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1996/97 season review

Season Review 1996/97
by Michael STFC on 15/03/2005

A season review of our 1996/97 season, that saw us narrowly avoid relegation from the GM Vauxhall Conference by a mere three points.

1999/00 Season Review
1996/97 Season Review

The 1996-1997 Vauxhall Conference campaign was manager Brian McDermott's first full season in charge of the Rebels. He had been appointed with a good pedigree and, using his contacts, secured several notable pre-season signings in the form of Gary Micklewhite (ex-QPR), Gary McGinnis (ex-Dundee United), Garry Smart (Oxford United), Simon Stapleton (Wycombe Wanderers) and prolific non-league marksman Gary Abbott, along with freshly released goalkeeper Paul Wilkerson (Watford) and winger Danny Bolt (Fulham). These players complemented the talent already at Wexham Park; Cliff Hercules, Steve Bateman, Gary Blackford, Mark West and, of course, the legendary Mark "Billy" Fiore.

Considering the personnel brought in, it was perhaps no surprise that we started the first month of the season at a canter, thumping Stalybridge Celtic 4-1 on the opening day at The Park before a momentous 5-0 midweek victory over newly-promoted Rushden & Diamonds, then under the multi-million chairmanship of Doc Martens owner Max Griggs. The Slough Town band were at full volume as we simply ran rings around our high profile opponents, Gary Abbott's superb hat-trick topped off by Cliff Hercules' 300th League career goal and our name was at the top of the table. We then travelled to Title-favourites Kidderminster Harriers and came from behind to win 2-1 at Aggborough. Sandwiched between these results was a disappointing 1-4 defeat at Halifax Town before we ended August with a frustrating 0-1 home defeat to Altrincham, at whom we threw everything but the kitchen sink, only to lose to a last minute breakaway goal.

September started brightly, Gary Abbott recording his second hat-trick of the season in the 5-2 home win against Bath City. We then travelled to Southport, where a hooked Mark West effort was enough to win the points before a depressing midweek trip to Park View Road, where the hosts - Welling United - occupied the bottom of the table spot. A first half hattrick from bogeyman Lennie Dennis gave us a mountain to climb in the second half, which we nearly overcame with two more Mark West goals but ultimately fell 2-3. Bromsgrove Rovers were seen off 2-0 at the Park before a 0-0 midweek draw at Dover Athletic saw us crawl back to the top of the table, a position we scuppered with three successively poor results - two home draws (2-2 v Hednesford Town and 1-1 v Kettering Town) and a 1-4 end-of-month defeat at Bromsgrove Rovers.

Traditionally, the Rebels seem to nosedive around October, but this season promised a little better, starting with a great 3-0 win over Woking at The Park, a victory made even sweeter by the sending off of two opponents (one of them having already been substituted) by a nonsensical referee who seemed to lack any training whatsoever. A 1-2 home defeat to Morecambe frustratingly followed this, along with an indifferent 0-1 defeat at Kettering Town in the Spalding Cup. The home game against Telford United marked the full debut of youngster Lloyd Owusu, who showed us he was destined for higher things almost immediately, grabbing an amazing four goal haul, completed with a full length diving header as we routed the Shropshire side 6-0. Once again, a great win was tarnished by another poor result; the following week, we came unstuck at Hayes, limping out of the FA Cup by a 0-1 margin, with Mark West picking up the knee injury which began the tailspin on his Slough career. Another month, another win to kickstart us as Lloyd Owusu bagged the only goal at Altrincham before we were soundly spanked by Kidderminster Harriers, now fully in form and boasting the prolific Lee Hughes, the 0-2 scoreline was most flattering to the Rebels. The intrepid journey to Gateshead produced our perennial defeat there, going down 1-2, before we recorded a good 1-0 win at Northwich Victoria, centre-back Steve Bateman the matchwinner in what was our last League win for four months.

We experienced two scoreless bore draws against Macclesfield Town (home) and Kettering Town (away) as December got underway. We failed to hold leads in the next two games, a Michael Murphy goal at Farnborough Town was overhauled to 1-2 before we somehow contrived to concede two late goals at home to Welling United, who came away with a 3-3 draw. The festive period was not a happy hunting ground for the Rebels as we were pitted against "local" rivals. On Boxing Day, we recorded a creditable 2-2 draw with Stevenage Borough at a freezing Broadhall Way before going down 0-2 to Clive Walker's Woking and their impressive new stand at Kingfield. The New Year couldn't have started worse, as a rampant Stevenage Borough side came to Wexham Park and thrashed us 1-6 in near sub-zero temperatures.

After a meek 1-1 home draw with Farnborough Town, the fans sensed we were seriously starting to waver, despite a frosty 6-0 home victory over Buckingham Town in the Berks & Bucks Cup. January was indeed consumed by Cup football; the FA Trophy tussle with Dorchester Town of the Doc Martens League brought about two replays. Having squandered a two goal home lead to draw 2-2, Slough were forced to face a daunting midweek trip to the South West, only for another draw (this time, 1-1) to force a toss-up for a second replay. The Rebels won the coin toss, but then failed to make home advantage count again, as the Magpies overturned Cliff Hercules' effort to win 2-1.

Amidst all of this, we lost 0-2 at Title-chasing Macclesfield Town before February took a hold, proving even less fruitless; two home defeats came in the form of a forgettable 0-1 against Gateshead, then a thrilling 3-4 debacle with Northwich Victoria, who snatched victory in the final minute to heap more misery on the fans, even though former Fulham forward, Gary Brazil scored on his debut. Just when it seemed things couldn't get any worse, we travelled a second time to local rivals Hayes, who included eventual Rebels Darron Wilkinson, Mark Hall, Junior Haynes and Freddie Hyatt. We came away with a 0-5 thumping, two dismissals in Hercules and Derek Simpson and a new joke figure in the inimitable goalkeeper Noel Imber.

March seemed to herald a change in the Rebels' fortunes as they travelled to the lush environs of Rushden & Diamonds' home, Nene Park, where - although hardman defender Andy Clement missed a penalty - Mark Fiore dug out a last gasp equaliser to earn a 2-2 draw. The following week, we recorded our first League victory since mid-November with a 2-0 victory at Telford United, a match which paled in significance to the midweek Berks & Bucks encounter with Wycombe Wanderers, who prevailed with a 3-2 victory at The Park, the winning goal scored by eventual Rebel Aaron Patton. We returned to indifferent ways in the League, a 1-3 home reverse to Hayes was followed by draws against Southport (1-1, home), Bath City (0-0, away) and Dover Athletic (2-2, home).

We only played three matches in April, and seemed to sum up the season. A 1-0 home win against Halifax Town, a 1-2 defeat at Hednesford Town and a 0-0 draw at Morecambe before the season drew to a close in April, when Slough Town travelled to Stalybridge Celtic, ending where they had started, and battled out a 2-2 draw, Gary Abbott's brace looking to have secured all three points until a dubious penalty decision in the dying minutes saw us end the season with 50 points, not 52.

Final League Position: 16th

Ply Won Drew Lost GF GA GD Pts
42 12 14 16 62 65 -3 50

 

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