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Clarets: Hope on horizon after troublesome year
4:00pm Monday 23rd December 2013 in Local Sport
AFTER an eventful 12 months at Melbourne Stadium, Chelmsford City FC's media officer Chris Evans reviews what life has been like for the Clarets in 2013:
Following a partially turbulent twelve months on and off the pitch at Chelmsford City, the club can finally look forward to the second half of the Skrill South campaign with optimism under the new Management Team of Mark Hawkes and Steve Smith, and the Christmas and New Year fixtures are likely to add to a renewed spirit evident at Melbourne Stadium.
Former Heybridge Swifts boss Hawkes, who took over from Dean Holdsworth in November, has put some breathing space between the Clarets and the danger zone and his team are now starting to look up the table.
On Boxing Day they have the chance of three points when they welcome Bishop’s Stortford, before travelling to Concord Rangers on Saturday 28th December. On New Year’s Day they travel for the return fixture at Stortford.
A lot of lessons have been learned during the last calendar year, which began with a buoyant frame of mind amongst a Chelmsford side under then Manager Glenn Pennyfather who had only just upset local Football League neighbours Colchester United by knocking them out of the FA Cup.
Even their traditional New Year slump was nowhere to be seen as the Clarets won five of their games up until mid-February, losing just two.
A notable victory came at Billericay Town, while Dorchester Town, Hayes & Yeading United and Tonbridge Angels were all disposed of by four-goal margins.
However, inconsistency crept into City’s game towards the end of the month and into March, with back-to-back three-goal defeats against Weston-super-Mare and AFC Hornchurch causing special concern as they aimed to cement a place in the play-offs as early as possible.
April was kinder to Chelmsford, and four wins from their last five games saw Pennyfather’s men reach the play-offs with a game to spare.
They even bucked a historic trend with a 1-0 win in the first leg of their encounter with Salisbury City, although a late goal to make it 2-0 in the second instalment consigned Chelmsford to another season in non-league’s second tier. Glenn ultimately paid with his job, and Dean Holdsworth replaced him in the close season.
A huge turnover in players followed and City were robbed of their season opener when irregularities behind the scenes at Farnborough meant that away game was postponed.
The Clarets, therefore, started with a 2-2 draw at home to newly-promoted Essex outfit Concord Rangers, which was followed up by a 3-2 success at the same venue against Staines Town. Dean will have been enthused by four points from six at the beginning of the season.
Although the results went their way, the fragility of the newly-assembled squad was clear, leading to four consecutive losses.
A trip to much-fancied Ebbsfleet United was met with an element of fear yet Chelmsford showed what they were capable of with a surprise 2-0 triumph.
Nevertheless, it did little to raise spirits and they were heavily criticised on the terraces when they went out of the FA Cup to lower-ranked Biggleswade Town.
Holdsworth demanded a reaction, initially getting one when the beat Bath City and Eastbourne Borough on home turf.
But the rearranged game at Farnborough on 22nd October started a losing trend which eventually cost Holdsworth his job. The 6-0 home thumping by Boreham Wood was the final straw.
Assistant Manager Kenny Brown took interim charge as City went down 5-0, 4-0 and 3-0 in their next three league games, causing relegation anguish.
When Hawkes was appointed as Manager in time for the home game against Farnborough on 30th November his arrival had the desired effect, inspiring a 3-1 victory to raise morale again and begin a new era.
A penalty shoot-out Essex Senior Cup exit at Concord Rangers is the only blot on a fresh copy book so far for a Chelmsford side who now seem much more difficult to beat.
Positivity has returned to Melbourne, and City could surprise a few people in 2014.
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