gloucester-97

Close encounters: Gloucester City

Photo: The Tigers  in April 1997, when they reached an FA Trophy semi-final and played the Fleet for the last time

Gloucester City were once regular visitors to Stonebridge Road; in fact 54 games have been played between the teams – every one of them in the Southern League. But since our last meeting on 19 April 1997 – when they duly completed a Southern League double over us with a 3-1 win – we have gone our separate ways.

We moved over to the Isthmian/Ryman League, thus ending a run of meetings that had begun on 12 October 1946 at the Tigers’ old Horton Road ground where Fleet ran amok to the tune of 6-1, with both Truxy Wakeman and Ron Crowe scoring two apiece.

Over the years there is no denying City have had the better of the series with a 28-13 winning margin (and 13 draws) and a 107-68 goal difference in their favour. Even probably our greatest attacking force of 1957-58 – when Bob Thomas and Eric Day were scoring goals for fun prompted by Jimmy Logie and went on to win the Southern League – could not breach the City defence, drawing 0-0 at Stonebridge Road and losing 1-0 away.

The main reason for that was City goalkeeper Ron Coltman who I witnessed defy everything Fleet threw at him. When the Horton Road ground was bulldozed into a housing estate, one of the roads was named after him.

In the mid-1960s Jim Towers scored in each game he played against them and even Barry Fry got on the scoresheet, helped by two from Big Jim, to record a 3-1 victory in 1966-67.

Our first visit to the new Meadow Park came in the 1989-90 season and ended in a 3-0 defeat. A couple more visits were made before we switched to the Ryman League and since then Gloucester have had serious flooding problems with one famous photo just showing the crossbar above water.

In that last season of our meetings in 1996-97 player manager Steve Lovell scored twice in our 3-2 home defeat and Clint Gooding became the last Fleet player to score against Gloucester in the above-mentioned  3-1 defeat in April 1997. That season was all the more memorable for the Tigers as they enjoyed a best-ever run to the FA Trophy semi-finals.

Now, with a new chapter beginning as the clubs contest a cup tie for the first time that will put the winner into the last 32, there just might be a slight sniff of Wembley in the air.

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