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Upton Ressies on the up - but supremo Scott issues warning over silverware chase
UPTON St Leonards Reserves’ wary supremo Lewis Scott is taking nothing for granted, despite his team’s exciting league and cup assaults, writes Simon Parkinson.
The Birchall Lane boys have been handily placed second on the Stroud League Division Three ladder with games in hand to enhance chances of ultimately knocking Kingsway Rovers off their lofty perch.
Not content with that, Upton’s second-string have reached the semi-finals of the GFA Intermediate North competition where they will now travel to take on Stroud Division Two side Ramblers for a Saturday, March 2 joust (2pm).
They achieved it by dispensing of Stratton United 4-1 at Upton Rec, the opening goal a result of a slick move.
Lee Worgan played a diagonal ball out to Kieran Hempstead on the left, who squared it across the face of goal for Rob Jefferies to beat the opposition full-back and joyfully place it past the keeper.
The lively Worgan was involved in Upton’s second goal too as he delivered a pass over the top of Stratton’s defence for Hempstead to beat the keeper to the ball and flick it over his head before happily tapping into an empty net.
Stratton pulled one back to make it 2-1 when striker Sylvester Aniasie found space at the far post to cheekily back-heel the ball past Calvin Newby, who had made some important saves prior to that away breakthrough.
The visitors’ delight was short-lived as the hosts restored their two-goal cushion, Leigh Skipp’s curling corner perfect for captain Rich Huntley to get his head to it and power the ball triumphantly home at the near post.
Upton wrapped up victory when Stu Griffiths played a pass inside to Skipp, who had just begun to find his shooting range.
Skipp twisted and turned in trying to get his shot away and when he eventually did so, he sent a low drive fizzing inside the back post to put the tie to bed.
Saints’ cautious boss Scott insisted: “As a team we are not getting carried away: we’ve learnt from previous experiences.
“Yes, we have a good balance of youth and experience and we’re still in the race for the league title and Chairman’s Cup (Upton were due to face Tibberton on their travels on February 16 as this was compiled).
“But we’re just going to take each game step by step, enjoy it and see where it takes us: that is what’s important!”
Now for that Toolstation test as Strawford commences role with County League rep win
RON Holpin applauded the manner in which the Marcliff Gloucestershire County League’s representative team broke a long-standing hoodoo – then backed happy boss Mike Strawford to maintain his hold at the helm, reports Simon Parkinson.
The Glos boys took to the rep arena for a latest competitive friendly bout with Gwent County League counterparts they’d failed to beat in four previous encounters, although they had managed a draw on two occasions against the Welshmen.
And it was tight again at Hardwicke Fields for a Tuesday night tussle in Tytherington, as had been widely predicted.
So much so, in fact, that it took only an unfortunate own goal by the away side to gift the Glos lads the win soon into the second half, an act long-serving County League secretary Holpin and Strawford were hardly going to complain about.
“It was enough to finally break the hoodoo Gwent had on us!” beamed Holpin. “To be fair Mike did a fine job on his first time in charge of the rep side.
“He organised them well and even when substitute changes were made during the game it didn’t seem to affect the flow.
“We were a bit fortunate how our goal came about and although it was a typically tight and competitive game between the two, we deserved the win as their keeper had to make some very good saves.”
Delighted to see all his hard work in preparation for the night handsomely pay off, Strawford, who is no stranger to success having hoisted Wick out of the Bristol Premier Combination and on to the non-League Step 7 stage where they’ve been a competitive force ever since, confirmed he would gladly take charge again.
That next outing of a team comprising selected players from County League clubs is set to take place at the end of the season, although no date has been fixed for a fixture involving a Toolstation Western League XI to be performed as part of the County League’s 50th anniversary celebrations.
Of his first step into the rep world, Strawford smiled: “It was a great experience. All the players went into it knowing they’d been picked on merit and wanting to prove a point. And they certainly did that.
“It was certainly different from my perspective: I couldn’t really shout and bawl at players I didn’t know, although I didn’t need to.
“The camaraderie was excellent. I made Steve Sparrow, the Frampton keeper, captain and he stood up beforehand and said it was an honour and added a few inspirational words, urging the lads not to let this opportunity slip by which was nice to hear.
“It was also the first time in five meetings we’d beaten Gwent. I know that had they equalised we’d have been gutted, which shows just what it meant, and we’re now looking forward to taking on the Toolstation League.”
Of that winning strike, albeit off the boot of an exasperated Gwent defender, Strawford recalled: “Ryan Vincent ran on to a through pass by Dan Bendall and as their centre-half came across to cut out the danger he inadvertently rolled the ball past his keeper and into the net.
“It was the only goal but it was thoroughly deserved, especially when you consider the lads we put together from various clubs in our league had no prior preparation or training time. Even I didn’t know some of the faces when they turned up although I knew some by name!
“Yet they performed like a proper team, with the back four and midfield playing as a unit against a Gwent side who had clearly played together before and worked on a few things on the training ground, set-pieces and such-like.
“The boggy pitch was a bit of a leveller which meant our pacy forwards couldn’t truly get into their stride.
“That said we must have had five or six opportunities to score: Ryan had two free chances and Danny Payne had one cleared off the line.
“Gwent’s backs were against the wall until they threw more long balls at us towards the end which didn’t really trouble us.”
Glos County League line-up: Steve Sparrow (Frampton U), Edward Bamfo (Lebeq), Nick Jones (Rockleaze), Nathan Dennis (Frampton U), John Henson (Southmead), Charlie Stevens (Wick), Jordan Yeo (Little Stoke), Nathan Hall (Lebeq), Danny Payne (Lebeq), Ryan Vincent (Frampton U), Dan Bendall (Patchway). Subs: Ruben Nuevo-Draper (Little Stoke), Grant Hewitt (Wick), Shaun Morris (Wick), Jay Hubbard (Wick), Otis Francis (Southmead).
Goal-den Green and his Smiths smashers target North Nibley Minor North semis scalp
SHAUN Green and his Smiths Athletic Reserves county cup chasers are targeting more of the same as they approach their big semi-final hurdle with North Nibley, writes Simon Parkinson.
Goal-hungry Green hit a hat-trick while Ben Locke and Ryan Harper bagged the rest in a 5-1 away victory over Nibley’s Stroud League Division Five rivals Painswick in the quarter-finals of the GFA Minor North competition.
That set Smiths up for a last-four crunch on Saturday, March 2 (2pm) at home against a North Nibley side enjoying a magnificent season topping the Stroud Five tree with only one defeat from their first 14 appearances behind them.
Nibley breezed past Dowty Dynamos Reserves 5-0 in their own last-eight outing at Jubilee Fields thanks to Charlie Balmer and Simon Hopes braces and Will Massey’s contribution.
As for Smiths’ second-string, their county cup campaign has provided welcome cheer amid testing times in and around the lower reaches of Cheltenham League Division Three.
Their upbeat secretary Dave Ramage said: “We are thrilled that our reserve side have made it all the way to the semi-final of the county cup.
“This is testament to the new management team of Chris Dimmock and Paul Tibbles and all the players involved.
“What makes the achievement even more impressive is that all four of our ties so far in the competition have been away from home, so we’re looking forward to the semi-final being at home!
“We’re also looking forward to welcoming North Nibley to our Tewkesbury HQ on March 2 for what should be a great game.”
Smiths have indeed experienced quite a journey on their travels towards semis contention.
They first overcame Ellwood 3-2 on the road before squeezing past Cornerstone United 6-5 in a second-round thriller and then, in slightly more comfortable mode, seeing off hosts Tewkesbury Town Reserves 5-2 at the next stage and Painswick even more convincingly at the Rec in that last-eight tussle.
Secretary Smith points way to brighter future for Kings Stanley’s rejuvenated set-up
KINGS Stanley’s delighted secretary Rob Smith believes the only way is up now for Stroud League One fliers impressively finding their feet once more, writes Simon Parkinson.
It is three-and-a-half years since the Marling Close club withdrew its flagship team from the Marcliff Gloucestershire County League after 12 years as a thriving Step 7 level force.
Since then they have been consistently pushing hard, via their reserve section to begin with back in 2015-16, around the upper realms of the Stroud League’s top-flight, to find themselves currently perched top of the pile and tussling for title supremacy with a second-placed Charfield side in close attendance as this story was penned.
Not only were they due to lock horns with Barnwood United in the quarter-finals of the league’s Presidents Cup on Sunday, February 10, but Kings Stanley have also made it through to the semi-finals of the GFA Junior North competition, where they will next entertain First Division rivals Hardwicke Reserves on Saturday, March 2 (2pm).
Stanley reached the last-four stage courtesy of a 2-0 victory at Stroud Second Division competitors Minchinhampton, a path unearthed by player-boss Shane Tanner and Corey Fletcher strikes.
An encouraged Smith said of a brighter picture: “I’m pleased to say that after the heartbreaking decision to pull our first team out of the County League a few season ago we have finally got back on track.
“There have been some management changes over the past few seasons but we have finally secured a good team in Shane Tanner, our player-manager, and his very experienced assistant Andy Jones.
“Now we’re in contention for promotion to Northern Senior League Two; in the quarter-finals of the Charity Cup (as of February 10) and semi-finals of the county cup.”
The Stanley secretary said of that one: “Our quarter-final against Minchinhampton was, as expected, a tough affair, but we managed to come through it with a 2-0 win.
“Had VAR (Video Assistant Referee) been at the match both goals would have likely been deemed as own goals! But I gave the first one to Shane and the second one to our midfielder Corey, who insists he just got a touch on it.
“We are now looking forward to that semi-final encounter with Hardwicke Reserves but we maintain a close eye too on our own reserves.
“They play in Stroud Division Five and are looking for a manager next season to oversee what is a nice mix of older players and younger lads.”
Bourton boys on a Senior Amateur North mission to atone for 2017-18 final misery
BOURTON Rovers say they are determined to atone for last year’s GFA Senior Amateur North Cup final disappointment as they prepare to take a big stride towards accomplishing that objective, writes Simon Parkinson.
The ambitious Hellenic League Division Two West high-fliers were beaten 3-0 by Cam Bulldogs in the 2017-18 showdown at Cirencester Town’s Corinium Stadium but have put themselves to within touching distance of emulating at least that cup final feat.
First they face the no-easy task of overcoming Gloucestershire Northern Senior One pacesetters Sharpness in the Berkeley-based club’s so-far impregnable backyard, as the pair will tussle for semi-final supremacy on Saturday, March 2 (2pm) for a place in the prestigious showpiece occasion.
Bourton, who were ranked fifth on the Hellenic League’s third-tier ladder at the time this article went to press, had to see off Cheltenham Civil Service 5-2 on the road to progress, Danny Way leading the way with a treble and Steve Nurse and Josh Fielding their other marksmen in that last-eight success.
They did see have to see out the win with only ten men following the dismissal of Connor Teague, but it was a job nevertheless well done.
Rovers’ happy gaffer Scott Powles certainly thought so as he acknowledged: “As a club we’re delighted to have reached the last four for the second season in a row. Cheltenham Civil Service were a tough test in the last round and caused us problems throughout.
“But we are determined to put last season’s final defeat behind us and we will give everything in our semi-final at Sharpness. They are a classy team so we will need Lady Luck to be on our side when we travel south to face them.”
The Rissington Road supremo said of their ‘bread‘n’butter’ affairs: “Our league season has been up and down with injuries to key players affecting our selections.
“That said this has allowed our squad to show its depth and ability. As a club we are dedicated to giving youth a chance and this has been proven this season with Harry Larner, at 20 years of age, playing in every game to date.
“We still have it all to do to catch up with the front-runners but with games in hand we are keen to push for the league title we secured two seasons ago and progress into Division One West next season.
“Massive ground improvements have taken place and floodlight installation is on the agenda for the spring.
“We also have another semi-final to look forward to around that time in the Hellenic Chairman’s Cup, although our opponents are yet to be confirmed.”
Ambitious O’Neill backs his Hardwicke Reserves to go on and clinch Junior North prize
HARDWICKE Reserves manager Nathan O’Neill is adamant his team has it in them to go all the way in this season’s GFA Junior North Cup, writes Simon Parkinson.
The Green Lane hosts scored three second-half goals to beat Broadwell Reserves 3-0, no mean feat given the visitors came into the recent quarter-final contest undefeated at the head of the North Gloucestershire League’s top division.
The victory means Hardwicke now travel to take on another table-topping outfit in Kings Stanley, their Stroud League One compatriots, in the semi-finals of the county competition on Saturday, March 2 at 2pm (see separate Stanley story here on Local Football News).
Of their route to that semis showdown, Hardwicke chief O’Neill, whose team are striving still to make inroads into the upper reaches of the table over remaining weeks, recalled: “We’d welcomed Broadwell to us expecting a really tight game based on both teams’ respective league positions.
“We dominated from the start, creating chances and keeping more of the ball, so we were disappointed with the goalless scoreline going into half-time.”
A few well-chosen words by their determined leader proved telling as Hardwicke clearly raised the tempo at the start of the second half to finally force a breakthrough courtesy of a headed own goal.
Minutes later a crucial second arrived as Shane Thorp’s corner kick was met by a well-timed header into the net by central midfielder Adam Smith.
As Broadwell pushed to get back into the game, Hardwicke caught them on the counter attack and wrapped the tie up thanks to Thorp once more, who confidently beat the keeper in a one-on-one scenario.
With five minutes remaining the home side were rewarded a penalty thanks to the efforts of Lewis Meredith-Wilks but the keeper saved the resultant spot kick and 3-0 was how it stayed.
O’Neill insisted: “Now we’re in the semi-finals our aim is to keep the winning streak going against Kings Stanley.“With the names listed in our squad and the spirit and quality we are showing, there is no reason why we can’t go on and win this competition.”
Slimbridge boss Lee so looking forward to next big Senior Cup test for spot-on Swans
SLIMBRIDGE’S heartened manager Lee Driver-Dickerson says he and his club are still buzzing from their “historic” victory over Cheltenham Town that sent them into the Gloucestershire FA Senior Challenge Cup semi-final hat, writes Simon Parkinson.
The Swans, who have been battling hard to keep heads above water in Southern League One South activity this term, overcame their professional opposition 4-2 on penalties in a recent last-eight affair at Town’s Jonny-Rocks Stadium after the teams had entered the shoot-out locked at 2-2.
Jamie Martin had handed Slimbridge a 20th-minute advantage but Cheltenham hit back to lead 2-1 by the 87th-minute mark through Billy Waters’ belated double, only for Steve Jackson to convert Martin’s precision cross with his head in stoppage time to force the spot kicks.
“It was a great achievement,” former long-serving Frampton United supremo Driver-Dickerson acknowledged.
“From the moment we secured the win there’s been a lot of positive talk around the place.
“Beating Cheltenham will go down as one of the greatest nights in our history. They had an even blend of talented youth and first-team pros.
“Archie Brennan, who is on a work experience loan with us from Cheltenham, played right wing-back for them and another of our Cheltenham loanees, Ioan Richards, performed for me at right-back.
“Our win was deserved. We sat in our shape well, happy to let them have the ball in their half, and when they had it in our territory we closed them down well and restricted them to long-range shots and crosses.
“Our keeper Lewis Adams, who plays for our under-18s, made a couple of saves but otherwise was only kept busy taking goal-kicks.
“Cheltenham didn’t create much clear-cut while we were a threat on the counter attack.”
Of their league concerns, Driver-Dickerson, 39, accepted: “It’s a tough league. We have played well for a lot of the season and we have progressed, but it’s all about putting points on the board.
“I’m still learning about this higher level, having only taken over in pre-season when Freddy (Ward) stepped down, although I’d been pretty hands-on as his assistant the previous year.
“It’s a young side we have and they’re doing well adapting to this level. If we stay up, as I’m sure we will, then they’ll be all the better next season for the experience.
“The county cup has been a positive and if we could draw Bristol City in the semi-finals it would be great, whether it’s at home for revenue purposes or at Ashton Gate, which would be a terrific experience for everyone.
“But whoever we get will be tough opposition.”
Driver-Dickerson’s caution is understandable as Cinderford Town, on the cusp of Southern League One South play-off contention, were scheduled to entertain Bristol Rovers Development on Tuesday, February 12 for their own quarter-final tussle.
Bristol City Under-23s host Gloucester City on a date to be decided in another last-eight affair, whilst Forest Green Rovers’ young guns are already through to the semis courtesy of their 2-1 mid-October win at Yate Town.
On the purple path: How the Avon Youth League is following the lead taken by the Cheltenham Youth Football League to tackle the mistreatment of young refs
AVON Youth League’s management have enthusiastically embraced CYFL’s revolutionary purple shirt plan for aspiring referees – and more youth competitions across the area are set to follow suit.
The famous and popular local league serving Bristol and neighbouring counties, set up in England’s World Cup winning year 1966, has adopted an idea first arising from Cheltenham Youth Football League which, after lengthy discussion amongst its own concerned officers about the poor treatment of young refs by disrespectful spectators within its own parameters, unveiled the scheme at the start of this season.
The pilot has already been branded a “big success” in and around north Gloucestershire as supporters of the young people’s game can now clearly identify an under-18 official, sporting a purple shirt instead of traditional black attire, as a refereeing prodigy and “respond appropriately.”
Avon Youth League provides the stage for more than 5,000 mad-keen footballers aged between 11 and 16 battling it out across 26 divisions on Sunday afternoons.
Gloucestershire FA referee development officer Roger Vaughan acknowledged: “The Cheltenham Youth Football League came up with the revolutionary idea to use purple shirts for their under-18 referees with a view to easily identifying them as part of a drive to improve behaviour linked to the Respect Programme in their league.
“The Avon Youth League has taken on the initiative and provided all their under-18 officials with similar purple shirts in an attempt to yield similar results to the Cheltenham Youth Football League.
“I am looking to roll out the CYFL’s initiative with all other youth leagues across the county by meeting them halfway on the cost of coloured shirts for their under-18s.
“In addition we will be highlighting why we are doing this as the evidence from Cheltenham is that the cases of abuse, and issues for young referees, have reduced since the introduction of the shirts.
“We will be combining this with more courses to train more mentors to support our younger and inexperienced referees, and increase their confidence and ability to continue refereeing for longer.
“This has been supported by Steve Tanner, the FA national referee manager, who has taken up this initiative to roll out nationally in tandem with the FA who have provided a pot of money for all counties to support similar schemes across the country.”
Avon Youth League is far from fresh to the safeguarding and protection of its young participants.
A statement on its website - www.avonyl.co.uk – reads: “In more recent years the league was at the forefront of the fight to protect young people from abuse in any of its forms, within youth sport in particular, and youth groups in general.
“The fight against undesirable individuals within youth sport and inappropriate behaviour was launched in conjunction with the Avon & Somerset Police Child Protection team.
“The league actively campaigned for all youth groups to operate in accordance with the principals of the force’s Child-Safe initiative.”
Strawford’s County League rep men eye an end to Gwent bogey in Tytherington clash
GLOUCESTERSHIRE County League’s representative team are back in business and raring to go once more this Tuesday night (Feb 12), writes Simon Parkinson.
Wick manager Mike Strawford has been placed in charge for the first time and has been busy running the rule over member Marcliff League clubs and their players with a view to assembling a team fit to take on their Gwent County League counterparts at Tytherington Rocks’ Hardwicke Fields facility (7.30pm).
League secretary Ron Holpin explained: “This is our 50th anniversary year and I wanted Mike to get a side together and in action ahead of a proposed anniversary game against the Toolstation Western League at the end of the season.
“It’s a chance for Mike to have a look around and see what he has so that he and they can hit the ground running when it comes to that particular game.
“It’s not a fixture that is on the calendar yet but we will be having discussions with the Western League and hopefully we can get something arranged and announced very soon.”
Holpin has overseen secretarial commitments with the County League since 2006 having taken over when his long-serving predecessor Dave Herbert suddenly passed away.
He said: “I’ve known Mike Strawford for quite some time: he played in goal at Tytherington Rocks when I was secretary there.
“Wick is a well-run club and well organised and I felt he’d like to give the rep manager duties a go. When I approached him he came back and said he’d be honoured, which is a nice comment to receive.
“So he’ll be in charge for these two games and I think he’ll have two or three of his Wick lads helping him out.”
The league secretary said of Tuesday’s latest clash with their Welsh opponents: “We’ve played Gwent four times and we’re yet to beat them after two wins and two draws.
“It’s a friendly in name but if previous games between the two are anything to go by then it will be close and competitive and we’re looking forward to it.
“Hopefully it will be our turn at last!”
Admission fees are £2 and there’s free entry for 10s and under.
The new man at the rudder, Strawford, enthused: “It’s an honour and a privilege to have been asked to do it and I’m enjoying the challenge of trying to get the best possible team together.
“I just wish I’d taken more notice of all the opposition players I’ve come up against whilst leading Wick this season!
“When I first got the call from the league looking to speak with me my first thought was, ‘What have we done now!’
“But of course I jumped at the chance.”
A County League anniversary dinner is also planned for Saturday, May 18 at Whitminster Inn, Bristol Road, Gloucester, from 7.30pm. Tickets are £32.
Anyone wishing to attend can contact league chairman Peter Langley by emailing him at email@example.com or by calling 01242 582879 by March 31.
Purple shirt project points to a bright way forward for young refs and their leagues
CHELTENHAM Youth League referees secretary Graham McNulty believes the local game is already starting to reap rich rewards from the pioneering purple shirt scheme.
The league came up with a plan to help curb the verbal abuse of young referees from hot-headed spectators by directing under-18 refs to sport purple shirts in a bid to clearly identify them as upcoming child officials.
The idea captured the imagination of the national Football Association and is currently being introduced nationwide as part of an all-out crackdown on the mistreatment of fledgling whistlers.
Exasperated at an increasing dip in young men and women running the rule from the matchday middle, Graham confessed: “To be blunt I was seriously fed-up with losing referees. In fact, I was very angry.
“We work hard as a league to try and ensure as many of our games as possible get an officially-appointed referee each week.
“We got to a stage where our younger referees, who are the future of the game, were not willing to officiate on our league.
“The overriding concern they all shared was the level of abuse they regularly received. I was fielding phone calls and emails from them and their parents or guardians and not only was it annoying, it was embarrassing, that children were being treated in this way.
“Can you imagine the uproar if any adult spoke to a child like that in any other walk?”
Graham, a referee mentor co-ordinator for the north of Gloucestershire, and Cheltenham Youth League referee development squad coach, recalled: “Along with a couple of colleagues we formulated the purple shirt initiative.
“I was sick of hearing ‘I didn’t realise the referee was a child’ when I approached the clubs for an explanation of their poor behaviour towards a match official.
“It was an excuse that was too easy to trot out and most of the time it was a lie. It was blatantly obvious that the referee was a child.
“By equipping referees with a purple shirt, and publicising what we were doing and what we were trying to achieve, we were telling everyone that enough was enough.”
Heartened by the response to the scheme, Graham, a Gloucestershire County League and Gloucestershire Northern Senior League referee, enthused: “Right from the outset we had nothing but positive comments from everyone concerned; even supporters!
“I’m unsure as to the exact numbers but I’m led to believe that in the first few months of last season we had more than eight official complaints and I had more unofficial ones.
“So far this season I am aware of one official report and I have had near-on zero phone or emailed reports.
“So from my point of view it’s clearly had a positive impact.”
Graham elaborated: “As a league we have up to 80 matches to cover each weekend. We are able to cover over 98 per cent of them now due to the purple shirt initiative, targets we weren’t reaching in previous years when it wasn’t around.
“We also run coaching hubs once a month at Newlands sports ground in Cheltenham which are subsidised by the CYFL, so all under-18 referees can come along free of charge and be coached in dealing with rowdy coaches and spectators by ex and current level 3 and 4 officials, as well as Premier League assistants who are prepared to give up their time for free.
“This is a very important part of the process, training our young match officials to deal with these unsavoury moments if it happens to them.
“We currently have a number of youngsters who buy into this and regularly respond with match reports and events they have experienced.”
The bee’s Meese as Tormarton snare Sneyd to set up big Lawrence Rovers date
TORMARTON are gearing up for a stiff next test after making it through to the semi-finals of the GFA Intermediate South Cup at the expense of Sneyd Park Reserves, writes Simon Parkinson.
The Bristol and District Division Two high-fliers overcame their Downs League Division Two hosts 3-1 through Lewis Meese’s double and Jon Kerley’s effort to advance to the last four of the county competition.
There they will entertain Lawrence Rovers on Saturday, February 9 (2pm) for what is likely to be quite a contest with their high-riding league rivals.
Rovers, who cast aside Marshfield 2-0 in their own quarter-final affair, have games in hand with which to make a serious play for District Two promotion, if not the title too, although they will be stung still by memories of the teams’ last league joust in late October when Tormarton, who have been loitering just beneath Rovers in fifth spot, crushed their semis opponents 6-1.
Tormarton player-manager and secretary, Chris Cook, said: “Obviously we’re delighted to have beaten Sneyd. The poor pitch conditions affected the quality of football played by both sides and thankfully we came out on top.
“I don’t really know what to expect from Lawrence Rovers. We beat them 6-1 earlier this season but they have been unbeaten since, so that result is not a fair reflection of what they are capable of. There is no doubting that it is going to be a real test.
“Our season hasn’t gone as planned. I think we felt we should be topping the table but getting a settled squad has been a challenge. It’s the same old problems with player availability and injuries.
“Still, we love to play football and we are hoping for another cup final under floodlights.”
The Lawrence lads took the lead against Trowbridge League Two opponents Marshfield five minutes before the break when Luke Mathieson converted Chris Hind’s cross.
Darren Collett’s edge-of-box strike in the second half killed off the Marshfield’s men’s comeback aspirations.
Rovers secretary Tim Richards, who is soon set to celebrate 50 years with the Lawrence Weston club in company with fellow committee member Berny Harrington, insisted: “We deserved to win; our midfielders were always in charge.”
Richards’ opposite number at Marshfield, Sam Johnston, concurred: “We were seldom in the game.”
Hillfields Old Boys Reserves, meanwhile, took their impressive District Three form into the Intermediate South arena by seeing off Saints Old Boys Reserves, another Downs Division Two team, 6-1 courtesy of Mikey Golding’s four goals and Sam Carr and Alex Bailey strikes.
They now travel to take on District One title hopefuls Nicholas Wanderers Reserves on February 9 (2pm), who progressed to the semis by edging a 2-1 home victory over Downs League second-tier promotion chasers Clifton Rockets thanks to Billy Mansfield and Jack Reeson goals.
Ben Price notched with Clifton’s consolation.
Meanwhile, Steve Moore and Craig Sperring strikes took District Five mid-table side Hanham Athletic A into the semi-finals of the GFA Primary South Cup with a 2-1 home win over Downs League Division Four title pushers Sneyd Park B.
Hanham have not been dealt a straightforward last-four draw by any stretch as reward for their safe passage. They are to entertain an APS outfit on Saturday, February 9 (2pm) who have been in splendid form in Downs League Division Four, with plenty of games in hand to present themselves as promotion prospects.
The Vicarage Road hosts will do well to note how their opponents gained their own pass to the semis shake-up – APS thumped their mid-table Downs Four fellows Lion Reserves 10-1 in the last eight to sound a warning of their attacking threat.
Elsewhere in the quarter-finals Woodlands United’s 2-1 win at Ridings High Reserves set up the Bristol Churches League Division One’s bottom side for a spirit-raising last-four fixture at home with District Five promotion chasers Oldland Abbotonians Colts, who pipped Seymour United A, their league rivals, 1-0 on their travels.
Both ties are also to take place on February 9 at 2pm, with the final taking place at the GFA’s 3G centre at Oaklands Park on Wednesday, March 27 at 7.30pm.
So inseparable - but something has to give now as Randwick and Tetbury take to semis
RANDWICK and Tetbury Town are to joust for a place in the final of the GFA Junior North Cup – and it’s likely to be a close-run thing if previous meetings are anything to go by, writes Simon Parkinson!
Stroud and District Division One fixtures between the sides have been tight in the main over the past few seasons and 2018-19 has been no exception.
The teams fought out a goalless draw at Tetbury’s Preston Park at the very start of the campaign before sharing the spoils – 2-2 - once more in the reverse fixture at Paganhill in an early January affair.
Randick play host to the big last-four cruncher too on Saturday, March 2 (2pm), having taking their place in the semis in scintillating second-half fashion in dispensing of Tredworth Tigers, who had Geoff Llewellyn and Sam Roberts on target but finished the last-eight tie with ten men after losing Martin Whereat to a second yellow card, 6-2 at Archway School.
The first half had finished up in 2-2 stalemate after Josh Hitchings had notched twice with opportune strikes to hand Randwick a healthy advantage, only for their Stroud One rivals to respond briskly and draw parity with two goals in as many minutes, one with a fine finish from Llewellyn.
However the second half very much belonged to Randwick. Hitchings completed his hat-trick on 55 minutes before player-manager Wayne Bown finished into the corner of the net shortly after.
Keith Mace scored the goal of the game with a crisp strike from 25 yards out and Bailey Clutterbuck completed the scoring by calmly side-footing the ball into the side netting.
A happy boss Bown confirmed: “We’re to entertain Tetbury now in the semi-finals and with three draws involving the sides in our previous four meetings, it should be another well-contested game.
“In the meantime we need to maintain our focus on the league and our attempts to challenge for the top four places.”
Hellenic high-fliers Moreton Rangers braced for Chalford Senior Amateur cruncher
MORETON Rangers’ optimistic boss Nick Timms and his team have plenty to occupy their minds as their season continues to shape up nicely, writes Simon Parkinson.
The London Road outfit are enjoying a magnificent campaign topping not only the UHL Hellenic Division Two West charts as it stands but they’ve found a way too into the semi-finals of the prestigious GFA Senior Amateur North tournament, where they’re braced to hit the road for a truly tough last-four test with on-song Chalford.
The Highfield Way hosts for the Saturday, March 2 (2pm) bout are also going great guns, pushing hard towards the Gloucestershire Northern Senior League Division One summit and unbeaten too as we went to press.
Whilst Chalford were pushing past Longlevens Reserves, who notched through Nick Bradley, with a 2-1 victory in their own quarter-final affair on their travels thanks to an Andy Maryon brace, Moreton were securing their own semis spot in professional fashion.
They did so via a 3-1 home defeat of Whitecroft thanks to Douglas Wallace’s double and Jamie Wyatt’s strike, prompting the happy Moreton supremo to chirp: “We’re delighted to have reached the county cup semi-finals for the second season running.
“Hopefully this time we can go one better and reach the final,” said Timms, whose side were beaten 4-0 by Cam Bulldogs in last term’s last-four fixture.
“Our season has been very successful so far. We reached the quarter-final stage of our League Cup and we have the county cup semi-final now to look forward to.
Cheltenham United chief Mohan targeting Primary North glory for his six-goal slickers
THRILLED player-boss Kris Mohan hopes it can be more of the same as his Cheltenham United slickers eye a prized place in the final of the GFA Primary North Cup, writes Simon Parkinson.
His Cheltenham League Division Four promotion-chasers secured a spot in the semi-finals for the first time in their short seven-year history thanks to a 6-0 home success over Stroud League Division Six mid-table side Cam Bulldogs 3rds.
Mohan himself weighed in with a pair, as did Carl Crisp, whilst Chris Clavin and Harry Winders were also on target in the home romp on United’s own so-far impregnable artificial pitch at All Saints Academy.
The win set them up for a Saturday, March 2 (2pm) away appointment with Blakeney Reserves, the North Gloucestershire League Division Three high-fliers, who stepped into the county semis in even more potent fashion as they demolished hosts Pittville United Reserves 7-0 at the quarter-final juncture through Tony Smith’s four-timer, Niall Davies’ double and an own goal helping hand.
United’s busy 28-year-old player, manager and club secretary Mohan beamed of his own side’s last-eight success: “It was a fantastic team performance.
“We blew Cam away with four goals in the first 30 minutes with our high intensity level and quality on the ball.
“We really could have scored more than six but it was all about getting the win in the end. It was great to see how important it was to every single one of our players to get through to the semi-final.”
Mohan, now well into his third season at the Cheltenham helm, has only ever enjoyed one trophy success during the club’s fledgling career, the Cheltenham League’s Minor Charities Cup in 2015 when they handsomely overcame Malvern Vale 8-0 in the final.
“When your career is over you want to be able to look back at times when you have won trophies and this is a good opportunity for us to really go for it,” he said.
Equally delighted Blakeney secretary Andy Rowles enthused: “We’re happy with our reserve team reaching the semi-final where hopefully we can take that one more step to the final.
“This year our club have introduced a few new players to our first and second teams and both have been strengthened because of it.
“Our first team are currently top of North Gloucestershire League Division One and going really well, and that has freed up some good players to perform for our second team.
“They have been looking promising too sitting second in Division Three, where Tony Smith has scored 25 goals from just ten games and Lewis Frazer-Holland 20 goals from 13.”
Gloucestershire FA Under-18s out to put right FA County Youth Cup disappointment
CALUM Wands and his Gloucestershire FA Under-18 management team insist they are doubly determined to secure the South & West Counties Championship crown after their disappointing FA County Youth Cup exit, writes Simon Parkinson.
The rep boys, beaten 4-2 in a penalty shoot-out at the quarter-final juncture by Cheshire FA at Oaklands Park following an enthralling 2-2 extra-time stalemate, return to South & West Counties action on Sunday, February 24 in Slough for a date with current joint leaders Berks & Bucks FA, and 22-year-old Wands warned: “It will be one of our toughest games.
“I’ve heard they are strong, physical and big, as they’ve always tended to be. But I see it as a must-win game for us.
“The Youth Cup had been our main focus and now the boys want to prove a point and try and win that league. I know they’re already well up for it.
“The squad we have is one of the best I’ve been involved with as a former player with them and manager. They’ve bonded so quickly and they want it every bit as much as I do.
“The fact they expressed so much emotion after losing to Cheshire shows how much it means to them and that can only bode well over the rest of the season.”
In that latest Youth Cup experience, in which Cheshire set off at the rate of knots to snatch the lead courtesy of a luckless own goal by home right-back Steve Kaca, the gallant Glos boys soon restored parity with a superb swivel and 25-yard shot by Jay Murray and Wands observed: “Thankfully Jay got us back into the game with what was an absolutely superb equaliser, one of the best goals I’ve seen as a player and manager with the rep side.
“Then Andre and Owen combined really well for Owen, on his debut, to run through to a one-on-one situation and see us into the lead at half-time with a cool finish.
“Me and my assistants, Bertrand (Abang) and Phil (Clarke), urged the boys to be mindful still of Cheshire’s threat, that we couldn’t afford to switch off for one moment, whilst feeling we were fitter, sharper more dangerous than Cheshire going forward.
“To be fair to Cheshire they were really well drilled with good players too and we just couldn’t finish off our chances in that second half, whilst they hit our post a couple of times in an even affair.
“Our front three of Andre, Jay and Owen were threatening and we then brought on Andre’s brother (for Cameron Rees), who is only 15, to play upfront to promising effect too which was encouraging to see.”
Of a crucial penalty award that led to Cheshire’s second-half leveller, Wands maintained: “We felt a bit hard done by there. They had a small, agile striker who was running away from goal towards the corner flag and he cut across our centre-half Sam Larkins, who had his hands up and simply couldn’t get out of the way.
“There was minimal contact but the ref gave a penalty and maybe from the angle he was at I can understand why he did so. But it gave Cheshire their second wind.
“It was gutting at the time and it ultimately led to a first penalty shoot-out I’ve been involved in with GFA rep teams.
“We hadn’t practiced our penalties or planned for them as we always felt we could get the job done inside 90 minutes and we knew we had players confident and good enough to put theirs away if it came to it.
“Sadly it simply wasn’t to be for us.”
Nick eyeing “great” days as Whitecroft Reserves’ wonders stay on treble course
WHITECROFT secretary Nick Creed is keeping everything crossed the club’s second-string can turn a highly-promising season into a “great one,” writes Simon Parkinson.
The gallant Grove Road reserves have been going well in the upper reaches of North Gloucestershire League Division One whilst enjoying purposeful runs to claim passes to the semi-finals of both the West Dean Charities Cup and GFA Intermediate North Cup.
When it comes to the county competition, Whitecroft were made to work hard for a safe path to the last-four by tenacious Taverners Reserves opponents battling it out towards the foot of Stroud League Division Two.
The visitors did score late in that close-fought quarter-final contest through John Dalton to set up a tense finale.
To their disappointment it proved a consolation only and it was Whitecroft who prevailed after veteran goal-grabber Matthew Timmins had opened the scoring and Shane Reeves made it 2-0 from the penalty spot late on in a 2-1 victory.
Whitecroft now travel to take on M4 Karting Cirencester League’s mid-ranked side Fratellos on Saturday, March 2 (2pm).
It was reward for an “excellent team display” by Whitecroft, according to Creed, who added: “We’re delighted to have our reserves get so far in the county cup. In fact we think our second-string have not gone this far since the 1970s!
“It’s been a good season so far, one that has already seen the side also reach the semis of the West Dean Charities and still be in the promotion race in North Glos Division One.
“So it could yet turn into a great one for us.”
As for Fratellos, they booked their own place in the last four courtesy of a 7-2 away mauling of Chalford Reserves in the quarter-finals.
Jamie Sheppard led the way with a hat-trick and Dave Slattery, Alan O’Brien, Mark Belcher and Jack Allan pitched in too to send them into the Whitecroft tie high on confidence.
Classy Cribbs Reserves surge past Shire to clinch Greyfriars Senior Amateur semis slot
CRIBBS Reserves’ impressive season to date is shaping up to being a truly memorable one as the Bristol Premier Combination top-flight title chasers surged into the semi-finals of the GFA Senior Amateur South Cup, writes Simon Parkinson.
There were no ifs and buts about it either as they demolished the First Division’s third-placed side Shirehampton Reserves 7-0 in a lunchtime last-eight confrontation at The Lawns to progress in emphatic fashion and tee up a last-four encounter away against another Division One side, Greyfriars Athletic, at New Road on Saturday, February 9 (2pm).
Andy Forward, who went on to have a penalty saved to deny him his hat-trick, and Liam Clayton both delivered doubles, while Dan Monk, Dave Truan and Dan Burgan pitched in too to keep Cribbs’ treble hopes – they were also due to face Sea Mills Park away in the semi-finals of the league’s Combination Cup on Saturday, January 26 (1.30pm) – alive.
Greyfriars were indebted to Luke Prosser and Jordan Cox as they squeezed past Chipping Sodbury Town Reserves, who play a division up in the Combination league, 2-1 at the Ridings.
Patryk Rajczyk had handed Sodbury a first-half lead, his disappointed boss Les Theobald admitting: “We played well and really should have scored more goals before we conceded twice.”
There were few surprises at Coronation Park where Prem promotion chasers Sea Mills brushed aside spirited league compatriots Seymour United 2-0 through Tom Ahern and Blaine Skuse goals.
Club secretary Gary Orkney enthused: “We’re delighted to reach the semi-finals, our second this season including the League Cup.”
The Millers now entertain, on Saturday, February 9 (2pm), Winterbourne United, who also made it safely into the last-four hat after seeing off Bitton Reserves 5-0 on their travels.
All the goals came in the second half as James Mainstone’s cross early on was deflected into his own net by a luckless Bitton defender.
That settled the undefeated First Division table-toppers down and a second goal, by Ashley White from close range, practically sealed it.
Further efforts from Tristan Day, Ben Weaver and Sam Makepeace made for a convincing passage to the semis.
Bourne chairman Robyn Maggs stressed, however: “That was hard work. Bitton put up a real fight, especially in that goalless first half.”