City could play a part in a small footnote in the history of football on Tuesday evening when they travel to Truro City for what may be the Cornish side’s final ever game. Having enjoyed almost non-stop success in the last six years, which saw the club rise from the South Western League to the Conference South, the White Tigers are now in administration, with debts rumoured to be around £700,000, bottom of the table following a ten-point deduction and having publically admitted they could be forced to fold after taking on City.
Until the 2006-07 Truro were members of the South Western League (winning it five times), having only missed three seasons (in the 1970’s due to losing their ground for road widening) since its formation in 1951. Backed by the money of property developer Kevin Heany the club accepted promotion to the Western League in 2006 and soon swept aside the best that that league had to offer along with the second tier of the Southern League. After a slight blip in 2009-10 when they finished mid-table in the Southern League Premier Division they lifted the title a year later to move within two divisions of the Football League. However, the cost of this progress was made clear when the club was issued with a winding-up order by the HMRC in August 2011 due to unpaid taxes of over £100,000. This was cleared, along with a further order for £51,000 in March 2012, but, with Heany having stepped down as Chairman in August 2012 after being declared bankrupt, a third HMRC winding-up order over a tax bill of £15,000 forced the club into administration. The ten-point deduction sent them to the foot of the table but it is the search for a buyer for the club that is of more immediate concern. With the players having agreed to defer their wages until October, manager Lee Hodges announced that the squad will all depart after the clash with City if no buyer is found. The Conference has also moved to bring a conclusion to the saga, setting the club a deadline of October 11 to agree a sale or face being expelled from Blue Square Bet South. The Conference has also asked the administrators for a bond to compensate any clubs who have had to travel to Truro should they be expelled. The latest person to come forward and show an interest in saving Truro is former manager Steve Massey, though he has made it clear he will need fellow investors to give the club a future.
After a summer of uncertainty Truro came within two minutes of opening the 2012-13 season with a point at Billericay Town. The hosts had taken the lead on 21 minutes through May before the same player put through his own net early in the second half to level the scores. Moments later Billericay were reduced to ten men but the White Tigers couldn’t take advantage, instead it was the Essex side who secured the win with Lechmere’s 88th minute strike. In their opening home game they twice enjoyed two goal leads only to be pegged back by Havant & Waterlooville, the final goal in the 3-3 draw coming a minute into stoppage time. A second point of the campaign was picked up with a promising 1-1 draw against Salisbury City and they followed this up with back to back 2-0 wins over Weston Super Mare and Boreham Wood to show that the players were managing to put the off field problems to one side. However, since then they have suffered five defeats on the spin, including an 8-0 embarrassment at Maidenhead United and a costly FA Cup exit against AFC Totton. The last of these was a cruel 3-2 reversal at Chelmsford that saw Hodges’ side surrender a 2-0 lead before a stoppage time goal ensured they would make the long trip back to Cornwall empty-handed.
Complete record against Truro City
City and Truro have previously met on one occasion, in the FA Cup 2nd Qualifying Round during the 2007-08 season. The White Tigers came into the game boasting a 100% record from their opening nine games of the campaign but City got off to a dream start when Chris Holland headed home a Mark McKeever corner after just two minutes. City had also enjoyed a good start to the season, and for ten minutes looked like a Conference South side taking on Western League opposition but from the moment the Cornishmen won a 17th minute penalty they were largely second best. Thankfully Willis pulled the penalty wide of Paul Evans’ goal and for all the home side’s possession City stood firm to reach the interval ahead. The host’s frustrations, both on and off the pitch, were evident as City continued to weather the storm and as the game reached its final quarter they appeared to have run out of steam. The introduction of record scorer Yetton gave them new impetuous though and it looked like he had won his team another penalty in the final minute. He went down under Holland’s challenge but even as the referee pointed to the spot his attention was drawn to an earlier offside flag and their hopes were finally dashed.
City brought their three game league losing streak to an end this afternoon at Mayday Trust Park but had to settle for a point in a disappointing 0-0 draw with Boreham Wood. In a game that will not live long in the memory City enjoyed the better of the first half but even before the interval was reached a drab stalemate looked the most likely outcome. Kurtis Guthrie did have a 15th minute header blocked on the line and visitors keeper Russell looked uncertain on several occasions only to be rescued by his defence. The Wood’s main threat came from catching City on the break but Glyn Garner enjoyed one of his quieter halves of the season so far. What limited danger City had possessed in the first half soon dissipated after the break, although they did have a strong penalty appeal waved away after Griffin’s shot appeared to be blocked by Reynold’s hand in the 55th minute. Garner was forced into his first difficult save of the afternoon shortly afterwards and the Hertfordshire certainly saw more of the ball in the second half but were equally toothless in front of goal.
Today the Conference has confirmed that our match against Truro City will go ahead on Tuesday. In a separate press release, the Conference are saying that Truro have until 5pm October 11th to lodge with the league a number of elements, including a bond, which would allow them to complete the season. Although this is not specified in the release, BBC Cornwall are reporting that one element of the bond will be used to recompense any teams who have travelled before that date if Truro fail to complete the season. It will be returned to them if they do complete the season. It was certainly my aim to ensure Bath City were not financially disadvantaged due to this very unfortunate timing and set of circumstances. As far as the footballing side is concerned, this is not ideal preparation for an FA cup match, but we have to go into it assuming that the result will stand despite the ongoing uncertainty around Truro’s ability to see the season out. [Statement by Manda Rigby]
The first Supporters’ Club Quiz Night of the season is taking place in Charlie’s at Mayday Trust Park on Sunday 30 September starting at 7.30pm. The cost is £2 per player with teams of up to five. Great prizes and a raffle in one of the most popular supporters’ club events.
City return to Blue Square Bet South action on Saturday looking to end a run of three successive league defeats that has seen them slip from the top of the table to 11th place, nine points behind leaders Salisbury City and four off the play-off positions. Standing in their way are Boreham Wood, the side currently in the final play-off place after a solid start to their third season at this level. The meeting at Mayday Trust Park will be the first ever between the two clubs.
The Wood are playing at the highest level in their history having made steady progress in recent years. The club was formed in 1948 by the amalgamation of two local sides, Boreham Rovers and Royal Retournez. In 1966, after playing in such leagues as the Mid-Herts League and Parthenon League, they joined the Athenian League, where two promotions took them to the top division, and they were champions in 1973–74. After this the team joined the Isthmian League. In 1977 they reached the Premier Division, and they were to bounce between the top two divisions on a number of occasions over the next 27 years. In 2004 a re-organisation of the pyramid saw them move to the Southern Football League Eastern Division, which they won in 2005–06, but further re-organisation in 2006 saw them promoted to the Isthmian League Premier Division rather than the Southern League’s equivalent. In 2010 Boreham Wood won the Isthmian League Premier Division play-off final to obtain promotion to the Conference South for the first time in their history.
They initially struggled at this level, winning just two of their opening 19 league matches to prop the table up as 2010 turned into 2011. However, an impressive 2-0 win over play-off chasing Chelmsford City heralded a change in fortunes and a run of one defeat in eleven games lifted them clear of the danger zone. They ended that campaign in 14th place but once again began the new season slowly, winning just once in the first five weeks. However, when they won seven and drew one of their next eight outings it removed worries of another relegation battle and, after spending the majority of the campaign in mid-table, a strong closing month saw the Wood finish in 8th place.
With the play-offs now a declared target manager Ian Allison brought in former Chelsea reserve goalkeeper James Russell, pacy Dover Athletic forward Donovan Simmonds, former Newport County striker Elliott Buchanan and versatile full-back Ben Nunn. They were handed a tough opening fixture, with pre-season title favourites Eastleigh heading to Meadow Park. However, goals from Montgomery, Effiong and Riza fired the Wood to a very impressive 3-0 win. They followed this with draws against AFC Hornchurch and Chelmsford City either side of a win at Hayes & Yeading United and, although they suffered their first defeat of the season at Truro City, a 3-0 win over Sutton United saw them take over from City at the top of the table. They made it ten points from twelve at home with a 3-1 win against Farnborough but in their last league outing they crashed 4-2 to Tonbridge Angels. Like City, the Wood progressed in the FA Cup last weekend with a 2-1 win at lower league opposition, Southern League St Neots Town. Leading through Morgan’s 38th minute strike the Wood suffered a set-back right on half-time when keeper Russell was sent-off for handling outside his box. Fortunately they had a replacement keeper on the bench and the ten-men extended the lead on 58 minutes through Riza. The home side did pull a goal back 13 minutes from time, which led to a few nervous moments before the Wood could look forward to 3rd Qualifying Round trip to Northwood.
City have been drawn at home to Gosport Borough in the 3rd Qualifying Round of the FA Cup. Borough are currently in 15th position in the Southern League Premier Division having won two of their opening eight games. To reach this stage of the competition they have beaten Bashley and Bideford. The tie will see a very familiar face return to Mayday Trust Park, with double player of the season winner Chris Holland now plying his trade on the south coast. The game will take place on Saturday 6 October (ko 3pm).
City had to come from a goal behind at Western League Buckland Athletic this afternoon to secure a place in the 3rd Qualifying Round of the FA Cup. When top scorer Hammon fired the hosts ahead on 51 minutes a giant-killing act looked a real possibility but seven minutes later Aaron Brown netted a superb equaliser and, with 15 minutes left, Kurtis Guthrie headed what turned out to be the deciding goal. Charlie Griffin spurned two early opportunities as City started the game positively, although in-between Stevens forced a fine save from Glyn Garner for the free-scoring Bucks. Neither side looked particularly convincing after this lively opening but two minutes before the interval City gifted Buckland an opening that should have seen them go into half-time ahead. Luke Cummings lost possession to Gaze and his low cross found an unmarked Mudge just eight yards out but he contrived to fire the ball high over the bar. However, within five minutes of the restart Garner failed to get distance on a punch and when the ball found its way to Gammon he drove a low shot into the net. Clearly stunned by this for seven minutes City were facing an embarrassing and costly FA Cup exit but when Chris Allen stabbed the ball toward Brown he elected to shoot first time and the crisply struck effort flew past Griffiths at his near post. Boosted by this, and the introduction of Noah Keats, City finally looked like a side three divisions above the hosts and after a spell of pressure Luke Cummings’ great cross was headed home by Guthrie to the delight of the majority of the 367 crowd. City had one final scare when Booth headed narrowly past the angle of post and crossbar in the closing minutes but at the final whistle the relief was obvious that they had avoided a real shock and could look forward to Monday’s 3rd Qualifying Round draw.
Following last season’s relegation from the Blue Square Bet Premier, City’s 2012-13 FA Cup campaign begins on Saturday at the 2nd Qualifying Round stage and with it a rare trip to Devon where they will meet Western League newcomers Buckland Athletic. Having reached the 1st Round last year, where they controversially lost to Dagenham & Redbridge in a replay in front of the ESPN cameras, City will be hoping for at least a repeat of that achievement and with £4,500 prize money already up for grabs a win at this stage will be a much-needed financial boost. They can also look back to the 2009-10 season when a run to the 2nd Round kick-started their league campaign that ended with a play-off win and promotion the Conference Premier.
They will face a Buckland side, however, full of confidence having begun their first season at level 5 of non-league football in spectacular style. The Bucks were formed in 1977 as a junior club playing in the Torbay Pioneer League before stepping up to senior football ten years later. Within five years they progressed from Division 3 to the Premier Division of the Devon and Exeter League. The 1994-95 season saw them crowned champions for the first time and when they repeated this success five years later they secured promotion to the Devon League. A runners-up spot in their first season at that level was the Bucks highest finish but they earned a place in the newly formed South West Peninsula League Premier Division in 2007. After finishing 14th then 3rd they won back to back titles in 2009-10 and 2010-11. Although last season saw Bodmin Town deny them a hat-trick of titles they did enough to secure a place in the Western League Premier Division and continue their remarkable climb up the non-league pyramid.
And they settled immediately at this level with a 3-1 win at Bristol Manor Farm before progressing in the FA Cup thanks to a 2-1 victory over Bridport. Then a 2-2 draw with Bishop Sutton was followed by a 5-0 thrashing of Hengrove Athletic to reach the FA Cup 1st Qualifying Round for the first time. They continued their free-scoring form as Barnstaple Town were hit for nine in the Bucks next league outing and Portishead were beaten 5-1 in the FA Vase. Plymouth Parkway stood in their way next in the FA Cup and, after the sides drew 1-1 at Bolitho Park, Buckland earned the right to play City thanks to a 5-1 win. They then made it a remarkable 32 goals in just six games with a 7-1 demolition of Porthleven in the FA Vase. The player City will undoubtedly have to watch closely is striker Gavin Hammond, with 13 goals in just nine games already this season. There are likely to be two familiar faces in the Buckland line-up, one a former player and one a regular opponent. Dean Stevens was City’s first signing during the 2004 close season after being released by Torquay United. However, he made just a single appearance against Grantham Town before moving onto Taunton Town in September. Jamie Mudge, on the other hand, frequently lined –up against City, mainly for Tiverton Town although also for Dorchester Town, and was also a transfer target for the Romans on several occasions.
City’s last meeting with a Western League side in the FA Cup took place at the same stage of the 2009-10 competition when Willand Rovers were the opposition. City started slowly, with the home side going close then having a strong penalty appeal turned down, but after Darren Edwards headed them in front on 14 minutes they never looked back. Florin Pelecaci’s 25-yard volley made it 2-0 after 30 minutes before he set up Kaid Mohamed for City’s third a couple of minutes later. Just another three minutes had passed when Edwards tapped in a fourth and on the stroke of half-time he completed his hat-trick from the penalty spot. The second half saw no more goals but by then Cty had long since secured their passage to the next round. Truro City (narrowly), Bridport (comfortably) and Brislington (uneventfully) have also been beaten in recent years but City only have to go back to the 2001-02 campaign recall a giant-killing at the hands of a Western League side. They were largely the architects of their own downfall against Bideford as keeper Mark Hervin and winger Mike Wyatt both received red cards. With ten men City had still dominated the game, Gary Powell’s free-kick drawing them level after an early penalty (leading to Hervin’s dismissal and striker Adrian Foster taking over the gloves) had put the Devon side in front, and even down to nine Sam Allison spurned a chance to put them in front. However, in the end their numerical disadvantage made the difference as Bideford struck twice in the closing ten minutes.
Mayday Trust Park will host a Bath derby this evening (18/9) when City’s youth team meet their Odd Down compatriots in the FA Youth Cup 1st Round. The Downers reached this stage with an impressive 5-1 win over Frome Town whilst City were edging past Cheltenham Saracans by the odd goal in three. The game kicks off at 7.30pm and admission is £2 for adults with Under-16s free.
City have signed former Forest Green Rovers and Swindon Supermarine midfielder Chris Allen on a short-term deal. The 23-year old made his debut as a second half sub in Saturday’s defeat against Dover Athletic.
City lost their 100% home record and suffered a third successive Blue Square Bet South defeat as Dover Athletic came from a goal down to record a deserved 2-1 win despite finishing the game with ten men. The opening quarter of the game was largely uneventful, with an optimistic penalty appeal for each side and a couple of half chances, but the visitors began to get the upper hand as the half progressed and should have gone into the interval ahead. Adam Connolly denied Cogan with an excellent block, May had his header ruled out for offside and Glyn Garner produced a superb save from the same player. Then five minutes into the second half City made the Whites pay by taking the lead. Charlie Griffin’s intial effort crashed against the underside of the crossbar but, when Noah Keats’ follow-up was blocked back to him, he drove the ball home from the edge of the box. This lead last just eleven minutes though as Bricknell was given the time and space to slide the ball past Garner. Kurtis Guthrie thought he had restored City’s lead, only for a linesman’s flag to halt the celebrations, and on 70 minutes the Kent side went ahead. A free-kick on the edge of the box was blocked by the wall but the ball fell kindly to give Thompson a simple tap-in. Even when, with ten minutes left, Rance was shown a second yellow for dissent after Kerry Morgan had blocked his goalbound shot with his chest, the Dover no.4 convinced he had used a hand, City never looked like finding an equaliser allowing Dover to easily run out the clock.
City return to Mayday Trust Park on Saturday looking for some home comforts following two defeats on the road that has seen them slip from the top of the Blue Square Bet South table to 8th place, one spot ahead of visitors Dover Athletic. Three wins from three at home so far this season has contributed nine of their ten points, but this record will be tested by a Dover side who are the only one in the Conference South to have already enjoyed two victories on their travels at this early stage of the campaign.
In direct contrast to City, Dover, one of the pre-season title favourites, have struggled at home, picking up just two points from their first four games at Crabble Athletic Ground this season and failing to score in the last three matches. And this is not a new issue for the Whites, having had a better away record than home for the past two campaigns. After finishing in the runners-up spot during their first season at this level in 2009-10, the last two years have witnessed disappointing seventh place finishes. Last season they got off to a dream start with back to back 4-0 wins but the next nine outings saw just one further victory – albeit with only two defeats along with six draws – which saw the Whites drop into the bottom half of the table. This run cost manager Martin Hayes his job in September and he was replaced by Nicky Forster, who had been playing for Lingfield following a long and successful career with a number of league clubs. He steadied the ship and kept them on the fringes of the play-offs as the season approached its final month. However four successive home defeats without scoring a goal ended these hopes and ensured another Conference South season.
Forster was not slow in looking to rebuild his squad against the background of this disappointment as eight players were released and replacements were soon heading toward Dover. Experienced midfielder Steven Thomson was the first to arrive from St Mirren quickly followed by Brighton & Hove Albion goalkeeper Mitchell Walker. Former loanee midfielder Dean Rance signed on a permanent deal then ex-City defender Danny Webb joined from fellow Conference South club Salisbury City. He then turned his attention to attack, bring in striker Calum Willock from Ebbsfleet and winger Jamie Smith after a successful trial. Striker Ben May and winger Chris Sessegnon were the final new arrivals to complete a 21-man squad at Forster’s disposal. And it looked as if they would get the 2012-13 season off to a perfect start, racing into a 2-0 lead at home to Farnborough. However, second half goals pegged them back and they had to settle for a point. Their first away game season also ended 2-2, although this time it was the Whites who came from behind, twice trailing against the U’s. A Cogan free-kick gave them a first victory of the season at Hornchurch but again Crabble Athletic Ground was far from home sweet home as they drew 0-0 with Eastbourne Borough. They then produced their best performance of the season, coming from a goal down to beat Eastleigh 3-1, but consecutive 1-0 home defeats to Chelmsford City and Hayes & Yeading United furthered their Crabble woes.
Complete record against Dover Athletic/Dover
Saturday’s meeting will be the 37th between the clubs, with City having enjoyed 15 wins to Dover’s ten. In their current set-up – formed in 1983 after the town’s previous club, Dover, folded due to its debts – they have not enjoyed trips to Bath, with just one win in ten attempts and that in a League Cup tie back in 1994. The last meeting at Twerton Park in February 2010, with both sides chasing a play-off place, ended goalless although last season City travelled to Kent for an FA Cup 4th Qualifying Round tie where they secured a 1st Round place thanks to a single goal from Andy Gallinagh.
City will face either Plymouth Parkway or Buckland Athletic, neither of which they have previously played, following today’s draw for the 2nd Qualifying Round of the FA Cup. Plymouth Parkway play in the South West Peninsula League Premier Division whereas Newton Abbot based Buckland are one level higher in the Western League Premier Division, having won promotion from the South West Peninsula League last season. The sides drew 1-1 on Saturday and will meet again tomorrow evening. The tie will take place on Saturday 22 September.
City are still searching for their first away win of the season after they lost by a single goal to Bromley at Hayes Lane this afternoon. And once again their injury jinx struck, this time before the game even kicked off with Kerry Morgan picking up a knock in the pre-match warm-up. It took just ten minutes for the home side to go ahead, Joseph-Dubois heading home Mings cross. City rarely looked like finding a way back into the game and Joseph-Dubois almost made it 2-0 shortly afterwards. Even the half-time introduction of new signing Lamar Powell failed to lift Adie Britton’s side, although he did head City’s best chance wide on 69 minutes. Following that Bromley continued to pose the greater threat but in the end one goal was enough to condemn City to a third successive defeat on the road this season.
City have added to their injury-hit squad with the short term signing of striker Lamar Powell. The 18-year old was fast-tracked through Bristol Rovers’ youth set-up after scoring 52 goals for the under-16s during the 2008–09 season. He was first included in Rovers’ first team squad as 16-year old then a year later made his senior debut as an 86th minute substitute against Southampton in April 2011. He was released by the Pirates in June 2012 and will go straight into City’s squad for tomorrow’s trip to Bromley.
To clarify some reports from earlier today, former Bristol City midfielder Gianni Kapika has signed dual registration forms. He is still a Clevedon Town player, but is also registered to play for Bath City.
On Monday evening City’s U18’s travelled to Cheltenham Saracens in the preliminary round of the FA Youth Cup. With their League season yet to commence a young side, comprising six 16-year olds in the starting eleven, ran out 2-1 winners in a close fought encounter. Two nil up at half time with well taken strikes from Joe Raynes in the 4th minute and Ben Royall on 40 minutes, the tie was far from over as the Saracens had large spells of possession in the second half. In the 50th minute a shot was tipped over by Lewis Coggins in the City goal and from the resulting corner a shot was cleared off the line. City came close to scoring a third deep into the half but a combination of keeper and defender foiled the attempt on goal. Saracens finally got reward for their efforts in the 89th minute but City saw out the tie when extra time appeared to be looming. City will host either Frome Town or Odd Down at Mayday Trust Park in the 1st Qualifying Round week commencing 17 September. Our opponents meet at Frome on Thursday and confirmation of the tie will be announced early next week.
After Tuesday night’s entertaining, but ultimately disappointing, defeat at Salisbury City, City head to Kent on Saturday looking to record their first away win of the 2012-13 season at Bromley. Having led the table over the weekend the 3-2 reversal saw City slip to 6th place but it was another two injuries that will be of more concern to manager Adie Britton. Remarkably Sekani Simpson and Joe Burnell became the fourth and fifth player to leave the pitch before half-time with an injury despite the campaign only six games old, and City’s squad could be very threadbare for the visit to Hayes Lane.
There they will met a side buoyed by their first win of the season on Tuesday and looking to finally break into the top 10 of the Conference South at the sixth attempt. After promotion was secured from the Ryman League via the play-offs in 2006-07 they finished in 11th, 13th, 12th and 11th during their first four years in the second level of non-league football. The last of these campaigns was an extraordinary one where they began with seven successive wins to lead the table by four points. Although the wins largely turned into draws after this they reached the middle of November having lost just one of their opening 16 games. Like the majority of clubs they then endured a month of anactivity due to the cold and snow that swept across the country. When they finally returned to the pitch it was to suffer a 7-0 defeat at Weston Super Mare and their season never recovered. Having won nine of their first sixteen games, they only recorded another eight successes in the remaining 26 outings to steadily slip down the table to 11th place. For the majority of last season they struggled at the wrong end of the table with only a draw at already relegated Thurrock in the penultimate game ensuring their safety.
Manager Mark Goldberg – now in his third spell in charge of the Lilywhites – decided continuity was the best plan to avoid a repeat of the previous term’s struggles and retained the majority of his squad. Strikers Ali Chaaban and Warren McBean returned to the club, although the latter, who has found City an accommodating opponent with a number of his previous clubs, suffered a ruptured Achilles in pre-season which will sideline him for the majority of the season. On the eve of their opening match at Staines Town, Goldberg captured well-travelled forward Richard Pacquette, but they began the season with a disappointing 0-0 draw. Things got worse as defeats at Eastbourne Borough and Chelmsford City followed and, although they picked up their second point of the season against Tonbridge Angels, a 2-0 reversal at Farnborough left them in 21st position. However, three goals in the opening 22 minutes of the home meeting with AFC Hornchurch set them empathically on course for the first win of the season with a second half penalty completing the 4-0 win.
Complete record against Bromley
City’s last trip to Hayes Lane came during the final few weeks of the 2009-10 season with the Romans looking to record a first ever win over the Lilywhites and keep their play-off ambitions firmly in the their own hands. They dominated the first period of the game but found home keeper Foderingham in excellent form. City did go in front on 18 minutes, Kaid Mohamed executing a great overhead kick after Lewis Hogg’s shot had come back off the bar, but Bromley’s no.1 denied City several times after this and thanks to Chris Holland’s own goal the game was level at the break. The second half was a more scrappy affair but with 22 minutes left ‘Dutch’ redeemed himself, stabbing home Hogg’s free-kick from close range and this time they comfortably maintained this advantage. City’s previous two visits ended in 1-1 draws, with Holland also on target in the opening match of the 2007-08 season, his stoppage-time strike spoiling Bromley’s maiden Conference South match. The following year two goals in three second half minutes ensured another stalemate, Harding netting after Paul Evans could only parry Chaaban’s shot into his path before Mark Badman’s spectacular scissor-kick levelled proceedings.
An injury-time goalline clearance denied City a point this evening as they went down 3-2 to Salisbury City at the Raymond McEnhill Stadium. The home side began strongly and took just six minutes to go in front, White firing past debutant keeper Jason Mellor. However, ten minutes later Charlie Griffin bundled home a Luke Cummings cross to level the scores. City were struggling to deal with Salisbury’s direct approach and one such punt forward six minutes before the interval caused panic in the City box. Mellor came for the ball but failed to claim it, and although Gethin Jones got back to block a goalbound shot the referee viewed he had used his hand, pointing to the spot from where Fitchett made it 2-1. The second half saw the Whites begin to get the ball down and when Brett’s neat control and perfectly executed lob made it 3-1 on 57 minutes it looked they would run out comfortable winners. Instead they were given a nervous final 15 minutes when Noah Keats stunning 25-yard shot flew past ex-City keeper Puddy. City suffered a few close escapes as they committed men forward in search of an equaliser and they came agonisingly close to grabbing a point in stoppage time. Kerry Morgan and Kurtis Guthrie had already seen efforts on goal blocked when Puddy failed to claim another cross into the box only for Udoji to clear Guthrie header from under his bar and ensure the Whites would return to the top of the Blue Square Bet South.
City face the first real test of their Blue Square Bet South title credentials on Tuesday evening when they travel to the Raymond McEnhill Stadium to face Salisbury City. The Wiltshire side currently sit in third position but only trail table-topping City on goal difference and both sides will go into the game knowing a victory would put down a serious marker even with the 2012-13 campaign still in its infancy.
The Whites are looking to regain the Blue Square Bet Premier place they lost in May 2010 after spending the previous year in administration. Back to back promotions in 2006 and 2007 had seen the club rise to the Conference Premier for the first time in their history. The 2006-07 season also saw the club embark on a famous FA Cup, reaching the 2nd round for just the second time in their history. There they held League 1 side Nottingham Forest to a 1-1 draw in front of over 3000 fans at the Raymond McEnhill Stadium. The Whites bowed out 2-0 in the replay but with both games shown live on TV they looked set up to embark on a tilt at reaching the Football League. A creditable 12th place finish in 2007-08 was followed by a strong start to the following season where they led the table during the opening weeks. However, injuries saw their form dip and the club was also struggling financially. A failed appeal to raise £100,000 saw cuts in the squad and unable to find a buyer for the club they went into administration in September 2009. Despite a points deduction and various other punishments manager Tommy Widdrington led the side to 12th place but when they failed to come out of administration by the Football Conference deadline they were demoted to the Southern League.
A consortium of William Harrison-Allan, Chris Brammall and Jeff Hooper took over the club during the summer of 2010 and bailed them out of administration. Widdrington left and was replaced by Darrell Clarke who, with the club retaining a full-time squad, built a side that won promotion back to the Conference South at the first attempt thanks to a play-off win over Hednesford Town. Hopes of repeating the successive promotions of six years earlier disappeared when they lost five league games in a row during October/November, instead leaving them on the fringes of the relegation battle. A win over future champions Woking in January eased these worries and a strong end to the side saw them finish in 10th place. They also reached the 3rd Round of the FA Cup, beating Conference Premier side Grimsby Town on the way, before losing 3-1 at Sheffield United.
Clarke pulled off quite a transfer coup during the 2012 close season with the capture of Torquay United striker Chris McPhee – a player who had also attracted interest from City – and also brought in Cheltenham Town midfielder Theo Lewis, goalkeeper Mark Scott from Swindon Town, Oxford City defender James Clarke and Winchester City striker Jamie White, who netted 51 goals in 32 Wessex League games last term. And the latter opened his account immediately as Salisbury came from a goal down to beat AFC Hornchurch 2-1 in their opening game of the season. He then made it three goals in two games as again the Whites overturned a goal deficit, this time despite being reduced to ten-men, against Tonbridge Angels. A 1-1 draw at crisis club Truro City was followed by a late winner at home to Farnborough which saw Clarke named Blue Square Bet South manager of the month for August. However, their unbeaten start to the season ended on Saturday when they went down 2-1 at Chelmsford City. Fitchett had given them a 7th minute lead but this advantage only lasted nine minutes, Church levelling for the Clarets, before a 62nd minute penalty by Slabber ensured the long trip back from Essex would be empty-handed.
Complete record against Salisbury City/Salisbury
This will be City’s seventh visit to the Raymond McEnhill Stadium since the Whites moved from the council-owned Victoria Park in 1997 and the clubs have the very even record of two wins apiece plus two draws. Their last trip was in March 2006 with only goal difference separating the sides at the top of the Southern League Premier Division table, although the Whites had two games in hand as the season approached its final month. Understandably it was a tense game that saw the home side enjoy the greater possession but fail to turn this into clear-cut chances. Despite knowing that a win would blow the title race wide open City struggled to capture the form that had seen them lose just once in their previous 16 league outings. That it took them until the 89th minute to fashion their best chance – when keeper Sawyer spilled a Scott Rogers shot only for future City defender Bartlett to reach the loose ball first – showed that a goalless draw was the most they deserved, a result which the home side were equally happy with at the final whistle.
City returned to the top of the Blue Square Bet South table this afternoon with a 2-1 win over Billericay Town, thanks to a high class brace of goals from Charlie Griffin. In the first ever meeting between the sides City began well as Kurtis Guthrie had a shot cleared off the line and Griffin forced keeper Brightly into a fine stop. However, the loss of Josh Low on 14 minutes appeared to disrupt their rhythm and the visitors began to enjoy the greater possession without really stretching City’s backline, although it took a great intervention by Sekani Simpson to deny Osbourn a simple far post finish midway through the half. Then on 39 minutes a ball over the top by Adam Connolly put Griffin clear and he lifted the ball over Brightly to send City into the beak in front. Boosted by this City pressed forward during the early stages of the second half but on the hour they gifted the Essex side an equaliser. Glyn Garner came racing from goal but Charles-Smith reached the ball first right on the edge of the box and went down under the goalkeeper’s challenge. The referee judged the clash was inside the box and former City player Poole netted the Blues’ fourth penalty of the season. Memories of the defeat at Dorchester Town would have been fresh in the mind, where a half-time lead quickly disappeared around the hour mark, but ten minutes later Griffin collected a Kerry Morgan pass to curl a stunning 20-yard shot past Brightly and restore City’s advanatge. Guthrie had the ball in the net from Morgan’s cross only for the linesman’s flag to halt the celebrations and Swaine sent a free header over the bar as both sides searched for further goals. Guthrie should had secured the win two minutes from time, after Griffin had charged down Green’s attempted clearance, only to lift his shot the wrong side of the post. Fortunately City weren’t punished for this miss and comfortably held on to set up Tuesday’s clash with joint leaders Salisbury City perfectly.