City aiming for league prize next year
PUBLISHED: 12:33 29 April 2013 | UPDATED: 12:33 29 April 2013
JAMES GRAY clearly stated his intentions for City’s next campaign after seeing Leamington hoist the league crown: a return trip to the Conference South as champions.
The final whistle of the 2012/13 season was still ringing in the joint manager’s ears when he said: “If they [Leamington] are the champions, then we’re not too far away from them.”
City ended the year with a 2-1 loss against the champions, resulting in an 11th placed finish and 10 points adrift of the final play-off spot. But despite the mid-table finish, Gray believes City have the ability to bring the Evo-Stik shield to Clarence Park. “We’re aiming to win the league outright because the play-offs can be a lottery,” said Gray. “We want the big prize and we won’t settle for anything less.
“We know where we need to strengthen but I feel we have the ability to get there – we need more experienced heads in the side though.”
Gray was quick to add the youth players who have broken the first team, such as James Kaloczi, Elliot Bailey and Curtis Shaw, will not be forgotten next year.
“We want to keep progressing the youth players because they can help us get over the line next season.”
Gray and Graham Golds went with a young side against Leamington, just two days after City’s extra-time win against Bishop’s Stortford in the Herts Charity Cup.
Saints started well, pushing the ball around in a way that has become customary since Gray and Golds were appointed managers. But it was the champions who looked more dangerous going forward.
Nick Jupp was called upon twice, first to close down Stefan Moore before pushing away a sizzling 30-yard drive from Liam Daly. There was nothing he could do for Leamington’s first though.
Matt Dodd was hauled to the ground in the box by Josh Urquhart giving the referee little choice but to award a penalty. Dodd smashed the ball high to Jupp’s left to put Leamington on the way to their 30th win of the season.
City’s task of overturning the champions was made that much harder one minute before the interval when they conceded again, Ricky Johnson profiting from a defensive mishap.
Leamington came out in the second half in inspired form only to find the excellent Jupp refusing to wilt under pressure.
But it was City’s Greg Ngoyi who stole the show, scoring a goal Gray described as a “scorcher” that “deserved to win the game”.
Layne Eadie linked up with Richard Graham who played a through ball to Ngoyi. His direct run at goal resulted in him blasting the ball past Laurie Walker from 25 yards to give the travelling fans something to cheer about.