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Brian Caffarey - 27th March 2008

3pm on Saturday 29 March 2008

Our visitors on Saturday, the Stutes, have had an excellent first season in the BSP, making light of forecasts that they would find this one promotion too far in what has been an astonishing rise up the non-League pyramid. They have been on the edge of the play-off places all season and have a particularly fine away record, so the Cards will need to pull out all the stops to get three points from this fixture.


It?s hard to know what to say after the humiliating Surrey Senior Cup exit at home to Whyteleafe on Wednesday evening. By all accounts, we were very poor: we seem to find it difficult to take the game decisively to opponents whom we ought to beat. We lack sufficient creativity and the ability to pass and keep possession which might enable us to break down sides who are content to stifle us.

Which Woking will turn up on Saturday and what will Histon?s approach be? Their fine away record suggests that it should be a fairly open game, so perhaps there?s hope that we can produce a good display and banish some of the end-of-season gloom that?s enveloped the Club again. Paul Lorraine will, presumably, still be an absentee through injury. (Matt Pattison's two-match ban, imposed this week, will rule him out of the Ebbsfleet and Stevenage games.)


Histon is a small town of only 4,500 people, best known for jam-making, situated three miles north of Cambridge. The Club, which is in the twin village of Impington, has had a meteoric rise up the non-League pyramid, gaining five promotions in the last ten years. As recently as the 1996-97 season the Stutes (the nickname derives from the Club?s previous incarnation as Histon Institute) were languishing in the Eastern Counties League Division 1. That season they gained promotion to the Premier Division and two seasons later followed it up, as champions, by gaining promotion to the Southern League Eastern Division. The 2003-04 season saw them gain promotion to the Southern League Premier Division after finishing as runners-up. Yet another promotion followed straightaway as the Stutes won that league and moved up to the Conference South. The following season Histon made the play-offs in fifth place, losing in the Final 2-0 to St Albans. Undeterred, the Stutes bounced back last season, winning the Conference South title and reaching the top of the non-League hierarchy. Will their rise stop there?

Key figures in the Stutes? amazing progress are Chairman Gareth Baldwin, who stepped in 15 years ago when the Club was in danger of folding, and manager Steve Fallon, a Cambridge United legend with over 400 appearances for the U?s, who took charge in the 1999/2000 season. He has been assisted for the last couple of seasons by another U?s legend, John Beck. Credit also has to go to several long-serving players, notably to midfielders Neil Andrews and Jamie Barker and goalscoring hero Neil Kennedy (over 300 goals!), all of whom have notched up over 10 years with the Club.


Steve Fallon largely kept faith with the team that gained promotion to the BSP and most of the new players he brought in came from lower leagues. New arrivals in the summer included keeper Danny Naisbitt (ex-Barnet) and two full-backs: Patrick Ada, formerly with Barnet, St Albans and Exeter, and Gareth Gwillim, a left-back from Bishop?s Stortford. Defender Craig Pope, ex-Barnet and Cambridge City, also joined. Up front, Cliff Akurang arrived from Dagenham and Redbridge and was the Stutes? top scorer before being sold to Barnet in the transfer window for an undisclosed fee. (Marvin Morgan was targeted as his replacement.) A player to watch is striker Nat Knight-Percival, a graduate of the Stutes? youth set-up, who was picked for the England C Team. He was joined by the Stutes? defender Erkan Okay. Antonio Murray has a good goalscoring record too. A recent influential signing has been that of Jack Midson from Bishop?s Stortford, who scored two goals on his debut.


The Stutes started with two draws and two defeats but have barely looked back since they gained their first win, away at Grays Athletic. In the BSP the Stutes currently lie in 7th place, currently eight points off the play-off positions, with 62 points from 40 games. Only the Shots have won more games away from home: the Stutes? record on their travels reads W 10, D3, L8. In the Cup, Histon went out in the First Round 3-0 at Notts County, having beaten Bamber Bridge 4-1 in the 4th Qualifying Round. In the Trophy the Stutes disposed of Retford and neighbours Cambridge before going out to Burton in a replay. In the Setanta Shield Histon lost at home in their first outing, 2-1 to Halifax Town.


The teams have met only twice before. The first occasion was in the 2003/04 season, when the Cards defeated the Stutes 3-1 in the First Round of the FA Cup. The second was our trip up to the Glass World Stadium in early December. The Cards proved party-poopers as Pat Jennings opened Histon?s new stand, with a Gez Sole penalty bringing just reward for one of the best away displays of the season.

Come on, you Cards!
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