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We Are Going Up !

City's young cubs came of age as City took the first substantive step towards reclaiming our previous status. From this point on ...the future is yellow.

We go back over the season to chart all those highlights (and lowlights) of a memorable campaign.

After all the turmoil of recent pre-seasons this one was remarkable, if only for what looked a like stability by comparison. Chris Burns had kept most of his squad together and the only really significant departure was that of Luke Prince. Despite only having lost one player it was enough to have most fans fretting wildly about where the goals would come from. Last season's top scorer had been Hosky with a not exactly mighty ten goals. Four of them came against Bilston in one game - and even he was banned for the start of the season. Baylo was still partially crocked and we looked decidedly light weight up front. Spirits weren't particularly lifted by the arrival of 38 year-old Adie Harris from Cinderford. As the season unfolded I think we all got to realise that this is why we don't actually manage the team.
The one really interesting signing had been that of Lyndon Tomkins from Cinderford, but that quickly became less thrilling for all concerned as his season ended with a ricked knee in the opening minutes of our first pre-season fixture at Brockworth. The pre-season programme held little excitement, with only the visit of Yeovil and Bristol City to swell the coffers. Results were erratic and performances equally patchy. With little to judge our progress by the fans guessed the season held anything from relegation to promotion. However on the eve of the campaign came two bits of news to lift the spirits. First came the signing of Neil Mustoe who agreed to play while looking for a return to League football, and secondly came the signing of Jimmy Cox from Weston. Suddenly the questions over where the pace and goals were to come from had been answered and the season couldn't start soon enough.    

As always with City, it is best to protect yourself from anything as dangerous as hope. The season started badly as we crashed 2-1 at home to Atherstone, captain Neil Griffiths' red card marking the start of the chairman's campaign to improve our disciplinary record with suitable aplomb. Things improved markedly as Lee Smith smacked in a brace to beat pre-season favourites Taunton away. His two goals were as many as he'd managed in the whole of the previous season - perhaps we did have a goalscorer in our midst after all. Once again though optimism gave way to despair as City slumped 4-0 to local rivals Cinderford in the most inept performance of the season. Now it looks like a blip, then it looked like the beginnings of disaster. The general mood wasn't helped by having Tommy Callinan rejoicing in our discomfort - what a nice man he is. The month ended with an entertaining 2-2 battle against newly relegated Merthyr, our performance lifted by the return of Matt Bath in goal after he started the season suspended. The defence looked happier with him there and we could well have won until Gary Marshall got himself sent off in entirely predictable circumstances. Four points and two red cards under our belts, things were not looking quite as planned.

If things were looking less rosy than hoped for in August, by mid-September pre-season ambitions were being replaced by anxious examination of the wrong end of the early season tables. Jimmy Cox had returned, but far from being the goal scoring Messiah he simply looked like a very naughty boy indeed as he petulantly got red carded in a tantrum when denied a penalty. Two more league defeats found City in 19th and with just one league win before an unexpected but well deserved FA Cup win over Bashley suddenly lifted the confidence and inspired two much needed league wins to drag us back up the table.
The end of the month brought the opportunity to test our mettle against Newport County in the FA Cup. The home tie was closely contested and showed that the side had improved and settled. Hoskins and Harris played out of their skins while Mustoe was finding some rhythm and he covered every blade of grass on the pitch. However the whole occasion was marred by a bizarre collection of Newport's worst freak show residents whose ugly antics killed the atmosphere before they headed off into the city centre to confront the local constabulary's wholly incompetent response to their arrival. And inevitably we got beaten in the replay just to wrap things up nicely.     

The turn of form in September was confirmed with some really spirited and uplifting results in the next few months. First City scrapped their way through a difficult Trophy tie at Atherstone, in-form before financial woes ruined their season, and City were again inspired by a performance from Mustoe that was again full of both graft and sublime passing. We then faced promotion favourites Solihull at home and overcame all obstacles and expectations, not even the sending off of Jenks in the opening minutes could hold us back as Cox scored all four goals to underline the resurrection. However in true Gloucester City style our star forward then went on to celebrate in style, falling through a shop front window and missing the next month after having the tendons in his arm stitched back up. However even this blow could not derail us in irresistible form, two more victories on the road saw us claw our way back into the top half of the table.    

We were still a long way from realising the Trophy would play a significant part in our season, but the trip to Banbury was none the less a welcome distraction from the league. The match was one that showed our newly developed guts, we matched a strong side and weathered a real storm with some fantastic defending to take the tie back to Meadow Park where we won 2-1. The actions of a handful of travelling 'fans' caused the club real embarrassment though, being ejected for racist behaviour and invading the pitch. Perhaps if we'd handled it better the later problems that dogged our Trophy success would never have happened, but it's easy to be wise after the event. Back in the league we were continuing to make progress, steadily picking up points. An unbeaten league run of 8 matches came unstuck at Redditch, only for us to bounce back to defeat Taunton 4-2. Lee Smith scored again, his first goal since he last scored against the Somerset side in August. Fans were disappointed as Craig 'ambitious' Hampson traded in Meadow Park for the greater glories of Kings Stanley. The team meanwhile just shrugged and carried on getting better.  

The Trophy draw had disappointed with the visit of league leaders Merthyr Tydfil, not only familiar visitors but every prospect of defeat. City were by now a better side than one that would roll over and looked to have the Valleys outfit on the ropes but could not find the killer blow against ten men. Not to worry though, our form on the road was already at least as good as that at home and we gritted our teeth to battle our way to a bruising 1-0 win on their ground. The pre- Christmas games did not inspire a great deal, but where as last season we only played well against the better sides we now seemed to have found a sense of professional pride. Well disciplined performances saw Shepshed and Stourport rolled over and a top six spot in our hands before a return to league leaders Merthyr on Boxing Day. We exchanged an early flurry of goals but this time the Welsh were simply too strong and we lost 3-2, but as a yardstick of how much we needed to do to match the top side the answer was simply, not a lot. 

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One festive fixture had fallen due to the state of the pitch so it was a great credit to all concerned that our New Year's day match against Mangotsfield was on at all. The resulting 4-3 City win was one of the most entertaining games at Meadow Park for a long while, and also underlined that our attack was potent enough to outscore one of the division's best sides. The dodgy pitch postponed our Trophy tie with Lewes, but when it did come City rode their luck to edge out the Sussex outfit 3-2 to set up a visit from Conference side Woking. 
In the middle of the month the inevitable happened and Neil Mustoe headed off for Conference football and City fans braced themselves for a loss of form and confidence. However the young City side showed that this recent success was not about the form of one player and went on to improve yet further. Any wobbles were got out of the system as a patched up side ground out a tough 1-0 win over Gresley, but the real test of their mental strength came at promotion chasers Bromsgrove. Rovers went two up after only 15 minutes, but were overhauled 4-2 with Smith and Webb to the fore in a momentous victory. A few days later and poor old Warwick got hit for six to take City into fifth and our young side suddenly looked rather special. 

The start of the month brought the eagerly awaited visit of Woking in the trophy and the pride felt by the City fans as our young side equaled the Conference outfit in a 0-0 draw was palpable in the applause they earnt at the final whistle. No-one, players included, could have really believed they would win the replay. But all that work and effort over the previous months had given this side a huge amount of self-belief. Tom Webb epitomised the character of the team as he stepped up to fill the creative void left by Mustoe's departure. When he opened the scoring with his first ever City goal the Cards collapsed like a pack of ... and by the time the ageless Adie Harris added a second it was clear this was a very special night for the club. Burns' Babes, as dubbed by all and sundry, had come of age. Potential was starting to turn into achievement.
We won both our league matches of the month to keep in touch with the chasing pack, but while promotion was starting to look like a dream still worth dreaming the attention was now fixed on the Trophy. Our next opponents were Southport, like Woking in the Conference but on a poor run, and after Woking, they were there to be beaten. Southport couldn't live with the pace of Cox or the clever probing of Webb and we took the lead, the Merseysiders a little fortunate to nick an equaliser. That game was marred by more violence from the less than faithful and least welcome elements of City's support. A coach load of City fans shrugged this off to make the long midweek trip to Southport and were rewarded by another virtuoso Gloucester performance. Despite going one behind City scored three and entirely outplayed their higher ranked opposition in earning a second famous scalp and pointing out to the non-league media that Woking had been no flash in the pan. We really were quite good after all!

If City were on cloud nine courtesy of those Trophy wins it was March when everyone came tumbling back to the ground. We opened the month with a crunch encounter against Weston, if City won this our games in hand meant promotion was within reach - defeat would leave an awful lot to be done. Weston played a brutal and unattractive style of football and it was no surprise our players limped off bruised, bullied and defeated, or that the match closed with a bad tempered brawl as City players sought revenge for a match of having lumps kicked out of them. This was a harsh lesson, we may be good but at this level sometimes you need to be able to assert your right to play the ball around. That defeat seemed to burst the bubble and a draw and defeat on the road dismissed any lingering promotion hopes and didn't exactly bode well for the Trophy quarter-final at Aylesbury.
City went into the game with some slightly odd tactical team selections, and the match was all but lost in the opening 20 minutes when the Ducks scored twice and City looked all at sea. Playing Baylo instead of Smith left his old legs stranded in midfield, while Aussie centre back Stephen Chipps has been missed even before Steadman got his marching orders. The vast City travelling support had their day out further spoilt by the return of the self-styled CDB, so dumb they couldn't even manage to find the ground without the help of a police escort to show them the way. At least their presence finally alerted the club and the police to the potential scale of this problem and perhaps the Ch@#tenham loving scum can be encouraged to go and play their games back wherever they came from.
The rest of the month was to put it mildly, inconsistent. Evesham were on the end of a well deserved 6-1 thrashing with Hosky grabbing four as the Trophy disappointment was exorcised. Off the pitch the side was lifted by news Jimmy Cox had turned down an offer from Kidderminster to see out the season with us. Bromsgrove visited and were edged out in a 1-0 win, but these triumphs were mitigated by defeats to Stourport and Solihull. Marshall probably but the final punch into his City career as he was dragged kicking and screaming from the Atherstone pitch after another red card.   

A season that had promised so much seemed to be drifting out of control but we did manage to salvage some pride as the players fought back to finish  the season in a highly credible 5th place. There were some welcome scalps in the final month too. Cinderford were on the end of some sweet revenge as they got a precise 4-0 retaliation in the local derby. City went to Mangotsfield and served up a timely reminder to the rest of the division that the Bristol side were not the only attack to be feared in this division as they were on the end of a 4-1 demolition job. Lee Smith's swerving, dipping goal of the season contender was topped by a Hoskins brace to mark his 100th appearance. Then in the last match of the season against Cirencester our lads sought to illustrate all that this exhilarating and at times frustrating season had been about. We ran up a 5-1 lead including a Cox hatrick before some slapdash defending saw us end the match clinging on to a 5-4 victory.  

This was a season where you really felt the club was on the verge of a genuine upswing. Ultimately it was a season that once again ended without any silverware and next season we will still be in a division below that we all believe is the least we deserve. This though would be a view of undeserved pessimism and gloom. This season our young players showed skill, loyalty and character to take us to the last eight of non-league football's premier knock-out competition, an achievement unparalleled by a club from our level. We built on last season's progress in the league to finish 5th, a great platform for next season. Many players made visible progress from last season - Hoskins hit over twice as many goals, Tom Webb came of age and Lee Smith found a new and more successful role on the right wing. Adie Harris showed Burns to be an astute manager and struck a blow for all those told they may be knocking on a little - showing as much energy and effort in his performances as those half his age and well deserving of his player of the year award.
Off the pitch there was much to celebrate too. The club now looks stable, a new board is set to take the helm and years of financial trouble may finally be coming to an end. The Supporters Club has not gone stale but has instead continued to bring in a steady stream of cash. The club has diversified and moved closer to a genuine community role with closer ties to City Ladies, who won promotion, and a new set of junior boys teams. Gates are slowly increasing to match the steady improvement of our team and there is much to be optimistic about. If we can hold on to our players and maintain the behind the scenes stability next season promises more tangible rewards. In a few years time we may look back and say, really it all started in 2003... 

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The Stats

Lge. Pos.
Pts Total from Title from drop FA Cup FA Trophy Lge. Cup County Cup Ave Att. Top Scorer
4th qual.
2nd rnd.


DML Western 2003/2004 Final Table

P   Pts    GD
1 Redditch United 40  84    +46
2 Gloucester City 40  79  +31
3 Cirencester Town 40  76   +33
4 Halesowen Town 40  73   +24
5 Rugby United 40  71  +17
6 Team Bath 40  69   +21
7 Solihull Borough 40  66   +34
8 Sutton Coldfield Town 40  63  +14
9 Bromsgrove Rovers 40  59   +12
10 Ilkeston Town 40  58   -1
11 Clevedon Town 40  53   -4
12 Gresley Rovers 40  52   -8
13 Mangotsfield United 40  50   0
14 Evesham United 40  50  -1
15 Taunton Town 40  50  -5
16 Yate Town 40  42   -28
17 Swindon Supermarine 40  39   -28
18 Stourport Swifts 40  38   -19
19 Bedworth United 40  36  -22
20 Cinderford Town 40  30   -44
21 Shepshed Dynamo 40  28   -56

End of Season League Movement 

Dr. Marten's League Western Division

Promoted to Conference 2 North: Redditch United (after play-off wins over King's Lynn & Merthyr Tydfil)
Promoted to DML Premier: Gloucester City, Cirencester Town, Halesowen Town, Rugby United, Team Bath, Solihull Borough.
Moved in from DML Eastern:  Brackley Town, Burnham, Corby Town, Rothwell Town
Moved in from Ryman Isthmian One: Ashford Town, Bracknell Town, Egham town, Marlow, Oxford City, Thame United.
Promoted into Division: Paulton Rovers (Western League R-Up)
Moved out to Unibond Northern One: Gresley Rovers, Ilkeston Town, Shepshed Dynamo.

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