CHELMSFORD City remain in three competitions heading into the New Year, but if they’re to achieve their main aim for the 2012/13 campaign and secure promotion to the Blue Square Bet Premier, they’re going to have to do it the hard way as a hectic spell, including at least 16 matches in January and February, gets under way.
An extended FA Cup run, wet weather and further progress in the FA Trophy have caught up with Glenn Pennyfather’s team, and rescheduled matches are coming thick and fast in the first two months.
His injury-free squad, however, ended 2012 with a 2-1 victory at home to Boreham Wood, which could generate momentum.
The Clarets’ boss will have several key opponents in mind when it comes to identifying potential milestones in his team’s season. He’ll also know there are five sides who City are yet to come up against at all so far – Maidenhead United, Eastbourne Borough, Tonbridge Angels, Farnborough and Bath City.
Fresh from negotiating the first of two derby meetings against mid-table neighbours Billericay Town on New Year’s Day, Chelmsford travel to Maidenhead United this Saturday.
The Magpies are in form themselves, having recorded a notable 6-0 win at Staines Town over the festive period to put them into the top nine.
Points will be required from that game as City then embark on knockout cup games at FC Halifax Town in the last 16 of the FA Trophy, plus an Essex Senior Cup quarter-final at Concord Rangers towards the middle of the month. A replay at Halifax would generate another game on the following Monday.
If not, they can focus on league action and a visit of AFC Hornchurch, on Saturday 19, for another highly-charged encounter, followed by last season’s Premier side Eastbourne Borough four days later, also at home. City wrap up January with the long trip to bottom club Truro City, then strugglers Dorchester Town at Melbourne.
February promises to be an even more unforgiving schedule, which is why Pennyfather is keen to build a run of victories to engender a winning habit. His team have a chance to gain revenge for November’s 3-0 away defeat at Hayes & Yeading United when they welcome them in the first week, followed by Billericay Town.
The journey to mid-table Kent club Tonbridge Angels, coupled with entertaining fifth-placed Farnborough, appear to be challenging fixtures.
And they get no easier when the Clarets face August’s underachieving champions elect Eastleigh, in Hampshire – who find themselves in 16th – and Havant & Waterlooville.
Matches against Sutton United and Bromley are usually tough – examining recent results against them backs up that theory – so the month will draw to an equally testing close.
Should Chelmsford emerge unscathed and still in contention, they potentially have the chance to press home their position in March.
City will rate their chances in away games at Staines Town, who are battling relegation in 17th, and Weston-super-Mare. Then there are further matches against current mid-table opposition in Tonbridge, Bath and Maidenhead.
However, there could hardly by a more tricky climax in second-placed Welling United away.
That game could make or break Chelmsford’s season, and the home clash with Dover Athletic on Monday, April 1 has equal billing – the sides have met three times already with two City wins and a draw.
A quick return against Bath at home is the third from last game, with Basingstoke at Melbourne representing the penultimate game.
When the fixtures were published in July, the management team will have been uncertain as to exactly how difficult the climax at Farnborough, on Saturday 27, would be.
The Hampshire club are currently challenging in fifth place, so City will hope their fate doesn’t rest on a result on the final day.