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'Amazing' City earn high praise from boss

By West Briton  |  Posted: May 03, 2012

  • Barry McConnell on the ball during his last game for City.

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Truro City 1 Dartford 1

CITY'S players could enjoy their end of season celebrations content in the knowledge they had done the club and supporters proud.

What could have turned into a disastrous campaign instead ended with a healthy 14th place in the Blue Square Bet South table – five points clear of relegation.

As one senior player said: "They are an amazing group of players and the club are very lucky and I think the fans are appreciative of what they have done."

There was nothing but pride to play for on Saturday against the league runners-up, but as they have done virtually all season City punched above their weight.

And they were only denied a 14th win and reaching 50 points by a stoppage time equaliser from the Kent side after Barry Hayles had given them the lead two minutes from time.

In the end, though, a point was probably fair enough with the visitors by far having the best chances on a chilly afternoon, with the weather in complete contrast to a year ago, when in blazing heat, City clinched the Southern League premier division title at Banbury.

Since then, in what has become something of a soap opera, the club has experienced difficult times with its very existence threatened on occasions because of ongoing financial problems.

But through all that the squad has largely stuck together and ensured City's fans can look forward to a second season of Blue Square Bet South football.

Now comes the challenge of ensuring that next season is a less fraught affair, both off and on the pitch.

But speaking after the game City boss Lee Hodges was just happy to say goodbye to a season which he admitted had made him "tear his hair out" at times.

He said: "In the changing room I have just thanked all the players and staff for what they have done in keeping us up. It is a momentous achievement.

"Even though we won the first three games of the season I knew what sort of season it was going to be.

"Many a team and many a management would have called it a day but we have a great group of players here.

"If they had decided to walk away the club was basically gone.

"I will be talking with the boys over the next few weeks and see what happens and see what we can bring in on a tight budget. But hopefully we won't lose too many."

When substitute Hayles pounced on a defensive mistake with time nearly up to give City the lead it looked as if the home side were going to snatch the points.

But in what was a microcosm of their season they were undone at the back in stoppage time when substitute Tony Garrod was allowed to set up Jacob Erskine who this time finished with aplomb hammering the ball into the roof of the net to deny City a final day win.

But the real battle had been won at Woking the week before when they gained the point that ensured their survival beyond doubt.

Roll on next season as, for sure, you know it's not going to be dull.

As exclusively reported in last week's Briton Sport, it was the 179th and final appearance for 35-year-old former Exeter City defender Barry McConnell.

He has not been offered a contract for next season but hopes to continue playing.

After the game City skipper Jake Ash was presented with the Truro Independent Supporters' Player of the Year trophy.

It was Ash's 450th senior game having played 74 matches for Budleigh Salterton in the now defunct Devon County League, 111 for Falmouth Town and now 265 for City.

With those three clubs he has scored 87 goals – 51 for City – and he is the only player who was in the side at the start of the first full season of the new City era under chairman Kevin Heaney in 2005 season.

On his debut, under then manager Steve Massey, City lost 4-1 at Wadebridge Town in the old South Western League.

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