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© Chris Byrne 2010


Though Mark Lawrenson had moved on to pastures new with Sky, there were no major changes to the side for the new season and, under the guidance of Andy Thomas who had taking over as manager from Peter Foley in the close-season, the team got off to a good start with back to back 3-1 victories against Barton Rovers and Egham in Division Two of the Isthmian League (one of the leagues chosen to trial the replacement of the throw-in by the kick-in: a short-lived experiment.) In fact they set a storming pace with seven wins in their first eight league matches, with a loss at Metropolitan Police the only slip from excellence.
City’s inability to win an FA Cup tie since their return to the competition unfortunately continued for yet another season as, despite a great strike from Chris Fontaine, they bowed out 1-3 to a strong Fleet Town side who would go on to become Wessex League champions.
Still, the good run of results, including a hard-fought win over Saffron Walden Town, one of their closest rivals, had taken City to the top of the division, and the Reserves were doing similarly well in the Suburban League: a 7-0 win over Maidenhead United Reserves taking them to top spot.
The good spell continued into mid-October when the nine-match unbeaten run was finally halted at Leatherhead, and at the end of the month City embarked on the FA Vase trail with a 4-1 win over Herne Bay: two goals in the last eight minutes making the result look more comfortable than it actually was.
The following weeks saw considerable cup action with matches in the League Cup; the Carlsberg Trophy (for teams in Divisions 2 & 3) and the FA Vase.

VAse Final

Having defeated big-names Chesham and Bromley already in the League Cup, City ran Premier side St Albans close but went down 1-2 after David Hume was sent off after handling on the line and ex-England star Brian Stein converted the penalty. A sending-off in the Carlsberg Trophy also left them a lot to do in their match at Croydon and the match was lost 1-3. Progress was better in the Vase, however. Round 2 produced a local derby at Milton United, and though a serious injury to the home team’s Mark Humphreys upset the rhythm of the game, City came through 4-1 before edging through the next round, against a strong Sussex League Peacehaven & Telscombe side, thanks to a solitary Paul Sherwood goal.
All this cup action had interrupted the team’s league momentum, and some indifferent results, combined with a surging run of results from local rivals Thame United, saw City drop to fifth position at the end of the year.
Following reinstatement in the Carlsberg Trophy City were drawn at Thame in Round 3, and an ill-tempered match, held up for a considerable time by Rob Mason’s broken leg, was eventually won for Thame with a last-minute goal from the prolific Andy Shildrick.
The Vase saga continued at Croydon where a last-minute header from Martin Brown won the tie setting up a trip to Somerset to play Taunton, the previous season’s runners-up. As manager Andy Thomas said, “we couldn’t have picked up a tougher draw!”
Victory in the league at Bracknell the following week pushed City back into fourth position, but they were rocked by the news that David Hume, Jon Muttock and Paul Spittle would all be suspended for the tie at Taunton. Early injuries to Martin Shepherd and Jimmy Hamilton made the task ahead even more daunting, and so it was a considerable shock – to both sides – when half-time arrived with City holding a three-goal advantage over their Western League opponents. And a fine defensive performance in the second period kept the scoreline at 3-0.
The home defeat in the league by Croydon the following week was disappointing, but all eyes were now on the quarter-final tie against Canvey Island, a side whose rise through the leagues was very similar to City’s at the time. Sky TV and a large contingent from Essex turned up for the tie and, after an untidy first half that saw half a dozen bookings, Howard Kemp headed City into the lead on 52 minutes. Colin Fleet in the home goal was then kept busy as Canvey pressed for a goal, until in injury time the visitors conceded a penalty which Andy Thomas gleefully converted to ensure victory. The manager was less than happy at the decidedly below-par performance three days later when lowly Egham Town snatched a point at Court Place Farm.
There were now three weeks before the first match of the two-legged semi-final against Belper Town of the Northern Counties East and three more valuable league points were won as well as a semi-final place in the Oxfordshire Senior Cup after a 4-1 win at Banbury United.
Team selection for the Vase tie was again hit by the suspension of Sherwood and Fisher, but the game at Belper was finely balanced, with City looking as though they had done enough to go into the second leg all-square, until the last minute when a cross from Galloway evaded everyone and sailed into the back of the net.
Sherwood returned for the second leg and Darren McNamara came into the side, but City hearts sank in the second minute when the visitors doubled their lead. City regrouped and Andy Thomas drove his players hard in search of a goal which Thomas himself netted from a free-kick on the half-hour, and the scores were levelled on the stroke of half-time as McNamara fired into the corner from twenty yards. The second half was a tense affair until, with a quarter of an hour remaining, a penetrating run from Chris Fontaine produced a half-clearance that fell to his brother who saw his first shot parried by the Belper keeper, but who made certain with his second chance from a difficult angle. City players and supporters had to survive a hectic final session of last-ditch defence before the players were engulfed by an old-fashioned pitch invasion.
The fantastic cup-run had left the Club with eleven league matches still to be played in just over five weeks and, despite a home defeat by eventual champions Thame, gradually whittled away the lead that Barton, Bracknell and Witham had built up, though a 3-1 loss at Chalfont St Peter meant that the last two matches needed to be won if third place was to be achieved. A tricky visit to Stag Meadow produced a great team effort, and a hat-trick from Jon Muttock, to defeat Windsor & Eton 6-0, and everything depended on the final match at home to Cheshunt. Man-of-the-Match Liam Herbert scored the first early on though the visitors soon equalised, and it was not until the 75th minute that Herbert put in Chris Fontaine to restore the lead. A flying header from Howard Kemp made it 3-1 with ten minutes left but a swift reply from Cheshunt produced a nervous last few minutes.
Amid all this excitement City lost their Senior Cup semi-final against North Leigh, 2-4, as the West Oxfordshire side made it to the final for the first time in their history, where they lost 0-1 to Witney.
The build-up to the Vase Final on May 13th was considerable and Arlesey Town and City put on an exciting show for their supporters. City produced the better chances but Arlesey went ahead after 26 minutes when Palma broke clear to beat Colin Fleet with a firm shot, and the South Midlands league side defended stubbornly until the 56th minute when Steve Fontaine gratefully fired home an equaliser. City continued to build well but were kept at bay, and with ten minutes left Sandor Gyalog, showing some of the Wembley artistry of his Hungarian ancestors, put Arlesey ahead again. City players and supporters had a great shout for a penalty as Sherwood went over in the box in the final minutes, but the pleas were waved away, and City’s Great Day finally ended in defeat.
Still, the run was reported as netting the club more than £20000 and this would come in more than useful as considerable work was needed on the ground for the requisite ground-grading following yet another promotion.
With all the interest surrounding the 1st XI it should not be forgotten that the Reserves, too, had had an excellent season on their return to the Suburban League and finished as the Western Division’s top scorers with 109 goals, and in third position behind Aldershot and Farnborough.

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