2019 - SO CLOSE BUT YET SO FAR
As 2019 comes to a close, Winchester City FC will look back at a year of being so close, but yet so far, as the play-off push during the 2018-19 campaign ended with City narrowly missing out on the play-off berths, by the width of a post away at Cinderford Town, writes Matt Richbell.
City have started the 2019-20 campaign strongly and at the end of 2019, the club finds itself fifth in the league with games in hand on the majority of the teams both above and below.
‘Davo’ has masterminded 27 City victories in the calendar year of 2019, out of 45 fixtures, with club only losing ten times in the entire year.
2019 started exceptionally well for City, winning 4-0 away at the eventual title winners, Blackfield & Langley, on New Years Day, with Rob Flooks and Brett Cunningham scoring for City, and forward Tyrell Mitford, bagging a brace. City followed that up with a 2-2 draw at home to fellow play-off chasers, Cinderford Town, with centre-half, Josh Harfield, scoring twice. Another draw, this time away at Thatcham Town followed, with skipper, Jamie Barron, on the scoresheet. It was then four unbeaten in 2019 when Simba Mlambo netted the only goal of the game in a 1-0 away win at Paulton Rovers and that was followed up with a 3-2 home win against Cirencester Town, when Mlambo was again on target, along with Tyrell Mitford and an own goal by the visitors. Barron and Mitford were both on target again in an impressive 2-0 win away at Evesham United in mid-February, before City demolished Barnstaple Town, 7-0, at the Simplyhealth City Ground with a rare goal by club stalwart, Danny King. Josh Harfield scored twice as City followed up the Barnstaple game with a 4-1 win away at Highworth Town, despite having gone behind in the game.
March began with City’s first defeat of the year, 1-0 away at Bideford. But the Citizens bounced back in emphatic style, beating Street 5-0 and Slimbridge, 6-1, respectively. Jamie Barron scored the only goal of the game at the picturesque Larkhall Athletic as City were again 1-0 winners. Craig Davis’ former side, Fleet Town, were the next team to be put to the sword by the in-form Citizens. Tyrell Mitford, Joe Cook and Jamie Barron all scored a goal each as City won the Hampshire derby, 3-0.
April began with a 3-2 loss at promotion-chasing, Yate Town. However, just a few days later, it was another local derby and another home win, as City beat AFC Totton 2-1. Oli Bailey scored the only goal of the game for City in the next game, but that wasn’t enough as Bristol Manor Farm left the City Ground with a 3-1 away win. City travelled to Melksham Town on Good Friday and impressively won 4-1 and this was followed up with a 3-0 home win on Easter Monday. The Easter Monday victory marked an impressive double over title winners, Blackfield & Langley. Oli Bailey scored twice and Jamie Barron was also on target to earn another win in another Hampshire derby. So it all came down to a trip to Cinderford Town. If City won, they made the play-offs and if Cinderford avoided defeat, they made the play-offs. It was a cagey affair in the first-half but both these went for the winner in the second-half. As the game appeared to be heading for a stalemate, Simba Mlambo came agonisingly close, but his effort struck the foot of the post.
The end of the 2018-19 season marked the departures of several key players. Joe Cook moved on to pastures new as he signed for Conference South side, Havant & Waterlooville. Tyrell Mitford also moved on, to sign for Kings Langley (Mitford is now at Ramsgate, having also played for Bognor Regis Town and Beaconsfield before joining the Kent club). Josh Harfield opted to move a division higher and join Blackfield & Langley, despite also featuring for Salisbury during pre-season. Brett Cunningham called time on his spell at City, as did Jake Rawkins, who moved closer to home to sign for Bemerton Heath Harlequins. Development Manager, Ryan Andress, moved on to become Assistant First-Team Manager at Brockenhurst and he was replaced by former Cove Manager, Josh Taylor. Connor Doswell also came on board from Winchester Castle as a First-Team Coach. City signed prolific Poole Town Development forward, Olly Balmer, during the close-season. He was joined through the door by former Christchurch and Wimborne Town defender, Kieran Douglas (pictured). Experienced Defender/Midfielder, Keith Emmerson, has joined City from Taunton Town. ‘Emmo’ lists Farnborough and Poole Town amongst his former sides before his switch to City.
Pre-season started with a trip to Brockenhurst before away games at Ringwood Town, Hamworthy United and Bracknell Town followed. City drew 2-2 away at Staplewood against Southampton Under-23s in an impressive display, as they prepared for the new season.
The curtain raiser ended in a 3-3 draw away at Bristol Manor Farm. Simba Mlambo bagged a brace for City and Rob Carr was also on target at The Creek. Mlambo bagged his second brace in as many games as City won their first home game of the season, beating AFC Totton 2-1. The FA Cup then took centre stage, as City were pegged back by a last minute equaliser at home to AFC Stoneham, also City did go on to win the replay 3-1 away thanks to goals from Oli Bailey, Jamie Barron and Ollie Griggs despite an early and controversial red card for Rob Carr. However, defeat at home to Taunton Town followed in the next round. In the league, City drew 1-1 ‘away’ to Basingstoke Town, in a game that City were the away team at their own ground, with Basingstoke ground-sharing at the Simplyhealth City Ground for the end of 2019. This draw was followed up with a home win against Melksham Town.
Hythe & Dibden were demolished 8-3 away from home in the Hampshire Senior Cup in mid-September, with young goalkeeper, Harry Birchnall, appearing for City. New summer signing, Max Smith, was on target on the Waterside, as was young winger, IK Hill. Dan Williamson (pictured) had returned to the club, having left the season before for Swindon Supermarine. ‘Willo’ was on target in a hard-fought 2-1 away win at Mangotsfield United on a wet Tuesday night before Cinderford Town came to City and left with a 3-0 away win.
Dom Panesar-Dower joined the club from Dorchester Town, and he scored his first City goal in a 2-1 away win at Sholing. That win was followed up with a scalp in the League Cup, as Farnborough, from the league above, were beaten 2-0 at the Simplyhealth City Ground. Jack Francis, who had been dual-registered with Tadley Calleva, scored for City, and so did IK Hill. ‘Franno’ has since joined Amesbury Town on dual-registration forms along with Ewan Haylor, Billy Connor, Lawson Bright, Jacob Brown and several other youngsters, whilst Ben Sunley has signed for Whitchurch United for game time.
City exited the FA Trophy in a replay away at Thame United. City were 3-0 up at home in the initial tie, but were pegged back by three late goals. The replay finished 5-3 to Thame, although the game was delayed after a flare had been set off by home supporters.
Simba Mlambo netted a hat-trick in a 6-1 away win at Barnstaple Town before a 2-0 win at Moneyfields followed with Mlambo on target again, as well as new signing from Gosport Borough, Luke King. City beat Infinity 6-0 in the Southampton Senior Cup, to set up a home tie with Blackfield & Langley in the next round. In-form Slimbridge were beaten 3-2 at the Simplyhealth City Ground, before the weather began to wreak havoc. City beat Thatcham Town 4-0 in the league cup, to set up a home tie with Sholing in 2020. Then followed a memorable 4-3 away win at Cirencester Town, with Olly Balmer scoring a dramatic 93rd minute winner with an unstoppable free-kick. Jamie Barron scored the only goal of the game, in a 1-1 draw at home to Paulton Rovers that followed. City exited the Hampshire Senior Cup on a bitterly cold night at home to Moneyfields, before a 2-0 reverse at league leaders, Frome Town. Jamie Barron scored a hat-trick as City beat Willand Rovers 3-0 before Christmas and Rob Carr scored the only goal of the game in a 2-1 reverse at Thatcham Town on Boxing Day.
City start 2020 with three local derbies. Basingstoke Town are the ‘visitors’ to the Simplyhealth City Ground on New Years Day, before an away game at AFC Totton in the League and then a home game against Sholing in the League Cup.
THANKS TO GARY MARSH FOR THE IMAGES