A review of the season
Posted by Andrew Dunn
Apr 26, 2017, 21:20
A season that ends in relegation is one that supporters want to forget, and that is certainly true of fans of Cambridge City when they will reflect on the 2016/17 campaign.
Two managers and the worst run of results without a league win for approximately 30 years meant that City were languishing around the relegation zone for much of the season. But towards the end and despite their relegation there were signs of a recovery from what turned out to be a really difficult campaign.
Manager number one was Dan Gleeson who was appointed to replace the long serving Gary Roberts who resigned at the end of June in the midst of a player exodus from the club. Gleeson inherited no more than 3 players and with 3 weeks to the start of the season set about compiling a squad that could compete – not an easy task when many players had already fixed themselves up for a new club ahead of the season.
One of most controversial moments in Gleeson’s tenure was the signing of Erkan Okay. The former Histon player signed for the club in a player coach capacity, but before he put pen to paper made a public apology to City fans for unveiling a T-Shirt displaying ‘Cambridge City RIP’ in a local derby back in 2006. Despite his apology, his signing caused a mixed reaction among the City faithful.
Regardless, Okay was in the squad for the opening league game at Dunstable which City lost 2-1 with the goal coming from Paul Cooper.
Despite the opening day defeat, many thought there was enough encouragement for the season ahead and City secured their first point of the campaign two days later when they were held to a 1-1 draw at home to Biggleswade.
Two more draws followed, but still no win but that came in the next league game against Dorchester when goals from Tunde Adewunmi and Gio Lopes meant that City travelled back from Dorset with their first 3 points of the campaign.
So far so good, and hopes grew following an FA Cup win against Flackwell Heath and a 3-0 demolition of St Neots. But for Dan Gleeson, that is as good as it got as what followed was a disastrous run of results that started with a defeat at home to Hitchin and continued all the way to the first week of December when Robbie Nightingale had assumed control. The bad run of results also included early elimination from the FA Cup, FA Trophy and League Cup – a competition that City were runners-up in last season. But it was the league position that was becoming desperate and by the time of Nightingale’s arrival the Lilywhites were almost cut adrift from the rest and in real danger of sinking without trace.
One of the main problems was that City hadn’t won at home all season. However, Nightingale soon addressed this and in his opening game the team produced a stirring performance to defeat Merthyr 1-0 and bag a crucial victory. Nightingale wasn’t going to taste defeat until the New Year’s weekend derby with Kettering when the Poppies came back from two goals down to steal the points with a last gasp victory. But despite a point at fellow strugglers Hayes and Yeading and a home defeat against Basingstoke, City then won two games on the bounce against Chesham and Weymouth and all of a sudden the gap was closing and there was hope that the Lilywhites could pull off the great escape.
Two defeats opened up February but a last gasp goal at Redditch gave City another big 3 points and the Lilywhites were unlucky to not steal a win against high flying Leamington.
However, a disastrous March where City failed to get any points in the league proved to be a big factor in their plight. One of the key results was at fellow strugglers Kings Langley when City fell to a 2-0 defeat.
As they entered the final month of the season, the task was still massive and realistically City had to win virtually every game to pull off what looked almost impossible. But remarkably they almost did it with maximum points from 5 of their last 6 games – a return under normal circumstances would have been enough to haul themselves to safety. But City weren’t helped with results involving clubs around them consistently going against them.
A draw at Kettering on Easter Monday meant that City were reliant on winning against St Neots on the final day and hoping that results elsewhere went with them. City won 3-0 but with Dorchester and Kings Langley winning it meant that City were relegated on goal difference.
A win against Ely in the Cambs Invitation Cup Final meant that City fans finished the season with a smile, and supporters will be hoping that the form from the final few weeks of the season marks the green shoots of recovery for a successful campaign when it all begins again in August.
WHATEVER HAPPENED TO…..
A look at what happened to some of the players who wore a City shirt this year but moved on during the course of the season:
BRADLEY WOODS-GARNESS: Played a handful of games under Dan Gleeson. Left City and ended the season at Whitehawk via Chalfont St Peter
JOSH SMITH: Replaced Enol Ordonez in goal for a few games in August. He is now at Merstham and was substitute goalkeeper for their televised first round FA Cup tie against Oxford United in November
TUNDE ADEWUNMI: Remarkably, Tunde remains the highest goalscorer for City this season. His 8 goals came during the first half of the campaign when he spearheaded the attack for City. He went on to play for Aveley.
JAMES TRICKS: Played in the opening game for City at Dunstable and in the final game of the season against City for St Neots.
TRISTAN ABRAHAMS: Signed on loan from Leyton Orient. Went back to Brisbane Road and subsequently broke into their first team towards the end of the season.
PETER MAINA: A striker signed by Dan Gleeson in October. Didn’t feature in any games for the Lilywhites but featured in the Soham squad in the latter of the stages of the campaign.
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