Local Football News 

For all the latest news in grassroots football this is the page to visit.

If you have a story to share, please email Simon Parkinson at Simon.Parkinson@GloucestershireFA.com


Mar 19 - 23                                          

Mallett’s men steel themselves for action-packed Toolstation Prem fixture flurry

ROB Mallett can be forgiven for wondering what on earth this season has been all about where his Cadbury Heath team’s fluctuating fortunes are concerned, writes Simon Parkinson.

The Springfield side find themselves in unwanted and unchartered climes deep down inside the Toolstation Western Premier Division basement, not helped by the fact they have played significantly fewer fixtures than everybody else in the league.

So much so that Heath, despite being well into their March stint, have only just passed the midway juncture of their 2017-18 programme, due in some part to lengthy runs in the four national and local knock-out cup competitions they entered.

The bad weather that has affected everybody at every level of the local game has done nothing to help matters either, of course.

What can’t be disguised is the fact Mallett’s men now have such a congested run-in to confront that games will be coming at them thicker and faster than ever, with no fewer than ten fixtures to pack in over April, as though eight matches adorning this March month was not ample enough!

The Springfield supremo has also had to bite the bullet over losing Matt Huxley to the seasoned super-striker’s former club Oldland Abbotonians in recent days, although he wasted little time in unearthing a replacement in the wonderfully-named Tornado Bello, snatched from the clutches of South West Peninsula League side Newquay.

Mallett grinned: “As soon as I heard the name I thought, ‘I’m signing him’!

“It’s a shame to lose Matt but he’s had his injuries and needs to play regular football again.

“We are sorry to see him go but we wish him all the best and understand his reasons.

“Tornado has come in now having recently moved towards Bristol and he’s a direct and powerful centre-forward; a real handful for defenders.”

Bello is one of no fewer than ten recent additions to Heath’s ranks, two of the latest including AEK Boco keeper Joe Pople and versatile ex-Cirencester and Frome Town forward James Difford.

“James played for Yate earlier in the season and is an ex-Bristol City youngster,” Mallett explained. “He made his debut for us from the start against Hengrove and did very well.

“Joe also started in goal against Hengrove having been with me briefly at Bitton last year and Boco for many years where he enjoyed success.

“Like Tornado, he’s in his later 20s and has made a huge difference already as it’s an area I’ve long been trying to strengthen.

“It’s been important to have all these new players in because we’re only just over midway through our season and we’re well into March now so it’s going to be all hands to the pump.

Despite the flurry of games fast approaching, a philosophical Mallett maintained: “The fixture list is what it is and we won’t be complaining about it. We’ll be seeing it as a good challenge.

“We just have to tackle each game as it comes and pick up as many points as possible to climb the table.”

Mar 12 - Mar 16

Langdon eyes Challenge Trophy/Les Phillips cup double in bid to lift Bitton’s season

DETERMINED Dan Langdon is on a double cup mission – starting with Tuesday’s intriguing GFA Challenge Trophy semi-final clash at home against Hardwicke (March 20, 7.30pm), writes Simon Parkinson.

The Bitton boss has seen his team’s chances of entering the Toolstation Premier Division promotion shake-up evaporate, while making no secret of his and his club’s insatiable appetite for securing a place in the Evo-Stik Southern League next time around.

While all that has had to be put on the back burner for now, Langdon and his colleagues believe success in two knock-out competitions can send them into pre-season with belief levels raised ready for a more concerted attempt to bring higher-level football to the Recreation Ground in the months to follow.

Bitton follow up Tuesday’s tough-looking Hardwicke test with a Toolstation Les Phillips League Cup quarter-final away-day with Bridgwater Town on Saturday 24, by which time they hope to have safely dispensed of the competent Gloucestershire County Leaguers and booked a berth in this season’s April 26 Oaklands Park Challenge Trophy showpiece.

Langdon is looking to previous county cup final appearances as positive portents too in the bid to clinch 2017-18 silverware.

Bitton beat Tuesday’s semis opponents Hardwicke 2-1 in the 2007-08 Trophy final before repeating the feat the following year when Slimbridge were overcome by the same scoreline.

“Even though I was our reserve team keeper at the time I was on the bench the night we last won the competition and it was great to be part of it,” Langdon recalled.

“I was also player-manager of our reserves and saved one of two penalties I kept out in the shoot-out which ensured our ressies won the Senior Amateur Cup two years back (with victory over Easton Cowboys).

“I still have the article written about it and again it’s a great memory.

“It was a funny couple of days for me as we’d won the cup on the Tuesday night and on the very next night I went to Bradford Town and played central midfield for the first team!”

Langdon’s desire to conclude a helter-skelter season at the Bitton helm on a high is understandable. By his own admission his mid-table side sit well below their lofty early-season objectives.

“It has been frustrating; everyone, myself included, expected us to be higher,” he confessed. “Yet at the same time I’m quite proud of what’s been achieved as we have a new team and we’ve become much harder to beat.

“It’s not helped that we’ve had injury and discipline problems and now our 18-goal leading scorer Tom Knighton is out for the season with a cruciate knee ligament injury, although I’m delighted he’s agreed to stay with us next season as he’s fantastic on and off the pitch and a real clubman.”

Why Hanham Abbotonians have grounds for hope thanks to big Lees Hill revamp

HANHAM Abbotonians appear to be a club on the up and up – with a gleaming new ground to aid their ambitious mission, writes Simon Parkinson.

The Lees Hill outfit have followed up an encouraging runners-up completion to their maiden 2016-17 Bristol and District League campaign under the Abbotonians umbrella by pitching themselves third for now in the same Division Five standings.

While making a case for league title status is looking a fast-fading prospect with undefeated Stokeside and current leaders Shaftesbury Crusade Reserves steaming on unabated at the summit, Hanham officials nevertheless believe there’s every reason to feel they can put themselves firmly in the mix for promotion honours next time around, helped by the securement of facilities they can truly call their own.

Manager and chairman Ian Gillespie explained: “Until 2015 we didn’t have any senior teams; just a dozen or so junior and youth sides in operation as they had been for many years as part of Hanham Athletic Youth.

“We’d been looking to form one senior and junior club with Hanham Athletic and for various reasons that didn’t come off.

“So we made the decision to go our own way and we began by renting pitches off Nicholas Wanderers and Hanham Abbots School while the council, who were brilliant in all this, eventually found us a facility at Lees Hill in Kingswood.

“We were in danger at one point of losing the site due to council budget cuts affecting open spaces but when a public consultation was held we expressed our interest in the ground. With no other interested party coming forward we took the whole facility on, meaning we’d now by absorbing all costs and maintenance.

“So by March 2017 we had our own ground, even though we’d had use of it the previous season.”

Gillespie’s interest in Hanham football began almost a decade ago when his son Rob played for a junior under-9 team he managed.

The Abbotonians still pitch no fewer than ten junior and youth sides, including two girls’ teams, into Hanham Minor, Avon Youth and Bristol Girls League action every weekend, not to mention that flourishing, still-fledgling senior men’s wing which continues to make promising strides.

Gillespie acknowledged: “Because we have a base now at Lees Hill everything’s coming together. When we had no single place to call our own we’d use local council pitches, schools and Vicarage Road Playing Field for home games.

“We managed to obtain a £10,000 grant from the Football Foundation for refurbishment of the Lees Hill clubhouse, which had once been used as a nursery incorporating changing rooms for football.

“We negotiated some funding from the council too as the building was in such disrepair and the whole clubhouse revamp cost us around £27,000.

“It’s so much better now: it’s all been rewired with central heating and new kitchen, new windows and a knock-through to the garage for extension purposes, And there’s a licensed bar which is always welcome!

“With all that behind us the plan now is to push for promotion as quickly as possible.”

Gillespie added: “We’re a new team still and it can be hard attracting players because of it, but we have a decent core of around 18 lads making for an average age of 21/22.

“With our latest under-16 team coming to an end the prospects are looking good for setting up a senior second team next season.

“Our primary aim is to move up through the divisions and try to keep the pathway open for the club’s young players to stay with us into adulthood.”

He’s back again! Hallen legend Domone returns for short-term managerial fix

TOOLSTATION Premier Division club Hallen are searching for another new manager – but happily find themselves in capable and familiar hands for now!

The Moorhouse Lane outfit, who have experienced another largely torrid season frantically attempting to stave off the lingering threat of relegation, recently parted company with Rob Sage after only three months as a replacement for player-boss Ben Willshire at the rudder.

Pressed into unexpected action once more, chairman Lee Fairman and his committee quickly unearthed what they deem “an ideal interim manager” in the shape of one Gary Domone, who oversaw what Fairman fondly labels a “golden period” in the club’s rollercoaster 69-year history in the early-to-mid noughties.

The Hallen chief enthused: “We’re really grateful to Gary for agreeing to step in for a short period.

“He was manager here when we won the Division One title in 2003-04 before taking us on our best-ever FA Cup run all the way to the fourth and final qualifying round a year later when Canvey Island eventually knocked us out.

“It was a golden period for the club and he went on to manage Taunton and Wellington before returning to us for a season.

“Gary’s had to take a break from football for family reasons but having him back now is perfect for us given his knowledge of the semi-pro scene.

“He’s also a personal friend of mine and Andy Hicks, our vice-chairman, who assisted Gary during those successful years.”

Fairman added: “We’ll be looking to advertise the post officially and it’s nice that already we’ve had four or five potentially good candidates expressing interest ahead of us doing so.

“We’ve got three home games in a row now and if the process takes a little longer then we have away games against Wellington, Buckland and Willand coming up which are near to where Gary lives.”

So-popular Sofab continuing to offer exciting football and employment opportunities

SOFAB Sports manager Dale Rawlins says he can’t put a price on the satisfaction he gains from watching adult and junior people with physical and learning difficulties flourishing on the football stage.

The 21-year-old co-founder of the community interest and social enterprise company, along with his father Chris, oversees 14 teams of varying age levels and abilities, many of whom partake in the popular Gloucestershire FA Ability Counts League.

Dale, who also manages Abbeymead Rovers in conventional 11-a-side Gloucestershire Northern Senior League Division Two action having played for the club since a mad-keen four-year-old, explained: “Sofab stands for ‘social fabric’ and we provide participation opportunities for people who can’t access mainstream sport and social activity and provide employment opportunities for them.

“We have regular Friday night football training sessions attended by between 60 and 70 adult and junior males and females at Abbeydale Community Centre, although there are around 100 registered players which is tremendous.

“They all have their various challenges in life, be it mental health issues, learning difficulties, physical disabilities; some with eye and hearing conditions and others who had challenges with their schooling through having, for example, dyslexia.

“We have one person with us who was on the books of Cheltenham Town when he was young and had to have a titanium plate inserted in his leg after sustaining bone cancer. Another of our players, Phil Humphries, plays on his knees but he’s still a really good goalkeeper.”

Dale added: “The Ability Counts League is split into four divisions, including the top seven-a-side section for players who have maybe had experience of playing in the Northern Senior League or even at County League level. The other three divisions cater for five-a-side football which incorporates a development league.

“Regardless of the status they play at, they ALL want to win; it’s so competitive!”

Dale, a former GFA young coach of the year recipient at the county association’s annual presentations, said: “Fixtures for the Ability Counts League take place once a month over a six-month season at All Saints Academy, Cheltenham; St Bede’s College in Bristol and on another 3G pitch at the GFA’s Oaklands Park centre in Almondsbury.

“It’s nice that we cater for something like 15 to 20 children aged between nine and 16 at our Friday training sessions although with the young ones it’s more a case of trying to get them back into mainstream junior and youth football where possible.

“For those of us who run it, it’s extremely rewarding being able to watch them all progressing with, and enjoying, their football and trying to win leagues, as well as being able to help and support them with employment prospects as some really do have severe disabilities.”

Hot-shot Huxley could prove just the ticket to lift Oldland Abbotonians fortunes

OLDLAND Abbotonians are hoping the sudden return of super-striker Matt Huxley can revitalise their Toolstation First Division fortunes.

The ambitious Castle Road club had high hopes of putting themselves in the frame to go up this season following a largely disappointing 2016-17 but have instead found themselves well off the promotion pace seated around the mid-table region.

Manager Scott Armstrong will no doubt want to put all that right next time around but for now he is, with 17 fixtures still to confront, eyeing a positive conclusion to their campaign – and the arrival of hot-shot Huxley is evidence of that.

It’s a case of déjà vu for a forward who spent ten seasons on Southampton’s books in the Dell days of Dave Jones, Glenn Hoddle and Stuart Gray before a serious injury ended his prospects of a professional career.

The Bristolian, who won the 2014-15 Western League Golden Boot award for his 42 goals for Cadbury Heath, was with Oldland for several seasons, scoring an eye-watering 142 times in 146 Western League games for them and many more prior to that when a hungry Somerset County League competitor.

That turned heads at Weston-super-Mare where he joined on a two-year contract and following a brief spell at Yate Town, Huxley settled just up the road from Oldland at Cadbury Heath where he also became a prolific marksman.

He had exited Oldland at the end of the 2010-11 Toolstation First Division campaign when, despite finishing second to Merthyr Town, they were not promoted, something which led to an exodus of players and a rebuilding exercise.

Oldland’s delighted boss Armstrong enthused: “Matt is well known to the club with his son involved with one of the junior sides here too.

“I have tried to freshen up the squad in recent weeks, especially in view of the huge amount of games we have remaining and the interest in our players from other clubs.

“So to have someone of his quality wanting to join us is a massive bonus. One of our players has been the subject of a seven-day notice of approach from a Southern League side but if he decides to stay then we do, I’m sure, have a good group capable of a strong end to the season.”

Cadbury Heath club president Terry Mitchell added: “Younger players could learn so much from Matt who just loves to play football and will always go through the pain barrier to play.

“He has also scored the best goal I ever witnessed at Gillingham a few seasons ago where everyone in the ground applauded.”

Mar 5 - Mar 9

Lancaster: We’ll not relent in our attempts to turn Boco into a true local football force

AEK Boco’s determined members say they will motor on unabated until they have attained their next big goal – elevation to the Toolstation Western League, writes Simon Parkinson.

The impressive Hanham-based set-up have taken on additional new facilities in Kingswood, Bristol, due to ongoing expansion, not least to their youth and junior departments.

Yet they desperately want a senior first team performing on bigger stages “as quickly as possible” to help not only attract players of all ages, male and female, to the club, but retain them too.

The 2015-16 Marcliff Gloucestershire County League champions had been hopeful entering the current campaign that this could be their year.

Those grand plans have had to be shelved for now as the battle to get the local council and residents onside as part of requisite efforts to upgrade their Greenbank Road facilities continues. A critical meeting with all interested parties is imminent, although no firm date had been set as we went to press.

Chairman of the adult section, Gary Lancaster, explained: “We’re going to hold a public consultation involving the council, landowners and local residents, to openly discuss where we’re heading as a local football club and what we need to do to progress to the next level up.

“We’ll not have the facilities the FA requires us to have in place for a promotion attempt this season, even though we’re still in with an outside chance of winning the league.

“Everyone with an interest in what’s happening at Boco will have their say at the meeting and hopefully it will lead to planning permission being granted for floodlights, a stand, fencing, hard standing; all the things we need in place to meet FA ground grading criteria for Western League football.

“It’s vital that we keep progressing because we want the wealth of young talent we have at Boco to stay with us rather than go to clubs who already have everything in place for the higher level.”

Boco’s former boss Lancaster, who continues to help out the flourishing club’s new hot-seat incumbent Clayton Woodman and his assistant Darren Sealey on matchdays, enthused: “We must have a unique set-up in that nine of our 16-man squad came through the junior and youth ranks here.

“And our Bristol and District League team contains a lot of lads who made the leap from our under-18s and they’re flying at the top of Division One.

“Our dedicated chairman John Winter, who has been pushing this whole ambitious project of ours forward, reckons 95 per cent of all Boco players, including ladies and girls, live within a one-mile radius of the ground which is phenomenal.

“Because of the size of the club now we’ve recently taken on nearby pitches at Tenniscourt Road and Fisher Road with a view, eventually, to installing a 3G facility at one of our three venues.”

On the field Boco no longer have Joe Pople to call upon following the experienced keeper’s switch to Toolstation Premier side Cadbury Heath, although they appear to have unearthed a more than able replacement in 17-year-old Mason Hawkins, who has performed for Yate Town Under-18s.

Long-serving centre-forward Jordan Scott has, however, taken a break from the game.

FA chairman Clarke: England CP ace Jack Rutter can inspire next generation

LYDNEY Town star Jack Rutter has won praise from FA chairman Greg Clarke after his international footballing world was suddenly turned upside down – and not for the first time!

The 26-year-old has been informed he can no longer represent England Cerebral Palsy due to revised classification rules which effectively state that players with “minimal impairments” are no longer considered eligible to take part in competitive CP football.

The change comes on the back of a four-year research programme undertaken by International Federation for Cerebral Palsy Football and the decision affects several players across the globe.

Rutter, a fast-emerging Birmingham City prodigy at the time, was badly injured in an attack on him in Gloucester in March 2009. And while the traumatic brain injury he received, which affected his hearing and balance, abruptly ended any hopes he harboured of making a career as a professional footballer, he lifted himself from his despair to go on and skipper England CP’s successful side.

Despite the latest news Rutter, from Newent, will not only carry on with the FA’s disability talent pathway role models programme but he has been called up as a coach to England CP Under-21’s aspiring squad.

His work too with the Dame Kelly Holmes Trust and visits to schools will also continue unabated.

Rutter , who has featured 16 times for Lydney in the Hellenic Premier Division this term, performed 21 times in tournaments for England CP and matched that achievement with 21 goals.

He said of his swift change in circumstances: “Captaining my nation has been an unbelievable experience and I’ve been proud to pull on the shirt for every game.

“Naturally I’m disappointed but I'm looking forward to the many challenges and opportunities for me in the future.

 “I’ve travelled around the world, played in five major tournaments and was lucky enough to captain my country in a European Championship, two World Championships and the second biggest sporting event in the world, the Paralympic Games, in Rio 2016.”

Rutter began his journey when he gained selection for the East Midlands regional CP team.

After playing against the Great Britain squad preparing for the 2012 London Paralympics, he then got selected to attend their first camp late that year.

FA chairman Clarke enthused: “Jack has not only been an iconic player but a role model and a credit to the Three Lions badge.

“His very presence in the England Cerebral Palsy team has helped raise the profile of disability football, and the players that participate, across the country and at all levels.

“I’m delighted he will be staying within the England set-up where his story will continue to provide inspiration for the next generation.”

Super Sofab Ladies clinging to tails of Abbeymead aces in GFA Ability Counts run-in

SOFAB Sports Ladies are giving the lads a run for their money around the upper realms of the Gloucestershire FA Ability Counts Development League ladder!

The team has won eight and drawn one of their 12 fixtures to date to pitch themselves second in the five-a-side table behind undefeated leaders Abbeymead Rovers Development in a men-dominated section of the popular four-division league.

Whether they can yet push the pacesetters all the way to the title line remains to be seen. But it’s nevertheless an improvement on last season when Ryan Pearson’s novice side secured a commendable fifth-spot status in a Development League containing eight enthusiastic teams.

Sofab Ladies operate under the umbrella of Sofab (Social Fabric) Sports, a community and social enterprise company in Gloucester founded and run by Chris Rawlins and his son Dale Rawlins.

They oversee 14 disability teams, many of whom feature competitively in the Ability Counts League, along with providing weekly sessions for some 60 to 70 people, many of them children, on Friday nights at Abbeydale Community Centre, although Sofab have around 100 players on their books altogether.

Dale explained of those female fliers: “This is the ladies’ second season and it all began when the boys were attending Friday night training as usual and bringing girlfriends along.

“I suggested they also got involved and those girls then began telling other females about it and suddenly we were in a position to form a team. Now we have a 14-girl squad and they include Katie Carter upfront, who also plays in goal for Abbeymead C men’s team in League One who have been pushing hard to win the title.

“I still remember when the ladies scored their first-ever goal: you’ve never seen such big cheers when that went in!

“It was great because pretty much none of them had ever kicked a ball or even done any sport before last season and they absolutely love it.

“They’ll have to go some now to catch the leaders Abbeymead but they’re up there and challenging hard. The ladies team is run by Ryan Pearson who actually plays in midfield for that same Abbeymead side!

“Ryan is pretty versatile as he also features in goal for the ladies as they tend to struggle for keepers.”

Seymour United’s Combination One table-toppers so focused on successful future

SEYMOUR United have adopted a serious “club mentality” they hope can keep them in pole position to go back up this season – and maintain their status and more if and when they achieve those lofty goals, writes Simon Parkinson.

So says assistant manager Adam Allinson, whose team headed into their Saturday, February 24 away-day with Bristol Manor Farm Reserves topping the Bristol Premier Combination Premier One table by a healthy ten points ahead of impressive second-placed challengers Stapleton.

Those closest Frenchay-based title rivals have been enjoying a storming first season at the level on the back of their 2016-17 promotion triumph as District League Senior Division winners.

In what promises to be an enthralling conclusion to the campaign, undefeated Stapleton have also had three crucial games in hand up their sleeves to fuel their chances of yet catching the Coronation Park pacesetters, who have been parading only one defeat all term.

Nevertheless Seymour are the ones with the points on the board and determined to replicate their 2009-10 Premier One championship success, which led to an all-too-brief stay in the Combination’s top-flight before relegation the following season rushed them straight back to the second tier. They’ve been there ever since.

In fact not only did Neale Coles’ first XI elevate themselves to new heights but Seymour’s second and third teams also won promotions at their various levels of District League activity that year.

Allinson smiled: “We were in the Premier Division a few years back before my return to Seymour, so we’ll say this is all down to me!

“In all seriousness, as a club we really want to grow and flourish. Having a strong first team helps us attract better quality players which in turn also helps strengthen our reserve and A teams.

“Having players who have performed at a higher level of the local game is also invaluable due to their experience and knowledge of potential signings.

“We have a club mentality, led by a strong management team, which is about trying to improve year on year.

“The club brought in a fitness trainer for pre-season and we certainly reaped the benefits of that. We also introduced a club charter this year to make everyone involved with the club responsible for its success.”

Seymour United have been in business since 1976 when Geoff Chapple instigated a meeting of 18 people at his home in Seymour Road, Staple Hill, to discuss the prospect of forming a senior set-up from players associated with a junior club performing in the local Boys Brigade League.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Allinson proclaimed: “We want the club to be around for another 42 years so we have to develop strong bonds with our players as we’re going to need them to step up on AND off the pitch.

“At the moment we have a good, strong core of players, lads like our strikers Tom Morgan and Mike Davey; midfielders Jason Side and veteran Ben Coles, as well as defenders Ash Bernard and Mark Coles.

“Recently we managed to find ourselves 2-0 down at half-time against De Veys but got it back to 2-2 with sensational strikes from Jack Gore and Ash.

Mike (Davey) then converted a penalty to put us in front but a couple of minutes later we were pulled back by a De Veys equaliser to finish up at 3-3.

“The fact we were disappointed at the end of the game is testament to how far we’ve come this season under our player-manager Jack Garland.

“I for one fully back this group of players and they’re more than good enough to reach the targets we have set as a club.”

Invitations are out as Wick call on teams to join annual summer veterans showpiece

WICK Football Club are already gearing up for the return of the local game’s ‘golden oldies’ for what promises to be another summer soccer spectacular.

The successful Marcliff Gloucestershire County League newcomers, who have senior reserve and A teams also holding their own capably in the Bristol and District Senior and third divisions, are to supply a stage once more for their annual veterans six-a-side competition on Saturday, June 2.

Now in its ninth year, the club say they’re promising a “great social event” for all involved in the Oldbury Lane extravaganza.

Treasurer Matt Davis explained: “We are planning to start games at 11am to allow the competition to be over before the scheduled 5.15pm England and Nigeria match at Wembley, which we are planning to show on a big projector screen in our clubhouse.

“We have donated more than £1,500 to charity from our last three competitions and our target this year, if we manage to fill all the spots, is £500.

“Upon entry each team will have the opportunity to nominate a charity of their choice to be selected from a ballot, which will receive all entrance fees and any other donations.

“The day will provide a great opportunity to meet up with players past and present in a friendly atmosphere.”

Matt added: “We are hoping to get 16 FA-affiliated teams on board. We’ll be running four leagues on the day with each team guaranteed three games.

“We have taken on some feedback from last year and as a result will be widening the pitches and providing opportunities for teams finishing in third and fourth places to play other games.”

Team entry fee is £30 and all players must be strictly aged 35 or over. There will be a variety of refreshments available throughout the day and each game will be overseen by a qualified official.

Tournament rules and entry forms can be provided via the contact details below.

Matt stressed: “We are keen to confirm numbers asap so if you’re interested in participating we’d be grateful if you could let us know by the end of March.

“If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to contact me on 07977 510352 or by emailing wickfc@hotmail.co.uk

“Alternatively you can message us via our ‘Wick Football Club – Bristol’ Facebook page.”
Feb 26 - Mar 2

Brilliant Bendix overcome Iron Acton to keep on Intermediate South Cup course

UNBEATEN Bristol and District Division Two leaders Bendix’s sparkling season continues unabated!

They booked a berth in the final of the GFA Intermediate South Cup with a 3-1 away victory over Iron Acton Reserves, whose consolation came from James Weston, through Aaron Cook, Dan Norley and Paul Johnson goals.

It’s been a remarkable campaign so far for the lethal Lees Hill juggernaut. They were set to enter their mouthwatering Saturday, February 24 away encounter with second-placed Tormarton with 11 wins from 11 appearances while acutely aware they have a significant fixture programme catch-up on their hands now following a raft of postponements.

Bendix now take on Bristol Churches League Division One championship chasers Woodlands in an Oaklands Park final on Monday, April 9 (7.30pm) virtually certain to go ahead given the slick 3G surface they’ll be performing on.

And an absorbing prospect that promises to be too as Woodlands, who perform at South Bristol Sports Centre on West Town Lane, have been in imperious form themselves to pitch up in second place in their table on the strength of an unbeaten season of their own.

They continued to fly the flag for the Churches League in the Intermediate competition by overcoming Downs League Division Two team Clifton Rockets 4-1 with goals by Ieuan Pearse (2), Alex Bakker and Andy Baynton.

Yate Athletic cemented their place in the final of the GFA Junior South Cup with an enthralling 6-4 away victory over Suburban League Division Two leaders Stoke Rangers.

The Bristol and District Division One side achieved it with goals from Simon Purnell (2), Dan Edwards, Richard Gardener, Kelvin Martin and Luke Meacham to set up an Oaklands Park showdown with league rivals AFC Mangotsfield on Monday, April 16 (7.30pm).

Mangos made it there courtesy of a hard-fought 2-0 away success against high-riding District One compatriots Made For Ever via Chris Watson and Ross Porter strikes in heavy conditions at Southey Fields.

Castle Green made it a Churches League double following Woodlands’ efforts by claiming a final place in the GFA Minor South Cup thanks to a dramatic 4-3 penalty shoot-out victory over Saints Old Boys A, after the sides had been locked at 1-1 at the end of normal time on the Downs thanks to Jason Bates’ equaliser for Castle.

It means the Whitehall Playing Fields hopefuls, whose county cup run has offered a welcome boost from the rigours of battling it out around the Churches Division One basement, will face Hillfields Old Boys Reserves in an Oaklands Park tussle on Tuesday, April 3 (7.30pm).

A tough one that promises to be too for the Green glory-seekers: Hillfields, who had a George Snowden goal to thank for seeing them edge a 1-0 win at Nicholas Wanderers A in their semis tie, are well placed in District Four to strike for the title and subsequent promotion with games in hand to enhance their chances.

Evans above! Stokeside slickers down Raiders to reach Primary South Cup final

STOKESIDE’S elated player-manager Ricky Evans says he and his team-mates are still pinching themselves after reaching the final of the GFA Primary South Cup – and in their very first season in business to boot, writes Simon Parkinson.

The clinical Coniston Road conquerors are on course for a Bristol and District League Division Five championship success too after enjoying an unbeaten campaign thus far, hard on the heels of last summer’s quickfire formation in a Majorca karaoke bar!

While there’s all to play for on that front, Evans’ experienced aces can already look forward to a prized end-of-season showpiece occasion at Oaklands Park where they’ll take on Bristol Downs League Division Four side NCSF United, who have every reason to celebrate themselves after dispensing of Bradley Stoke Town A in their semis showdown 2-1 to enter a county cup final for the first time in their 30-year history under various guises.

The match takes place on Wednesday, March 28 (7.30pm) and striker Evans, whose men overcame another Downs League hopeful in hosts Redcliffe Rangers thanks to Enis Akgun’s hat-trick and Craig Hopkins effort, enthused: “We’re absolutely delighted to have reached the final.

“We’ve just had two very difficult games on the Downs to progress, including our 4-1 win at Lion Reserves in the last eight and then Redcliffe Raiders, who were a very good outfit as their recent record of not losing in 12 games shows.

“For us it’s a huge achievement as we have a lot of old legs in our side, so to get to a GFA cup final is unbelievable for us.”

Evans has another good reason to celebrate Stokeside’s 2017-18 county cup adventure, one he hopes will culminate with the securement of silverware.

“Winning county competitions is something that has eluded us in the past,” he explained.

“We lost in the final of the Senior Amateur Cup when Matt Burnard and I managed Little Stoke, so winning this one is high on our agenda.”

Bob Stewart: Patchway Town and County League ‘great’ never to be forgotten

DOZENS of tributes have been paid to Patchway Town’s long-serving former secretary Bob Stewart following the sad news of his recent death.

Among them are those offered by Ron Holpin, secretary of the Marcliff Gloucestershire County League, who spent “many happy hours” in the company of a “popular and dedicated football and family man” he grew to know extremely well.

In an emotional conversation with GFA Local Football News, Ron admitted he had been struggling to come to terms with the sudden passing of a friend and colleague - and with good reason.

He explained: “Bob and I went to watch Gloucestershire County League games together every week for more than a decade.

“He was chairman of our league for 11 years (2006-2017) and more recently our president, while vice-chairman prior to all that (2000-2006).

“Bob was a real PR man, always chatting to people at games and in the clubhouses. He’d be next to me one minute and the next thing I knew he’d be the other side of the pitch chatting away to someone else!

“The emails I had from clubs after hearing of his death summed up people’s feelings about him and his popularity. The messages expressed what a gentleman he was and what a help he had been to them. And they’re right; he was just an easy-going, likeable man to talk to.

“But he was very much a family man too, always talking about them and what they were up to.

“Bob would be there for you if you needed him, as I know from personal experience. When I had hip and eye operations and couldn’t drive for a few months, he would pick me up and take me shopping; he was that sort of man.

“When it came to our weekly football trips together, sometimes midweek, he would ring me up on Saturday mornings to find out which game we’d be going to that day. We lived close by which helped, Bob in Patchway and me in Little Stoke; two miles apart on the button.

“I found out with Bob that you can be friends with people without being in their pockets all the time and I shall really miss him, as I am already.”

Ron added: “Of course he is best known for being Patchway Town’s secretary for around five decades, something that in years to come will be unheard of as the grassroots game changes.

“He was still associated with Patchway when he became chairman of our league before concentrating on his role with us.”

Social media has been full of eulogies too relating to Bob Stewart.

Patchway Town tweeted: “As a club we are sad to hear the news of Bob Stewart’s passing. Bob was a true legend at our club and was involved in our success for so many years, filling pretty much every role at the club. Our thoughts go out to his family and friends.”

The Scott Park’s club’s former manager Dean Horseman added: “Bob is a Patchway Town FC legend. He gave so much to them for so many years.”

Cribbs FC wrote: “Our deepest thoughts and condolences go out to Bob Stewart’s family and friends after hearing of his sad passing. Bob served both Patchway Town FC and Gloucestershire County League over so many years and was a driving force in the success of both.”

Bob’s sudden death was also noted by Brislington FC who proclaimed: “This man was everything and without people like him, football is a much sadder place.”

Bob Stewart’s funeral is to be held at Westerleigh Crematorium at 2pm on Thursday, March 8. A wake will follow at Patchway Sports and Social Club.

Peter McPherson: why the world of football will miss a super servant of the local game

LOCAL football continues to mourn the passing of two well-known and respected servants of the Gloucestershire game.

Many tributes from far and wide have been paid to Peter McPherson, chairman of the Bristol and Avon League and an enthusiastic and dedicated supporter of the area’s youth football family, and Bob Stewart, the popular and long-serving former secretary of Patchway Town following their recent deaths.

In a personal tribute to Peter at his funeral held at Canford Crematorium, Gloucestershire FA deputy chairman Roy Schafer said: “Peter’s football career began in 1946 when he played for Christchurch Hengrove Boys Club, later known as Hengrove Athletic. He then enjoyed spells at Rural Sports, who played in the District League, and Retainers on the Downs before starting up St Bede’s Youth Club in 1955, the year in which he qualified as a referee.

“Peter was elected treasurer of the Bristol Church of England League in 1970, the same year he was elected to the council of the Gloucestershire Football Association. The president of the league at that time was the Right Reverend Lord Bishop of Bristol, so Peter did mix with some exalted people.

“1973 saw the formation of the Bristol and Avon League and Peter became secretary until 1976.  He still remained as their council representative and in 1984 was elected chairman of the league. Peter remained in that position until 2017 when he became the president of the league.

“One of Peter’s great interests in football was matches involving youth teams and the league at one stage had three youth divisions. He particularly enjoyed matches in the Durnford Cup, a Somerset-based competition.

“It was this that made him an obvious choice for the county match committee where we currently have two male youth teams at under-16 and 18 levels. It was at those representative matches that you would find Peter with Mary, of course, and his great friend George Mallett.

“Peter did a fantastic job representing the county in an ambassadorial role and was widely known and respected throughout football by players, officials and other council members.

“Peter served the county with distinction. He was closely involved with the Gloucestershire County League as vice-chairman and then treasurer. He was also a founder member and secretary of the Bristol Combination Under-18 league.

“Peter was also the first president of the Gloucestershire County Women’s League. He was always extremely supportive of the league and women’s football in general.”

Roy added: Peter was never happier than seeing his clubs or referees go on to greater things in football and that was a true measure of the man.

“I first met Peter in 1985 and we sat on a great many appeals together. Peter had a great understanding of rules and was in his element. He would arrive with questions and I had to remind him that it wasn’t an all night sitting but it made life easy because you could start him off and then sit back. You could guarantee he would have everything covered.

“He also served on the Southern County Cups Committee for a great many years and enjoyed the meetings and of course the finals. He made a great contribution to the committee.

“Peter was involved in insurance work and provided the Gloucestershire FA with fantastic advice over the years and often sorted out the right policy for us. In this day and age where litigation is taken against individuals and organisations, it was vital to ensure we were properly covered and, as everyone knows, the devil is often in the detail.

“Peter would take care of things like that but he would do it like he did everything else in a quiet and unassuming kind of way.

“Amongst his many achievements Peter was elected firstly as a vice-president of the association, then as a life vice president and then as president of the association, where he again carried out his duties with distinction.

“Football today says goodbye to a lovely man, someone who has given over 60 years of his life to the game. He was a friend, someone who could be relied upon always. I shall miss him; the world of football will miss him.”

Gloucestershire County League secretary Ron Holpin said: “I knew Peter when he was treasurer of our league between 1980 and 2004. He was also our vice-chairman in the late 1970s for a spell and chairman between 2000 and 2006.

 “Like Bob Stewart he was a great servant, a single-minded man who knew what he wanted.

“Types like these are going to be hard to find in years to come and they’ll be sorely missed.”

A separate tribute article about Bob Stewart can be found here shortly on Local Football News.

Deadly De Veys striker Nutland celebrates milestone moment with big-game double

JOHN Nutland isn’t a renowned marksman of the local grassroots circuit for no good reason as his goal exploits amply demonstrate, writes Simon Parkinson.

De Veys’ experienced frontman approached his team’s recent ding-dong date with Seymour United at Coronation Park knowing a meritorious milestone moment was his to cherish if good fortune favoured him even though his opponents were, and still are, soaring high at the Bristol Premier Combination Premier One summit with an impressive record.

Despite some early pressure from the hosts, De Veys instead took the lead through Dylan Whittle’s excellent free-kick.

It got even better for the Norton Lane visitors as Nutland, at the tender age of 36, was finally able to celebrate his landmark 200th goal for De Veys to help hand his comrades a shock 2-0 interval lead as far as Seymour were concerned.

Perhaps unsurprisingly given their thirst for championship and subsequent promotion success, Seymour fought back hard in the second half, showing all their undoubted quality with two superb long-range strikes by Jack Gore and centre-back Ash Bernard, before taking the lead through Mike Davey with what the agonised De Veys camp deemed a “hotly-disputed penalty” with five minutes remaining.

De Veys and their super striker, riding high in only their second season in the Combination competition following 2015-16 elevation from the Bristol and District League, weren’t finished.

Nutland, who has made more than 400 appearances for the Hengrove-based club, capped a memorable day for him and his team-mates with his 201st goal, a dramatic injury-time header to tie up the scores at 3-3 once and for all.

De Veys showed their mettle once more in their follow-up appearance against Real Thornbury guests who had been in hot form themselves in front of target in the lead-up to the game, with 15 goals bagged in back-to-back 8-0 and 7-2 Oaklands Park romps over Oldland Abbotonians Reserves and a much-improved DRG Frenchay outfit.

There was no stopping the Ross boys either – Staley and Griffin – who paraded five-goal hauls respectively in the two wins.

This time Thorns had to settle for a point from a 1-1 draw after Griffin had put them in front before Bloomfield restored parity from the penalty spot, ensuring De Veys a lofty fourth-spot status in the table entering their away fixture on Saturday, February 17 with Roman Glass St George Reserves’ winless basement battlers at Bell Hill. 

Feb 19 - 23

Iron Acton aces hoping it’s all systems go for big Bristol Premier Combination return

IRON Acton are embroiled in a gripping race with a view to returning to former heights – to the delight of volunteers behind the scenes enthusiastically spurring them on.

The Yate-based Bristol and District League Senior Division leaders underlined their championship trophy aspirations in following up a 6-1 crushing of Bradley Stoke Town on their travels by putting paid to Lebeq Reserves 5-1 seven days on ahead of their away date with mid-table Wick on Saturday, February 3, when Jamie Angell’s Acton aces were hoping to reinforce their position at the head of the pack.

For the Sunnyside Lane outfit there’s a bigger picture present. It’s a decade since Iron Acton dropped out of the Bristol Premier Combination league and secretary Chris Wilmot is keeping everything crossed, along with his dedicated club comrades, that it’s all systems go for a coveted return to those grassroots heights . . . hopefully this season.

Weighing up an enthralling scenario at the top end of the District League ladder, Wilmot acknowledged: “We’re in a race with Pucklechurch and Hillfield Old Boys to win the title this season.

“It was the ambition of our former first team manager Adam Taylor - Mr Iron Acton - to gain promotion back to the BPC before his tragic death just prior to the start of last season.

“That was when our centre-half Jamie Angell took up the mantle and after a very good debut season, which resulted in a fourth place finish, he recruited wisely during the summer and added players with senior football experience, such as Danny Coombes (striker), Aston Newman (midfielder) and Liam Barrett (utility player) to his squad.

“These additions to the dozen players that had five seasons or more experience with Iron Acton in the Senior Division has resulted in a team that can win both with skill and hard work.

“Except for an opening day defeat we have remained unbeaten and the target is to avoid another league loss this season.”

Wilmot said that after a “challenging last season” for everyone associated with Iron Acton FC, 2017-18 had been “more positive”.

He explained: “The wives and girlfriends, led by Jade Stinchcombe, organised a Christmas Casino Night at Chipping Sodbury Town Hall that raised much-needed funds for the club.

“It’s great too that we continue to attract backing from local businesses, including first team sponsors Shield Environmental, while the post-match hospitality is provided by Midway and Shireway Community Association in Yate.

“Ambitions for our own ground back in the village of Iron Acton are not on hold but initial investigations indicated £100k investment would be required and that is money we don’t currently have!

“That said we are very fortunate that we continue to have the use of Yate Town Council pitches at Sunnyside Playing Fields and we are keen to hear about their expansion plans for the changing rooms this summer.”

The Acton secretary added: “We can’t ignore the success of our reserve team either under the stewardship of Chris Sweet.

“They have a home fixture against their unbeaten Division Two opponents Bendix in the GFA Intermediate South Cup semi-final on Saturday, February 10 (2pm) and after two close league fixtures with them we are hoping to cause a cup upset and reach the final.

“As far as our players go, it’s fantastic that lads like Asa Taylor continue to run the line every Saturday for our first team after a long playing career, while Luke Haddow, at 27, is the only member of the current first team squad to have played in the Bristol Premier Combination league for Iron Acton.”

Joy for Georgians as Moore magic sends Dan’s destroyers into Senior Amateur semis

OLD Georgians took a major step towards securing the GFA Senior Amateur South Cup trophy for the first time in 46 long years by edging a 1-0 away victory over a dismayed Winterbourne United side, writes Simon Parkinson.

Tommy Moore’s thunderbolt midway through the first half for the ambitious Bristol and Suburban League top-flight battlers was all that was required to overcome Martin Blake’s shattered Bristol Premier Combination charges in a tense semi-final affair at Parkside Avenue.

One good reason for Georgians’ success was their goalkeeper Josh Newton, who pulled off a succession of splendid second-half saves as his team produced a brave rearguard action in the face of a barrage of Bourne attacks.

However the hosts were unable to turn those opportunities into goals and it was an overjoyed Georgians outfit who were left celebrating a memorable win to take their place in what promises to be a pulsating Monday, April 23 final showdown against reigning Bristol Downs League champions Sneyd Park (7.30pm).

Delighted player-manager and secretary Dan Pursall expressed delight that Georgians had given themselves a fighting chance of clinching a trophy they last won in 1972 while a famous local Gloucestershire County League force.

He beamed: “It’s been a long time in coming! We were in the semi-final three years ago and lost late on to Highridge 2-1 then.

“These county cup competitions are golden nuggets for teams like ours and there’s no reason why we can’t give it a good go in the final.

“It’s funny because we played Sneyd in a pre-season friendly and beat them 3-0, but there wasn’t a lot in it then and of course they’ve gone on to enjoy an unbeaten season up until now at the top of the Downs League.”

Of that semi-final success over Winterbourne, Pursall insisted: “We had to grind it out a bit in the second half after having the better of the first when Tommy scored with a shot from 25 to 30 yards into the top left corner he couldn’t have hit any sweeter.

“Our keeper Josh did really well in the second half and all credit to him because he sustained a nasty leg injury against Talbot Knowle in the last round and had been out for several weeks ever since.

“Even on the Saturday morning of the Winterbourne game he was touch and go whether to play or not and ended up being our man of the match.”

Meanwhile Bourne boss Blake was left reflecting on what might have been for his team, admitting: “We had most of the play but just could not get the ball in the net, not helped by the fact their keeper was outstanding.”

Club chairman Robyn Maggs added: “We totally outplayed them: you won’t see a more one-sided game.

“Nothing went right in front of goal and when it did we had what looked a perfectly good goal chalked off.”

Sneyd Park, meanwhile, continued their own relentless quest for honours with a 3-1 home victory over Suburban League champions St Aldhelms to tee up that tantalising Oaklands encounter in the spring.

They did so with goals from Matt Arnold, Barney David and Gareth Browning, prompting secretary of the current Bristol Downs League Division One leaders and reigning champions, Alan Derrick, to hail “a brilliant display” by his team.

His mood contrasted that of his opposite Saints number Lee Watts who confessed: “Sneyd deserved their win but I did not think the pitch was playable.” 

Ambitious Oldland Abbotonians on new manager trail in bid to fuel third team return

OLDLAND Abbotonians are putting plans in place to resurrect a third team next season – and they require a manager to drive the whole thing on!

The new wing to the aspiring Toolstation First Division club will perform in either the Bristol and District League or Bristol and Suburban League according to ambitious Aitchison Field officials.

Applications are already being sought for a manager to oversee an operation which, they say, can provide a platform for Oldland’s under-18 prodigies to rise to senior contention while offering more established players an opportunity to not only continue playing but to act as mentors to their fledgling team-mates.

Abbotonians spokesman Paul Bray explained: “Our current under-18 players are mainly only 16 years old and are partly through their first period playing in the Somerset Floodlit Youth League.

“Next year they will be that much stronger and ready to regularly play in adult football. As it is, several of them already do just that and it is testament to the club’s youth policy that two of these players were in the first-team’s Toolstation League squad for the recent match against Almondsbury - 16-year-old left-back Balesz Boda  and 17-year-old Cain Henderson. One of them (Boda) was voted man of the match for good measure.

“Balesz has played seven of our ten Floodlit Youth games and he looks an excellent prospect while Cain has just signed for the club from a local academy. He is an exciting player who has looked sharp in training and is another one we have high hopes for.

“In addition to those two, 17-year-old Bradley Lewis has featured five times for the first team while also playing regularly in our reserves, and TK Nembhard played twice for the firsts before injury.

“Goalkeeper Luke Wilson (16) had been in the squad four times ahead of being loaned to Stockwood Green to gain senior level matchday experience when injury again sadly cut his progress short.”

Bray added: “Our under-16s have been sitting sixth in Division One of the Avon Youth League and will be ready to step into adult football next season.

“Their managers, Colin Towler and Paul Milsom, will be stepping up with them and coming on board with the under-18s.

“The strengthening generally of the senior squads by the new management teams means that there is regular competition for places.

“The addition of a third string will mean that players on the fringes of the reserves will be able to enjoy a regular competitive game, while some of the older hands might want to take a step down and help the youngsters through; leading by experience.

“We have already got tentative approval for a pitch in the close vicinity for matches to be played on Saturday afternoons, enabling the squad to be in a position to return to the clubhouse after matches.”

Anyone interested in applying for the managerial position, or with questions about the new third-team project, can contact youth chairman Phil Jones on 07982 244465 (email jonesphil@blueyonder.co.uk), or club chairman Derek Jones on 07836 648327 (email chairman@oldlandfootball.com).

Cains agony as his AEK Boco battlers ‘gift’ Bitton a path into Combination Cup semis

AEK Boco Reserves boss Steve Cains voiced his dismay at seeing his team’s Bristol Premier Combination League Cup hopes evaporate for another year.

The 2015-16 Premier One runners-up have enjoyed an impressive rise to mirror that of their Gloucestershire County League comrades, going on to gain a commendable fifth-spot finish in the top tier of the Combination on the back of that promotion success the following year.

This season hasn’t quite matched those achievements when it comes to the ‘bread‘n’butter stuff, as Boco entered their away-day with Lebeq on Saturday, February 10 ninth on the ladder and some way off emulating those fifth-placed 2016-17 exploits.

Nevertheless the League Cup competition has offered some cause for cheer, 5-0 and 2-0 victories over Longwell Green Sports Reserves and Oldland Abbotonians Reserves respectively earning them a place in the last eight - where the journey abruptly ended.

Instead it was opponents Bitton Reserves, who perform a division beneath Boco, who took another stride towards bringing silverware back to their Bath Road base by beating them 3-1 at Greenbank Road with goals from Jason Vincent, Jonathan Boetteger and Josh Murphy to tee-up an inviting semis occasion for themselves.

There they will face either Cribbs Reserves, Olveston United or one of Greyfriars Athletic and Hambrook, who were set to tussle at Whiteshill Common on Saturday, February 10 for an outstanding quarter-final encounter.

Cains maintained: “It was a disappointing loss in atrocious conditions as we felt we handed Bitton the game rather than them beating us due to schoolboy errors which led to their goals.

“Even at 3-0 down at half-time we felt we had a chance. We hit a post when in a one-on-one position and Luke House pulled a goal back for us.

“Their keeper made a string of significant saves so I’m happy with the effort we gave in the second half but in the end it wasn’t to be quite our day.”

Olveston booked their own place in the last-four thanks to a 2-0 away victory over another of their closest top-tier rivals, Talbot Knowle United.

After a goalless first half on a wet and slippery pitch, George Williams came off the bench to score direct from a free-kick to hand the O’s the lead before the same player sealed the win with a late second goal.

Smerdon supershow helps Gloucester ease past Farm to seal Senior Challenge final spot

MARC Richards hailed rising Gloucester City starlet Noah Smerdon and his team-mates who propelled them into the final of the Gloucestershire FA Senior Challenge Cup with a splendid midweek success, reports Simon Parkinson.

A fine first-half Joe Parker strike and second-half efforts from Sirdic Grant, Lewis Hall and substitute Keiran Thomas, who was later red carded, sent aspiring Southern League West high-fliers and Creek hosts Bristol Manor Farm spinning out of the prestigious county competition at the semis stage via a 4-0 romp.

While the Tigers manager was satisfied enough with all of that, he paid particular attention to the performance of 17-year-old central midfielder and Sir Thomas Rich’s School scholar Smerdon, who he tips for bright things, on and off the pitch.

Richards revealed: “It was great because in the dressing room afterwards I spoke about how well Noah had done and to a man they gave him an impromptu round of applause: they all knew how well he had performed.

“He deserved it; Noah played really maturely and it’s no surprise as he’s done well with the youth team to get the chance to train with the firsts.

“Noah is a left-footer, calm and composed in possession and he has great vision and an impressive range of passing.

“We saw that with the way he set up Joe Parker with a great ball behind the Manor Farm defence for Joe to take the opportunity really well (on 26 minutes).”

The City supremo acknowledged: “Noah wasn’t the only youngster who did well. Others included Richard Platt, a right-back who has been playing with Bedford Town and Stafford Rangers over the past few months; Will Tunnicliff, a left-back at 18 and a Hartpury College student; Sirdic Grant, who scored our second goal with a lovely curling finish into the bottom corner and who has been at Hartpury for the past four years soon to graduate with a Sports Business Management degree; and Hinsa Gaye, who plays upfront and is a trialist from France.

 “All in all it was very pleasing, to score four goals against a strong Southern League side and keep a clean sheet, and that after hardly playing any games since early January because of the weather. It’s been frustrating but at least it’s given us a good chance to work on things in training.

“It was just a shame that Keiran was sent off late on after collecting two silly bookings and will now miss a match through suspension.”

Gloucester polished off their opponents inside a whirlwind six-minute second-half spell, starting on 53 minutes with that Grant goal followed by Hall’s far-post conversion of Chris Knowles’ inviting cross a minute on, then Thomas’ header that crept agonisingly over the line after some neat approach work by his comrades.

Richards enthused: “When you get to the semi-finals of any competition you want to win it and we went into the tie with the added incentive of knowing we’d play either Forest Green or Bristol City in the final (date and venue to be confirmed) should we get through.

“And the lads didn’t let us down.”
Feb 12 - 16

Graham’s Cheltenham Under-18 girls all set for Bradley Stoke last eight showdown

GRAHAM Fletcher says he and his fledgling Cheltenham Town Under-18 hopefuls “can’t wait” for their first taste of senior competition when they line up for this Sunday’s GFA Women’s Challenge Cup quarter-final tussle with visiting Bradley Stoke Ladies (February 18, 2pm), writes Simon Parkinson.

The young starlets, who utilise the facility at Ribston Hall High School in Gloucester for home fixtures, have enjoyed a splendid season in the GFA Under-18 Girls League, with five wins and a draw from their seven outings so far piling the pressure on leaders United in the Community.

For now they’ll be casting all that to one side as they prepare for combat with Gloucestershire County Women’s League Division Two competitors Bradley Stoke Town Ladies with a view to despatching of their more senior opponents and taking their place in the last four of the popular county knock-out tournament.

Fletcher smiled: “This will be my team’s first foray into adult ladies competition and we are really looking forward to the challenge.

“We’re currently lying in second place in the GFA Under-18 Girls League and with some important games coming up I’m hoping we will be challenging hard to finish top of that.

“We are also still involved in their League Cup competition and hoping to make the final of that too, so there’s everything to play for.”

The Cheltenham Youth chief added: “As far as this Sunday goes we are entering unknown territory but my team are really looking forward to the game.

“With quite a few of them aged only 16, coming up against older players represents a big challenge.

“But I know we are more than capable of winning the game and that’s what we will be aiming to do.”

Cheltenham get strong representation in the last eight of county cup activity this weekend as their ladies first team travel to take on Downend Flyers at Vicarage Road in Hanham, Bristol, while the Development side make the short journey to face near-neighbours Cheltenham Civil Service in the Women’s Trophy (both 2pm).

Development player-manager Lydia Amarquaye commented: “A local derby is always something to relish and we’re really looking forward to it.

“Cheltenham Civil Service won our first league (South West Women’s East) encounter, so this is our chance to get a bit of revenge with another meeting in the league still to come!

“I have a good squad for the weekend and am excited by the prospect of an all-Cheltenham Town Ladies FC semi-final should we both win our games, which guarantees club representation in the final.

“With many fixtures left in the league a win on Sunday should give our squad a bit of confidence going forward.”

Of their own adventure in Bristol for that duel with Downend Flyers, Cheltenham Ladies first team boss Alex Cheal enthused: “We are also looking forward immensely to county cup action again this weekend.

“The last round, when we beat Forest Green 1-0, was a fantastic occasion, made more so as it was held at Whaddon Road stadium. The further you go in these knock-out competitions the greater the buzz.

“Last weekend was a tough one for us (in the FA Women’s Premier SW One) as we went down 6-1 at Poole.

“But we will have a much more settled side heading into this Sunday’s game which I see as a pivotal part of our season.”

Downend Flyers hoping to spell double trouble in quest to land county cups semis spots

BRISTOL battlers Downend Flyers are hoping to make it double delight for the club when they enter the county cup arena once more this Sunday (February 18) with inviting semi-final places up for grabs, writes Simon Parkinson.

Flyers Ladies, who have experienced a challenging campaign rooted to the lower realms of the South West Women’s League Premier Division ladder, entertain Cheltenham Town Ladies, who currently occupy the same second-from-bottom status in the FA Women’s Premier League South West Division One, for a fascinating south versus north last-eight encounter in the GFA Women’s Trophy.

Meanwhile Downend Under-18 Youth, who compete in the Bristol Girls League, are also chasing silverware, their own knock-out journey continuing on Sunday in the GFA Women’s Challenge Cup when Longwell Green Ladies are the visitors.

Both ties take place at Hanham Athletic Football Club’s Vicarage Road venue at 2pm.

The club’s long-serving secretary Sue Hiscox enthused: “Our under-18s and ladies teams are very much looking forward to their cup matches and trying to progress to the semi-finals.

“It’s a break from the league where unfortunately at the moment neither are doing as well as we’d like.

“But we still have lots of matches to play and we are confident things will improve.”

Downend Flyers certainly appear to be a catch when it comes to attracting – and keeping - female footballers.

“We have approximately 130 players, aged from as young as five through to adult, and that figure is growing all the time,” Sue explained.

“Winter training times and venues are dependent on the age groups while in the summer months we practise at Page Park in Staple Hill.

“Maybe I would say this but we are a very friendly club and we never turn any girl away, whatever their ability.

“I’m in a good position to know as I’ve been secretary here for at least ten years, maybe more, and I thoroughly enjoy it still, even though it can get extremely busy at times!”

Anyone wishing to learn more about Downend Flyers and all they offer for females of all ages can call Sue Hiscox on 07773 672152 or email her at suehiscox@btinternet.com

Flyers Youth will surely have their hands full on Sunday if their opponents’ current form is anything to go by.

Longwell Green Ladies top the second tier of the Gloucestershire County Women’s League although they haven’t played since mid-January’s 14-0 home defeat of Gloucester City no thanks to a series of weather-related postponements.

Upbeat secretary Joanna Jones nevertheless smiled: “We have an exciting few weeks ahead when we’ll be out to remain at the top of the table and enhance our hopes of promotion to Division One.

“In the meantime we’re really looking forward to our cup match against Downend Flyers this weekend and having the chance to reach the semi-finals.”

Cheltenham CS Ladies on local derby mission to join men’s trio in county cups semis

CHELTENHAM Civil Service Ladies are gearing up hungrily for this Sunday’s GFA Women’s Trophy quarter-final cruncher – and with good reason too, writes Simon Parkinson.

They are to entertain South West Women’s League Eastern Division rivals Cheltenham Town Development (2pm) acutely aware that not only are they continuing to fly the flag for their own female section but for the entire Tewkesbury Road club too.

Weighing up a remarkable statistic, Civil Service Ladies secretary and club chairman Alan Wakefield explained: “If the ladies succeed on Sunday they will join our three men’s sides in reaching county cup semi-finals this season which would be a major achievement and a club record.

“We’re all really looking forward to Sunday’s game and we’re expecting nothing less than a tight one, just as it was in the league when we managed a 3-2 win at their place in November.

“It would be great to get to the semi-final and give us something to play for in what has been another tough season so far.”

Wakefield said of a Civil Service Ladies team currently occupying a mid-table berth in the Eastern Division: “Although we have 31 players signed on we still seem to have problems getting enough players to commit week in, week out.

“In recent weeks we changed our manager again with Elliot Roberts replacing Rich Francis in the hope it will bring consistency that the team needs.

“Elliot was goalkeeper for our men’s first team last year and has had a spell at Cheltenham Saracens this season.

“He is really looking forward to doing the job but it’s been difficult for him and the players due to the last four games being postponed because of the poor weather.”

It’s a big day for Cheltenham Town Ladies too, who not only parade their aforementioned Development side in that derby date with Civil Service but their first team too, who travel to confront Downend Flyers for a last-eight tie of their own in Bristol (2pm).

Town’s first XI currently sit second from the foot of FA Women’s Premier League South West One, while Flyers find themselves in the same parlous position in the SW Women’s League top flight.

Cheltenham’s optimistic chairman Andy Liddle nevertheless chirped: “It is fantastic to have both our first team, as defending champions of the Women’s Trophy, and our development team competing in two county cup quarter-finals.

“This season has been devastated by the weather so it’s of no surprise that both teams are chomping at the bit to get going again and I’m sure that both managers, Alex Cheal and Lydia Armarquaye, will have their sides well prepared.

“Two tricky away ties await us but it’s nice to be travelling within the county rather than experiencing the lengthy coach trips we’re accustomed to in our leagues.”

Renegades, Kingshill Sports, Kings and Civil Service to joust for Minor North final spot

THE semi-finals of the 2017-18 GFA Minor North Cup have been identified and what a fight to the line it promises to be!

AFC Renegades will host Kingshill Sports while Kings Reserves are set to entertain Cheltenham Civil Service Thirds.

Both fixtures have been pencilled in for Saturday, March 3 at 2pm.

Cheltenham Third Division promotion chasers Renegades brushed aside Mitcheldean 3-1 on their quarter-final travels through Aston Cooper’s double and Lewis Pratt’s strike, Ben Smyth’s goal for the North Gloucestershire Division One team at least giving them hope until time blew on their hopes.

Kingshill Sports, currently occupying a mid-table position in M4 Karting Cirencester and District League, had too much firepower for Eastcombe Reserves as Charlie Ingham’s pair and Jody Lawrence’s goal delivered a 3-0 home success over the Stroud Division Six competitors.

Kings Reserves’ county cup campaign has offered some welcome cheer as they continue trying to haul themselves away from the lower reaches of the Cheltenham Three table.

Rayhan Meah’s double and Tony Bee and Simon John strikes proved sufficient to overcome mid-table Stroud Five side Charfield Reserves, who responded with Andy Brett and Cullum Glynn goals, 4-2 on the road.

Civil Service had goals from Kyle Adams and Rubel Miah to thank for seeing them past Cheltenham Three rivals Barometrics Thirds with a 2-0 Tewkesbury Road success.

Bristol Ladies Union, St Nicholas Ladies, braced to stage Trophy quarters crunchers

TWO popular Bristol clubs will provide stages for exciting GFA Women’s Trophy ties this weekend as the 2017-18 county competition truly starts to hot up, writes Simon Parkinson.

Bristol Ladies Union entertain city rivals Almondsbury Women while St Nicholas Ladies host Forest of Dean Ladies who, like BLU as they are affectionately known, ply their trade in Gloucestershire County Women’s League’s top section.

Both fixtures take place this Sunday, February 18, at 2pm.

BLU are currently seated second in their table nine points adrift of a Frampton Rangers Ladies outfit steaming ahead at the summit with ten wins from ten outings thus far AND a game in hand to boot over their closest challengers.

Nevertheless the Union girls are going great guns too with six wins and three draws from their 11 league appearances to date and their first-team coach Martin Lewis, who operates in a co-capacity alongside Steve Price at the helm, acknowledged: “We are a young team by comparison to the majority of others playing in our league.

“With an average age of 17 our team have surpassed my expectations and those of Steve’s and we’re looking forward to testing ourselves against a very good Almondsbury team who sit in a division above us.

“We have progressed to senior status on the strength of a well-established junior pathway provided by one of the biggest all-female football clubs in the region.”

BLU are likely to have their hands full on Sunday as visitors Almondsbury have lost only two of their 11 fixtures this term to pitch up in fourth position for now in the Eastern section of the South West Women’s League.

As for St Nicholas, they welcome mid-table County Leaguers Forest of Dean to Yate Town FC’s Lodge Road headquarters buoyed by some impressive showings of late in South West One of the FA Women’s Premier League.

Their assistant manager Iain Prior warned: “It is fair to say we are really looking forward to our quarter-final game as we’re enjoying a decent run of form after winning three of our last four outings.

“The bad weather has unfortunately affected the schedule and this weekend will be our first game in three weeks, so we’re desperate to play again.

“Forest of Dean will provide strong opposition as they have lots of experience and a solid defence and because this is cup football, every team has earned their place at this stage on merit.

“We’re really looking forward to welcoming them to Yate Town for what should be a great game.” 

Feb 5 - 9

Philipou excitement as Lebeq get set for big County League/Sunday Cup double-header

LEBEQ founder member George Philipou expressed “excitement” at the possibilities that lie in store for his talented team in Saturday’s big Marcliff Gloucestershire County League tussle with Thornbury Town at Oaklands Park (February 10, 1pm) – and the potential for life at an even higher level, writes Simon Parkinson.

The league’s second-placed side strive to claw back current four-point arrears when they take on a Thornbury outfit hell-bent on fending them off in the fight not only to land the title but to cement a place in the Toolstation Western League for the first time in their histories.

The contest represents part one of an enticing weekend double header for the burgeoning Bristol set-up -  the following day, February 11, Lebeq Tavern Courage’s famous Sunday side are embroiled in FA Sunday Cup quarter-final action against Suffolk aces Gym United at Bristol Manor Farm’s Creek HQ (2pm).

It’s first things first, however, and the club’s ever-enthusiastic 60-year-old assistant secretary Philipou smiled: “I’m very excited about Saturday’s game. Thornbury are top and if we were to get the win we’d be a point behind them with a game in hand.

“While it’s a bit premature to call it make or break time, we do need a victory. A win would put us only a point behind them with a game in hand and considering the way we’ve played of late, including a 2-0 win at a strong Broadwell side on a heavy pitch at the weekend, I’m optimistic that if we play to our potential and to our strengths on the 3G pitch that we’re well accustomed to, we can get the result we want and need.

“But Thornbury are a good side too and it will be tough.”

As for Sunday’s tasty last-eight FA Sunday Cup showdown, Lebeq Tavern Courage are just grateful to have been afforded another opportunity to reach a final they were well beaten in 11 years ago when Durham’s Coundon Conservatives swept them aside 5-0 at Anfield.

Lebeq were pipped 3-0 last month at home by FC Bengals in a fourth round tie, only for the Middlesex outfit to later be eliminated from the tournament after being found guilty of fielding an ineligible player in the game.

Delighted at their unexpected reprieve, Lebeq now entertain seven-time Bury and District Sunday League champions Gym United, who have amassed no fewer than 18 trophies since 2010-11, with a view to taking a big stride towards cementing another final place, provisionally pencilled in for Sunday, April 29 at a venue to be confirmed.

Philipou pointed out enthusiastically: “We’re the only Bristol team left in a national competition of any description so we’re flying the flag for the city and hoping as many people come to cheer us on as possible.

“I’m really looking forward to the game: I love County League Saturday football but Sunday League is my baby!

“We have fond memories of reaching that Anfield final in 2007 but not so much the result, not helped by poor preparations before the game when there was a little too much partying!

“If we do get that far again I’m sure we won’t be making that same mistake.

“We’ve been given a second chance, although in that last round against Bengals we should have been three-up inside the first 20 minutes before going on to lose 3-0.

“But I’m sure all the lads are looking forward to getting this opportunity to redeem themselves and try and get through to the semi-finals.”

Davies braced as Thornbury and Lebeq prepare to collide for County League cruncher

THORNBURY Town manager Andy Davies weighed up his pacesetting team’s top-table cruncher with Lebeq United at Oaklands Park this Saturday, February 10 (1pm) and insisted: “It’s going to be tight”, writes Simon Parkinson.

The table’s top two collide for one of the most important Marcliff Gloucestershire County League fixtures in years at the Gloucestershire FA headquarters for what promises to be a mouthwatering lunchtime date that can whet the appetite of whoever, if any, emerges victorious.

Both teams have made no secret of their craving to hit the Toolstation Western League stage for the first time in their histories come the campaign’s conclusion, which is why the importance of the occasion speaks for itself.

While Thornbury have kept a relentless hold on pole position, Rayan Wilson’s Lebeq have been lurking with considerable menace in second spot and enter the contest trailing their guests by only four points with a game in hand to bolster prospects.

Davies observed: “Lebeq want promotion every bit as much as we do. The only real difference at this time relates to off-the-field stuff – they have all the facilities they need at the Gloucestershire FA headquarters to meet ground-grading criteria for the next level up while we’re still in limbo.

“We need to get hard standing, a seated stand and temporary fencing in place by the end of March, as well as floodlights up by the end of September. As it stands it’s all taking rather longer than we’d hoped for in getting the council go-ahead for it all.

“All I can do as manager is concentrate on getting it right on the pitch and in that respect things have been going great.

“Both teams have kept on winning; Lebeq had a good 2-0 win at Broadwell at the weekend and we did likewise in eventually seeing off Hanham 4-1.

“Lebeq are a good side and we have to give them respect for what they’re achieving.”

Davies’ men will be acutely aware their equally-ambitious opponents have a score to settle following Thornbury’s early-October 4-2 home victory over their big rivals.

“We were 2-0 up but Lebeq got back into it with two goals to level up and at that stage they were on top,” he recalled.

“They then had a lad (Sheldon Sawyers) sent off for a second yellow card and it seemed to be a game changer as we retook the lead from the subsequent free-kick and wrapped it up with a late penalty.

“Generally speaking it was a close game and I can’t see it being anything other than that again on Saturday. They’ll be right up for it and so will we.

“Nothing related to the bigger picture will be won or lost on the day; there’ll be twists and turns yet and there are still lots of points to play for.

“But a win either way would certainly be a boost to whoever gets it.”

Davies has declared a full-strength squad to select from, which includes his latest arrival from Patchway Town, experienced striker Matt Davis and 24-goal leading marksman Craig Lancastle, who notched a hat-trick in the weekend Hanham win.

Stand by for a look at the big game from Lebeq’s persective here on GFA Local Football News.

Marsh-Brown spot-on to fire Forest Green into Senior Challenge Cup semis with City ‘kids’

FOREST Green Rovers put to one side their battles around the League Two basement to focus on other important affairs - cementing a place in the semi-finals of the Gloucestershire FA Senior Challenge Cup.

The 2015-16 county champions did so with a 2-1 victory over Cinderford Town at the Southern League West side’s Causeway Ground in a tight contest made no easier for players or spectators by thick fog.

Manny Monthe’s early header and Keanu Marsh-Brown’s penalty midway through the second half proved just enough for the professionals,who contained a healthy mix of experience and youth in their ranks, to gain their safe passage.

Now a zestful Rovers side, enthusiastically overseen by their academy boss Scott Bartlett and under-18 supremo Chris Barker, face an intriguing last-four date on Wednesday, February 28 (7.30pm) at home against cup holders Bristol City Under-23, whose 4-2 victory over Cirencester Town at Oaklands Park in August ensured they were next to get their hands on the trophy following Forest Green’s 1-0 win over Bishops Cleeve the previous year.

The Cinderford-Rovers encounter completed a set of quarter-final ties which saw Bristol Manor Farm tee-up a semis showdown with Gloucester City at the Creek on Tuesday, February 6 (7.45pm) with a 6-1 romp over Bishops Cleeve, while the Tigers’ 4-0 December victory over Shortwod United took them too to one more tantalising step from an Oaklands Park final occasion.

The latest Causeway clash was barely three minutes old when Forest Green forged in front as Marsh-Brown delivered an inviting free-kick into the mix for the powerful Monthe to head down into the ground and emphatically home.

Unfazed, Cinderford wasted little time restoring parity 13 minutes in as Robbie Atkinson received possession to the right of the penalty area before shooting across goal and finding the far corner of the net.

Atkinson went close to adding a second moments later with a sharp turn and left-foot strike which flew a fraction wide, while at the other end Cinderford keeper Joe Perry produced a fine block to keep out Jay Malshanskyj’s effort as Rovers sought to restore their lead.

However, on 67 minutes the visitors did steal ahead once more with what proved to be the deciding goal.

Cai Williams darted on to a loose ball after Perry had lost the ball in sliding to collect and was subsequently felled inside the box as he prepared to shoot, affording the opportunity for Marsh-Brown to rifle his spot kick triumphantly into the roof of the net.

Forest Green: Declan Lehmann, Nathan Trueman, Manny Monthe, Alfie Madden, Mark Roberts, Drissa Traore, Jordan Simpson, Lewis Spurrier, Cai Williams, Jay Malshanskyj, Keanu Marsh-Brown. Used subs: Sam Hendy, Elias Youssef. Unused subs: Rendijs Kalnins, Taylor Marsh, Alex Hallett.

Cinderford: Joe Perry, Craig Norman, Liam Angel, Nick Rhodes, Jack Alderdice, Lewis Bamford, Ben Watkins, Matt McDonald, Robbie Atkinson,  Joe Hunt, Nick Harrhy. Subs: Oliver Purdy, Miles Ferguson, James Bloom, Paul Michael.

Clinical Kieran’s double trouble as Ramblers seek to settle old scores with Cotswold

RAMBLERS Reserves ambled into the semi-finals of the GFA Primary North Cup at the expense of Bishops Cleeve Development Reserves – and now have a score or two to settle at the next stage!

Their 3-1 last-eight home victory over Cleeve courtesy of Kieran Daniels’ double and Paul Rigby’s single set them up for an intriguing tussle on Saturday, March 3 (2pm), again at their Tuffley Park HQ, against promotion-seeking Cotswold Rangers Reserves, opposition they know all about already this term – and not for the right reasons!

The pair met in mid-December for a Stroud League Seven affair which visiting Rangers edged 3-2 with David Iles (2) and Stephen Brown on target that day for them.

That occasion followed a remarkable 13-goal Charity Cup clash the previous month at Cotswold’s Bussage Playing Fields base when Sam Vince netted four times for this team as they swept to an 8-5 success over Ramblers, whose luckless and highly-prolific marksman Daniels, who has netted more than 40 times already in 2017-18, hit a hat-trick that day yet still ended up on the losing side.

The teams will tussle again in the league on March 17 for the fourth and final time, by which time we should know which of the protagonists will be competing for silverware in the Primary Cup final.

Cotswold, meanwhile, were made to fight all the way for their place in the last four, Angus Scott’s sole goal all that was required to see off the resistance of Kingsway Rovers Reserves, who have been going well a division up in Stroud Six and would certainly have fancied their own chances of progression approaching the contest.

There was a quarter-final cracker to savour at Heron Park where Gala Wilton A finally won through via a tense 5-3 penalty shoot-out decider after they and their hosts Abbeymead Rovers Thirds had concluded an absorbing 90 minutes in 4-4 deadlock.

The Rovers scoring in normal time had been equally carved up among Owen Jones, Xander Jones, Nathan Jones and Tom Moore, while Gala’s goals came from Sean Hanley (2), Gary Po and Adam Famiglietti.

Gala now head for Prestbury Rovers Reserves (Sat, March 3, 2pm), the Cheltenham League Division Four pacesetters who have been parading100 per cent winning form and themselves squeezed into the semi-finals with a 1-0 home win over league counterparts Winchcombe Town Reserves.

Deadly Darren the toast of Fintan as Tewkesbury win tees up Gala semis showdown

DARREN Twyning’s double for Fintan set them up for a mouthwatering GFA Intermediate North Cup semi-final appearance – against another of their league rivals.

His prized pair, to go with Jordan Babbage’s effort, saw the mid-table Cheltenham Division Two side to a 3-1 last-eight win in their Brooklyn Road backyard over Tewkesbury Town Reserves, who have been operating a little further down the scale in the same division.

It means Fintan can look forward now to locking horns on Saturday, March 3 (2pm) with more opposition from their own league, Gala Wilton Reserves, when they’ll once more enjoy home advantage.

Gala had Sam Glanvill-Ford and Daniel Leese goals to thank as they came safely through with a 2-0 win at Stroud Division Two side Chalford Reserves.

FC Barometrics Reserves made no mistake sealing their place in the last-four shake-up and a home tie with Cheltenham Civil Service Reserves, their Cheltenham Division Two compatriots, on the same March afternoon.

Baro crushed Stroud Division Three basement battlers Quedgeley Wanderers Thirds on their travels 6-2 with braces each for Brett Blake and Thomas Short and single contributions by Joe Finch and Mike Short, while the hosts, who completed the game with ten men no thanks to the dismissal of Connor Price, at least registered through Shaun Banner and Matteo Flaviani consolations.

* Stokeside, the unbeaten District Division Five table-toppers, won through to the semi-finals of the GFA Primary South Cup thanks to a 4-1 away victory over the Bristol Downs League’s rock-bottom team Lion Reserves.

They did so through Luke Brunt, Craig Hopkins, Ben Walker and Matt Burnard goals to take a big step nearer an Oaklands Park final occasion in the spring.

Matt Chappell’s splendid hat-trick still wasn’t enough to prevent his District Division Four high-fliers Crosscourt United team exiting the GFA Minor South Cup at the last-eight stage as Saints Old Boys A, of Downs League Division Three, progressed to the semis with a 5-3 away win.

Jan 29 - feb 2

Lebeq-Thornbury County League cruncher looms as leaders seek floodlights green light

THORBURY Town are targeting maximum points from their next home game with Hanham Athletic in a bid to enter the big one with Lebeq United on the front foot, reports Simon Parkinson.

Andy Davies’ Thorns entertain Hanham on Saturday, February 3 (2pm) for a top versus bottom bout fully expecting to clinch victory in the fight to keep a tight grip on Marcliff Gloucestershire County League top-spot.

Relegation-threatened Hanham and their manager Tim Cotter will, no doubt, have something to say about that. But there’s no doubting the significance of the fixture with promotion rivals Lebeq to come at Oaklands Park seven days later (Feb 10, 1pm).

Both clubs have long made no secret of their craving to gain entry into the Toolstation Western League for the first time in their histories. Lebeq, while currently trailing the league leaders and grimly clinging on to their tails with games in hand to enhance prospects, have the edge, it would appear, when it comes to facilities required to meet stringent FA ground grading criteria.

That’s because the impressive 3G complex they lease from Gloucestershire FA already complies with regulations while Thornbury are battling furiously to get the go-ahead to make the necessary improvements which can put them firmly in the mix for cementing Step 7 status for the first time over their 120-year journey.

While boss Davies battles to get it right on the field, efforts are ongoing behind the scenes to secure planning permission to install all-important floodlights and fencing.

Thornbury are hopeful of gaining the green light from South Gloucestershire Council for all that within the next fortnight or so.

The Mundy Fields manager insisted: “I’m confident our lads will be right up for it; they won’t need too much of me geeing them up. They know what’s at stake and they can see by what’s happening with ground improvements, such as concreting work around the pitch, that things really are happening.

“So everyone needs to stay focused; we can’t afford to rest.”

Davies has no concerns that his player ranks don’t possess enough strength in depth to sustain a concerted push for the big promotion prize.

“I’ve got a strong 18-man squad and that includes a couple of recent arrivals in Matty Davies from Patchway and Luke Franklin from Cribbs, although we did lose Dan Rees (striker) to Patchway where he’s scored a couple of goals already,” he explained.

“Matt’s 34 and an experienced forward who I tried to sign a couple of years ago. He’d been at Patchway for several years and wanted to stay loyal to them at the time but he was ready for a change.

“Luke is a wide midfielder who came up through the junior ranks at Thornbury and left to try his luck at Cribbs in the Toolstation Premier at the start of the season.

“He hasn’t had as much game time there as he’d have liked so he’s back with us and he’s another good addition when it comes to selection options.”

Davies added:  “As far as the bigger picture goes our lads are ready to play at the next level up. I just hope that the council sees it’s vital to the club that we get approval for these ground improvements so that we can keep progressing at the rate the town continues to expand.”

New-boy Sage so determined to stamp his mark on challenging Hallen project

HALLEN’S new boss Rob Sage is adamant his Toolstation Premier Division “underachievers” should be targeting mid-table status rather than finding themselves embroiled in basement battles.

The recently-installed 30-year-old supremo performed for Bridgwater, Taunton, Bristol Manor Farm and Shirehampton among others before a cruciate knee ligament injury lucklessly curtailed his playing days.

Sage was No.2 to Tony Beecham at Cribbs last season before taking up an offer to assist then-boss Ben Willshire at Hallen in the summer, a switch that eventually led to him taking up the reins last month.

And it is clear that the new kid on the block will not tolerate any shirking of responsibilities by his current crop of players charged with attempting to reverse the slide.

Hallen were due to take on a revitalised Longwell Green Sports outfit on Saturday, January 27 with their manager demanding an improvement on the performance he witnessed by his men in the 2-1 home defeat by Bridgwater Town seven days prior.

He declared: “We certainly need to buck up our ideas after Bridgwater where our players failed to put into practice anything of what we told them to do before the game.

“Bridgwater are a big and strong side who play percentages very well and if you don’t mix it with them they’ll bully you out of the game. That’s what happened.

“We picked up a bit at 2-0 down and were unlucky not to get an equaliser in the end but we can’t keep giving teams head starts like this.

“Our resources are limited but I feel we should still be at least a mid-table team.”

 Of his call to duty at Moorhouse Lane, Sage explained: “Ben (Willshire) and I have known each other for years. We played right through the age groups for Shire Colts as kids and we were at England Schools Under-15s together having been at Bristol Rovers as youngsters.

“So he’s a good mate of mine and he planted the seed about joining him at Hallen at the end of last season. Although Cribbs have a great set-up, I fancied a new challenge.

“It’s been a difficult season and a few short weeks ago me, Ben and the chairman (Lee Fairman) got together and all agreed that it would be best for Ben to concentrate on playing again and for me to take over as manager.

“I’ve stripped things a bit; I felt there were a couple of bad apples and dead wood needing addressing and there’s a feel-good factor about the place again.”

Building their way back: How Cheltenham Civil Service are finding their mojo again

CHELTENHAM Civil Service’s dedicated volunteer Alan Wakefield and his colleagues are targeting a double promotion success this season – and potential cup glory for the ladies section too, writes Simon Parkinson.

The 61-year-old long-serving club chairman has been encouraged by the form of the three men’s teams currently battling it out for honours in the Cheltenham League, two of whom are pushing hard for progression to higher levels.

The Servicemen’s first XI were to enter their Saturday, January 27 fixture with bottom side Whaddon United Reserves carrying a healthy 11-point lead in top-flight Division One over second-placed Upton Town, who do have two games in hand to fuel their hopes of yet catching the table-toppers.

Manager Steve Holend’s fliers, with a GFA Junior Cup semis outing at home against Bishops Cleeve A forthcoming on Saturday, March 3 (2pm), had also been in freescoring form ahead of the Whaddon match– 24 goals in the three games preceding it underlining their intent on a return this term to Gloucestershire Northern Senior League status.

Dan Midwinter’s second-string have been in sparkling mood too, as their second-spot status and ten wins from 11 outings comprehensively displayed heading into their January 27 home clash with FC Barometrics Reserves. They also face a GFA Intermediate Cup semi-final tie away against the same Baro boys on Saturday, March 3 (2pm).

Cheltenham CS’s third XI, overseen by Scott Edginton, haven’t quite had it all their own way as mixed fortunes throughout have pegged them to a mid-table berth on the Third Division ladder.

They too, though, are making firm strides on the county cup front, with a semi-final appearance on the horizon at Kings Reserves in the Minor Cup to relish.

The bigger picture is all positive in local ‘boy’ Wakefield’s estimation, a man who joined the Uckington outfit in the 1980s and went on to fill virtually every role going, from player (he retired at 49) to secretary, treasurer, vice-chairman and now chairman.

He reflected: “Our firsts only narrowly missed out on promotion last year in finishing third. I’m leaning on a piece of wood as I say we’re currently top with a view to returning to the Northern Senior League where we competed for many years.

“We’re targeting two promotions but the main aim is to re-establish our firsts in that league.”

Civil Service have certainly experienced a rollercoaster journey in recent years. Promoted from the Northern Senior League in 2013-14 they went on to take the County League by storm without breaking stride, winning the title just 12 months later before suffering a startling decline as a flood of coveted players and management left for pastures new, eventually prompting a heartbreaking decision to withdraw the team from the league midway through last season.

Asked whether there was any appetite for a return to County League activity, Wakefield stressed: “We know what the costs are and what you need to survive at that level.

“You need the right calibre of players and you need the commitment. If we were ever in a position to go for it again we’d need to make sure we had the money to sustain that level of football. It’s something we do struggle with, the financial side.

“When we pulled out of the County League there had been a lack of discipline among players; we were racking-up fines, even though the team we had was better than the one that just kept us up the previous year.

“So we decided to revert to three Cheltenham League sides with a view to simply stabilising things, with a change of committee, and seeing how we progressed.

“The encouraging thing is people like playing here: we have good facilities, a ladies side and an under-15 boys’ team operating alongside the three senior men’s sides.”

That adult female team, overseen by manager Rich Francis, have been loitering around the mid-table realms of the South West Women’s League Eastern Division while eagerly-anticipating a GFA Women’s Trophy last-eight derby date with league rivals Cheltenham Town Development at Tewkesbury Road on Sunday, February 18 (2pm).

The future’s so bright: Why Longlevens are keen to promote the virtues of youth

LONGLEVENS insist their youth policy is flourishing as they continue the quest to supply stars of the future for their three senior teams in the north of the county.

There has been a lot of focus and attention on youth football within national media following the No Hunger in Paradise documentary aired on BT Sport on Sunday, January 7.

Longlevens say they have adopted their own stance where youth players are concerned this season which, they claim, is “paying dividends” to all their adult sides competing in three popular leagues – Hellenic, Gloucestershire Northern Senior and Stroud and District - across the region.

They enthusiastically point out that the Gloucester club’s third XI, run by joint managers Dan English and Dan MacDonald, have been the “greatest drinkers” from the “fountain of youth” as the duo have been honing the talents of no fewer than five 16-year-old protégés performing regularly in their ranks.

The team currently sit within striking distance of top spot in Stroud and District Division Two and English has nothing but positive things to say about the process.

He confirmed: “We now have five 16-year-old lads who are regulars for us.

“For ones so young they have really taken well to both the club and the levels of football we play at. All of them are confident on the ball and are just good lads in general. Since we have put them in they haven’t put a foot wrong.”

The youthful third-string’s success so far has caught the attention of Longlevens’ first team manager Mark Moore, who recently called up two players, Tom Powell-Davis and Harry Emmett, into his Hellenic Premier squad.

Moore explained: “At the start of the year it was my aim to lead not only the first team but the football club as a whole into a new era and the only way I believe to do that is by promoting the chances for youth players to succeed.”

English added: “Both Tom and Harry are early products of local professional football academies and came to the club after being released, or through simply not enjoying the academy football scene.

“We’re just trying to give them the best platform to enjoy their football and play at a good level, so we’re really pleased to hear them get a first team call-up.”

Powell-Davis, a central and wide-right midfielder, was previously on a scholarship as part of Forest Green Rovers’ under-18 squad.

The teenager said: “After being offered a scholarship with Forest Green, which I started in July, I decided that I would leave to focus on my A Levels. Around the same time I joined Longlevens as they are my local team and a lot of my mates already played for the side.

“Being with the lads and playing with the club’s third team has made me enjoy my football more. Now, having been given a chance to work up through the ranks at Longlevens, I can only see this leading to more enjoyment.”

Emmett, meanwhile, another central midfielder, was involved with Cheltenham Town’s youth academy from their under-11s section right up until under-16s youth status when he was released by the pro club.

“I came to Longlevens as some of my mates, who had been in a similar position to me, had done the same thing, he reflected.

“Since joining the club I’ve settled in nicely and have been given lots of support which has made it easier for me to be a part of the team.”

Goals galore as Bishops Cleeve, Cheltenham CS, Charfield and Cam claim semis spots

BISHOPS Cleeve A, Cheltenham Civil Service and Charfield will all fancy their chances of getting their mitts on this season’s GFA Junior North trophy after convincing last-eight successes.

The same applies to Cam Bulldogs Reserves, even though they were forced to go the distance in their close-fought match at Minchinhampton before squeezing through in a tense penalty shoot-out scenario.

Bishops Cleeve breezed into the semi-finals with the minimum of fuss as they overcame Cheltenham Division One rivals Newton 4-0 at Whaddon Rec via Alec Buckland’s brace and Elliot Marlow and Dan White strikes, to set up a last-four meeting at the home of Cheltenham Civil Service.

The Servicemen, who have been storming away at the top of the same league, took that impressive form on to the county cup stage as Stuart Midwinter’s double, to go with Connor Hart, Dan Wills and Joe McCauley goals, catapulted them to a 5-1 home victory over Andoversford, the third time they had beaten their First Division counterparts in little more than a month.

Also taking a considerable step towards the final were Stroud Division One mid-tablers Charfield, who proved too hot to handle for gallant Second Division challengers Quedgeley Wanderers Reserves as goals for James Gilvear, Jonathan Rosser, Adam Spiers and Josh Stokes saw them to a 4-1 win at Waterwells.

The delighted victors now have home advantage to bolster their chances of making the leap into the spring showpiece occasion, acutely aware too that Cam Bulldogs’ second-string are likely to be no pushovers.

The Bulldogs battlers were forced to bounce back from the concession of a first-half Jack Hornsby goal for Stroud Two rivals Minchinhampton at Stuart Playing Field and restore parity through Chris Lindsay’s strike to take the tie to penalties, which they clinched 3-1 to their evident jubilation.

Both semi-finals games, subject to confirmation, are earmarked for Saturday, March 3 at 2pm.

Jan 22-26

Four-goal Philp keeps Cam Bulldogs on Senior Amateur final trail with Whaddon win

ADAM Philp was in unstoppable form as Cam Bulldogs bulldozed their way into the semi-finals of the GFA Senior Amateur North Cup.

The clinical Cam marksman fired four of his side’s goals as they brushed aside Gloucestershire Northern Senior League compatriots Whaddon United, who currently head the Division Two table, 5-3 at Clyde Crescent to set up a semis showdown at home against Moreton Rangers in March.

Philp was joined on the title-chasing Division One side’s scoresheet by Massimo Meta, while for Whaddon there was a bittersweet experience for Kevin Slack who hit a superb hat-trick before being forced to swallow the bitter pill of defeat.

A delighted Philp confirmed in a tweet: “Top performance today for @cambulldogs winning 5-3 in the cup quarter-finals. Four more goals for me: 28 in 16.”

Meanwhile Moreton earned their place in the final-four draw courtesy of a hard-fought 2-1 home victory over FC Barometrics at London Road.

The Hellenic Division Two West fliers edged through with goals by Lee Brooks and Jamie Wyatt while James Lee’s effort for the battling Baro boys, who are pushing hard themselves at the top end of their own Northern Senior One table, kept them in the contest until time blew on their progression hopes.

There was relief and delight at Longford Lane where Longlevens Reserves cemented a semis spot in dramatic circumstances.

The Northern Senior One outfit trailed 2-1 at half-time against mid-ranked Second Division side Whitecroft in a gripping last-eight tie before fighting back to secure a 4-3 success via Connor Linham’s lethal treble and Billy Barlow’s single contribution.

That victory has led to more home advantage for Longlevens as they will now lock horns with Bourton Rovers for a place in the final.

Mid-table Hellenic League West prospects Bourton needed just a solitary goal, supplied by Josh Fielding, to dispense of Senior Amateur holders Charlton Rovers who are far from out of the Northern Senior top-flight title reckoning.

Yet the victors, driven on by man-of-the-match Keegan Bowes, were forced to compete for almost the entire 90 minutes without Jake Forster courtesy of a red card brandished in his direction as early as the eighth minute.

Manager Scott Powles expressed “delight” with his team’s performance and hailed every player for showing “unbelievable character and drive to win against a quality team.”

Both semi-finals games, subject to confirmation, are pencilled in for Saturday, March 3 at 2pm.

Made for success: Ever aces edge out Ashley to secure Junior South Cup semis seat

MADE for Ever demonstrated once more that they are not second in Bristol and District League Division One for no good reason as they edged out Ashley in a tense and tight GFA Junior Cup last-eight affair.

Two Matthew Plant goals and a Lucas Hart effort saw them safely into the semi-finals courtesy of a 3-2 home victory over the Downs Division One basement battlers.

Made for Ever’s top-table rivals Yate Athletic are also through thanks to Rich Gardener, Dan Edwards and Alex Fox goals in a 3-1 win at Suburban Two side Corinthian Sports.

Ross Porter celebrated a hat-trick as AFC Mangotsfield District brushed past District Division Division One rivals Henbury Reserves in their Blackhorse Road backyard with a 6-2 success, Adam Jeanes, Dan Cole and Chris Astley grabbing the rest of Mangos’ goals.

District Division Two leaders Bendix’s magnificent season continued as they marched into the semi-finals of the GFA Intermediate Cup.

Dan Norley, Chris Dauncey, Charlie Stevens and Matt Norley were among their marksmen as they swept aside Suburban Three hopefuls Rockleaze Rangers B 5-2 at Lees Hill to take another giant step towards an Oaklands Park final occasion.

Iron Acton required a 4-3 shoot-put victory to see them through to the same semis stage after Matt Sully and Will Trueman goals for the hosts and Olveston United Reserves respectively took a tight quarter-final tie all the way to a thrilling spot-kick conclusion via a 1-1 draw.

Hillfields Old Boys Reserves breezed into the semi-finals of the GFA Minor South Cup with a crushing 6-0 home success over Downs League Division Three strugglers Ashley Reserves.

Jed Fields led the charge with a treble to go with Jamie Jenkins, Aston Golding and Steve Thompson strikes to propel the District Division Four title contenders into the round of four.

There was delight for Bradley Stoke Town A in the GFA Primary Cup as they overcame District Division Five compatriots Seymour United A 3-0 on the road through Tom Mason, Geordie Stewart and Sam Young strikes to take their place in the semi-finals.

St Aldhelms, Winterbourne and Old Georgians keep Senior Amateur South hopes alive

REIGNING Bristol and Suburban League Premier One champions St Aldhelms made it third time lucky by breaking a Cribbs ‘hoodoo’ to reach the semi-finals of the GFA Senior Amateur Cup.

Saints, with games in hand to make up ground in the bid to reclaim their title this term, had been on the receiving end of two defeats at the hands of Cribbs teams during the summer’s Fry Club Cup spectacle, in the main competition and Steve Tucker Memorial Trophy.

But they weren’t to be denied this time as they eventually overcame Cribbs Reserves, the Bristol Premier Combination champs, 4-3 in a penalty shoot-out to set the seal on a Headley Park last-eight cracker after the sides had completed a predictably tight and tense 90 minutes in 2-2 deadlock.

It was certainly an exasperating outcome for Cribbs as they had looked good for their 2-0 interval lead supplied by Darren Edwards and Tom Headford strikes.

But they weren’t to reckon for a stirring St Aldhelms response, Sam Payne’s deflected shot into the net giving the hosts something tangible to cling on to before Jamie Godfrey sparked delirium among his Saints team-mates and supporters by scoring at the death before going on to drill home the deciding goal in a dramatic shoot-out.

Saints’ delighted secretary Lee Watts admitted his side had been fortunate not to concede more goals following that determined opening flurry by Cribbs, whose manager Alec Mills accepted: “We were gutted. We missed loads of chances to have wrapped it up and we paid the price as they equalised in the very final minute of injury-time before going on to win on pens.”

St Aldhelms will now travel to take on a Sneyd Park outfit who themselves had to come from behind to overcome Premier Combination top-flight opponents Shaftesbury Crusade.

Filton Avenue hosts Crusade had led 3-2 through Matthu Hansen’s brace and Clinton Wilson’s header, and things got worse for the Downs League Division One champions and current leaders when Theo Tonkin was given his marching orders for a handling offence on the line.

The Sneyd skipper and his team-mates were relieved to see the resultant penalty saved by Rob Perrott, giving their ten men a lifeline to go on and clinch a stunning 4-3 win via Jack Penn’s pair and Gareth Browning and Jacob Towl contributions.

Joining Sneyd in the semi-finals are Winterbourne United, who delivered themselves some welcome cheer after experiencing a tough time of it to date in the lower reaches of the Premier Combination’s top section by powering past First Division Greyfriars Athletic 4-0 with two Dave Herbert goals and James Mainstone and Ashley White strikes.

Chairman Robyn Maggs enthused: “We have been on our best form in the cup so far and are delighted to have reached the semi-finals.

“We hope now to carry the flag for the Bristol Prem all the way to lifting it in April.”

Bourne are now set for a semis showdown at home against Suburban top-tier hopefuls Old Georgians, who had to dig deep to dispense of Combination Premier Division high-fliers Talbot Knowle United 1-0 at Hanham Common thanks to a last-gasp goal off the body of luckless Kye Cox in the away ranks.

“We were unlucky to lose in that way as we really should have wrapped it up in the first half,” conceded Talbot secretary Mark Dite.

Both semi-finals, which are subject to confirmation, are scheduled to take place on Saturday, February 10 at 2pm./

Walsh, Fawthrop: Bristol City boys have it in them to stun Manchester City fliers

TWO of Bristol City’s best-known former servants have backed the Reds to turn tonight’s exciting Carabao League Cup semi-final showdown with Manchester City at Ashton Gate on its head (7.45pm), writes Simon Parkinson.

Alan Walsh and Tony Fawthrop are ideally qualified to cast authoritative eyes over games of such magnitude.

Both were involved in the same competition’s dramatic 1989 semi-final against Nottingham Forest: legendary flying winger Walsh, who scored 99 times for the Robins during his five-year spell, as a player and Fawthrop as chief scout.

Hartlepool-born Walsh recalled: “The last time City got to this stage I played in both legs against Forest. We took 8,000 fans up there for the first game which was fantastic and got our noses in front. Unfortunately, five minutes from the end, we scored an own goal but it was still all to play for at Ashton Gate in the return leg in front of almost 30,000 fans and a live TV audience.

“Although under a lot of pressure in both games we held out and everyone talks about the moment I almost won it for us in the final minute of the second leg with the game goalless. The ball came into the box behind me but I managed to turn and strike it with my left foot against the post.

“The ball rebounded through their keeper’s legs and it just needed one of our lads to turn it over the line but frustratingly it was cleared and Gary Parker went on to stick one into the roof of our net for the vital goal in extra-time to take Forest through 2-1 on aggregate and go on and beat Luton Town (3-1) in the final at Wembley.

“Keith Waugh was outstanding for us in goal and it took a shot of that quality to beat him that day. But it’s all history now and while it was disappointing not to go through the memories are good ones.”

Walsh, who also picked up a winners medal for City at the Twin Towers in their memorable 3-0 Freight Rover Trophy final victory over Bolton in 1986, insisted of the current City crop’s cup hopes tonight as they attempt to turn around a slender 2-1 deficit: “Bristol City proved in the first game against Manchester City that despite all the quality and class they were up against, they could go toe-to-toe with them and I was really impressed with the way they played.

“Lee Johnson has got them playing with flair and an attacking philosophy and they’ve got a chance.

“You hope Manchester City have an off night and Bristol City are at their best. Both those things are likely to be needed if there’s to be an upset.

“Yes, it was a blow to concede so late on in that first leg because they deserved at least a draw. Manchester brought on one of their big guns (Sergio Aguero) and he showed why he is just that.

“Bristol City can still enter the game feeling positive. That goalless draw with Derby on Friday evening stopped the league rot and can give them confidence.”

Walsh stressed: “I know, through being at City for 18 years in two spells as a player and academy and first-team coach, including being on the Wembley bench alongside (manager) Gary Johnson when we reached the Championship play-off final with Hull in 2008, exactly what occasions like this mean to the fans.

“You’ve seen it with the big live games on TV recently against the likes of Manchester United and Wolves that these supporters are just craving success. It can make for electric atmospheres. Those same fans can let you know when they’re not happy either but generally the support they gave me lifted me as a player.

“The stadium’s changed a lot since my day; it’s fantastic and all geared up hopefully for Premier League football.”

While Walsh left Bristol rivals Rovers as a coach 18 months ago and is “looking to get back into senior football again”, Fawthrop, at 75, is still going strong as senior West Country scout for Everton, having enjoyed a big Wembley day out himself during his brief stint in charge at Ashton Gate in 2000 when he led the Robins to an Auto Windscreens Shield final against Stoke City, which ended in 2-1 defeat.

The club’s long-serving former chief scout and academy director insisted: “I think Bristol City have a good chance tonight.

“They’ve shown they can match Manchester City, one of the Premier League’s best-ever teams, and other Premier League clubs so far and they’re capable of holding their own tonight. And it’s a great chance to enjoy themselves and have a great night.

“It’s been a wonderful opportunity too for the likes of Joe Bryan, Bobby Reid and maybe Lloyd Kelly who has come through the academy system, to pit themselves against top sides.

“It’s been brilliant for Lee Johnson (manager) too. He was under so much pressure last year but he kept his nerve, smiled through it all and came through the other side. But you need good staff beside you too and they have that.

“The players look like they’re enjoying it; they’re not frightened; they play with no fear and they showed that mental toughness right through their run so far and in the last game at Manchester.”

Fawthrop added with a smile: “Okay, the expectation of the crowd can be 100 per cent above reality but that’s what dreams are made of in football. It’s time to really enjoy it and the fans can rightfully applaud what the players have done.

“You have to absorb these things while they’re there because as I know only too well, these moments come and go very quickly.

“Man City will probably come with a different attitude; their manager will no doubt have spoken to them about that.

“But it’s going to be a great night. These Bristol City boys have really raised the bar and the staff have done brilliantly too.

“I just hope the Bristol City players play to their maximum and the element of luck you need goes their way.

“If those things combine then they have a great chance tonight.”

Tinnion confident Bristol City starlets can keep tight hold on Senior Cup after Gas win

BRISTOL City’s celebrated former midfielder Brian Tinnion is backing the club’s fledgling performers to go on and grab more county silverware after seeing off arch rivals Bristol Rovers, reports Simon Parkinson.

The pair grappled for a GFA Senior Challenge Cup Christmas quarter-final cruncher at Oaklands Park, one so close to call that it had to be decided by penalties following a 1-1 stalemate as holders City Under-23s retained their hold on a trophy they lifted at the same 3G venue last season via a 4-2 victory over Cirencester Town.

It meant the Reds joined National League South hopefuls Gloucester City and Bristol Manor Farm, who last week ditched Southern League West rivals Bishops Cleeve from the competition courtesy of a 6-1 success at the Creek, in the semi-final hat.

The last four left should then be completed on Tuesday, January 30 when Cinderford Town entertain Forest Green Rovers at the Causeway ground (7.30pm).

As for that tight last-eight derby duel, spectators had to wait until the 67th minute for a City breakthrough goal. Rollin Menayese was adjudged by referee Rob Cockle, who kept impressive order of a competitive contest, to have brought down striker Antoine Semenyo inside the area and Rory Holden calmly beat Andre Alexis from the spot.

At the other end Robins keeper Alhaji Sesay who, like his opposite number Alexis had served Southern League West side Paulton Rovers on loan in the weeks leading up to the tie, was forced into denying Rovers a quickfire equaliser as he kept out Cameron Ebbutt’s attempt.

But the young Pirates didn’t have to wait long to level up on 75 minutes as substitute Lewis Leigh-Gilchrist delivered a dangerous ball in from the left which was sent fizzing against an upright by Menayese, only for Kenan Dunwald to happily shoot home from point-blank range.

There looked to be only one winner after that as the busy and impressive Sesay raced off his line to prevent the marauding Dunwald unleashing an effort at his goal while Ben Morgan steered a Ryan Broom flag kick a fraction over the top with his head as Rovers ramped up the pressure.

In frantic dying embers Broom agonisingly saw a shot hacked off the Reds goal-line while Ricardo Rees was somehow denied a City winner as Menayese bravely got in the way of his attempt.

Sesay went on to have a key say in the shoot-out as he capped a fine performance between the City sticks by saving Dunwald and Ebbutt spot kicks while successful Tom Richards, Morton, Kel Akpobire and Holden ‘takes’ proved sufficient to earn their delighted side a 4-2 win, Rovers’ Alexis keeping his team in the hunt at one stage by making a splendid save of his own from Semenyo’s strike.

Tinnion, who handles City’s loan transfer affairs these days as well as enjoying a role as club ambassador, admitted: “When Rovers got it back to 1-1 I thought they were going to go on and win it.

“But our lads kept going and played a full part in a good game.

“A few of our under-23s weren’t available as they were travelling with the first team squad to QPR and no fewer than 17 of them were out on loan, so we fielded a very young squad against Rovers with five under-18s and two under-17s involved. Antoine, our striker who won us the penalty in the second half, was always a threat and James Morton in midfield played well.

“We won this competition last year and we want to win it again. We want to get that winning mentality throughout the club and the lads showed in that Rovers win how much they want it.

“With so many of our players absent it was encouraging we could still put out such a competitive young team.”

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