Bards in mid table 2 points off the playoffs but are out of the FA Cup
The Bards started off the month well with a 4-0 victory in The FA Cup 1st Qualifying Round at Cleethorpes. We’re told via the club website “it was an epic cup tie against formidable cup opponents, that had everything from an [Adam Rooney] hat-trick, disallowed goals, balls kicked off the line, balls hitting the post and the inevitable squabble.” Sounds well worth the trip! Cleethorpes, a step below Stratford, had started their league fixtures with 4 wins out of 4. The draw in the next round wasn’t favourable with a home game against 2nd in the Nationwide North Banbury Utd and in front of another large crowd at The Arden Garages Stadium, The Bards had plenty of chances to get something from the game but were beaten by a spectacular goal just before half time. Leon Phillips on loan from Alvechurch had a fine debut making some good saves. A day after it was announced Dean Holdsworth had stepped down as joint manager.
In the league The Bards started with 1 win and 1 draw to go 6 games unbeaten to lie just outside the top 5 but lost at Ilkeston to fall back to 10th, still only 2 points outside the playoffs. The Ilkeston game sounds like a bit of a nightmare with injuries during the warmup and 2 during the first half including what sounded like a nasty injury to Jack. All the goals took place in 7 minutes – despite taking the lead through Adam, the re-shuffled Bards quickly conceded 2 at the other end. Despite losing to a team below us, Ilkeston were the favourites for promotion and have picked up since changing managers including a recent impressive 4-1 win at Coalville. September’s league games were delayed with the passing of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth ll. After a minutes silence and singing the national anthem, Dan Vann’s header after 3 minutes at the back post from a corner gave The Bards a flying start in a new dark blue kit v Rushden and Diamonds. A 2nd through Dexter Walter’s tap in in the 2nd half from another Grocott assist sealed the game. Credit to Louis and the defence for a clean sheet after Liam was withdrawn before the game started. The Bards then faced their toughest league test of the season at home to Nuneaton. We rode our luck at times in front of another large crowd but it was an excellent point in another entertaining game with Dan Lafferty getting our equaliser and Nuneaton again missing a penalty against us. Another excellent performance by Leon our loan keeper and Dexter had a fine game causing the Nuneaton defence problems down the wing so much so they were reduced to 10 men.
Players – Will Grocott and Josh Hawker have been ever present in midfield so has Jamie Molyneux (1 as sub). Jack Turner and Ashley (some as sub) and Dexter (some as sub) have only missed 1 game. The injury to Paul McCone in the last game ended the impressive season long partnership with James McNeill at the back. Josh Hawker tops the league scoring charts with 3 followed by Dexter Walters and Adam Rooney with 2.
League Table – 9 games in and the league is fairly tight – Tamworth top and Nuneaton have 20 points followed by last year’s play off finalists Coalville (19) Needham Market (16) and Leiston (15) completing the play off positions. With 13 points, the unbeaten at home and winless away Bards lie in 10th 2 points behind 5th placed Leiston. At the other end Hednesford (2 points) now under Steve Burr have yet to win a game, Rushden and Diamonds (5) and Stourbridge (7) are in the relegation spots with 1 win each – Rushden losing 7-0 in their last home game v Coalville. Ex Bard Daniel Creaney is the first to double figures with 11 goals so far for Tamworth. At Step 2, Banbury Utd winners of the league last year are currently 2nd in the National League North and play off winner Peterborough Sports are in mid-table. After 9 games last year we had 4 wins and 5 defeats after heavy defeats to Peterborough and at Biggleswade.
Players In – 21 year old goalkeeper Leon Phillips on loan from Alvechurch – more on the league website who has been impressive in goal and the versatile Lewis Wilson who came on as sub v Banbury. Lewis first joined the club at the start of the 2018/19 season and returned every year apart from the brief 2020/21 season.
Players Who Departed – Will Dawes to Yeovil Town
Looking ahead to October (fixtures subject to change so always check club website). We are scheduled for 6 matches after the Alvechurch game was postponed due to their involvement in the FA Cup. The Bards hope to return to winning ways at home to Rushall Olympic on Saturday 1st – it has to be said though that results against Rushall have been less than favourable with a record of 1 draw and 5 defeats. The Bards then start their FA Trophy action at home to Royston on 8th October in a repeat of last year’s 3rd Qualifying Round game when we lost 2-1. The away game at Stourbridge is now Saturday 15th. There are then 2 home games – a long trip for Needham Market on Saturday 22nd who have the best defence at time of writing and Hitchin Town Tuesday 25th. The Town then end their month at Barwell on Saturday 29th – the clocks go back that night (hopefully an extra hour of celebrating!)
Off the field, we have raised another £230 from the 50/50 with your help and support at the 3 home games.
DW – any opinions in this article are the author’s