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© Chris Byrne 2010


The pre-season friendlies featured quite a high number of trialists and produced a mixture of results. A strong MK Dons side, new to the ‘friendlies’ list, ran out comfortable winners at Court Place Farm in the opener, but, for the second year running, the City beat Oxford United with an Elliot Sandy goal being decisive in front of an excellent crowd of 1010.
Unfortunately there then followed one of the worst starts to a season that the Club had ever produced. After a loss (at Chesham) and three draws in the first four matches perhaps no one was too worried, but as the weeks went by and still that first win remained elusive concerns increased. Though the defence was doing its job reasonably successfully there was an absolute drought at the other end of the pitch, and after 15 games only a paltry six goals had been scored. Several different combinations of players were tried and the list of players donning the First XI shirt grew rapidly as Mike Ford tried to find a match-winning side, but without success. The net was flung further and further afield, even bringing in for a time Mark Pritchard from South Wales, but, though he did score on his debut, even this quite recent Welsh U23 international couldn’t spark a goal-scoring revival.
Being drawn at home against lower division sides in the FA Cup and Trophy might have been expected to provide morale-boosting victories, but, despite having most of the play, City fell to a single goal against Division 1 S&W Mangotsfield United in the Cup; and they were distinctly second-best as they went down 4-1 to Division 1 Central Daventry Town in the Trophy, for whom ex-City favourite Andy Baird made a brief appearance from the subsititutes’ bench.
With early exits from the national competitions leaving some blank dates a hastily arranged mid-season friendly (an unusual event nowadays) against Banbury-based Easington Sports gave the manager a chance to try some new players. It produced a win, but no permanent answer to the issues being addressed.
Finally, at the end of October, with City by now the only side in the top 7 levels of football yet to record a competitive win, the victory came in the local derby at Banbury United, and was followed three days later by a League Cup win against Thatcham.

2010 programme

Though the next game saw a poor performance lead to the season’s biggest league defeat at Cirencester, there then followed a run a five games unbeaten, coinciding with the return of the talismanic Lee Steele from a spell at Ashton United. Wins were still something of a rarity, but the presence of the hugely popular Steele in the side somehow gave the side and its supporters more belief.
The dreadful weather around the end of the year produced an unwanted and lengthy break in proceedings before a win in another friendly, at Rugby Town, saw a return to normality.
Entry to the Senior Cup came at the quarter-final stage with an apparently straightforward visit to Carterton, who had been having a poor season in the Hellenic Premier, and who would be relegated at the end of the season. The match saw City field one of its most unusual sides for many a season as Gary Murphy and Julian Dark started (25 years after their 1st XI debuts); Paul Kimber made his 1st XI debut at the age of forty-something (quite probably a City record); and Nick Dunn, recently signed from Clevedon, made his first start. Despite a late goal for the home side City did enough to win 2-1 and move through to the semi-finals - before it emerged that Dunn’s signing had been a little too recent for the rules of the competition and Carterton were reinstated.
Windsor & Eton’s demise at the beginning of February helped City more than most other relegation candidates, as the sides had only met once – a 0-0 draw. Local fellow strugglers Didcot were hardest hit as they had already notched a double against the defunct club, and a six-point loss at this point in the season was a serious blow. City marked the slight move up the table by a terrific 5-0 win against Weymouth to encourage their supporters, only to produce a correspondingly dismal performance the following Tuesday night as they crashed 0-3 against a Didcot Town side eager to impress their new manager Adie Williams.
Felipe Barcelos’ eye-catching form for the Nomads brought an extended run in the 1st XI and, after two or three matches that produced some exciting play but no goals, a hat-trick at Stourbridge began to attract scouts and brought an extended trial at Fulham towards the end of the season – and a contract with City.
Ten points in four matches in March had begun to make City look reasonably safe from relegation, and by the final match of the season at Didcot the pressure was now firmly on the hosts who had to win to escape the drop. And in bright sunshine and in front of a good crowd, a hat-trick by Lee Steele, jubilantly celebrated by the player and supporters, put Didcot down and gave City a fourteenth-place finish that had looked anything but likely at Christmas. Certainly it had not been an easy season - 56 players had donned the 1st XI shirt before a successful formula had been found - but, with, among other things, Steele promising one more year and Barcelos' blossoming form, the atmosphere was markedly more positive at the season's close than it had been before Christmas.
Oxford City Nomads had had, amazingly, an even worse start to their season than the 1st XI as Dougie Graham, taking over late in the close season from the departing Mark Jones, was faced with a mass exodus of players from the previous season’s squad.
With youth players making up the bulk of the team, enthusiasm and raw talent were proving no match for the seasoned campaigners in most Hellenic Premier sides and the first seven matches all resulted in defeat, with four goals scored and thirty-nine conceded.
Andy Sinnott and Justin Merritt returned to take over the helm just in time for Nomads’ first ever FA Vase match and, with three or four players also returning, a heroic performance, particularly from Paul Davis in goal, saw Nomads draw at Western League Corsham Town. The replay was lost, but, from this point on, the side was gradually rebuilt with a mix of youth and experience and, though there was not perhaps as much consistency as the management might have liked, there were some good results and the side retained its premiership position for another year.

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