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Wilson’s wonder strikes have spirited Cirencester Town Ladies in cup final dreamland
CIRENCESTER Town Ladies continue to bask in the afterglow of their fighting GFA Women’s Challenge Cup final triumph, writes Simon Parkinson.
The jubilant team, who have been targeting a top-four finish to their first campaign back in the Gloucestershire County Women’s League’s second tier, achieved their county cup success in the most nerve-shredding of ways, with a 4-3 penalty shoot-out victory over league rivals and leaders Cheltenham Town Under-18 Girls, who certainly played their part in an Oaklands Park epic.
The teams completed 90 draining minutes locked at 2-2 before the Cirencester outfit prevailed from the spot.
Victory over the competition favourites was all the more memorable given table-topping Cheltenham had won both Division Two meetings between the sides, the most recent by 6-1 in a late-February affair at Corinium Stadium.
And that wasn’t to mention the fact that they trailed 2-0 at half-time AND lost their goalkeeper to injury in the cup final before undertaking an ultimately successful rescue act after the break to tie it up via a brilliant Emily Wilson brace.
Cirencester had enforced changes to negotiate ahead of the match as disappointed club captain Libby Messenger already had a holiday booked, meaning she missed her first fixture in five seasons.
Poppy Romback instead led Cirencester out while Eleanor Hillier slotted into the middle of the park. Player-manager Karen Messenger named herself on the bench with Mia Higginson’s injury problems persisting.
Cheltenham began the better and found themselves 1-0 up within the first five minutes with a well-taken Holly Fenton goal.
A nervous-looking Cirencester soon settled down, with Ange Bailey linking up well with Charlie Brewster on the right and Tam Davis and Hillier making good runs from the middle.
Nonetheless Cirencester were indebted to Alex Hobbs for making a brilliant one-handed save on the half-hour mark before the same keeper came out bravely to deny a Cheltenham striker, only to cut her lip and take a blow to the head in a subsequent collision which lucklessly ended her evening prematurely.
Substitute Karen Messenger was pressed into urgent action between the posts but was quickly picking the ball out of her net as delighted Cheltenham broke away to score for a second time through Mary Amali to give them a two-goal advantage on the stroke of half-time.
Ciren’s co-manager Callum Higginson managed to re-focus his team and backed by solid defending from a superb back three of Lucy Scrannage, Freya Sullivan and Romback, they got off to the perfect start to the second half as Wilson found herself in space to fire an unstoppable shot over the top of the Cheltenham keeper and in for 2-1.
Urged on by their faithful in an enthusiastic Oaklands Park crowd, Cirencester pushed for an equaliser and it duly arrived midway through the period as Wilson again found herself in the same position to mirror her first goal with another fantastic strike into the net.
With the likes of Bec Brannan, Neve Peachy, Emilie Townsend and Bo Stevens influential, Ciren pushed on with belief they could go on and win it, although an alert Messenger was twice pressed into making crucial blocks and was relieved to see a Cheltenham ‘goal’ disallowed for offside.
After an absorbing end-to-end finale and former Swindon Town keeper Romback now in the Cirencester goal, it was on to penalties.
Brannon, Wilson and Brewster all confidently slotted their spot kicks away and with one at both ends missed, the contest remained in the balance at 3-3.
Then, as Cheltenham’s fifth taker blazed over, Sullivan stepped up to calmly convert and spark scenes of wild celebrations amongst the Cirencester contingent.
A very happy co-boss Messenger beamed: “We were just thrilled to get as far as penalties, so for our girls to stay so calm and soak up the pressure and atmosphere of the evening the way they did to come through with the win was fantastic.”
Stand by for more reaction to Cirencester’s Challenge Cup success soon here on GFA Local Football News.
Cribbs No.2 Jim spells out Cleeve warning as big Challenge Trophy final bout beckons
CRIBBS assistant manager Jim Williams says he and his silverware chasers are “fully aware” of the threat posed by Bishop’s Cleeve when the teams clash for county cup prestige, writes Simon Parkinson.
The sides lock horns at Oaklands Park on Thursday, April 25 (7.45pm) for the final of the GFA Challenge Trophy and given the form both have been in of late, a close encounter beckons.
Steve Cleal’s Cleeve have been challenging strongly towards the UHL Hellenic League Premier Division summit, and although hitting top spot and potential promotion straight back to the Southern League is looking a tall order as it stands, the fact they have got anywhere close to that accomplishment says much about their ambitions.
Cribbs, meanwhile, raised eyebrows recently by becoming only the third team this term to overcome Toolstation Premier Division title-chasers Willand Rovers thanks to a 2-0 home win, which became part of a sequence of just one defeat in 11 league outings for the Bristol battlers.
During that period they also beat Marcliff Gloucestershire County League hopefuls and local rivals Henbury 6-2 with a Jason Vincent brace and singles for Sol Wanjau-Smith, Sam Iles, Lewis Hedges and Matt Spiller in front of 267 Lawns spectators to reach the Challenge Trophy final.
Bishop’s Cleeve, meantime, came through a tense semi-final struggle with Cribbs’ Toolstation top-flight compatriots Bitton 5-4 in a shoot-out following an enthralling 3-3 normal-time draw, after hosts Bitton had hit back from 3-1 arrears to dramatically equalise late and force spot kicks.
Cribbs No.2 Williams acknowledged: “That was a cracking result for Bishop’s Cleeve there. We’re well aware of how tough the final will be. Their boys will be well up for it which means our boys will need to be too.
“Sometimes it’s nice to play a team you know very little about, one which plays in a different league to your own.
“That said I do know their coach Alex Lumsden as we worked together at Tyrone Mings Academy. I dropped him a text to say I was looking forward to seeing him again at the final.
“We can approach it confidently but certainly not complacently. Our performance in beating Henbury was superb and whilst their George Loud did cause us problems with his aerial ability, we were clinical in the final third.
“Once you reach the quarter-finals in competitions like these and the final is in your sights, it’s always a welcome bonus and a special occasion if you’re fortunate enough to get there.
“We always say to our players that it’s about them: it’s why they’re in football; to win medals.”
Of his team’s impressive victory over Devon high-fliers Willand courtesy of Aki Akiwumi’s first-half strike and George Kellow’s second-half penalty in that 2-0 league win, Williams acknowledged: “We knew it would be tough but we’d approached it with no fear as we were 1-0 up at theirs (on November 17) when an injury-time error gifted them a point.
“Everyone played well, not least Lewis Hedges in central midfield and young Tom Anthony, who made an excellent full debut at centre-back up against one of the best strikers in the league in Dean Stamp.
“It felt good and confirmed our capabilities. We have some talented boys here who we’re hoping to keep over the summer and build on what they offer.”
Tributes abounding for much-loved and respected local football legend Lindsay Parsons
THE passing of Gloucestershire football “great” Lindsay Parsons at the age of 73 has sparked an avalanche of tributes paid to the unpretentious Barton Hill boy.
Parsons was associated with a string of clubs at professional and amateur level during his extensive career as a player, coach, manager and scout, having signed as an apprentice for Bristol Rovers at the age of 15 before penning a first professional deal on his 18th birthday and going on to clock up more than 350 appearances as a tenacious left-back for the Pirates over a 15-year span.
During his time at Eastville Stadium Lindsay helped Rovers to Watney Cup final and Third Division promotion successes in the early seventies before moving on to his only other pro club as a player, Torquay United, where he made some 56 appearances between 1977 and 1980.
His subsequent career in non-League took him back to his Bristol roots where he turned out for Gloucester City, Yate Town, Forest Green Rovers and even Hanham Athletic, as well as Taunton Town and Frome Town, where he also managed for a spell, during an eventful period which saw him to playing retirement at the age of 44.
During the early days of his stint on the amateur stages, former South Gloucestershire Boys Club performer Lindsay began blossoming as a coach throughout the 1980s with Bristol Rovers’ schoolboy set-ups, his reputation eventually cementing him roles as youth coach, then first XI manager, with Cheltenham Town in 1992.
GFA football writer Simon Parkinson said: “Steve Cotterill is rightly considered legendary within Cheltenham Town circles for the way he led them into the Football League in the late 1990s amid a series of other successes.
“But Lindsay was very much at the heart of the rock those foundations were built on many years earlier when his astute eye for raw talent paved the way for what was to come during his three-plus years in charge.
“It was just a shame that his final two seasons as Cheltenham manager up until 1995 ended with agonising back-to-back runner-up positions in the Southern League, the second with a then club record 86 points. Those near misses occurred during an era when there were no play-offs and only the champions were allowed promotion.
“Lindsay then spent many years accompanying his great friend and former team-mate at Bristol Rovers Tony Pulis during their times together at Gillingham, Bristol City, Portsmouth, Plymouth Argyle and Stoke City, where he became a long-serving chief scout.
“As football writer with the Western Daily Press back then I enjoyed regular dealings with Lindsay during his six-month spell with Bristol City and I always found him to be approachable and knowledgeable: he loved to talk and talk about football and its people and he was fascinating to listen to.”
Cheltenham Town director and club secretary Paul Godfrey told his club’s website: “I can’t emphasise enough what a great job Lindsay did as Cheltenham Town manager, particularly in that 1992-93 season.
“The club was at really low ebb both on and off the field but he just got on with things in a no-nonsense way, re-building everything from the ground upwards.
“On a personal level, as a young person starting out in my first job at a football club, he was a tremendous help and taught me an awful lot about football.”
A Bristol Rovers statement read: “The club was saddened to learn of the recent death of our former full-back Lindsay Parsons.
“We wish to extend our condolences to Lindsay’s family and friends at this sad time.”
And Tony Pulis himself acknowledged: “Linds always kept it very basic and very simple; everything was straightforward.
“The memorable moments will stay with me forever. It was just a great friendship; a wonderful friendship.
“He deserves all the tributes that people can give him. He was always a tower of strength for me.”
Southmead sweat over County League status as gallant Gala stage last-ditch recovery
SOUTHMEAD CS Athletic are sweating over their future as a Marcliff Gloucestershire County League competitor following a final weekend of high drama that stunned the club, writes Simon Parkinson.
Desperate to stay off bottom spot in the knowledge the team occupying it at the end were most likely to stare relegation full in the face, Southmead did their bit in their own Jarratts Road yard by overcoming fellow strugglers Hanham Athletic 1-0 thanks to Leon Clayton-Clarke’s strike in their farewell outing of another taxing campaign.
It was then a case of sitting back and anxiously awaiting the outcome of the Little Stoke-Gala Wilton contest seven days on, with the latter needing nothing less than three points to leapfrog their big Bristol basement rivals at the very last in the battle to stay safe.
With hosts Little Stoke in impressive form having also booked a place in the Les James League Cup final with AEK Boco at Wick’s Oldbury Lane ground on Sunday, April 28 (2.30pm), few would have given Gala a prayer of achieving the great escape.
To their own joy and Southmead’s despair, they struck twice in the early exchanges to lead 2-0, an advantage they never relinquished.
After first surviving a Stoke raid inside the first minute as keeper Lewis Skyers smothered Luke Meacham’s fierce shot, Gala seconds later found themselves in the home box and happily accepting the award of a penalty.
Ryan Dobbins was entrusted with the spot kick and clinically sent home custodian Ollie Jones the wrong way for a 1-0 lead.
And with only six minutes on the watch Gala found themselves 2-0 up as Dobbins nicked a long punt off a home defender before shooting at goal. Although Jones parried out the effort, James Bowers picked up the loose ball to fire home.
It meant gallant Gala had raised themselves off the County League floor in the most dramatic of ways courtesy only of a superior six-goal difference over Southmead rivals sinking to the bottom, despite both sides winding up with 13 points to their name.
With Hanham Athletic, AEK Boco and Henbury above them happy to have found safety spots, both Gala and Southmead had approached a crucial run-in knowing that only the team propping up the rest was likely to face a potential fall-out after Kingswood’s withdrawal from the league earlier in the season effectively took one of two usual relegation places.
Whether Southmead, who are well used to staging successful rescue missions after years of occupying the bottom two places, are granted yet another stay of execution, or returned to the lower levels for the first time since 2012 when they rose to the County League for the first time as Bristol and Suburban League champions, only time will tell.
It has certainly been a struggle this term with a raft of club officials and management exiting Jarratts Road to leave a threadbare committee fighting to keep heads above water.
Long-serving secretary Neil Graham did consider his own position, although he revealed: “I’ve had a chat with the club and I’m going to stay now, irrespective of which league we play in next season.
“I’m also hopeful John Henson and his assistant Rob Cumberbatch will stay too along with the core of our players.
“We’re in the hands of the FA but if we do go down, it could be a blessing in disguise from a financial aspect. We’d then look to regroup and build back up again.
“Obviously it’s been disappointing to finish up bottom, especially after beating Hanham in our final game.
“Really, though, we should have had enough points in the bag earlier in the season to ensure we weren’t in this position.”
Graham watched on a forlorn figure as relegation rivals Gala overcame Little Stoke with that 2-0 weekend win.
“I was there keeping fingers, toes and everything else crossed!” he smiled ruefully.
“Gala were very quick out of the blocks, scoring with a penalty in the first minute and a second five minutes later.
“Every time Gala went forward they looked as though they’d score although Little Stoke were the better side in the second half.”
Lebeq United leader Rayan leaving on a high note thanks to County League triumph
OUTGOING Lebeq United boss Rayan Wilson reflected on his team’s Marcliff Gloucestershire County League title triumph and beamed: “It’s a long-standing goal accomplished,” writes Simon Parkinson.
Lethal Lebeq, who have used the Gloucestershire FA’s 3G football centre in Almondsbury to potent effect for home fixtures once more, were faced with an unexpected scare towards the end of what had been a nigh-on flawless campaign comprising only three defeats when they were docked two sets of three points by the league for fielding an ineligible player in each of two fixtures.
As it turned out they had done just enough to fend off stirring challenges by Frampton United and Stonehouse Town, prompting a relieved Wilson to enthuse: “Winning the title and hopefully gaining entry into the Toolstation Western League on the back of it has been one of Lebeq’s long-standing goals.
“Generation after generation in bygone years openly spoke about the fact Lebeq should already have a team at such a level. It’s something that until now has never transpired.
“Now the whole club has the opportunity to tick off this goal and make headway for local inner city footballers to have a platform to play at a good and higher standard, so bridging the gap even more when it comes to fulfilling young individuals’ footballing aspirations.”
Wilson, who led Lebeq into the County League for the first time in their history in 2016 thanks to an emphatic Suburban League crown success, is to step down as manager now their 28-game programme has ended.
He said: “I have to thank the current team, the Lebeq committee and local community, as well as the management staff which includes Benjamin McLeod, Twaine Plummer, Aaron Wilson and Aaron Cornwall.
“It has been an incredible journey, not just for myself but for all involved at the club.”
Of that six-point deduction Wilson, who is a sports rehabilitator and performance coach by trade, acknowledged: “It came down to admin errors on our part and if you make those types of errors then you have to stand by the consequences that come with them and learn from it.
“The club have had a couple of new people in particular positions which resulted in a few teething issues.”
Two new managers required as jubilant Lebeq gear up for the bigger stages
NEW Marcliff Gloucestershire County League champions Lebeq United are keeping everything crossed for an accompanying promotion – in the knowledge the search for TWO new club managers is already underway, reports Simon Parkinson.
The Oaklands Park outfit, famed more for their successful exploits around the Sunday League scene over more than three trophy-laden decades, have shown their prowess and potential on the Saturday stages too in more recent times.
Whilst their reserves have been holding their own capably in the Bristol Premier Combination’s top tier, their flagship United team dusted themselves down from last year’s County League title and promotion despair by going the distance this time, and that despite a late-season six-point deduction for fielding ineligible players that fleetingly threatened to cost them dear.
Mercifully for them Stonehouse Town were unable to capitalise on a proposed late sprint for the crown with a wealth of games in hand to fuel hopes, whilst Frampton United were left licking their wounds in second spot contemplating what might have been as they finished up an agonising two points adrift of top-table status.
Despite that unwanted scare, which they put down to administrative errors, Lebeq reached the winning line unscathed knowing the hard work has really only just begun as they prepare for life without their successful manager Rayan Wilson, who had led them into the County League as Suburban League champions three short years ago.
Club chairman Dwayne Smith confirmed: “Rayan will be moving on to pastures new at the end of this season and we wish him all the best.
“We would like to thank him for all his hard work in achieving two promotions in four seasons as manager and for his commitment in some testing times.
“As a club we are of course very happy and proud of the team’s success. The manager and his coaches have made history and taken us to new heights.
“Hopefully we can now continue to push forward by putting the right things in place to keep us at this great new level of football.”
It’s a potential “new level” that Lebeq players and staff are gearing up for with a degree of uncertainty.
Whilst they have applied to the Toolstation Western League for entry, they will be acutely aware that the Step 6 equivalent Hellenic League Division One West on the non-League pyramid is currently operating with only 12 teams.
Regardless of that there is likely to be more summer restructuring concerning both competitions, with the FA still weighing up promotion applications across the board while looking at possible geographical boundary changes that could make for more clubs switching leagues as was the case last season.
Meanwhile Lebeq are targeting a new second-string supremo too as Smith, who has been running the side, is to step down as boss.
He explained: “I want to try and focus on the chairman’s role more fully as I feel I’d be better placed there to help both our first team and reserves.
“I’ll still be managing our ladies team for the time being but we’d certainly welcome applications for our two senior men’s sides.”
Supremo Strawford geared up for big Wick push – and Toolstation rep engagement!
WICK manager Mike Strawford has been plotting a late-season victory spree in an attempt to nail top-six status for his team – whilst keeping a firm eye on his intriguing rep commitments!
The Oldbury Lane outfit have, by their leader’s own admission, experienced something of a topsy-turvy programme battling it out in the upper realms of the Marcliff Gloucestershire County League standings, albeit not high enough for his liking.
While that remains his priority right up until the final ball is kicked in the Monday, April 22 campaign concluder at home against visiting Henbury (3pm), Strawford has seldom been far away from pen and paper as he considers options for his County League representative team’s forthcoming fixture with a Toolstation Western League XI.
That match takes place at Stonehouse Town FC on Saturday, May 4 (2.30pm) and is part of the County League’s 50th anniversary celebrations.
Strawford finds himself in the hot-seat for a second time after steering the non-League Step 7 league to a 1-0 victory over their Gwent League counterparts in February, a success at Tytherington Rocks’ Hardwicke Fields facility that went down well for more than one reason.
“That last experience was brilliant and it made the win even sweeter that we’d not beaten Gwent in all four previous matches with them,” Strawford smiled.
“Looking ahead to this next one with the Toolstation League, I’ve watched a few games in our league already with a view to weighing up player options.
“Just recently I did a one-afternoon groundhop which began at Hanham Athletic (v Frampton United) and continued along the road at AEK Boco (v Stonehouse).
“The fixture is on a bank holiday weekend and I already know some lads can’t make it because of other commitments.
“But it’s a great chance for players at our level to show what they can do against those from higher up the pyramid.”
The Western League XI is to be led by Welton Rovers outgoing boss Nick Beaverstock, who says he is “thrilled” at an “unexpected” call to duty.
He enthused: “It’s an honour for me and a proud moment. My No.2 here at Welton, Malcolm Beck, will be assisting me for the occasion and he feels as privileged as I do to be part of it.”
Meanwhile Strawford is clearly in the mood to push his Wick “underachievers” to new heights, even if it won’t happen this time around.
“It’s been so stop-start and we just haven’t been able to maintain consistency,” he admitted.
“Now it’s a case of enjoying the remainder of the season and maybe looking at a few new players we’ve signed on with a view to setting the ball rolling for pre-season and having a crack at being amongst the front-runners next year, which is where we wanted to be this time around.
“If we find ourselves competing hard towards the top end of the table next season then we’ll maybe look at what needs to be done ground-wise for the next level up.
“We’ve shown we can beat anyone on our day in this league but we can also lose to anyone too. Much of that is about attitudes.”
It’s Bristol City again as spirited Slimbridge are denied by cruel stoppage-time double
BRISTOL City’s fledgling footballers took another sizeable stride towards making it a hat-trick of GFA Senior Challenge Cup successes – but only after being made to sweat for their latest final place by spirited Slimbridge.
Lee Driver-Dickerson’s side, currently embroiled in a battle to stay safe in the depths of the Evo-Stik Southern League’s second tier, could have been forgiven beforehand for contemplating the prospect of becoming cannon fodder on their own excellent Thornhill Park surface for the Ashton Gate professionals’ under-23 starlets.
And when the visitors broke the deadlock 19 minutes in as Max Williams found the top corner of the Swans’ net with an unerring edge-of-box finish from winger Sam Pearson’s supply, any concerns that may have arisen within home confines were hardly dispelled.
City continued to threaten in those early stages and they went agonisingly close to adding a quickfire second goal when Zac Smith sent a long-range effort whistling a fraction past an upright.
Pearson later saw a chipped attempt in a one-on-one position saved in a first half of precious few gilt-edged opportunities at either end, whilst Josh Owers, son of former City midfielder Gary Owers, was also denied by a brave block. At the other end Slimbridge’s lone striker Steve Jackson saw a header drift wide.
Trailing by just the one goal and tempers, sparking a string of bookings, under control once more, Slimbridge, who had spread five men across midfield in a bid to nullify the City advances, approached the second half with some purpose.
And they were soon level as marauding right-sided wide-man Danny King, on loan from Gloucester City, saw his fierce on-target effort take a ricochet off Kieran Smith and deflect past his own keeper Will Buse, to the delight of the Wisloe Road faithful.
Back came the zestful pros and Pearson bent a beauty from distance only just past a post while Marcus Day’s impressive burst forward and subsequent shot was saved well by Lewis Adams.
With no extra-time to worry about in county competitions such as these, an absorbing tie appeared to be heading unassailably towards a shoot-out as Driver-Dickerson and the Swans supporters dreamt of the prospect of a penalties triumph.
Instead, to their immense frustration and disappointment, they were never to get there as two stoppage-time goals condemned them to a heartbreaking defeat.
First Day unleashed a curling shot from well outside the box which the despairing Adams could only push into the roof of his net in valiantly attempting to keep it out.
And as though that wasn’t hard enough for the hosts to take, City really did apply the killer blow moments later as they exposed inevitable gaps in the home rearguard for Ricardo Rees to beat Adams with a rasping finish.
The Ashton Gate outfit now face a wait to see who they face in a third straight Oaklands Park final as second semi-finalists Cinderford Town, and visiting Forest Green Rovers, Reserves/Under-23s are still to play at the Causeway Ground on a date to be decided.
Adams, Noakes, Waddington, Richards (Pring 46), C Turner, M Turner, D Turner, Martin, Mendes, Jackson, King (Dunbar 81).
City Under-23s: Buse, K.Smith, Webb, Low (Harper 54), H Smith, Z Smith, Pearson, Owers, Rees, Williams (Bell 58), Day. Unused subs: Robertson, Taylor.
Jack’s the lad as his late double propels Wanderers Reserves to Intermediate glory
NICHOLAS Wanderers’ super season continued as they backed up their first-team promotion jubilation with a dramatic GFA Intermediate South Cup final success, writes Simon Parkinson.
Hard on the heels of that Bristol and District League Senior Division championship triumph, which lifted Wanderers back into the Bristol Premier Combination after a three-year absence (see separate story here on Local Football News), the club’s in-form reserve team backed up their own District Division One title prospects with a 4-3 county cup win over Lawrence Rovers.
They had to do it the winding way too before they could get their hands on the prize following a gripping, twisting, Oaklands Park saga.
Two early goals appeared to put Wanderers firmly in the driving seat only for Rovers, who themselves are still in championship and promotion contention a section beneath Wanderers in District Division Two, to roar back and lead 3-2.
The Nics battlers weren’t finished either and two Jack Neagle strikes deep into stoppage time did the trick as a trophy that had appeared to be heading the way of the spirited Lawrence lads was cruelly and dramatically snatched from their grasp by overjoyed opponents.
A cracking contest began at a hectic pace as Wanderers quickly found themselves two-up and flying. Skipper James Fox converted a Joe Neagle cross for the opener before the goalscorer determinedly harried the Rovers defence to force an own goal.
The Rovers management team of long-serving club stalwarts Tim Richards and Bern Harrington, orchestrating dugout activity with boss Mike Holloway in the thick of the action, had seen enough, making a swift substitution and changing formation.
This had an immediate effect and with Rovers suddenly revitalised, goals from Luke Mathison and Kai Holmes had them level at 2-2 by half-time.
The momentum continued into the second half as Mathison again rose high to head home from a long delivery to put ecstatic Rovers in front for the first time.
Yet just when it seemed the cup had been clinched entering six minutes of added time, Neagle pounced to haul Wanderers level before the same jubilant scorer kept his cool after breaking clear to slot home the winner.
Wanderers secretary Bob Fudge acknowledged: “It was largely down to clever use of substitutes by our managers Steve Mansfield and Mark Lovell that kept the team fresh and able to launch such a late rally.
“Rovers were obviously devastated as we celebrated but they played their part in an excellent final very well refereed by John Duffy.”
Fudge’s opposite number Richards said: “The game seemed won for us as those additional six minutes were signalled.
“It was a very good and competitive match and unfortunately for us another two defensive errors, just as Nicholas’ first two were down to our mistakes, enabled them to grab the win and our congratulations go to them.”
Southmead’s perennial relegation battlers sweating over latest County League verdict
SOUTHMEAD CS Athletic’s philosophical long-serving secretary Neil Graham insists his troubled club will have to take relegation from the Marcliff Gloucestershire County League firmly on the chin if it arises, writes Simon Parkinson.
The Jarratts Road strugglers have been embroiled in a straight relegation scrap with Gala Wilton in the knowledge one of them, the team finishing bottom of the pile, faces the threat of eviction from the Step 7 competition.
It is a scenario Southmead are well accustomed to – they’ve occupied the last two places for the past three seasons yet managed to stay up.
Graham, who has served the club as player and administrator for more than 25 years, says they will accept their fate with good grace if they are to go down.
Southmead chiefs, those left to try and steer them to safer waters following a raft of departures, recently appointed John Henson and Rob Cumberbatch as a caretaker management team in the hope of inspiring a positive conclusion to their campaign and send them into the summer on a high note, irrespective of their status.
Graham, 47, explained: “John is a defender of ours who had played and captained us for virtually all our games this season when he took over as manager.
“Things came to a head after we lost 7-1 at home to Stonehouse (February 16) when four key members left us: manager Simeon Hopkins, who’d taken over from Chazz Gomm at the back end of the 2017-18 season; our chairman Phil Lindo; vice-chairman Bob Bryant and coach Paul Morris.
“It was disappointing as training numbers had improved on previous years and we have had fuller benches for games.
“In fact things were looking up to such an extent that we were even talking about starting up a reserve team.
“Admittedly I considered my own position. I was so fed up with the way things were going and had I left we really would have been in crisis. I’ve been with the club for over 25 years and it’s in my DNA. You don’t get paid and it can be a thankless task. But it’s also a way of life.
“In the end I was persuaded to stay by our physio/coach Steve Roe and with John stepping up to take charge alongside (coach) Rob Cumberbatch, and our central midfielder Otis Francis taking on the captain’s armband from John, we have pressed on unabated.”
Graham conceded: “It’s a shame because the club had done so well to come through all the divisions from the Suburban League to reach the County League (in 2012) and enjoying two promising years to start with. The downturn came from the moment we lost our best players to higher-level clubs.
“If we do end up in the bottom two again then we’ll just have to accept our fate if the powers-that-be see fit to relegate us.”
Jack in the box Williams is one in a million, Manor Farm Reserves boss Bill claims
BRISTOL Manor Farm Reserves’ appreciate boss Bill Bond says experience, loyalty and deadly marksmanship provided by players like Jack Williams are precious assets every club would benefit from, writes Simon Parkinson.
The super striker celebrated his 30th birthday in style by hitting a hat-trick in his team’s recent 6-0 Bristol Premier Combination Division One demolition of relegation-threatened DRG Frenchay.
It was just the job too for the treble-chaser and his team following a 4-0 midweek home humbling by leaders Winterbourne United, who were not prepared to hang around and admire Manor Farm’s Creek HQ surroundings en route to a likely title and promotion triumph.
Against DRG the lively Jack Hargreaves had set Farm’s improving second-string on their way to victory on five minutes, before a spirited display by their lowly hosts kept them quiet until the 35th minute mark when Jordan Dent pounced to double the lead.
Soon into the second half a Kalan Bartlett cross whizzed across the box, only to hit an unfortunate defender and deflect into the net.
A glorious through ball from Marcus Revill found Williams in space to fire into the roof of the net for 4-0, and it was birthday boy Williams again celebrating his 30th in style by netting twice more to claim his hat-trick.
His pleased manager Bond acknowledged: “The word ‘legend’ is used too much but Jack really IS a Farm legend.
“He’s been with the club for many years, mainly with the reserves, although he did play in the Western League under John Black here a few times.
“Despite many offers he has always stayed loyal and never received a penny. Jack has always been a defender’s nightmare, averaging about 20 goals a season.”
Williams wasn’t finished there. In his next appearance four days on he was bagging a brace in a 3-1 home victory over Hambrook.
In a frantic first half of real end-to-end football as both teams produced good football, the visitors went in front on the half hour as their regular reserve team captain Clark Wiltshire, the shortest player on the pitch, rose high to head home from a free-kick.
Fifteen minutes later Manor Farm were leading 3-1 after injuries to Hambrook’s defensive players took their toll.
Farm’s second-half leveller came through the unstoppable Williams before Dent put them in front on the hour.
Williams and Dent both hit the woodwork before Williams grabbed his second goal to seal a hard-fought win for jubilant Farm, who went on to overcome Greyfriars Athletic 2-1 at home on April 3 to move into fifth place.
And guess who provided the breakthrough goal on the night? Williams was at it once more, with his 19th goal in 13 appearances this term, and although gallant Greyfriars did regain parity, an on-song Dent delivered the knock-out blow to the visitors’ hopes.
Tim: New ladies team can help transform Tytherington Rocks into a force for good
TIM Minihane points to the emergence of a ladies section at Tytherington Rocks as further evidence the club is slowly but surely rising from the ashes, writes Simon Parkinson.
Rocks are to hold open sessions for prospective adult female players at their Hardwicke Fields HQ on Friday, April 12 between 7pm and 8.30pm, with anyone keen to attend urged to register by emailing email@example.com
First team men’s manager Minihane, on the cusp of concluding an eventful if not stressful first season at the helm attempting to hoist his side out of Hellenic Division One West relegation danger, is adamant the bigger picture is “an encouraging one”.
“As a club we’re feeling a lot more positive,” he insisted. “It was never going to be an easy job but hopefully we’re turning the corner and we can keep improving.
“Our new reserves and under-18s have bedded in pretty well in the Bristol Suburban League and Somerset Floodlit Youth League respectively and we’ve improved our links at first team level with them.
“Hopefully that’s all helping the club acquire the tools and foundations required to be a competitive Hellenic League force again. We have the facilities in place so hopefully we’ll be looked upon favourably by the league and FA after all the hard work that is going in off the pitch.
“There have been lots of things put in place that other semi-pro clubs take for granted; they’re things Tytherington have fallen behind with a bit.”
Minihane emphasised: “Introducing a ladies section, to play in Gloucestershire County Women’s League Division Two, means we now have three senior teams and a youth team and it’s moving us forward as a club.
“The women’s game is growing at a fast rate nationally and it’s broadening our horizons. It’s giving local girls the chance to utilise our excellent facilities and play and train under floodlights.
“People seem to be noticing now what we’re trying to do at Tytherington which is encouraging.”
Rocks have appointed former Bradley Stoke Youth girls coach and FA Level 2 badge holder James Eveleigh to manage the ladies team.
He said: “I am really excited about this new chapter. From my first meeting with chairman Ted Travell at the clubhouse it became clear there’s a wealth of history attached to this club and I really hope the ladies and I can add to that and enhance it.
“It was not an easy decision to leave Bradley Stoke after six wonderful seasons there and the club will always hold a special place in my heart.
“I would like to place on record my thanks to everyone there for their support and hard work.”
Eveleigh has been joined at Tytherington Ladies by his trusted assistant at Bradley Stoke Mark Butt, an FA Level 2 coach and Level 1 goalkeeping coach.
The new Rocks No.2 enthused: “This kind of opportunity doesn’t come up too often and James and I are looking forward to leading their new venture.
“Like James, I would like to place on record my thanks to Bradley Stoke for their support since I joined the club.
“But having known James for over 15 years there was never a doubt that I wouldn’t follow him to Tytherington and I am really looking forward to what the future brings both on and off the field.”
Tytherington Ladies, who have been backed by EC Computers (main kit sponsor), Cotswold Homes (training sponsor), Hanson Aggregates (team sponsor), Hoole and Co (matchday tracksuit sponsor) and Old Down Country Park (team sponsor), will officially commence regular sessions at the start of May and although training times are scheduled for 7-8.30pm, the precise day is yet to be confirmed.
Their progress can also be tracked via twitter (@rocks_fc_ladies) and Facebook (Tytherington Rocks FC).
Potential new players to any of Rocks’ men’s, women’s and youth teams are welcome to attend the club throughout pre-season.
Minihane can be contacted on 07523 108239 or emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org
Kevin keeps his word as Nicholas Wanderers make Premier Combination return
NICHOLAS Wanderers’ overjoyed secretary Bob Fudge says their prized promotion back to the Bristol Premier Combination has been a real team effort – and not just a footballing one either, writes Simon Parkinson.
An 8-1 away crushing of Bristol Barcelona at Beggar Bush Lane clinched Wanderers the District League Senior Division championship with four games still to play, whilst maintaining their 100 per cent record throughout the league campaign for good measure.
A Billy Arnold hat-trick, Harry Sutton brace and Craig Baptist, Scott Andoniou and Matt Hawkins strikes paved the way for a comfortable victory. Arnold had stepped off the bench at half-time to net a rapid hat-trick which referee Martyn Popel confirmed was accomplished in four minutes and 20 seconds.
Wanderers’ application for membership of the Bristol Premier Combination was confirmed in January although it was dependent on them winning the District League, which they’ve happily since wrapped up and in some style.
They originally joined the Combination competition way back in 1967 but dropped out in 2016 in order to “secure the future of the club.”
Jubilant Fudge explained: “When our manager Kevin Pollard, who was a previous winner of the Premier Combination in an earlier stint with the club, re-joined us in 2016, he promised he would take us back there within three years. So he has certainly kept his promise!
“Included in his matchday line-ups are father and son Steve and Joe Neagle, who played their part in the campaign.
“Kevin has assembled a close-knit squad promoting youngsters like Jack Britton and Harry Sutton, and the reserves have been making a strong challenge for Division One honours having also booked a place in the GFA Intermediate Cup final.
“With the club expecting to agree an asset transfer with Bristol City Council and develop the facilities at Dundridge Playing Fields at St George, the future looks very good.
“We have support from the local councillors, members, previous members and The Friends of Dundridge Group, so we are raring to go!”
Cheal warns Cheltenham Ladies’ county cup final charges to watch for Frampton sting
ALEX Cheal has warned his Cheltenham Town Ladies county cup favourites to be watchful of the threat posed by Frampton Rangers Ladies to their silverware hopes, writes Simon Parkinson.
Town are out to atone for last season’s agonising 1-0 GFA Women’s Trophy final defeat at the hands of St Nicholas Ladies when they take on Frampton in this year’s showpiece occasion at the Oaklands Park 3G centre on Thursday, April 11 (7.30pm).
Cheltenham, the 2016-17 Trophy winners, have been riding high in the FA Women’s National League Division One South West table, whilst their final opponents have been enjoying a storming campaign second in the South West Women’s League Eastern Division standings.
A fact not lost on Cheltenham chief Cheal who acknowledged: “We’re looking forward to taking on a Frampton side who have improved a lot.
“We played them in pre-season and won 9-0 but I have watched them a few times this season and their progress has been very good.
“They will be dangerous and out to prove a point and we have to prepare for every outcome.
“Ultimately, though, our girls are simply looking forward to the occasion.”
Cheltenham booked their place in the final with a 4-2 semis success at Frampton’s Eastern section rivals Almondsbury Women thanks to Annie Martin’s double and Lauren Ellis and Kayleigh Hateley goals.
In a very open game in which the strong wind played a huge part, Cheltenham opened the scoring through a delighted Ellis notching her first of the season.
One quickly became two as Cheltenham asserted themselves on the game, leading scorer Martin adding to her season’s burgeoning tally by sliding the ball into the bottom corner.
Almondsbury were quick to haul themselves back into the contest with two goals either side of half-time, with defender Sam Morris, filling in between the posts, caught out.
Cheltenham, however, were to go on and win comfortably as Hateley smashed the ball home emphatically to put them back in control before goal ace Martin bundled her way through to score her 25th of the season.
Cheal conceded: “We made tough work of it but credit to Almondsbury; they worked their socks off to disrupt us.
“The wind disrupted our performance too and as a result the game became closer than it should have.”
Clinical keeper Kaye is spot on as happy Hardwicke Reserves prepare for Tetbury final
HARDWICKE’S dedicated chiefs have hailed their reserve team’s achievement in reaching the final of the GFA Junior North Cup this spring, writes Simon Parkinson.
A thrilling 4-3 penalty shoot-out success over hosts Kings Stanley at Marling Close in the semi-finals following an enthralling 3-3 regular-time stalemate set Hardwicke up for a Thursday, April 25 (7.30pm) showdown with Stroud League One rivals Tetbury Town at Tuffley Rovers’ Glevum Park HQ.
Club secretary CJ Irving glowed: “This has been very welcome news as we approach the end of the season.
“It comes at a time when all three teams within the club are realistically out of the running for league success and our firsts and thirds are out of all cup competitions.
“The reserves manager Nathan O’Neill has been backed all the way by the Hardwicke AFC committee in his first season in charge and his team have rewarded the club with two great cup runs, including progression into the county cup final.
“It ensures an exciting end to a season that could otherwise have easily fizzled out.”
Irving emphasised: “The success in the semi-final was down to a great team performance against the Stroud Division One leaders Kings Stanley.
“Nathan’s investment in youth paid off with a goal from 17-year old Lewis Meredith-Wilks and a brace by 18-year-old Ollie Furniss on his re-introduction to the reserves.
“The victory was made even more impressive as the team made it to full-time tied at 3-3 with a bare 11 out there.
“The penalty shoot-out, and our place in the final, was actually decided by an unstoppable strike from our keeper Tom Kaye!”
The Green Lane administrator’s words were echoed by first team manager Richard Mansell, whose charges have been striving to enter the top half of the Marcliff Gloucestershire County League table before the season is out.
He acknowledged: “It’s a fantastic achievement. To reach a final with the size of the squad Nathan has had to choose from due to eligibility circumstances speaks volumes for them all.
“Every manager wishes to have a successful side and Nathan is potentially 90 minutes away from that in his first season in charge and we wish him all the luck in the world.”
Charfield relishing GFA Minor North final date with local rivals North Nibley
CHARFIELD secretary Jeremy Lewis says he and his club comrades are rubbing their hands in eager anticipation of their reserve team’s big derby duel with local rivals North Nibley, writes Simon Parkinson.
The sides lock horns on Tuesday, April 30 at Stonehouse Town’s Oldends Lane facility for a 6.30pm GFA Minor North Cup final confrontation after successfully coming through recent last-four ties.
Charfield, enjoying a splendid campaign challenging hard at the top of Stroud and District League Division Four on the back of last season’s Division Five title and promotion successes, overcame M4 Karting Cirencester and District League hopefuls Poulton 3-2 at home in their semis tussle.
Two Ed Fuller strikes and an Andy Brett effort saw them through to that fascinating final bout with a North Nibley outfit who have been leading the way impressively at the Stroud Division Five summit with the prize in touching distance. Blain Barker-Close and Dan Read notched for brave but ultimately disappointed Poulton.
Nibley’s passage to the Stonehouse showpiece was a little more straightforward as Jamie Evans’ treble and Simon Hopes, Tom Russell and Charlie Balmer strikes clinched a 6-2 away victory over spirited Smiths Athletic Reserves hosts, who replied with Shaun Green and Seth Fullwood goals, currently battling it out in the lower realms of Cheltenham League Division Three.
Lewis said of Charfield’s final feat: “It was a hard-fought win to get past Poulton and we’re all now looking forward to taking on our local rivals North Nibley in the final. The rivalry between these two teams goes back decades!”
Charfield’s run to Stonehouse began with a handsome 3-0 home victory over Cheltenham Civil Service 3rds back in September before seeing off Frampton United 3rds 5-1 on their October travels in round two and Chalford 3rds even more comprehensively, 8-1, at home the following month.
A 5-0 romp over visiting Stroud Five side Rodborough Old Boys Reserves in January’s quarter-finals catapulted them into that successful semis affair with Poulton.
Reflecting also on Charfield first team’s fortunes competing valiantly at the right end of Stroud Division One, Lewis accepted: “The title is now beyond us (as Kings Stanley cannot now be caught) although we have guaranteed ourselves a runners-up place.
“However our reserves still have a good chance of winning Division Four as they lead the way looking to win their last two matches whilst hoping Hempsted behind us slip up during their remaining fixtures.”
Gala Wilton, Southmead scrap for survival as clubs collide for County League spots
GALA Wilton and Southmead CS Athletic are engaged in a straight scrap for survival that could lead to one of them losing their place in the Marcliff Gloucestershire County League this spring, writes Simon Parkinson.
The pair have been occupying the last two spots in the standings knowing only one of them, the team finishing up rock bottom, will face the prospect of relegation.
And with all previously under-threat clubs currently stationed above Gala and Southmead now all but assured of their status in the non-League Step 7 competition for another year, the battle to stay off the dreaded bottom rung has been intensifying.
League secretary Ron Holpin confirmed: “Only the team finishing at the very bottom is under threat of going down this season and that’s because Kingswood withdrew from the league earlier in the season and effectively became a relegated side.
“Under normal circumstances if two clubs are deemed fit to come into the County League the rules state that the bottom two clubs will be relegated.
“There are three clubs all vying to come into the league. Bromley Heath, the Bristol Suburban League leaders, are one of them although they still have to make sure they have perimeter barriers and two trainer boxes in place by the time we go up to ground grade them.
“Filton Athletic, who have been second behind Bromley in Suburban Prem One, are another hoping to join us as they are to ground share with Southmead if they do win promotion.
“The other club in the equation are Sharpness, who have passed their ground grading and are currently second in the Gloucestershire Northern Senior League table.
“Avonmouth, who have been third in the Suburban League table, had been hoping to be considered but they pulled out when they realised their ground would not be ready for the step up, although they are looking to apply again next season.
“Chalford, currently third in the Northern Senior League, applied to join us although we’re awaiting confirmation as to when they wish their ground to be inspected.
“Quedgeley Wanderers also applied and passed their ground grading, although their present position middle of the Northern Senior One table suggests they won’t finish high enough to be considered for the County League this time around.”
Holpin continued: “We’re looking to bring at least two new teams into our league as it looks as though either Lebeq or Stonehouse will go up to either the Toolstation or Hellenic League and are the only two clubs to have applied for promotion.
“Of course we have no idea at this time whether the FA will send any Step 6 teams, be it from the Hellenic or Toolstation League, down to us.”
As for that struggle for survival between Southmead and Gala Wilton, the long-serving County League administrator said: “I watched them play each other at Southmead recently and it was an excellent game. In the end Gala took their chances to win 3-0.”
Fletcher’s Cheltenham U-18 fledglings set for maiden Women’s Cup final experience
CHUFFED Cheltenham Town Ladies Youth Under-18 manager Graham Fletcher says the clinching of a dream county cup final place is no more than his team deserve, writes Simon Parkinson.
The Gloucestershire County Women’s League Division Two pacesetters overcame their top-table rivals Bradley Stoke Ladies 4-0 in the semi-finals of the GFA Women’s Challenge Cup, to set up a Thursday, April 4th collision with another of their league associates, Cirencester Town Ladies, who powered past Bristol Ladies Union Development 7-3 in a goal-filled last-four fixture.
As for Cheltenham’s starlets, the attainment of a pass for the big Oaklands Park 3G occasion (7.30pm) represents a first county final appearance for the exuberant youth wing of the club following that comfortable home victory over spirited Bradley Stoke.
The home side began brightly enough and despite the gusty wind played an excellent passing game to take control of the contest.
Despite having most possession it wasn’t until the 29th minute when Cheltenham broke the deadlock as Holly Fenton finished well.
The lead was doubled on 37 minutes when good build-up play by Holly Esson led to a delighted Fenton notching once more to put daylight between the teams at half-time.
Cheltenham continued to press and it was no surprise when, on 56 minutes, Esson again fed a pass to in-form Fenton to complete her hat-trick.
Bradley Stoke had a little more possession from then on without truly threatening their slick opponents.
And any hopes of a successful fightback were dashed as a quick breakaway from a swift passing move led to Fenton scoring her fourth of the game with another great finish.
Fletcher glowed: “Last season our team enjoyed double success in winning title and cup performing in the GFA Under-18 League.
“A year down the line we’re in the final of the GFA Challenge Cup and it’s credit to the players who are all under-18s.
“Now we’re very much looking forward to playing Cirencester Town in the final at the GFA HQ in Almondsbury.”
Bec on treble trail as clinical Cirencester Town Ladies stun Union girls to reach final
BEC Brannan and her Cirencester Town Ladies team-mates are keeping fingers firmly crossed her and their semi-final form can be replicated on the big cup final stage, writes Simon Parkinson.
Hot-shot Brannan bagged a super hat-trick as her side surged past Bristol Ladies Union Development 7-3 at Corinium Stadium to tee up an enticing GFA Women’s Challenge Cup cruncher with Gloucestershire County Women’s League Division Two rivals Cheltenham Town Under-18s at the GFA’s Oaklands Park 3G centre on Thursday, April 4 (7.30pm).
It wasn’t as straightforward a passage as the scoreline suggests either as the Ciren girls, who had taken the lead through Emily Wilson’s strike, suddenly found themselves 2-1 behind as travelling and tenacious Union hit back with some force.
However, Tamzin Davis pulled Cirencester level once more with a goal just before half-time as the teams entered the interval in 2-2 deadlock with everything to play for in the second half.
The watchful home team knew they faced a likely battle – the Union youngsters had beaten them 8-2 on their Corinium Stadium travels in November in league combat when the victorious visitors’ Ellie Preece celebrated a six-goal haul.
And so it proved, to begin with at least, as the Bristol team regained the lead within a few minutes of the second-half restart.
Yet instead of kicking on from their 3-2 base, Cirencester produced a response that was to comprehensively put paid to their opponents’ hopes of securing a coveted place in a final last season won by Cotswold Rangers, their current top-five compatriots in the County League’s second tier.
Brannan first restored parity again and then captain Libby Messenger put Cirencester back in front at 4-3.
There was to be no denying them then as the deadly Brannan scored her second goal to make it 5-3, although brave Bristol still weren’t going away easily as ten minutes from time they were awarded a penalty which unfortunately for them was blazed over the top.
A relieved Cirencester took full advantage of their good fortune as Charlie Brewster netted a sixth and Brannan wrapped up her treble haul with a seventh and final goal.
An extremely pleased co-manager Karen Messenger, who runs the team alongside equally-delighted Callum Higginson, beamed: “It really was a thrilling end-to-end game and we are so happy to have made the final in our first season back in business.”
Peare treble propels Chesterton’s new-boys into GFA Primary North final dreamland
CHESTERTON’S ecstatic management team of Tim Bond and Jordan Stallard say they can’t wait to lead their red-hot newbies into a county cup showpiece occasion – and in their very first season in operation too, writes Simon Parkinson.
The runaway M4 Karting Cirencester and District League leaders booked a place in the final of the GFA Primary North Cup with a hard-fought 3-2 semi-final victory over hosts Tuffley Rovers 5ths, who have been competing strongly towards the right end of the Stroud League Division Six ladder this term.
Chesterton were only founded last year by coaches Bond and Stallard due to the fact the locality neighbouring Cirencester had been without a men’s football team for “a very, very long time.”
It has been something of a meteoric rise, then, for the newly-formed set-up, one that shows no sign of abating between now and an exciting campaign’s conclusion for the ambitious Siddington Playing Field outfit.
That prized win over Tuffley, who registered through Alex Whiffen’s brace, pitched Chesterton alongside Blakeney Reserves for the final of the Primary Cup competition on Tuesday, April 9 at Tuffley Rovers’ Glevum Park HQ (7.30pm), opposition very much in title and promotion contention in Division Three of the North Gloucestershire League.
Chesterton co-boss Stallard beamed: “Firstly we must give massive credit to Tuffley. They are a good team on and off the pitch and they battled well and made us work very hard.
“After the game they made us welcome at the pub too so they are a huge credit to the club.
“The game was what we’d expected; a tough one. Tuffley set up well and looked to stop us playing.
“In the end we managed to squeeze through thanks to George Peare grabbing all three of our goals, including a 90th-minute winner with a superb lob following a good delivery from Will Power.”
Stallard acknowledged: “Our boys did very well, even though we were pegged back a few times. They stuck to what we asked of them and we continued to play our football.
“We did have to show a different side to our game at times against a big, physical side and that was pleasing.
“It really wasn’t our best display and we felt we could have done a bit more in certain areas of the pitch.
“But a win is a win and to do it in the way we did with a last-gasp winner was great.
“Now we can look forward to the final, our first-ever as a club, whilst expecting a tough game against what looks like an extremely good Blakeney side.”