History Corner: Looking Back on the 1995/96 season

By Steve Whitney

The 1994/95 season`s FA Trophy winners and GM Vauxhall Conference runners-up Woking are installed as 5-2 favourites to and the 1995/96 title by the bookmakers in pre-season.

The Cards` boss Geoff Chapple has made few changes in personnel, although he has brought in elegant midfielder Carl Hoddle – brother of Glenn – from Barnet as a replacement for Kevin Rattray, who has been sold to Gillingham, while ex-Manchester City defender Nicky Reid has come in from Wycombe Wanderers.

Reigning champions Macclesfield Town make six new signings, including prolific marksman Paul Cavell.

Telford United have a new player-manager in former Wolves and Everton striker Wayne Clarke, while Welling United are also under new management in Kevin Hales, who has lost highly-rated winger Steve Finnan to Birmingham City for £100,000.

Brian Kenning takes charge of Bromsgrove Rovers, who have lost several high-profile players in the summer, including Steve Stott, Alan Judge and Steve Taylor, sold to Crystal Palace for £90,000.

Kidderminster Harriers paid a `substantial` five-figure sum fee to sign striker Leroy May from Stafford Rangers and his partnership with newly re-signed Kim Casey looks exciting.

It`s Bromsgrove who are the surprise early-season leaders, joining Kettering Town as the only remaining unbeaten teams after the opening four games of the season.

Dover Athletic are seeking a change of fortune! They are already having to do without Steve Restarick and Russell Milton, who are away in Japan playing in the World Student Games, and have now lost midfielder Junior Lewis after he was run over by a fork lift truck at work and ace marksman Dave Leworthy, who sent his car through the wall of his garage and into his kitchen, suffering chest injuries into the bargain!

Current England semi-pro international skipper Delwyn Humphries is sold to Northwich Victoria by Kidderminster for a five-figure sum, ending a five-year spell at Aggborough.

Bromsgrove and Kettering both lose their unbeaten starts, Rovers 5-2 at Welling and the Poppies 1-0 at Kidderminster.

Netting a hat-trick for the Wings in that victory over Bromsgrove is 18-year-old winger Steve Barnes, who is being watched by a host of League sides.

Ten clubs begin their FA Cup campaign at the first qualifying stage (how times have changed there!) and all have home ties, with only understrength Dover suffering a `shock`, losing 2-1 at home to Isthmian League Bognor Regis Town, although Stevenage Borough are held by Spartan League Brook House.

Biggest winners of the day are Morecambe, who beat then-Northern Counties East side Sheffield FC 7-0.

Dover`s cup defeat and seven straight league defeats sees the end of former Luton and Norwich full-back John Ryan`s eight-month spell in charge at Crabble.

Dagenham & Redbridge release Roy McDonough, who led Colchester to the Conference and FA Trophy `double`, as a player due to his poor disciplinary record.

Hednesford go top of the table as a record crowd of 2,480 at the Pitmen`s new Keys Park see them beat Telford 4-0.

Dagenham sack manager Dave Cusack after a 3-0 home League Cup defeat by Slough Town and he is immediately replaced by former Kettering boss Graham Carr following a brief spell in charge of Southern Leaguers Weymouth.

The Second Qualifying Round of the FA Cup saw all but two of the nine Conference teams in action drawn away from home, and all survived, although both Welling and Gateshead face replays after being held by Bromley and Barrow respectively.

Dover appoint ex-Spurs and England winger Peter Taylor as their new manager, but he can`t prevent them extending their losing sequence to nine matches – the longest in the league since 1987/88.

Hednesford sell striker Dave Hanson to Leyton Orient for £50,000, having been bought from Halifax Town for £10,000 only three months earlier.

October begins with Macclesfield and Woking being boosted financially by receiving £250,000 each from the Sports Grounds Initiative.

Dover`s losing run comes to an end with a 1-1 draw at Kidderminster.

Slough suffer a goalkeeping dilemma when they lose both Trevor Bunting and Delroy Preddie to injury and then sign Rushden & Diamonds` Andy Lomas on loan only for him to injure his groin on debut!

Welling sell young winger Steve Barnes to Birmingham for an initial £75,000 and he is quickly re-united with former Wings team-mate Steve Finnan at St Andrews.

Dagenham`s miserable season continues as they are knocked out of the FA Cup by Isthmian League Purfleet in a replay.

Woking make a rare sorte into the transfer market by signing the experienced former Yeovil favourite Steve Thompson from Wycombe.

The Fourth Qualifying Round of the FA Cup sees a few upsets with Hednesford beaten by Isthmian League Second Division side Canvey Island and Southern Leaguers Cinderford Town knock out Bath City 3-2, while Witton Albion beat Morecambe after a five-goal thriller at Wincham Park.

Woking end October on top of the table after Clive Walker`s hat-trick helps the Cards to a 4-2 win against Stalybridge.

Stalybridge bow out of the FA Cup at Colwyn Bay, while Bromsgrove and Kettering face a third game following a 2-2 draw at the Victoria Ground.

Macclesfield boost their promotion bid by signing winger Tony Hemmings from Wycombe and keeper Ryan Price from Birmingham – both former England semi-pro team-mates.

They sell midfielder Martin McDonald to Southport for a new club record fee of £20,000, and he stars as Port record one of the biggest Conference wins of the decade – 7-1 against Farnborough.

Bromsgrove triumph in the third game against Kettering to go into the FA Cup First Round.

Macclesfield beat Kidderminster to return to the top of the table, while Dagenham go back to the bottom after losing 2-0 to Kettering.

Paul Dobson, the Conference`s top scorer for the past two seasons, leaves Gateshead to join Northern Premier Leaguers Bishop Auckland for a four-figure fee.

Dobson scored 51 goals in two seasons at the International Stadium.

Another of the Wycombe `double` winning side, Simon Hutchinson, moves north to sign for Macclesfield.

The First Round of the FA Cup sees Cinderford Town knock out Bromsgrove, while Farnborough hold Brentford to a 1-1 draw at Griffin Park and Woking force a replay at Underhill against Barnet.

The only outright winners from the Conference were Telford, who beat Northern Premier side Witton Albion 2-1 at the Buck`s Head.

Woking make it seven straight league wins with a 3-2 success at Slough, while Dagenham`s Gary Bennett scores the fastest goal of the season, netting after just 15 seconds against Halifax Town, but it wasn`t enough to lift the Daggers off the foot of the table.

Macclesfield`s 4-0 away win at Altrincham takes them 6 points clear at the top, while Runcorn`s poor run of form sees the end of John Carroll`s four-and-a-half-year term as manager – the final straw being an 8-0 hammering at home to Stevenage.

Woking reach the Second Round of the FA Cup after beating Barnet in their replay, but all the others bow out.

There was tragic news when former Plymouth and England under-21 goalkeeper Alan Nicholls was killed in a motorcycle accident on his way back from playing on loan for Stalybridge at Dover. He was just 22.

Welling celebrate their biggest ever victory in senior football by hammering Isthmian League side Southall 12-0 in the London Senior Cup.

Former Manchester City and England winger Peter Barnes takes temporary charge of Runcorn.

Aylesbury United`s record goalscorer Cliff Hercules joins Slough for £10,000.

Kidderminster`s nine-game unbeaten run comes to an end when struggling Bath win 2-1 at Aggborough.

Leaders Macclesfield are brought down to earth with a bump as Stevenage beat them 4-0 at Broadhall Way.

Telford bow out of the FA Cup, beaten 2-0 by Notts County at the Buck`s Head, while the league`s only other survivors, Woking, are held 1-1 by Enfield.

Ambitious Southern League club Rushden & Diamonds make a £100,000 bid for neighbouring Kettering duo Carl Alford and Steve Stott.

Stott does make the short move down the A6 but the league`s leading scorer declines the offer.

Meanwhile, Kidderminster`s prolific marksman Paul Davies equals the all-time Conference scoring record with 172 goals, pulling level with Mark Carter in a 3-1 win over Hednesford.

Woking bring 1995 to a close by securing another home win, making them unbeaten at Kingfield throughout the year.

However, they lose ex-Manchester City star Nicky Reid to Bury, but do make it through to the Third Round of the FA Cup after a replay win over Enfield.

Stevenage move into second spot after New Year holiday wins at Dagenham and Morecambe, while Kidderminster attract the biggest crowd of the season to date – 4,481 – for the 1-0 New Year`s Day win over neighbours Bromsgrove Rovers which took Graham Allner`s side back to the top – Harriers` Leroy May scored after just 9 seconds!

Yeovil sign Bath`s top scorer Dean Birkby for £10,000, while struggling Dagenham bolster their midfield by signing Ian Stringfellow from Kettering.

There`s good news to start 1996 with as eight Conference clubs receive the nod from the Football League that their facilities are satisfactory for promotion. However, of those eight, only Woking, Kidderminster and Macclesfield are in with a realistic chance of the title.

Woking finally bow out of the FA Cup after they were beaten 2-0 at Second Division Swindon Town.

Runcorn confirm the appointment of ex-England winger Peter Barnes as manager on a permanent basis.

Gateshead bolster their squad with the re-signing of elegant former England semi-pro midfielder Kenny Lowe, who returns to Tyneside after a ten-year absence following spells with Barnet and Birmingham.

The Heed also sign 44-year-old keeper John Burridge, who replaces 42-year-old Steve Sherwood.

Dover move out of the bottom three for the first time since August after a late winner against Telford, but Slough are falling into danger due to a nine-match unsuccessful home spell stretching back to September 12th.

Former FA Trophy winners Woking and Telford make early exits from this season`s competition, with Isthmian Leaguers Carshalton Athletic knocking out the Cards.

Stevenage`s climb up the table hasn`t gone unnoticed with a host of League clubs showing interest in striker Barry Hayles and Nigerian defender Efetobor Sodje.

Woking extend their unbeaten home record to 23 games as they open their new £1.35 million stand with a 1-1 draw against Bromsgrove.

There are Trophy exits for Dover at Boreham Wood, Altrincham at Guiseley, Welling at Hyde United, Halifax at Bromsgrove and Slough at home to Kettering, which hastened the departure of manager Dave Russell – Brian McDermott takes over as caretaker.

Macclesfield strengthen their promotion bid by signing Northwich defender Darren Tinson for a `substantial` five-figure fee.

Carl Alford (pictured above) breaks the 20-league goal mark when scoring a 90th minute winner for Kettering at Slough.

There is also an important win for struggling Dover, who beat promotion-chasing Woking by the odd goal in seven with striker David Leworthy scoring all four for the Whites.

Another prolific marksman, Paul Davies, finally breaks the all-time Conference goalscoring record, his header against Slough being his 173rd.

Brian McDermott is confirmed as the new Slough manager and he signs former Arsenal team-mate, Kenny Sansom, the one-time England left-back.

February ends with Stevenage and Macclesfield sharing top spot with 28 points.

Woking`s Junior Hunter marks his remarkable transformation from a full-back when with with Kettering to a striker by being named as February`s goalscorer of the month with 13!

Stevenage`s Barry Hayles, who has overtaken Carl Alford as leading Conference scorer, attracts bids from Luton, Doncaster and an un-named Dutch First Division outfit. Meanwhile, Boro extend their unbeaten run to 17 games by defeating Kidderminster 4-1 at Broadhall Way.

Welling`s 16-year-old striker Richard Dimmock becomes the youngest player to score a Conference goal when he netted against Morecambe.

After scoring 203 goals in 278 games, striker John Coleman (current manager of Accrington Stanley) leaves Morecambe to join Northern Premier League side Lancaster City.

Runcorn sack manager Peter Barnes and appoint ex-Everton winger Ronnie Goodlass.

Halifax Town`s John Bird resigns after a 6-1 hammering at Kidderminster and George Mulhall takes temporary charge.

There`s a shock in the Trophy as league leaders Stevenage are beaten by NPL side Hyde, while the Tigers` league rivals Chorley knock out Gateshead.

Graham Carr ends six months in charge of Dagenham after a 1-0 home defeat by fellow strugglers Bath.

Kettering`s Carl Alford finally makes a big-money move, but not into the League. Ambitious Southern League neighbours Rushden & Diamonds pay a new non-League record fee of £85,000 to secure the strikers` services.

Stevenage`s 17-match unbeaten run is ended by second-placed Hednesford, who win 2-1 at Keys Park.

Transfer deadline day passes with lowest amount of deals for 10 years, with Stevenage the busiest, bringing in ex-Barnet defender Dave Howell, Slough`s Alan Paris, striker Neil Trebble and winger Andy Ansah.

Dagenham return to old favourite Ted Hardy as manager for the fourth time and he sees his new charges move off the foot of the table with an Easter win over Bath, but they and Dover are still nine points adrift of safety.

A season`s best crowd of 4,583 watch Woking defeat Macclesfield 3-2 at Kingfield and a similar crowd see the Cards lose the `six-pointer` at Stevenage.

Former Runcorn boss John Carroll takes over at Halifax.

Northwich and Macclesfield both take giant steps to Wembley when they open up first leg leads in their Trophy semi-finals against Hyde and Chorley respectively.

The title race is thrown wide open again as Stevenage are held at home by Stalybridge, while Woking win at Gateshead.

Stevenage boss Paul Fairclough and Macclesfield`s Sammy McIlroy are both linked with the managerial vacancy at Scunthorpe, but the former Manchester United and Northern Ireland star has other things on his mind as he guides his team to the `Twin Towers` after a 4-2 aggregate win over Chorley.

And it will be an all-Cheshire final as Northwich get through 3-1 after their two legs against Hyde.

The gap at the top is again four points as this time Woking are held to a draw at Halifax and Stevenage win at Bath.

The first relegation issue is settled as Runcorn end their 15-year tenure as a Conference club following a 3-2 home defeat by Telford.

Stevenage clinch the title for the first time in their history and in only their second season at the top level of non-League football after they share a 1-1 draw against Morecambe, while Woking are beaten at Northwich.

Dagenham become the next to drop out of the Conference after losing at Stevenage, but there will only be two teams relegated as the Northern Premier League announce they have no suitable promotion candidates.

Runcorn and Dagenham are to be replaced by Rushden & Diamonds and Hayes.

Woking finish as runners-up and become the first side since 1985 to go through a season unbeaten at home, while Hednesford end up a very creditable third, thus becoming only the second promoted team in over a decade to earn a top-three finish in their inaugural campaign in the league.

Macclesfield lift the FA Trophy after a thrilling 3-1 victory over Northwich (pictured).

Where next?

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