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This dedicated page updates daily to provide coverage on all things football in Gloucestershire, written by our Sports Journalist, Simon Parkinson.

 

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Longlevens Ladies boss Rob hoping cup wins can spark upturn in fortunes at Saw Mills

LONGLEVENS Ladies’ optimistic manager Rob McGeever is keeping everything crossed that uplifting victories in two cup competitions can kick-start their Gloucestershire County Women’s League fortunes over coming weeks, writes Simon Parkinson.

The Saw Mills End side have been battling it out in the lower reaches of the Division One table over three opening months which had reaped a solitary point from their six appearances up to a Sunday, December 8 home encounter with Cheltenham Women Under-21.

The Longlevens battlers have had to take some heavy defeats on the chin too at times, not least a 10-1 home reverse at the hands of high-flying Bristol and West Ladies which their leader McGeever labelled “undeserved” from his own “spirited and hard-working” team’s perspective.

Yet despite still seeking that elusive first win of their league undertakings, Longlevens have had cause for cheer in two knock-out tournaments.

A convincing 6-0 away success over Division Three newcomers Whitchurch and Bristol Ladies, in which Leanne Turner hit a double and AJ Bourton, Courtney Lusmore, Kelsey Harris and Charlotte O’Brien shared the rest, swept Longlevens into the second round of the Gordon Perrett League Cup back in mid-October.

There they ran into Longwell Green Ladies hosts going well a few places above them in the league’s top tier, Mia Wildin’s goal not enough to stop the Bristol team reaching the quarter-finals with a 4-1 home victory in an early December tussle.

Longlevens Ladies also enjoyed that priceless winning feeling last month as they overcame South West Women’s League Northern Division strugglers Downend Flyers 4-2 in a competitive GFA Women’s Trophy second round engagement in Bristol once more thanks to Ashleigh Lloyd’s brace, another Wildin effort and an own goal, the jubilant visitors driven on by star performer on the day Beth Davies.

That win means McGeever’s team can enjoy home comforts in the quarter-finals with Flyers’ unbeaten league rivals Oldland Abbotonians Ladies the visitors for a Sunday, February 16 tussle which will undoubtedly test Longlevens’ nerve and credentials on the afternoon (2pm).

Of his team’s path to that one at the expense of Downend, McGeever insisted: “We dominated the play and we could have scored a lot more but for our finishing.

“We went to the game with 11 players so we were up against it from the off.

“But all of them put a huge shift in; they didn’t stop from start to finish and they showed how much they wanted to win that tie.”

Of their season as a whole so far, the Sea Mills End supremo confessed: “It’s been a hit and miss one, especially in the league.

“But we feel that we are gaining confidence with the cup wins and hopefully we can use this as a catalyst to really push on in the league and also enjoy a decent cup run.”

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‘Euphoric’ Bristol Post prize winners Cribbs targeting Southern League status

BRISTOL Post Senior Team of the Year award winners Cribbs are targeting Southern League status over the years to come, writes Simon Parkinson.

In an era where so many clubs and hard-pressed volunteers are experiencing the same challenges in the grassroots and semi-pro games, the popular Henbury-based outfit continue to thrive, with all four Saturday sides now playing at the highest level they have ever achieved.

Reflecting on a 2018-19 performance which reaped a trophy treble for the club’s Bristol Premier Combination reserves, a GFA Challenge Trophy triumph for the firsts who also admirably reached the fourth round of the FA Vase; a Bristol Under-18 Combination top-flight championship claim by the youth department and a run to the semi-finals of the GFA Minor Cup for the B XI, Nelson glowed: “We were euphoric. It was an unprecedented season, especially the runs we enjoyed in the county cups.

“Our thirds did win the GFA Minor Cup in 2005 but we’d experienced nothing like last year’s scale in the county competitions.

“We have, for the first time, introduced a small wage budget to cover expenses this season thanks in part to the extra sponsorship we’ve attracted.

“But it still pales into insignificance compared to some supposed budgets that are around at our level.”

Of future goals, Nelson emphasised: “There is an appetite to get into the Southern League: our players and managers are ambitious for it. We want to at least be a top-ten team in the Toolstation Premier under Tony Beecham’s leadership, keep progressing and doing well in the cups. But we’re continuing to punch above our weight.

“The same ambitions apply to our second team, who are managed by club stalwarts Alec Mills and Rob Hetherington who have over 1900 club appearances between them. They won a league and cup double twice in three recent seasons which is no mean achievement either.

“We’re definitely looking to apply to push our reserves into the Gloucestershire County League this season and in turn try and get our thirds up into the Bristol Premier Combination from the District Senior if the opportunity is there.

“Certainly having a reserve team in the County League is something we’ve wanted for many years.

“We have a very good committee, most of whom are either ex-players, some with over 500 appearances for the club or are still active players.

“They do a great job driving everything on.”

Nelson: Cribbs elevation to Toolstation Prem from third spot was unexpected boost  

CRIBBS’ long-serving clubman Dave Nelson admits Cribbs’ promotion to the Toolstation Premier Division in 2015 came as an unforeseen and welcome surprise.

The club’s’ swift progression had carried on unabated many years prior with SunLife, as Cribbs were originally called, promoted once more to the non-League step 7 Gloucestershire County League competition at the turn of the Millennium before they became known as AXA after the insurance giant took over SunLife two years on.

Still the name changes continued as company buyouts dictated, the football operation now known as Cribbs Friends Life ahead of the club’s most successful 2011-12 campaign at the time when they landed a County League and League Cup double.

“Back then we had still been a company football club although we never got anything out of the business,” Nelson, who lives in Longwell Green, recalled. “We weren’t sponsored by them and we had to raise our own money to exist. But they did give us free rein of the pitch, clubhouse and training facilities.

“Six years ago we took over the lease for the running of the ground from Friends Life. We’ve been running it successfully ourselves ever since although we now lease the facilities from Redmaids School who seem very keen for us to be there and are very supportive of us continuing there for the long term.

“We went up to the Western League on the back of that County League title win some seven years back and had to put a stand and floodlights in over the space of a few months to comply with our new status in Division One.

“We then went up again, to the Premier Division, in 2014-15 as third place finishers behind Welton Rovers and the champions Barnstaple Town.

“We were quite fortunate to gain promotion from that position in all honesty as it was decided all three teams could go up and since then we’ve improved year on year in the top division.”

Nelson himself played almost 800 times for Cribbs, the majority at first team level, although he didn’t actually start performing for them until he was 27. He played his last game for the veterans’ team only three years ago at 67!

Of a still-burgeoning Lawns set-up on Station Road, Henbury, he said: “We have four senior sides and until a few years ago we ran five teams, which had been the norm in the main going back to the early years of our formation. We also run a veterans section and of course our successful under-18 team, so you can play with us from age 17 up to old age!

“Around eight to ten years ago we had a hard think about how we wanted to run things as our players had pretty much always been company employees.

“We had an arrangement with Bradley Stoke United, who had junior teams up to under-16, and formed Cribbs Under-18s for the following year from that.

“We went on to form a partnership with Shirehampton Colts at under-15 and under-16 age levels and they now, as Shire Cribbs, enjoy the benefits of playing and training at our excellent facilities on first-class pitches at The Lawns before going on to join our under-18s.

“Our club did have a ladies section which unfortunately couldn’t attract enough players and had to fold just before the current season started, and the same applied during the middle of last season with our Sunday side which had been going for 40-odd years, again due to a lack of players.”

  • Coming up here on GFA Local Football News: Part three of Cribbs’ hopes to one day perform on the bigger stages.

Cribbs’ long-serving chairman Dave so proud at historic 2018-19 club achievements

CRIBBS chairman Dave Nelson cast experienced eyes over his club’s success story over the past few months and smiled: “It makes me very proud,” writes Simon Parkinson.

The Henbury-based outfit continue to bask in the afterglow of a best-ever season, an epic 2018-19 campaign which will undoubtedly go down in football folklore at their impressive Lawns HQ.

Whilst their reserve team celebrated a treble haul by capturing the Bristol Premier Combination Premier Division title, the competition’s League Cup and the GFA Senior Amateur Cup, their flagship first XI carried off the GFA Challenge Trophy courtesy of a dramatic penalty shoot-out victory over Bishop’s Cleeve and reached the fourth round proper of the FA Vase.

Far from content with that, their Bristol and District League B team reached the semi-finals of the GFA Minor Cup and to cap it all, Cribbs Under-18 clinched the Bristol Under-18 Combination Division One crown with six wins and two draws from their nine appearances.

That super season earned Cribbs a Bristol Post Senior Team of the Season accolade at the newspaper’s prestigious recent annual sports awards ceremony held at Bristol City’s Ashton Gate Stadium.

Nelson enthused: “It makes me very proud. It’s a reflection of the best season in our 43 years as a Bristol-based operation.”

It’s been quite a journey for Notting Hill-bred Nelson and his Cribbs comrades, one which began in the Capital before steadily evolving into its present settled status.

Nelson, 70, explained: “We were SunLife Assurance based in London where I worked in IT when the company decided to relocate to Bristol, although the football part had actually been formed in 1958 when the team played in London.

“The Bristol-based football team came along in 1976 when the company first moved there and that was when I joined it, although I had moved to the area, namely Whitchurch, three years prior to that and had been playing for Bristol Crusaders in the Suburban League before I switched to SunLife’s team of the time.

“We played in the lowest division of the Bristol and Avon League, still under the SunLife banner, and all players were employees of the firm.

“Despite our lowly status we actually had a really strong side and ten of our guys were picked for the Bristol and Avon representative team.”

Nelson continued: “We went up to the Premier Division in our first season together although we never won a league title in either of the two divisions we performed in.

“We all thought we’d won the league in our first season, 1976-77, on goal difference, only to discover the whole thing was decided on goal average instead which is why we finished second. We always blamed our poor secretary for not knowing the rules until it was too late but at least we went up that year!

“That second season we finished runners-up again and in 1978 the sports ground at Cribbs Causeway was opened and we’ve been there ever since, having previously played at Dundridge Farm in Hanham where Nicholas Wanderers played and still do.

“We went straight up to what is now known as the Bristol Premier Combination around the time as I’m not sure a proper football pyramid system was in place. These days you’d have to go through an entire Bristol and District or Suburban League structure to reach that far, starting right at the back of five or six divisions.”

  • Coming up soon here on GFA Local Football News: part two of Cribbs’ super success story, culminating in last season’s silverware fest.

Cheltenham Youth League eyes more of the same on strength of maiden girls’ success

CHELTENHAM Youth Football League’s delighted organisers say they plan more of the same in future times thanks to the roaring success of an inaugural girls’ under-11 tournament – starting this January.

On the back of the England Lionesses’ commendable World Cup semi-final exploits, the CYFL recently unveiled its first all-female tournament on the all-weather surface at Newlands, home of Cheltenham Rugby Club.

The event clearly captured the imagination of local football-mad girls as 88 of them, performing with distinction for ten teams, represented eight clubs the length and breadth of Gloucestershire.

Performing with enthusiasm and determination were Tewkesbury Town, FC Lakeside, St Nicholas, Abbeymead Rovers, Rodborough, FC Highnam, Charlton Rovers and Cheltenham Town, who paraded two happy finalists for the occasion.

Played on a beautiful yet crisp morning, the teams were split into two leagues for a round robin tournament with the respective group table toppers playing each other for a final game to decide the overall winners.

And what a contest it  proved to be too as an all-Cheltenham Town affair eventually led to the A team overcoming their B-team counterparts in enthralling penalty shoot-out fashion, and with the very last kick too.

Secretary of CYFL, Dee Pates, was the driving force behind the initiative and she enthused: “I was very pleased with the way the tournament ran.

“The standard of football on show was really impressive and it was so pleasing to see how they all enjoyed it.

“I would also like to thank Gloucestershire FA for their help and support.”

Nigel Newport-Black, chair of CYFL, said he too had been encouraged by the way the event had run “so successfully” and thanked his fellow committee members for “supporting the initiative and helping run it.”

He added: “It is hoped that further events of this type will be organised in the future. We have to say a big thank-you to the clubs and their volunteers for helping make this first one such a success.”

The CYFL are planning to run a similar event in January. Teams interested in partaking can contact Dee Pates by emailing her at cheltylsec@gmail.com or by calling 07958 383 221.

Lion roar into GFA Intermediate South last 16 as Sgroi and Rabia strikes raise spirits

JUBILANT Lion found their roar at last as they saw off the stern challenge of Saints Old Boys Reserves to advance to the third round of the GFA Intermediate South Cup competition, writes Simon Parkinson.

The BAWA-based club on Southmead Road, who also pitch a second string into Division Five action, have, like those reserves of theirs, experienced a tough start to their Bristol and District League challenges.

As this was being written, neither team had won a game from six appearances since the start although the fact they had each recorded a draw was at least keeping them off their respective bottom spots.

Lion’s first XI, who perform in Division Two, put all that behind them as they progressed to the third round of the county competition, and a December 7 home date with Bristol Downs League Two team Saints Old Boys Reserves, with a 2-1 home victory over Bristol and Suburban Two side AFC Mangotsfield A thanks to Joe Sgroi and Mohamed Rabia goals.

District Three’s unbeaten leaders Shaftesbury Crusade Reserves found a route to round three of the Intermediate tournament too, 3-0 at the expense of visiting bottom-placed league compatriots Bendix, courtesy of Thomas Kilbane, Kevin Mills and Ross Davidson efforts.

Shaftesbury will now hit the road to take on unbeaten Trowbridge League top-flight pacesetters Marshfield at the next stage on December 7.

As a staggered GFA Junior South Cup competition continued with the wet weather continuing to play havoc for clubs over the course of the month, Lawrence Rovers had only a Louis Curtis free-kick to show for what was deemed “an inept display” as they crashed to a 6-1 defeat at the hands of Redbridge Saturday in the second round.

Due to a waterlogged pitch the game was switched to Fry Club in Keynsham where the start was held up for ten minutes due to an accident near Weston-super-Mare which caused two Rovers players to arrive late and two more unable to make it at all.

Nevertheless Suburban Division One high-fliers Redbridge brushed the District Division One leaders aside with a clinical display of football to reach round three, where they’ll entertain District League Senior side Wick Reserves on December 7 (2pm), in convincing fashion with Sam Preston (2), Louis Rostron, Brad Wheadon and Jake Williams among their marksmen.

Greyfriars Athletic Reserves had Simon Bateman and Bradley Sanders making their mark at home against another Suburban One outfit in Rockleaze Rangers A, who had too much firepower to storm to a 6-2 away success over their District One hosts.

District Four strugglers Crosscourt get county cup boost thanks to Barnes and Herbert

GEOFF Barnes’ brace and Lee Herbert’s effort delivered a welcome boost to Crosscourt United amid testing times, writes Simon Parkinson.

It’s been a tough old start to 2019-20 commitments for the Stockwood Lane outfit as they’ve found themselves without a point to their name from four appearances at the foot of Bristol and District League Division Four ahead of a scheduled away-day with Hanham Athletic Vets on November 23, when they were no doubt eyeing an upturn in fortunes.

Despite all that they at least gained some comfort from the start of what they hope will be an extended county cup run after overcoming Bristol Downs League Division Three’s own bottom team Clifton St Vincents A 3-2 on their travels to reach the third round of the GFA Minor South Cup and an away encounter with APS, who have been performing well up and around the Downs Division Three summit, on Saturday, December 7 (2pm).

Seymour United A were grateful to Ashley Birkinshaw and Sam Williams strikes for helping them overcome District Four rivals Fishponds Athletic 2-0, while Aldo Marku fired four of Oldland Abbotonians Colts’ goals in a 5-3 away win over District Four compatriots Iron Acton A to also advance to round three.

Mark Pratt grabbed Oldland’s other goal while Aaron Turner (2) and Joe Jefferies responded for Acton.

Sean Fahey led the way with a hat-trick; Tom Muller celebrated a double and Adam Skyes, Chris Evans and Adam Curtis contributed as lowly District Three side Bradley Stoke Town A roared into round three, and an away appointment with Downs Division Three team Helios on December 7 (2pm), courtesy of an 8-3 home crushing of Suburban Three strugglers Avonmouth.

Earlier this month Cribbs B had taken their decent District League Division Three form of late on to the county competition stage as they overcame District Four hosts AFC Grace 4-1 away to reach the third round.

James Capon struck twice and Jordan Jones and Alex Crane added the rest as last season’s semi-finalists swept through at the expense of a Grace outfit replying with a Matt Churchill consolation.

Unbeaten District Four fliers Winterbourne United Reserves powered into round three in fuss-free fashion too, with a 9-0 crushing of Bristol and Suburban League Division Four visitors Bromley Heath United A.

Veteran Nick Walters, Martin Bobock, Scott Cameron and Dave Herbert all struck twice and Liam Sheppard completed the rout as the promoted Parkside Avenue outfit comfortably progressed.

AFC Mangotsfield District Reserves, who have been finding life challenging towards the foot of the District Four ladder, at least gave Bristol Downs League Division Three guests Durdham Down AS a tough time at Blackhorse Road HQ before going down 4-2 in a shoot-out after a hard-fought 2-2 draw in which Bryan Legg scored both Mangos’ goals.

District Four’s high-riding hopefuls Hanham Athletic Vets made no mistake in securing a place in the third round thanks to an 11-1 away thumping of Suburban Three strugglers Brandon Sports.

Billy Hodge fired four of the goals; Dan Guibarra, Tom Bircham and Robert Burton all bagged braces and Steve Moore also notched.

Hanham’s league rivals Yate Athletic had to accept an agonising tournament exit, however, as they fell to a slender 4-3 home defeat at the hands of Downs Division Three’s Saints Old Boys A.

  • For all fixtures and results relating to the GFA Minor Cup and every other county tournament, please visit the Cups and Competitions section of this website.

Bradley Stoke Ladies boss Martin so optimistic that turnaround is on the horizon

BRADLEY Stoke Ladies manager Martin Lee says he is delighted with the approach shown by his team as they battle to get to grips with this season’s Gloucestershire County Women’s League challenges, writes Simon Parkinson.

His side strung together an impressive run of results last term to rocket up the table and into a final and commendable third position in the Division Two table with 17 wins and only three defeats from their 22 appearances.

The 2019-20 campaign has not gone to plan up until now as they’ve struggled to reproduce the firepower that was so evident the previous year, when they netted 119 times in the league to emerge joint top of the goalscoring charts alongside a Bristol Ladies Union side winding up a place and point above them in second spot.

Not only that but Lee’s team shipped only 20 goals then, defensive form second behind only champions Cheltenham Town Ladies Youth Under-23 who conceded a miserly 11 times whilst cracking 117 into opposition nets into the bargain.

That marked difference at both ends of the pitch has rooted Bradley Stoke to bottom spot from five winless games to date, although a first-game goalless stalemate at home against Cirencester Town Ladies, and subsequent close-fought 3-1 and 2-0 defeats by Cotswold Rangers Women and Gloucester City Ladies respectively which hardly represented thrashings, have given rise for promise.

True to form, their bullish boss has been casting an experienced eye towards a proposed upturn in fortunes as he insisted: “The season so far for us has been one of underachievement against the targets we set ourselves after a great finish to our last season.

“We have many new players on board and it is taking time to bed them all in and for them to understand the format we play.

“But I am sure we will turn the corner very soon. The team spirit is still great and the ladies are willing to learn, so combine those two qualities together and the better results I am sure will come soon.”

Just as they did in their early-season league tussle with Gloucester before falling to that 2-0 home loss, Bradley Stoke Ladies produced a spirited effort to try and rescue their county cup campaign before falling to a 4-3 GFA Women’s Challenge Cup reverse at the hands of those same opponents in an enthralling first round exchange on the road.

Mel Vear scored twice for Stoke and Molly Bose also notched, prompting Lee to reflect: It was an end-to-end game with two teams equally matched going toe-to-toe.

“The last ten minutes were exciting as we came back from 4-1 down to so nearly grab the draw we deserved.”

Moorcroft stars as Chesterton charge continues with Whitecroft Intermediate romp

STROUD League Division Two’s runaway unbeaten table toppers Chesterton, without being at their best by their own admission, nevertheless had few problems progressing to the third round of the GFA Intermediate North Cup, writes Simon Parkinson.

The Siddington sizzlers brushed past lowly North Glos One guests Whitecroft A 5-0 with goals from Tom Cox (2), George Peare, Danny Bishop and fellow sub Josh Russell.

James Moorcroft contributed much too with two assists in a man of the match performance bossing central midfield.

The tie at Leckhampton Rovers was a much tighter affair as they nudged out Stroud Two team Tuffley Rovers 3rds 5-4 to set up a home match with Chesterton on December 7.

Cheltenham Two hosts Leckhampton eventually prevailed thanks to Martin Whitelow’s hat-trick and further strikes by Daniel Hearn and Bradley Taylor, while pairs apiece for Cory Anderson and Andrew Meek kept the visitors firmly in contention until the final shrill ended their hopes for another year.

There was delight too for Stroud Two high-fliers Wickwar Wanderers as they came away from Milkwall hard-earned 3-2 winners with Ellis Cox, David Parslow and Kieran Spray goals to book a third round home tie with Cheltenham Two team Gala Wilton Reserves at King George V Fields on December 7.

The beaten Edenwall Road hosts have been in splendid form heading the North Glos One table with a perfect seven wins from seven of late.

Gala were made to fight all the way for their safe passage before squeezing past league compatriots and leaders Smiths Barometrics Athletic Reserves 1-0 through David Carruthers’ sole strike.

Meanwhile Stroud Three’s undefeated pacesetters at the time, Horsley United, needed a 5-4 penalty shoot-out success to make it over the second round hurdle at the expense of Charfield Reserves, going well around the higher reaches of the same table, following a 1-1 draw.

Thomas Stubbs notched for Horsley while sub Ed Fuller struck for the ultimately-disappointed home team in regular time.

Horsley are now due to hit the road to take on the winners of the Woolaston Reserves-Kingsway Rovers second round tussle scheduled for December 23.

Stroud Three’s joint table-toppers Longford, unbeaten after six games, issued six of the best without response at home to Cheltenham Two basement battlers Fintan to progress with Nathan Heaven’s hat-trick, Scott Morgan’s pair and Ryan Bignall’s effort from the bench.

Longford’s round three reward is another home appearance on December 7 against a Hempsted side who edged through a close contest with Trident 2-1 with goals by Luke Perry and Matt Whitehouse, Andrew Sweet replying for the away side who had already been beaten by the same scoreline at the hands of that same opposition in a mid-September home meeting in the league.

Clinical Cotswold Rangers tee up Andoversford away-day with Intermediate goal fest

THE second round of the GFA Intermediate North Cup competition served up a feast of goals – none more so than at School Lane where Cotswold Rangers were delighted to prevail!

They emerged 9-4 home victors over Longhope after an epic encounter to advance to the third round and an away date with Andoversford on Saturday, December 7 (2pm), writes Simon Parkinson.

Remarkably Rangers have been languishing in the lower realms of Stroud League Three without a win from six appearances as we went to press.

They certainly had their shooting boots on for the county cup occasion, however, as Jack Bullingham’s four-timer, Jack Clarke’s brace and singles for Matt Capell, Chris Miller and David Green saw clinical Cotswold safely through at the expense of North Gloucestershire Division One visitors replying with Steve Clark’s double and efforts by Carl Hyett and Ryan Bennett.

There were 11 goals on show at Preston Park and again it was an eyebrow-raising affair given hosts Tetbury Town Reserves had been propping up the rest on the Stroud Three ladder without so much as a point to their name from six appearances.

They shrugged those challenges off in emphatic fashion courtesy of a 10-1 home mauling of North Glos One outfit Rank Outsiders in which Adam Grech, Richard Jones, Ryan Walker and Billy Montague all bagged braces and Martin Seal also contributed to tee up an away tie with Prestbury Rovers Reserves, the Cheltenham Division Two high-fliers, in round three.

Prestbury convincingly reached the stage by overcoming Stroud Four’s undefeated leaders North Nibley 5-2 on their travels with goals from Luke Carroll (2), Laurie Cleeveley, George Curr and Jordan Pates. Charlie Balmer and Simon Collinson notched for the hosts.

Stroud Three hopefuls Avonvale United cruised into the third round shake-up, and a December 7 home appointment with Cirencester League Hatherop, via an 8-0 defeat of travelling North Glos One opponents Yorkley thanks to Tom Blackah and Jack Sprange hat-tricks along with George Dandridge and Stuart Dryden strikes.

Hatherop were forced to come through a much tighter affair as Richie Crocker’s treble, Sam Bird’s brace and Fabian Daniels’ effort saw off the stiff challenge of Uley 6-4, Jamie Shimman and Jasper Stokes-Johnson braces keeping the Stroud Three hosts in the contest for long stretches.

Cheltenham Two’s mid-table team Brockworth Albion Reserves had Kyle Rogers’ hat-trick and goals by Sean Gee, Jack Hunt and Craig Fairley to thank as they swept into round three with a 6-1 home success over Stroud Three’s Barnwood United Reserves, earning them an away tie with Windyridge Rovers next up.

Cheltenham League second-tier side Windyridge booked their own place at the third stage via a 3-2 home defeat of St Paul’s United with David Keylock’s double and Rob Joyne’s single the deciding factors against league rivals who had Michael West making his mark with both Saints goals.

Little Stoke Youth U-13 supremo Matt so keen to bolster ranks for silverware chase

LITTLE Stoke Youth Under-13 have enjoyed a sparkling start to their 2019-20 Avon Youth League mission – and they would dearly like an extra player or two aboard to help see them through to a proposed springtime success story!

The team, which started up as recently as 2015, have begun their AYL Division One programme in promising fashion with two hard-fought wins, both on the road against Avon Athletic Colts (3-2) and Brislington Juniors (2-1), and the one defeat, 4-3 at the hands of hosts St Aldhelms Juniors in an equally close contest, from their three league outings to date.

Not content with that, Matt Burnard’s boys have been making good strides in knock-out activity too, having booked a berth in the semi-finals of the Avon Youth League Cup thanks to 7-1 and 4-1 away wins respectively at Hanham Abbotonians and Bristol Rovers Supporters to set up a New Year encounter with visiting Brislington Juniors on Sunday, January 5 at St Mary’s Rugby Club HQ (10.30am).

Little Stoke have also been on the march in county competition too, as remarkably two more 7-1 successes, over Rovers Supporters and Port of Bristol, have seen them into the fourth round of the Gloucestershire FA Boys Under-13 shake-up and a home meeting with Mangotsfield United Youth Claret, which was pencilled in for Sunday, November 24 as we went to press.

Burnard explained of the Little Stoke Youth scenario: “As it stands we are just the one-team club currently operating as an under-13 section which is not actually affiliated with the adult set-up.

“It all began in 2015 with myself and Ricky Evans, who played for and ran the Little Stoke men’s team with me a few years back, laying the foundations.

“Since the start of last season Rick has no longer been able to run the youth club with me as his boys, both of whom played for us, were picked up by Bristol City Academy. So naturally his time was and is taken up with that instead.

“Still, we have made a good start to our league season and we’re going well in the two cup competitions we’re involved in.

“The only real challenge at this time is I have a very small group of lads and could do with at least one, if not two, more players to complete out squad.

“We train on Tuesday evenings on the 3G pitch at Little Stoke and play our games Sunday mornings at St Mary’s Rugby Club.”

Any players wishing to get involved with Little Stoke Under-13 can contact Matt by calling him on 07917 824837 or by emailing him at burnard3@blueyonder.co.uk

Smele’s new District League slickers on course for Corinthian Primary Cup collision

THORNBURY Town A’s James Smele has been a satisfied supremo of late and rightly so after seeing his brand-new team hit the early heights in league and cup, writes Simon Parkinson.

Thorns have enjoyed a splendid start to their Bristol and District Division Five adventures as four wins and two draws from six unbeaten games saw them sitting pretty at the head of the table approaching a November 23 home tussle with De Veys Reserves as this round-up was being penned.

Smele’s fliers are also through to the third round of the GFA Primary South tournament after negotiating a tricky-looking home tie with Bristol and Suburban Four visitors Hanham Abbotonians Reserves 3-1 to take them through to a meeting with Suburban League Division Four hosts Corinthian Sports Reserves on Saturday, December 7 (2pm).

The Thornbury leader watched on in delight as Matt Chapman (pen), Paul Turner and Jon Organ scored the goals to edge out Abbotonians and he enthused: “We’re a new team and we’ve made a really good start to our league season, just as we were also unbeaten in pre-season.

“Our county cup campaign is also shaping up nicely so it’s all been extremely positive so far.”

Thornbury’s District Five compatriots St Nicholas Reserves cast behind them their battles in and around the basement by advancing to the third round of the Primary Cup with a 3-0 away success over Suburban Division Four opponents Valhalla.

They did so with goals from Steve Venn, Bradley Newport and Geoff Clee as Saints were given a welcome shot in the arm to their season.

Jon Bale scored both goals for De Veys Reserves but they weren’t enough to prevent his team taking a 3-2 tumble at home against District Five compatriots Greyfriars Athletic B.

There was disappointment too for Lawrence Rovers Reserves, the undefeated District Five high-fliers, as they were knocked out of the tournament after going down 2-1 at Bristol Churches Division Two hosts Rock Crusaders.

On a cold, wet and blustery afternoon Rovers went ahead after 25 minutes through a fine strike by Jake Harris.

But the second half belonged to Rock who, using the slope to their advantage, scored with an early penalty before completing victory five minutes from time amid a goalmouth scramble.

Finlay Thompson and Andy Jones were both double trouble for visiting strugglers Real St George Saturday as the duo’s pair apiece secured rival District Five side The Phoenix a place in the third round with a hard-fought 4-3 win.

Ben White registered for Brimsham Green Reserves but had to suffer along with the rest of his District Five compatriots as they fell to a 4-1 away defeat by Little Stoke A, the unbeaten Suburban League Division Four table toppers.

  • For all fixtures and results relating to the GFA Primary Cup and every other county tournament, please visit the Cups and Competitions section of this website.

How ‘Little Messi’ exemplifies new-found expectations at Strawford’s Hanham Athletic

CHRIS Strawford insists his Hanham Athletic team are fit for purpose now thanks to a rigorous training programme – and that their “Little Messi” exemplifies new-found expectations at the club!

The Vicarage Road outfit sat 11th in the current Marcliff Gloucestershire County League standings heading into an away-day with Little Stoke on November 16 following a prolonged period of weather-affected inactivity, writes Simon Parkinson.

And their encouraged leader explained: “We’ve been training twice a week and you can clearly see the difference as we’ve been going the full 90 minutes without flagging.

“In our last game with Rockleaze (at home) we played some good football and we really should have won it instead of drawing 1-1. Everyone was so disappointed afterwards and it shows how far our lads have come as before the game people might have said a draw would be good.

“Certainly in past years that would have been the case but now the lads are gutted whenever they drop any points, irrespective of the quality of opposition.”

The Hanham boss is open about the fact his team have had to take some “bad days” firmly on the chin too, like the ones which ended in 1-0 and 4-1 away defeats at Hardwicke and Gala Wilton respectively last month.

“Our regular keeper Ash Bamford was unavailable for Gala and others were absent too and that can be the big problem, having a consistent line-up at your disposal,” Strawford stressed.

“Against Hardwicke we were awful and didn’t have a shot on target. But we did hold Frampton Athletic to a 2-2 home draw in our previous game when we might easily have ended their unbeaten run at the time.

“We have some talented young lads here and (left-midfielder) Conor Hartley is one of them. He is such a threat and seems to be involved in so much of our best play, setting up lots of chances as well as scoring his own first goal at Gala.

“He’s only small but that doesn’t faze him one bit. Conor played Sunday football recently and went straight to hospital afterwards with breathing difficulties caused, it transpired, by a collapsed lung.

“Six days later he played for us at Hardwicke, who duly kicked seven bells out of him. We were concerned and we’d used all our subs but he refused to come off anyway, which sums up his tenacity and love of the game. At only 19 he is our Little Messi.

“There are people watching him as he is a talent; quick with a great left foot. But he’s told us he’ll stay for the season because he’s happy at Hanham, even though he lives in the Totterdown area!”

Strawford continued: “As well as Conor we have Sam Brown, our captain, central midfielder and leading scorer, who takes more responsibility now with warm-ups and team bonding and is playing really well.

“Liam Robson is a steadying influence at the back or upfront where his hold-up play is great. He also shows good vocal leadership.

“Our left-back Jae Bateman is, at 17, the youngest player in our team and he’s really come of age while Jack Baber, who has been at Hanham for a few years, is back as a solid centre-half after a spell out. So the spine of the team is there and that’s reflecting in our results.

“The lads just need to learn to play EVERY game like a cup match as we compete hard against top teams but tend to take our eyes off the ball against sides we feel we should beat.”

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Football can help make Hartcliffe community a force for good once more, insists Gary

GARY Nott says he will do everything it takes to turn Hartcliffe into a thriving community – with football the driving force, writes Simon Parkinson.

The newly-appointed player-manager of the Bristol suburb’s one senior District League Division Two team not only proposes to steer his beloved Hartcliffe FC to success on the pitch but he also wants to use the sport as a power for good when it comes to keeping the area’s young inhabitants “interested and occupied.”

Nott explained: “I’m trying to get a community football thing going for young ones in Hartcliffe, to give them something positive to target and keep them out of trouble etc.

“I’m right at the bottom at the moment with this idea and it’s only me giving it thought and energy. In my eyes there are so many gifted young footballers around here but they need to have a platform to be noticed and have something to aspire to.

“All the junior teams we used to have in Hartcliffe have disappeared. I know it will take time and it may never happen, and we’d need to attain FA Charter Standard status to start up.

“I’m 35 and I’ve lived in Hartcliffe all my life. I still enjoy my football but we need this community to be back up and running when it comes to its football, just as it was in the 1990s when so many youngsters were running around playing and enjoying themselves on Saturdays and Sundays.”

Nott admitted: “This isn’t an area with a lot of money and the interest just died off. You have to get fund raising in place and people and businesses prepared to help you out getting projects like this off the ground, simply to loan you a pitch for starters.

“We need to change the image of Hartcliffe and other local areas. How nice it would be if we had a Hartcliffe academy of some sort, to get and keep youngsters interested in football.”

The Hartcliffe manager emphasised: “We live in a deprived place and you can see in youngsters’ eyes that they crave something positive to focus their minds on.

“You want these kids to think to themselves, ‘I can better myself.’ I’m sure many would love to play football given the opportunity.

“When you give youngsters a club tracksuit and football kit, you can make them feel special. They might have more respect for themselves and people around them instead of causing problems for their community.

“I’ve always had this saying, ‘Always believe; never give up; keep the faith’ and there are good things happening at our football club, despite having just the one senior side at this time.

“It’s a massive thank-you from me to all the lads and everyone helping to make Hartcliffe FC great again.”

No Dowty about it: Tenacious Taverners strike seven to claim third round place

TAVERNERS Reserves’ determined team cast aside a challenging period of their Stroud League Division Two undertakings by breezing through to the third round of the GFA Junior North competition, writes Simon Parkinson.

They did so by overcoming mid-table Cheltenham One outfit Dowty Dynamos 7-2 at Tavs’ King George V Playing Fields HQ thanks to Matt Green’s double and strikes by Jamie Bish, John Dalton, Jon Peacock and Jack Pegler, the substitute pitching in with a pair for good measure.

Elsewhere in the tournament an action-packed encounter ended in frustration for Cheltenham Division One’s undefeated pacesetters Tewkesbury Town who, despite having Nicholas Hill, Sam Kavanagh and Matt Tarling amongst their scorers, fell to a 5-4 defeat by delighted Witney and District League battlers Bourton Rovers Reserves.

Viney St Swithins also progressed courtesy of a 6-3 home success over Redbrook Rovers, who had Jake Morgan (2) and Connor Tyson on target, in an all-North Glos Premier Division bout involving sides at the top and bottom ends of the standings respectively.

Chalford Reserves advanced to round three at their Highfield Way HQ comfortably and impressively as they overcame high-flying unbeaten Stroud One rivals Randwick 3-0 via Ryan Harry’s double and Matt Whitmore’s effort.

Cheltenham One’s cup hopefuls AFC Renegades happily prevailed with a 4-2 away success over North Glos Prem hosts Bream Amateurs thanks to substitute Cameron Rees’ brace and efforts by Matt Wasley and Nicholas Bradley. Sam Hill and Tom Sollis notched for the Worrall Hill outfit.

Tibberton United have been crying out for a spirit-raiser on the back of a winless start to their Stroud Two programme.

They were duly given it by two-goal John Millar as his team edged past Kings 2-1 at their Newent base to progress to the third stage after a tight contest in which Simon Dempster notched for the Cheltenham One travellers.

Cheltenham Civil Service Reserves needed penalties to squeeze through 5-4 following a hard-fought 2-2 home draw with Whaddon United, their Cheltenham League One compatriots.

Joseph McCauley and Jack Costerton netted for the eventual victors while Kevin Slack and Zack Hodges goals for Whaddon forced that dramatic shoot-out.

Last but not least Dursley Town, the unbeaten Stroud One pacesetters, popped themselves into the third round hat via a 2-1 home victory over Prestbury Rovers delivered by Aaron Booth and Aaron Nash efforts, Mark Willis keeping his high-riding Cheltenham One comrades in the competition until the bitter end with Rovers’ goal.

Southside Star sparkle from the spot to clinch Junior Cup place in Coalway thriller

MUSHET and Coalway and Southside Star served up a real winter warmer in a remarkable GFA Junior North Cup second round affair at Coalway Road, writes Simon Parkinson.

The sides carved up 12 goals evenly between them to end 90 gripping minutes in 6-6 deadlock before jubilant visitors Southside snatched the see-saw tie 5-4 in an equally-tense shoot-out to find a way into round three by the skin of their teeth.

It was certainly hard on Coalway’s Jack Halson, whose team have been topping the North Gloucestershire League Premier Division rankings on the back of a great start to their campaign.

Halson hit a hat-trick, Scott Burrows bagged a brace and Kieran Murray also netted.

As for Southside, who have been battling it out at the wrong end of Cheltenham League Division One, they had six of the best in them as well thanks to Michael Teague’s double and single contributions by Elliott Mounsey, Tom Mounsey, Oliver Price and substitute Ben Plumb.

Meanwhile Huntley, who have been going well of late in the higher realms of the North Glos top-flight table, had plenty of firepower in them too to prevail at the expense of Kingswood North 8-2 on their travels.

Marc Matthews led the way with a treble and Will Freeman, Dan Payne, Ed Weyman (2) and sub Josh Akerman all weighed in, while Jiri Kubes and Ross Diment notched for Stroud One strugglers who have been seeking an elusive first point of a testing season so far.

Sharpness Reserves, despite their own difficulties battling it out in the Stroud Two basement, certainly flexed their muscles on the county cup stage as Harry Aldridge, Jack Giggs, Tim Thomas and Oliver Wolstenholme were amongst their marksmen in a 5-0 away flooring of Cheltenham One’s winless bottom side Newton.

Old Richians and Taverners Reserves weren’t hanging around either in the quests for third round action.

Stroud One side Richians put Harrow Hill Reserves to the sword by crushing them 9-3 away with super sub Mathew Westcarr celebrating a hat-trick, Chris Burton a brace and Ross Peters, Lewis Shipp, Matt Thompson and Michael Yost all registering as well.

North Glos Prem competitors Hill replied through James Mathews’ pair and Cody Amand’s effort.

My Bishop’s Cleeve battlers are as hungry as me for big step back up, Cleal insists

STEVE Cleal insists his Bishop’s Cleeve charges are as hungry as he is when it comes to rubbing shoulders with the BetVictor Southern League’s big boys once more, writes Simon Parkinson.

The dyed in the wool Cleeve clubman and proud villager has been battling hard at the Kayte Lane rudder to steer his first team towards a coveted 2019-20 promotion two seasons on from their relegation from non-League step 4 action.

The loyal Bishop’s boss reflected: “Six years ago when I first took charge here I’d had no experience of managing at that level after joining from Barometrics, although I had been a player when we first joined the Southern League from the Hellenic League 13 years back.

“I took on the Cleeve job because I loved the club and I had no ambition to manage anyone else.

“You never say never in this game, of course, but I’m as driven to go back up now just as I was always driven to be successful as a player.”

Casting an eye over Cleeve’s campaign to date which had reaped seven wins and a draw from their ten Premier Division appearances up to November 16, their leader said: “We lost our first game 2-1 at Ardley which is always a difficult place to go.

“We’ve gone on a pretty good run since, despite losing our place in the two national FA competitions, and we’ve been scoring lots of goals.

“Jack Watts scored 20 times in all competitions last season and he’s been on fire and up to 24 goals already, although his all-round game has been impressive too.”

Cleal, who counts only EFC Cheltenham and Barometrics amongst former clubs during his playing days, would also dearly like to add some county cup silverware to his personal trophy cabinet.

His team, who were beaten agonisingly only in a penalty shoot-out – 8-7 - by Toolstation Premier Division equivalents Cribbs in last season’s GFA Challenge Trophy final at Oaklands Park following an equally tight 2-2 regular-time stalemate, were due to entertain Forest Green Rovers Reserves/Under-23s in the first round of this season’s GFA Senior Challenge Cup on November 19.

“I’ve lost all three county finals at various levels I’ve been involved in over the years so it would be nice to put that right,” Cleal smiled.

Top-two finish the target as loyal Cleal continues to eye prized Southern League return

BISHOP’S Cleeve’s devoted boss Steve Cleal says his appetite for the fight is as insatiable as ever as he targets a return to BetVictor Southern League prominence, writes Simon Parkinson.

Stung by their big tumble from the non-League Step 4 competition in 2017-18 as the West Division’s rock-bottom team with only eight wins from their 42 appearances, many would have comfortably predicted a parting of the ways for club and manager in times of turmoil and uncertainty such as that.

It was an enormous disappointment for a proud and conscientious man who long had Bishop’s Cleeve in his blood as a local boy supporting the side in his childhood days before going on to make his first team bow at the age of 16, having advanced through the club’s Colts programme and going on to perform for them as a fully-fledged senior with distinction as a central midfielder in the main until the age of 28.

His dream of becoming Mitres manager was realised in the summer of 2014 following a successful five-year stretch in charge of FC Barometrics.

A tough first year at Kayte Lane in Southern League One South and West ended with the relief of a relegation reprieve.

In a much improved second season at the helm Cleal hoisted Cleeve to a commendable 12th place before the 2016-17 campaign had them falling back four places to 16th, albeit comfortably out of harm’s way.

Even before the end of their torrid 2017-18 programme with relegation written firmly on the wall, Cleal expressed a yearning to remain at the helm for the following season’s challenges back in the Hellenic League for the first time since 2006.

In a concerted attempt to win back their place at the higher level, Bishop’s Cleeve wound up fourth on the Hellenic Premier Division scale in 2018-19 only four agonising points adrift of champions Wantage Town.

Far from prepared to throw in the towel once more, the 41-year-old returned for more and the signs have been encouraging again as they found themselves in similar territory in the table heading for a scheduled date with Virginia Water on Saturday, November 16, ten points adrift of pole position but with games in hand to close the gap.

Cleal stated: “We’re in a good place at this time. I’ve added more experience to what we had and promotion is the name of the game again without a doubt. The champions will definitely go up this time so we’re looking for a top-two finish at the very least.

“In the early weeks of last season we naively dropped points from winning positions. But post Christmas we went on a great run as the players really started to adapt to the level, helped by my 15 years’ experience of the Hellenic League scene with the club.

“We wanted to bounce back straight away from that relegation and for whatever reason it didn’t happen.

“We’ve gone about our business a bit more quietly this time but the desire is in us all to go back up to the Southern League as fast as possible.”

“I have an affinity with Bishop’s Cleeve going back a long way and being back in the Southern League wouldn’t faze me.”

  • Coming up: Why Bishop’s Cleeve’s long-serving supremo Steve Cleal is eyeing the bigger non-League stage for his team once more.

Bristol Ladies Union supremo Steve so encouraged by SW League and cups start

BRISTOL Ladies Union coach Steve Price says he is encouraged by what he has seen so far of his talented team as they’ve taken to the higher level with relish, writes Simon Parkinson.

The Coombe Dingle Complex outfit powered into South West Regional Women’s League for the first time in their history last season as champions of Gloucestershire County Women’s League; seizing top spot by five points from a Longwell Green Ladies side valiantly clinging on to their tail.

That achievement – BLU won 13 of their 16 appearances to cross the promotion line that term – lifted them to their current status in the second-tier Northern section of the South West League where they have been holding their own admirably occupying a mid-table berth.

Things have been shaping up nicely too on the cups front, a 7-0 home crushing of Chipping Sodbury Town Ladies, their competitive County League promotion rivals last season, seeing them to a December 1 away date with SW North counterparts Almondsbury Women in the Bristol Soccerworld Cup.

Not content with that Bristol Ladies comfortably overcame AEK Boco Ladies, another ambitious team from their league who they swept aside 7-0 away in an early-season tussle, 6-1 at Coombe Dingle HQ this time to progress to the second round of the GFA Women’s Trophy, where they were due to entertain Cheltenham Women Under-21, experiencing a mixed start to their County League top-flight commitments, on Sunday, November 17.

Price said of his Union hopefuls’ progress so far: “It’s our first season at this higher standard of football and we haven’t had a bad start at all in winning three, drawing one and losing one.

“It’s encouraging too that our Ellie Preece has enjoyed top-scorer status in the league with 11 goals from those five games.

“We have a small squad but we’re still managing to go with at least two subs every game, although that’s not to say we don’t need more players as we certainly do.”

The Union coach recalled of that ultimately convincing first round county cup defeat of Boco: “We started off slowly to go a goal down.

“But the girls bounced back with a bang to score six times through Hannah Price (2), Ellie Preece (2), Anna Fraser and Lilly Farr, who scored with the pick of the goals.

“The result probably doesn't reflect the game as we missed so many chances, but that’s football.”

Ambitious Nott targeting Toolstation Western League for humble Hartcliffe battlers

HARTCLIFFE player-boss Gary Nott insists he is setting his sights high when it comes to his modest club’s football philosophies – the Toolstation Western League, writes Simon Parkinson.

The 35-year-old insists that whilst his vision is a distant one right now, the fact he has a team at all currently competing hard in Bristol and District League Division Two after a tough close season is reason alone to reach for the stars.

Of the challenges that beset Nott and his willing club comrades approaching their 2019-20 undertakings, he explained: “We only had eight or nine players at one stage of the summer but thankfully a few more boys came in, friends of friends etc, and I’m chuffed with how it’s gone so far.

“A lot of people have been coming back as they knew how it used to be when we were performing as a Bristol Premier Combination team when I was in my early 20s and beating good sides in the county cups.

“We had three teams at one point but two unfortunately folded pretty quickly. Everything seemed to be falling apart for everyone who had put their heart and soul into keeping it going for all that time since Hartcliffe FC first came along in 1982.

“It’s hard to say precisely why the downturn happened although as everyone involved in the local game knows, it can be hard running football teams.

“But I’m not giving up easily. I have my players back and I want us to become an FA Charter Standard club and increase our sponsorship support.”

Nott, whose brother Mitchell is club secretary, smiled: “There’s actually loads of us Notts involved although I did play a few games with Weston-super-Mare in the Conference when I was a teenager. I’d played prior to that for a Bristol City Young Reds team.

“So far this season we’ve scored more goals than I’ve known throughout my time with Hartcliffe and it’s been a case of ‘where did that come from?’ I’ve found the right formation and it’s worked well so far.

“How great it would be to think that over the next 20 years the football here could grow to such an extent that we’d have a Western League semi-pro set-up with thriving junior teams feeding into it.”

  • Up here in part three: Gary speaks of his determination to transform Hartcliffe’s young community through the power of football.

I’m determined to put Hartcliffe back firmly on local football map, boss Gary declares 

HARTCLIFFE’S passionate player-manager Gary Nott cast a keen and affectionate eye over his club’s position in Bristol grassroots football and proclaimed: “I’m determined to put us back on the map,” writes Simon Parkinson.

The 35-year-old “born and bred local boy” took up the reins at the start of the season after Ricki Ryan felt unable to continue in charge.

Nott has settled into the hot seat nicely but wants more - far more - for a Bristol and District League Division Two outfit he clearly cherishes.

He confessed: “We almost folded ahead of the new season. Ricki did an amazing job over several years as manager but had to step down for family reasons. He’s a good man who had been keeping it all going amid challenging circumstances.

“It was hard losing him as he was a quality manager.”

The new incumbent enthused: “I love this club. I’ve played for Hartcliffe for 16 years and I couldn’t just sit back and see it fold. I’ll keep going here until the day I die and Hartcliffe becomes a good and respectable name again.

“We’ve had some quality players come through the door, lads like Jacob Hodgson who is now with Cribbs in the Western League and Jordan Hughes, who went on to play for good sides including Manor Farm Reserves.

“We used to have a small clubhouse we called The Garage which was run by Graham Jenkins, a Hartcliffe FC legend. It was his own little garage but he turned it into a unit about ten minutes from our ground which was then located at Hartcliffe School fields.

“We’d go back to The Garage and cook up burgers and watch football on TV: it was our little home.

“Graham sadly passed away a few years ago and this season we’re wearing black armbands out of respect for him. There is also an annual remembrance game held in his memory which we call the Graham Jenkins Memorial Shield.

“Some people don’t think about these things or acknowledge what people like Graham do for the grassroots game. We’ve only just had the money to be able to afford this sort of tribute. We held a fund-raiser, a race night and raffle, at Hartcliffe Community Centre, to keep us afloat this season and pay for things like pitch fees (at Chew Valley Leisure Centre).

“It’s been like starting again at the bottom, players contributing with subs and doing brilliantly with that so far.”

  •  Coming up in part two: Ambitious Hartcliffe manager Gary eyes a major upturn for his team over time.

Soper: Blend of youth and know-how can only push Pucklechurch Ladies forward

MALCOLM Soper believes an “exciting” blend of youth and experience can only drive his brand-new Pucklechurch Sports Ladies team towards a bright future.

The Abson Road outfit have begun life as a Gloucestershire County Women’s League top-tier force admirably, pushing Bristol Rovers Women, another league newbie who have raced to the summit in unbeaten fashion following their summer set-up, hard so far in what has been shaping up to being an extremely competitive First Division section.

Church are also through to the second round of the GFA Women’s Trophy thanks to a fine 4-0 away win over league compatriots Abbeymead Rovers Ladies, which earned them home advantage in round two against SW Women’s Leaguers Chipping Sodbury Town Ladies on Sunday, November 17 (2pm).

A 6-0 home success over Dursley Town Ladies did likewise in propelling them to the second stage of the County League’s Gordon Perrett Cup, to pencil in an away encounter with Bristol Ladies Union on Sunday, December 1 (2pm).

“I was very pleased with that win over Abbeymead and the way we approached and managed the match from start to finish,” Soper said.

“We played some really composed football and looked like scoring every time we had the ball.

“That kept our momentum going forward and put us on a run of four wins without conceding a goal, form which saw us climb to second in the league and progress to the second rounds of both League Cup and GFA Trophy.

“Now we are looking forward to the rest of what looks like being a highly competitive league and cup season.”

Soper acknowledged: “I have to give praise to our new coaching set-up of Dele Hooper and Sophie Sweet, who have bags of experience having both played at higher standards.

“Introducing them into the coaching roles has given the ladies so much more belief and positivity, which can be seen in our game play and recent results.

“We have found our balance now within the side as a mixture of youth and experience is starting to gel into a very strong and spirited squad.

“Things are looking really bright for this side which can only get stronger. And because of the way we want to play football, we have been able to attract several new players.”

The Church supremo reasoned: “Of course we are always looking to strengthen the squad as we believe competition for places makes for a stronger one all round. So if there is anyone out there looking for a new challenge then please get in contact.

“We’re also extremely grateful to our sponsors Cineworld Yate and Arc Monitoring as without their kind support we would not have got this team off the ground.”

It’s time to relax and let the football flow, Henbury supremo Trevor insists

HENBURY co-boss Trevor Richards believes relaxation is the key to more consistent success for his team, writes Simon Parkinson.

Whilst keen for his players not to lose their competitive edge, the observant Arnall Drive supremo says over-anxiety has all too often crept into Henbury’s game this term, a characteristic he reckons is costing them precious points in the fight to climb into the higher reaches of the Marcliff Gloucestershire County League table.

Richards remarked: “I just feel we get too keyed up at times. The lads can try too hard and that prompts individual and collective mistakes.

“My fellow manager Jason Tarr feels the same and it is frustrating at times and that goes for all of us as a group.

“We’re predominantly a collection of local lads, all mates, who can shout and bawl at each other and no one takes offence. There’s a great rapport amongst them and the football maybe means more because of it.

“The lads know where they’re going wrong and they’re trying hard to rectify it. And it’s not to do with ability – the talent is there without a doubt - or the systems we ask them to play.

“They just need to relax and play the football we know they can play and stop getting all worked up when thing aren’t going to plan.

“If they can get the mental side right they’ll play to their potential more and have us climbing up that table.”

For all that, the former Southmead CS Athletic co-boss is encouraged by recent performances and the club’s set-up as a whole.

“We lost 2-0 at Sharpness recently but things contrived to go against us and a draw would have been a fairer outcome,” Richards maintained.

“In our last game, with an ever-strong Frampton team at their place, we’d battered them before taking a late lead through George Loud’s quality finish into the top corner with his less-favoured left peg.

“George had just missed a penalty too so it was disappointing then to concede an equaliser to another penalty so late in the day, although there were no complaints about the award from us as Lewis Jefferies, a very good goalie who had been filling in for Cam Tarr due to his broken ankle, came out to try and deal with a 50/50 situation.”

Richards admits the departure of forward Dawid Regula to Toolstation Premier Division strugglers Bristol Telephones has been a “big loss.”

“He’s a lovely kid who joined us from Roman Glass at the start of the season,” he explained. “Give him an opportunity and he seldom misses.

“The whole team is gutted that’s he’s left but we understand his reasons for wanting to better himself at that level and he knows there’s always a place for him back here.”

Four-goal Pucklechurch Ladies in unstoppable mood as spirited Abbeymead bow out

PUCKLECHURCH Sports Ladies’ talented team are making encouraging strides with their maiden league commitments – and their county cup campaign is shaping up nicely too.

Whilst Malc Soper’s side were sitting second in the Gloucestershire County Women’s League standings ahead of an exciting top-table away encounter with leaders and fellow newcomers Bristol Rovers Women on Sunday, November 10, they have also been keeping an eye on their GFA Women’s Trophy undertakings.

A 4-0 first round away victory over top-flight Division One rivals Abbeymead Rovers set Church up for a Sunday, November 17 home clash with Chipping Sodbury Town Ladies (2pm), whose promotion from the County League last season swept them to their present status holding their own admirably in the South West Women’s League Northern Division, despite recent setbacks.

On a pudding of a pitch both sides nonetheless produced some fine passing football and with hosts Abbeymead unfortunate at having to start the tie with ten players, Pucklechurch used their numerical advantage to apply early pressure when appeals at a “very strong case,” an insistent away camp claimed, for a penalty were promptly dismissed by the referee.

Not to be denied, Pucklechurch did open the scoring from the resulting corner courtesy of a powerful and towering header into the net by jubilant midfielder Chelsea Pearce.

Enjoying the majority of the possession, the visitors continued to move the ball quickly and create several chances and as Abbeymead operated without the resolute defensive attributes of centre-back Melissa Devereux, Pucklechurch were unlucky not to add to their score during a period of dominance.

Eventually they did break through for a second time. As another flowing move began with the ball worked out of defence, play transitioned through to the strikers where a long shot from Poppy Coles evaded the grasp of the luckless Abbeymead keeper and allowed the ever alert Nerys Akers to pounce and score for 2-0.

Abbeymead’s 11th player finally entered the fray and it appeared to make a difference too as they enjoyed a promising passage better able to play their football and put pressure on the opposition defence for the first time in the game.

They should have pulled a goal back too as their striker unfortunately blazed over from a good position.

Abbeymead were made to pay as Pucklechurch extended their advantage to 3-0. Captain Charlotte Davis collected the ball on the halfway line and, spotting the Abbeymead keeper off her line, produced a sublime lob over her from a full 45 yards out to score an outrageous goal.

Not helped by the pitch conditions, Abbeymead were once more reduced to ten players as their midfielder was forced off with a knee problem and was unfortunately unable to continue.

The second half was similar to the first with Pucklechurch enjoying the majority of possession.

And as they utilised player-of-the-match winger Thalia Marriage to full effect, Church were soon making inroads into the Abbeymead defence again and creating several chances which the home keeper did extremely well to keep out.

It was down to skipper Davis to wrap-up the scoring with a well-drilled shot, which gave the keeper no chance, high into the Abbeymead net and her on-song team a deserved fourth goal.

The spirited home side were unlucky not to net with a consolation goal as their impressive midfielder Mel Hoad shot from long range, only to see Church keeper Ellie Soper pull off a stunning save in tipping the ball round the post when it seemed destined for the back of the net.

Pucklechurch’s satisfied manager Soper enthused: “It really was a very entertaining game, despite the conditions, in which some excellent football was played by both teams.

“Abbeymead should be proud at the way they kept going throughout the match after having to play the majority of the game with ten players.”

  • Coming up here soon: Why Pucklechurch supremo Soper believes his team are on course for exciting times.

Promotion the target as Tytherington Rocks Ladies’ newbies hit early-season heights

ENCOURAGED manager James Eveleigh admits Tytherington Rocks Ladies’ fledgling season could hardly have shaped up any better, to date at any rate, writes Simon Parkinson

The Hardwicke Fields fliers have enjoyed a magnificent start to their Gloucestershire County Women’s League and GFA Women’s Challenge Cup campaigns and are clearly in the mood for more of the same in the important weeks leading up to Christmas.

As the stats stood ahead of publication, he enthused: “Four wins from four in the league and only three goals conceded, all in our 6-3 win over Winchcombe, is a superb start, not to mention getting through two opening rounds of the cups.

“It helped that we played pre-season games against higher-level teams as it pushed the girls to reach the levels we wanted.

“Although we only won two of those matches, it did a lot to prepare the players for the challenges to come.”

Of that 12-1 county cup away victory over Winchcombe, led by Abbie Mitchell’s hat-trick and backed up by braces for Nicholson, White and Pither along with efforts from Giles, Abi Jefferys and an own goal, the Rocks boss insisted: “It was convincing. We were 2-0 up early on although Winchcombe did pull it back to 2-1 by the 25th minute and were starting to get back into it.

“I made a formation change and we grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck after that. We went up through the gears and played some really good football.

“Against Winchcombe in the league we’d been 4-0 up inside 35 minutes and then taken our foot off the gas, enabling them to pull two goals back before we went on to win 6-3. But there was no sign of that happening in this game as we kept going unrelentingly to get ten more goals.

“We said at the start of the season we wanted to be competitive and we’ve ticked that box so far. The aim now is to go on and win promotion to Division Two and try and get at least a quarter-final appearance in one of the cups.

“Tuffley just edge it over us at the top with a 100 per cent record of their own and they are a very good outfit. So when we play them on December 8 at home (2pm) it will be a real test.

“As much as we’d like to win the league, promotion is the key and I’m trying to instil a one-game-at-a-time mentality into the players in order to keep their feet firmly on the floor.”

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