2000/1 Review

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A Scrappy Season...?

It wasn't pretty, it wasn't great - but it wasn't the end: - the 2000/2001 season reviewed

It wasn't easy to lift yourself after the crushing disappointment of relegation and it was difficult to find many fans brimming with excitement at the prospect of trips to Evesham and Blakenall. Sadly for many fans it would all be too much to take, but at least there were hopeful signs in pre-season.
Firstly there were hopeful murmurings from the boardroom; the wage bill was up, the club was stable and Tommy Callinan would stay on as manager. Admittedly most of the fans didn't trust the board any further than they could kick them - but there was enough of that pre-season optimism to give them another chance.
Back on the pitch the news regarding the squad was hopeful. The returns of Cox, Bayliss and Chenoweth suggested we would be at least scoring goals next season. We then added some more experience and talent with the signings of Matt Rawlins and Grantley Dicks, plus a whole host of local players getting run-outs alongside the remainder of last season's youngsters. We also signed ex-Ch@#tenham chancer Darren Wright who never appeared all season, you just hope he didn't get locked in the trophy cupboard during pre-season and hasn't been left unnoticed in there all these months.  
Our pre-season fixtures weren't exactly inspiring, but none the less our form looked good as we smacked in a few goals against local opposition. The sun was on our backs, we'd put Gloucester United in their place with a pre-season drubbing and the side looked good for a comfortable adventure in the DML Western.

The season began with a visit from our old friends Gresley, thankfully without their full compliment of whippet brandishing thugs. We drew 2-2 with both Cox and Rawlins scoring, and then followed that up with a 5-1 demolition of Warwick. This was looking easy, especially when we went to Blakenall and took the lead and looked to be cruising to a second win. We should have sensed where our season was headed from the point we handed the opposition three goals, all defensive or goalkeeping errors from crosses. We needed a Steadman bullet to rescue a 3-3 draw. The alarm bells were beginning to ring. Things weren't a great deal more secure off the pitch either as the board were forced to postpone the AGM and admit they hadn't observed the legal procedures - City, slapdash and amateur but at least now scoring goals!

We briefly had the welcome distraction of the FA Cup too. Having overpowered the might of Odd Down we marched on to face early league leaders Evesham who we beat in a bad tempered encounter. Not only were we through, but we'd found yet another team against which to bear a grudge. After Evesham came Chippenham and a brief reminder of what proper football felt like. A real crowd and two cracking open games that eventually saw us win 5-3 with some class strikes from Cox and Rawlins. Shame that some Chippenham officials tried to spoil things with some crass comments, but we'd answered them where it mattered most. The team had obvious weaknesses and all could see we needed a centre-back and had problems down the left. This was balanced by the pluses though: Kacey Johnstone was a revelation on the right and we had shown we could outscore anyone, and after last season's goal drought that was enough for the time being.

Our attention was almost entirely focused on the FA Cup now, with everyone realising just how much a good Cup run and the extra cash could mean to the club. Sadly we were so distracted we managed to lose 1-0 at home to Warwick, a result made all the more irritating by us having got a point at Hinckley a few days before. We were good enough, but needed to concentrate more. The FA Cup continued to provide our best moments, going to Tivvy and winning the game on merit against a very strong side. The home fans were not amused, not that we gave a stuff. We then went to Havant and drew, a home replay to negotiate and the 1st Round beckoned. 

Anyone thinking City's luck was changing had obviously not been watching us for long. Any fortune we might get is only building us up for an even more crushing disappointment. FA Cup glory seemed a real possibility, but we showed more signs that those defensive lessons hadn't been learnt as we threw away a lead against Havant. At 3-2 down in the final minutes we got a penalty. Steadman grabbed the ball and put the spot-kick high over the bar, we were out and hopes of big money went down the drain. Why a more senior player didn't take responsibility for such a crucial kick no-one seems to know, sadly some went hiding. The rest of the month was all about not looking too disappointed, although that was difficult when we got tanked 4-0 by Mangotsfield at home. November also saw the end for Gannas, the great flapping one finally being forced to concede the keeper's shirt to Ally Hines after two monumental blunders at Evesham. Sometimes being a nice bloke just isn't enough.

Despite the season having gone moderately well we were still missing one thing to make us feel comfortable - a home win (and a centre-back too if we were being greedy.) The vital moment came when Matt Rawlins came off the bench against Rugby to score twice and give us the three points. It was all looking far too promising, so the fates came a long and gave us a good kick in the knackers.
By our next scheduled home fixture Meadow Park was under six feet of the River Severn's foulest smelling flood water. Our perilous financial situation could have done without losing our entire festive fixture income and before the month was out Rawlins had gone and the rest of the players were complaining they'd not been paid. Happy times were back again.

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With Meadow Park still unplayable City were falling apart and there was a rising tide of panic amongst the fans. Rawlins was followed out by Wayne Thorne and to make matters even worse we were even struggling to play our away games. Heavy rain had saturated most pitches in the division, although we won the wettest pitch award by about five and a half feet. City were still desperately trying to clean Meadow Park back up to the satisfaction of the environmental health people, and the whole thing seemed to be symbolic of al the club's problems. We managed to beat Cinderford in a scrappy game in the Forest where both sides looked like they'd never seen the game played before, but having to struggle to beat them didn't really fill us with joy. Fans gave up on the board and began to have 'lets sort this out' meetings. It seemed at last things had got so bad that people were beginning to shrug off the malaise. 

It seemed briefly that the new optimism may have even got through to the players amidst the excitement of playing at home after two months. Shepshed got beaten 4-2 and two of our new signings from lower leagues both scored. Fans collected heaps of cash to help pay some bills and there was light at the end of the horizon. Sadly though this was a little too simplistic, as defeats against Bilston and Evesham reminded us why we were mid-table. Things may have been getting better off the pitch as plans began to emerge, but there was little sign of a plan on the pitch. The defending was still naive and the tactics difficult to make out. There was little to do but grit your teeth and focus on the horizon.

With Meadow Park now back in use and the floodlights working again we faced plenty of games in the last two months. Sadly as the games came thick and fast the fans appeared to have lost interest. The matches weren't much as spectacles and for many supporters it was less painful to read about it in the papers. Fair enough to a point, but not when the club needs the gate money so desperately. The Supporters Club relaunched and there was much to be happy about, although it was difficult to remember that watching us lose to Blakenall in front of 112 cold miserable fellow sufferers. It's difficult to remember why we do it at times like that, especially when it's next to impossible to explain to a non-believer why those eleven yellow shirts represent all that is great and good in the world.
A month that had started well enough with wins against Atherstone and Paget then saw us begin our run of eight consecutive league defeats. There's not a lot to be said about that sort of form, especially when you then lose even more players when they decide even thirty miles travelling no longer pays. Despite the best efforts of Tracy Newport to stir up the fans it's difficult to feel that angry at the players for going. Loyalty would be nice, but I'm not sure you can expect it at this level, especially from players who perhaps felt the club owed them a little loyalty too. Not everything was bad even amidst all these defeats, we did manage hatricks from Marshall, Cox and Bayliss. And at least we were reminded just how bad things could be at Rocester when for a few awful minutes we thought the team weren't going to make it at all and the fans might end up forming a scratch side. Our players mightn't be the best but at least they can run about a bit, I'm not sure I can even do that.  

The first part of April doesn't merit mention as our dismal run of losses continued. However when the deluge of defeats ended the sun really came out as City got their first league clean sheet since January 2000, over a year without managing a meager ninety minutes without slipping up. Once we picked up three points against Weston in the 2-0 win on Easter Monday we found a new sense of belief in our own defensive ability. We managed to shut out three other teams before the season ended. Perhaps not much of a boast in this division but given our previous generosity this was real progress. We had players chasing back, bodies in the box, shape at set-pieces - it was bliss. It did go slightly wrong in the last few games but at least the players had shown they could do it if they concentrated. We also had the bonus of stuffing Ciren 5-0. It mightn't have the feel of a passionate derby game but they all count and right now we have to take what we can.  

This wasn't a season that'll be remembered by many with huge affection. Apart from the cup run there were few moments of real excitement. We scored plenty of goals, but any pleasure normally taken from that was diluted by knowing we would probably concede even more. We rarely played attractive football and we lost even more support as the club appeared to drift aimlessly along into the backwaters.
So easy for it all to be doom and gloom, but there are things to cheer us up. We've still got plenty of good young players who could develop further. Matt Parnell looks a real find, Steve Jenkins continues to improve and in Lee Smith and Gavin Rae it seems more talent could be coming through. In Cox and Bayliss we have a striking partnership comfortably capable of forty goals a season. Not all tears at training then, but perhaps the most optimism should be saved for developments away from the playing squad. The rebirth of a new more united Supporters Club is long overdue, as is the belief that the fans can sort the club out if the directors won't. That, more than anything, will make next season worth watching. 

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The Stats

Lge. Pos. P--W--D--L--F--A Pts Total from Title from drop FA Cup FA Trophy Lge. Cup County Cup Ave Att. Top Scorer
13th 42-12-11-19-76-86 47 -51 +16 4th q 1st 2nd 1st 268.72 Cox (22)


DML Western 2000/2001 Final Table

P   Pts    GD
1 Hinckley United........ 42  98   +64
2 Tiverton Town............ 42  91   +61
3 Bilston Town.............. 42  90   +40
4 Evesham United.......... 42  86   +40
5 Mangotsfield United..... 42  84   +46
6 Solihull Borough........... 42  78   +30
7 Redditch United........... 42  64   +7
8 Weston-s-Mare Town... 42  61    +10
9 Atherstone United........ 42  59   +6
10 Rocester.................... 42  59   -20
11 Cirencester Town......... 42  57   -9
12 Rugby United............... 42  49   -17
13 Gloucester City.......... 42  47    -10
14 Blakenall .................... 42  46*  -10
15 Shepshed Dynamo........ 42  45    -17
16 Bedworth United.......... 42  45    -22
17 Racing Club Warwick.... 42  45    -31
18 Gresley Rovers............ 42  41    -19
19 Cinderford Town.......... 42  41    -28
20 Sutton Coldfield.......... 42  35    -19
21 Paget Rangers............ 42  31    -55
22 Bromsgrove Rovers...... 42  30    -45

*Blakenall deducted 3pts

End of Season League Movement

Dr. Marten's League Western Division

Promoted to DML Premier as Champions:  Hinckley United
Also promoted to DML Premier:  Tiverton Town
Relegated from DML Premier:  Halesowen, Clevedon Town
Promoted into Division: Chippenham Town (r-up Western League), Swindon Supermarine (Hellenic Champions), Stourport Swifts (Midland Alliance Champions).
Relegated from DML:  Paget Rangers, Bromsgrove Rovers (into Midland All.)
Moved to DML Eastern: Rugby United

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Previous Seasons
Terrace Trash
2000-1 Results & Match Reports