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© Chris Byrne 2010


At the Annual Meeting it was made abundantly clear by Chairman Ray Barlow to the 49 members of the Supporters Club that attended that if there were another three years like the previous one then the club would not exist in its current form: this season was not really about success ... it was about survival.
Despite relegation there had been no major exodus of players and, indeed, Andy Sinnott had returned after two seasons at Witney. Mark Boyland was snapped up from local football and would become, later in the season, City’s third contracted player alongside Phil Buck and Martin Gilligan.
The pre-season friendlies, including an encouraging draw at Southern League Cheltenham, gave the side a good run-in to the season and everyone was looking to a good beginning in the new division, but there were two loses in the first four matches and Maurice Kyle tendered his resignation on September 17th – and took over the helm at Witney a week later. Geoff Denial was appointed caretaker-manager the same day. The next day saw City start on the Road to Wembley at Didcot Town, in the Hellenic Division 1 at that time, only to be put out of the competition by a Micky Samway goal in what was seen locally as something of a shock. They fared no better the following week when the FA Trophy took them to Alvechurch for the first time since the record-breaking cup-tie five years earlier: they lost 2-1 with John Woodley the only survivor from the earlier encounter.
The Reserves had not started the new season in the same vein as the previous campaign, only scoring four goals in their first five matches, although they did then get back on course with two successive 4-0 wins against Woodstock Town and Worcester College Old Boys, and a 3-2 victory at previously unbeaten Banbury United Reserves.
The First XI’s league results also took a turn for the better and they made certain of their first ‘goals bonus’ for eighteen months in early October with a 9-0 rout of Harlow Town. But the month also saw them fall at the first stage in the Isthmian League Cup, beaten 5-0 at home by a strong Slough Town side.


To the surprise of many, City had again entered the Rothman’s Interleague Cup, with the possibility of some long-distance travelling: Hayes were the only other Isthmian club to enter the competition. They were drawn away to Clanfield, a very short trip compared with the unlucky draws for the other local sides Didcot, Thame and Abingdon United who travelled to Whitby, Weston-super-Mare and Willington respectively. A close-fought match saw City dismissed from the competition 3-2 by their Hellenic League neighbours in extra time.
November brought a mixed bag of results including a 3-0 defeat at Horsham that also saw four City players booked leaving them with just one remaining ‘sportsmanship point’ and five months still to play!
The club had a small windfall in December when they received £250 from Luton Town after Glyn Brown signed professional forms for the league side.
Weather was poor over Christmas, but 1977 started well with two goal-scoring bonuses in successive matches as Clapton were beaten 4-1 on New Year’s Day, and then Harlow were defeated 4-0 on their own ground the following week. The generally settled team was finding its feet at the new level and results were improving steadily, particularly at home. They claimed a double over division runners-up Carshalton – including a money-earning 3-0 win in Surrey; defeated champions Boreham Wood at the White House; and eventually claimed twenty victories, eighth position and five ‘goal bonuses’ which was a distinct improvement on previous seasons.
January brought bad news for the league when Rothmans announced this was to be the final year that they would be sponsoring the four leagues they had supported since 1973. Their interest was as great as ever but the arrival of EPT (End Product Tax) meant that continuing the sponsorship would mean that they would have to markedly increase the cost of their cigarettes. It would be interesting to see how many of the innovations that had arrived with the advent of sponsorship would continue after the departure of Rothmans, but it was clear that sponsorship in one form or another was here to stay.
City entered the Aylesbury Floodlit Invitation Cup but lost 3-2 on aggregate against Banbury United. Another mid-week competition in which participation had been a possibility was to be sponsored by Cossack (the deodorant manufacturers; not the distillers!) but the FA wouldn’t sanction the competition. The Oxfordshire Professional Cup Final was reached, although, as only Witney, Banbury and City participated and City were given a bye through to the final, this was not a major achievement! Witney won 1-0.
The Reserves continued to enjoy a successful season, finishing fifth in the Senior League, and fighting their way through to the Senior Cup Final. They beat previously unbeaten Headington Amateurs (3-1); Sinclair United (4-1); Pressed Steel (3-2 after a 0-0 draw) and then Woodcote (1-0) to set up a final tie against rapidly-improving Chipping Norton Town at Clanfield where the Hellenic side proved too strong on the day and won their first ever Senior Cup 3-1.
Differences of opinion rumbled on between the Football Club and the Supporters Club. The notice to quit to the Supporters Club had been withdrawn on the condition that the two clubs merged within twelve months, and Ray Barlow gave notice that he would stand down as Chairman at the AGM. By the end of the season, however, the S.C. had decided that they could not foresee amalgamation before 1980 at the earliest ... and Ray Barlow withdrew his resignation offer.
Martin Gilligan and Phil Buck were released from their contracts at the end of the season. This left Mark Boyland as the only contracted player, and so the Club were left in the position of having to sign at least one more in order to maintain their ‘professional status’.

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