Cinderford Town 0-0 Winchester City
Well what a great effort that was!! I said to the lads that we leave every ounce of effort and have zero regrets walking off that pitch and that is what they do, the mutual admiration for the players from the fans and for the fans by the players said it all (videos of that on Twitter....) we had absolutely brilliant support there today as always and I am just so sad that we didn’t quite get that goal we deserved and needed! Absolutely zero regrets from any of the boys, immensely proud of them all, 6th or 16th..... I will take 6th, 70 points, record equalling FA cup run rather than 16th that’s for sure thanks, for now we are all gutted but no doubt these boys have been brilliant!!
So we went into the game playing the same team as Monday, unfortunately IK pulled up in the warm up and so his option was not there for us on the bench (despite being named). We had a very clear plan on what we would do, how we would approach it and what changes we would make and when.... I can hand on heart say it went absolutely to plan, we timed the changes just right and went at them like a steam train late on but couldn’t get that goal which was the only part of the master plan that just fell short.
1st half was a fairly tight affair, we hit the post from Rawks but that was the only really close effort for either side.
2nd half we left it as we had for 10/15 minutes before bringing Ty on up front and going to a diamond in midfield, this is the way they play and so we matched it up and got an extra forward on, we were causing them problems but no goal... then we knew that with 10 minutes to go we would push Josh Harfield up and only leave 3 at the back, this caused more havoc and we had lots of pressure on them with them just hacking it away, then the big chance with Simba hitting a snapshot from close range that hit the inside of the post and went out. Also what looked a pen as well that was waived away after Oli was fouled and somehow booked for diving!! Then a flurry of about 5/6 corners in the dying minutes, they clung on and we had to take the disappointment of missing out by a whisker!
Many congratulations to Cinderford, the only side who have been on a similar run to us, I wish them well for the play offs, a very decent side who have been 15 unbeaten, we absolutely gave them a tough game and they admitted we were the better side.
I must say one thing, the character and gracious way my lads took today shows them as the real people that I know they are, no drama or distasteful behaviour in spite of their disappointment! I honestly am very proud of the way we took that, an amazing group of lads who I am very lucky to have playing for me as they do!
Similarly the fans, they also took the disappointment with absolute class, they deserved more than we could give them in the end, top class and so hugely appreciated by me and all of us!
I will maybe post a bit of an end of season notes in the coming days/week or so, for now though as always I wouldn’t hide after a game and wanted to post my thoughts.
Sorry we couldn’t quite get it done today, I know you know we gave it a right good go though!
See you all soon hopefully!
Up the citizens!
Melksham Town 1-4 WCFC
3 injuries during the game, 2 of the subs came on and went off injured through impact injuries, they lasted a combined 10/15 minutes I think! So to do what we did is impressive and all we could do on the day really!
So we were without Flooksy from last weeks head issue he had to come off with, Graham Williams injured, Rawks injured, Hayward was carrying an injury and Baz also carrying an injury but both tried to battle through, we also had Brett Cunningham unavailable. So we added Mark Fawley who has been on loan to Romsey and Jack Francis, certainly very thin on the ground defensively!!
We started very well and passed the ball around from kick off for about a minute culminating in a cross from Simba and their first touch was to put the ball in own net. Not long after it was 2-0 with Oli scoring from Baz corner, then 3-0 Simba with a neat finish. Could have been several more, only for them out of the blue to score from a set piece 3-1 and that was the score at the break. Not before Hayward had to succumb to his injury, to be replaced by Mark Fawley who in a block tackle got injured and also had to go off and replaced by IK, who came off injured 10/15 minutes into 2nd half.
Half time we had a re-jig and put Simba to right back (little known fact, the top man that is Sim has played every single position on the pitch for me at some point in the 6 years he has played for me, CF, right and left wing, CM, Left back, CB, right back today - and yes even Goalkeeper once!! Love it Sim!!) - he did a decent job there, we withstood a few set pieces from them and then took control again and scored from Oli with a class lob, 4-1! From there on we kept the ball pretty much the whole time and coasted through, could have got a few more but very comfortable and got the result and preserved what fit players we have left!
So that’s a big result and keeps our hopes alive at least until Monday! We will see what happens tomorrow now. I am very proud of the whole group today, they have battled through all sorts this season and today was no different, they got the result and chuffed for them all.
Now we will do our best to recover whatever players we can and try and put a side together for Monday against the potential league champions, it will be another huge test, let’s give it a good go though and see what happens.
Well done all of the support today who were outstanding as usual! We are in it together and we will do all we can!
Up the citizens!
Winchester City 1-3 Bristol Manor farm
A frustrating day for us today and a loss that is damaging to us for our dream of a play off spot, however it isn’t the end of the road yet that’s for sure!
We knew today was going to be hard, Bristol Manor Farm are playing well under their potential, they have beaten us twice and are the most difficult opponents we have had this year across the 2 games. We started the game and it was quite attritional for most of the half, their threat coming from crosses and headers from the excellent Owen Howe, we then managed to get ahead, Oli Bailey hooking the loose ball home over his shoulder, very good finish. What followed was their goalkeeper volleying the ball very hard at Flooksy which hit him in the head and resulted in him ill at half time and had to come off, to only get a yellow card was astonishing, also bearing in mind what happened to Warren Bentley recently its very dangerous, we hope Flooksy is ok. Not long after that an extreme over the top tackle from their left back was only rewarded with a yellow and so we will feel very hard done by, especially as they equalised before the break with a free kick that deflected in albeit a decent strike it was the deflection that took it in.
2nd half we improved and got down the sides better which was what we talked about at half time... Flooksy has to come off and so we had to reshuffle, not ideal with Graham Williams also out injured. Not long after they scored against the run of play, we took the game to them and had several efforts that didn’t get that equaliser. Then a dubious free kick in the extreme was given and once again a wicked deflection gave them the killer goal 3-1! We had a number of efforts to get a goal back but it never came.
So we have lost, we didn’t ever play at our sparkling best and that’s what cost us, no doubting though that we were very unfortunate with the deflected goals and the decisions that went against us... we take them on the chin though, certainly won’t be bitter and kicking in dressing room doors... you win some you lose some when it comes to decisions, it doesn’t make it any easier to take, however you have to win and lose with dignity, we will lick our wounds and have a go at rectifying it next week!
We will now prepare for a big game away to Melksham now next week, they had a good win today and so we know that won’t be easy but we look forward to it!
We will keep pushing, these boys are giving their all!
Up the citizens!
Winchester City 2-1 AFC Totton
Absolutely brilliant win for us, delighted for all the lads to bounce back after saturdays disappointing result in such a manner, very proud of each and everyone of the lads!!
We had a lot of issues ahead of the game, Liam Gilbert coaching course overrun and so he was unable to be there, plus Rob Carr had work issues that kept him away until the end of the 1st half, plus 3 or 4 very late due to the traffic issues around Winchester, so our preparation wasn’t quite what we would have liked.
Game started with us scoring quite early through Flooksy from a Baz corner, we controlled the first half and created a lot of openings, sadly we didn’t make the most of them with a final touch or pass letting us down, they created a couple of opportunities one of which Prycey saved well, the other a deflected shot that Bennett tucked away before the break.
2nd half they improved I thought and started to cause a few more issues, although strangely their best chances really were in the first half. They did have a bit more of the game though compared to the first half where we dictated the vast majority. They then got a red card with a stray arm that was adjudged as violent conduct, they are unhappy with that, so much so that the player has kicked the referees dressing room door in, not good...! They were actually very lucky in the last minute when Bennett lashed out, it simply had to be a red card but somehow only a yellow, so they benefitted from not having him banned.
That red card left them understandably protecting the point, so we had a lot of the play, we stayed patient but didn’t create as much as I would like, we got a pen though when Oli got slipped in and he chopped back and was taken out for a pen... pressure on Baz and his pen was saved but coolest man on the pitch Baz tucked it home for the winning goal. We then had to navigate the last 10/15 minutes, a few chances came and went for us, however they didn’t really threaten at all and we got a very good win.
Totton were rightly talked about as one of the favourites at the start of the season, they are a good side and have a formidable front 3, so to keep them quiet and to pick up 4 points against them is brilliant, especially when my record against them last season was decidedly poor, they are always a tough nut to crack but we cracked it today one way or another and I am chuffed with that.
I have heard a lot of things about how sides have had a man sent off a lot against us, that we are ‘clever’ - I am sorry but I refute that, there are a lot more streetwise sides than us, them sort of sides are the ones we struggle against. We won the fair play league last season and are 2nd again this season, that’s no coincidence I am proud of my players and my staff’s conduct, they are a pleasure to work with and give everything for the club and for me! If anyone thinks we are ‘clever’ then great, take it from me though, some of these lads are not very clever at all!
Brilliant win for us that keeps our dreams alive for another week at least, we have so much more work to do but we will keep pushing, starting with Bristol Manor Farm who believe me are a very good side, we need to be at our very best for that one!
One final thing... today marked us achieving more points than last season already. Season I joined for last few games we ended with 53 points, last season we achieved 61 points, we now have 63 points with 4 games left and we have 4 less games this season due to a reduction in the league size. I am proud of that, all you want is to see progression in your players and team, so in spite of a considerably reduced budget from the side we took over we have evolved really well and they are a special group to work with.
Great win and delighted for us all, let’s push again on Saturday, keep shouting the boys on!!
Up the citizens!
Cinderford 0 Winchester 0
Winchester's hopes of the playoffs were ended when they drew 0-0 with Cinderford which was the fifth time in six matches that a game between Winchester and Cinderford has finished all square. It was also Winchester's first goalless draw in the league this season and you have in fact got to go back to the 2016/17 season when Winchester's home games with Bideford and Larkhall finished goalless for a 0-0 draw involving the Citizens in league combat. Cinderford as a result of the draw qualify for the last playoff place and they will play away to Cirencester on Wednesday with a place in the playoff final at stake.
However it was a good effort by the Citizens who had a good travelling support with seven banners behind the goal they were attacking and after the game every single player shook hands with every supporter who congregated there as a great gesture.
Both teams went into the match on a good run of results having leapfrogged Evesham as the sole contenders for the final playoff place.
Winchester announced an unchanged starting line-up from Monday while Cinderford fielded striker James Harding who on Saturday had scored five goals in helping his team beat his former club Yate 5-1. Early in proceedings Pryce just beat Harding to the ball, but generally the first half was devoid of goalmouth action with the nearest we came to a goal being an effort from Jake Rawkins that hit the post towards the end of the half. Apart from that both goalkeepers had routine saves to make and both sides had shots on goal that were off target.
In the second half Cinderford's Blaine Waugh headed just over and came close on another occasion. Winchester bought on Tyrell Mitford for Jake Rawkins, and Alex Harris in the Cinderford goal had to dive at the feet of Oli Bailey. Cinderford though were generally solid at the back and a lot of height to assist them keep Winchester out, but as the half progressed Winchester began to exert more pressure and only a last ditch header conceded at the expense of a corner kept them out.
Simba Mlambo who had an excellent game hit the inside of the post, but the ball stayed out. Although Matt Macdonald shot just wide for Cinderford the closing stages of the match saw Winchester have a free kick in a dangerous position and several corners with goalkeeper Ryan Pryce going up for all of these, but in the end although they ensured the result of the game and the destiny of their season remained unknown until the final kick of the season they could not quite do enough.
However Winchester's record of 21 wins, 70 points and a goal difference of +38 is better than 7 of the 28 step 4 teams who made the playoffs and of those who failed to qualify for the playoffs only Runcorn L with 22 wins and 72 points have a better record, but they are unable to match Winchester's goal difference.
Winchester 3 Blackfield and Langley 0
Winchester won their final home match of the season when they beat champions Blackfield And Langley 3-0 and now have a winner take all match with Cinderford on Saturday to look forward to which will determine whether they reach the playoffs.
Blackfield had clinched the title on the Saturday in their first season at this level which was a great achievement considering that during the season they had to cope with the death of their Assistant Manager and their clubhouse being out of action for several weeks.
Before the game a guard of honour was formed for the champions who had former Winchester players Adam Tomasso and Lerone Plummer, plus Eastleigh loanee Tom Bearwish on the bench with another former Winchester favourite Liam Robinson not featuring at all.
Winchester themselves made two changes to the starting line-up from the Friday game with Rob Carr working and replaced by Jake Rawkins and Robbie Flooks replacing player manager Craig Davis.
Winchester took the lead in the 5th minute when a powerful shot from Oli Bailey beat former Winchester goalkeeper Lewis Noice. At the other end goalkeeper Ryan Pryce just beat Blackfield striker Hisham Kasimu to the ball. However Winchester then began to get on top with a lob from Simba Mlambo being headed off the line, Bailey set up Jamie Barron who had a shot saved, and Jake Rawkins winning the ball and forcing a corner which resulted in Josh Harfield coming close. Joe Cook then set up Oli Bailey who shot wide.
Blackfield though came back into the game and had a great chance to draw level with Kasimu hitting the post with the goal at his mercy and Charlie Gunson also shooting wide. After this spell of Blackfield pressure Winchester broke with Mlambo setting up Bailey for his second goal to enable Winchester to go into the interval with a two goal advantage.
Early in the second half Mlambo had an effort deflected wide and Jamie Barron also shot wide, but Kasimu had another good chance to score for the visitors and Joe Cook made a couple of important interceptions to keep them out.
Jamie Barron though scored a third goal to make the game safe, although Winchester's requirements at Cinderford would have been the same if they had drawn.
Winchester introduced Craig Davis, Tyrell Mitford and Brett Cunningham as substitutes while Blackfield bought on Plummer, but in the end Winchester got the win which keeps their season alive going into the final game.
Melksham 1 Winchester 4
Winchester's 4-1 win at Melksham moved them back into the playoff positions, although these notes were written before the Saturday fixtures. However the club's injury list was added to with three players going off injured during the game including two of the substitutes used.
Melksham whose hopes of a playoff place have just been ended although they remain in the top half of the table are comfortably the best supported club in the division and attracted a crowd of 470 for this fixture despite having a lost a lot of players recently as a result of the manager leaving with half their team against Winchester being teenagers and Luke Ballinger son of the caretaker manager being the only player to feature in both games between the clubs. However they recently beat Fleet 3-0 and have an excellent clubhouse which no doubt helps their crowds to remain good.
Winchester made two changes to the starting line-up from Saturday with Rob Carr coming in for I K Hill and Craig Davis replacing the injured Rob Flooks, and Winchester also had other players such as Jake Rawkins and George Williams who were unable to feature.
Winchester however made a dream start when in the opening minute of the game a cross from Simba Mlambo was deflected past his own goalkeeper by a home defender with Rob Carr in close pursuit. Carr was always a danger on the right flank and he put in a cross that no-one was able to get on the end of.
Winchester however scored their second in the 12th minute when Jamie Barron for whom there were fitness doubts before the game produced a corner that was headed home by Oli Bailey. Winchester looked like scoring again and it was no surprise when Carr set up Mlambo to score their third and at that time it looked as though it could be a rout, but three minutes later the home side scored through their own Dan King when a corner was not cleared.
The remainder of the half was goalless although Joe Hayward went off injured and was replaced by Mark Fawley who showed promise when he was on the field, but soon afterwards had to go off injured and to be replaced by I K Hill.
Melksham's young side started the second half brightly with Luke Ballinger and Gary Higdon going close and Jack Baker put in a couple of crosses that forced corners, while Ryan Pryce was also forced into action, but in the 61st minute Oli Bailey made the game effectively safe when he saw the goalkeeper off his line and scoring with a well executed lob.
Winchester though were forced into a third substitution when I K Hill who himself had substituted for a substitute went off injured and was replaced by Tyrell Mitford. Tyrell played in an unfamiliar flank role with Simba Mlambo who has played in virtually every position under manager Craig Davis reverted to right back. Mitford had a powerful shot just off target and Bailey had an excellent chance to score his hat-trick but was denied by the goalkeeper on a one on one. However it was an important win for Winchester in nice Wilshire weather, although there were unwelcome additions to the injury list.
Winchester are at home to Blackfield and Langley on Easter Monday and away to Cinderford on Saturday.
Winchester 1 Bristol Manor Farm 3
Winchester's hopes of a playoff place received a setback when they lost to a Bristol Manor Farm team who although in the lower half of the table completed the double against them for the second successive season. With Cinderford winning and moving above them and with leaders Blackfield And Langley now passing their ground grading they know they need to finish in the top five to achieve a playoff place.
Bristol Manor Farm have had an inconsistent season, but are a strong side physically, have a good travelling support and have shown their potential by reaching the 3rd qualifying round of the F A Cup beating Basingstoke 5-2 on the way.
For Winchester there was one change to the starting line-up from Tuesday's win over AFC Totton with Liam Gilbert coming in for Tyrell Mitford who dropped to the bench. Bristol Manor Farm who for the second successive week named only three substitutes made three changes to the starting line-up from last week's defeat at Highworth with Ashley Kington, Chas Hemmings and Aaron Robbins the three players coming in, both Kingron and Hemmings were on the substitutes bench the previous week.
The visitors started Saturday's game brightly with both Jordan Rogers and Owen Howe having efforts that were not far off target and Ryan Pryce in the Winchester goal on another occasion just beating Howe to the ball. However Winchester took the lead with virtually their first attack of note when following a corner Rob Flooks's bicycle kick was blocked and Oli Bailey followed up to score.
Following the goal Owen Howe had a header that hit the top of the crosss bar and Jordan Rogers also had a header saved by Pryce. However Winchester begun to come more into the game and following a good run I K Hill shot over.
However any hope Winchester had of going into the interval with a led were ended in the 31st minute when Kington scored with an excellently struck free kick which took a deflection past Pryce.
Winchester started the second half brightly and in the opening minute of the half a good move saw Oli Bailey seeing his goal bound effort kept out by a crucial block from a Bristol Manor Farm defender. Soon afterwards Winchester replaced their captain Jamie Barron who had been injured earlier in the game as a result of a tackle which resulted in a Bristol Manor Farm defender receiving a yellow card, with Rob Carr coming on in his place.
Following a corner Rob Flooks had a header well saved by Ben Johns, but that was to be the central defender's last meaningful contribution to the game as he had also received an injury earlier in the game and he was replaced by player manager Craig Davis who took his place in the back four.
However midway through the half the Bristol Manor Farm captain Steve Kingdon scored to put his side 2-1 up and shortly afterwards Tyrell Mitford became Winchester's third substitute when he replaced I K Hill.
Rob Carr put in a cross that was deflected for a corner with Oli Bailey and Simba Mlambo only a whisker away from getting a decisive touch. Jordan Metters shot wide and Rob Carr also came close, but in the 84th minute another Kington free kick took a deflection past Pryce to seal the victory.
In added on time Ben Johns made a good save from Tyrell Mitford and an even better one from Josh Harfield, but it was all too late for Winchester who for the third time lost to Bristol Manor Farm having scored first. The visitors also used all three substitutes, the last of which was made in added on time, but they certainly did not play like a team in the lower half of the division.