There was much excitement at the start of the 2015/16 season as it was our first at step 3 in the Southern Premier Division. There were 2 other step 3 leagues, Northern and a London / South-East Division. Champions Merthyr Town had come up with us and there were other ‘big name’ sides that had been at a higher level like Kettering and Kings Lynn with some fantastic away days to Weymouth’s and Dorchester’s impressive stadiums. Local rivals Bedworth (also step 4 play off winners), Redditch and Leamington were also in the division. Hopefully there would be more locals at home games with the potential also for more away fans supporting the ‘bigger sides’. The furthest Town would travel would be to Bideford (170 miles) and Weymouth 165 miles away. A new 100 seated stand costing the club £32,000 plus grants would need to be installed by the end of March as 250 seats were needed at step 3. This was positioned at the end of March between the 2 dugouts with the middle floodlight pylon needing to be removed which gave the ground the good old fashioned ‘4 floodlight pylons look’. There was also work done to improve the drainage with gravel banding – in the past, standing water could be a problem and it was not uncommon for mist to appear above the grass during play.
Carl Adams was still in charge and the majority of the promotion winning team signed up for the next season – the huge presence of goalkeeper Andy Kemp, a fans favourite, attacker Jamie Sheldon, full-backs captain Gary Moran and Aaron Stringfellow, winger Simeon Tulloch, attacking midfielder Aaron Moses-Garvey, Tyrone Fagan, a bustling striker, attacker Rob Thompson-Brown, defender Alex Price, midfielders Joe Halsall and Scott Hadland and goal scoring Richard Gregory would return during the season. A number of signings were also brought in for the higher level, central defenders Emmitt Delfouneso, Marcel Simpson and Liam Francis, attackers Dior Angus and Edwin Ahenkorah. 20-year-old left back Kieren Westwood and midfielder Michael McGrath would join early in the season as would midfielder Jack Roberts and Tony Charles. Striker Mark Mcgee joined later on in the season. Notable departures were defenders Guy Clark, Loyiso Recci (break in football) and centre forward Chris Sterling.
Town were favourites for relegation after winning promotion to the Southern League Premier so the season was all about consolidation. Town using their momentum from last season, made a bright start and had 6 points from their first 2 games. It was a thrilling start at Hitchen Town where Stratford with their raw pace up front going into a 2-goal lead from attackers Richard Gregory and Dior Angus’ header. Hitchin pulled 1 back on half time but Joe Halsall poached the third just before the hour. Hitchin pulled one back after 63 but Stratford held on. There was a blow in the game through with Richard Gregory sustaining an ankle ligament injury that would side-line him for a couple of months. There was also drama when the referee pointed to the spot after a challenge by Andy Kemp, however after discussions with the linesman it was overturned. Aaron Stringfellow was sent off with 3 minutes to go for dangerous play, but Town held on.
The first home game of the season was an evening game against Bedworth and Town ran out 2-0 winners with another impressive all-round performance restricting Bedworth to their only shot on target at the end. In the 2nd half, Dior Angus (52) and Joe Halsall (63) both scored for the second game running.
Town then had a home game against Slough and their winning run was ended with a goal after 90+5 minutes. Town scored after 2 minutes from Rob Thompson-Brown’s volley. Slough came into the game more in the 2nd half and deservedly equalised from a scramble from a corner with virtually the last kick of the game to deny Town joint top spot with Chippenham. Town were finding out the need to take opportunities when presented as the quality of the opposition would punish them if they didn’t at this level.
Town suffered their first defeat on a Tuesday night at Merthyr 3-0. All the goals came in the 2nd half.
The weekend before the Bank Holiday, Town drew 2-2 with St Neots, Rob Thompson-Brown opened the scoring on 54 slightly against the run of play but St Neots equalised 10 minutes later. Joe Halsall put Town back in front after 72 but St Neots equalised straight afterwards. Again, Town created enough chances to gain more points.
On August Bank Holiday Saturday, Town had another draw 1-1 against Chesham – Tyrone Fagan equalising after 53 minutes after Chesham went ahead on 18 and missed a penalty after Andy Kemp’s save.
In the league at the end of August Saturday, Chippenham had 16 points after 6, Cirencester 13 Leamington 12, Merthyr, Weymouth and Poole 11. At the other end. Paulton (3), Frome (3) and Bedworth (1) were winless. Stratford were in mid table with P6 W2 D3 L1 GF9 GA 9 PTS9 – not a bad start.
The last game in August on Bank Holiday Monday saw a dramatic feisty local derby against Redditch on a soft grass pitch after the rain. The game sprung to life on 24 minutes with 3 goals in 6 minutes – Ahenkorah steering the ball home to equalise a minute after The Reds took the lead and then he made it 2 with an emphatic finish into the top corner. Redditch came back strongly after the break and converted a penalty on 63 after a Sam Adkins challenge right on the corner of the penalty area. The winner came from a headed corner and the frustration got to Town with Fagan sent off for alleged retaliation after a tussle and Joe Halsall for a 2nd yellow when he appeared to win the ball. As the referee appeared to lose control and not take the wet and slippery conditions into account continually stopping play for minor issues – 5 other Town players were also booked and Town dropped 5 places on a frustrating day.
Town started September with a first ever game against mid-table Kettering who used to be a top-flight non-league team but had been promoted from step 4 last year after having financial issues. Playing against a certain Will Grocott, Town conceded from a header after 18 minutes. Ahenkorah through equalised from the spot 4 minutes later. Rob Thompson-Brown scored the winner after 62 with another crisp finish.
In the FA Cup, Town were knocked out of the 1st Qualifying Round 2-0 at Coalville.
A trip to Dorchester’s impressive ground saw a 3-1 defeat despite Ahenkorah scoring again after 54 minutes – the first goal they had conceded at home. Dorchester were 2-0 up at the time and sealed the points shortly after. Joe Halsall had departed suddenly the week of the game – a big miss in midfield.
A Tuesday night game against 2nd placed Cirencester would provide a big test for the Town but they claimed the three points. Westwood opening his account just before half time lashing the ball home. Angus made it 2 with a stunning strike 10 minutes after the break. Cirencester pulled one back on 76 but Town held on in another very entertaining game. Town played some great football and created a number of really good chances. Results like that proved the Town could belong at this level.
There was no game the following Saturday as it was FA Cup 2nd Qualifying Round
In the league, at the end of September, Chippenham had 21, Leamington 20, Cirencester, Redditch and Weymouth 19. Yet to win Bedworth had 5, Paulton 5, Frome 6 and Bideford 6. Town were 10th P10 W4 D3 L3 GF16 GA17 Pts 15 and already 9 above the relegation spots.
The first game of October saw us home to Histon, another team yet to visit the new ground. It was a disappointing afternoon as The Town lost their unbeaten home record losing 2-1 despite taking the lead after 31 through Ahenkorah drive into the net. Michael McGrath came on in the 2nd half after signing that week. Histon pulled one back just before half time and scored their winner on 66 after a corner failed to be cleared. It was a lacklustre performance against a side low down in the table. Manager Carl Adams was bemoaning consistency at the end but it was encouraging to hear The Town were aiming for more than just safety.
A third home game in a row followed on a Tuesday night against mid-table Biggleswade (including Paul Merson’s son) and Town secured their biggest win so far 3-0 but in front of the lowest crowd that season 137. Another fast-paced game on a wet pitch with both sides playing some good football, Ahenkorah put us ahead in the first 5 minutes. The conditions affected the Biggleswade keeper as he spilled the ball to Ahenkorah after 29 and he made it 2. Another goalkeeping error saw McGrath made it 3-0 after 25 yards with the ball squirming through the keepers grasp.
Two 1-1’s followed, first at Bideford who had lost their last 5 games. In a forgettable match, Sheldon scored after 60 but Bideford equalised 5 minutes from the end with their only shot on target.
When Chippenham visited the DCS Stadium, they had been knocked off top spot lying in fourth. A draw was another terrific result for Town despite Chippenham scoring in the first minute. Andy Kemp had to come out of the area to head the ball away, but the clearance went straight to an opposition player who hit the ball back past him. Ahenkorah volleyed in after 32 from close range to level. Shots on target were few and far between but it again proved Town could hold their own at their new level.
Next up was a Birmingham Senior Cup game against a Coventry City Under 21 side overseen by Tony Mowbray. A 2-1 win saw Town progress to the next round with goals from Edwin Ahenkorah and Michael McGrath in a pulsating tie at the DCS on a Wednesday evening. Town should have scored more on the night especially after Ahenkorah had slotted in after 2 minutes. Coventry scored their equaliser on 15 after an apparent handball in the penalty area but McGrath drilled in with 7 to go. Town had shots cleared off the line and hit the woodwork and ran out deserved winners
Frome Town were the last team to visit in October in the league and it was a disappointing 1-0 defeat after a converted penalty with 1 minute to go. In a poor game, Town only had 1 shot on target. It left Town with a symmetrical record in the league having won 5, drawn 5 and lost 5 scoring 22, conceding 22, 16th with 20 points.
In the league Poole climbed to the top with 33 points from 15, Leamington 32 from 16, Weymouth 30 from 17, Redditch 29 from 16 and Chippenham 27 from 15. Paulton still without a win had 6, Bedworth 9, Bideford 11, Histon 16.
In the First Qualifying Round of The FA Trophy, Town drew 0-0 at Histon and won 4-1 in the replay with a hat-trick from Sheldon and 1 from Gregory. In the 2nd Qualifying Round they disappointingly lost at Ashton United 2-1 despite a goal from Ahenkorah.
There were also 2 League Cup games in a fortnight which were both settled on penalties after draws. Town beat Kettering at home 5-4 on penalties after drawing 3-3 with goals from Fagan, Francis and Tulloch. They then went to Hitchin in the 2nd round but lost 4-2 on penalties after a 2-2 draw with goals from Richard Gregory.
After a break of 4 weeks in the league, Town had a tremendous 4-2 win at much fancied Slough. Town were 3-1 up by half time despite going 1-0 down after 7 minutes. McGrath (14) Sheldon (38) and Ahenkorah (43) replying for Town. Slough pulled one back on 55 but Gregory sealed the game on 64.
Town advanced to the last eight of the Birmingham Senior Cup, for the first time since 2008 with a quality performance to beat Football League opponents Walsall 2-0 at the DCS on a Wednesday evening. The Saddlers’ side included 6 players who made first team appearances. Town rested some players but still proved too strong for their opponents. Moses-Garvey opened the scoring on 53 from a low free kick. Although the game then was end to end, Kemp was only tested once. Charlie Faulkner wrapped up the game just before injury time, winning a race against the keeper and firing the ball home into the empty net. As manager Carl said ‘The last three games Town have been consistent, played some cracking football, scored some quality goals and some first-class performances.’ and there was more to come.
Two 4-0 wins followed against the bottom 2 sides, at home to Paulton and away to Bedworth. Town were 3-0 up at half-time with a howling gale behind them against Paulton, McGrath scored the first with a header from a free kick. On 17 minutes a wind assisted 25 yarder from Sheldon made it 2 and Angus tapped in a free kick on the half-hour as the game was virtually all played in the Paulton half. Kemp was seldom tested all game even when Paulton had the better of the conditions in the 2nd half and on 67 Moses-Garvey scored the final 4th goal, a 40 yarder after the keeper came out of his area to head clear, but the ball went straight to him and he volleyed it back into the empty net – a goal of the season contender.
At the end of November, Poole Town had 46 from 22, 8 clear of Leamington who had 2 games in hand and Redditch 1 in hand. Chippenham and Hungerford had 37. Town were 15th with their 2 league victories from 2 although had games in hand over sides above them – P17 W7 D5 L5 GF 30 GA 24 PTS 26. Bedworth 10 from 22, Paulton 10, Bideford 15 and Frome 18 all from 19 games made up the bottom 4.
The 4-0 away win at Bedworth on the 1st December saw goals from Moses-Garvey (2) Sheldon (9) Tulloch (29) made it 3-0 at half time. Angus made it 4 on 58.
Town were on course for a 5th win out of 5 until injury time against Weymouth when they conceded a penalty given by the linesman. It was converted to make the final score 1-1. Playing play-off chasing Weymouth for the first time, in another gale, Town took the lead after 80 when Sheldon thumped in a cross. Carl Adams said the wind ruined the game and he was confident Town would see the game out but one mistake and they are level from the penalty spot. “It shows how far we have come as a club when we are disappointed at only drawing with a team of Weymouth’s history and pedigree.”
Town then had an away game at Chesham, who were just outside the relegation zone. Town without a game the previous weekend lost a bit of their sharpness, but they deserved something out of the game ruing missed chances. They lost 2-0 conceding a harsh penalty for handball on 21 and the 2nd on 38 so Town’s 6 game unbeaten run was ended. Rob Thompson-Brown then joined 4th placed Redditch, who Town faced in their next game on Boxing Day.
In a typically feisty local derby played at a frenetic pace throughout, the Town ran out 1-0 winners with a McGrath 25-yard free kick on 15. Aaron Stringfellow was sent off for a ‘professional foul’ with 18 to go but Town held on. Another impressive performance against a Redditch side previously unbeaten in 11. There were 6 more bookings between the sides, less than in the 1st game though.
At the end of December, Town’s record was P21 W9 D6 L6 GF36 GA27 PTS33. They were 14th but had plenty of games in hand over sides above them. Poole were starting to pull away 55 off 27 followed by Chippenham 43 off 26 Hungerford 42 off 25 Weymouth 40 from 24 and Hitchin 40 from 22. At the other end, Paulton had 14, Bideford 16, Bedworth 17 and Frome 20
Town’s next game was a midweek game at Cirencester, who were below them, where they lost 3-0. A goal after 8 saw Town 1-0 down at half time. Cirencester doubled their lead just after half time and put the game to bed on 66. Town then had a game postponed at Kettering.
Back at the DCS, Town had a 2-1 win over St Neots thanks to 2 goals from Richard Gregory. He opened the scoring on 16 but St Neots equalised just before half time. Gregory then converted a penalty with 2 minutes to go to win the game.
Then it was 4 away games in a row starting with a midweek game at playoff chasing Dunstable in front of the lowest crowd all season (101), where Town lost 3-1. Goals on 33, a penalty after 70 and a third after 87 sealed the points. Fagan scored a consolation in injury time.
The last game of the month saw a 2-0 win at Histon with 2 goals in the first 20 minutes – Aaron Stringfellow after 11 and McGrath on target.
In the league, Poole (57 off 29) were knocked off top spot by Chippenham who won 5 on the trot to gain 58 points from 31. Dunstable were in the playoffs with 52 from 30, Weymouth 50 from 30, Redditch 49 from 27. Town were 13th again with games in hand – P25 W11 D6 L8 GF41 GA34 Points 39 and it was looking good that Town would retain their 1st target of step 3 survival. Bideford dropped to the bottom with 17 from 26, Bedworth 22 from 33, Paulton 22 from 28 and Frome 23 from 26.
Town would not win again for 8 games.
Town had a creditable 0-0 draw at play-off chasing Hungerford on the Monday night. On the Saturday, a waterlogged pitch saw the home game with Dorchester postponed.
There then was a topsy turvey game at Biggleswade. Richard Gregory gave Town a 1-0 lead on 11 minutes. Tyrone Fagan then increased Town’s lead just after half time. Biggleswade pulled one back virtually straight away before equalising on the hour. They went ahead after 70, Tyrone Fagan equalised after 86 and looked to have gained Town a point but Biggleswade scored a winner with one minute to go. Town had scored 3 against Biggleswade again but this time lost the game.
Back at home on a Tuesday night as Town had several games to make up, saw a 1-1 draw against playoff chasing Kings Lynn, a side who were making their way back up the leagues after they folded in 2009. Kieran Westwood’s thunderbolt after 84 looked to have given Town the points, however, a goal a minute from the end through Friend levelled the scores.
A disappointing 2-1 defeat at 2nd from bottom Paulton saw new centre-forward Mcgee score on 58. However, 2 goals from the home side on 64 and 76 saw victory for them. That was the first of 4 defeats in a row.
A 3-0 home defeat to Merthyr who scored on 31, 43 and 67 was followed by a tough away trip to Chippenham at the end of the month. All the goals came in the first half, Chippenham scored on 12, Magee equalised on 20 but Chippenham scored the winning goal on 32.
In the table, Poole and Chippenham were both level on points with 64 although Poole had 2 in hand. Redditch 61 (a game in hand over Poole) Hitchin 58 and Kings Lynn 55 were in the playoffs. Stratford were 17th P31 W11 D8 L12 GF47 GA46 Pts41. Bottom of the table Bideford 18 (30 games) Paulton 26 (32) Bedworth 29 but had played 37 games and Frome 30 from 31.
A very tough and congested schedule in March saw 10 games in total with 6 sides from the top 8 in 16 days.
Town went to Leamington in midweek and came away with a 1-0 defeat – Courtney Baker-Richardson getting the winner on 32.
An extremely disappointing 0-0 draw at home to rooted at the bottom Bideford followed, then it was back to the Birmingham Senior Cup after a break, the Quarter Final at home to Rushall with National league North leaders Solihull Moors awaiting the winners.
Always a tough side to beat, Rushall had beaten Town 5-0 in the FA Trophy 2 seasons previously but this time, Town ran out 2-1 winners in an end-to-end entertaining game. Rushall opened the scoring just after the half hour with a header from a free kick, but Kieren Westwood slotted in the equaliser. With the game heading to penalties, deep into stoppage time, Sheldon deflected in a Tulloch cross with the last kick of the match as the keeper fumbled it into the net.
Then it was off to Weymouth’s impressive stadium on a Saturday in mid-March with several fans staying in the Premier Inn on the seafront wondering how we had lost after we deserved a victory with a very good performance. It was a highly entertaining game in front of 560, the biggest attendance at an away game involving Town, with over 30 goal attempts. However only 3 were converted, starting with Gregory’s penalty on 5 after a foul in the box. But after that, Town missed chance after chance and the inevitable happened with close-range goals on 62 and 76 flattering the home side.
Another Tuesday night game against 3rd placed Hitchen ended in a 1-1 draw. Town started brightly and deserved a 16th minute lead, Tyrone Fagan powering a header into the Hitchin net. Hitchin though equalised 11 minutes later from a rebound. Town defended resolutely as Hitchin went all out for the 3 points and thought they had won the game right at the end when the ball crashed off the crossbar after another save from man of the match Kamp, and may have bounced over the line. There was a fracas in the final minute which resulted in McGrath getting a 2nd yellow.
Town then lost 2-0 against play-off chasing Hungerford on the following Saturday. Goals just before half time and on 70 sealed the points.
On the following Tuesday, Town went down 3-1 at Kettering. All the goals came in the 2nd half after 56, 67 and an 82nd minute penalty. McGrath scored the consolation goal with 6 minutes to go.
Then maybe the result of the season. After 12 games without a win, Town went to top of the table Poole on Easter Saturday with fans probably not expecting much from the game. Westwood put Town ahead on 16 and Town led 1-0 at half time. Poole equalised on 68 but Fagan secured the points 3 minutes later – an epic victory.
Easter Monday saw a local derby with play-off contenders Leamington in front of 570 at The DCS, the biggest home crowd of the season, and the return of Joe Halsall and Thompson-Brown. Another 1-0 win for Leamington was secured after a 2nd minute penalty after a foul in the area. Chances were created at both ends, but The Brakes held on thus becoming the only side in the top 8 at the time that Town hadn’t taken points from.
A 2-0 defeat on the Wednesday at Cambridge City wrapped up the month with captain Buster Harradine scoring an absolute stunner.
Town started April failing to score for the 3rd game in a row against Dunstable, their longest goal drought. Playing in front of the new 100-seater stand required for the league, both sides looked tired (Town playing their 4th game in a week) but Kemp kept Stratford in the game and was arguably Town’s best player. The game had an end of season feel about it, but even though Town were 11 points clear of the bottom 4, mathematically they still needed 5 points from their last 5 in the unlikely event the bottom 4 all won the rest of their games
After the first round of games in April, Poole were top (77 from 40), Redditch 2nd (76 from 41). Hitchin 74 and Hungerford 73 (both played 42) and Leamington had 73 from 41. Town were 19th with P41 W12 D11 L18 GF52 GA59 PTS47. Histon were the first team relegated with 36 points from 43 games. Bedworth 35 from 42, Paulton 33 from 40 and Bideford 30 from 40 looked likely to join them.
The Birmingham Senior Cup semi-final ended in disappointment in front of 270 as 2 goals from Darren Byfield after 60 and 69 showing his class saw Solihull reach the final where they would beat Birmingham City 2-1 to lift the trophy. On the same day, Paulton lost their league game, so Town were virtually safe.
A 2-0 defeat at Frome with goals after 55 and an own goal by Simpson on 67 saw Town slip to 20th. Bideford beat the now relegated Bedworth 2-1, to become the only team that could catch Town who were 11 ahead with 4 to play.
Three home games followed in a week starting with a Tuesday night against leaders Poole. A strike on 19 in a game of few chances saw leaders Poole virtually seal promotion with the win after Redditch had 3 points deducted. Despite Kemp coming up for set pieces at the end and 5 players up front, Town failed to score for a 6th game. Despite the defeat, Town’s survival was confirmed after Bideford lost. The game against Cambridge City on the Saturday was postponed due to a waterlogged pitch with the game needing to be rearranged after the scheduled season’s finish – some other clubs found themselves in the same situation after another wet weekend.
Town did manage to score on the Saturday after 10 hours, but it was only a consolation after 88 minutes when Town were 2-0 down to Dorchester who were gifted goals on 21, and 34 after a defensive mix-up between keeper and defender.
The last away game, at Kings Lynn ended in a 2-1 defeat. Another consolation from Gregory on 88 after Kings Lynn scored after 19 and 63.
That left Town with 1 win from their last 20 league games, that coming away against the league leaders!
Well, what a finale. 7 goals in the last game of the season as Stratford ran out 5-2 winners against Cambridge City. A Sheldon thunderbolt into the top corner on 3 minutes opened the scoring with top-scorer Gregory doubling the lead 10 minutes later. It was 2-1 at half time but Town regained their 2-goal advantage through Gregory again converting from a cross on 59. Cambridge pulled one back on 80 – another screamer from captain Buster Harradine saved by Kemp but the rebound was tucked away. 2 goals in 2 minutes from 86 sealed the game – Gregory completing his hat-trick with a header from a cross and Mcgee slotting home.
Town finished 19th (6th bottom) P46 W13 D11 L22 GF59 GA68 PTS 50 – 6 points above the relegation zone in the end which was filled by Bedworth 44 (over 100 goals conceded) Histon 40 Bideford 37 Paulton 36. Poole finished on 93, 9 ahead of Redditch and Hitchin both 84, Hungerford 83 and Leamington 81. Hungerford beat Leamington 2-1 in the play-off final.
By Christmas, Town were comfortable in mid table but a poor run of form into the new year meant a promising start turned into a 19th place finish. Mission accomplished and onto a tough second season in the Division but Town would be more acquainted in the league. Reaching 50 league points was a very respectable return for their debut season in the Premier Division
|CHARLEY K *||0||2||0|