-offs – a target that this season would be the minimum expectation for the league’s best supported side.
City suffered their first defeat as a Blue Square South side this afternoon as an 88th minute header from Sinclair gave Welling United a 1-0 victory. This was somewhat harsh on City as twice in the second half they struck the woodwork, Darren Edwards the unlucky player both times. However, one laspe in defence allowed the unmarked Sinclair to power home a header from a free-kick and the points were the Kent side’s. City had started the game brightly without creating any clear-cut openings, allowing the home side into the game as the half progressed which saw a deflected shot flash inches wide of Paul Evans’ goal just before the break. The second half saw City on top once again, Edwards hitting the foot of the post with a shot from the edge of the area then striking the crossbar after being picked out by Lewis Hogg. He also appeared to be impeded when about to shoot inbetween these near misses but the referee waved away City’s penalty appeals. There was also a close call at the other end, Ward firing over the bar from just a few yards out, before the late deciding goal.