September 2011

City bring in striker Canham on loan from Hereford United (30/9/11)

City have strengthened their attacking options with the capture of Sean Canham on loan from Hereford United. The 26-year old will be making a return to Twerton Park having spent three seasons with former tenants Team Bath, where he scored 68 times in 120 appearances. He joined Notts County in August 2008 and has since played for Hayes & Yeading United, Kidderminster Harriers and Hereford. He will be reunited with his former Team Bath teammate Marc Canham, although the two are not related, and wear the no.27 shirt. The deal is being underwritten in full by support from the Supporters Society and the Supporters Club. Both organisations have been very supportive to the club at a crucial time, and in turn deserve support from every committed Bath City supporter.

PREVIEW: Lincoln City v CITY – Blue Square Bet Premier (29/9/11)

Following the desperately disappointing 3-0 defeat at Ebbsfleet United on Tuesday, City travel to Lincoln City at the weekend facing an increasingly uphill battle to retain their Blue Square Bet Premier status even with the season only a quarter of the way through. Although they can point to no luck during the game in Kent – a deflected first goal and a second goal where the ball appeared to go out of play in the build-up – the way the confidence seemed to drain from the team following each of these goals is in complete contrast to last season, when on numerous occasions they battled back in games after falling behind, no doubt reflecting the dreadful start they have made to the campaign.

For the third successive game City will face a side that have also began the season poorly and must, this time, take full advantage. Lincoln City returned to non-league football after a run of nine losses and a draw in the final ten games of last season condemned them to a bottom two finish in League 2. They went into the final match of the campaign knowing that a win over Aldershot Town would guarantee their Football League place but a 3-0 loss combined with Barnet’s victory over Port Vale ensured they endured a second relegation to the Football Conference. The Imps had dropped out of the Football League three times in 1908, 1911 and 1920 under the old re-election process but earned the unwanted record of becoming the first club to be automatically relegated when it was introduced in 1987. However, they bounced back immediately, holding off the challenge of Barnet to lift the 1987-88 GM Vauxhall Conference title. Apart from one season (1998-99) they remained in the bottom tier of the Football League, although remarkably they reached the play-offs in five successive seasons between 2002 and 2007 only two lose at the semi-final stage three times and in the final twice. This run came to an end in the 2007-08 season and finishes of 15th, 13th and 20th preceded their bottom two finish last year.

Twelve games into this season there is little sign that Lincoln will be repeating their 1987-88 achievement with just nine points (a total City can only dream of!) picked up during this time. Not surprisingly manager Steve Tilson, who took over from Chris Sutton in October 2010, undertook a major rebuilding of his squad during the summer. He brought in 12 new players before the kick-off including Eastbourne Borough player of the season Jamie Taylor, defender Tony Sinclair, who played against City in the 2009-10 Conference South play-off final for Woking, and former loan signing Josh Gowling, both from Gillingham. They began the season with a 2-2 draw against Southport, twice leading before being pegged back, the suffered back to back home defeats against Kidderminster Harriers and Wrexham. A Kyle Perry brace finally earned them a first win of the season at AFC Telford United and when they followed this with a draw against Stockport County it looked as if they had kick started their campaign. However, one goal and four successive defeats followed this to leave them firmly amongst the early season strugglers. Their last three outings have seen a win over early pacesetters Gateshead, a draw against Forest Green Rovers and a disappointing 1-0 defeat at Barrow to leave them in 20th position. The main area of concern for Tilson’s side has been the lack of goals, with just nine scored in the twelve games, with only one club (who we won’t mention) who can claim a worse record.

Complete record against Lincoln City

City’s one previous visit to Sincil Bank took place almost exactly 24 years ago to the day. It was also their 13th league match of the season and they went into it rock bottom of the Conference. That will be where City hope the similarities end as the game finished 3-0 to the home side and at the end of the season the Romans finished in the relegation zone. With both sides opting for five-man defences chances were hard to come by but three minutes before the interval the Imps took the lead. Everton Carr lost possession to Cumming, who turned Brue Halliday before crossing for Waitt to power a header past Gordon Bell in the City goal. Although City were propping up the division they came into the game on the back of a win over Altrincham and a draw at Wycombe Wanderers, despite trailing 2-0 with just three minutes of the game left, and they dominated the opening exchanges of the second half. Three times striker Adie Mann went close, the last of these a thunderous shot that crashed against the underside of the bar. On 69 minutes though the hosts went further ahead when Bell failed to hold Smith’s low cross and Waitt bundled the ball over the line. Eleven minutes later Brown fired past Bell to make it 3-0 and rule out any hope of another late comeback.

Adam Connolly (illness), Alex Russell (back), Gethin Jones (groin) and Joe Burnell (calf) all missed the match at Ebbsfleet but the latter two may be back in the squad for the trip to Lincolnshire. City manager Adie Britton is also hoping to bring in an unnamed striker on loan from a League 2 side in time for the game.

Season hits new low as City crash to heavy Ebbsfleet defeat (27/9/11)

City’s desperately disappointing season took another turn for the worse this evening as they crashed 3-0 to Ebbsfleet United at Stonebridge Road. Although they were unfortunate to fall behind in the first half to a fluke goal after dominating the opening 20 minutes, it was the same old story as Ebbsfleet struck twice after the interval to record their first home win of the season. Lee Phillips and Marley Watkins had both gone close as City began the game brightly but on 24 minutes a long range effort, that Glyn Garner looked to have covered, deflected off Willock and looped into the net to give the home side an undeserved lead. Phillips should have levelled seven minutes later, heading wide from a Marc Canham free-kick, but it was City who would have been happier to hear the half-time whistle. However, after City once again started the half on top, it was Ebbsfleet who struck when West was given far too much room to fire past Garner. With 15 minutes left Willock made it 3-0 with a diving header to make it 12 games without a win for City and leave them rooted to the foot of the table ahead of Saturday’s long trip to Lincoln City.

Youth roll double six as they endure pants FA Cup night at Newport (27/9/11)

City’s youth team crashed out of the FA Youth Cup last, losing 6-0 at Newport County in a remarkable game that saw six red cards for Billy Clark’s side. City finished the game with eight players and also saw Clark and a substitute sent to the stands, plus goalkeeper Pierre who saw red after the final whistle. After an uneventful 20 minutes the game began it’s descent into farce when the referee ordered two City players to leave the pitch to change their undershorts as they did not match the colour of the teams shorts. The official then instructed one of the players to remove his underpants as they were the ‘wrong’ colour, forcing him to play in just his shorts. Before the players were allowed back on the pitch Newport opened the scoring and in the protests that followed Clark, a substitute and the ‘commando’ player were all sent off. It got worse for City in the 2nd half as the home side netted a further five times and two more players were given their marching orders. City are to contact the Somerset FA to discuss the possibilty of appealing against the result.

PREVIEW: Ebbsfleet United v CITY – Blue Square Bet Premier (25/9/11)

After the high of holding Luton Town to a draw in the week, despite finishing the game with just nine men, City found themselves back to square one yesterday when they lost to Kettering Town by a single goal. For the third time in five games a goal in the opening minutes set City on the path to defeat and they now face two away games against fellow bottom six sides, Ebbsfleet United and Lincoln City, knowing that if they don’t finally end this winless streak they will begin to be cast adrift at the foot of the Blue Square Bet Premier table even at this early stage of the season.

The trip to Kent on Tuesday will see City face Ebbsfleet United for the first ever time although they were regular foes in their previous guise as Gravesend & Northfleet, playing 63 times between the first season immediately after World War II until the 1980s. The club formed in 1946 following the merger of Gravesend United and Northfleet United, joining City in the Southern League. They were also amongst the founder members of the Alliance Premier League in 1979, although they only lasted three seasons at that level before dropping back to the Southern League. There they remained until fifteen years later when they were switched to the Ryman League, where in 2001-02 they were crowned champions to regain their Conference place. This time they spent eight years in non-league’s top flight, including a best finish of 7th in 2006-07, before suffering relegation again in 2010. This time they bounced back at the first attempt, winning the Conference South play-off final with a 4-2 win over Farnborough Town back in May.

In 2007 61 years of tradition was consigned to history when the club changed their name to Ebbsfleet United in an attempt to “tap in to the massive revenue potential of the Thames Gateway”. This move received the backing of supporters which was fitting as an even more momentous change to the club occurred later that year. In November it was announced that the website MyFootballClub was set to take over the club. MyFC had been set up several months earlier with the aim of recruiting 50,000 members to take over and effectively run an English football club. The members getting a say in many areas, including team selection, budget and player signings, via a vote on the website. Initially the target was Leeds United but when just over half the aimed for total paid £35 each they turned their attention to Ebbsfleet. The deal was finalised early in 2008 and when the club won the FA Trophy in May it appeared this unique arrangement would be a real success. The next season saw the club’s highest ever budget agreed by MyFC members but this did not translate to progress on the pitch and with membership (and interest) dropping dramatically the 2009-10 season saw costs slashed and ended with relegation. With around 3000 members MyFC are still in control of Ebbsfleet but now more in a glorified supporters’ club role than the whole encompassing aim when the project was created back in 2007, providing funds and seven elected member to sit on the club’s board.

The one constant through all this change has been manager Liam Daish. Despite the obvious threat to his power within the club by the MyFC takeover he remained and is now in his eighth season at the helm. He has seen his side get the 2011-12 season off to an indifferent start as they look to re-establish themselves at this level. An opening day defeat at home to York City, albeit only after they took the lead with just ten minutes remaining, was followed up with a single goal loss at Tamworth. They then drew three successive matches before recording their one and only win of the season so far, two late goals giving them a 3-2 victory over Braintree Town. Since then they have lost at home to Barrow and Fleetwood Town, at Cambridge United and drawn with Kidderminster Harriers and Alfreton Town, although the latter was after surrendering a two-goal lead at half-time.

Complete record against Gravesend & Northfleet

City’s last trip to Stonebridge Road was a Southern League clash in February 1990 as they were chasing league leaders Dover Athletic. Fifth-placed Gravesend had been the only side to beat City at home so far that season so City knew they were in for a tough encounter, however they got off to a perfect start when John Freegard headed home a long throw from Paul Stevens with just three minutes on the clock. Paul Randall and Gary Smart both went close after this and although the home side exerted some pressure toward the end of the half City looked in control of the game. With a strong wind now behind Gravesend the second half saw City on the back foot and Jim Preston had several nervous moments. The closest escape came when he failed to deal with a high ball in the box only for Northfleet striker Blewden to miskick in front of an open goal. Moments after this miss City punished the Kent side when Randall stroked home his 39th goal of the season from a Smart cross. City suffered a blow after this when Chris Smith was stretchered off with a suspected broken leg but showing that City players don’t let little things like that bother them he was back in action a week later against Woking in the FA Trophy.

City’s squad will be boosted by the return of Charlie Clough and Paul Stonehouse after they served their one-match bans on Saturday but may be without Gethin Jones and Alex Russell who both missed the defeat to Kettering Town and Joe Burnell after he limped out of the game after just eight minutes.

It’s a painfully familiar senario as City crash at home again (24/9/11)

With a depressing sense of deja-vu this afternoon City conceded an early goal to send them on their way to another Twerton Park defeat, this time at the hands of Kettering Town. With just two minutes on the clock Sangare was given far too much space to fire Ifil header past Glyn Garner and from then on it was the increasingly familiar senario of lots of possession, a number of chances, an opponent that looked average at best but never needed to be any better and, most pertinently, another defeat. A Mark Preece header was directed straight at keeper Walker moments after the goal, Ben Swallow’s shot was well parried by the Poppies shot-stopper and Lee Phillips saw one effort cleared off the line then a glancing header drop the wrong side of the post before the interval. City’s best chance fell to the unlikely source of Jim Rollo eight minutes into the second half but he blasted over from a few yards out and after that they were increasingly restricted to long-range efforts that rarely troubled Walker. The closing stages of the game also followed the pattern of recent matches as City ran out of ideas and the visitors looked more threatening without the quality to add to the scoring.

City bring in defender Gallinagh on loan from Cheltenham (23/9/11)

City have boosted their defensive options with the loan signing of Andy Gallinagh from Cheltenham Town. The 26-year old, who can play anywhere across the back four, has made well over 100 appearances for the Robins but this season has found his first-team opportunities limited. With Charlie Clough and Paul Stonehouse suspended for tomorrow’s vital home match with Kettering Town he will go straight into the squad. He will wear the no.26 shirt.

PREVIEW: CITY v Kettering Town – Blue Square Bet Premier (22/9/11)

Following their remarkable draw with league leaders Luton Town at Twerton Park on Tuesday, where they played over a half with ten men and finished the match with just nine, City face two games in three days against sides also struggling at the wrong end of the Blue Square Bet Premier table. And if they are going to use the result against the Hatters to finally kick-start their season a haul of at least four points must be the target.

First up are the cuckoo side of the league Kettering Town. After 114 years playing at Rockingham Road they moved 11 miles south to the former home of the local rivals Rushden & Diamonds, Nene Park, during the summer, with the ground barely cold following the previous occupants’ demise. The Poppies had just two years left on their lease at Rockingham Road and despite extensive negotiations with the landlord Ben Pickering a suitable extension could not be agreed. The choice of remaining in Kettering with a very uncertain (if any) future or relocating was put to around 500 Kettering supporters at a meeting in June by chairman Imraan Ladak, where a majority voted in favour of the latter option. With this mandate the deal was soon concluded and Kettering set about removing all trace of Rushden & Diamonds from the stadium – although they did rename the Peter De Banke Terrace in honour of Dale Roberts, Rushden’s former goalkeeper who died in December last year. They kicked off the 2011-12 season at the 6500 capacity stadium with the visit of Newport County, although the club’s reserve, youth and women’s teams will continue to play at Rockingham Road until the lease expires in 2013.

The ground switch was not the only controversial move by Ladak during the summer after he appointed Morell Maison as the team’s new manager in June. He had previously managed the Poppies between February 2006 and April 2007. After narrowly missing out on the 2006-07 play-offs the newly full-time club spent the majority of the next season challenging Droylsden for the Conference North title. However, with two games left (even though Kettering could still mathematically overtake Droylsden) he was sacked by Ladak and the job of leading their play-off campaign was handed to Graham Westley (they lost in the semi-final). Maison next surfaced as manager/owner with Southern League Halesowen Town but this move turned sour very quickly. An on-the-pitch brawl with one of his own players at Chippenham Town was bad enough but behind the scenes the situation was even worse. By 2009 the club was in administration, facing an FA Cup and FA Trophy ban and with supporters boycotting their matches. In October he was even arrested on suspicion of fraud, though never charged. His next stop was no less eventful as he was named Director of Football at crisis club Chester City. One of his first tasks was to sack popular boss Jim Harvey and name himself as manager but a couple of months later the club had folded, although not before another fans protest, giving him possibly the unique record of being the only man to be involved at two clubs whose fans were boycotting in the same season.

Against this background there must have been more than a few Kettering fans surprised at his return to the club (although he did have a three-game caretaker spell during the 2010-11 season) but when they began the campaign with a 3-2 win over highly fancied Newport County at Nene Park some of the doubters must have been won over. However, this proved to a false dawn as his side took just two points from the next six games, which included a 5-1 hammering by York City at their adopted home, and Maison stepped down to concentrate on unspecified off the pitch matters. He was replaced almost immediately by former Gillingham and Barnet boss Mark Stimson, and he got his Kettering career off to winning start against Lincoln City. Since then though they have lost successive games to Tamworth and Grimsby Town to sit one place above the relegation zone, five points ahead of City.

Complete record against Kettering Town

When City and Kettering met last season it was the first time in nine years they had faced each other and it was the Poppies who came out on top with four points out of the six available. City’s final appearance at Rockingham Road came in February and they got off to a poor start, conceding a 10th minute penalty which Marna comfortably converted. City levelled on 31 minutes when Sido Jombati’s dipping shot hit the underside of the bar before deflecting into the net off Kelly. Neither side could take control of the game after the interval and it looked to be heading for a draw, but with just two minutes remaining Mills curled home a stunning 25-yard effort to win it for the home side. The return match took place just under three weeks later at Twerton Park and once again it Marna who gave the Poppies the lead, slotting past Ryan Robinson on 29 minutes. Despite this setback City went on to dominate the rest of the game but fail to turn this into clear cut chances. As the game reached the fifth and final minute of stoppage time though they finally grabbed an equaliser. Jombati was once again at the heart of the goal, firing in a shot that keeper Bussey could only parry and Kaid Mohamed volleyed it home from a narrow angle.

City will go into the game without Charlie Clough and Paul Stonehouse as they serve one game bans for their red cards against Luton Town. Their absence is likely to see Mark Preece return to partner Gethin Jones in the heart of the defence and may mean club captain Jim Rollo makes his first start of the season at left-back. They will hope that striker Lee Phillips has recovered from the knock that saw him substituted late in that game and Marley Watkins is available again after missing the match with an injury picked up at AFC Telford last weekend.

Hats off to nine-man City as they stand firm against Luton (20/9/11)

City produced a remarkable performance at Twerton Park this evening to hold unbeaten Luton Town to a 1-1 draw despite ending the game with just nine men. They lost Charlie Clough five minutes before the break and Paul Stonehouse two minutes from time, both for two cautions, but never let their heads drop and fully deserved a point in the engrossing encounter. The game was played in difficult conditions, with heavy rain sweeping across the ground, but the visitors still produced some neat approach play, forcing Glyn Garner into several good stops. City were standing up well to the pressure though, creating several openings on the break, but on 40 minutes Clough’s tackle on Howells was adjudged a foul by Mr Bankes and he received his second booking. Five minutes later Fleetwood’s shot crashed against the post before dropping perfectly to Morgan-Smith to give his side the lead. Despite this double setback City enjoyed their best spell of the game after the break, Ben Swallow shooting narrowly wide and Joe Burnell heading a corner over, and on 72 minutes they levelled when Phillips opened his account for the season from close range after keeper Tyler could only parry Swallow’s shot. The Hatters threw everything they could at City after this but found Garner in superb form and, even after Stonehouse joined Clough in the dressing room on 88 minutes, couldn’t force a late winner which would have been incredibly harsh on the home side. The final whistle was greated with the biggest cheer at Twerton Park so far this season and City now need to use this result as the springboard to open their winning account and climb away from the foot of the table.

There will be a ‘Meet the Manager & Chairman’ event on Wednesday 21 September at 8pm in Charlie’s. Both manager Adie Britton and Chairman Manda Rigby will be on hand to answer your questions. Admission is free and all City fans are encouraged to come.

PREVIEW: CITY v Luton Town – Blue Square Bet Premier (18/9/11)

If City are to avoid their winless run at the start of the 2011-12 season reaching double figures they are going to have to topple the only side who remain unbeaten when Luton Town visit Twerton Park on Tuesday. Yesterday’s defeat at AFC Telford United means City have got off to their worst start to a campaign since 1990-91. That year it wasn’t until the eleventh league outing (plus two league cup games) that City tasted victory (away to Fisher Athletic which turned out to be the only win on their travels that season) but despite this start they still retained their Conference place eight months later.

When the Hatters lost their Football League place in 2009, following a 30-point deduction for various financial irregularities, there would have few football followers inside or out of Kenilworth Road who would have predicted they’d still be a non-league side three years later. Back to back play-off defeats have meant exactly that and Gary Brabin and his players will be desperate to secure the title this time to avoid the possibility of an unwanted treble. After losing to York City at the 2009-10 semi-final stage they went one better last year when they beat Wrexham to reach the final where they met AFC Wimbledon at Manchester City’s Eastlands home. In an entertaining game both sides created openings but it was Luton who came within inches of winning the game when Walker’s 89th minute header struck the inside of the post before bouncing to safety. Extra-time also saw openings at both ends but a place in the Football League came down to a penalty shoot-out. A miss each in their first three attempts (Wimbledon’s by former City striker Kaid Mohamed) kept the tie level but when Walker missed his attempt it was advantage to the Dons, and they never surrendered this to condemn Luton to at least a third season as a BELT.

The run to the play-off final came despite (or maybe because of) a change in management with just one month of the season remaining. Showing where the Hatters ambitions truly were, although a play-off place was almost secured already the fact they were 15 points adrift of champions-elect Crawley Town saw manager Richard Money step down to be replaced by his assistant Gary Brabin. He had enjoyed a much-travelled playing career that covered virtually the whole of the Northern half of the country, with both league and non-league clubs, before going into management with Welsh side The New Saints. After a short spell at one of his former clubs, Southport, he joined Cambridge United. He led them to the 2008-09 play-off final, where they lost 2-0 to Torquay United, and was named Conference Manager of the Year. However, after a falling out with the U’s board he was sacked in July 2009. A couple of months later he joined Luton, initially as chief scout. Despite the loss to AFC Wimbledon he was awarded a new two-year contract. Given how close his side was to promotion last year, Brabin was not among the busier Conference Premier managers during the close season. As with most clubs at this level he picked over the bones of Rushden & Diamonds to bring in highly-rated right-back Curtis Osano and striker Aaron O’Connor. His main target was another forward but as the new season got underway the search continued. Attempts to prise James Constable away from Oxford United and Reece Styche from Forest Green Rovers (which saw Rovers owner Dale Vince make a series of bizarre self-publicised bids for Hatters player Robbie Willmott) failed and Charlton Athletic’s Paul Benson turned down a move after the club’s agreed a £150K fee. In the end though, Brabin finally got his man when Stuart Fleetwood joined from Hereford United for an undisclosed sum on transfer deadline day.

Luton’s season got off to a false start when their opening match at AFC Telford United was postponed and they then had to come from behind to draw 1-1 at home to Forest Green. Southport were then swept aside 5-1 before they again recovered from a goal down to earn a point against Mansfield Town. A 3-1 win over Braintree Town was followed up with back to back draws against Hayes & Yeading United and Stockport County but since then they have been perfect. Fleetwood opened his Luton account with first goal in the 2-0 win over Darlington and they repeated that scoreline in turning over AFC Telford, in the rearranged opening day fixture. In their last outing they overcame the first half sending off of Beckwith to beat struggling Lincoln City, Fleetwood again on target with the winning goal eight minutes from time.

Complete record against Luton Town

Unsurprisingly, last season was the first time City had faced Luton Town competitively. The first meeting took place at Kenilworth Road in late October and, with the home side celebrating their 125th anniversary, over 7000 fans packed into the ground. If City had hoped to spoil the party they were to be disappointed as by the interval they trailed to goals from Crow, Pilkington and Atieno. They improved after the break but only had Lee Phillips’ 65th minute strike to show for their efforts. The return match at Twerton Park took place early in the New Year and this time City gave as good as they got in the goalless draw. Both sides hit the woodwork twice, Lee Phillips and Sido Jombati the unfortunate home players, and loan keeper Carl Pentney made a number of fine stops in one the highlights of City’s 2010-11 campaign.

City twice caught cold as winless run continues at Telford (17/9/11)

City conceded a goal in the opening minutes of each half at AFC Telford United today to ruin any hopes of finally ending their 2011-12 winless run. In-between Marley Watkins netted his second goal of the season, and City created enough chances to have easily won the match on another difficult and frustrating afternoon. For the second successive Saturday City gifted the opposition the lead with less than three minutes on the clock. A low Newton cross from the left was virtually walked into the net by an unmarked Sharp. With a minute new signing Torbjorn Agdestein’s deflected shot dropped inches wide and from then on the first half belonged almost entirely to City. They deservedly drew level on 21 minutes when Watkins raced onto Paul Stonehouse’s pass to lift the ball over Young. The keeper then saved well from the same player, Lee Phillips’ follow up was blocked on the line, and it would have been City who went into the break the happier side. However, this all changed within two minutes of the restart as a static City defence allowed Brown to nod home Newton’s free-kick. Agdestein lifted a shot over the bar with Young stranded and Ben Swallow and Gethin Jones both forced fine stops from the Bucks no.1 as City searched for an equaliser, although Glyn Garner also had to be at his best to twice deny Samuels. Having clearly been the better side for over an hour City appeared to run out of steam in the final 30 minutes and the hosts finally gained the upper hand, although the fact their man of the match was keeper Young showed that the final scoreline did not reflect the balance of play. Unfortunately that does not earn City any points and with unbeaten Luton Town the next opposition it is not going to get any easier to convert a performance into the desperately needed victory.

City sign Norway Under-19 international striker Agdestein on loan (16/9/11)

City have signed Norwegian striker Torbjorn Agdestein on loan from Brighton & Hove Albion. The 19-year old, known as ‘Toby’, was the top scorer on the Brighton Development Team during the 2010-11 season with thirteen goals in as many games. He also scored twice for the senior team during the recent pre-season, having signed for the Seagulls in August 2010. He had previously played for Norwegian Second Division club Stord FC, where he scored 36 goals in 75 appearances.

City have confirmed that summer signing Gary Mills has joined Blue Square Bet North club Nuneaton Town. The former Rushden & Diamonds midfielder made just four appearances for City before finding himself surplus to requirements at Twerton Park.

PREVIEW: AFC Telford United v CITY – Blue Square Bet Premier (15/9/11)

Depending on whether you are a City supporter who views the glass as half-full or half-empty Tuesday night’s result at York City could be approached in contrasting ways. For the latter, it was a depressing evening that culminated in another defeat, leaving City rooted to the bottom of the table and facing the real prospect of a prolonged battle to retain their place in non-league’s top flight. Those with a more positive outlook though can genuinely point out a much improved performance that on another day (maybe, the originally scheduled date) could have earned at least a point against a side with play-off ambitions. The single goal that decided the game means City have now conceded fewer than at the same stage last season but with just three goals scored in their opening eight games it is clear where the difficulty lies, and this is the problem that manager Adie Britton faces as his side travel to league newcomers AFC Telford United on Saturday.

They will face a Telford side who have got off to a solid start in their first season at this level since reforming in 2004. Originally formed as Wellington (the town they actually play in) Town they changed their name to Telford United in 1969, reaching the FA Trophy Final that season. They continued to enjoy success in that competition – reaching the final four more times and winning three of them – as well as the FA Cup, where, in 1984-85, they became one of just a handful of non-league clubs to reach the 5th Round. Alongside City they were also founder members of the Alliance Premier League in 1979 and went on to enjoy 25 seasons of uninterrupted membership. Early in this century the club undertook a major renovation of their Bucks Head home and switched to full-time. Whilst their league form was less than spectacular, the 2003-04 season saw the Bucks reach the FA Trophy semi-finals and the FA Cup 3rd Round, where they lost to eventual finalists Millwall. However, the collapse of chairman and 100% shareholder Andrew John Shaw’s business empire suddenly plunged the club into turmoil. The club’s supporters rallied and raised around £50,000 in two months, but with very large debts owed to various creditors amounting to over £4 million there was little hope for the club, and Telford United were forced into liquidation in May 2004. This marked a remarkable fall for the club but within 24 hours a new club, AFC Telford United, has been formed and they were only ‘relegated’ three divisions to the Northern Premier League Division 1.

Not surprisingly, given the time frame to reform the club, AFC Telford United started the 2004-05 season slowly before going on an unbeaten run from the turn of the year that carried them to a 3rd place finish and a play-off berth. Wins over Eastwood Town and Kendal Town secured promotion to the Premier Division. After a 10th place finish in 2005-06 they once again followed up a 3rd place finish with play-off success. Now in the Conference North they were just one step away from reaching the level they had played in for so long in their previous incarnation. However, despite reaching the play-offs in two successive seasons they lost to Barrow and Gateshead. A disappointing 2009-10 season followed before they were back in the promotion hunt the next year and it was third time lucky in the play-offs as they beat Guiseley with a stoppage time winner.

Leading the Bucks was former England international Andy Sinton. After a long and successful top flight playing career, including spells with QPR, Sheffield Wednesday and Tottenham Hotspur, during which time earned 12 England caps, he dropped into non-league, initially with Burton Albion then Ryman League Fleet Town. He was appointed manager in 2005 and spent five seasons in charge before securing the Telford job. Life back in the Conference Premier began in somewhat bizarre circumstances when their opening day fixture against Luton Town was cancelled due to an EDL march taking place in Telford at the same time. They finally got underway with a trip to Cambridge United three days later and, despite dominating long periods of the game, lost to a single goal early in the second half. By contrast they were under pressure for much of their next match at York City only to grab a late winner. Since then they have struggled for consistency with defeats to Lincoln City, Southport and, in the rearranged match, Luton Town, a win over Newport County and draws with Tamworth and Stockport County. They currently sit in 17th position with eight points from their eight games.

Complete record against Wellington Town/Telford United

Since the club joined the Southern League in 1958 as Wellington Town they have been regular opponents of City’s with 65 meetings. The Bucks have the slightly better record with 29 wins to City’s 22, the other 14 games ending level. This will be the first clash between the clubs since the 1996-97 season which ended with City’s relegation back to the Southern League. City travelled to Shropshire having won just two of their opening twelve league games but were boosted before the match by the return of the former top scorer Paul Adcock after his move to Torquay United did not work out. An even first half ended with the home side a goal ahead thanks to Gray’s volley but nine minutes after the interval Adcock got on to the end of a Steve Cross free-kick to level for City. Dave Mogg then denied Telford on several occasions before Mike Davis almost grabbed a late winner, keeper Jones brilliantly saving his close range effort.

City will be without Lewis Hogg as he continues his recovery from the knee injury he suffered against Southport last weekend and Alex Russell after he was taken ill on the coach to York City. They should welcome back Scott Murray to the squad though after he missed both those games due to a back problem.

City suffer another defeat as York inflict cruel late blow (13/9/11)

A goal three minutes from time condemned City to their sixth defeat of the season at York City this evening, in a match where both sides missed a penalty. Walker blazed over the bar from 12 yards in first half stoppage time before Ben Swallow saw his spot-kick saved with 14 minutes remaining. City had dominated the opening half hour of the game with a strong wind behind them but once again failed to turn this advantage into goals. When Charlie Clough brought down Challinor in the box it looked as if they would pay for this but Walker failed to add to his tally of six goals this season. The second half saw York gain the upper hand and Glyn Garner was forced into a number of goal stops. A rare foray forward by City saw Swallow knock the ball past Ingham and go down but the keeper redeemed himself when he got down to keep out the on-loan midfielder’s effort. Just when it looked as if the game would end goalless City failed to clear a corner allowing Reed to pounce from 12 yards.

City suffered a blow before the game when midfielder Alex Russell was taken ill on the coach and had to be taken to hospital. More details when they are available.

PREVIEW: York City v CITY – Blue Square Bet Premier (11/9/11)

Assuming that three York City players don’t receive a late call up for the Finnish wife-carrying team City will make the long journey north on Tuesday to continue their search for a maiden win of the 2011-12 season. Saturday’s latest disappointment at Twerton Park – the 2-1 defeat to Southport – leaves Adie Britton’s men as the only Blue Square Bet Premier club without a victory so far this campaign but they are only three points adrift of a trio of sides above them and know that should they overcome the Minstermen they will climb above at least one of those fellow strugglers.

And although they will face a side packed to the rafters with international standard players (well, two Northern Irish Under-21s and a full Trinidad and Tobago cap) it is one that has slid down the Conference Premier table since featuring amongst the early pacesetters. Having only missed out on ending their six-year absence from the Football League in 2010 when they were beaten by Oxford United in the play-off final at Wembley Stadium last season was disappointing as poor away form cost them a return to the play-offs, finishing in eighth place. However, they began the 2011-12 campaign in winning style with a 2-1 success at division newcomers Ebbsfleet United, although when the home side went ahead with just ten minutes remaining it looked grim for Gary Mills’ men. Big summer signing Jason Walker rescued his new club though with a quick-fire double and he was on target again against his former club Barrow in the 3-1 win three days later to already repay a fair chunk of the £60,000 transfer fee that brought him north from Luton Town. Their perfect start was ended by a single AFC Telford United goal at Bootham Crescent but they bounced back from this surprise defeat to rout Kettering Town 5-1 at their new Nene Park home. A decent point against pre-season title favourites Fleetwood Town left them level at the top of the table with Gateshead (though in second place alphabetically) but since then back-to-back defeats against previously winless Alfreton Town and Tamworth – along with their self-inflicted free weekend – has seen them drop to 14th place and leave Mills calling the performances ‘unacceptable’.

Seven seasons as a non-league club has left York as the longest-serving current BELT which no doubt puts extra pressure on them to regain the Football League place they lost in 2004. In addition to the expensive signing of Walker during the summer they also captured highly-rated right-back Lanre Oyebanjo – one of their two Irish Under-21 internationals – from Histon, former Manchester United and Blackburn Rovers trainee Michael Potts, goal-scoring winger Matty Blair from league rivals Kidderminster Harriers and Patrick McLaughlin from Newcastle United, their other Northern Ireland Under-21 player.

Complete record against York City

Last season saw the two clubs meet competitively for the first time, with both games ending level. The first clash took place at Twerton Park on the second Saturday of the season. Twice City led in the match, first through a stunning long-range first-half effort from Adie Harris and then Lee Phillips’ first goal in City colours after the break. However, the visitor’s pegged City back thanks to Gash’s near post header five minutes after Harris’ strike and Till’s well-struck half-volley in the closing quarter of an hour. The return game in Yorkshire took place two months later and this time it was City who had to come from behind to earn a point. The game was new manager Mills’ first in charge and he watched his side dominate the opening exchanges. Just as City appeared to have weathered this storm they were on the wrong end of a shocking penalty decision when Gethin Jones was adjudged to have handled McGurk’s shot and Rankine fired home from the spot. Justice was done in the second half though as, after a spell of pressure from City, Alex Russell drew City level and they came the closer to winning the game after this.

City are likely to go into the game missing influential midfielder Lewis Hogg after he was stretched off on Saturday against Southport with a knee injury and winger Scott Murray who is still suffering from a back problems. Two further players who are unlikely to feature are Gary Mills and Danny Webb after manager Adie Britton revealed they are both surplus to requirements and have had their names circulated to other clubs.

Watkins breaks Twerton Park scoring duck but City crash again (10/9/11)

City finally broke their home goalscoring duck this afternoon against Southport but suffered another defeat to remain rooted to the foot of the Blue Square Bet Premier table. Marley Watkins fired home with 11 minutes remaining but by then City were trailing 2-0 and, despite some late pressure after this, they couldn’t fashion an equaliser. If City had hoped their 12-day break would see them come out of the blocks quickly they were to be disappointed as the visitors went ahead after just three minutes when a fast break ended with Walker curling a shot beyond the despairing dive of Glyn Garner. Against a side already earning a reputation for excessive timewasting this was the worse possible start and only a close range header from Lee Phillips, which keeper McMillan turned over the bar, threatened an equaliser in a dismal first half, which also saw midfielder Lewis Hogg stretchered off with a leg injury. Both goalkeepers produced excellent stops during the opening exchanges of the second period but as the Sandgrounders timewasting antics became more and more pronounced – with the referee doing nothing to prevent – City could never build any momentum despite enjoying the majority of possession. Then on 77 minutes Southport grabbed a second goal, Gray slooting the ball past Garner from close range. However, two minutes later the ball broke Watkins in the area and he blasted it under McMillan to hand City an unexpected lifeline. Gethin Jones and Alex Russell both tested McMillan after this but it was too little too late to avoid City’s fourth successive home defeat, leaving them still the only BSP club without a win this season.

Charlie Clough makes welcome return to Twerton Park (9/9/11)

Bristol Rovers’ defender Charlie Clough has returned to Twerton Park on loan. The 21-year old spent nearly three months with City during the latter stages of last season, making 11 appearances and scoring twice, before being recalled by the Pirates. He made his first start for Rovers in the final game of the 2010-11 season against Colchester United but suffered a knee injury during which against stalled his career at the Memorial Stadium. He will go into the squad to face Southport at Twerton Park tomorrow.

City’s Academy side managed what the first team couldn’t when they won 2-0 at Forest Green Rovers in the FA Youth Cup Preliminary Round last night. Goals from Babatunde and Hailstone earned Billy Clark’s side a 1st Qualifying Round trip to Newport County on Monday 19 September.

PREVIEW: CITY v Southport – Blue Square Bet Premier (8/9/11)

City’s unexpected 12-day early season break comes to an end on Saturday when Southport make the trip down from the North West and, having picked up just two points from their opening six games, they will hope it marks a fresh start to the 2011-12 season. When last Saturday’s York City game was cancelled due to three Minstermen players being selected for international duty (although only one actually made it onto the pitch (for the Irish Under-21s)) it appeared to be inconvenience that the club could do without, forcing them to make the long journey north in midweek. However, after slipping to the foot of the table following the tame 3-0 loss at Forest Green Rovers in their last game, the hiatus may have been a perfect chance to re-energise their campaign, with a number of extra training sessions and a chance for several players to recover from minor injuries they have been playing through.

They will meet a Southport side who have got their season up and running during the time City have been kicking their heels with back to back wins against Barrow and AFC Telford United. Having only been saved from relegation back to the Conference North last season due to the demise of Rushden & Diamonds, the Sandgrounders were amongst the relegation favourites for this campaign and looked to living up (or down) to this forecast when, having drawn their opening two games, they suffered three successive defeats, including a 5-1 reversal at Luton Town. When they fell behind in first-half stoppage time to Barrow it looked like this run would continue but second half goals from Gray and Lee turned the game around. They then carried this form into their next game with Telford, racing into a three-goal lead after just 17 minutes. Telford fought back though, netting twice themselves before the interval and it appeared they would grab an unlikely point when, in stoppage time, they won a penalty. Instead goalkeeper Nemes was Southport’s saviour, keeping out Newton’s spot kick and helping the club climb to 16th position.

This turnaround in form has coincided with the arrival of two players on loan from Luton Town as part of the deal that saw star midfielder John-Paul Kissock head south to the Hatters. Midfielder Godfrey Poku and striker Dan Walker made the opposite journey, with the latter on the scoresheet against Telford. Their arrival meant manager Liam Watson did not add to his squad before the end of the transfer window although he has said he may look to the loan market to boost his attacking options if required. Amongst Southport’s summer signings was striker Jonathan Brown who made a couple of uneventful substitute appearances for City last season.

Complete record against Southport

City completed the double over Southport last year in the first meetings between the sides since 1997. The match at Haig Avenue in November saw the home side dominate the opening half, scoring twice but wasting a number of further chances. And they were made to pay in the second half as City completely turned the game around. Kaid Mohamed pulled a goal back within just four minutes of the restart, shooting home from a narrow angle, and the initiative was further handed to City as Watson took off one of his strikers to bolster the midfield. With 12 minutes remaining Marc Canham crossed for Danny Webb to head City level. When the referee failed to award City a clear penalty a few minutes later it looked as if Southport might hang on for a point but on 85 minutes a surging run from Mohamed ended with him crossing for Lee Phillips to fire in the winner. City’s top scorer was also the match-winner when the sides met at Twerton Park the following February. A goal on the stroke of half-time through Sandgrounders captain Lee had cancelled out an own goal by Lever from Sekani Simpson’s great cross. Although the visitors began the second half well it was City who broke the deadlock, Phillips heading home Scott Murray’s cross and this turned out to be the deciding goal.

The game should see loan signing Ben Swallow make his debut for City and fellow winger Marley Watkins will hope to have overcome the ankle problem that has disrupted his season so far. Scott Murray (back), Joe Burnell (groin) and Gethin Jones (hamstring) are all battling to be fit for the game and manager Adie Britton has confirmed he is interested in bringing defender Charlie Clough back to Twerton Park on loan from Bristol Rovers but will need to lose a player from his squad to finance the deal.