City will hope to build on their impressive midweek win over Kidderminster Harriers when they travel to Cambridge United’s Abbey Stadium for the first time since 1970. The U’s won promotion to the Football League that season but 35 years later they were back in the non-league game after finishing rock bottom of League 2 (relegated alongside Kidderminster) and as soon as the drop was confirmed the club entered administration. After taking a couple of seasons to recover from the on and off field problems they reached successive play-off finals only to lose to Exeter City and Torquay United.
The club began as Abbey United before changing their name to Cambridge United in 1951 – although only after local rivals Cambridge Town got their application in first to become Cambridge City (the town had been granted City status that year) – two years after they had turned professional. In 1958 they were promoted from the Eastern Counties League to the Southern League and three seasons later reached the Premier Division. At that time the U’s were very much the second club in Cambridge with rivals City attracting bigger crowds and lifting the Southern League title in 1963 ahead of second placed United. However, the footballing landscape of Cambridge was changing and whilst City were climbing back to the Premier Division after relegation in 1968, United were enjoying back to back titles that culminated with them replacing Bradford Park Avenue in the Football League. They enjoyed mixed success, reaching the old Division 2 in 1980, before successive relegations dropped them back to the basement six years later. The early 1990s saw the U’s win the first ever play-off final to be played at Wembley and they narrowly missed out on becoming founder members of the Premier League in 1992, losing to Leicester City in the play-offs. They also twice reached the FA Cup quarter-finals during this period.
In common with so many lower league teams United’s financial problems came close to bringing the club down, only the sale of the Abbey Stadium to director John Howard’s company Bideawhile for just over £1.9m in 2004 saving it from bankruptcy. This meant they now had to pay rent (initially £200K per season) to remain at the ground and this was used as the excuse to sell the naming rights in 2008 when it became known as the ‘Trade Recruitment Stadium’. This was announced as a five-year deal but 12 months later a new agreement with a St-Ives based legal firm saw the ground renamed the R Costings Abbey Stadium. It was sold by Bideawhile to Grosvenor Estates in June 2010. Soon after, the new landlords, in combination with the club and supporters group, Cambridge Fans United, announced that they had signed a Memorandum of Understanding to positively work together to achieve the relocation of the club to a new stadium, in a location as yet unknown.
Following United’s second play-off final defeat in May 2009 manager Gary Brabin was sacked (shortly after being named Conference manager of the year) and replaced by Martin Ling. However, nine days later he resigned after a fall out with chairman George Rolls. Within a couple of days though Rolls himself quit (surfacing at Weymouth a few months later) and the new board reappointed Ling. Not surprisingly against this backdrop the U’s could only finish 10th last season and they have not started this campaign well. It took them six matches before they recorded their first victory – a 2-0 home win over Eastbourne Borough. They have since won two further matches, both at home against Gateshead (5-0) and Kettering Town (3-0), but were well beaten 3-0 by AFC Wimbledon in their last outing. They are currently in 16th position just two points ahead of City.
Complete record against Cambridge United
The clubs have met on 12 previous occasions between 1961 and 1970 with a perfectly equal record of four wins each and four draws. Despite this identical record City have enjoyed two big wins over United. The first was in the maiden meeting between the clubs during the 1961-62 season with a City side enjoying its most successful ever period. They had won the Southern League two seasons earlier and finished runners-up the previous year. Newly promoted Cambridge had no answer to a City side containing legends Charlie Fleming, Tony Book and Ian MacFarlane, the former netting twice in a 5-1 win. Two seasons later Fleming was again on target, although Johnny Cartwright was the star with a hat-trick in a 6-2 victory which kept Malcolm Allison managed City firmly in the title race. They had to settle for third place in the end and would only enjoy one more win in the next six meetings before the U’s headed off into the promised land of the Football League.
City should welcome captain Lewis Hogg back into the squad after he missed the last two matches with a groin strain but Gethin Jones is once again ruled out and loan star Joe Edwards will face a late fitness test after picking up a knock to his ankle in the Kidderminster match. City have also received positive news on the injury front with long-term absentees Joe Burnell and Luke Ruddick due to resume full training next week and Scott Murray not facing an operation on his injured ankle.
City recorded their second Blue Square Bet Premier win of the season tonight 2-0 against Kidderminster Harriers thanks to first half goals from Kaid Mohamed and new signing Alex Russell. The visitors, who had beaten league leaders AFC Wimbledon two days earlier, were second best for much of the game and, although they struck the bar late in each half, could have little complaint at heading back up the M5 empty handed. They should have been behind after just 60 seconds when a quickly taken free-kick was lashed home by Russell only for referee to claim it wasn’t taken from the correct position. Mr Berry was at the centre of proceedings again on 16 minutes when he pointed to the spot after Byrne tripped Marley Watkins in the box, Mohamed firing home the resultant penalty. In an open entertaining game both sides created openings, Harriers’ Hankin crashing a shot against the bar in the 39th minute when he should have scored the closest the Midlands side came to equalising. Despite this close escape City had looked the more likely to add to the scoring and in first half stoppage time they did just that. Thorne’s attempted clearance struck his teammate Byrne leaving Russell in the clear and he lifted the ball over Lewis to the delight of the home fans. Looking to avoid a repeat of last week’s match at Tamworth where City relinquished a two-goal half-time lead they started the second half on top but couldn’t find a goal that would have sealed the win. Harriers began to commit more men forward and City suffered a few nervous moments, not least when Briggs’ 86th minute free-kick bounced back off the bar with Ryan Robinson beaten. In the final minute of stoppage time Mohamed should have made it 3-0 when he raced clear but this miss was soon forgotten as the final whistle signalled the end of City nine-match winless run and lifted they back out of the Conference Premier bottom four.
City have signed experienced midfielder Alex Russell. The 37-year old has made over 500 appearances with a number of league clubs including Torquay United, Bristol City and Exeter City. He was released by the Grecians in May 2010 and has been unattached since then. He has signed on non-contract terms and goes straight into the squad to face Kidderminster Harriers tomorrow evening. He will wear squad no. 28.
Tuesday evening sees City renew a rivalry they can trace back to the 19th century, although it was the 1980s and 1990s when they became more regular opponents facing Kidderminster Harriers on 25 occasions during that time. In their previous guise as Kidderminster FC they were City’s first ever competitive opposition in an 1890 FA Cup tie before they re-adopted the suffix Harriers the following season. It wasn’t until after the Second World War that the clubs met again as Harriers joined the Southern League at a second attempt after the first was aborted just two games in with the start of hostilities. Financial problems saw them drop back to the Birmingham League in the 1960s and, apart from a handful of Border Counties League games during the 1970s, only when they reached the Conference in 1983 were they rivals once more.
Elevation to the top flight of non-league football began a run of success that eventually saw them claim a place in the Football League in 2000. They reached the FA Trophy Final for the first time in 1987, beating Burton Albion after a replay at The Hawthorns, a feat they have repeated on three further occasions, losing each of these games to Wycombe Wanderers (1991), Woking (1995) and Stevenage Borough (2007). Harriers came to national fame during the 1993-94 season when they became just the fifth non-league club since the war to reach the FA Cup 5th Round. They had beaten Birmingham City and Preston North End in the previous rounds before losing by a single goal to Premier League West Ham United in front of 8000 fans at Aggborough. That season they also won the Conference title for the first time but were denied promotion due to their ground failing to comply with Football League requirements. The necessary improvements were soon made but it took the club another six years to repeat the title success with former Liverpool star Jan Molby leading them to the Football League in his first season in charge. However, they failed to make much of an impact at this level, a best finish of 10th place in 2001-02, and after five years were relegated back to the Conference.
Since their return to non-league football Harriers have only once threatened to reclaim a League place, narrowly missing out on the 2008-09 play-offs. Last season their hopes of improving on this finish were disrupted when manager Mark Yates and his number two Neil Howarth left the club to join Cheltenham Town midway through the campaign. Stalybridge Celtic manager Steve Burr took over in January 2010 but he could only lead the club to another mid-table finish. The 2010 close season saw Burr bring in 13 new players and he got the season off to a perfect start with a 2-1 win at York City. They then failed to win any of their next four outings to slip toward the foot of the table. However, a narrow win over Altrincham seemed to kick start their season again and they are now on a six-match unbeaten run, including a very impressive 2-0 win over league leaders AFC Wimbledon on Sunday.
Complete record against Kidderminster Harriers/Kidderminster FC
That first meeting finished 4-1 to Kidderminster in only City’s second ever season and the Midlands side have had the better of the meetings over the years, with 25 wins against City’s 19. The last times the clubs met was during the 1996-97 season, which saw City relegated back to the Southern League whilst Kidderminster finished runners-up to Macclesfield Town. Not surprisingly then the Harriers completed a very comfortable double over City by an aggregate score of 9-0, winning 3-0 at Twerton Park before putting six past Dave Mogg at Aggborough in December which marked the final City game for the club’s record appearance holder. City have enjoyed some better days against Kidderminster including a 4-1 win at Twerton Park in December 1990. The month had started with City struggling near the foot of the table but a three-match unbeaten run – including a Boxing Day win over local rivals Yeovil Town – had seen them close the gap on the teams above them and go into the match full of confidence. They got off to a perfect start on eight minutes when a poor clearing header by Hawker was hammered home by Paul Randall. Twenty minutes later another mistake by the debutant defender allowed Randall to turn provider, crossing for Sean Lundon to score. And before the interval Randall and Tiv Lowe combined, sending the former clear to round keeper Jones and score from a narrow angle. The visitors pulled a goal back from the penalty spot on 56 minutes but any hopes of a comeback were dashed 15 minutes from time when Jerry Gill crossed for John Freegard to head home. The game also saw the debut of £12,000 striker Chris Townsend who would go on to become an enigma in City colours, scoring four times in 14 games but all in one game against Northwich Victoria three and a half months later.
City’s long injury list now includes Adam Connolly after he received a cut to his ear in Saturday’s defeat at Fleetwood Town that required five stitches but it is hoped he will be okay to face Kidderminster. Definitely out are Scott Murray, Luke Ruddick, Gethin Jones and Joe Burnell with Lewis Hogg and Hector Mackie both struggling to shake off minor knocks. The squad will be boosted by the inclusion of experienced midfielder Alex Russell after he signed for the club today.
City’s winless run increased to nine games this afternoon after they were beaten 2-1 by high-flying Fleetwood Town. Once again City showed they could compete with a full-time side whose budget they can only dream about but errors at the back and a lack of cutting edge up front cost them dear. After an even opening half hour the home side went ahead when Vieira took advantage of hesitation in City’s backline to shoot past Ryan Robinson. Just before the hour mark the Cod Army doubled their lead, Wright’s low 25-yard drive flying through a crowded area into the corner of the net. City pulled a goal back with three minutes remaining, Kaid Mohamed scoring from the penalty spot after Joe Edwards was tripped in the box, but there was to be no repeat of last weekend’s injury-time drama and Fleetwood held on for the victory with no further scares.
City have boosted their squad with the loan signing of Cheltenham Town winger Marley Watkins. The 19-year old has been an non-playing substitute in all the Robins games this season, having previously made 25 appearances for the club after becoming its youngest ever player in August 2008. He can play on either flank and goes straight into City’s squad for the long trip to Fleetwood Town.
Departing Twerton Park is midfielder Mark Badman after his contract was cancelled with mutual consent. The former Chippenham Town player made 94 appearances for the club in two spells but found his first team opportunities limited this year after missing the first three games due to a suspension incurred for his red card in the 1st leg of the Blue Square South play-off semi-final last season. City have retained his Conference registration which could see him return as a non-contract player at some stage this season and he will retain squad no.21.
City will make their first appearance on Premier Sports TV when their Blue Square Bet Premier meeting with Histon is screened live in November. The match has been moved to Thursday 25 November (ko 7.45pm) and it will be the first time a City game has been shown live on television since their famous FA Cup win over Hereford United back in 1993. To subscribe to Premier Sports TV visit www.premiersports.tv/.
City make a trip to Highbury Stadium to face a side in red shirts with white sleeves on Saturday but, before the armchair Premier League football fans of Bath begin to stir from their goggle box induced trance thinking they have slipped back in time to pre-2006, it is Fleetwood Town who will provide the opposition rather then Arsenal. The 450-mile round trip to Lancashire is the first of City’s long-distance jaunts of the season, with the players staying overnight in Manchester whilst the supporters depart Twerton Park at 7.30am on Saturday morning.
In common with City, Fleetwood Town won promotion to the Blue Square Bet Premier via the play-offs last season although that is where the comparisons between the two clubs end, with the Northern side’s budget rumoured to be about three times the size of Adie Britton’s. As recently as 1999 the Cod Army were playing in Division Two of the North West Counties Football League but throughout the 2000s they steadily climbed the non-league pyramid, reaching the Conference North in 2008. They initially struggled at this leve,l which saw long serving manager Tony Greenwood replaced by Micky Mellon in September 2008. He turned around the club’s fortunes, leading them to the 2nd Round of the FA Cup for the first time in their history and a final league placing of eighth. Backed with considerable funds Mellon brought in a number of new faces for the 2009-10 season and they were soon involved in a battle with Southport for the league title. As the race reached it climax Fleetwood looked to have the edge over their local rivals but the demise of Farsley Celtic cost them three points and handed the initiative to the Sandgrounders. They appealed to the FA against the decision to expunge Celtic’s results but this was turned down and Fleetwood ended up one point behind Southport. It looked as if they carried this disappointment into the play-offs, losing the first leg of the semi-final 2-0 against Droylsden. However, a 3-1 second leg win at Highbury Stadium levelled the scoreline and they won the subsequent penalty shoot-out. In the final against Alfreton Town a late goal from Thorpe saw them home by two goals to one.
It was clear that Fleetwood would have the financial muscle to compete with the best in the Blue Square Bet Premier, the capture of highly rated striker Magno Vieira from Ebbsfleet United backing this view up and just two defeats in their opening ten games had left them in 6th place. During this climb up the league Fleetwood have also been redeveloping their Highbury Stadium home. A new £200,000 terrace was opened in February 2007. This was followed by a new 550-seat West Stand and North Stand, a terraced stand with an official capacity of 1473, which were opened for Fleetwood’s first home game of the 2008-09 season. The final stage of the redevelopment is currently underway with the £4m East Stand due to be completed by Spring 2011. This stand will comprise three levels of seating, five executive boxes and a function suite.
Although this is the first time the two clubs have ever met there is a link in the shape of Cod Army manager Micky Mellon. The Scottish-born 38-year old began his career in the West Country with Bristol City. He’d made nine first team appearances for the Robins before joining City on loan in December 1990 as an 18-year old. He made his debut in a Boxing Day win over local rivals Yeovil Town, setting up Paul Randall’s winning goal. He was then the star in a 4-1 victory over Kidderminster Harriers three days later but in the return match at Yeovil on New Year’s Day he suffered a broken leg that side lined him for the rest of the season. When he returned to fitness he spent another loan spell, this time with League of Ireland club Cork City, before featuring again for Bristol City. After 35 games he joined West Bromwich Albion in 1993, where he helped them win promotion to Division 1. Mellon went on to make nearly 500 league appearances for Blackpool, Tranmere Rovers and Burnley before dropping into non-league football with Kidderminster Harriers, Witton Albion and Lancaster City. He also had a brief spell as assistant manager with the latter of these clubs ahead of being appointed Fleetwood boss. Initially he divided his time between this post and his role as youth coach at Burnley before becoming full-time manager in January 2009.
City go into the game with a growing injury list. Long term absentees Scott Murray (ankle), Luke Ruddick (hamstring) and Joe Burnell (groin) have been joined by Gethin Jones, whose groin injury he picked up against Darlington looks set to sideline him for a week or two. Also struggling are Lewis Hogg (groin), Hector Mackie (knee) and Callum Hart (rib). Another possible unavailable player is midfielder Adam Connolly as his wife is due to give birth at the weekend.
City played out their second successive 2-2 draw this evening against high-flying Tamworth to climb out of the Blue Square Bet Premier bottom four. In contrast to Saturday when City recovered from a two-goal deficit it was the Lambs who fought back but City will still be happy with a point after withstanding late pressure from the home side. Kaid Mohamed gave City the lead on 19 minutes with a great run and finish to open his account for the season. And with 33 minutes gone the partisan home support were silenced when Adam Connolly fired home a stunning 35-yard volley. Five minutes later though Rodman headed past Ryan Robinson from close range to make it 2-1. Tamworth upped the tempo after the interval and with 22 minutes left Smith sidefooted into the net to level the score. City came under increasing pressure after this but stood firm, athough they had a very late scare when Perry crashed a shot against the crossbar in stoppage time.
City travel to Staffordshire tomorrow night to face the surprise package of the 2010-11 Blue Square Bet Premier season so far, Tamworth. The Lambs, who are thought to be one of the few clubs in the division with a similar budget to City, currently lie in third place with victories over former league sides Luton Town, Mansfield Town and Grimsby Town already under their belt. Only AFC Wimbledon have beaten them during the opening month of the campaign and Saturday’s win over Histon, thanks to a last minute goal from Barrow, stretched their unbeaten run to six games.
Tamworth are in their second spell at the top of the non-league pyramid having first won promotion from the Southern League in 2003, after missing out a year earlier on the final day of the season. The 2002-03 season also saw the Lambs reach the FA Trophy Final but miss out on a league and cup double, losing 2-1 to Burscough at Villa Park. This was the second time they had reached one of non-league’s showpiece finals, lifting the FA Vase in 1989 with a replay win over Sudbury Town. During their first two seasons in the Football Conference they managed creditable finishes of 17th and 15th but the 2005-06 season saw them finish in the final relegation spot. However, Canvey Island’s resignation spared them the drop. That campaign also saw Tamworth sign former Arsenal and England midfielder Paul Merson. This high-profile move did not work out through, as after one start and a non-playing substitute appearance he announced his retirement from football. The following season they once again finished in the relegation zone – there was no escape this time and they found themselves in the Conference North. After a bottom half finish in their first season back at that level the Lambs lifted the 2008-09 title and promotion back to the Conference National. Last year they consolidated well with a 16th place finish.
Complete record against Tamworth
This will be City’s first trip to the Lamb Ground since the 2002-03 season and they will hope to avoid the same result from that October afternoon. They came in the game on the back of three successive defeats and a switch to 4-5-1 suggested Alan Pridham had sent his side out to frustrate the high-flying Lambs. This plan was blown out the water after just eight minutes as Rickards shot past Mark Bryant. Six minutes later it looked to be getting even worse for City when the home side were awarded a penalty. However, Bryant saved Hemmings’ poor effort and City then had their best spell of the game. Hopes though of getting back into the game were dented on 26 minutes when McGorry’s stunning 25-yard shot made it 2-0. City managed to make it to the break without any further setbacks but within ten minutes of the restart it was 4-0, Sale and Cooper on target. Turner then added a fifth before City finally got on the scoresheet thanks to Gary Thorne’s deflected effort five minutes from time. There was still time for Rickards to complete the rout with his second and Tamworth’s sixth.
Stoppage-time goals from Lewis Hogg and Hector Mackie earned City a point in a remarkable 2-2 draw against Darlington at Twerton Park this afternoon. As the game reached the 90 minute mark it looked as if it would be another frustrating outing for City with goals from Senior and Hatch giving the Quakers what appeared to be a comfortable cushion. However, with four of the six extra minutes gone Hogg stroked the ball home from the edge of the box to make it 2-1. Even then few in the ground would have seen this as more than a consolation goal but a minute late Mackie let fly from 25 yards out to curl a stunning shot into the top corner of the net and spark joyous celebrations amongst the City faithful. Although given the nature of the result the visitors will no doubt feel aggrieved at failing to secure their first away win of the season, City fully deserved the point that had appeared beyond them midway through the second half. It was against the run of play that Darlington had taken the lead on 25 minutes, Senior heading over Ryan Robinson. Lee Phillips wasted a great chance to take City into the interval level and with 21 minutes left Hatch’s well-struck shot looked to be taking the three points back to Teeside. City refused to give up though and this attitude was fully rewarded to set them up perfectly for two tough away trips to Tamworth and Fleetwood Town in the next seven days.
City face another tough test of their Blue Square Bet Premier credentials when Darlington make the long trek south to Twerton Park on Saturday for the first ever meeting between the sides. The Quakers are also in their first season at this level since the 1990s after finishing rock bottom of the Football League last season. They will hope to repeat the achievement of that previous flirtation with non-league football, when they made an immediate return to the professional ranks, and have got this campaign off to a reasonable, although somewhat inconsistent, start, currently lying in 7th place with just one defeat so far.
In common with so many clubs at this level Darlington’s recent history has been littered with financial problems and administration. After their formation in 1883 they joined the Football League in 1921, spending the majority of their existence in the bottom tier. The 1970s saw the club apply for re-election to the Football League no less than five times and financial struggles in the following decade culminated with their relegation to the Conference in 1989. However, under the leadership of former Aston Villa legend Brian Little, the Quakers enjoyed successive promotions to start the 1991-92 season in Division 3. Little left for Leicester City before the start of that campaign and relegation immediately followed but toward the end of that decade the club was taken over by local businessman George Reynolds and a whole new era for the club looked on the cards. He cleared the rumoured debts of around £5m and started construction of a new 25,000 all-seater ground on the edge of the town, to be called the Reynolds Areana. Attempts to sign big name players such as Paul Gascoigne and Faustino Asprilla were also made which kept Darlington regularly in the Football headlines. The new stadium was completed for the 2003-04 season but it was clearly far too a big a ground for Darlington’s needs (they averaged around 2000 last season) and the financial demands of the development forced the club into administration before the year was out. Reynolds had become public enemy no.1 in the eyes of most Quaker fans and he resigned as chairman in January 2004. At the end of that season the Sterling Consortium took over control of the club, having already provided the money to complete the stadium (although the capacity was almost immediately restricted to 10,000). One of their first acts was to remove Reynolds name from the stadium, rechristening it the New Stadium. After several seasons of stability on the pitch, plus a number of ownership changes off it, the club was back in administration in 2009. Although new owner Raj Singh took them out of this in time to avoid a points deduction for the 2009-10 season they could not avoid relegation to the Football Conference.
The summer started with managerial uncertainty for the Quakers as Simon Davey, who had taken over from former Republic of Ireland international Steve Staunton in April 2010 and overseen an improvement in the clubs performances, resigned to join Hereford United. He was replaced by his former assistant Ryan Kidd but after just 11 days in charge he also quit after having had second thoughts about the job. Singh then turned to ex-Tamworth, Kettering Town and Peterborough United boss Mark Cooper, who had been a target prior to Davey’s appointment. He brought in a number of new signings to the club including Paul Terry, brother of current England and Chelsea payer John Terry, and got the season off to the perfect start with a single goal win over Blue Square South champions Newport County. They followed this up with a 2-2 draw at Altrincham (the only point the Robins have so far picked up this season) thanks to two late goals. This has somewhat set the tone for their away trips, with four successive draws, the last against a Eastbourne Borough side who played for nearly an hour with just nine men. At home they have enjoyed wins over Gateshead and Forest Green Rovers, with just Grimsby Town taking three points off them.
With the departure of Matt Coupe and Jake Reid in the last ten days it will be a somewhat threadbare squad that faces the Quakers. They will be boosted by the return of captain Lewis Hogg after he completed his three-game suspension and also hope that Sido Jombati will have recovered from the concussion he suffered in the 4-0 defeat at AFC Wimbledon. Scott Murray (ankle) will still be missing and defender Luke Ruddick has suffered another re-occurrence of his hamstring problem, which will sideline him for several more weeks at least.
Summer signing Jake Reid has left Twerton Park after the City agreed to cancel his contract. The former Team Bath and Salisbury City forward impressed sufficiently during pre-season to earn a deal but has found his first opportunities limited so far this season. He was named on the bench for the last seven games but only got on the pitch four times, failing to score in these cameo appearances.
The harsh realities of life in the Blue Square Bet Premier were made clear to City this afternoon as they were beaten 4-0 by league leaders AFC Wimbledon. Although City enjoyed several good spells in the game mistakes were once again ruthlessly exposed by the home side, and their struggles with defending set-pieces was costly. After an even opening 19 minutes an error by Sekani Simpson gifted Moore a goal after Danny Webb had blocked Kedwell’s initial effort. Then on 35 minutes Yakubu’s thumping header from a Hatton corner made it 2-0. The second half begin with City’s best spell of the game but they couldn’t find the goal that would have got them back in the game. They were punished for this as the Dons struck twice in three minutes to guarantee the three points. First a long throw was flicked on by Kedwell for Jolley to turn home on 65 minutes and then Kedwell fired home himself to eunsure City’s biggest away league defeat since October 2004.
Long-serving defender Matt Coupe has been released as manager Adie Britton looks to strengthen his squad. The 31-year old joined City from Forest Green Rovers in February 2002 and has made over 300 appearances for the club. Coupey played a major part in City’s climb from the lower reaches of the Southern League to the Blue Square Bet Premier, twice being named player of the season during that time. After signing a non-contract deal in the summer the former Welsh schoolboy international has only made one appearance this season – against Crawley Town – and looks set to join a Conference North or South club.
Barring any last minute hitches City look set to sign Bristol City defender Joe Edwards on a months loan. The 20-year old, who can play in the centre or right side of the defence, featured on the bench several times last season for the Robins and will go straight into the squad to face league leaders AFC Wimbledon on Saturday. He could be joined by several other new faces in the coming weeks as manager Adie Britton looks freshen up his squad. Former Chelsea and Portsmouth midfielder Courtney Pitt, who is currently unattached following his release from Cambridge United, trained with the club this week alongside another unnamed trialist.
City face league leaders AFC Wimbledon on Saturday at Kingsmeadow as they look to turn their solid start to the season into the more tangible result of points on board. With the exception of the first half at Crawley Town and the Wrexham match, City have more than held their own at this higher level so far but, with Gateshead’s late winner against Southport earlier this week, they are still languishing in 23rd position. However, they are also just three points away from the 11th place in a very tight Blue Square Bet Premier table after the first four weeks of the season.
By contrast the Dons have started the season with five wins from their opening seven games. The last of these, a 2-1 success over Kettering Town, lifted them to the top of the table, two points ahead of Crawley Town. They got their campaign off to a perfect opening, winning the first three games which fulfilled manager Terry Brown’s wish for a flying start. This followed a promising pre-season, the highlight on the pitch a 2-1 win over a youthful Arsenal XI and off it keeping captain Danny Kedwell. The former Welling United and Grays Athletic striker attracted the interest of league rivals Crawley after scoring 26 goals last season. Rumours of a £60K bid and accusations that Wimbledon went back on an agreement to sell the player have been forgotten with Kedwell already on target seven times this season. Their 100% start was ended by Rushden & Diamonds (ironically the only side City have beaten so far) thanks to a single Rene Howe goal but they bounced back from this with a 3-2 win over Eastbourne Borough, although it took an injury-time goal from Kedwell to secure the three points. He was also on target in the 2-2 draw with Newport County before the aforementioned win over Kettering lifted them back to the Blue Square Bet Premier summit.
If the Dons are still in that position in eight months time it will complete a remarkable rise through the ranks of non-league football following their formation in 2002. It was the shameful decision by the FA to allow Wimbledon FC to relocate to Milton Keynes which saw the new club come into existence and begin life in the Combined Counties League, level 9 of the football pyramid. They followed a 3rd place finish in their maiden season with back to back promotions and a place in the Ryman League Premier Division for the 2005-06 season. They stalled at this level for a couple of years, suffering successive play-off defeats before making it third time lucky, beating Staines Town in the 2007-08 play-off final. There were no such problems the next season in the Conference South as they lifted the title on the final day of the season. Last season they flirted with the play-off places but had to settle for a final finish of 8th place.
Complete record against Wimbledon/AFC Wimbledon
City were regular opponents of the original Wimbledon club in the 1960s and 1970s but the 2008-09 season saw them face AFC Wimbledon for the first time in two high-scoring encounters. The first took place at Twerton Park at the end of August, the Dons boasting a 100% record coming into the game. Cheered on by nearly 1000 travelling fans they looked on course for a sixth straight win when Godfrey put them ahead in the first half. However, within four minutes of the restart Martin Paul netted an equaliser for City and then with 20 minutes remaining a stunning run and shot by Gethin Jones put them ahead. Unfortunately they couldn’t hold on for a famous win, Inns levelling the scores five minutes from time. The return match was equally eventful and at times controversial. The Dons again came into the match in excellent form with ten wins fron their last eleven games but for 45 minutes were frustrated by City. This all changed in first half stoppage time though when Main went to ground just inside the area under a Steve Jones challenge despite there appearing to be little contact. The linesman flagged for a penalty and Main gave his side an underserved lead. On the hour mark Chris Holland turned a Godfrey cross into his own net and the game looked beyond City. They managed to grab a lifeline with eight minutes left when Dave Gilroy scored at the second attempt only for Godfrey to restore Wimbledon’s two-goal cushion a minute later. There was still time for Darren Edwards to capitalise on a mistake by Dons keeper Pullen but City could not find the equaliser their efforts would have fully warranted.
After their first full week break since the start of the season City will hope that a number of players will have overcome knocks they’ve been carrying. Sido Jombati is set to feature after missing last week’s game against Barrow with a knee injury and strike duo Darren Edwards (ankle) and Lee Phillips (foot) both trained on Tuesday so should be available. City will still be without Lewis Hogg as he completes his three match suspension and Scott Murray, who is due to have a scan on the ankle injury he picked up in the opening game of the season at Hayes. Luke Ruddick, who also limped out of that match with a hamstring injury, should be back in the squad for the Darlington match next Saturday and summer signing Joe Burnell has been given the okay to resume training after his groin operation.
Bath City’s youth side have been drawn at home to Elmore in the 1st Qualifying Round of the 2010-11 FA Youth Cup. The match will take place at Twerton Park on Monday 20 September (ko 7.45pm). Admission is only £3 for adults and £1 for concessions. If the Under-18 side, who began their South West Counties Youth League campaign on Saturday with a 5-3 defeat against Merthyr Town, are victorious they wil face either Weston Super Mare, Newport County or Bishop Sutton in the 2nd Qualifying Round.
A Darren Edwards header thirteen minutes from time earned City a deserved point against Barrow in a 1-1 draw at Twerton Park this afternoon. He nodded home Marc Canham’s corner to cancel out Pearson’s first-half strike for the Bluebirds in a game for few goal chances. Despite staying in Bristol overnight the visitors arrived late, delaying the kick-off for ten minutes, and both sides started the game slowly. In fact it was from the first clear opening that Barrow took the lead, Pearson sweeping home Walker’s knock down. The second half saw Barrow happy to sit back and try to catch City on the break and it looked like this approach would pay dividends until Edwards’ timely intervention. After this both sides had chances to win the game but in the end a draw was the fair result.
City will look to bounce back from their disappointing Bank Holiday Monday defeat against Wrexham – only their third league reversal at Twerton Park in the last 12 months – when FA Trophy holders Barrow make the long trip South. Although the 2010-11 season is less than a month old the game already has the feel of a ‘six-pointer’ with both sides sitting in the bottom six. Having finished one place above the relegation zone in 2008-09 Barrow improved to 15th spot last year and would have hoped to continue this progress but a mystery knee injury to star striker Nick Chadwick has not helped their cause.
The Bluebirds’ return to the top flight of non-league football in 2008 ended a nine-year absence after they spent most of the 1980s and 90s flitting between the Northern Premier League and Conference. So, once again they are just one division away from retaining the Football League place they lost in 1972. They became founder members of the Third Division North in 1921 having played in the Lancashire League since their formation twenty years earlier. Their time as a Football League club was largely uneventful, spending all bar three seasons in the bottom division, with just the occasional FA Cup run bringing their exploits to a wider audience. They finished bottom of the League in 1971 and although they improved a couple of places the next season were voted out in favour of Hereford United. Despite never finishing higher than 13th place in the Northern Premier League in the years after this they became founder members of the Alliance Premier League alongside City in 1979. And they were the first side City faced at Twerton Park in this new league, with an own goal making the 500+ mile round trip a fruitless one. They then spent four seasons at this level which represents their longest unbroken run before dropping back into the Northern League in 1983.
The yo-yo league existence was tempered somewhat by cup exploits during this period. A run to the FA Trophy semi-final in 1988 was improved on two years later when they reached Wembley where a brace from Kenny Gordon plus a strike from all-time appearance record (705) and all-time leading goalscorer (282) Colin Cowperthwaite gave them a 3-0 win over Leek Town. In-between they reached the 3rd Round of the FA Cup losing 1–0 away to Third Division high fliers Bolton Wanderers, watched by thousands of travelling supporters. However, by the late 1990s the club were fighting for its very existence. Their problems began when they were purchased by Stephen Vaughan, a Scouse-boxing promoter and businessman. Initially everything looked fine as he poured money into the club and they won promotion back to the Conference in 1998. However, Vaughan was soon being investigated for money laundering and left the club at the end of 1998, withdrawing his financial support that had been keeping it afloat. It then transpired that the club’s main asset, its Holker Street ground, had been transferred to Vaughan’s company Vaughan Promotions whilst he was chairman. In January 1999 the club were the subject of a compulsory winding up order and a liquidator was appointed to run the club whilst trying to establish who the legal owner of the ground was and then five months later they were kicked out of the Conference. For a while it looked as if they would not have a league to play in for the 1999-2000 season but a month into the new campaign they were allowed entrance into the Northern Premier League. The legal disputes over the ownership of Holker Street were finally resolved in August 2002 and a play-off win over Stalybridge Celtic in May 2008 saw the club return to non-league’s top division.
Last season it was once again the FA Trophy that was the highlight of the Bluebirds season as they lifted the trophy 20 years after their first success. However, their 2-1 win over Stevenage Borough was not without controversy. They fell behind on just ten minutes but the recently crowned Football Conference champions were reduced to ten men just before the half-hour mark. It took Barrow until ten minutes from time to make this man advantage count when McEvilly headed home the equaliser. The game turned sour in stoppage time though when Hulbert smashed his elbow into the face of opposition striker Griffin. The challenge, which Borough manager Westley labelled as ‘GBH’, fractured his cheekbone and nose and although Hulbert was sent off, meant Barrow still had a man advantage going into the extra-time with Stevenage having already used their three substitutes. Not surprisingly this saw Borough tire in the extra 30 minutes and Barrow won the game thanks to Walker’s shot just after the interval. Joint managers David Bayliss and Darren Sheridan brought in seven new players during the summer, the star being keeper Alan Martin on loan from Leeds United. He showed his worth with a man-of-the-match performance in the 1-1 draw with Darlington last Monday, including a first-half penalty save. This draw was Barrow’s fourth match without defeat, having lost their opening two games, although they will be without Martin for the match with City, as he is on international duty with Scotland Under-21s, along with suspended skipper and centre-half Paul Jones.
Complete record against Barrow
Despite being at opposite ends of the country City and Barrow have met each other on 18 previous occasions. The first of these took place in the 1992-23 FA Cup during Barrow’s second season as a league club. The City team left Bath on the train at 8.46am on the Friday, travelling via Bristol, Crewe, Preston and Carnforth before arriving in Barrow at 5.15pm and staying in the Majestic Hotel overnight. In front of over 7000 fans Percy Dore gave them an early lead but at the break they were 2-1 down. However, Dore netted his second of the game to earn City a replay back in Bath the following Thursday. Torrential rain turned the Lambridge pitch into a mud-bath but two late goals from Gil Dallimore and Percy Bolston earned City a giant-killing win and a trip to Wigan Borough in the 2nd Round. It wasn’t until that maiden APL Twerton Park game in 1979 that they side’s faced each other again and City have enjoyed the better of the results, including a 6-0 home in December 1985 with Dave Singleton scoring four times. The last meeting took place in April 1992 with the Cumbrian’s rock bottom of the table and a City side playing out the season safely in mid-table. For 75 minutes it looked as if the Bluebirds would head back north with a point as they weathered considerable pressure. However, with 15 minutes left Paul Randall – who had scored his 100th goal for City two weeks earlier – beat two defenders before lobbing former Liverpool keeper McDonnell, And within a couple of minutes he raced clear on to Richard Crowley’s pass to make it 2-0. The visitors pulled a goal back through Brady two minutes from time but City comfortably held on for the win.
City will go into the game missing captain Lewis Hogg, as he completes the second of his three-match ban for the red card at Forest Green Rovers, plus long-term injured pair Scott Murray and Luke Ruddick. They are also sweating on the fitness of full-backs Sekani Simpson (toe) and Sido Jombati (knee) which could see starts for experienced duo Jim Rollo and Matt Coupe.
This coming Saturday when City entertain Barrow at Twerton Park has been designated as Nation Non-League Day. With England playing the night before and the Premier League and Championship taking a week off, all fans of the “big” clubs are being urged to get out and watch their local non-league team. The idea is the brainchild of James Doe, a lifelong football fan, supporter of QPR and follower of Harrow Borough FC. Its aim is to promote the semi professional game in this country by virtue of a fortuitous break in the football calendar. For further details visit www.nonleagueday.co.uk/.