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

 

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Then Contact Simon Parkinson via email - simon.parkinson@gloucestershirefa.com

 

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Chalford boss Ben so enthusiastic about maiden representative football experience

CHALFORD manager Ben Powell described his role in the recent representative game involving his own Gloucestershire Northern Senior League XI and Marcliff Gloucestershire County League counterparts as a “great experience,” writes Simon Parkinson.

In an intriguing and successful first-ever meeting between the two leagues, the higher Step 7 County League, managed by Wick boss Mike Strawford, ran out 5-1 Wednesday night victors (see separate report here on GFA Local Football News) in a contest staged at Slimbridge FC’s Wisloe Road ground.

Powell, who has been enjoying a splendid season steering Chalford’s first team to familiar territory loitering with intent at the brink of the Division One summit once more, was only too pleased to be called upon to manage the rep side alongside Mark Mulraney, who leads one of Chalford’s key and closest rivals Brockworth Albion on the Northern Senior ladder.

The duo’s gallant rep charges entered the interval with all to play for trailing by just the one Max Barker strike for their higher-ranked opponents who, with the wind behind them to assist, unleashed more of their evident capabilities after the break by scoring four more times to take the honours.

But there WAS a moment to savour for a Northern Senior side who had never before entered the representative football arena as Chalford’s Luke Barstow fastened on to a partially-cleared corner and stroked the ball cleanly on the half volley into the net from 12 yards out.

That effort at least offered a determined Northern Senior outfit a lifeline at 3-1 down before the County League XI delivered a knockout blow with two more goals to secure a memorable win.

Clearly having enjoyed the chance to oversee inaugural rep operations in tandem with cohort Mulraney, Powell enthused: “It was a great experience for all concerned and I was delighted to represent the league.

“I didn’t feel it was as one-sided as the scoreline suggested but we were punished by a very clinical County League side and maybe lacked a bit of quality in the final third ourselves.

“For Mark and me it was a privilege to manage a great group of lads for this fixture and the atmosphere throughout the ranks was superb.

“The facilities at Slimbridge were fantastic too and it was just a great night for all concerned.”

Horsley, Wickwar see off stern semis opposition to seal Intermediate North final spots

HORSLEY United and Wickwar Wanderers safely negotiated challenging tests to clinch spots in the final of the GFA Intermediate North Cup, writes Simon Parkinson.

Wanderers progressed with a 3-1 away victory over big league rivals Chesterton while Horsley were also successful on the road in defeating Windyridge Rovers 2-1.

The tie between Chesterton and Wickwar was always going to be a mouthwatering prospect as before the unforeseen football stoppage they had been battling fiercely for supremacy at the head of the Stroud Division Two standings.

Intriguingly the teams had yet to collide in league combat but in an enthralling Siddington Field spectacle it was Wanderers, currently trailing table-topping Chesterton by seven points having played a game more, who made it through thanks to Ellis Cox, Robbie Haines and Conner Leahy goals.

Dan Jones’ 63rd minute red card for Chesterton did little to help his side’s cause on the afternoon but they did manage to pull it back to 3-1 through Kieran Jones’ 85th minute effort to offer a late lifeline, one they ultimately were unable to take.

Delighted Wickwar tweeted: “A massive performance and big respect to Chesterton who were very gracious in defeat.

“On another note (we wish a) speedy recovery to Jack Beale who suffered a head injury.”

Generous Chesterton responded by saying: “Unfortunately the time has come to announce a first defeat of the season.

“Despite dominating large portions of the game, hitting the woodwork on four occasions and equalising late in the game whilst down to ten men, today just wasn’t our day.

“All credit to Wickwar who defended deep with large numbers behind the ball, soaking up the pressure and then taking their chances on the counter. Good luck in the final.”

If that final is to go ahead amid coronavirus uncertainty then Wickwar would face on Wednesday, April 1 at Tuffley Rovers’ Glevum Park ground a Horsley team who had goals by Thomas Stubbs and Chris Cook to get them past dogged Cheltenham League Division Two hosts Windyridge, whose Rob Joynes netted to keep them in the contest right up to the final shrill.

Horsley’s entry to the final was in keeping with their eye-catching form second behind only Avonvale United on the Stroud Three ladder with ten wins and only one loss from 12 outings.  

Battling Bishop’s Cleeve A and deadly Dursley Town victorious in Junior North semis

BISHOP’S Cleeve A and Dursley Town booked their places in the final of the GFA Junior North Cup – and for one of those jubilant teams there was no arguing with their advancement!

Whilst resilient Cheltenham League Division One side Cleeve were scrapping all the way for their 1-0 victory over visiting Stroud League Division Two hopefuls Sharpness Reserves at Evesham Road thanks to Robert Reid’s goal, Dursley were hardly hanging around in emphatically cementing their own spot in a final originally pencilled in for Thursday, April 16 at Cirencester Town’s home by crushing Cheltenham Civil Service Reserves 9-2 on their travels.

Aaron Nash and Ryan Stevenson kept up their fine form in front of target throughout the season by each hitting hat-tricks.

James Mackie pitched in with a double and James Stevenson also notched as the rampant Stroud Division One pacesetters eased through at the expense of Cheltenham One hosts who at least had Mason Courtney and Taishin Tozawa goals providing some solace in their Tewkesbury Road yard.

As for John Hunt’s Bishop’s Cleeve third-string, despite their current modest status midway down that Cheltenham One table their county cup exploits reflected a sparkling period in league activity.

Their march to the scheduled spring showpiece took them first past Blakeney - 6-0 - away, before 2-0 and 2-1 successes over Worrall Hill and Cam Bulldogs Reserves at home and away respectively teed them up for a last-eight encounter with travelling Stroud Two’s winless strugglers Tibberton United, who nonetheless put up a brave fight before succumbing 2-0.

While that set up that successful semis showdown with Sharpness’ second XI, Bishop’s Cleeve have also been enjoying a purple patch with their league affairs, as five straight victories and 23 goals bagged in the spell left them nicely poised with games in hand to trouble the frontrunners.

 

Brockworth, Charfield edge aside Barnwood, Harrow Hill to claim final places

THE tournament may be on hold for reasons we all now know about but the GFA Senior Amateur North Cup competition at least threw up two hard-fought and memorable semi-finals, writes Simon Parkinson.

Brockworth Albion’s 2-1 away victory over Barnwood United edged them through to a proposed final against a Charfield team enjoying a 4-2 home success over Harrow Hill to set up a scheduled Thursday, April 9 showdown (7.30pm) at Cirencester Town’s headquarters involving Division One high-fliers Brockworth and second-tier mid-table competitor Charfield.

Whether that game goes ahead as planned is open to question in the light of more significant global affairs.

Nonetheless the two semis were able to take place ahead of the big football freeze with Mark Muraney’s Brockworth, once more one of the Northern Senior League’s leading lights this term, taking their place for the Senior Amateur showpiece in dramatic and hard-fought fashion.

Despite enjoying an unexpected early numerical advantage courtesy of Barnwood’s Josh Philpotts’ dismissal midway through the first half for a second yellow card offence, it was the Division Two team who forged in front on the brink of the break as grateful namesake Josh Fivash took full advantage of a misplaced pass by away keeper Chris Skinner by sending the ball high above the stranded custodian and in for the opener.

It so nearly got worse for Brockworth with seconds of the half remaining as their former player Keenan Rankin-Woodhouse blazed over from close in.

It wasn’t ultimately to be for depleted Barnwood in the second period as Jordan Alderman’s sizzling long-range shot into the bottom corner restored parity.

With away celebrations from that still reverberating, Brockworth found a winner from even further distance as skipper David Wilkinson netted with another unstoppable strike.

His relieved and delighted team did have to survive nine minutes of stoppage time amid a determined last hurrah by their opponents before prevailing.

There was jubilation too for Charfield who had, until the Corona stoppage, experienced mixed fortunes in Northern Senior Two with ten wins and seven defeats from their 20 appearances.

Facing higher opposition in fourth-placed First Division side Harrow Hill, the hosts claimed a fine victory with Eddie Hawkins leading the scoring with two of Charfield’s goals and Harvey Bain and substitute Andy Brett adding the rest in a lively spectacle at Wotton Road.

Coming to terms with the big football freeze: how our devoted leagues have reacted

FOOTBALL leagues and dedicated individuals from member clubs have been striving to come to terms with the effect the coronavirus outbreak has had on their 2019-20 seasons and services, writes Simon Parkinson.

The beautiful game’s bustling social media world and websites have been dominated by announcements from national and local governing bodies and leagues stating they are falling into line with government and Football Association advice and directives by suspending all competitive action for the foreseeable future with people’s safety of paramount concern.

Whilst there’s generally been support at the bold measures taking place to protect individuals’ welfare domestically and globally concerning all levels of the sport, immense dismay and disappointment has naturally been reverberating across all corners of the football family, not least locally where league administrators have been trying to get their heads around what best to do and how to proceed amid truly testing, disruptive and concerning times.

Bristol and Suburban League’s long-serving secretary Derek Cumner informed member clubs: “I have sadly to announce the suspension of the Bristol and Suburban Association Football League with immediate effect until further notice.

“Formed in 1894 as the Bristol North and District League, it soon changed its name to Bristol Suburban League.

“It has the proud distinction of never ceasing to operate having continued throughout the two world wars, an achievement believed to be unequalled by any other sporting organisation of its kind in the country.

“It’s a sad day for all concerned over the years but out of our hands.”

In his capacity serving both Bristol and District and Bristol Premier Combination leagues as secretary, Ralph Pratten wrote: “In line with the latest FA and GFA guidelines the management committees of both leagues have from this evening (March 17) suspended all fixtures until further notice.

“We have not taken this decision lightly but we feel that for all concerned it’s our only realistic choice.

“I am asking all clubs to continue to monitor your players and members to ensure they are well looked after, as we all have a duty of care at this moment in time.

“I will keep you all posted on any further announcements from the leagues. Stay safe and well.”

Marcliff Gloucestershire County League stated: “At this time of uncertainty concerning the spread of COVID-19, measures have been taken by the FA and GFA that will affect the League. All matches and all related meetings are postponed for the foreseeable future.

“We continue to work closely with the GFA and FA, with the priority being the health and wellbeing of all. Any further updates will be circulated when known.”

Gloucestershire Northern Senior League, originally set to conclude its campaign on May 9, confirmed: “The GNSL programme has been suspended with immediate effect. All remaining games, in both divisions, have been set to “postponed” status on (FA) Full-Time.”

Ian Hamilton, Cheltenham League secretary, said: “Following the latest guidance from the FA, the decision has been taken to suspend the Cheltenham League until further notice.

“I will be working with the GFA and the League Management Committee to see where we go from here.

“This will include discussions with all clubs when we know what the future holds. I wish you all well and hope you and your families and all of your clubs stay safe and see this terrible situation out.”

I’m more determined than ever to deliver Bitton success, defiant boss Dan declares

BITTON boss Dan Langdon says he is determined to turn their Buildbase FA Vase misfortune into a major positive next season – with a full-on crack at promotion, writes Simon Parkinson.

The burgeoning and ambitious Toolstation Western League operation were meant to have been locking horns on the first team front with visiting Northern League Division One Step 5 equivalents Consett for the first leg of the semi-finals of the famous national competition at WDS Services Stadium on Saturday, March 21.

Backed by a bumper crowd and with an estimated £10,000 potential windfall at the gate and a further £5,500 from the FA prize pot also on offer to the winner over the two games, this was supposed to be the biggest day in the ambitious South Gloucestershire club’s 128-year history with a Wembley showpiece occasion a mouthwatering carrot on Sunday, May 17.

Ultimate competition winners stood to make £30,000 in prize money with even the runners-up pocketing a tidy £20,000.

In Langdon’s own words “the rug was pulled from under us” as news filtered through that the game’s governors had suspended for the foreseeable future all fixtures under its vast national umbrella due to coronavirus concerns.

Certainly the Bitton boss and his colleagues are preparing their minds for such a scenario as he admitted: “It’s hard to see any prospect of the competition continuing at this stage.

“I’d heard on the Monday the tie was off and in all fairness it had to happen; if you protect even one individual against the coronavirus impact it must be the right decision.

“Of course football is in our blood and it has been upsetting and a real blow to all enthusiastic and hard-working members of our club.

“The rug, the excitement, has been pulled from under us and we’re all feeling deflated about it.
“Wembley seemed so close and now it seems so far away and you couldn’t make it up; we’ve all been lost for words.

“It’s the same for Consett’s people up there in County Durham. Both our chairman (John Langdon) and theirs have been speaking regularly since the news and they’re devastated too, not least as they’d already paid for their travel arrangements and their overnight in a Bristol hotel.”

The Bath Road boss continued: “Both clubs stood to make good money from their respective legs, with us meant to be going to theirs a week later. We were forecasting up to £10,000 at the gate for our leg and that’s before any prize money.

“So in that respect it is gut wrenching too: all the hard work that’s gone into everything and it feels awful.

“Basically you’ve had the ultimate dream whipped away from you at a stroke. As a player, supporter, manager and committee member you experience a lot of bad days as well as good ones in football and opportunities like these you can’t top at this level.

“Getting to the first round of the FA Cup is a dream for a lot of non-League clubs but nothing beats a semi-final like this and the chance of playing at Wembley. It’s a once in a lifetime thing.

“Of course you’d like to think our big opportunity this season can be salvaged but none of us knows what will happen until we get a clearer picture on the health front. As I say, stopping all football at this time is the right decision.”

Bitton’s prospects of a concerted push for Southern League status they’ve coveted for so long had long been over by the time the health emergency was declared and sport, as well as life in so many aspects, came to an abrupt standstill.

Asked whether all this confusion, uncertainty and heartache had dampened his spirit now for that promotion assault next time around, Langdon declared: “Absolutely not. I will 100 per cent be committing to next season as Bitton manager and the same goes for my assistant Rob Sage.

“In fact we’re already working on pre-season and training plans and looking at how we can improve on what is already a great group of players.

“All this at present will affect the situation financially and we have to be mindful of that. Bitton Football Club is quite a business now and there’s the upkeep of the ground, the social club and bar staff to support.

“In terms of tackling our big objectives, though, I see no signs of anything to worry about.”

Bitton can content themselves a little with the £11,100 they have banked in FA winnings from their Vase run so far.

But as a double cup whammy they were supposed to be entertaining Lebeq United on Wednesday, March 18 in the semi-finals of the GFA Challenge Trophy before that suffered the same fate for same coronavirus reasons.

Oldland Abbotonians were due to have hosted Romam Glass St George in the other tie on the same night.

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Gloucestershire County League a realistic goal, Bradley Stoke supremo Jon insists

BRADLEY Stoke Town’s encouraged and optimistic supremo Jon Welsh believes his club are on course for a potential crack at Marcliff Gloucestershire County League status,” writes Simon Parkinson.

The South Gloucestershire outfit have been competing with distinction in the second tier of the Bristol Premier Combination following their promotion from the Bristol and District League last season to pitch themselves third in the standings of late, although they have played significantly more games than the rest of their rivals.

That’s much due to the fact Stoke perform on the weather-beating 3G surface they enjoy the use of at Patchway Community College, Hempton Lane.

Whilst hopes had been high of a swift rise to Premier Division status on the strength of positive results, a recent 3-2 home defeat by Hambrook set them back and led to their disappointed manager preaching caution ahead of the run-in.

Tom Harris had twice struck to hand Bradley Stoke a 2-1 advantage, only for their near neighbours to hit back with two of their own over the final ten minutes to snatch the three points.

“Poor defending from two set pieces undid us in a game which we’d all but won,” Welsh conceded

“It was a setback as it means we’ll now be relying on other results going our way over the remaining games if we are to stand a chance of going up.”

Nonetheless Welsh has been generally heartened by the progress shown by his team, prompting him to point out: “This season has seen us playing at our highest level since the club was established in 2005.

“We have adapted well to the higher level and largely continued to show the sort of form which won us promotion from the District Senior last year.

“A second straight promotion, although mathematically possible, has been hindered by us drawing too many games from positions we should have won from.

“We are the only side to have taken points off the leaders Bristol Manor Farm Reserves but we will need to win our remaining games to have a chance of going up.

“Yes, we’ve played more games than other teams but at this stage of the season points on the board might be more important than the pressure of a congested end-of-season fixture rush when the demands of playing so many games can create pressure to perform.”

Of those ultimate objectives, Welsh said: “Having a team at this higher level has attracted more players to the club and as a result we have expanded to four Saturday sides and a Vets team at a time when other clubs are shrinking.

“The five-year plan is to see Bradley Stoke Town playing in the Gloucestershire County League and if this progress is maintained it is a realistic ambition.”

Clinical Coles on hat-trick track as County League power past Northern Senior reps

MIKE Strawford expressed satisfaction at seeing his latest Marcliff Gloucestershire County League select XI surge to victory against gallant Gloucestershire Northern Senior League, writes Simon Parkinson.

With Slimbridge’s Wisloe Road facility providing a perfect stage, super sub Paul Coles claimed the match ball with a hat-trick as his higher-status side overcame their opponents 5-1 in a first-ever representative fixture between the teams.

Northern Senior League, co-led by Chalford’s Ben Powell and Brockworth Albion’s Mark Mulraney, had looked well in the contest at half-time trailing by just the one goal.

Rockleaze’s Nick Jones delivered the ball in from the left for Wick’s Max Barker, playing just behind lone front man Dan Webb, to swivel and score from inside the six-yard box for that solitary first-half strike on 30 minutes.

Sam Blackie pressed Dan Hobbs into a fine save and Andy Maryon rattled the crossbar.

With the strong wind behind County League in the second period the floodgates opened as substitute Coles soon deceived keeper Rob Sims with a chipped effort from the right edge of the box for 2-0, before the same player struck again with an unerring finish from just inside the area.

Although Northern Senior League’s Luke Barstow briefly reduced the arrears by volleying home from a corner which County League keeper Dan Hobbs claimed he lost in the lights, Quedgeley Wanderers’ Henry Birkett then thumped a first-time 35-yard screamer into the roof of the net for 4-0 and there was still time for the unmarked Coles to complete his hat-trick with an accurate eight-yard header courtesy of Wick team-mate Alfie Clarke’s right-sided delivery.

Leading the rep team for a third time, Wick manager Strawford enthused: “It was an enjoyable game watched by a crowd of around 100 which was good considering the horrible conditions.

“It was pretty much a new team since the last game with only four survivors from that and they did really well together, even in the first half with the strong wind in our faces.

“In fact the Senior League looked well organised and had more clear-cut chances, while our final ball wasn’t the best. We rode our luck a little for several minutes during which time they hit our bar.

“They didn’t utilise players from as many teams as we did but our undoubted superior quality, especially in the final third, came shining through in the second half as we enjoyed the elements in our favour too.

“We’d put three players on at the start of the second half, including Paul (Coles) who went up top with Danny Gayner (Sharpness) while Dan Webb switched to the left wing to use his pace to good effect there.

“It was my third game in charge of the reps and I’d be happy to do another if asked as it is an honour.”

County League: Dan Hobbs (Sharpness), Louis Peyton (Quedgeley Wdrs), Nick Jones (Rockleaze), Nathan Goodwin-Worrell (Wick), Ryan Ponting (Sharpness), Henry Birkett (Quedgeley) Wdrs, Alfie Clarke (Wick), Shaun Morris (Wick), Max Barker (Wick), Dan Webb (Rockleaze), Ethan Moore (Little Stoke). Subs: Ben Alexander (Wick), Paul Coles (Wick), Dan Gayner (Sharpness), Nathan Dennis (Frampton Utd).

Northern Senior League: R Sims (Chalford), S Payne (Brockworth Albion), J Davis, (Chalford), L Barstow (Chalford), J Taylor (Brockworth Albion), S Blackie (Berkeley Town), A Roberts (Chalford), D Wilkinson (Brockworth Albion), S Wines (Lydney Town), A Maryon (Chalford). Subs: J Alderman (Brockworth Albion), J Coakley (Charlton Rovers), E Jordan (Kings Stanley), S Jordan (Bredon).

Braced for the long haul: Bitton’s Wembley bidders to face big County Durham trek

BITTON’s Wembley dreamers have a long way to go yet if they are to nail that coveted Buildbase FA Vase final place – and that doesn’t just apply to their on-field prospects,” writes Simon Parkinson.

Dan Langon’s hopefuls discovered at the weekend they must make the nigh-on 600-mile round trip to County Durham to take on Consett for the second leg of their exciting semi-final clash on Saturday, March 28.

Whilst Bitton had already emphatically overcome Wroxham 4-0 in Norwich on February 29 through four Liam Bishop goals, the Toolstation Premier Division side had to wait until March 7 to discover who their last-four opponents would be.

Consett’s 3-1 victory at Warwickshire outfit Atherstone provided the answer. It means the victorious North East team, who approached that quarter-final tussle sixth in Northern League Division One, which intriguingly resembles Bitton’s own status seventh on the equivalent non-League Step 5 Toolstation Prem ladder, will come to Bath Road for the first leg on Saturday, March 21 before the decisive return meeting in County Durham seven days later.

Ahead of that duel Bitton, who have enjoyed a positive run of results in recent weeks while remaining out of promotion contention, it would appear, have a gruelling schedule of catch-up fixtures to confront in the league ahead of the Consett double-header which could place unwanted pressure on the squad at a crucial time.

Not content with their Vase exploits Bitton also have another semi-final cruncher to prepare for, at home against Toolstation First Division competitor Lebeq United, in the GFA Challenge Trophy at WDS Services Stadium on Tuesday, March 17 (7.30pm).

Nonetheless Langdon has been encouraged and delighted at the way his men have tackled all before them since that recent Vase success in Wroxham, with back-to-back league wins over Hallen (3-0 home) and Clevedon Town (2-1 away) keeping the pot boiling. 

The Bitton boss enthused: “It’s all really positive. The weather’s been awful and our league campaign’s not gone to plan so this Vase run is a ray of sunshine.

“Everyone’s buzzing although I had been a bit concerned going into the game with a well-drilled Hallen side that there might be an anticlimactic air about us after the excitement of Saturday’s win in Wroxham.

“Thankfully that wasn’t the case; the lads turned up with fire in their bellies and although our quagmire-like pitch made it hard, it was credit to the lads that they even tried to play football on that.”

“Our boys had been just the same at Wroxham. We had a game plan and executed it to perfection: the energy levels and work-rate were second to none.

“And our new signing Liam Bishop (on dual registration terms from Hereford) scored all four goals to go with his debut hat-trick at Bridport the previous week.”

Freescoring Bristol Ladies Union all set for acid Women’s Trophy test with Cheltenham

BRISTOL LADIES Union have every reason to approach this Sunday’s (March 15) GFA Women’s Trophy cruncher with illustrious guests Cheltenham Town Ladies at Coombe Dingle Sports Complex HQ (2pm) with spirits soaring, writes Simon Parkinson.

Whilst Alex Cheal’s Cheltenham are riding high in FA Women’s National League Division One South West, Bristol Ladies Union (BLU) are doing likewise in South West Regional Women’s League’s Northern Division.

In the lead-up to Sunday’s county confrontation BLU had bagged an eye-watering 55 goals from only nine league outings to pitch themselves fourth on the ladder with seven wins, a draw and only the one defeat, by Cheltenham Town Development way back in early October, behind them.

A good reason for that form is the scoring exploits of Ellie Preece (21 goals), Hannah Price (18) and Sophie Price (17), reason for Cheltenham, who will inevitably start the game as favourites given their higher ranking on the female football pyramid, to be cautious in their approach to what should be a lively and eventful spectacle.

Like this weekend’s on-song opponents, BLU have been in hot form in front of target in the prestigious county competition, as 6-1, 10-0 and 5-3 successes over AEK Boco Ladies, Cheltenham Women Under-21 and Cheltenham Town Ladies Development respectively suggest.

Delighted Union onlookers labelled that most recent victory over high-flying league rivals Cheltenham as “one of our greatest comebacks in the club’s history.”

Amid very wet and windy conditions and playing against the elements in the first half, BLU found themselves 2-0 down performing with a few players out of position and one star defender, Melody Lewis, unavailable.

However, as they began getting to grips with game and conditions the Bristol battlers announced their second-half intent as a jubilant Madison Price scored straight from a free-kick some 35 yards out.

Cheltenham, who had Naomi Marshall at the double and Catherine Reilly also on target, were just as determined to hang on to their lead; one they strengthened as a breakaway led to a third goal for them with 20 minutes to go.

It looked all over for BLU but as they roused themselves for a big finale, aided by a few tactical changes, they took the game by the scruff of the neck and reduced the arrears when Madison Price scored again from outside the box.

It got better – much better - as with ten minutes to go Henna Butcher netted with a header from a cross by Stella Gandee Morgan to tie it up at 3-3.

The tie looked like it was heading for penalties, only for new Union recruit Gandee Morgan to strike with a superb lob over the keeper from outside the box to make it 4-3.

And with moments to go it really was all over as the Cheltenham keeper misread a pass back and Preece pounced to walk the ball into the net for her delighted team’s fifth and final goal.

Bristol Ladies Union flexed their muscles too last weekend as Plymouth Argyle 2nd were on the receiving end of a 12-1 away mauling of Plymouth Argyle Ladies 2nd in the quarter-finals of the Bristol Soccerworld Cup, where Butcher and Gandee Morgan both celebrated hat-tricks and Price sisters Hannah, Madison and Sophie all bagged braces, one of many sizeable victories this season Sunday’s Cheltenham Town visitors will no doubt have noted.

Winners of this one will take on either Oldland Abbotonians Ladies or their visitors Almondsbury, who clash at the same 2pm time on Sunday, March 15.

Clinical Cheltenham Town Ladies on mission to make it five on spin in GFA Trophy

ALEX Cheal’s seemingly unstoppable Cheltenham Town Ladies are targeting a FIFTH straight GFA Women’s Trophy final appearance this Sunday, March 15 (2pm) – but they have capable and determined Bristol Ladies Union hosts to overcome first, writes Simon Parkinson.

The pair collide at Coombe Dingle Sports Complex in north Bristol to decide who takes on Oldland Abbotonians Ladies or their guests Almondsbury Women, who meet for the other enticing semi-final fixture at the same time.

There should be plenty of goals on show – Bristol Ladies Union (BLU) are in exciting freescoring mode at this time competing confidently in South West Regional Women’s League’s Northern Division.

Cheltenham are going well too, their 3-1 victory at Maidenhead United at the weekend through Ella Hitchcox’s double and Annie Martin’s effort making for a ninth win and only one loss from their 11 appearances thus far in FA Women’s National League Division One South West competition.

Cheal’s charges have shown plenty of that strength on their county cup trail, as Bristol Ladies Union Development and Pucklechurch Sports Ladies found to their cost in the two one-sided rounds so far.

Cheltenham are the GFA Women’s Trophy holders too courtesy of a 10-0 victory over Frampton Rangers Ladies in last season’s spring showpiece on the Oaklands Park 3G.

Yet in those four successive final appearances they haven’t always had it their own way. The previous year they fell 1-0 to a solitary St Nicholas Ladies goal and while they did edge victory via a penalty shoot-out success over St Nicholas Reserves in the 2016-17 final, 12 months prior to that a delighted Forest Green Ladies outfit swept Town aside 4-1 to claim the silverware.

In the meantime all Petersfield Park eyes are on this Sunday’s semis cruncher with BLU, while boss Cheal was left reflecting of a 16-0 away defeat of a spirited ’Church side in the last eight, who perform three divisions beneath his Cheltenham big hitters:  “It was a case of well done to Pucklechurch for carrying on right up to the final whistle.

“It’s never a nice position to be in as we are in a much higher league, but credit to them.”

It’s been a positive period on the individual front too, with Georgia Brown, who celebrated a treble of her own bossing the midfield in that Pucklechurch romp, winning a call-up to the Scotland Under-19 squad.

Cheal enthused: “It’s been great to be a part of her journey. She was watched by England last year but missed out on that opportunity. She has really snatched at this one and learnt probably from last season.

“It caps off a really positive year for Georgia as a player. She’s got two or three years now within that age group to really develop.

“She’ll go on to bigger and better things and we’re just delighted to be a part of that.”

Top-four and cup final the targets as Lavis backs Oldland Ladies to keep thriving

OLDLAND Abbotonians Ladies’ encouraged manager Steve Lavis says last summer’s injection of youthful zest has reaped riches well beyond his expectations, writes Simon Parkinson.

The Castle Road outfit experienced a testing last campaign battling it out in the lower reaches of the South West Women’s League Eastern Division where they won five and lost 14 of their 20 games to wind up second from bottom.

Having feared the worst, the Oldland camp were relieved and delighted to learn they had been handed a relegation reprieve, a lifeline that enabled them to rebuild over the last summer shutdown and attack 2019-20, this time in the Northern section of the league, with renewed relish.

A much better first half of their latest programme produced four wins and three draws from their opening eight outings.

Not content with that, Lavis’ charges are through to the semi-finals of the GFA Women’s Trophy where they are set to entertain league rivals Almondsbury Women on Sunday, March 15 (2pm).

Lavis smiled: “Our season has gone better than expected, I have to admit!

“We struggled over the previous couple of years with a small squad and I think it’s fair to say an ageing one! I lost players to retirement in each of the last three seasons.

“By rights we should have been relegated last year but due to the South West Women’s League being restructured we had a stay of execution.

“We managed to attract five 16/17-year-olds over the summer by doing a lot of background work and holding open training sessions at Oldland and it has paid dividends.

“They have really made a difference this season and given the squad a lift and more legs!”

The O’s supremo confessed: “I had no idea how it would all play out and what the integration would be like.

“But these young players have really benefitted from all the experience they have around them and it has been a better transition than I could have hoped for.

“We are setting ourselves a top-four finish in the league and a county cup final as targets this season but whatever happens we have already taken big steps forward.”

Five-goal Higgs steals show as Oldland Ladies aces power into Women’s Trophy semis

OLDLAND Abbotonians Ladies are gearing up for a mouthwatering GFA Women’s Trophy semi-final tussle at home against league rivals Almondsbury Women.

Steve Lavis’ freescoring team booked their place in the last four of the county competition in decisive fashion with an 11-1 away victory over gallant Gloucestershire County Women’s League Division One strugglers Longlevens Ladies.

At the same time that goal frenzy was unfolding Oldland’s South West Regional League compatriots Almondsbury were seeing off another from the same Northern Division, fellow high-fliers Frampton Rangers Ladies, 3-0 on their travels to set up that enticing semis showdown with the O’s on Sunday, March 15 (2pm).

With only 13 available players for the Longlevens trip there were at least no signs of rust as Oldland had been unable to play for a month due to bad weather.

Jayde Holcombe took her usual place in goal behind a back four of Laura Garlick, Jess Britton, Vicky Mundy and Becca McKay.

The midfield consisted of Bryony Higgs, Mollie Robbins, Nicky Hawkins-Hoare and Beth Dale, with Annie Hawkins-Hoare and Livvy Goozee upfront. Danni Shiner and Courtney Hobbs were the O’s subs.

Straight from the off Oldland went at their opponents with several attempts narrowly off target as they used the width of the pitch well.

The front two of Goozee and Annie Hawkins-Hoare were putting the home defence under pressure well and it was Goozee who opened the scoring on ten minutes. Her initial shot was parried back to her before she spectacularly curled the ball into the top corner from 20 yards out.

Yet it took only three more minutes for the equaliser to come. In Longlevens’ first meaningful attack a long ball was caught in the wind, deceiving both Holcombe and Britton, enabling a simple tap-in for the grateful Longlevens forward.

Oldland continued to press forward and Annie Hawkins-Hoare so nearly restored their advantage on 19 minutes when her looping effort crashed against the top of the bar.

Two minutes later Higgs did score the first of her five goals when the ball reached her following a goalmouth scramble and she coolly lobbed the keeper.

The O’s looked dangerous every time they went forward and it was 3-1 on 28 minutes when Higgs latched on to Dale’s cross to once more beat the goalie with a clever lofted finish.

Nicky Hawkins-Hoare and Robbins had control of midfield and the two combined on 34 minutes to add to the scoring. Robbins was fouled following a trademark surge forward and Hawkins-Hoare scored from the resulting free-kick over the helpless keeper from 25 yards out.

Oldland soon added a fifth courtesy of a corner which the home defence struggled to clear and a clever back-heel from Mundy found Dale in space to slot past the keeper.

Higgs deservedly completed her hat-trick on 42 minutes with a third sweet lob over the Longlevens keeper from a pass by Annie Hawkins-Hoare. And just a minute later the unstoppable Higgs made it 7-1 when shooting in low and hard from a pass by Robbins.

Just like in the first half it took only ten minutes of the second period for Oldland to open their account. A searching ball from Dale found Robbins who surged through the home defence to score low into the corner for her first-ever goal for the O’s.

Goozee’s non-stop running upfront created the next goal for Oldland on 57 minutes when, having initially lost the ball, she tenaciously won it back and played a lovely square pass to Higgs in space to stroke it home for her fifth of the game.

The game then hit a bit of a lull although Dale and Annie Hawkins-Hoare were inches away from scoring further goals before a mistake by the home keeper enabled Dale to make it 10-1 on 79 minutes when her loose throw was seized upon by the alert midfielder, who took it round her and calmly slotted home.

Oldland’s last goal came nine minutes from time when Dale once more put an inviting ball into the box for Annie Hawkins-Hoare to deservedly net with a delicious flicked finish over the keeper.

Delighted manager Lavis purred: “It really was a professional and positive performance from every member of our team which will stand the girls in good stead with some difficult league games coming up.

“Our young forward Bryony was naturally our player of the match. She made scoring look natural and she looked dangerous every time she had the ball and ran the home defence ragged.”

The O’s leader had felt it “imperative” his ambitious side got off to a fast start.

“In the previous round away against similar opposition (Forest of Dean Ladies) we’d laboured for our 3-0 win and only really played in the last half hour,” he recalled.

“There were no such dramas this time. We turned in a blistering performance full of energy and pace and no shortage of good football either in difficult conditions to ensure ourselves a big victory from what was a potential banana skin of a fixture.

“To be fair to Longlevens they raised their performance levels in the second half and started trying to play a bit more football.”

  • Coming up here shortly . . . how an influx of youth has helped rejuvenate Lavis’ Oldland Abbotonians Ladies

Strawford savouring tasty County League-Northern Senior League rep duel

MIKE Strawford says he will take “nothing for granted” when his Marcliff Gloucestershire County League XI enter the representative arena once more for an intriguing match with their Gloucestershire Northern Senior League counterparts, writes Simon Parkinson.

The fixture takes place this Wednesday night, March 11, at Slimbridge’s Wisloe Road ground (7.30pm). Entry cost with a programme is £2.

This will be the third time Strawford, the Wick manager currently caught up in attempting to steer his high-flying regular team to a first-ever County League title with a Les James League Cup semi-final at home to Gala Wilton also a mouthwatering prospect on April 4 (3pm), has taken charge of his league’s rep teams.

Last season Strawford oversaw a first victory in five attempts against Gwent County League at Tytherington before taking up the rep reins once more in May for a match, which they lost 4-1, with a Toolstation Western League XI staged at Stonehouse as part of the County League’s 50th anniversary celebrations.

Strawford has been busy finalising his squad while confirming four players from his own Wick team - Alfie Clarke, Joe Thomas, Mike Hardiman and Dan Stephens – will be involved in a 16-man operation.

“It was nice to be asked again to manage the County League side,” Strawford enthused. “It’s one of those honours you don’t always get in football and I jumped at the chance.

“It will be my third as manager: we beat Gwent 1-0 for a first-ever win over them (in February 2019) and we gave a good account of ourselves against the Toolstation League despite having a few lads unavailable due to the Bank Holiday weekend then. The 4-1 result didn’t reflect our performance.

“We’ll be playing lower-level opposition this time but we’ll certainly not take the Northern Senior League for granted.”

Strawford continued: “I’d asked clubs for any recommendations about lads they felt deserved a call-up. Most clubs will be providing players or have at least been approached.

“For the two previous games I picked players from nine clubs, even those struggling in the league. This time we’re looking at about six clubs involved and all competing at the higher end of the County League table.

“We can take five substitutes so I’ll have 16 players on the night, all of whom will get a run-out.

“I’m expecting a good, competitive game. The Northern Senior League operates a level beneath us but teams fresh from that league, namely Sharpness and Quedgeley Wanderers who joined the County League this season, have been very competitive.

“We’ll have enough centre-forwards in our line-up and a lot of ball-playing types so the emphasis will be on attack which is how I like to play football; quick and dynamic.

“We’ll enjoy the moment and hopefully get a win.”

Rep game with County League a big surprise, admits North Senior stalwart Green

GLOUCESTERSHIRE Northern Senior League’s long-serving administrator John Green admitted the call to suggest a representative fixture with Marcliff Gloucestershire County League came “out of the blue,” adding: “I was “extremely pleased that it did!”

The match takes place at Slimbridge’s Wisloe Road HQ this Wednesday, March 11 (7.30pm) when the cream of the playing crop, or certainly those available, from member clubs of both leagues go head to head for the first time in rep activity.

Chalford’s Ben Powell and Brockworth Albion’s Mark Mulraney have been called upon to oversee the Northern Senior League assault on the night, as joint managers for an occasion Green says he is looking forward to as an “intriguing first” for a league he has served with such distinction over three-plus decades.

Speaking to GFA Local Football News, he explained: “Ron Holpin, the County League secretary, rang me up around October/November time out of the blue to say that his league had played representative fixtures with other leagues over the years and would we like to play them?

“It sounded interesting so I approached our management committee who all seemed enthusiastic about the idea and we set about getting managers in place and match officials lined up, all three of whom are experienced regulars with the Northern Senior League each and every weekend.

“It’s funny because in the 30 and more years I’ve been involved with our league it had never once crossed my mind to play a game like this; it was never on my radar.

“It was only when Ron rang that I thought, ‘Why not; that sounds a great idea?’ After all, we’d regularly fed teams into the County League and always enjoyed a great relationship with them.”

Green feels too that the progression shown by the likes of Frampton United, Sharpness and Quedgeley Wanderers in recent years since their respective elevations to the Step 7 County League from Northern Senior football indicates a close and competitive contest is on the cards at Slimbridge on Wednesday.

“Frampton have been up there pushing for County League titles for several years now since their promotion from our league (in 2012) and they’re currently leading the way this time,” Green observed.

“Sharpness joined Frampton in there at the start of this season and the fact they’re currently second in the table says it all about their potential too.

“The same can be said of Quedgeley, who finished sixth in our league last season but were invited into the County League because they had a vacancy and Quedgeley were the only club to have the requisite ground grading for the next level up.

“The County League asked if we’d release them and we were happy to oblige as it’s always been our policy to allow clubs to progress if opportunity affords.”

Gloucestershire County League secretary Holpin said: “We’re very pleased they accepted our invitation to play them. They were very enthusiastic and we’re all looking forward to it.

“Northern Senior League may be operating at a lower level than us but they’re likely to be very competitive and they have two divisions to pick from comprising 32 teams.

“We’ve always enjoyed an excellent relationship with the Northern Senior League and it seems fitting to get this game on.

“This type of thing keeps the interest going in the respective leagues and players should welcome the opportunity to be involved.”

Northern Senior League co-manager Powell said: “Mark and I are both looking forward to the game and it’s a privilege to have been given the opportunity to manage the side together.

“I think it’s a great opportunity to show how the standard of Senior League has improved in recent years and hopefully we can give a good account of ourselves on Wednesday night in what’s sure to be a tough test.”

Northern Senior League squad: Dan Greenhouse (Charlton Rovers); Chris Skinner (Brockworth), Luke Barstow (Chalford), Johnny Davis (Chalford), Sean Payne (Brockworth), Jason Taylor (Brockworth), Jack Harvey (Woolaston); Dave Wilkinson (Brockworth), Andrew Roberts (Chalford), Sam Blackie (Berkeley), Josh Coakley (Charlton Rovers), Ethan Jordan (Kings Stanley); Andy Maryon (Chalford), Sam Wines (Lydney), Jordan Alderman (Brockworth), Scott Jordan (Bredon).

  • Coming up shortly here on GFA Local Football News: County League gaffer Mike Strawford’s take on the Slimbridge showdown!

No plain sailing but clinical Cribbs Reserves keep on course for Combination double

CRIBBS’ crack reserve team are on course for a league and cup double after booking a place in the final of the Bristol Premier Combination Cup for the second year running, writes Simon Parkinson.

The 2018-19 treble winners secured their passage to the spring showpiece with a hard-fought 3-1 home victory over Hambrook, who have been battling it out around mid-table in Division One to mixed effect so far.

Cribbs co-boss Rob Hetherington was the first to admit their gritty opponents had put up quite a fight in a tight semis tussle.

The visitors, disappointed to lose a club semi-final for a third time in a fortnight after agonising defeats for their first XI in the GFA Senior Amateur South Cup and second-string in the GFA Intermediate competition respectively, produced a creditable performance to keep the tie goalless until after the hour mark when Cribbs netted three times over the last 30 minutes to win through, including a “freak effort” off Hambrook defender Brandon Matthews.

Dan Norley also kept up his fine recent scoring form with another goal for the gallant away team, albeit a consolation as tournament holders Cribbs booked that final spot against either Totterdown United or DRG SV Frenchay, who clash at Norton Lane on Saturday, March 14 (2pm).

Aaron Coleman finally broke the deadlock for Premier Division pacesetters Cribbs with a precise finish on the turn before Liam Clayton skilfully steered home the second goal from a near post corner.

The third came as a result of good interplay and a sizzling top-corner finish from Keiran Clayton.

Reigning Combination Prem champions and current pacesetters Cribbs overcame Iron Acton 4-0 at The Lawns last season to lift the trophy.

And while their county cup campaign ended in 2-1 home defeat by Toolstation First Division visitors Lebeq United at the last-eight stage in a GFA Challenge Trophy competition Cribbs were promoted to this term on the strength of their impressive 2018-19 exploits, they remain firmly on course for another league title triumph they hope will this time land them a place in next season’s Marcliff Gloucestershire County League.

Hetherington, who runs the side in tandem with Alec Mills, said of that latest semi-final success: “Both teams tried to play football in a very strong wind.

“Hambrook battled well throughout and with about five minutes to go they scored the goal their efforts deserved.

“A neutral would probably say the 3-1 scoreline flattered us but the match was played in a very sporting manner and was well refereed by Steve Timlin.”

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Henbury capable of “much more” as County League seeks ref appointment officer

HENBURY’S loyal defender Sean Heal is adamant his team have far more in their locker than they’ve displayed over much of a stop-start Marcliff Gloucestershire County League campaign – while the league casts the net for a new referee appointment officer for next season, writes Simon Parkinson.

The Arnall Drive outfit have once more been battling it out in the lower reaches of the table although recent positive results seem to confirm Heal’s assertion that they have the capacity to give every opponent in their division a run for their money on their day.

League leaders Frampton United discovered that to their cost recently as they went down 2-1 on their Bristol travels for only a second defeat of a splendid title-pushing Bell Field mission so far.

Henbury have also seen off struggling sides Hanham Athletic (3-2) and Patchway Town (3-0) away from home and claimed a 2-0 win in their own yard over Little Stoke in a largely positive start to the New Year.

A much-improved Gala Wilton team this term did manage to overcome their Henbury guests 1-0 in a close-fought affair at Fairmile Gardens in more recent times.

Committee member Heal, who had made 17 appearances as a full-back this term as we went to press, reflected: “We seem to start so well in the summer when it looks as though we are going to mount a top-six challenge, only for results to dip and fortunes change as we get into it.

“We appeared to have solved our goalscoring issues when signing Dawid Regula, who began the season brilliantly and enabled us to play on the front foot rather than sit back and try and counter attack.

“We also brought in Otis Francis from our neighbours Southmead; Harvey Sealey, who played for us as a junior and whose dad is former manager, came in from BOCO and we promoted Sam Fitzpatrick and Max Wilding from the under-18s, who look like they’ll be class players for years to come.

“Unfortunately the higher level came calling for Dawid who decided to go to Bristol Telephones in the Western League, leaving us again without an out-and-out goalscorer which is so hard to find at this level.

“We had to change the way we played and a few disciplinary issues and unavailability saw a dip in form just like previous years.

“We also lost our keeper and captain Cameron Tarr to a broken ankle, while last season’s top scorer Harvey Moran, and ever-presents Ross Jones and Joe Fifield, went off travelling for a few months leaving us thin on quality.”

Heal confessed: “This all showed up in our GFA Cup drubbing (7-0) at Newent and another heavy defeat (5-0) by Boco. It led to some glum times with us looking at the wrong end of the table again.

“But Trevor Richards and Jason Tarr are great managers and great for the club. They are fighters and have managed to bring some quality in which meant we could change things to fine effect against Little Stoke.

“We performed brilliantly to keep a clean sheet and come away 2-0 winners and we really showed then what Henbury FC is all about.

 “When we compete against top sides we are always in the game; it’s teams around us we seem to struggle to put away. That’s maybe a mentality thing but it’s definitely something we need to improve on.

“Recently we had Jensen Mannings return to us and we also brought in his brother Kane from Boco which has seen a turn in fortune and performances with a real targetman up there!

“We’ve gone on to beat even Frampton 2-1 so we’re hoping to have a good end to the season.

“We have some important games coming up and if we can emulate our early season form I don’t see any issue.

“It’s about collectively deciding as a group that we need to stick together, one to 11, to get points.”

Meanwhile Gloucestershire County League is looking for a referee appointment officer for next season.

Further information can be obtained by contacting Peter Langley via 07941 360398 or pg.langley@btinternet.com

Light on horizon as Cirencester Ladies keep on course for more Challenge Cup glory

CIRENCESTER Town Ladies’ management team of Callum Higginson and Karen Messenger say their county cup campaign is casting a ray of light into what has been challenging league commitments so far, writes Simon Parkinson.

The Corinium Stadium side marked a fine first season back in Gloucestershire County Women’s League action last term by finishing fourth with 14 wins and a draw from their 22 appearances in a competitive Second Division shake-up.

Not content with that for starters, Cirencester also lifted the GFA Women’s Challenge Cup trophy in dramatic penalty shoot-out circumstances at Oaklands Park following a 2-2 normal-time draw with league rivals and champions of the time Cheltenham Town Ladies Under-18s.

By player-manager Messenger’s own admission Ciren’s league undertakings have not unfolded quite as well as hoped for at the start of the season.

Their 14 games so far have reaped two wins and three draws, while a 3-2 away defeat by Winchcombe Town Ladies in the first round of the Gordon Perrett League Cup back in October signalled an early end to their silverware chances where that particularly tournament was concerned.

Nonetheless there is light on the horizon in the shape of this season’s GFA Challenge Cup assault, a hard-fought 1-0 home quarter-final victory over league rivals Dursley Town Ladies taking them to an enticing semi-final engagement in their own Corinium Stadium yard with Cotswold Rangers Women on Sunday, March 15 (2pm).

Bec Brannan’s goal proved just enough to see Ciren advance to that next encounter with a Cotswold side enjoying a magnificent season heading the same County Women’s League standings with ten wins and only one defeat so far from their 11 fixtures.

The semi-finalists know all about one another too – Cirencester had to take a 6-2 home defeat at the hands of the table-toppers back in November firmly on the chin before making a real fist of it in a recent return meeting before again going down, this time to a tighter 4-3 reverse at School Lane at the hands of a Cotswold outfit who comfortably beat Bishops Cleeve Ladies 7-2 away in their own Challenge Cup quarter-final confrontation.

Ciren, meanwhile, had added reason to celebrate their safe quarter-final passage at the cost of Dursley as Messenger pointed out: “We played Dursley twice within seven days in the league in December and followed up a goalless draw at our place with a 6-2 defeat at theirs.

“So it was pleasing to get through this cup tie unscathed.

“We’ve not done so well in the league this year although we’ve not always had a consistent team available.

“Going out of the League Cup at the first round stage was a disappointment too but reaching the semi-finals of the county cup is nice and means we still have something to play for.”

Bristol Rovers Women Development should also be involved in semi-final action on that same March 15 afternoon after overcoming Tytherington Rocks Ladies 2-1 on their travels via Zoe Jones and skipper Lottie Weeks strikes in a close and competitive last-eight affair, prompting the latter to enthuse: “It was a proper team performance and I’m one proud captain.”

The delighted Gas Girls were, however, forced to wait a little longer to see who their semis hosts will be as Cheltenham Civil Service Ladies and their guests Gloucester City Ladies were due to play each other in an outstanding quarter-final tie on Sunday, March 1.

Stroud Two fliers Chesterton, Wickwar braced for big Intermediate North semis bout

FOUR silverware thirsty sides return to the county cup arena this Saturday, March 7 with prized places in the GFA Intermediate North Cup competition up for grabs, writes Simon Parkinson.

And what a collision is in store at Siddington Playing Field in Cirencester where Stroud and District Division Two pacesetters Chesterton and second-placed league rivals Wickwar Wanderers lock horns for the tastiest of semi-final jousts (2pm).

While Wickwar were waved through to the stage without kicking a ball thanks to a walkover win over struggling Hatherop, Chesterton were flexing their muscles once more by sweeping aside Cotswold Rangers 5-0 on their travels through Danny Bishop’s double and Josh Russell, George Peare and Kieran Jones strikes.

Intriguingly the high-flying teams have yet to play each other this season, with fixtures pencilled in for Saturday, March 28 (2.30pm) at Chesterton before the return match is scheduled for the evening of Wednesday, April 15 at Wickwar’s King George V Fields HQ (6.30pm).

Meanwhile two more teams eager to build on respective lofty standings in their respective leagues, Windyridge Rovers and Horsley United, meet for the other Intermediate North last-four affair at Rovers’ Swindon Village Playing Fields facility on Wymans Lane in Cheltenham (2pm).

While Windyridge have enjoyed a splendid season so far pushing hard towards the Cheltenham League Division Two summit and eager to make use of games in hand with a view to reining in Prestbury Rovers Reserves and leaders Smiths Barometrics Athletic Reserves, visiting Horsley have been in unstoppable mood at the head of Stroud Division Three.

That form has banked ten wins from 11 unbeaten outings heading into the semis showdown while Thomas Stubbs’ hat-trick and Will Godsell, Chris Cook and Oliver Vasey goals proved more than ample as they dispatched Prestbury’s spirited second-string guests 6-3 to book that semis berth.

Windyridge have also done well so far in their quest to keep those Cheltenham second-tier title hopes alive.

They overcame Hempsted, riding high in Stroud Three on the strength of their Fourth Division elevation as runners-up to Charfield Reserves last term, 3-0 at home to safely negotiate the last-eight hurdle with Harry Collier’s brace and a David Keylock effort to set up that enticing Horsley tie and a golden opportunity to secure a county cup final spot.

Kingsway hopefuls steeled for tough Minor Cup confrontation with lethal Lakeside

KINGSWAY Rovers Reserves need no telling they will have their hands full when they square up to mighty FC Lakeside Reserves on Saturday, March 7 (2pm), writes Simon Parkinson.

The pair grapple at Kingsway Sports Pavilion in Quedgeley for an intriguing GFA Minor North Cup semi-final confrontation which is sure to test the mettle of the home hopefuls with so much at stake.

The reason? Lakeside’s second-string slickers had won all nine of their Cheltenham League Division Three games as promoted 2018-19 Division Four champions ahead of a scheduled home date with the third-placed side sitting immediately above them ahead of the contest, Cheltenham Civil Service 3rds, on Saturday, February 29.

Despite playing fewer games than most in their section lethal Lakeside had rattled in 50 goals, more than any other of their league rivals, and conceded only 17 times, second best only to Charlton Rovers Reserves’ 16 goals shipped, to keep firmly on course for a title tilt.

Lakeside did scrape through to the semi-finals of the Minor North tournament courtesy of Liam Powell’s goal in a 1-0 away defeat of Soudley at the quarter-final juncture, although their North Gloucestershire League Division Two hosts on the day entered the occasion unbeaten and hopeful of progression too.

Kingsway, meanwhile, have experienced mixed fortunes so far midway down the Stroud Division Four table although the fact they are enjoying a strong run in the Dennis Mason League Cup, as well as the county competition, has given rise to encouragement.

Their 7-1 mauling of Frampton United 3rds saw them to another last-four appearance in knock-out activity and a date at home with Stroud Five promotion chasers Cashes Green on Saturday, March 14 (Uley Playing Fields, 2.30pm).

Kingsway showed commendable battling qualities too in overcoming Charlton Rovers Reserves in the last eight of their Minor Cup mission, a 5-4 penalty shoot-out success, after goals by Daniel Gibson-Wayne and Matthew Gibson-Wayne had forced spot kicks following a 2-2 normal-time draw, seeing them advance.

The other Minor North semis tussle on Saturday, March 7 involves Chalford 3rds and their visitors Longlevens 4ths for a juicy all-Stroud Division Five affair at Highfield Way (2pm).

Longlevens will enter the tie as favourites to progress to the final sitting midway in the table whilst their hosts have been scrapping for points in the league’s basement with only two wins from 11 outings to show for their efforts.

Chalford, who had Max Ridler-Dutton’s goal to thank for seeing off Frampton United 3rds 1-0 at home in the Minor Cup quarter-finals, also have two scores to settle when they face a Longlevens outfit who have enjoyed 4-3 and 4-1 victories over their semis opponents in league activity.

Longlevens had Nickolas Tatton and James Beck on target as they edged past Abbeymead Rovers Reserves, whose Byron Behan kept them in the contest, 2-1 at Windfall Way in another tight last-eight encounter.

Apperley, AFC Cheltenham, Lydney A, Bishops Cleeve A on big Primary Cup mission

CHELTENHAM League Division Four fliers AFC Cheltenham will fancy their chances of cementing a county cup final place at the expense of league rivals Apperley, writes Simon Parkinson.

The pair face each other on Saturday, March 7 (2pm) at Sawpit Lane for a GFA Primary North semi-final cruncher.

Host outfit Apperley know they will have their work cut out – their opponents, like themselves new to the league this season, beat them 4-0 in October’s Minor Charity Cup tie at Cheltenham’s Brooklyn Road base, although the teams have yet to collide in league competition where fixtures have been arranged for Saturday, March 28, at Apperley, and Saturday, May 2, at Cheltenham’s King George V Fields facility.

While Apperley, who overcame Rodborough and Cainscross OB 3rds 3-1 with goals by Jack Lewis, Richard Stockman and Scott Wilson to advance to the Primary North semis, have been occupying a mid-table position with mixed results reflecting their current status, AFC Cheltenham have taken the league by storm fresh to the scene.

As they approached a February 29 away-day with lowly Cheltenham Saracens 3rds as we went to press, the St Mark’s-based side were sitting second in the Cheltenham Four standings with nine wins from ten unbeaten outings.

That formidable form was on display in their quarter-final appearance with visiting Stroud Division Seven pacesetters Cashes Green Reserves, who could only watch on frustrated as Rubel Miah, Danni Miron and Alin Neamtu all hit hat-tricks in a 9-0 romp.

Lydney Town A and guests Bishops Cleeve Development go head-to-head in the other Primary North Cup tie, also on March 7, at Swan Road (2pm).

Like AFC Cheltenham, Lydney, who dispensed of Down Ampney 2-1 in their quarter-final encounter, will take some stopping as they’ve surged to the North Gloucestershire Division Three summit on the back of 12 wins from 13 appearances ahead of a February 29 meeting with Harrow Hill A.

Bishops Cleeve, meanwhile, have been experiencing a testing time of it so far battling it out in the lower reaches of the Cheltenham Division Four table, so their county cup exploits have offered a ray of light, including a 3-1 quarter-final home defeat of Tuffley Rovers 5ths delivered by Bradley Debonis, Monty New and Ben Pullin strikes.

Oldland, Roman Glass, Bitton and Lebeq set for GFA Trophy semis showdowns

IT’S to be an all-Toolstation Western League affair as four member clubs prepare to joust for prized places in the GFA Challenge Trophy final at county association HQ on Tuesday, May 5, writes Simon Parkinson.

A series of tight midweek spectacles led to Roman Glass St George overcoming gallant Gala Wilton 5-3 on penalties after being held to a 1-1 regular-time draw on the Oaklands Park 3G, while Saints’ Premier Division compatriots Bitton were pushed all the way by Gala’s Marcliff Gloucestershire County League rivals Wick before emerging 2-1 winners at Bath Road.

Two Toolstation First Division hopefuls also prevailed. Lebeq United edged aside – 2-1 courtesy of a last-minute free-kick winner - Cribbs Reserves hosts making remarkable strides as a Bristol Premier Combination powerhouse and promoted to the prestigious Challenge Trophy this term on the strength of last season’s successes, which included a GFA Senior Amateur South Cup triumph.

And Oldland Abbotonians also enjoyed a memorable night clinching a 3-1 away victory over a Hallen team currently enjoying Western League top dog status in Bristol third in the Prem standings as this article was penned.

Oldland, with former AEK-BOCO duo Clayton Woodman and Steve Cains orchestrating operations to promising effect at Castle Road, had been on a five-match victory stretch before the rain hit hard to interrupt momentum.

Nonetheless they can look forward to a Challenge Trophy semi-final date at home with Roman Glass on Wednesday, March 18 (7.45pm) after dispensing of Hallen on their Moorhouse Lane travels.

A first-half Scott Thomas own goal, Joe Beardwell’s penalty ten minutes from time after he himself had been felled and Owen McCallum’s cool 90th-minute clincher on the counter did the trick for Oldland, despite Cash Vinall’s sending off for the visitors five minutes into the second half and team-mate Liam Towler’s exit to the sin bin which reduced Oldland to nine men for a spell.

Oldland assistant Cains remarked: “That red card for Cash kind of galvanised us. We adopted a siege mentality; we defended well while being a constant threat on the counter attack.

“We never let Hallen settle; we forced them into errors which stifled their flow and it was a great night.”

Roman Glass, meanwhile, needed that shoot-out to see off Gala Wilton, who had taken an early lead with an excellent Ryan Dobbins strike before namesake Ryan Radford restored parity for Saints half-an-hour in.

It had been quite a few days for Bitton, who not only advanced to the quarter-finals of the Buildbase FA Vase with a 2-1 defeat of Sutton Common Rovers but also set themselves up for a home date with Lebeq in the last four of the Challenge Trophy on Tuesday, March 17 (7.30pm) thanks to that 2-1 win over spirited guests Wick, watched by more than 100 spectators at WDS Services Stadium.

Karim Rendall and Oaklan Buck were Bitton’s second half marksmen although they did have to see out safely a testing final few minutes, just as they’d done in the Vase, as keeper Rob Brown was sent off before Wick pulled a goal back via a fine Jacob Watson finish a minute from time.

Relieved boss Dan Langdon acknowledged: “Wick stuck to their footballing philosophy on a very tricky pitch and they were a real credit.

“I’m sure they would hold their own well in Toolstation Division One on that evidence were they to get there.”

Wick had certainly had their second half chances with Ben Payne seeing a header blocked from a corner and Nathan Goodwin-Worrell blazing the loose ball over, while Dan Stephens went agonisingly close with a late header of his own.

Old Cothamians, Avonmouth braced for all-Suburban League Senior Amateur crunch

BRISTOL and Suburban League rivals Old Cothamians and Avonmouth will provide a mouthwatering GFA Senior Amateur South Cup final showdown at Oaklands Park on Monday, May 4 (7.30pm).

Cothamians booked their place with a 3-2 home victory over battling Bristol Premier Combination First Division hopefuls Hambrook Reserves.

Avonmouth, meanwhile, had to bounce back from a goal down away against another Suburban Premier One competitor, Old Georgians, before prevailing 4-2 on penalties after the sides had been locked at 1-1 in regular time to force the shootout.

In a Canford Park cracker, Ricardo dos Santos had handed Cothamians the lead in slotting home a rebound after Josh Mitchell’s effort had been parried by the Hanham keeper.

In-form marksman Dan Norley equalised for injury-hit Hambrook, only for Cothamians to restore their lead heading into half-time as Ben Dowdell slotted home a penalty.

It got better for his team after the break as Mitchell broke from the halfway line to slot the ball calmly past the away custodian and put Old Cots firmly in charge.

Still it wasn’t quite job done as Norley again pulled a goal back for Hambrook when he scored direct from a corner.

However, with that lifeline came ultimate disappointment, Hambrook hopes of a dramatic late leveller hindered by the sin binning of one player and then dismissal of another for a second booking.

As for Avonmouth, they had to go through the spot kick agonies before booking their own place in the spring showpiece occasion at the expense of Old Georgians on Hanham Common.

It was never to be a straightforward route as the visitors had to come from behind in normal time, having trailed 1-0 at the break, with a second-half Rhys O’Donovan strike.

That took the tie to penalties where Avonmouth were as indebted to keeper Aaron Harvey’s two fine saves as they were Ben Fry, Tommy Taylor, Alfie Taylor and Tommy Cox, who triumphantly put away the clinching goal, for confidently hitting the target.

Finalists Old Cothamians and Avonmouth are yet to meet at all this term. The sides are set to clash for the first time at Avonmouth’s King George V Recreation ground on Saturday, March 21 before locking horns again for the reverse league encounter on Saturday, April 11.

It’s been a good period on the county cups front for the Suburban League all round as Fishponds Old Boys’ 3-0 penalty shoot-out success away against Hambrook Reserves following a 1-1 stalemate landed them a GFA Intermediate South final place against Bristol Downs Division Two side Saints Old Boys Reserves at Oaklands Park on Monday, April 20 (7.30pm).

And there was delight for Suburban Four high-fliers Little Stoke A, who convincingly overcame District Five’s undefeated table toppers Thornbury Town A 3-0 in the GFA Primary South Cup to tee up a Thursday, April 2 crunch with Bristol Churches Division One opponents Woodlands (Bristol) United (7.30pm). 

Accepting plea to aid crisis club Dursley was a no-brainer, player-boss Karl insists

DURSLEY Town player-manager Karl Nash insists it was a no-brainer when a call from the blue led him to take up the reins at ailing Dursley Town over the summer of 2018, writes Simon Parkinson.

Town’s buoyant boss, who has steered his team to Stroud League Division One top spot in unbeaten vein in only their second season at the lower level, as well as helping secure semi-final spots in county and President cups, glowed of that unexpected chance: “I was absolutely delighted to take the opportunity.

“I’d been about to go into a seventh season with Brimscombe and Thrupp when Dursley came in for me during that crisis time for them.

“They felt that if they could get me in, people would follow, which was nice they thought like that.

 “We held our own in our first season in the Stroud League which was always going to be about rebuilding and stabilising. Although we didn’t quite achieve it, top five was my aim along with getting people enjoying their football again and putting smiles on faces.

“Importantly we added two more senior teams to the club which are now pushing hard towards the top of Stroud Five and Seven respectively.

“It means the old feel-good factor is coming back to where it used to be. It’s always been about small steps but we are going in the right direction.”

Nash certainly enjoys that family feeling at Kingshill Road – whilst his younger brother Aaron had 15 goals to his name spearheading the attack ahead of a scheduled away encounter with Chalford Reserves on February 22, his older brother Antony is club chairman, weighing in with four goals from the left wing for good measure.

All three, along with their club comrades, share one ultimate goal, that swift return to Northern Senior League status.

“Win the league and we’ll be back in there,” Karl, 31, who had netted nine times ahead of that Chalford trip, emphasised.

“We’re working hard on ground facilities and getting sponsors aboard. And we now have six boys’ teams and five girls’ teams, as well as an under-18 side and ladies section, all introduced within the space of the last two years.”

It’s been a dream so far, Dursley Town’s ambitious player-boss Karl enthuses

KARL Nash surveyed his Dursley Town fliers’ campaign so far and enthused: “It’s been terrific.”

Desperate to atone for their 2017-18 fall from Gloucestershire Northern Senior League grace, the clinical Kingshill Road outfit have built on a steadying 2018-19 conclusion to their Stroud League Division One commitments by storming to the summit with 11 wins from 12 unbeaten games as this story was written.

Not content with that, Dursley have an away appointment with Cheltenham Civil Service in the semi-finals of the GFA Junior North Cup on Saturday, March 7 and another last-four tie to look forward to, at near-neighbours Charfield, for a President’s Cup collision (date TBC).

Nash was on target twice and brother Aaron four times in a recent 6-0 away success over closest rivals Ramblers to underline their status as unceasing Stroud One pacesetters with games in hand to help them on their way back up, it is hoped.

Dursley’s heartened leader and centre-forward said: “Everything we’d entered at the start of the season we’re still in the running for.

“It’s been terrific, not only for me as a player but as a manager. I’ve been in cup finals as a player but never as a manager so it’s fingers crossed.

“The main focus was always on the league and winning it was my target from the start of the season. We recruited well in the summer with key local players bolstering the squad I already had and now I have 18 good lads to pick from.

“It had been a difficult last few years for the club so to get this far, with the record we have this season, is fantastic for me as a manager.

“The players have been very professional in their attitude, approach and application and it’s of real credit to them.

“Any cups that come along will be a bonus: I was never going to rule us out of a cup success and I see no reason why we can’t go on and win the finals if we get there.”

Nash, who counts Brimscombe and Thrupp, Slimbridge and Gloucester City among his former stamping grounds as a player, said of Dursley’s current successful management set-up: “This is my second year as player-boss and my assistant James Thompson has been a breath of fresh air doing all the nitty-gritty behind the scenes.

“He takes the coaching sessions and warm-ups which takes massive pressure off me.

“As a player I won a treble in my first year with Brimscombe about six years ago and went on to win the GFA Challenge Trophy by beating Bitton 3-1 a couple of seasons back.

“But I’m Dursley born and bred who has been around the local scene for 15 years or so and when they turned to me in what in all honesty was despair, having just come out of the Northern Senior League (in 2018), I couldn’t turn it down.”

  • Coming up here soon: How a desperate call led to Nash exiting Brimscombe and Thrupp to take up big Dursley Town challenge.

Scott backs Sodbury Ladies to push on – and tells of personal duel with new Barca boss!

CHIPPING Sodbury Town Ladies are enjoying a promising first season at the higher level – and club manager Scott Gibson is backing them to push on even further in years to come, writes Simon Parkinson.

Fresh off the back of their elevation from Gloucestershire County Women’s League last season in third place only behind Longwell Green Ladies and Bristol Ladies Union, the Sodbury girls had won four and drawn one of their 11 South West Women’s League North outings as we went to press to keep comfortably clear of the basement.

A 2-1 away defeat by near neighbours and County League competitors Pucklechurch Sports Ladies in the second round of the GFA Women’s Trophy in November was a disappointment.

Nonetheless Gibson, maintaining close ties with the senior female wing of a thriving South Gloucestershire club he oversees as head honcho, is adamant there’s more to come from Sodbury Ladies.

He also believes the unearthing of a clinical presence upfront would work wonders for a side which so often threatens yet doesn’t always deliver when it comes to goalscoring opportunities crafted.

Gibson insisted: “From what I’ve seen so far I feel we could beat anyone in our division on our day IF we had that out-and-out centre-forward.

“Everyone says we play great football and I’d certainly agree with that. What we have been doing is struggling to put the ball in the back of the net.

“We lost two centre-forwards due to pregnancies and it’s meant Laura Curnock is leading our scoring charts at the moment (with five goals) and she’s a midfielder.

“But the standard of football we’ve seen from the team is unbelievable and when it comes to the football, we do outplay most opposition.”

The Sodbury chief observed: “We’re just below mid-table as it stands which is good for our first season at this level.

“Hopefully we’ll get those two centre-forwards back for the start of next season and we can begin adding more goals to our excellent approach play.

“Without doubt we want the team to keep pushing on and try and attain another promotion. For now it’s about maintaining our position and attempting to get that elusive centre-forward in from somewhere.

“We have a good squad of around 20 women who train every Thursday night on the 3G at Yate Academy and they’re all extremely enthusiastic.

“It makes for a great spirit.”

Gibson, meanwhile, could not help raising an eyebrow when he heard that Quique Setién, formerly a star performer with Atletico Madrid and Racing Santander among others, had been appointed as new Barcelona manager in Spain’s La Liga last month.

He recalled with a smile: “I actually once played against him. The opportunity came while I was ending my playing days, around 15 years ago, with South Glos Old Boys in the Suburban League who have sadly since disbanded.

“We were on an annual summer tour playing other teams in Northern Spain and I had the privilege of trying to mark him in central midfield.

“If I’m honest I couldn’t get near him although I did win one header which is embedded firmly in my memory bank!

“He’s known as the Son of Santander and he’d just retired from playing. It was like, ‘Where’s he gone?’ every time I thought I was anywhere near him.”

Application deadline looms as Cribbs close in on new manager in wake of Beecham exit

CRIBBS chiefs are currently sifting through applications for the first team manager’s position following the recent resignation of Tony Beecham, reports Simon Parkinson.

The Station Road side have been sliding down the Toolstation Premier Division table in recent weeks and have called on assistant manager Aaron Still, vice-chairman Simon Hartley and skipper Jake Hodgson to fill the breach in the interim.

Cribbs, who have called for applications to be submitted by Friday, February 28, believe they have “firm club foundations” in place for the “right man” to take charge and issued a statement accordingly reading: “We run three other (senior) Saturday sides and an under-18 side which plays in the Bristol Combination.

“The reserve team have applied to join the Gloucestershire County League next season and currently lead the Bristol Premier Combination.

“We offer an excellent playing surface and training facilities along with a loyal support team of volunteers and committee members.

“The applicant should have a good knowledge of Step 5 clubs surrounding Bristol, along with a willingness to recruit, motivate and coach younger players with potential. A small playing budget is available.

“Previous managerial experience would be useful although not essential. Ideally we would like applicants to be working towards or already possess the UEFA B coaching licence.

“The Cribbs committee provides a supportive environment to their managers and anyone wishing to apply can do so in strictest confidence to Simon Hartley via email to welshwizard1973@aol.com.”

Beecham has gone on to join the management team at Southern League Bristol Manor Farm while his former colleagues continue to weigh up their options.

Cribbs are also among a clutch of Bristol-based clubs, including Chipping Sodbury Town, Hallen and Roman Glass St George, facing a potential sideways switch to the Hellenic League this summer in accordance with latest national FA leagues restructuring.

Chairman Dave Nelson said of Cribbs’ most pressing concerns: “We’d like someone to come in as manager in a similar mould as Tony, who was really good at identifying young players with raw talent and using his contacts accordingly.

“We’ve largely had to go that way as we just haven’t been in a position to recruit seasoned players we simply cannot afford, although we have been able to offer a small playing budget for the first time ever.

“It was Tony’s decision to leave. Results were going against us, despite him trying everything with arguably a better squad than last year.

“He felt it was time to give someone else a go but we really didn’t want him to leave. Of course we wish him well and he’ll always be welcome back.”

To apply for the First-Team managerial position, contact Simon Hartley via welshwizard1973@aol.com

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