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© Chris Byrne 2010


As part of the gradual process of rationalisation of the Isthmian League in the run-up to the Step 4 reorganisation that was to come later, Division 3 was eliminated and clubs moved to produce two parallel Divisions 1 and a Division 2. City were placed in Division 1 North, which produced a marked increase in mileage with several journeys to Essex.
Paul Lee’s main problem as the new season approached was the lack of strikers. For a variety of reasons he would be missing Jorden Holder, Steve Arkins and Jon Mitchell who had scored over thirty of the side’s goal between then in 2001-02. He hoped that the signing of Billy Cove, who had netted more than thirty-five goals for Leyton Pennant the previous season, might be the answer to partnering Danny Wise as striker, but travelling proved an insurmountable problem for the London-based player and he played just a single game.
League results were only moderate through the first couple of months of the season with only four wins by the end of October, and after several recent FA Cup runs there was an early disappointment as they lost 0-1 at home by to Kent League side Cray Wanderers.
The search for more fire-power continued as Ben Cogger, an Australian, and Mark Simms, from the rather more local Abingdon United, were added to the squad. But financially matters were not easy with the Club and the absence of a cup-run and, more worryingly, the absence of a major sponsor meant that there would need to be a tightening of the purse-strings and chairman Mick Woodley had little option but to cut Paul Lee’s budget, though the majority of the players stayed put.


Though there had been the disappointment of an early FA Cup dismissal, this season saw a good run put together in the FA Trophy. There was a comfortable 2-0 win at Leyton Pennant, and then a nail-biting encounter with Egham Town that saw City come back from a 0-2 half-time deficit to score four in the second half including a rare goal from Julian Dark, and a spectacular goal from the much-travelled and enigmatic Jamie Charles.
The next round brought Isthmian Premier opposition to Court Place Farm in the form of Braintree Town, and City put the mid-week collapse in the League Cup at Wembley behind them to defeat the Essex side through a Danny Wise goal and set up a tie at high profile Conference side Stevenage Borough.
This was only the second occasion on which City had reached the last 64 of the competition and they equalled their more illustrious opponents for much of the game. Steve Benbow in goal, and indeed the whole defence well led by Matty Hayward only recently returned from an injury induced lay-off of almost two years, played outstandingly, and it was unfortunate that City should fall behind to a miskicked own-goal. Stuart Lewis deservedly equalised in the second half, though, and it seemed that a money-spinning replay was likely until Stevenage snatched the winner with just two minutes left.
Howard Forinton returned to the side briefly in December, and promptly scored twice as Tilbury were brushed aside 5-0 for the side’s biggest win of the season. But he only played once more before undergoing surgery on a troublesome ankle and the side went nine league matches without a win.
With many games postponed because of the persistent wet weather, and the Club facing a fixture pile-up, there were concerns about the nearness of the relegation zone, but the side picked up 22 points out of 24 from the matches played in April – and another point from the away game at Tilbury that was left unplayed altogether – and ended up in mid-table.
In the Senior Cup there was a comfortable win at Chipping Norton, followed by a far from comfortable 4-3 win against Henley Town taking the side to the Final where they met the season’s surprise side, Hook Norton. Having taken a two goal lead, City were pegged back by a battling performance from the underdogs, and then won thanks to a ‘Golden Goal’ in extra-time from Lewis Craker.
The Reserves, having been relegated the previous season, turned the tables magnificently and ran out champions of the Suburban League Division 1 (North), scoring plenty of goals along the way – including 7-1 v Hillingdon and 7-0 v Abingdon Town.

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