The Evo-Stik League Southern

Season Reviews

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1987/88

The one driving force behind the side before the season began was to make the Beazer Homes League Championship the eventual goal. Many people thought that the title should have come to The Stadium the previous season and it was only the various authorities that deprived us of a Conference spot. This season it was up to the players to show their character by keeping up the challenge. Trevor Gould made few close season signings, the only new arrivals being Pete McBean from Bedworth and the re-signing of both Paul Hackett and John Davie.

The season opened in fine fashion with four straight wins in the League, included in those was a 3-1 victory over Dartford which was to prove to be significant later in the season. Cliff Campbell managed to notch two hat-tricks in those wins, at home to Corby and away at Ashford. The first points dropped were in a goal-less draw at Nuneaton. Our FA Cup trail began with a difficult tie at Wycombe Wanderers in the 1st Round Qualifying. In a tense game before a crowd of over 1500 a replay looked likely before a fine Derek Duggan goal broke the deadlock 10 minutes from time, Cliff Campbell sealed the win in the final minute. Before the next round at Sudbury we gained three more league points at Gosport. The FA Cup tie proved to be another thriller and we looked to be on the way out when David Botterill put through his own net in the second half. However, Cliff Hercules levelled within a minute. David did score a couple of goals in the right net in the replay to take us into the next round. Another three points were bagged at Fareham before we progressed into the 4th Round Qualifying by virtue of a 4-0 victory at Hertford. A thrilling 3-3 draw was gained at Burton before we travelled to meet Enfield for a place in the 1st Round of the FA Cup. We fell behind in this game in the first half but Gary Harthill levelled on the hour and when David Botterill's free-kick squirmed under Andy Pape's body in the last minute we were on our way to Bristol City.

Last season we played 11 games in the Bill Dellow Cup using up much vital time and energy. The folly of this was realised and this season we managed to finish out of the qualifying places in our group which contained Ruislip, Dunstable and Buckingham. Defeat by 4-0 at Dunstable with practically a reserve side playing ensured we finished third in the group.

Our first league defeat came in the bad tempered match at Bromsgrove which saw both Cliff Campbell and Paul Saunders ordered off. That reverse was quickly followed by an exit from the GMAC Cup at home to Leytonstone/Ilford. Alvechurch became the first side to take a league point at The Stadium in a goal-less draw before we travelled to Bristol City. The team did themselves proud going down by the odd goal and earning a standing ovation from the home supporters at the end. Victories by the single goal at home to Shepshed and away to Worcester were sandwiched either side of a 2-1 victory at Ashford in the FA Trophy. We then went to Dartford for one of the season's first crunch games. An improved Kent side played some good football and we were lucky to escape losing by only 2-1. They had served notice that the Championship race was beginning to hot up. We comfortably beat Ashford at home in a League match before taking on Kettering in the 1st Round of the Trophy. An exciting 1-1 draw at The Stadium was followed by a 5-1 drubbing in the replay to leave us with only one cup competition to worry about. The season was going according to plan with hopefully no fixture worries, weather permitting.

The Boxing Day fixture at bottom of the table Witney brought much heartache for United supporters as two penalties were missed and we struggled to a 1-1 draw. Faith was restored with two home wins in the remainder of the holiday period over Cambridge City and Chelmsford. A gutsy 2-1 result at a windswept Corby kept up the pressure. However, the alarm bells began to ring with the pessimists as two league defeats followed, Bromsgrove completed the double over us with a 2-1 win at The Stadium as we looked sadly out of form. The result at Crawley a week later by the same score line was even more worrying as it might have been a cricket score, to add to the gloom Paul Hackett was ordered off.

The next home game quashed all fears that we had shot our bolt as Dorchester were despatched back to Dorset on the wrong end of a 5-1 scoreline. That match also saw the debut of Bob Coy, who joined us from Northampton. Previously Trevor had tried to sign both Everton Carr and David Ward, both of whom lasted only one match. We then scrambled to a single goal victory over Gosport before taking on Reading in the 2nd Round of the Berks & Bucks Senior Cup. The match was played in awful conditions to get the fixture out of the way and a Paul Saunders goal in extra time proved enough. A Cliff Campbell goal early on at Shepshed secured three more points before we began a run of four home matches. A comfortable 2-0 victory over VS Rugby was followed by a fortunate home point against Nuneaton, with a David Botterill penalty saving us from defeat in the final minutes. Another win followed in not so convincing fashion against Redditch United.

Our interest in the Berks & Bucks Senior Cup was ended by an in-form Wokingham side here at The Stadium. So from hereonin it was the Championship or bust. The fact we meant business was spelt out by the 2-0 triumph at Dorchester but the following week we threw away two points at home to Burton missing many vital chances in the 2-2 draw. In the ensuing midweek we started off a run of seven successive league victories which was to prove vital, with a fine 3-0 win at Bedworth. The same scoreline was achieved in the next match at home to Willenhal but disaster came at home to Leicester United in a wind affected match but four days later, with the visitors gaining a 2-0 victory. The run of home games continued with the scoreline which arguably won us the title, a 6-0 win against Fareham saw Cliff Hercules grab a hat-trick. Bedworth became the next victims at The Stadium with Cliff notching up another two goals in the 3-1 result.

We entered the Easter period still topping the table and a 3-2 victory at Chelmsford, whilst Dartford were losing at home to Cambridge, looked good for our Championship hopes. A nervy win over Witney on Easter Monday by virtue of a single David Botterill goal was followed by a 3-2 defeat of Crawley the next Saturday. A fine 2-0 victory at Redditch saw new signing from Bedworth, Paul Thomas, score his first goal for the club. As the Championship aspirations became a reality a bumper crowd gathered for the final home match against Worcester City. The pressure began to tell and it took a 90th minute goal from Gary Harthill to secure the points. Only three more points were now needed for the title but it was United on the road for the remaining four games. The supporting hordes gathering at first Alvechurch and then Leicester to be denied on both occasions. The title looked to be ours at Cambridge when Gary Harthill again scored late on but the home side grabbed an even later dramatic equaliser.

So it all went down to the final game at VS Rugby, with Dartford having finished their programme piling on the pressure with seven straight wins. All we needed to do was avoid defeat to secure the title, thanks to our superior goal difference. After twice trailing in the match, goals from Derek Duggan and Cliff Hercules were enough to bring our first League title since the 1953/54 season. Trevor Gould's aim for the season had come to fruition and the club went forward into the Conference.

Taken from Aylesbury United vs England matchday programme - 4/6/1988

2002/03

Welcome to the review of season 2002/03, a lighthearted look back at the events that made up yet another exciting chapter of Aylesbury United's history.

After our two year absence, the return to the Ryman Premier was never expected to be easy, but who could have predicted such an eventful season? The run to the FA Trophy Semi Final and the Berks & Bucks Cup Final are memories to be remembered with fondness in times to come. But above all, the superb surge of late form shown by the team to secure their Premier Division status, was extraordinary.

Pre-Season

Pre-season saw the departure of Aylesbury's favourite son, Cliff Hercules, from the managerial hotseat. The club moved swiftly in appointing Steve Cordery as his succesor, and in doing so, allowing him the entire summer to plan for the new season. Cordery, a young manager, joined from Hampton & Richmond and brought with him Craig Maskell, in player-assistant manager capacity.

The revelution in playing staff started in earnest, and by the time of the first pre-season friendly, against a strong Luton side, only four of the previous' season's squad made the starting 11. Pre-season friendlies were their usual hectic nature, against a wide variety of sides. The highlight though, was a home match against QPR's first team, which drew in a crowd of 1265. It took a 90th minute decider from the visitor's to finally break down the Ducks' defence. The game marked the debut of a certain Adam Campion, and his performance was breathtaking.

August - The Big Kick-Off

17th August saw the season finally get underway, as the Ducks kicked their campaign off away to Basingstoke. A disasterous start saw Aylesbury trailing 0-2 within the half hour, and when Gareth Risbridger was given his marching orders things were looking bleak. However, a superb recovery aided by debut goals from Maskell and Ibe saw the Ducks record their first Ryman Premier Division point for 27 months!

August also saw defeats by St Albans and Billericay, before a narrow away win over Hitchin, with Fiston Manuella scoring on his debut. The 31st August saw assistant manager of 2001/02 Terry Back bring his Enfield team to Buckingham Road, where the Ducks recorded one of their best wins of the season, 4-1. Two goals each from Maskell and Ibe sent Enfield home embarassed, after they had taken the lead.

Welcome Back - Canvey Style

Maskell continued his scoring streak with a goal in the 2-2 draw with Bishop's Stortford. The next game saw Canvey Island visit Aylesbury for only the 2nd time in their history, and despite a good start by the Ducks, they departed with a 6-1 walloping, and brought the Ducks firmly down to earth.

The visit to 3 days later saw thoughts of Canvey banished, as the Ducks recorded a good 2-1 win on the ground where they gained promotion, Barkingside, home of Ford United. A visit to Grays saw the Ducks lose 1-3, before a marathon 3-3 draw at home to Boreham Wood. Aylesbury had gone into a 3-1 lead, but let it slip at the end of the game.

A close 2-3 defeat away at Sutton was promptly followed by another good win, 3-0 at home to Hampton & Richmond. Goals from Joe Baker, Adam Campion and Craig Maskell easily saw off a poor Hampton team.

The 28th September saw the Ducks first match in the FA Cup, with the team looking to emulate last season's run to the first round. Sadly, Aylesbury were drawn the impossible task of an away day at the league's top side, Aldershot. As expected, the result was a 1-3 loss, but the Ducks put up a good fight.

October - Month Of The Boring Draw

The 1st October saw the Ducks make the journey to high-flying Hendon. Unfortunately the trip resulted in a 1-3 defeat. Four days later though, and a famous win over Aldershot was achieved. A controversial last minute penalty from Craig Maskell settled the match, and went some way to avenging the Shots FA Cup win over us.

Then followed a run of four uninspiring matches. A 0-0 home draw with Maidenhead was only worth mentioning becuase Greg Williams was forced to play more than an hour in goal, after keeper Adam Wheeler suffered a dislocated shoulder. The next week, and another 0-0 home draw, this time against Harrow Borough. A 2-2 away draw against Braintree, and a 0-1 defeat at Purfleet saw the end of a disappointing month.

November - Trophy Journey Starts Here

The first match of November was a 2-0 win over Burnham. At the time this result was greeted with nothing more than how nice it was to get to the 2nd round. Who could have predicted it was to lead to the Semi Finals of non-league's most prestigious cup competition?

A 1-1 home draw with Bedford, with the Ducks rescued by a 90th minute Ibe equaliser, and drawing 2-2 away at Harrow saw another two points added to the tally. A 3-0 away win over Flackwell Heath got the Bryco Cup campaign running, and the Berks & Bucks campaign was begun with an emphatic 4-0 win over Wokingham Town.

The last game of November saw the first real Trophy day out, and saw the Ducks travel to Doctor Martens Western Division side Chippenham Town. This was the first of a series of 1-0 victories, with the Ducks defence in superb form to keep a clean sheet. A Steve McGrath header was the deciding goal.

November also saw the start of a 12 game unbeaten run, which began with the win over Burnham on the 2nd.

December

December started with an excellent 2-1 win over Heybridge Swifts at Buckingham Road, before a 1-1 home draw with Basingstoke. Another draw, also 1-1, was achieved at Hayes, before the game everyone had been waiting for.

The Boxing Day derby was an event which everyone had missed dearly in Division One. A game against Uxbridge just doesn't have the same ring to it as an Aylesbury-Chesham clash. This particular derby was no different to any other, gritty and hard fought. The Ducks came back from a goal down (scored by ex-Duck Dwayne Clarke) to win 2-1, with Chesham reduced to 9 men.

December was signed off with a 1-1 draw at Billericay, where Fiston Manuella scored the goal.

January - Month Of Just Four Games

Two weeks passed before Aylesbury's first January game, as the New Year's trip to St Albans was washed out, before games with Hitchin and Kingstonian were also postponed. The Kingstonian game, in the FA Trophy 3rd Round, was played on the 14th January, and saw another defensive performance from the Ducks, as they won 1-0. A goal from Joe Baker won the game, and started thoughts of a proper Trophy run inside the heads of fans.

Canvey completed the double over Aylesbury, with their 2-1 win at Park Lane. The Ducks got a consolation goal in the form of a Craig Maskell penalty. The Ducks earned a midweek trip to Grays in the Bryco Cup 4th Round at the expense of Sutton, after a close run 3-2 win over the Londoners. Coincidentally, Aylesbury faced Grays four days later, and grabbed another 3-2 win, with two goals in the last ten minutes.

February - Last 16 Here We Come!

February started with a bang, as the Ducks reached the last 16 of the FA Trophy. A trip to Altrincham saw a real cup atmosphere generated, with the scores of travelling Ducks singing their hearts out, in addition to the more than adequate levels of noise generated by the home fans. Once again, it was a case of defensive force for the Ducks, as a 1-0 lead was clung onto. Fiston Manuella's goal just before half-time proved enough, and the defense, and especially young goalkeeper Lee Worgan, were superb.

The Ducks were knocked out of the Bryco Cup three days later, as a total of five Ducks fans made the long trip to Grays, on a freezing cold night. The result was a 0-1 defeat in a hugely un-entertaining game.

Then came the lowest point of the season, and perhaps one of the worst collapses in Aylesbury's recent history. An away match against Hampton & Richmond, who were bottom of the table with only a couple of wins to their name. Despite taking an early lead from Craig Maskell, Aylesbury allowed Hampton to get back into the match, and furthermore, allowed them to score 3 goals. Embarassing...

Aylesbury had the chance to take their minds off the league with a trip to Flackwell Heath in the Berks & Bucks, and surely a confidence boosting win? Sadly, this was not the case, as Flackwell stormed into a two goal lead, and Lee Worgan was sent off. The game was memorable though, for a farcicle incident involving a penalty. Adam Campion took his spot kick, which was saved by the keeper, but went in anyway. However, the ball went through a hole in the net, which prompted the referee to award a corner! United recovered still, to make the score 2-2 and earn a replay.

Since the Trophy win over Altrincham, February had turned into a month to forget for Aylesbury, and the Ducks' misery was compounded with a 0-4 home thrashing by Sutton. In a game where United simply didn't start, the Ducks would be happy to wave February goodbye.

In another bizarre event of February, the Berks & Bucks replay with Flackwell was abandoned after just 19 minutes, as the referee adjudged the pitch to be frozen and unsafe to play on, following a Flackwell player injuring himself after falling on it.

Then came the FA Trophy 5th Round encounter with Windsor & Eton, a team that had languished near the bottom of Division 1 during Aylesbury's promotion season. However, the tie was a very close matched affair, and after drawing 2-2 at Buckingham Road, a replay was needed at Stag Meadow. The replay seemed to have been settled by a Joe Baler goal, until ex-Wycombe midfielder Dave Carroll struck in stoppage time to keep Windsor's hopes alive. Extra time finished goalless, and so to a penalty shoot-out. Stop-gap keeper James Heeps, playing with flu, became an instant Aylesbury hero, as he made two excellent saves in the shootout, to send the Ducks through.

March - The Bubble Bursts

March saw Aylesbury's poor league form continue, with a last minute 1-0 defeat at home to Hendon, and a 3-1 away loss to St Albans, that was just too comfortable for the Saints. Kezie Ibe had equalised to give the Ducks hope, but it wasn't to be. In between these games came a 4-0 hammering of Flackwell Heath, as the villagers were finally knocked out of the Berks & Bucks Cup.

At 17th place in the league, things weren't looking too desperate. However, draws with lowly Hitchin and Braintree, and things were becoming worrying as the Ducks dropped to 20th, just one place above the relegation zone.

Once more though, the team could take their minds off the league situation with an FA Trophy game, and this time Gloucester City provided the opposition. Bringing with them a large number of noisy and colourful fans, this game had a truly great atmosphere. On the pitch though, and Aylesbury played one of the best games of the season, racing into a 2-0 lead in 15 minutes. The Tigers hit back from the penalty spot, but it wasn't enough to prevent the Ducks historically reaching the Semi-Finals, for the first time in their existence.

The bubble was burst soon after, as a 1-1 home draw with Purfleet was achieved, before a 4-0 thumping away to Bedford, on a truly miserable night for Aylesbury. Simply nothing went right, and the Ducks were condemned to slip into the relegation zone. Another defeat, this time away to Maidenhead, didn't help matters, and things were looking very bleak indeed.

April - Ducks Crash Out Of Trophy, But Turn On League Form

April began with an inevitable away defeat at Championship chasing Aldershot, before another big Trophy day, this time against Northerners Burscough. The Semi Final was to be played over two legs, and was a truly wonderful occasion. The Buckingham Road leg finished 1-1, Craig Maskell sent Aylesbury into the league with a spectacular strike, but Burscough hit back.

In between the two legs Aylesbury fielded their reserve side in the Berks & Bucks Semi Final, against Burnham, and ran out 5-0 winners. The Ducks would now face Maidenhead in the final, to be played at Chesham United.

The long journey to Burscough was made by a huge number of fans, all willing their team on to a place in the Final at Villa Park. Aylesbury, whilst not creating much in the way of a goalscoring opportunity, made a good job of their defending, and the game looked set to go to extra time. Unfortunately, the referee gave a hugely controversial last minute penalty to the home side, and Shaun Teale sent his side to Villa Park. The final whistle ended with scenes of players and officials contesting with the referee and a decision which may have cost the Ducks £60,000.

Aylesbury put the huge disappointment and anger of going out of the Trophy to the best possible use, and went about securing their Premier Division place for next season with a superb run of form. Following the Trophy match, the Ducks lost just 1 game in 6 and hauled themselves up to 17th in the table. Wins over Ford, Hayes, Kingstonian and Boreham Wood were good, but even better was the 3-1 derby win over Chesham on Bank Holiday Monday. The Ducks dug deep after going a goal down, and strikes from Adam Campion, Dwayne Plummer and Craig Maskell saved the day.

May - Out Of Steam

The end of season saw the Ducks simply run out of steam, as they suffered a 1-0 defeat away to Heybridge in their final league match. The result saw the Swifts fend off relegation, whilst sending Chesham down to Division One.

Also in May the Ducks played the Berks & Bucks Cup Final, and were soundly hammered by Maidenhead, 4-1. The game was only ever going one way, as time and time again the Aylesbury backline were outfoxed by Maidenhead's excellent striker partnership, of Yaku and Allen. Even so, the supporters enjoyed every minute of the match, and created a carnival atmosphere with singing, dancing and drumming.

Thinking Ahead!

With the season just a few days old, and alredy a number of fans' minds are on what is to happen next season. With the planned restructuring of the Non-League scene, the Ducks will obviously want to finish as high as possible. According to the Directors, we should realistically aim for a top 16 finish.

As usual the carousel of players will have its effects over the Summer. With so many League players likely to be out of contract, it may well be that we once more acquire a number of talented youngsters. Here's to 2003/04!

Presentation Evening

Player Of The Season:
1st Place - Craig Maskell
2nd Place - Lee Worgan
3rd Place - Greg Williams

Players' Player Of The Season
Fiston Manuella

Luke Brown - June 2003

2003/04

Life as a Ducks fan is rarely dull and certainly never uneventful, but last season turned out to be the most chaotic in living memory, with as many managers as league wins. Believe it or not though there were some good moments on the pitch, and here we will try and highlight the highlights, so to speak. The summer of 2003 had seen manager Steve Cordery leave the club to take charge at Staines, his hometown side. The surprise choice as his replacement was former player Chris Boothe, with Steve Gallen as his assistant.

The Boothe Era

The new season began with Billericay at home, and saw Chris Bangura and two of Boothe's more high profile signings, Karl Ready and Danny Grieves, score in an astonishing 3-2 win as United overcame a two-goal deficit with all their goals coming inside the last 20 minutes.

Only a late equaliser from a battling Northwood side denied Aylesbury a second win three days later in the first midweek game, with another Boothe signing, Dean Canoville, having given the Ducks a lead early in the second half.

Unfortunately this heartening start proved to be very much a false dawn. The Ducks were never seen in the top half of the table again from this point on. The collapse began with a thrashing at the hands of Kevin Wilson's Bedford at the New Eyrie, future Ducks striker (in more ways than one) Mark Reed coming off the bench to score in a 4-1 defeat.

The next three results saw the fact that it would be a long, hard season begin to dawn - Aylesbury defeated 2-0 at home by Hornchurch, 2-0 away by struggling Braintree and 3-0 in a dreadful home performance against Basingstoke.

The under-performing Grieves and Ready had moved onto pastures new before Boothe had begun his best run as Ducks boss - going four games unbeaten. This run began with a 2-2 draw at Top Field against Hitchin, in a game that saw both sides end up with ten men. A seemingly rejuvenated Aylesbury team pulled off one of the most impressive results of the season the following Tuesday night, with a 1-0 victory over high-flying Bognor Regis, thanks to a tremendous 90th-minute solo winner from Alvin Bubb.

Carshalton like Bognor had started well following promotion to the Premier Division and they were the visitors to Buckingham Road four days later. The visitors again left disappointed as, having led 1-0 for over 75 minutes, they were denied by another late Ducks goal, this time from emerging young star Danny Mead with a brilliant free kick.

The unbeaten run ended with a goalless draw at Kingsmeadow with Kingstonian, but this game was also the beginning of another poor run without a Ducks goal as an increasingly young and inexperienced line-up fell to 3-0 defeats at home to Grays and away at Hayes.

Arguably, both the best and worst moments of the season on the pitch came in the FA Cup Second Qualifying Round game away to Braintree. Having fallen into an early lead, United equalised on the half-hour mark with a penalty from Adam Campion. Danny Gordon was then sent off early in the second half for a second bookable offence and it became real backs-to-the-walls stuff - even more so as Greg Williams scored a sensational long-range half-volley to give the ten men the lead five minutes later! Unfortunately, the game was eventually to end in heartbreak as Braintree finally made their advantage pay in the last five minutes with two goals, the second a debatable penalty. Unlucky as this may have been in retrospect, it proved to be the final straw for the Ducks careers of Messrs. Boothe and Gallen, as Aylesbury moved on to supposedly better things.

The Wilson Era

Dismissed manager Chris Boothe was replaced almost immediately and his high-profile successor brought with him a great deal of excitement to the club. Former Northampton boss Kevin Wilson and assistant Lee Howey had chosen to make the switch from Bedford to the Ducks and it was a popular decision with most fans, with hopes of the club gaining a prized Conference 2 place at their highest since the opening week of the season.

Wilson wasted no time in adding to a depleted squad, with the inspirational Paul Covington making his debut just a couple of days into Wilson's reign in an expected 4-0 defeat at champions elect Canvey Island. Chris Jackson, another ex-Bedford man appeared three days later, as United managed to hold Hendon to a 1-1 draw at home with a goal from Bangura.

Bangura was on the scoresheet again eleven days later, adding to Greg Williams' strike in a 2-0 win at Harrow Borough, Aylesbury's first away win of the season. A week later the Ducks began their FA Trophy campaign with a tie at home to Banstead Athletic, which saw a talented youngster who had long been waiting in the wings finally make his mark. With United having fallen behind in the second half, off the bench came Danny Gray to score an 89th minute equaliser and keep his team in the competition. In the replay three days later, it was none other than Gray again who scored the winner in a 1-0 victory.

The following weekend a third consecutive away win came in remarkable fashion at Heybridge, despite the early sending off of Adam Campion. The game saw the Ducks debuts of two talented attackers in Matt Glynn and Darren Lynch, but it was substitute Alvin Bubb who could claim to be the match winner for the second time of the season with two goals, the second deep into injury time.

The Ducks' impressive away form continued at Sutton, as Aylesbury came from two goals down to earn a 2-2 draw in an entertaining game, with Bubb again and Matt Glynn on the scoresheet. United had achieved their best sequence of results of the season at this point, having gone six games without defeat and climbing briefly out of the relegation zone. Unfortunately, this was as good as things would get.

While Wilson's team were without doubt consistently impressive on the road, they underachieved just as regularly at Buckingham Road. On two Saturdays running the now expectant home faithful were to be disappointed as Aylesbury were beaten by Thurrock 4-2 and Maidenhead 3-1. This run did look likely to be halted in the Second Round of the Trophy against Grays, as first Ducks goals for Lynch and Jackson saw United race into a shock 2-0 lead. When the visitors managed to salvage a draw however there was a feeling that Aylesbury had thrown away an unexpected chance to progress. The few fans that did make the journey to Essex the following Tuesday night were rewarded handsomely, as Darren Lynch header inside the last five minutes proved to be the winner. A fantastic result against a Grays side who were to go the entire league season unbeaten at home.

Another highlight away from home came four days later as Wilson took a point from his future employers Kettering in a thrilling 2-2 draw, with Aylesbury goals from Covington and the free-scoring Lynch. Incredibly they still could not replicate this form at home though and fell to a dreadful 1-0 Buckingham Road defeat against Bishop's Stortford, before an unusually disappointing away effort saw them held to another 2-2 draw by rock-bottom Billericay.

Wilson's only home win finally came in a Tuesday night game against Ford, with Darren Lynch's hat-trick securing the three points in a 3-2 victory, but even here United did it the hard way, twice allowing Ford to equalise. The euphoria and the feeling that the season was finally turning in the right direction wasn't to last however, as a desperately disappointing 2-1 defeat at home to Northwood followed. Then things were to go really pear-shaped.

The Lacey/Remnant Era

The resignation of Kevin Wilson following the Northwood game (to take over at Kettering it later transpired) was to have enormous repercussions. Over the Christmas period the bulk of the first team squad refused to play, amid claims that four released players had not been paid. The caretaker management team of long-serving fan Simon Lacey and ex-reserves boss Pete Remnant were therefore forced to field a team consisting mostly of reserve team players for the Boxing Day game at St. Albans.

But the day would prove to be one of great pride as the vociferous travelling support saw their new heroes take a shock lead with a sweet strike from Nadim Akhtar. This game was finally lost 3-1, however six days later a quite phenomenal effort saw United take a 3-1 lead against Bedford thanks to goals from Matt Hayward, Aaron Cavill and Lewis Pritchard, only for the visitors to come back and draw 3-3 with two goals in the final twenty minutes. Without question though, this was one of the best footballing displays of the season at Buckingham Road, with Aylesbury playing football the way it should be played and giving us a truly memorable day.

A battling performance in the FA Trophy Third Round at Hornchurch didn't prove enough to stop the well-financed home side running out 2-0 winners. Seven days later, new manager Paul Curtis' first experience of the Ducks was to see them hammered 4-1 in a poor showing at home to Hitchin.

The Curtis Era (So Far)

The new man inherited a team still severely depleted; of the striking players only two, Alvin Bubb and Greg Williams, were to return to play for the club again. His first official game in charge saw his young team lose 3-0 at Carshalton, before a 4-2 defeat to Windsor in the Berks & Bucks Cup three days later. Unfortunately this was the last time Aylesbury were to score at Buckingham Road in 2003/04.

In the next seven games United managed just one goal and two points (both from goalless draws), in a run which included four, five and six goal defeats to Bognor, Thurrock and Sutton respectively. The reality of the situation was now becoming very apparent - Aylesbury were seemingly doomed to finish bottom of the pile.

At the beginning of March however there were signs that Curtis was beginning to turn things around, starting with an incredible Tuesday night game at Bishop's Stortford in front of roughly ten very lucky Ducks fans. Two goals each from Ryan Wiffin and Rory Hunter saw Aylesbury come back from 3-1 and 4-3 deficits to claim a stunning 4-4 draw. It was commented at the time that you had to see it to believe it and indeed many of those who weren't there still refuse to believe it to this day!

This remarkable game seemed to inject some much-needed spirit into Curtis' team and for the rest of March they looked almost to be a different side to that of the previous month. The Ducks were now looking like they could compete at this level after all and were only narrowly defeated by high-flying Hayes (1-0), Grays (2-1) and Canvey Island (2-0), with Wiffin's headed goal even giving United a shock second half lead at Grays.

This improved form peaked at second-placed Hendon, when a goal on his debut from Donovan Reed gave Aylesbury an early lead. Although this was inevitably cancelled out, United continued to battle tremendously and came away from Claremont Road with a brilliant 1-1 draw.

Unfortunately this was as good as it would get and there were few high points from the end of March onwards. With expectations now a little higher, Aylesbury disappointingly failed to beat strugglers Braintree and St. Albans at home; indeed the Ducks couldn't even score during the whole month of April, before a 4-2 loss at Maidenhead mercifully brought the season to an end.

Leon O'Sullivan - July 2004

2004/05

Welcome to the review of season 2004/05, another exciting twelve months in the history of our great club. As ever there were highs and lows, joy and despair, excitement and tension. Here we take a look back at them all...

After the debacle that was the previous season, 2004/05 was viewed as little more than a consolidation effort for the club. It is a measure of how far Aylesbury United have come then, as in May we look back at narrowly missing out on the play-offs and a Berks & Bucks Cup Final defeat. Although a feeling of disappointment now lingers around Buckingham Road, this season has been a massive success.

A Mixed Start

Manager Paul Curtis had been busy recruiting players during the Summer months, and Aylesbury fielded five debutants in the disappointing opening day defeat at Halesowen Town. Narrow wins over Hitchin, Solihull and Rugby were to follow though and give a sense of optimism.

After a home defeat to Stamford and an away Bank Holiday win at Hemel Hempstead, Curtis enjoyed his finest game in charge of the Green & Whites. Pre-season League favourites Tiverton Town were the visitors to Buckingham Road, but in a superb display Aylesbury stormed into a 3-0 lead, before a late consolation made it 3-1.

That win took United to their highest League position - 3rd spot, and there was real belief that the season could see a real promotion challenge take shape. Sadly United went on to lose their next three League games - against eventual Champions Histon, an awful 2-1 defeat at Team Bath, and at home to Bath City.

There was some respite in the FA Cup, although after a 6-0 win at Cornard United, Aylesbury never truly reached full potential and struggled to beat Stotfold after a replay, before crashing out to Ashford Town in the 3rd Qualifying Round.

Prior to the game with Ashford, Aylesbury had drawn 1-1 at lowly Stamford, and with the pressure mounting on Curtis a dire 2-0 home defeat at the hands of Hemel Hempstead Town proved the final straw, and he resigned citing a lack of support.

Step Forward Danny Nicholls

Assistant Manager Danny Nicholls was handed the reigns on a caretaker basis, and he led United to a superb 1-0 win at Chippenham Town in his first game. Performances improved greatly, although consistency was lacking at times. A defeat at home to Cirencester was the team's only loss in Nicholls' first five games in charge.

Nicholls moved quickly to strengthen the squad, snapping up Liam Folds and Gavin Jaggard, with the latter scoring two on his debut at Grantham Town. Youngster Colin Baker was promoted from the Reserve Team, and he netted on his full debut in a draw at Banbury United, and the Ducks began their FA Trophy campaign with a 2-1 win over Solihull Borough.

At the end of November the club's 'United For Aylesbury Day' attracted the biggest crowd of the season, as 1006 saw the Ducks lose 1-3 against Histon, although Dean Cracknell's opening strike was worthy of the attendance. Progress was continued in the FA Trophy also, as former manager Steve Cordery's Staines Town were knocked out in a dramatic game at Wheatsheaf Lane.

Nicholls was quickly appointed as permanent manager, and Aylesbury were steadily climbing up the league table as justification. Losing only once in December, a Boxing Day win over local rivals Chesham saw United move up to fifth in the table, and put themselves amongst the play-off chasers going into the second half of the season.

December also marked the signing of Drew Roberts, a striker who had been prolific with Bedford Town the previous season, but had struggled since joining Kettering in the Summer. After four games to settle in, he opened his account with a hat-trick against Dunstable, and two in the next game against Grantham.

An FA Trophy upset was caused in January when United knocked out Conference side Forest Green Rovers, as a Dean Cracknell wonder-goal and a Leon Gutzmore effort gave Aylesbury a 2-1 win. Unfortunately they couldn't overcome Canvey Island in the Fourth Round, but it had been another successful season in the competition.

League results continued to be inconsistent, but remained in the top six throughout February and March, with excellent away wins over Hitchin and Hednesford aiding their cause. Unfortunately home form wasn't as impressive, as Team Bath left with a 2-1 win, and King's Lynn sent United crashing to a 4-1 defeat.

So Near, So Far

A derby win at Chesham United, and home draw with Bedford Town had sent Aylesbury into April sitting in Fifth place in the League. Play-off qualification was still in their hands, and the club were still in the Berks & Bucks Cup having beaten Bracknell Town in the Quarter Final.

A very poor 3-0 defeat in glorious sunshine at Cirencester Town was followed by better news as the Ducks beat Chesham for the third time of the season to book a Berks & Bucks Cup Final with Wycombe Wanderers at the end of the season.

Play-off chances were boosted once again with an excellent 3-2 win at home to Chippenham Town, but three defeats in the final three games - 1-0 at King's Lynn, 4-1 against Hednesford Town at home and 2-0 away at Bath City - meant there was to be no play-offs for the Ducks as the team ran out of steam.

The Berks & Bucks Cup Final was welcome relief after a gruelling season as Aylesbury enjoyed a day out at The Causeway Stadium. The Ducks ran their League Two opponents close in an exciting game, which finished 3-2 to Wycombe Wanderers, after Roberts scored twice to take his tally to 13 goals in 22 games.

Looking Ahead

Aylesbury proved throughout the campaign that they can compete with the best, having beaten the League leaders on four occasions (Chippenham twice, Merthyr Tydfil and Halesowen), as well as the victory over Forest Green and narrow defeats against Canvey Island and Wycombe Wanderers.

With Danny Nicholls having committed his future to the club, and a number of choice signings in the Summer, the club will be well placed to build on this season and push-on for an even better 2005/06.

Luke Brown - May 2005

2005/06

Welcome to our review of the 2005/06 season, one which should be consigned to history as soon as possible and hopefully forgotten about, after United suffered their fourth relegation in their 109 year history.

With the club still on a high following a successful 2004/05 campaign, many tipped United for a play-off challenge. Despite a decent start, the Ducks dropped away, and once again a number of off-field problems arose, with a knock-on effect on activities on the pitch, and the club languished in the bottom four for the entire second half of the season.

Good Start

Manager Danny Nicholls remained in charge over the summer months, making only a couple of changes to an already talented squad. Paul Lamb and Daniel French were notable departures, whilst in came highly rated striker Darran Hay along with promising young defender Liam Dolman on-loan from Northampton Town.

Results were good, a five match unbeaten run got the season underway, including only failing to beat Chippenham due to a last minute penalty, and wins over Cheshunt, and more impressively King's Lynn. United also went four games without conceding a goal.

But then came three poor defeats in succession, away at Northwood and Evesham United, and at home to Grantham Town. October saw United winless in the league, as they drew at Team Bath and lost close games at Banbury United and Hitchin Town.

By this point it was clear United weren't going to be challenging for honours after all, as they slipped quietly into mid-table.

The FA Cup - So Close

September brought some respite in the FA Cup, although the Ducks struggled to overcome minnows Northampton Spencer 2-1, and needed a replay to finally see off Northwood in the next round.

The Ducks progressed through the 3rd Qualifying Round at the expense of Wroxham, although again they needed a replay after the hosts scored a full 10-minutes into stoppage time in Norfolk.

Drawn against Folkestone Invicta in the 4th and final Qualifying Round, United had their best chance of reaching the 1st Round Proper in many years, but on the day were comfortably beaten 2-0 in front of a massively disappointed Buckingham Road crowd.

Experiencing Turbulence

The middle of the season proved to be another traumatic time for the club. There was to be no repeat of the previous season's FA Trophy heroics, despite beating tenants Thame United 5-0 in the 1st Qualifying Round, the Ducks quietly slipped out of the competition at Halesowen Town.

Star striker and leading goalscorer, Drew Roberts left the club in November to join Conference South side Histon, leaving a huge void up front. United's form through the month was good in the league though, securing a good draw at King's Lynn and beating Cheshunt and Cirencester Town, and drawing with Mangotsfield. Aylesbury then exited the League Cup, at the hands of Champions elect Salisbury City 3-0.

An emerging young star hit the headlines around this time, as Aston Goss changed successive games - creating the winner against Cheshunt, and scoring a wonderful solo effort to win the match against Cirencester. He was elevated to hero status and remained part of the firs team for the rest of the season.

Results in early December were poor, and the club hit their lowest point when they were hammered 5-0 at home to Tiverton Town. This marked the end to Danny Nicholls, who resigned citing cuts in his playing budget.

A number of players swiftly departed the club, six in total, leaving the club in a tricky situation. Thankfully, former players Richard Horner and Gary Crawshaw, aided by youth team coach Owen Clayton stepped forward to take over for the match against Merthyr Tydfil three days later.

Although United lost 2-0, the young side did themselves proud and proved they were to be part of the remainder of the season. December continued without a win as the club looked to appoint a new manager to try and stave off relegation.

The Trebble Era

Former Preston striker Neil Trebble was appointed at the end of December, bringing with him backroom staff of Nicky Ironton and Andy Theodosiou. Trebble had previously been assistant manager at Arlesey Town, and involved with Ironton at Hemel Hempstead.

Trebble brought in a number of players, and performances gradually began improving, but his most notable results in the first two months of his stewardship were draws, with his first win in charge not arriving until March.

There were impressive points gained at Chippenham Town, where a late strike cost United all three, as well as another 1-1 draw at Halesowen Town where a wonder-strike on his debut by Nick Jackson equalised for United. Aylesbury were also unlucky to lose at Bath City, where they put in a typical battling display only to be unrewarded.

The last remaining chance of Cup glory was brought to an end in late February, when Wycombe Wanderers brought a strong Reserve side to see off Aylesbury's young team 2-0.

Entering the final two months of the season, wins were a must for Aylesbury if they were to hold onto their Premier Division status. And that's exactly what they did at the start of March, turning in a superb performance to beat Banbury United 2-0 for Neil Trebble's first win in charge.

Frustratingly this was swiftly followed by a dour 1-0 defeat by basement club Chesham United, in front of the club's biggest gate of the season of 827. This was a match in which tempers flared between fans and management, particularly after the manager introduced himself as a second half substitute.

Three further defeats followed, at Yate Town, and at home to Salisbury City and Gloucester City. Backroom staff Ironton and Theodosiou departed, and the Ducks entered the last month of the season needing at least four wins to survive.

All the players can take credit for their determination and their performances throughout April. The team came mightily close to achieving their target - beating Halesowen and Northwood, and drawing with Tiverton.

Unfortunately Aylesbury lost at Bedford, and were crushed 5-1 at Buckingham Road by Bath City in what was a bridge too far for an exhausted young squad, and relegation was confirmed. Despite this, the team played the final game in high spirits with their heads held high, and won 4-2 in a fantastic finale at Merthyr Tydfil.

Moving Forwards

The end of season sees the biggest changes taking place at the club in 10-years. Club owner Bill Carroll, thwarted by the FA in his attempts to play Aylesbury's matches on an all weather artificial surface, has agreed to hand over the running of the club to a new fan oriented committee.

Sadly, that deal brings an end to Aylesbury's 20-year spell at the Buckingham Road Stadium. It's unfortunate that the last game played by the Ducks there will be a 5-1 defeat, but the club now need to look to an exciting future.

Aylesbury have been placed in the Southern League Division One Midlands for 2006-07 and with a new manager to be appointed, a club run in the correct manner, and an exciting squad of young players the future is certainly the brightest it's been for a number of years.

Luke Brown - May 2006

2008/09

Welcome to the review of season 2008/09, which saw the Ducks go into the start of the campaign harbouring genuine hopes of finally breaking into the top five and make the playoffs.

Tony Thompson had remained as the club's manager and kept a settled squad which had been built around the same players for the previous two years. The squad was bolstered with a couple of choice additions, the ever popular Daniel Mead returning to the club along with another name from the past: Stuart Maynard, whilst winger Aaron Flood switched from Dunstable Town.

Unbeaten United Storm On

The season began with a narrow defeat to eventual champions Leamington, who came from a goal behind to win 2-1 at The Meadow. Following that the Ducks didn't look back and after two further draws, at AFC Sudbury and Bedworth United, Aylesbury got their first win of the season against none other than their biggest rivals Chesham United.

The 2-2 draw in Sudbury marked the beginning of an incredible eleven-game unbeaten run for Aylesbury which included eight wins on the bounce! Chesham, Romulus, Stourport Swifts, Windsor & Eton, Almondsbury Town, Mangotsfield United, Bridgwater Town and Bath City were the sides beaten.

The latter five were in cup competitions as United marched through the early rounds of the FA Cup with ease, before completing a giantkilling of Conference South side Bath City with a full deserved 1-0 win at Twerton Park.

A draw at Soham Town three days later was to be the end of United's winning run, as Thompson decided to rotate his squad for the FA Trophy tie at Oxford City and United were subsequently beaten 3-1 despite new signing Chris Marsh's first goal in green and white.

FA Cup Heartbreak

Aylesbury faced Sutton United in the Fourth Qualifying Round of the FA Cup knowing that a win would potentially pair them with a Football League side in the next round.

Sadly, just as the last time the Ducks made it to that stage in 2005, they fell flat when they needed the performance of their lives, and it was Sutton who went through with a 1-0 win.

There was little consolation in an easy 3-0 GX Cup win over Burnham two days later as United's league form began to falter.

On home turf the Ducks were doing ok, a 4-0 win over Dunstable was convincing, but a 1-0 win over struggling Woodford was less so. It was away from The Meadow that Aylesbury's problems came, and four successive away defeats coupled with some dire performances meant an end to Thompson's reign as manager as he resigned following a 2-0 loss at Arlesey Town.

Step Up Mark Eaton

Former assistant manager Mark Eaton was given caretaker control of the team, and although he was absent for a 2-1 GX Cup defeat by Windsor & Eton, his official first game in charge was an undoubted success: inflicting promotion-chasing Chasetown manager Charlie Blakemore's biggest ever defeat with a 3-0 win at The Meadow.

That was swiftly followed with a 5-1 demolition of Malvern Town, but United were still showing inconsistency, winning two and losing two of their remaining December fixtures. There was plenty of Christmas cheer though, as one of those wins was a 3-2 thriller against Chesham as the Ducks completed the double over their landlords.

Aylesbury went through the rain-interrupted January unbeaten, and Mark Eaton was confirmed as permanent manager in February, but it was the same story of inconsistency as the Ducks won two, lost two in that month.

Congestion No Help For Small Squad

March began with a bang and after three storming wins the Ducks were in pole position for a playoff challenge. But after losing in hugely disappointing fashion at home to Bedworth, then winning against Arlesey, United went on to lose five games in a row and their hopes were effectively killed off.

Aylesbury's small squad had been decimated by injury all season, and sixteen games to play in the final two months of the year proved just too much and they capitulated.

By mid-April the Ducks had run out of steam and one win in eight paints the picture. There was some respite though and an entertaining 5-3 win at Atherstone which saw United score an amazing four goals in nine minutes to turn the game on its head.

Troubled Times Ahead

Ultimately it was another season of 'ifs, buts and maybes' and Mark Eaton is right when he said the Ducks might have done a lot better had they kept their entire squad fit throughout the season.

Now though, the club face yet another off-season of rebuilding, rumours and troubles both on and off the pitch.

Eaton and his squad have departed for pastures new, and the club have appointed highly rated Martin Stone who was very successful at his previous side Chalfont Wasps. He has had to rebuild the entire squad from scratch on a pittance but the early signs are promising and it should be an interesting 2009/10.

Luke Brown - July 2009