2001/2 Review

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The beginning of the start...?

When your target is survival anything more is a victory parade: - the 2001/2002 season reviewed

There couldn't be a better reflection of the chaos the club was in than the confused looks of the City faithful who turned up at Ellwood for the first pre-season match in July. Notes were compared and after much scratching of heads most fans had identified at least four players. But who the hell were the rest of these people? Will Steadman was called over as one of the few people anyone knew the name of. Poor Will was able to add the odd name but knew precious little more about his new team mates as the rest of us. Burnsie impressed everyone with a bit of a professional warm-up, but as the match started even the most optimistic were wondering if next summer we'd be making regular trips to grounds very similar to this as we followed City through the Hellenic. Some good pre-season moves may have given some hope, but with little comparable opposition from an uninspiring fixture list there was an air of trepidation as the season loomed.   

First up was a visit from Redditch, and bets were being taken on the scale of City's defeat. However it turned out to be one of those days where you start to believe in what a bit of heart and effort can achieve as every player scrapped and fought their way to a famous 2-1 victory. Our relief was enormous and the celebrations would have shamed a cup win. Defeat at Gresley suggested life would not be straightforward, but then another impressive performance in a 1-1 draw against newly relegated Clevedon suggested we could expect more than crumbs from the campaign. As well as effort, we even came close to playing what looked a little like football. The battle was just beginning though... 

The month opened with the beginning of City's FA Cup run - and what a great game it was! A draw at Cirencester looked winnable, and now more than ever we desperately needed cash from a cup run. It wasn't to be though and it was a defeat that seemed to break the fragile confidence of some of the young City squad. 
A few days later and there was further embarrassment as the City faithful watched our lads taken apart by Shepshed and ended up with a painful 5-1 defeat. Steve Jenkins fought a valiant one man battle but it couldn't disguise that our players had learnt a painful lesson. We had a chance to gain some quick comfort with an early return to Cirencester, a match played in the strangest of atmospheres as most were transfixed and numbed by the TV news coverage in the bar of New York's twin towers crumbling to the ground. The ref managed to put all this out of his mind as he turned an entertaining game into a running brawl, his pettiness extending to a complaint that cost City yet more money at the FA. 
In the strange way that football goes City then went to Weston and out of nowhere produced a 1-0 win, mainly thanks to a last minute long distance spectacular from Andy Hoskins. That was but brief respite though as worse was yet to come as Bedworth arrived at Meadow Park. Our players were forced to stand and stare as the Greenbacks produced a stunning display of passing football to see us end the match with a humiliating 7-1 defeat. Matters weren't helped as Burns' lost his rag and got red carded. Things weren't really cheered up much by a home draw against fellow strugglers Rocester. This was back to the walls time and we knew we were in a relegation fight with a load of players who despite their efforts didn't look good enough.   

If September was bad October didn't look like it held anything better as further defeats to Weston and Evesham saw us fail to score and drop to 20th, one place and one point off the relegation trap door to the Hellenic and despair. However behind the scenes the manager was working to turn things around and two new players emerged to lift the spirits, defender Darren McCluskey and attacker Luke Prince. At an early season relegation battle against Swindon Supermarine McCluskey opened the scoring against the club he'd just left and Gary Marshall showed every ounce of grit to grab a crucial winner. Before the month was out City had grabbed another critical win against Warwick and had salvaged some pride with a 2-0 revenge win at Shepshed. Confidence was picking up and while 16th was not the things of which dreams are made it looked a whole lot better than bottom.

These had been points achieved against lower quality opposition and City were quickly brought crashing down to the ground with a 4-1 Trophy exit at Cambridge City and another 5-1 mauling at Bilston. City's keeper crisis was getting worse too as the recall of Matt Taylor by Newport County saw Adam Bennett signed from ICI Fibres. Fans were still dubious when fifth keeper of the season Matt bath arrived from Whitminster, but straight away you could tell he had an extra bit of quality and that was one less position to worry about. Despite this further defeats to Evesham and Mangotsfield were enough to have us looking over our shoulders again. This was a City side that was beginning to show real battling qualities though and a lot of hard graft got us a well earnt win at high-flying Sutton Coldfield. The real lift came with the news with the return of a City legend - Baylo was back, tempted from Clevedon to help his old club. A fulfilling 4-2 derby win over Cinderford seemed to herald a new optimism about the club and suddenly it was hard to imagine us not surviving the season. Oddly enough this turnaround also coincided with the news that chairman Tracey Newport was to stand down and be replaced by former director Colin Gardner. Tracey had not exactly endeared himself to fans and his recent legal difficulties had embarrassed the club. Colin has a proven record in fundraising and getting things done - this may be City's biggest win of the season, maybe longer.

As was fast becoming traditional after last year's flood we lost most of December to heavy pitches. But when we did get back on the pitch we enjoyed a good Christmas with wins either side of the festive day against Gresley and Clevedon. As seems to happen routinely in football Karl Bayliss went back to the club he'd just left and scored a brace to help us to a 3-1 win. The other goal came from Luke Prince who was starting to look like a very good player indeed, having the crucial unexpected x-factor that can turn a game in a moment. Even a drab and bone chilling 0-0 match at Warwick lifted City into the top half of the table and could not take away the feeling that 2002 would not be as bad as 2001 for Gloucester City.

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The new year started Ok-ish, we were now a classic mid-table side that was tricky to beat but not always having the quality to get hold of the game for any period of time as draws against Sutton Coldfield and Redditch suggested. A win against Supermarine was the only victory of the month but it was the two games against promotion chasing Halesowen and Chippenham that showed how far the side had moved on from September. Halesowen won 2-0, but only after a lot of hard work and Neil Griffiths giving an accomplished defensive performance. Chippenham were held 1-1 and Dave Wilkinson suddenly did look like a midfield general as he threw himself around and Steadman blocked everything that came his way. 

The unkind fixture computer and even more miserable weather insured we only played two games in February. There were reasons to keep cheerful though as we held a talented Solihull side 1-1 with Luke Prince dominating the game. Better was to come as we took advantage of a Bilston side in turmoil to dish out a 5-1 victory that matched what they had done to us at Queen Street. Star of the show was Andy Hoskins who got all his rewards for a season of hard work in one game as he hit four, including two real belters. Who said he couldn't score at this level?

If that match suggested our old problems resurfaced as we went to Bedworth, hungry to avenge that 7-1 drubbing. Things looked good as McCluskey scored, but they then went on to put a few players back in their places as they cruised to a 4-1 victory. So we'd improved by three goals then?
Things were evened up as we beat Stourport 2-0, with a goal from Lee Smith - his first since September, and some relief for a sometimes unfairly harangued teenage striker. However City then went into a spell of poor performances, perhaps suffering mid-season blues with little to play for. Players largely felt their reputations had been restored and relegation warded off, but promotion well beyond reach. Further problems were caused by constant speculation about Luke Prince whose magical form disappeared despite his loyalty in rejecting a string of tempting offers from elsewhere. The month tailed off with three consecutive defeats, including a 4-0 footballing masterclass from Solihull.  

April saw us continue our poor run but results hid a great improvement in form. Only a Lee Smith super fluff from close range saw us lose at Chippenham as the imperious Matt Bath saved a spot kick. At Halesowen we took a sadistic spoilers delight in holding out 0-0 with ten men behind the ball to stop the Yeltz clinching promotion against us, all be it delaying the inevitable by a week. However we had to wait until the last two matches of the season to get any more wins, thumping Atherstone 4-1 to sign off at Meadow park with a pleasing victory. A final day victory at Rocester saw us break the 50 points barrier and finish in 14th place.  

There were disappointments in the season, especially our failure to progress a round in any cup competition. However this was not a season that was ever going to bring any conventional glory. This was a campaign about guts and graft, one where our players came of age and earnt the right to play at a level some of them didn't think they were capable of. Our new manager Chris Burns had done a phenomenal job in building a team from the handful of players he inherited. Things looked better for next season as the changes off the pitch suggested much of the previous turmoil could be forgotten. we even have a chairman who is trying so hard to make money we have the prospect of Meadow Park as a concert arena this summer. Despite the season not looking as successful as the previous one on paper, it is a neglected fact that our gates have edged up. This has to be down to the new found spirit at the club. Considering the very real possibility of extinction and/or relegation that greeted supporters in July the spirit born in the club is now really exciting and for the first time in a long time - I'm looking forward to next August ! 

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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
14th 40-14-10-16-48-63 52 -38 +25 1st q 1st 1st 1st 278.40 Hoskins (10)


DML Western 2001/2002 Final Table

P   Pts    GD
1 Halesowen Town...... 40  90   +61
2 Chippenham Town........ 40  87   +53
3 Weston-s-Mare Town... 40  76   +32
4 Solihull Borough........... 40  71   +32
5 Gresley Rovers............ 40  66   +9
6 Sutton Coldfield........... 40  62   +7
7 Mangotsfield United...... 40  61   +20
8 Stourport Swifts.......... 40  60    0
9 Atherstone United........ 40  56   +2
10 Clevedon Town........... 40  56   -1
11 Bedworth United.......... 40  55   -4
12 Evesham United........... 40  55   -16
13 Cirencester Town........ 40  54   -5
14 Gloucester City......... 40  52   -15
15 Cinderford Town.......... 40  51   -14
16 Shepshed Dynamo....... 40  40    -19
17 Bilston Town............... 40  40    -22
18 Redditch United........... 40  39    -30
19 Swindon Supermarine... 40  37    -24
20 Racing Club Warwick.... 40  35    -25
21 Rocester.................... 40  27    -42

*Bloxwich United resigned from the DML in December '01 and all their results were removed.

End of Season League Movement

Dr. Marten's League Western Division

Promoted to DML Premier as Champions:  Halesowen Town
Also promoted to DML Premier:  Chippenham Town
Relegated from DML Premier:  Merthyr Tydfil, Salisbury City
Promoted into Division: Taunton Town (Western League r-up), Bromsgrove Rovers (Midland Alliance r-up).
Resigned from DML:  Bilston Town, Bloxwich United (into Midland All.)
All DML Movement is subject to confirmation at the League AGM.

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2000-1 Results & Match Reports