Preview: Worcester City

Despite a last-minute equaliser, last week’s draw against Leyton Orient will go down as two points dropped as our poor record on the road continues. An otherwise dominant display from the Sky Blues was undermined by that Achilles heel from set-pieces. With this weekend’s game coming in the FA Cup against a non-league team, the team will have to wait a while to put more points between us and the relegation zone.

This forthcoming FA Cup tie against Worcester City, strangely moved by the BBC to feature on a special edition of Final Score, is all about the big day it will be for our Conference North opponents. Worcester are expected to take between 2,000-3,000 fans to the Ricoh Arena, which is staggering considering the toils the club has been through in recent years. This is a massive occasion for the club and the town itself, we’ll have to find a way to match that level of intensity.

Looks like it's 'Tudgay time' again.
Looks like it’s ‘Tudgay time’ again.

It appears that most of our loan players will be available for this FA Cup tie, Gary Madine being the only one ineligible. This leaves a great chance for one of Marcus Tudgay, Simeon Jackson or Shaun Miller to impress alongside the now eligible Frank Nouble. Tudgay seems to be in line for the start, if noises in the local press are to be believed. With a look into medium-term future, Nouble and Martin’s eligibility suggests that a longer-term deal awaits both, which is an enticing prospect.

John Fleck’s suspension for picking up five bookings, similar to when he missed the Wimbledon game last season, leaves something of a team selection quandary. There is no natural replacement in the squad to play that playmaker role from the left which frees up room for Ryan Haynes to run into. The only two options are Mohamed Coulibaly or Devon Kelly-Evans. Considering that we are up against a team three divisions below us, it might be worth handing our own home-grown player the minutes rather than a loanee who looks set to be returned in January.

I imagine that this season’s defeat in the Birmingham Senior Cup to Halesowen Town may be instructive for Steven Pressley’s team selection. Although it was a cup competition for our reserve team, players such as Adam Barton and Aaron Phillips lined up that evening and were bested by a seventh-tier side who were physical and gave our players little time on the ball. Worcester will attempt to cover up their technical short-comings with competitiveness all over the pitch, it may not behove Pressley to select a too many youth-team players and instead go for the likes of Reda Johnson and Frank Nouble who will relish the physical challenge.

Possible Line-Up (4-4-2): Burge; Willis, Johnson, Martin, Haynes; O’Brien, Thomas, Barton, De. Kelly-Evans;  Nouble, Tudgay

Last Time We Met

There is something of a history between Coventry City and Worcester City, the two sides have made twice in the FA Cup. The most recent meeting was back in 1983 where Worcester City, then playing at Conference level, came up against a top-flight Coventry City side at Highfield Road. Our lowly opposition took a shock lead in the first-half before Steve Whitton equalised for the Sky Blues and Mark Hateley made it 2-1. Another goal late-on from Whitton again put to rest any nerves and sealed Coventry City’s ‘safe’ passage to the next round of the cup.

How Are They Doing?

It has been a nightmare past few years for Worcester City who play at Conference North level, the sixth tier of English football. They sold their ground St George’s Lane to property developers but were unable to build a new stadium after the sale failed to raise the expected funds. Worcester City now play in exile at Kidderminster Harriers’ Aggborough Stadium, 13 miles outside of Worcester.

They regularly attract around 500 fans in Kidderminster, which isn’t terrible considering the level of football that they play at, but there was a real sense of death around the club last year. They started the league season awfully last season and were looking certain for relegation for much of the first-half of the campaign.

Carl Heeley overcame the odds to keep Worcester City in the Conference North last season.
Carl Heeley defied the odds to keep Worcester City in the Conference North last season.

Thanks to some clever additions in the transfer market from manager Carl Heeley, the team managed to turn things around and survive in relative comfort. They have been able to continue that momentum for this season and now sit in 11th in the Conference North and are currently on a seven game unbeaten run. This game constitutes a reward for some hard work in recent months for Worcester.

Worcester City’s top-scorer this season is Daniel Nti with five goals, the forward has been in-and-out of the team in recent weeks and may be used from the bench in this game. Leading the line will be non-league journeyman striker Nick Wright who returned to the club half-way through last season. Wright is expected to form a three-pronged attack with Walsall loanee Jordan Murphy and either Nti or Mike Symons.

The Conference North side boast a few former Football League players, Wayne Thomas in central defence had been a regular for Stoke, Burnley and Southampton at Championship level fairly recently. Danny Jackman in midfield won promotion to League One with Gillingham in 2009 and could probably still play at Football League level but has chosen to play for Worcester City to be closer to his family. Goalkeeper Jose Veiga was a regular at Macclesfield Town in League Two for several years but is now back-up to Nathan Vaughan for The Dragons.

Worcester City’s regular formation is 4-3-3 with three out-and-out forwards. The temptation for Carl Heeley may be to play 4-5-1 and pack the midfield, sticking with his preferred formation though could make Worcester more direct and able to hassle our defence when they have the ball. It might be worth sticking with that shape just to increase their nuisance factor.

Possible Line-Up (4-3-3): Vaughan; Weir, Thomas, Hutchinson, Williams; Jackman, Deeney, Geddes; Murphy, Wright, Symons.


These games can be hard to predict due to the level that some non-league sides are able to raise their game to on these occasions and the degree of complacency which sets in for the Football League side. Worcester City will be backed by a large travelling support and know that a trip to the Third Round could really turn round the fortunes of this ailing club. They will be desperate to win this game, more so than just for the pride of taking our scalp, if we approach this game professionally and are able to match their level of intensity, our greater technical ability should shine through.

It might not be the easiest spectacle on the eye but I think that the way Pressley sets the team up to take care of the ball in possession but also to press the opposition when they’re on the ball might make it hard for Worcester City to impose themselves on us. A comfortable 3-0 win awaits the Sky Blues.

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