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



Fletcher joy as Cheltenham Town Ladies prevail with GFA Trophy shoot-out success

CHELTENHAM Town Ladies’ delighted manager Graham Fletcher praised his team – then admitted to some shredded nerves following their pulsating GFA Women’s Trophy final defeat of St Nicholas Ladies Reserves.

It took a 6-5 penalty shoot-out success to land them the trophy following 90 dramatic and draining minutes of football which ended up with the weary teams tied at 1-1 on the Oaklands Park 3G.

The game began at a frenetic pace with Cheltenham’s speed and excellent passing forcing St Nicholas on to the back foot, although clear-cut chances were at a premium.

But after 26 minutes a well-taken corner from Sophie Wyatt was perfect for Louise Fensome to head powerfully into the net to give Cheltenham the lead.

It took some good goalkeeping by Lauren White in the Saints goal to ensure her team didn’t fall further behind as the sides entered the interval with Cheltenham carrying that slender advantage.

The second half started in the same way as Town enjoyed lots of possession while unable to get the second goal they craved.

Saints, meanwhile, began turning the screw and Cheltenham’s defence were now under pressure. And after creating some excellent chances, it was no surprise when they pulled level on 65 minutes when a quick break down their right and excellent cross was fired home by Lauren Ellis.

The game was now very open as both teams pushed for the winner, the best chance falling to St Nicholas as a powerful shot from Rebecca Rexworthy struck the underside of the bar and luckily for her relieved opponents the ball bounced away to safety.

On to penalties, then, and Cheltenham, who won the toss, missed their fourth attempt, meaning St Nicholas only needed to score with their fifth spot kick. Instead they hit the bar and at 4-4 the contest was now going to be decided by sudden death penalties.

Both sides missed with their sixth kicks before Rose Knuckey coolly slotted in Cheltenham’s seventh penalty.

Saints went on to miss with their next ‘take’ and after a thrilling shoot-out, jubilant Cheltenham Town Ladies were finally able to get their hands on the trophy.

Their overjoyed boss Fletcher beamed: “I thought when we took the lead with Feno’s fantastic header that we would go on and take control of the game.

“We did that to a certain extent but at 1-0 we needed the second goal and I give immense credit to St Nicholas who battled and fought for every ball in the second half, while the crossbar also saved us.

“It takes a lot of courage to take a penalty in a shoot-out and while it’s a great feeling to have won, and in such a dramatic fashion, it’s a shame too that one team has to lose in such a way.”

Fletcher said of his stars: “My team have been magnificent this season and at times in the final our passing and movement, as well as link-up play, were first class.

“St Nicholas pushed us all the way but of course I’m delighted for my team and it’s great to win some silverware for the club.

“I would also like to say a massive thank-you to all the people who came to watch the game: the atmosphere was electric.”

Cheltenham Ladies squad: Bec Panniers, Rose Knuckey, Jen Brown-Wealls, Naomi Purvis, Jade Wiltshire, Sophie Wyatt, Louise Fensome, Libbie Herbert, Suze Berry, Ria Suzanne Salleh, Ella Hitchcox, Holly Rogers, Yas Francis, Lydia Amarquaye, Louise Bull



It’s back in business – football-loving Sunday Indy is alive and kicking after all!

FOOTBALL enthusiasts in Gloucestershire have been among the throngs to welcome the sudden return of the Sunday Independent, which appeared to have emerged from the printing press for the final time earlier this month.

The award-winning West Country newspaper with a sports section crammed with local football reports, features and analysis suddenly and inexplicably disappeared off the shelves after the April 2 edition, to the dismay of thousands who religiously snapped up the 200-year-old title.

That apparently-final edition contained usual and enthusiastically-written fare relating to our own fair county: Ron Holpin’s in-depth Gloucestershire County League column; Ken Howitt’s Bristol Under-18 Combination offering; John Davis’ Hellenic League Hotline; Toolstation Western League round-ups and Terry Upton’s Bristol and District League review, not to mention Kevin Fahey’s Southern League stories and Dave Potham’s action-packed women’s football section.

There was not a hint of what was to come as regular contributors to the paper were stunned to receive an out-of-blue email three days later from sports editor John Collings which read:

“Since the owner Brian Doel’s death last August, everyone has worked tirelessly to keep the Indy going.

“We have, in fact, been trading well in the past year but Brian’s death de-railed our proposals for further investment and growth and, to date, it has not been possible to find some new investors, or someone with the necessary financial TLC, to continue.

“So, for now, please accept my grateful thanks for everything you have done and, hopefully, we can all stay in touch.”

However, it turned out to be just an inadvertent three-week break from routine as, in an equally sudden and dramatic twist, an announcement was made last Tuesday that the Indy had been saved by well-known West Country businessman Peter Masters.

The Truro City chairman explained: “Like so many of our family of readers, I’ve read the Indy every Sunday all my life.

“There was no way I could stand aside and let such a loved and respected part of the West Country sporting scene pass into history.
“We have lots of plans for the Indy moving forward but our driving motivation is what it has always been – to back sport in the West Country from grassroots to the top level with unrivalled in-depth quality coverage.”

The paper's new managing director, writer and photojournalist Colin Bradbury said: “Our first and most important task will be to get the Indy that people love, complete with our existing team of writers and contributors, back in the shops on Sunday, April 23.

“The paper will be on sale with a 20p price rise to £1.20 and we hope that given the challenges the paper has faced in recent weeks, people will understand the need for this small price rise – the first for nearly a decade - to keep the title alive.”

Meanwhile an emotional Collings, who has worked for the Indy since 1988, enthused: “We have been simply overwhelmed by the messages of love and affection for the paper and we thank everybody for their support.

“This great news gives us a solid platform to continue and make the Indy even better.”


At the double: Delighted Tony backs Frampton Rangers Ladies to be a first division hit

TONY Michael saluted his Frampton Rangers Ladies fliers after securing a league title and county cup double in their first season of adult action.

The Oaklands Park outfit followed up their Gloucestershire County Women’s League Division Two success with a GFA Women’s Challenge Cup victory over spirited Stoke Lane Women to wrap-up a memorable first campaign of senior female football in style.

Their delighted manager, who has overseen their fortunes right the way through from their under-12s days at the start of it all, is backing his vibrant young team to prove a hit on the first division stage next term after seeing off a stiff challenge, on goal difference only, from fellow newcomers Chipping Sodbury Town who paraded a nigh-on identical record, in the race for second-tier top spot.

Michael said: “It’s nice that this team is pretty much the same as the one that set off as a group a few years back as under-12s. Most of our girls are still only 16 or 17 and a couple are 18.

“We really didn’t know what to expect heading into the season because unlike in previous years when you got to know your opponents as the years went by, it was a completely unknown quantity.

“I thought we’d have an outside chance of winning the league at the start but that it could be a tall order given it was our first season. But they’ve all done brilliantly and just got stronger as the season has gone on.

“Now we’ll be playing in the top division and it will be a big step. We know that from some of the results you get when teams from the first division play second division sides in cup games.

“As it stands pretty much everyone is coming back next season although we do face the prospect a little further down the line of some of our girls going off to university. We’ll just have to see how that pans out over time.”

Frampton polished off a magnificent first campaign in the adult game with a fine victory over Stoke Lane in the final of the Challenge Cup on familiar 3G territory at Oaklands Park.

Maddy Brown, Abi Todd, Edie Stilwell-Jarrett, Beth Kelloway, Lucie Hulin and Ellie Michael, the manager’s daughter and twin sister to team-mate Ruby, were all involved in the scoring, although their boss was quick to point out: “To be fair to Stoke Lane it was quite a tight game until we scored our first couple of goals and then their heads tended to drop.

“Maddy and Abi are our main scorers but we do have five or six others who can chip in with goals which makes us hard to stop at times. And a lot of our girls can play in various positions which means we can rotate things as and when.

“I’m delighted for our club captain Shelby Kendall who has been with us since our under-12s days and she is fantastic; really dependable and a good team-mate to everyone.”


Cook and Tormarton serve-up Intermediate final feast as Yate rivals take a tumble

CHRIS Cook voiced his pride and delight after playing his part in steering Tormarton to county cup glory, reports Simon Parkinson.

In a full-blooded GFA Intermediate Cup showdown at Oaklands Park involving District League Division Two champions Yate Athletic and their league and local rivals, Tormarton hit back from an early 2-0 deficit to level up in the second half and take an enthralling encounter, which incorporated three late red cards, to penalties.

Adam Bates, Laurence Perkins, Ash Darnley and outstanding left-midfielder on the night Martin Cooper all held their nerve superbly well to see their side to a 4-2 shoot-out success.

Their centre-half, secretary and chairman Cook beamed: “It was our first appearance in a cup final and our first win, so you can imagine we were all elated and I for one had never experienced such a buzz after a match.

“It was a really good game of two halves, one which could have swung either way, and it was quite an occasion with both teams knowing each other so well as we’re all Yate boys!

“We managed to get back into it but Yate had more chances too and I’m not quite sure how I managed to block one on our line with my face.

“At 2-0 down at half-time I kept our lads in the dressing room until the very last moment as I could see Yate were already out there. I’m not sure if it had any effect but we managed to come through in the end!”

Dan Edwards and Sam Vile strikes had catapulted Yate into that two-goal lead around the midway point of the first half, although they achieved it after losing their unfortunate and hospitalised player Lee Robinson inside the opening five minutes after being accidentally knocked out cold amid a challenge involving a team-mate.

“We struggled to deal with their strengths, physicality and long balls over the first half-hour when they were clearly the better team with players like Sam Vile, who has played at a higher level with Winterbourne, upfront for them,” Cook acknowledged.

“After that we got into the game much better as their back four , being so big, had been getting the better of our strikers.”

While Yate continued to pose a threat, Tormarton hopes were raised when Jordan Darnley’s edge-of-box shot sent the Athletic keeper the wrong way 20 minutes in, before jubilant striker Adam Bates netted the equaliser from similar range, despite not getting the cleanest of connections, ten minutes from time to force a shoot-out.

A skirmish involving several players from both sides led to Tormarton’s all-action forward Ethan Crane, who had not long entered the fray, receiving an early shower along with Yate skipper Neil Ward and his team-mate Ben Hopson.

Cook added with a sheepish smile: “We had to play a league game the very next night and ended up losing 6-1 to Nicholas Wanderers Reserves with more or less the same team!

“We were hanging after that cup victory and we went on to lose 4-2 at Sea Mills Park Reserves who we never seem to beat anyway.”


Bishop and Sodbury Ressies hungry for more on strength of Premier Combination joy

CHIPPING Sodbury Town Reserves’ ace marksman Justin Bishop says his club will kick-off next season’s mission craving more success on the strength of their latest promotion triumph.

The 2015-16 Bristol and District Senior Division champions hit the ground running entering their first campaign as a Bristol Premier Combination force last September and never looked back, going on to win 17 of their 20 fixtures ahead of their away-day with Real Thornbury on Saturday, April 22 to gain promotion at their very first attempt.

Former Yate Town, Mangotsfield United,Winterbourne United and Longwell Green Sports striker Bishop had bagged 24 goals for the term to put himself in contention to conclude the season as the division’s most potent sharp-shooter, after relinquishing first XI duties with Sodbury’s successful Toolstation Western League team at the end of last term.

While the 36-year-old is keeping his eyes firmly trained yet on title prospects for his second-string starlets amid a two-horse race to the line involving current pacesetters Shaftesbury Crusade, he enthused: “The great thing is we’ve been very much a team in our own right; we’ve had no one from our first team propping us up at any time aside from our centre-half Andy Criddle, who turned out a couple of times to get up his match fitness.

“We’ve had a good, regular side to call on from start to finish and a lot of young players from our under-18s and men’s A-team have been instrumental in getting us this far, lads like Jack Dando, who has been brilliant at the age of only 16 filling in at times for our usual keeper Mike Pike, and Nathan Brown, who can play in central midfield or upfront. Then there’s Jon Morgan, Ross Amos and Dan Brown who have all made the step up from our thirds.

“We’ve also had a consistent front three in Jon Morgan, Danny Coombes and me and the beauty is that we’ve always played with a fluid, interchangeable 4-3-3 system and had the personnel with the intelligence, discipline and adaptability to make it work.

“The management team of Les Theobald and his assistant Ian Jevons have instilled a really strong work ethic in the group, demanding we give 100 per cent in every game and it’s paid off.

 “It’s helped too that there’s a few older hands, myself included, to help the youngsters along, lads like Chris Simsek and Lee Gardiner, who are in their mid-30s, and Danny Coombes, who is in his early 30s. So there’s a good balance throughout.”

Bishop is no stranger to success. Sodbury’s new women’s team, which he runs in tandem with club manager Scott Gibson, missed out on goal difference only to champions Frampton Rangers in their maiden voyage in the Gloucestershire County Women’s League.

The striker won two Hellenic One West titles with Tytherington Rocks and another with Winterbourne, while last season he was a jubilant Toolstation first division medal recipient with Sodbury’s fast-emerging first team holding their own promisingly this term in the league’s top section.

He said of next term’s potential Bristol Premier Combination top-tier challenges: “We’ll approach the new season with a belief we can win that league, although it will be hard; it’s a big step and there are some good sides in it.

“I can’t see that we’ll have too many problems scoring goals but a bit of work may be required at the back if this season is anything to go by, as we’ve sometimes needed to score a lot of goals to win our games!

“In the meantime I don’t want us taking our feet off the gas now that we’re promoted; it’s important we all focus on trying to go up as top dogs now we’ve got ourselves in this position.”


Up for the cup: Griffin backs Cirencester to give Bristol City a run for their money

CIRENCESTER Town’s encouraged manager Charlie Griffin says his players “can’t wait” to pit themselves against the youthful exuberance of Bristol City’s starlets, writes Simon Parkinson.

The teams lock horns for this year’s GFA Senior Challenge Cup final (date and venue TBC) after Ciren overcame local rivals Cinderford Town 3-1 in an entertaining semi-final affair at the Causeway Ground on Wednesday evening.

With Cinderford already confirmed as relegated from the Southern League Premier Division, and their opponents’ own safety in the balance just two rungs above them in the table heading into a crucial final away game of their campaign at Kings Langley on Saturday, April 22, the midweek county cup clash was always likely to be a close and tense affair.

Two first-half goals by Lewis Thompson, with a fine solo effort on seven minutes, and the recalled Aidan Bennett, who converted a close-range header from a free-kick 22 minutes in, set the lively visitors on their way.

And while Cinderford did pull one back to enter the interval trailing only 2-1 courtesy of Craig Norman’s sharp turn and volley inside the near post, Cirencester managed to repel an avalanche of attacks in the second half before putting daylight between the sides again thanks to Ellis Dunton’s strike midway through the period.

The victory ensured the Centurions a second Senior Cup final occasion in three seasons following their 2-0 win over Shortwood United at Oaklands Park in 2015 and their delighted boss acknowledged: “It was a great effort and it always feels good to get through to a final.

“We’d had a busy period so we brought in some of our development lads, including Robbie James, Angus Brereton and Max Arnold who formed our back three. We mixed them in with a few first teamers in need of games, such as Henry Spalding, Ellis Dunton, Kieran Diaz-Benitez, Dan Demkiv, Danny Gudger, Lewis Thompson, Ryan Elliott and Aidan Bennett, who was back from his four-game ban.

“My keeper coach Scott Rose also played in goal for the whole game and everyone combined well to produce a terrific result.
“We were excellent in the first half and scored two good early goals but credit to Cinderford, once they got back into it they were really at it as you’d expect in a local derby. We went 4-4-2 in the end and managed to see it safely through.”

Former Swindon Town marksman Griffin has clearly done his homework on Bristol City’s collection of reserves and under-21s who also made it through to the final via victories over Bishops Cleeve (4-3), Forest Green Rovers (1-0) and, in the semis, Mangotsfield United (3-0).

He explained: “I watched City beat Forest Green and they were well-drilled professionals who clearly train every day.

“I think it will be a good final and I expect the City boys to get the ball down and pass and move well.

“One or two of our lads might catch the eye too and it will be a good opportunity for them all to show what they’re made of.”


Sunday best - super Saints out to use title, county cup successes as treble springboard

TWO down, one to go – super Saints are on course for a splendid treble in only their second season of competitive action, writes Simon Parkinson.

Tony Bee’s unstoppable team followed up the clinching of the Gloucester Sunday League Division Two crown by edging a 1-0 victory over league rivals Riverside Sports in the final of the GFA Sunday Minor North competition at Stonehouse FC’s impressive Oldends Lane facility.

Saints hot-shot Kyle Bakewell’s typically-calm and clinical finish midway through the second period for his 42nd goal of his campaign was all that it took to separate the sides, after their luckless keeper Ryan Goldsmith, who had produced a routine early save from a scuffed attempt, had been whisked off to hospital with a first-half eye injury..

That misfortune sparked a hasty and unforeseen reshuffling of the ranks, which included right-back Conor Smith stepping between the sticks and substitute Rhys Constable replacing Scott Russ, who subsequently dropped back to the right-back berth, on the right wing.

Mercifully for Saints there were few further wobbles at the back to contend with and their delighted 27-year-old player-boss and centre-half on the night Bee glowed: “It was brilliant, to win a county cup in only our second season.

“Correct me if I’m wrong but I don’t think any of our lads have won a county cup and we have quite a few Saturday players like Kyle, Craig Howell, Sam Webb and Jason Littleton performing in the County League with Gala Wilton, while our captain Martin Colley and Haydn Hilton play for Gala’s reserves.

“We all went to Stonehouse on a minibus, suited and booted, to help make a proper occasion of it and we had a little walk around the pitch before engaging in a proper warm-up, which we struggle to fit in on a normal matchday!

“There were a few supporters there too which was nice and although we pretty much dominated the game and could maybe have had two or three more goals, I did sense a few nerves to begin with a few mis-touches and stray passes.

“But it was a great experience and a fabulous feeling at the final whistle, and my fellow centre-back Matthew Wasley was phenomenal as our man-of-the-match with the amount of tackles and headers he won.”

Saints, who were formed by one-time Hucclecote players Bee, assistant manager Ireland and Littleton, have sailed through their league programme with maximum points to gain elevation to Division One, where Bee anticipates another assault on the top prize.

In the meantime they have the Gloucester Sunday League’s President’s final to prepare for against top-table compatriots Boss FC on Sunday, April 30 at Slimbridge’s Wisloe Road (2.30pm) when they hope to seat the seal on a dream 2016-17 treble.


Praise for City’s young slickers but Mangos boss Mehew admits: “I got it wrong”

MANGOTSFIELD United boss David Mehew praised Bristol City’s fledgling performers for the manner in which they took their county cup semi-final opportunity by the scruff of the neck but confessed: “I picked the wrong team for it”.

The former Bristol Rovers ace watched in frustration as Mangos’ Cossham Street HQ provided the stage for the Ashton Gate outfit’s aspiring young professionals to net three first-half goals to claim a 3-0 victory and take their place in the final of the GFA Senior Challenge Cup.

Alex Ball’s exuberant side opened the scoring on five minutes through Jonny Smith’s unerring right-sided finish into the far corner of the net following a fine crossfield pass to him by Diego De Girolamo.

The supplier of that early breakthrough then netted himself 20 minutes in as he calmly found an unguarded net from Kel Akpobire’s unselfish delivery for 2-0.

And it got worse for the Southern League South & West hopefuls as Jake Andrews found himself in acres of space, with Mangos’ centre-half Ryan Batten led flat out and injured on the deck, to beat former Bristol City keeper Steve Phillips at his near post on the stroke of half-time.

The hosts had their chances too through Batten and Liam Monelle, who were each denied by magnificent stops by City custodian Jojo Woollacott.

City will now face Cirencester Town in the final , who defeated Cinderford in their semi-final the Causeway last night.

A disappointed and candid Mehew accepted in an interview with GFA Local Football News: “I gave some squad players, who had been questioning why they hadn’t been selected by me of late, a chance to impress and we saw just why they hadn’t been in the team.

“I said to the players after the game that I picked the wrong team. I left out four lads who had been playing well to give others an opportunity and put Lewis Powell and Matt Groves on the bench when on hindsight I should have started them.

“I thought the physical capabilities and experience of being a Southern League side would count for something but to be fair to City, they were technically better than us, which you’d expect given they’re professionals. The pitch was hard and bumpy but they coped with it a lot better than we did.

“Sometimes you get your selection right and sometimes wrong and against Yate (in the quarter-final) I completely changed the team and although we only won 1-0, we were streets ahead of them.

“Still, I thought we’d be more up for the City game much more than we were and the lads who came in simply didn’t do the business.”
Of the goals, Mehew stressed: “The first two were poor on our part while for their third, our centre-half Ryan Batten was down injured and I’m not quite sure how their lad was allowed to waltz through an enormous gap when maybe the officials might have dealt with it better.

“But we only had ourselves to blame by and large, although Ryan and Liam (Monelle) did force their keeper into making two outstanding saves at 2-0.”

Mangotsfield declared the occasion “players’ day”, for which the club’s former favourites were invited to watch the game free of charge to help mark the conclusion of Field’s 65th season.


Super VCF Santos target another Primary goal . . . the Bristol Churches League crown

BRISTOL Churches League aces VCF Santos are GFA Primary South champions for 2016-17 – and eyeing a special league and cup double for the term.

James Moody’s men are currently topping the second division table with three more crucial fixtures to confront as they target a return to the Churches League’s top section after three seasons striving to get out of the second tier.

Happily they can enter their run-in buoyed by their county cup success, a magnificent 4-2 victory over Bristol and District Division Five high-fliers Hillfields Old Boys Reserves on the Oaklands Park 3G.

The win was especially memorable as their opponents, undefeated thus far in league activity, were firmly on course for a title triumph of their own ahead of their trip to face mid-table Seymour United A on Saturday, April 15.

Far from fazed heading into the Oaklands occasion, VCF Santos produced one of their performances of the season in bouncing back from the concession of a 15th-minute Lee Britton goal to clinch the cup.

They responded quickly with two successful penalties before the break, both from the steady boot of central midfielder Jack Jevon, which were awarded for a goalkeeper foul and a high-foot challenge respectively, to enter a tense second period leading 2-1.

That advantage was quickly extended to 3-1 as centre-forward Brian Gichanga clinically converted a cross from the centre of goal, only for Hillfields to reduce their arrears courtesy of George Snowdon’s strike.

It was not to be their night, however, as Ricky Nutt’s cross in the final stages was turned into his own net by a backtracking Hillfields keeper desperately trying to claw the ball to safety.

Santos left-back and club secretary Ryan Sedgeley enthused: “It was fantastic considering we overcame a very good team who hadn’t been beaten all season until that point.

“We used to be quite a big club with two teams but we’ve shrunk a bit over the past few years and just in the throes of building ourselves back up.

“Eight years or so ago, when I first joined the club, we lost in the final of the same Primary Cup competition (4-1 to Southmead Community Sport) and three years later we reached the semi-final, so we’ve had our near misses.

“We’ve been on quite a journey over the past few years and it’s been quite tough at times.

“But through it all we’ve continued to try and instil Christian values into our set-up, even though the majority of us are non church-goers.

“We’re also grateful to the modern slavery and trafficking charity Unseen UK for their support and sponsorship over many years now.”


Longlevens’ outgoing supremo French backs coach Moore to prove a hit at the helm

LONGLEVENS’ long-serving manager James French has backed his trusted coach Mark Moore to successfully take up the reins next season now that he has called it a day.

The Saw Mills End outfit enjoyed a meteoric rise up the football scale during his ten-year tenure in charge, emerging from relative Gloucestershire Northern Senior League obscurity to become the competitive Hellenic League Premier Division operation they are today.

In an interview with GFA Local Football News, French, who also performed for the club over a five-year span as a player ahead of his elevation to the hot seat, admitted he had made his mind up soon into Longlevens’ 2016-17 campaign to step down at the end of a programme which concluded on Saturday, April 8 with a 4-3 home defeat by Ardley United.

He explained: “I made the decision simply in order to spend more time with my family. I have a job working two to three nights a week and every other Sunday too.

“Hellenic League away days involve eight to nine hours of football and travelling. My wife is very supportive of my football but now’s the right time to start putting them first.

“I’ve loved every minute of managing at Longlevens and the decision to step down was made very early in the season, which has allowed us time to appoint the right successor to continue the forward strides made by the club.

“I’ll still be involved in some capacity as I’ve made many close friends at the club. I’ll be down to support Mark and the team wherever possible, although initially I think my wife and daughters have me booked in for a fair few Saturdays!”

Asked about his replacement at the Longlevens helm, French emphasised: “Mark has been helping me this season so he’ll hit the ground running.

“He is the player who suffered a cardiac arrest aged 26 at Southmead Athletic six years ago while performing in the County League.
“Mark has been at Longlevens a long time and he knows the club inside out, and he has a lot of respect from all of the players. He’s definitely the right man for the job.

“I’ve been manager for ten seasons now and I am very proud of what the club has achieved. We’ve gone from a mid-table Northern Senior League team to one holding our own in the Hellenic Premier Division against clubs with big budgets and fantastic facilities.

“Behind the scenes has been incredible too as we’ve secured grants to enable us to move to a facility which in turn has allowed us to rise through the leagues, and it shouldn’t be forgotten the players have more than played their part.

“Their commitment has been second to none, not only on the pitch but off it as well doing work behind the scenes to get us ready for ground grading.”

French added: “Longlevens are now well established in the Hellenic Premier Division and taken part in the FA Cup and FA Vase.

“The FA Cup in particular is a competition we’d had our eyes on for three to four years, so to win a game in it this season and then go to Farnborough FC and play a team which included the likes of Jamie Cureton was unbelievable.

“However, it’s just the start and I’ve no doubt Mark and the team will go from strength to strength.”


Langdon determined to oversee a Rec resurgence – and it’s Longwell derby day for free to kids!

BITTON’S determined boss Dan Langdon has revealed his intentions to remain at the Rec helm next season - despite a season of struggle around the depths of the Toolstation Premier Division table, writes Simon Parkinson.

Notwithstanding an influx of familiar and accomplished faces who had become attuned to higher levels of the semi-pro game, Bitton had, ahead of a hectic Easter weekend which was due to kick off with a Good Friday away encounter with Longwell Green Sports (3pm) ahead of Monday’s visit by champions-elect Bristol Manor Farm (also 3pm), largely disappointed in their efforts to put the relegation threat firmly at arm’s length.

It’s a fact not lost on their young, upcoming manager, who to his undeniable credit has rooted himself firmly to the club’s hot seat after being elevated from similar second-string duties to the rigours of first-team affairs in February 2016 during a period of turmoil which involved the departure of previous boss Paul Britton and a raft of players.

Many a rookie manager might have wilted under the weight of strain given the basement battles Bitton have experienced this time around, although Gillingham Town’s announcement they are to withdraw from the league at the end of the season, and Dorset counterparts Sherborne Town’s comprehensive failure to haul themselves off bottom spot, means both Langdon’s charges and local rivals Hallen should stay safe in any case.

Nevertheless, after witnessing a midweek 4-0 home drubbing by Brislington, Langdon felt moved to say: “I’ve committed to being Bitton’s manager next season so the players now need to earn my respect back and fight for their shirts.

“Longwell Green, for example, always produce teams of players who want to play for the club and that’s exactly what I expect from my players. We’ve shown great quality at times but also shown a lack of consistency.”

Bitton’s cause against Brislington wasn’t helped by second-half red cards shown to George Foyle and Ryan Madge for what Langdon labelled “reckless challenges I don’t condone”.

Nevertheless there have been positives of late to take amid the setbacks, with fighting points claimed from 1-1 away draws with Wells City and Willand Rovers to go with the vital 3-1 mid-March victory over a Hallen side as much in need of the points as Bitton were that day.

Langdon acknowledged: “We have some real quality in our ranks now with the likes of Dean Griffiths, Josh Morgan-Williams, Jack Allward and Kyle Tooze, who has made a real impact and as a coach too.

“Jack recently joined us from Larkhall and he made a steady debut in our 5-3 defeat by Gillingham and was outstanding at left-back at Wells.

“It’s just a pity Ryan Bennett, our centre-half and club captain, is out with a back problem for the rest of the season.

“On the whole it’s looking good for next season but we need to make sure we see out these next few games properly and stay in the Premier Division.”

Longwell Green are making a special occasion of the Good Friday derby date with their fellow strugglers at Shellards Road.

“Kids are welcome in free of charge, as they will be for our home game with Sherborne on Monday (1pm),” Sports chairman John Gibbs said.

“We’re also laying on fish and chip suppers and a family disco after the Bitton game, so hopefully we’ll get a big crowd in.


The missing link . . . Lee’s Frampton CC Sunday sizzlers seal county cup prize at last

FRAMPTON CC’s delighted long-serving manager Lee Driver-Dickerson says the clinching of the 2016-17 GFA Sunday Premier North Cup provided “the missing link” where he and his club are concerned.

The Bell Field aces have been a dominant force in the Premier Division of the Gloucester and District Sunday League down the years and are pushing hard to retain last season’s title in an absorbing race to the line involving the likes of current leaders S&W Commy and Coney Hill Wanderers.

It was Coney Hill who were on the receiving end of a 2-1 defeat inflicted on them by Frampton in a closely-fought Sunday Premier final at Tuffley’s Glevum Park, prompting Driver-Dickerson, who is assisted by Liam O’Neill at the helm, to enthuse: “We’re absolutely delighted because while we’ve been leading lights in the league over many years, we’d never won a county cup, so this is the missing link we’ve been striving for ever since the club started.

“We had to come back from 1-0 down at half-time to achieve it after a pretty even first half. We find teams tend to sit back as we pass the ball well and then try and hit us on the counter attack.”

Frampton had parity soon after the interval when Kris Bully was fouled inside the box and Matthew Cook stroked home the resultant penalty.

In a game that became, in the words of the Frampton manager, “quite firey”, with his team ending the game with ten men and their opponents with nine due to a flurry of red cards, the Cricketers secured victory ten minutes from time when Nathan Dennis headed home from a corner at the back post.

Driver-Dickerson said: “We were well on top by then and could have scored four or five more goals by the end.

“There was a lot of jubilation and relief too as we’ve been waiting so long to win the trophy.

“Most of our lads play Saturday football for my other team, Frampton United, in the County League, and our club’s second and third sides, although we had a couple of players from Sharpness involved with us in recent years.”

Driver-Dickerson, meanwhile, is aiming to bow out on a high note as that Saturday team of his strive to maintain their place in the Marcliff Gloucestershire County League’s top three.

“This is my last season after ten enjoyable years here,” he explained. “Beating the leaders Stonehouse as we did (3-1 away) recently gives us a chance of the title but Bristol Telephones behind us are in the box seat because they have games in hand.

“We have to play them yet (on April 15) so you never know. We finished third with 65 points last season so it would be nice to think we could better that.”


Happy boss Bishop hails Wotton Rovers Girls U-12’s maiden county cup success

WOTTON Rovers Girls Under-12 coach Steve Bishop heaped praise on his team and beaten opponents Gloucester City as they celebrated a fine maiden county cup success, writes Simon Parkinson.

Wotton Under 12's

In only their second year as a group following last season’s encouraging emergence, the Bristol Girls League side lifted the GFA Girls U-12 Cup courtesy of a 2-0 victory on the Oaklands Park 3G thanks to Bella Davis’ early second-half penalty and Imogen Sparrow’s rasping finish.

Lily Bishop, who shared the goalkeeper duties with secure first-half shot-stopper Natasha Kerr, was forced into making a superb tip-over save five minutes from time as spirited Gloucester threatened to tee-up a tense finale, but the likes of Rosie Kenny, Niamh Keane and Millie Curl at the back for Wotton proved rock-like.

Happy boss Bishop assisted then-manager and team founder Tom Needham at the very start of it all last term as Wotton set-off as an under-11 operation.

And Bishop explained: “Tom used to coach with the GFA before going on to university and he started up our team as part of his drive to develop girls’ football at Wotton, where we only had what was then an under-13s side last season.

“Tom had been a Wotton Rovers player but had to give up through injury and so he threw himself into coaching.

“I came in as his assistant initially knowing he would be moving on as my daughter Lily, who is usually a left-back but shares the keeper duties with Natasha, has been with Wotton since the start.

“It’s been a really enjoyable experience and this season we’re on for a mid-table finish in the Bristol Girls (9 v 9) League, which we’d be content with in only our second season as a team.

“We have 14 players signed on for competitive league and cup football and another four girls recently joined us who we’re hoping will be involved next season. We’re seeing more and more interest in what we’re doing which is great.

“Wotton has a very strong hockey club so we tend to compete with them a bit for the same pool of girls, but we’re making real progress now and not only did our under-12s win their county cup final but our under-14s did too recently under Andy Symanowski’s guidance by also winning 2-0, against Bishop’s Cleeve Colts.”

After a tight and goalless first half, Wotton broke the deadlock in their under-12 final when winger Millie Toal burst inside from the right flank before being brought down inside the box, and central-midfielder Davis required no second invitation from the penalty spot ten minutes into the second period.

Eight minutes on and an attack up the centre of the pitch led to striker Sparrow evading two challenges before firing the ball into the top left corner from the right edge of the area to make it 2-0.

Bishop, who is assisted by Arvin Parmar, enthused: “The girls loved Oaklands Park, being in the changing rooms and having a stand to perform in front of!

“They were a bit nervous beforehand but they settled down really well once the first whistle went.

“It was a really good game and we were very impressed with the way Gloucester City and their coaches approached what was a clean and competitive game.

“They gave it a go right to the end which was great to see and they were very sporting at the end with handshakes, three cheers etc.”
Anyone wishing to get involved with Wotton Rovers Girls is welcome to contact Steve Bishop on 07773 394222 or at stevebishop64@yahoo.co.uk


All is not lost yet as spirited Southmead brace themselves for crucial relegation run-in

SOUTHMEAD CS Athletic co-boss Jason Tarr says his side’s second victory of the season has offered them a chink of light where their escape prospects go.

The Marcliff Gloucestershire County League’s bottom side added to their only other success of a draining and disappointing campaign, a 2-1 home defeat of Hardwicke in February, with victory by the same scoreline at the turn of the month over Lebeq United opposition displaying promising form of late.

With three games in hand over a Hanham Athletic outfit perched precariously above them and five-point arrears to address heading into the weekend of Saturday, April 8 when Southmead’s four-game finale was due to begin with the visit by Thornbury Town to Jarratts Road, Tarr and fellow manager Trevor Richards believe all things are still possible in the fight to evade the dreaded drop.

An uphill climb continues to confront them of course, but Tarr said optimistically: “We will be going into our last few games with the objective of picking up as many points as we can in an attempt to retain County League status.

“No doubt it will be a challenging end to what has been a challenging season. Player availability has been a massive source of difficulty for us and it is something that will need to be sorted out for next season, regardless of what division we will be playing in. That will be our priority task over the summer.

“There has been a huge turnover of players this season and a special thanks must go to our captain Rob Sivers, as well as Luke Bayford, Ben Fry, Dwayne Pope and Dave Johnson, who have all remained loyal and committed in spite of the tough time we have had.”

Of that welcome win over Lebeq, Tarr stressed: Apart from the first 20 minutes we were pleased with the performance and felt that we deserved the three points.

“The boys put in a great shift and created plenty of chances. We were bolstered by the return of Gary Booth and Shane Nicols to the starting 11 and their experience was key to the performance and result.

“If we can get them available for the remaining fixtures, we would be hopeful of adding to our points tally.”

Whatever stage Southmead perform on next season, plans continue to be put in place to provide them with firm foundations to build a way back from after five seasons of County League football following their joyous Suburban League elevation in 2011-12.

Tarr insisted: “We have managed to bring in some good new players and secure the services of some promising youngsters such as goalkeeper Connolly Jarrett and striker Luke Soule, who have both had Western League experience.

“Moving forward we are pursuing efforts to develop some infrastructure at the club in collaboration with our great junior section, starting with an under-18 team for next season.

“Both Trevor and I believe that this is vital for the long term future of the club.”


Woodlands cut down again as Crawford’s cracker clinches Real Thornbury Minor win

REAL Thornbury chairman Jon Miller and his club compatriots could be forgiven for experiencing a touch of déjà vu as they celebrated the raising of this season’s GFA Minor South Cup trophy.

It took only an early second-half Josh Crawford cracker to separate player-boss Sam Alker’s reserves and Bristol Churches League first division champions-elect Woodlands in a tight and tense Oaklands Park final struggle, that concluded with Bristol and District Division Four promotion contenders Thorns edging a 1-0 success.

Memories were stirred of an identical March showdown in the 2011-12 campaign when Real Thornbury’s fast-emerging first team overcame Woodlands 3-0 in a more one-sided spring final spectacle in the very same competition at the GFA’s 3G football centre.

Not that county cup successes are unfamiliar entities when it comes to the club as a whole – Real’s firsts have no fewer than four tournament wins under their belt, with Woodlands, Hallen B, Totterdown Reserves and Downs League Jersey Rangers all falling prey to the Bristol Premier Combination aces over the years.

As for the club’s elated second-string, whose Minor Cup triumph came in only their second season in force as a side, Miller acknowledged: “It’s a really good achievement and of course everyone’s been buzzing since.

“It’s quite novel too that our first team beat the same opposition in the same final five years ago.

“We went into the game feeling that we had a chance, although we knew Woodys were likely favourites being unbeaten at the top of the Churches League.

“It was as close a game as the scoreline suggests too. We had the edge over the first 15 to 20 minutes and then Woodys dominated without really troubling our keeper Billy Plummer, who was helped by some excellent defending.

“After a goalless first 45 minutes we decided to move Josh Crawford from upfront and put him in central midfield for the start of the second half, to get him on the ball more, and it paid dividends because within ten minutes of the restart he cracked a 30-yarder into the top corner for the winner.

“Again Woodys dominated possession and play after that but didn’t really force Billy into too much action.

“It was a really resolute, solid performance and a moment of magic from Josh won us the trophy.”

Miller added: “Our reserves were promoted from District League Division Five last season and now we’re hoping to finish as runners-up in Division Four which, fingers crossed, will put us in position for a second successive leap.”

View a gallery of the game on our Facebook page here



Now everything’s ‘all white’ as Hanham Cricket’s football team land Sunday prize 

JUBILANT Hanham Cricket FC are proving big hitters all of a sudden after finding themselves stumped in an inaugural 2015-16 campaign to forget, reports Simon Parkinson.

The recently-crowned GFA Sunday Minor South Cup victors found themselves on an extremely sticky wicket last season under the banner of Hanham Kents during a disastrous maiden stint as a Bristol Regional Sunday League outfit.

Yet far from succumbing to an understandable temptation to bail out altogether, the team regrouped and on a memorable recent Thursday night at Oaklands Park, that decision to continue as a football force was validated as they bounced back from the concession of an early Miners Arms breakthrough to beat their opponents 4-1 in the Sunday Minor shoot-out after the sides had completed 90 draining minutes locked at 2-2.

Of that unexpected and meteoric rise, their chuffed 19-year-old secretary and forward Josh Cummins explained: “We only started up last season and it could easily have been our last because we lost every game. I came in towards the end but it made no difference and we folded with about five games to go.

“Nevertheless I could see there was potential, so I sat down with our goalkeeper and chairman Ross Robbins, knowing there were a few interested players. Five or six of last season’s side remained and those that wanted to leave did so, wondering what the point of trying to keep it all together was after such a dismal experience.

“We roped in a few lads from other local clubs and friends, acquaintances etc, and now we have 28 players signed on, around half of whom play cricket for Hanham in the summer.”

As a result, Hanham Cricket have enjoyed a much more encouraging programme, winning nine of their 18 Bristol Premier Sunday League Division Three fixtures, reaching the last eight of the league’s Toga Cup competition and, of course, clinching that remarkable county cup success at the GFA HQ.

After shipping an early Miners Arms opener, Hanham’s lone striker Tom Paice soon restored parity before central midfielder Pani Lopez fired the Cricketers into a 2-1 interval lead, only for their Bristol Regional Sunday League opponents to level up at 2-2 on the hour mark to force a shoot-out.

With chairman Robbins keeping out two Miners spot kicks with fine stops and Paice, Dani Rodriguez, Josh Murphy and Jack Gore all successful from 12 yards, Hanham happily lifted the trophy and hope it will be the first of many.

“It was massively overwhelming after such a shocking previous season,” glowed Cummins, who went close to winning the final outright for his team late on as a substitute.

“We beat two sides above us in our division in Quality Finish (2-0) and Fishponds Town (4-1) in the early rounds, and then Bristol Dynamo (3-0) in the semis, who are up there near the top of Regional Sunday League Division Two.

“We watched Miners Arms beat Filton High 5-0 in their semi-final so feared the worst in some respects going into the final.
“But the 3G surface really suited us and allowed us to get the ball down and play.

“We have been using a small pitch at Hanham Woods Academy for our home games but we’re looking to ground share with Hanham Athletic next season which hopefully will offer us an ideal stage to push for promotion and bring us more cup success.”

Anyone keen to get involved with Hanham Cricket FC can contact Josh at cummins11@live.co.uk or by calling 07887 295462.


Disappointed Davies so eager to keep pot boiling over Thornbury promotion prospects

ANDY Davies is planning a summer shake up to his Thornbury Town ranks in a concerted effort to try and push them over the promotion line next season.

The former Bristol Manor Farm No.2 has watched on crestfallen as his long-time leaders, who had looked a formidable force for long stretches of the Marcliff Gloucestershire County League campaign, have inexplicably fallen by the wayside since the turn of 2017.

On Saturday, April 1 Thorns were due to entertain a Bristol Telephones outfit they’d at one stage of the campaign anticipated challenging hard for a place in next season’s Toolstation Western League.

But while the Stockwood Lane side appear to be embroiled in a fascinating two-horse race with current leaders Stonehouse Town for that prized promotion place, Davies’ men have tumbled all the way down into fifth position on the back of a run of one win in eight outings approaching that Telephones encounter.

The experienced Thornbury gaffer is far from toying with the notion of ringing radical close-season changes, in the knowledge sufficient talent lies within his existing collection of performers.

But he stressed: “I am definitely looking to bring in a few players over the summer, not least because we need to add numbers to the squad with only 14 or 15 players to call upon at this time.

“Winning the league is pretty much out of reach now and it’s disappointing because we’d been so good up to mid-January when we lost 3-1 at home to Lebeq.

“It’s not as though we’re getting thrashed; we’ve been unlucky at times and performances in the main have been good. Sometimes it’s boiled down to us giving silly free-kicks and goals away and it’s costing us dearly.

“It’s the same hard-working players out there who got us to the top of the table and they’re disappointed too.”

Had Thornbury been top dogs and out of sight, they’d have still been faced with the grim realisation that their Mundy Fields facilities will not have met ground grading requirements for elevation to the Step 6 game this time around.

Town had been striving to upgrade their facilities to Toolstation first division requirements by the March 31 cut-off point. Instead they face more anxious time awaiting the outcome of a bats survey before planning permission can be sought on installing floodlights and upgrading other areas of their HQ, to include hard standing around the pitch perimeter, fencing and a covered 100-seat stand.

“The bats survey takes place in April so we’ve missed the boat in terms of trying to gain promotion this season,” Davies confirmed.
“Hopefully we’ll get the go-ahead to push on and make those improvements over the next few months and give it another good go next season.

“The club as a whole wants to progress, including our big juniors operation, and the likes of Toni Watola, our chairman and Richard Shorey our junior secretary are doing a really good job trying to get everything in place off the pitch.

“They, like me, are determined to drive the club on to new heights as quickly as possible.”


Olveston eye cup double as deadly Williams sets up Cribbs Combination Cup cruncher

TOM Kilminster and his ecstatic Olveston United comrades have been heaping praise on players and club after cementing a second cup final appearance for the season.

The in-form Old Down outfit pencilled themselves in for a mouthwatering Bristol Premier Combination League Cup final date with current top-flight table-toppers Cribbs Reserves at the Lawns on Wednesday, May 3 (7.30pm) by beating gallant Premier One pacesetters Shaftesbury Crusade 1-0 at home thanks to George Williams’ 30th goal of a fabulous season for the deadly marksman.

At the same time as Olveston were booking their own final berth, Cribbs were also easing through to the spring showpiece by overcoming second-tier opposition themselves in Hambrook, 3-1, courtesy of two Fred Hopkins goals and a Tom Headford effort.

While Olveston are firmly out of the title reckoning, they have been going extremely well in third position in the Premier Division, while Cribbs’ hopes of seeing off an unrelenting challenge for top-spot from unbeaten Wick breathing hard down their necks in second place were dealt a significant blow in midweek.

In possibly the shock of the Combination programme so far they were beaten 1-0 at home by bottom side Bitton Reserves which, by the admission of frustrated Lawns supremo Alec Mills, left him and his floored compatriots “gutted” in the knowledge Wick had four games in hand over his team, and only seven points separating the sides to make up, heading into Saturday, April 1st’s round of games.

Olveston will care not a jot about all that in the satisfying knowledge that not only do they have a splendid chance of securing League Cup silverware, but they also have a tantalising opportunity to add a GFA Senior Amateur Cup trophy to their cabinet at Oaklands Park on Monday, April 24 (7.30pm) at the expense of Rockleaze Rangers Reserves hopefuls striving to make a wealth of games in hand count when it comes to their attempts to land the Suburban Premier Two crown.

All of which has given rise to feelings of excitement and anticipation within Olveston confines, prompting manager Kilminster to chirp: “Everyone has worked so hard behind the scenes to get us where we are, while the players have been outstanding and deserve to be involved in two such great cup final nights.

“It’s a fantastic time for Olveston AFC and it’s one that has brought the community so much closer together, with people around the area wanting to help out or contribute to the club to help push it in the right direction.

“There is still an awful lot to play for this season and it’s essential we keep going until the very end and continue to work hard for each other like we have done throughout this year.

“Hopefully we can bring some silverware back to such a promising club but, win or lose; it’s been an incredible journey.”

Chairman Martyn Lansdown added: “I’m really proud of the boys and over the moon for the club.

“This is the culmination of hard work that has been put in over the last few years by everyone associated with us.”


Super ‘Stapes’ clinch FIFTH straight title to put themselves in Combination frame

STAPLETON No.2 Ian Thorne admits he and his club can hardly take in the enormity of their latest title triumph amid a remarkable run of successes.

Saturday’s 5-0 away romp over Cribbs A not only secured them the 2016-17 Bristol and District League Senior Division crown but also made it no fewer than FIVE championship trophies on the spin, taking in their Bristol and Avon success in 2013 which proved just the start of a fairytale journey.

The Frenchay Park Road fliers wrapped up this year’s prize with four fixtures still to play and club chiefs say they are now in the throes of trying to negotiate a place in next season’s Bristol Premier Combination league.

Thorne, who assists manager Rob Selman and another right-hand man in Bryn Coates at the first-team helm, as well as serving as club secretary, glowed: “It’s hard to believe because we entered the season at yet another new level wondering if we might struggle a little.

“The higher you go the harder it’s meant to be, yet we’ve won each of our five divisions in successive seasons since we reformed as a club five years ago, after DRG had taken over our old set-up and facilities when we ran into financial problems in the late 1990s.

“Our only defeat so far in the league this season came at Shirehampton Reserves (4-2) and even that could have gone either way. Until now we have won every other game.

“Our only other loss came at Sartan United, who to be fair taught us a big lesson in thrashing us 6-1 in the GFA Senior Amateur Cup, something we’re simply not used to!

“Nevertheless we’ve won four county cups in those five years as a club, which can’t be too bad either.”

Thorne, 59, has been associated with Stapleton for some 40 years as a player, manager and administrator. He and Selman went on to start up and manage the club’s under-9 junior side, which featured their own sons at the time.

They oversaw the fledgling team’s fortunes right through to under-16 level before the pair enjoyed a successful two-year stint managing DRG Stapleton Reserves.

Now Stapleton’s class of 2017, who perform at Begbrook Green Park, are eyeing elevation to the Bristol Premier Combination.
“We’re hoping our present pitch will be suitable for Premier One requirements but if we are to progress still further, we may have to look at a suitable alternative facility,” Thorne explained.

“Player-wise most of our lads are in their mid-to-late 20s but the nice thing is a lot of them were former youth team members of ours who have grown up together.

“Three of our players played for Bristol Manor Farm in the Western League at one time but they wanted to come back to us, which says it all about our club.

“We call ourselves the Stapes Family and that includes our reserves under Kevin Bence and his assistant Joe Flay, who lie second as it stands in District Division Two which is extremely encouraging.

“We see ourselves very much as a single squad and not two separate teams.

“When Rob and I set it all up five years ago we could never have dreamt that things would have progressed as well as they have done and long may it continue.”


It’s Cinderford in the semis as Griffin backs his Ciren fledglings to maintain cup run

CIRENCESTER Town’s delighted manager Charlie Griffin says he will give his successful quarter-final performers every opportunity to try and secure them a second GFA Senior Challenge Cup final place in three seasons.

The 2014-15 victors overcame again the very side they beat 2-0 on that trophy-winning April night in 2015, Shortwood United, to this time take their place in the semi-finals of the competition and an away encounter with Cinderford Town on Wednesday, April 19 at 7.45pm.

In Tuesday night’s close and competitive last-eight tie at Corinium Stadium, left-back Ellis Dunton’s superb 75th-minute header in connecting with midfielder Henry Spalding’s perfect delivery proved enough to tee up an intriguing last-four date with their fellow Evo-Stik Southern League Premier Division strugglers.

Their pleased boss, who handed himself a run-out upfront during a goalless first half, said of the win: “It was close but we played really well.

“A few lads from our development team – Robbie James, Max Lloyd, Danny Gudger and Sam Farr – came in and did themselves a power of good, while another, Max Arnold, was given a place on the bench.

“The rest comprised first teamers who had been in and out of the side and everyone played their part. Even my goalkeeping coach Scott Rose came in and kept a clean sheet!

“It was nice for young Ellis to score with a perfect contact from Henry’s great set-piece ball. Ellis has just come back from Australia where he’s had a change of scene and played a bit of football.

“But it was encouraging all-round and now we’ve come this far we want to go on and see if we can reach the final again.

“Cinderford won’t be easy but we’re trying to build a winning mentality at Cirencester and it’s a chance for these lads who did so well on Tuesday to show what they can do in a semi-final.”

Ryan Elliott, who has become used to warming the bench, was called up for a full debut at right-back in a contest which never really got up a head of steam until midway through the second half when suddenly chances began to spring up at both ends of the pitch.

Gudger ended a promising Ciren approach by firing an effort a fraction wide and Lewis Thompson wasn’t so far away from opening the home side’s account with a rasping shot moments before Dunton did just that with the game’s only goal.

An alert Robbie James did have to leap to Town’s rescue at the death with a fine last-ditch challenge to deny Shortwood, whose Liam Meredith had a few minutes prior almost netted with a chipped attempt, an injury-time leveller following a loose attempted clearance by Rose.

Mangotsfield United and Bristol City Reserves, meanwhile, are set to their semi-final meeting at Cossham Street on Wednesday, April 12 (7.45pm).


Cadbury Heath up next as delighted Davies steers Fairford to Challenge Trophy final

GARETH Davies says his Fairford Town fliers are in no mood to pass up a golden GFA Challenge Trophy final opportunity after securing their place in magnificent fashion.

The Hellenic Division One West leaders overcame a Bristol Manor Farm team on the cusp of claiming a place in the Southern League for the first time in their history with a 3-1 victory in the Toolstation Premier Division pacesetters’ usually-impregnable backyard on Tuesday night.

A Dan Drewett strike saw Fairford into half-time a slender goal to the good before two more goals courtesy of impressive winger Jason Milhench’s effort and Ben Saunders’ header had the rampant away side in dreamland.

Manor Farm did threaten a comeback with an 80th minute Ben Bament goal, but their gallant and industrious guests held firm to set up a memorable Oaklands Park occasion against more Western League opposition in Cadbury Heath on Thursday, April 27 (7.30pm).
Their ecstatic manager Davies beamed: “It’s not really sunk in yet because that was some win.

“Manor Farm were probably the best side we’ve played this season; from front to back they were very organised. When we arrived I felt they were a very professional outfit. You could sense they’re a Southern League side in waiting.

“We knew it would be a challenge and I felt it was important the lads approached it with relaxed minds.

“When Jason Milhench tore past their full-back inside the first five minutes it seemed to set the tone for the rest of our evening. We pressed high up the pitch and made things uncomfortable for them, trying not to give them time and space on the ball.

“Our lads’ work-rate was first class and after the game they could hardly stand up. How they got up for work the next day I’ll never know!”

Davies reflected: “Earlier on, when we were leading only 1-0, they had a header which hit both posts and you wondered then if it might be your night.

“Manor Farm had two really good chances in the second half as well but Ben Mitchell made two superb saves.

“Ben and his back four of Scott Chilcott, Sam Ockwell, Aaron Dainton and Ben Saunders were absolutely superb dealing with their front three, sometimes front four, and Matt Boucher and Nathan Blackford were fantastic in central midfield, as were Dan Drewett and Jason (Milhench) on the right and left flanks respectively.

“Had anyone said to me at the start of the season that we’d be top of our league at this stage, in a county cup final and in the quarter-finals of our Supplementary League Cup, I’d have certainly taken it.

“Every player wants to win trophies and while we don’t know too much about Cadbury Heath, we’ll go to Oaklands Park with our strongest available squad looking to try and win it.”


The big kick-off: IFAB law changes leave (some) football lovers scratching their heads!

SOME football fans and grassroots players have been left mystified by new laws introduced this season relating to the kicking off of games.

The traditional stipulation that the ball must move forward from the first whistle was scrapped last summer by the International Football Association Board (IFAB).

This has meant that some teams have opted to send only one player to the centre spot for kick-off when, in the past, it has been common to see two players, one of whom has advanced into opposition territory to receive the initial pass, combine to get a match underway.

The recent episode highlighted on this GFA Local Football News column concerning Hempsted’s Gloucester Sunday League sharp-shooter Andrew Alston’s amazing goal scored from the very first kick of his side’s 6-0 rout of Renegades Reformed will have led some enthusiastic football observers to reflect on the variety of approaches to kick-offs now on display.

That strike would have been perfectly legitimate in bygone years too, but for the benefit of those still a little bewildered by it all, GFA Local Football News asked West Country-based Football League referee Kevin Johnson to explain the changes.

He said: “The law states that at kick-off the ball must clearly move to be in play and it can now be kicked in ANY direction. This avoids any confusion regarding whether a player has played the ball or not.

“All players have to be in their own half of the field of play as per law for starting and restarting the game following the scoring of a goal.

“A goal can be scored direct from kick-off as it would fulfil the criteria as stated above, as the ball has clearly been played and clearly moves towards the opponents’ goal.

“It’s always worth remembering that a referee should control all restarts to avoid confusion. A player cannot play the ball a second time before it has touched another player.”

Johnson, who hit the headlines last October when he was left spark out on the deck and consequently stretchered off and hospitalised with a neck injury while overseeing the Plymouth Argyle-Colchester United League Two tussle, added: “The laws changed this year because we used to get too many restarts going wrong, leaving questions like, ‘did the player play the ball forward then back, or did the opponents encroach, etc’?

“So now it’s much more straightforward as you see one player kicking the ball in any direction and those balls are in play much quicker.”



Happy Heath boss Black aiming to go one better in quest for Challenge Trophy success

CADBURY Heath boss Andy Black says he is determined to make this season’s GFA Challenge Trophy final appearance a happier experience following their 2013-14 near miss.

The Springfield side booked their place in the Oaklands Park final on Thursday, April 27 (7.30pm) courtesy of a tension-filled 3-2 victory over gallant Hellenic League Premier Division opponents Brimscombe and Thrupp, who twice hit back to equalise with first-half goals from Jack Smith and Sam Blackie in Tuesday’s semi-final affair at The Meadow.

That triumph lifted Black’s boys into the spring showpiece once more, where they are to face Fairford Town, who currently head their table.

Three years ago the Heathens were beaten 5-4 on penalties in the final by Toolstation League counterparts Hallen after the sides had fought out a 1-1 stalemate in normal time.

And Black acknowledged: “It was disappointing but the occasion was a good one and that will remain the same.
“We lost a close game against Hallen that season and hopefully we can put it right this time but it will be tough, whoever we play against in the final.”

Heath had to fight all the way against Brimscombe to secure that prized place, despite setting off like an express train and taking an early lead through George Boon after good work by prolific marksman Matt Huxley, who had carried a groin complaint into the tie but, by his manager’s own admission, “had to play”, adding: “It was too big a game not to have him out there.”

That approach, however risky, paid rich dividends as soon after Brimscombe had restored parity through Smith’s headed conversion of Ben Prictor’s tenth-minute cross, Cory Simpson was brought crashing down inside the box and Huxley confidently stepped up to smash home his 41st goal of the campaign from the penalty spot to restore Heath’s advantage.

Still the Hellenic Leaguers refused to buckle and they levelled up again to take a cracking tie into the interval poised delicately at 2-2 thanks to Blackie’s astute chip, before a draining and competitive second period all but ended with Simon McElroy firing home a thrilling 87th minute winner after breaking down the left and cutting inside, before smashing a deflected shot past a startled goalie who got a hand to it but was unable to keep it out of his net.

“It was a tough game for us on a muddy pitch and close too in the end, one that could have gone either way,” Black acknowledged.
“To be honest I thought we might go on and thrash them the way we started, but to their credit Brimscombe grew into the match and pushed us hard all the way.”

Disappointed home boss Sam Prior admitted: “It was gutting to lose so late and again we were made to pay for missed opportunities. It needs to be a learning curve for us all but it’s a time to stick together.”


Mixed emotions as St Nicholas’ super second-string book Women’s Trophy final pass

ST NICHOLAS secretary Iain Prior hasn’t known whether to laugh or cry after watching the club’s two women’s teams battling it out for a coveted place in the 2016-17 GFA Women’s Trophy final, writes Simon Parkinson.

All knock-out competitions produce thrills and spills, shocks and surprises along the way, and this one was to be no exception.
While promotion-chasing Saints Reserves were always going to prove a handful given they top the Gloucestershire County Women’s League first division table, they nevertheless entered Sunday’s enticing semi-final encounter with their first-team counterparts as underdogs given their very near-neighbours’ current lofty status as FA Women’s Premier League South West Division One participants.

The stage was certainly set for one of those occasions, witnessed by an intrigued and enthusiastic 150-strong Lodge Road crowd, which devotees of cup football rub their hands in gleeful anticipation of.

St Nicholas’ second-string slickers tore into their club compatriots from the start and went on to secure the 4-1 victory that tees them up for a Tuesday, April 11 final on the Oaklands Park 3G (7.30pm) against Saints first team’s league rivals Cheltenham Town Ladies, who overcame Downend Flyers 2-0 in the weekend’s other semis showdown.

The reason for Prior’s mixed emotions? As well as being responsible as secretary for the entire St Nicholas operation, which incorporates men’s, youth, girls and two women’s sides, he also assists manager John Seymour at the helm of the ladies first team, who were made to suffer on the day at the hands of their lower-ranked club comrades.

After seeing Lauren Ellis’ hat-trick and Poppy Coles’ strike dismantle his team, for whom Jodie Arkell briefly reduced their second-half arrears to 3-1 with a consolation strike, Prior smiled: “I guess that’s cup football and the bragging rights go to the reserves!

“It’s the first time they’ve played each other since our reserves were set up four years ago, although that team did go on to win the GFA Women’s Challenge Cup that inaugural season in beating Cheltenham on penalties.

“For me, losing as we did against our firsts wasn’t a huge surprise because they are flying at the top of Gloucestershire Division One and have applied to go up to South West Women’s League Eastern Division. And they’re in the semi-finals too of the league’s Gordon Perrett competition (to play Almondsbury UWE at Oaklands Park on Sunday, April 23 at 3pm).

“The first half was fairly even with only one goal in it and it was an exciting game to watch. But they were up for it more and better prepared than we were and played out of their skins to their credit.”

The Saints secretary was also encouraged to see a large crowd swelled by some 30 members of the club’s under-9s and under-10s girls’ development squads.

“They all acted as mascots and every player had one to walk out with before the start which was good to see,” Prior said.

“The whole thing was a good advert for our female section, which is doing really well and looking to run teams from under-10 right through to under-16 again next season.”

Jubilant reserves gaffer Kevin Cooper chirped: “I was caught a bit between the devil and the deep blue sea because this is my first season running the ressies after 12 years with the first team!

“I stepped over the fence to try and help make the club more successful and the girls bought into everything I was able to teach them from my time with the firsts and showed how much it meant to them.

“We weren’t expected to win but we put some plans into place and the girls showed tremendous energy and endeavour to win through.
“I’ll now speak to our first-team manager John Seymour about their league rivals Cheltenham as he’ll know a few things about them ahead of the final, and I’ll try and watch them myself.

“Again we’ll be underdogs but there’s a treble on for us so we’ll be giving it everything on the night.”


An instant hit . . . Hempsted sharp-shooter Alston in quest to clarify his ‘record’ goal

HEMPSTED hot-shot Andrew Alston won’t forget a recent purple passage of his eventful career in a hurry - and small wonder!

The 32-year-old marksman, who counts AFC Cheltenham and Churchdown Parish among his former clubs, was once deemed promising enough to undertake trials at professional football level with Preston North End under the watchful eye of then-boss Craig Brown, the former Scotland supremo, and chief scout Clive Middlemass, who had been No.2 to Terry Cooper at both Bristol City and Bristol Rovers in the early eighties.

Forest Green Rovers also took a hard look at the striker who was by no means the first talented prodigy to ultimately miss out on the quest for stardom, not helped by persistent knee problems in those formative years.

His most recent past could hardly have been more eventful as he not only netted with the very first kick of Hempsted’s Gloucester and District Sunday League Premier Division encounter with struggling Renegades Reformed at Bishop’s College before going on to claim the match ball courtesy of a hat-trick in a 6-0 romp, but all-action Alston went on to score and provide two assists in the league’s Senior Cup semi-final success against Coopers Edge Meteors at the weekend, despite carrying a hamstring injury.

The talk of the town, however, has been that dramatic early breakthrough against rattled Renegades and Alston, who progressed to play some of his football in the States before a return to his Quedgeley backyard, explained: “I asked my strike partner Alex Thomas to ask the ref (Colin Amos) if I could go direct with the kick-off and was given the nod that I could.

“I stood about five steps in and as soon as the first whistle went I ran up and hit the ball perfectly over the keeper’s head and into the net.

“Everyone started running to me, going crazy, and their team looked in a state of shock. It was a nice way to start a Sunday morning!

“I’ve scored some good goals in my time, including a 30-yard bicycle kick, but that was certainly the fastest.

“I’d love to know if some sort of record was broken although the ref didn’t actually clock it, which was a shame. It had to be around two seconds and I’ve looked online and seen videos and information relating to goals clocked at 2.8 seconds, 3.5 seconds etc.

“There is one goal given as two seconds (see link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a33qtMYGPGM) involving a guy called Nawaf Al Abed but, for me, it’s a bit longer than that between ball being struck and crossing the goal-line!

“I’ve contacted Donna Osborne, the secretary of the Gloucester Sunday League, to see what she can find out but really we need either hard evidence or a good estimation. With no video footage of the goal it’s hard to get a definitive answer.

“When you score a goal like that it would be nice to get recognition of some type.”

Alston, who scored 42 times in 16 appearances for Hempsted in their 2009-10 first division mission, netted his 16th goal in all competitions this term in only his 12th appearance in that Senior Cup win over CEM, which earned them a final occasion against top-three rivals S&M Commy on Sunday, April 23 at Slimbridge’s Wisloe Road HQ (10.30am).

Of that semis victory, the in-form forward explained: “Because we didn’t have enough players I ended up playing with a hamstring injury.

“I needed to be smart about it and choose the right times to try and get on the ball and make an impact, although there was no chance I could run in behind their defence as I simply couldn’t sprint!

“We started the game well and went 1-0 up and then fell apart. Within 30 minutes we were 3-1 down.

“Nevertheless we fought back hard and I ended up getting a goal and two assists and we won 5-3, so now the lads can enjoy a cup final, although unfortunately my injury is such now that I’ll not be participating.”


A roaring success: now fledgling Severn Valley Youth League eyes under-18 expansion

SEVERN Valley Youth League officials believe a fledgling operation can continue to flourish on the strength of a successful first season.

The league only came into force last autumn after a bold decision had been taken in March 2016 to merge the Gloucester Youth and Stroud Youth leagues in order to form a bigger and better football experience for children and young adults between the under-8 and under-16 age brackets.

Since the alliance was finalised last spring, with Gloucestershire FA acting as a driving force and go-between, some 2,100 youngsters have embroiled themselves in friendly and competitive action across an impressive 18 divisions.

Now discussions are taking place with a view to introducing an under-18 division next season and while these talks are in their infancy, hopes are high that it can be granted the green light if enough teams register in time.

In the meantime it’s business as usual for the Severn Valley League’s ten-strong committee of volunteers whose chairman Ken Fagan, who held a similar post with the now-defunct Gloucester Youth League, expressed “encouragement and satisfaction” at the way the amalgamation has already paid off.

“It’s all been pretty good,” he enthused. “We doubled everything overnight when we joined the two leagues together and although there has been the odd inevitable hiccup administration wise, things have pretty much gone to plan.

“It was a Gloucestershire FA concept; they approached me to ask whether there might be merit in the idea and we decided to be daft and try and get everything in place within two-and-a-half months of devising a plan.

“Prior to the organisations joining forces the Stroud Youth League had under-13 to under-16 teams, while we at the Gloucester Youth League were stronger on the younger sides, so it was a real fit.

“Next season will probably be a consolidation one, to reinforce what we have, but we’d like to move things forward too if we possibly can.”

That could involve the formation of an under-18 section and Ken, a level 5 referee, confirmed: “It’s definitely something we’d like to bring in.

“We’ve already asked some under-16 teams to give us some feedback on what they’d like to do next season and whether they think it’s feasible.

“Some youngsters reaching the ages of 15 and 16 simply aren’t ready for adult football, so under-18 football offers them a good stepping stone. And it’s a good stage too for young referees looking to progress to the senior game.”

Ken added: “On the whole youth football is thriving in terms of numbers and we’re really pleased.

“We can give ourselves a pat on the back, especially given the short timescale we gave ourselves to get it all together, and we’re grateful to our committee members and our member clubs who run a good ship.”

Any teams wishing to sign up to the Severn Valley Youth League can contact Ken Fagan by emailing him at: a17kjf@yahoo.co.uk


Why Northern Senior aces Sharpness have grounds to dream of County League return

GLOUCESTERSHIRE County League founder members Sharpness are making a concerted push to regain their former status thanks to a new long-term lease afforded them at their present headquarters, writes Simon Parkinson.

The reigning Northern Senior League One champions and eight-time GFA Senior Amateur Cup conquerors have been unable to hit the heights of last season’s accomplishments, although with games in hand to make ground on the four sides above them, they remain in the reckoning to steal into promotion contention.

Regardless of those prospects the 117-year-old club, which provided the fledgling County League with one of its 16 original teams in 1968, are pressing firmly ahead with efforts to upgrade their facilities in readiness for a crack at promotion in 2017-18, should this season’s hopes fall by the wayside.

Since losing to industrial development in 1988 the Port ground they’d happily called their own for the 88 preceding years since their formation at the turn of the 20th century, Sharpness have been without a ‘real’ home, as they went on to ground-share briefly with Forest Green Rovers in the late 1980s, while Berkeley Vale Community School offered them premises for a spell before the switch to their current Hamfields Leisure Club venue on the old Berkeley Power Station site.

While discussions with the local council with a view to identifying a potential ground in Sharpness are ongoing and have been for three decades, the club have now been granted “welcome breathing space” courtesy of a 20-year lease at Hamfields, which is located some four miles away from their spiritual port facility.

The ambitious club’s minutes secretary and life member Nick Grove explained: “The facility we play on at Hamfields was once used by the power station social club workers, and when their set-up folded in 2007 the pitch became available and we moved there.

“As we are primary users of the site it suits the Hamfields Leisure Club to have us there to generate revenue, and they have no issues about what we’re doing there. They have been very supportive in welcoming us and sharing our ambitions for improving the facilities".

“We’ve just put barriers right around the pitch and brand-new dugouts, all funded by ourselves and our sponsors, and we’ve just had new goals installed.

“We’ll be almost there when it comes to County League ground grading requirements but we’re looking beyond that and having three portacabins providing changing rooms installed which will be up to Hellenic League spec, something the County League advised us to do.

“We were members of the Hellenic League until 1990 after we’d lost our Port ground but we look at the likes of other local clubs like Longlevens, Tuffley, Brimscombe and Thrupp, Kingswood, Lydney and Slimbridge and seen how well they’ve progressed since gaining promotion from the Northern Senior League, and want a piece of that action ourselves.

“The great thing is having this long-term lease at Hamfields enables us to apply for FA funding for ground improvements, although we’ve been seriously fund-raising for these projects for some four years now as we want to put foundations in place for the next generation.”

Of the Sharpness class of 2016-17, managed by Terry Gibbs and his No.2 Brad Thomas, one of the club’s most decorated players, Grove stressed: “It’s mathematically possibly still to go up this season, although we’re unlikely to win the league and then it would be a case of seeing what the County League wanted to do were we to finish high enough.

“If we’re offered the place, we’ll certainly take it. We have a very young and talented squad and we don’t want to be losing them to rival clubs.”


Ambitious gaffer Rayan is reaching for the stars in bid to elevate Lebeq to higher planes

LEBEQ United’s hungry boss Rayan Wilson is clearly a man on a mission – to catapult his exciting team as far up the football ladder as possible.

Far from content with leading the Easton aces into the Marcliff Gloucestershire County League as runaway champions of the Bristol and Suburban League last term, the 32-year-old fitness and performance consultant through his Back2Action business is reaching for the stars when it comes to his football objectives.

Lebeq’s steady showings in their first season at the level led them to a commendable seventh spot ahead of their next fixture on Wednesday, March 22 (7.30pm), when Patchway Town were scheduled for the short trip to perform on the Oaklands Park 3G.

Wilson insisted, however: “I have a vision, and so does the club, to get to where the likes of Bath City and Weston-super-Mare are in the National League (South). If I didn’t share that vision I wouldn’t be here, simple as that, and it’s a target I feel is a realistic one.

“People like Owen (Smith) and Errol (Thompson) behind the scenes have been ambitious enough to get us to where we are now, but it’s all part of a journey we’re on to see how far we can go.

“I left for four months at the start of the season to help out my brother-in-law Tom Collett as his No.2 at Hallen when he was manager at the time, and when I came ‘home’, so to speak, Lebeq (under Mo Bokoto’s leadership) had been having a few indifferent results and it needed stabilising.

“Now the aim is to finish as high up the table as possible and start building again for next season, when I feel we can have a proper crack at winning the County League title and getting us promotion to the Toolstation League.”

Wilson added: “I’ve a good idea what I need to put in place in the close season and that means adding three or four players to the current squad. I’m quite old-school in that I like to have a squad of 20 or so players and if I don’t pick you, you have to work harder, and that philosophy is what has brought us our successes.

“You’re here for a reason, because you want to be and you want to win.”

Despite his Hallen connections, as main club sponsor and former player, Wilson is adamant he is going nowhere at this time.

“I only left Lebeq in the summer to help out a close family member in Tom but I was happy to come back to them in November.

"Lebeq are a club I’d been with since a child and for whom my dad played when they were a Sunday team.

“I played in just about every position for them and went on to manage Lebeq Sunday’s reserve side.

“So I’m happy where I am and looking to take the club as far as I possibly can.”


Smiles back at the Causeway as Senior Challenge Cup run keeps Cinderford hopes up

CINDERFORD Town secretary Bob Maskell insists his club’s impending GFA Senior Challenge Cup semi-final appearance is reward for their suffering supporters’ sterling backing.

The Causeway Ground, which has witnessed so much upheaval over the past 12 months, was a much happier arena on Wednesday night as Paul Michael’s men surged to a 6-1 victory over youthful Bristol Rovers counterparts to claim a place in the last four of the prestigious county competition through Lewis Bamford and Nick Harrhy braces and efforts from Craig Norman and Elliot Ford.

The victors will now take on either Cirencester Town or Shortwood United, who are set to lock horns at the Corinium Stadium on Tuesday, March 28 (7.45pm) for an outstanding last-eight tie. Mangotsfield United and Bristol City Reserves are already through to the semis although a date has yet to be set for their encounter.

Maskell described Cinderford’s midweek success at the expense of Rovers Under-18s as “a breath of fresh air” amid a torrid Southern League Premier Division struggle which sees them stranded on the bottom rung with seemingly few prospects of an instant return to the first division South & West section which, by complete contrast, offered them a route up via their 2015-16 title-winning triumph.

Their long-serving secretary enthused: “Wednesday was a great night and it gave our loyal fans some welcome cheer when you weigh up the fact relegation is possibly looming.

“Hopefully there’ll be more of that and we can go on and reach the final again, just as we did four years ago when fixture congestion around the time didn’t help our cause and we ended up losing to Mangotsfield (4-0) in the final.

“We’ve got one of two of our old friends in either Cirencester or Shortwood to overcome first and we’ll be doing our utmost to beat whoever we play in the semis.

“On a broader note it’s nice that the competition offers small clubs like ours the chance to go to places like the Memorial Stadium, Ashton Gate and Forest Green; something different from the norm.”

Maskell is adamant there are chinks of light on the horizon, even if it takes a step back before they can begin to rebuild in readiness for a fresh pursuit of Premier Division football once more.

“We’re fortunate that we have a young and enthusiastic manager in Paul Michael in place and he’s done some good things and shown real promise since joining us (in November) from Risca United in the Welsh League where he was player-manager,” he said.

“We’ve all been really impressed with how he and his assistant Andrew Smith have taken to the task, and it’s not been easy for them because we had a slow start to the season not helped by many of our players finding themselves head-hunted by clubs, which left us with only three members of the existing squad at the start of the season.

“The big tax bill we faced has been well documented but financially we’ve stabilised and we feel we’ll start next season in a much better position.


Roman Glass’ brave keeper Nathan John starts long road back

LUCKLESS keeper Nathan John will be welcomed back with open arms once he recovers from the serious injury he sustained while keeping goal for revitalised Roman Glass St George.

So says Saints assistant boss Liam Greening, who learned in horror, along with the rest of his Oaklands Park club compatriots, that their recent arrival on a dual-registration basis from Yate Town had suffered a neck break while performing for his new side in last month’s 3-2 away defeat of Corsham Town.

The incident occurred around the 70th-minute mark, yet despite the extent of the damage, and the pain he was undoubtedly in, the keeper bravely continued between the sticks before the following day learning from hospital specialists that a bone in his neck had been fractured as he’d stooped low to scoop up the ball in cutting out a Corsham goalscoring threat.

That unfortunate episode sparked memories for those of a certain age of the broken neck injury Manchester City’s famous shot-stopper Bert Trautmann picked up during his team’s 3-1 FA Cup final success of 1956, when he leapt at the feet of Peter Murphy to deny the Birmingham City man a goal.

When the brilliant German collected his winner’s medal, his neck was noticeably crooked.

Of a similar scenario, albeit amid the more modest surroundings of a Toolstation first division affair, Greening explained: “Nathan was caught on the head inadvertently by the leg of one of their lads as he went in to collect the ball on the bounce, but no one had a clue that his neck had been fractured, not until the next day, the Sunday, when he sent a picture of himself sporting a neck brace.

“Come to think of it, he must have been in agony because there was a moment at the end of the game, just after we’d gone in front at 3-2, when he uncharacteristically dropped a ball he’d normally take with his eyes shut, and it transpires that he’d not been able to turn his head.

“Our hearts skipped a beat when we learned the following day what had happened. He’ll not play again this season and he faces a long rehab, but he’ll be more than welcome back here for training if he’s ready in the summer.”

Greening concurs with the maxim that you have to be mad to be a goalkeeper, one that certainly applies to John.

“I’ve never seen a goalie go in like he does; he’s very brave,” Greening acknowledged. “He’d only been with us from Yate for a couple of weeks and fitted in very well and enthusiastically with the group.

“Thankfully our No.1 keeper before Nathan’s arrival, Phil Mills, has become available again and his experience and qualities have come through during a good run of wins for us.”


Charfield conquerors aiming to use Junior Cup success as springboard to new heights

CHARFIELD’S delighted secretary Jeremy Lewis believes their leap into this year’s GFA Junior North Cup final is just the start of bigger and better things, writes Simon Parkinson.

Adam Spiers’ men booked their place in the Thursday, April 27 showpiece at Slimbridge’s Wisloe Road HQ (7.15pm) courtesy of a storming 7-1 away romp over North Gloucestershire League Premier Division high-fliers Whitecroft at Grove Road.

Stroud League cup conquerors Charfield, who on the flip side have been battling in and around the lower reaches of the first division table albeit with games in hand to improve that position, reached the final courtesy of Jamie Gosling’s double and James Gilvear, Harvey Bain, Jake Meadow and Matt Siddon efforts, not to mention one from the jubilant young player-manager himself, Spiers.

That feat set them up for a mouthwatering tussle with mid-table league rivals Tetbury Town, who booked their own pass in the April encounter thanks to Richard Jones’ brace in a hard-fought 2-1 home success over Cheltenham Leaguers Newton, whose Darren Hope kept them in the contest with their goal.

The entry into Junior North Cup silverware contention once more sparked memories of a golden age for Charfield around the turn of the Millennium.

“Getting to another final is very pleasing,” Lewis chirped. “It’s only three years since we beat Hardwicke Reserves on penalties to win the Intermediate Cup and we won the Junior Cup sixteen or so years ago, as well as the Division One title and Charity Cup, which was a big treble for us that year. We went on to enjoy a fantastic time at Northern Senior League level, only to head back the other way from the moment we finished bottom in 2009.

“We went on to suffer three relegations in five years and ended up in Stroud Division Three.

“Thankfully Phil Miles came along, stopped the rot and we’re going the other way again with Adam, who is only 24, and his fellow centre-half and assistant Jonny Rosser competently running the show now.”

The Charfield secretary added optimistically: “Hopefully we can use this season as a stepping stone back into the Northern Senior League. Yes, our league position looks a bit lowly but we do have a few games to catch up on and hopefully we’ll end the season strongly in and around mid-table.

“Certainly the ambition is there to progress and we have the facilities to do so. If we can keep this young side together under Adam’s tutelage, who’s to say we can’t achieve those aims?”

Of that big cup date with Tetbury, Lewis smiled: “We’re actually playing them at home in the league the week before the final, which could be interesting!

“They’re a solid club and I have respect for them, and the match we played them in earlier in the season was a very close one as the 1-1 outcome suggests.”



Almondsbury UWE’s experienced boss Black left so shocked by Devizes drubbing!

ALMONDSBURY UWE manager John Black thought he’d experienced everything in local football – until he set foot in Wiltshire with his relegation-threatened team at the weekend! Reports Simon Parkinson.

The 56-year-old has spent 25 distinguished years of ups and downs leading the likes of Bristol Manor Farm (over two spells), Stoke Gifford United, who he took to a Suburban League top-flight title as player-boss, and Hambrook while they were of County League ranking.

He also counts a No.2 role working alongside Ian Alexander at Yate Town in the mid-1990s as part of his managerial education.

Black is one of the most familiar faces around the grassroots circuit and few would ever have seen his jaw dropping in disbelief the way it did as he watched an extraordinary spectacle unfold before him at Devizes Town during Saturday’s Toolstation League first division tussle.

“I’m still stunned by it now!” he beamed after witnessing an extraordinary 9-2 victory by an Almonds team propping up the rest of the table with only three wins to their name entering the match, Stuart Alexander and Jordan Yeo, with four and three goals respectively, inflicting the bulk of the damage on the day.

“I spoke to my secretary after the game and he looked at me and just said, ‘I’m in shock’. Even the Devizes manager (Darran Walters) asked me afterwards, ‘Where did that come from’?

“I can’t say it was the first time in a while that I’d slept well on a Saturday night because we’d beaten Calne 3-1 last month, but it was a good feeling and completely out of the blue.”

UEFA B badge holder Black, a well-known figure on the children’s football scene as a long-serving Avon Athletic and Bristol Rovers Youth coach, has suffered along with the rest of his Almondsbury comrades this season as they’ve remained firmly entrenched in the first division basement, despite many competitive showings and close-run encounters throughout.

“I don’t let things get to me anymore but it’s been hard,” he admitted. “You look at our performance against Devizes and ask yourself, ‘what have we been doing all year’?

“Player commitment doesn’t help when you’re down there and I’ve not been happy about that, so I gave some lads from our reserves, Ian Semple, Ryan Meacham and Dean Jones, a chance and they performed really well.

“Funny thing is Devizes hit the post and forced our keeper (Matt Semple) into making a good save before we scored our first goal and once we did, everything we hit went in and it was unbelievable, and more so because Devizes had been really good at our place to win 5-1!

“We have to enjoy those sorts of days because they don’t come around very often. But we’re where we are for a reason and we can’t afford to be carried away by it. There’s a mountain to climb still – we need to show championship form, not relegation form - and if we finish where we are, at the bottom, we’ll have deserved it; I can’t deny that.”

Black, whose 23-year-old son Joe plays in central midfield for Almondsbury, continues to enjoy his involvement on the junior stage with Filton-based Avon Athletic, for whom another son, Jamie, like his brother, performs as a midfielder for the Avon Youth League outfit.

“It’s encouraging that eleven of my current group of under-16 players are lads I’ve had with me since they were under-8s,” he enthused. 






Leonard Stanley, Charlton Rovers lock horns for Senior Amateur North final gem

LEONARD Stanley and Charlton Rovers will contest this season’s GFA Senior Amateur North final after both came through nerve-shredding semi-final ties with their hopes firmly intact.

The match, to be played at Slimbridge’s Wisloe Road headquarters on Thursday, April 20 (7.15pm), promises to be an enthralling spectacle between teams battling it out at opposite ends of the Gloucestershire Northern Senior League One ladder right now.

While Charlton are targeting at least a runner-up berth, Rob Harkins’ Leonard Stanley have been facing quite different challenges second from the foot of the table, and without a win in their last six league games, heading into their crucial Saturday, November 11 home fixture with bottom side Bredon.

Leonard Stanley’s GFA cup form has, however, proved a real blessing, a journey that continued unabated at the weekend as goals by Matt Fanstone, from a Jordan Measures cross, and Brad Brinkworth, with a 30-yard screamer, ensured them a penalty shoot-out opportunity from a 2-2 draw against travelling Cheltenham Civil Service Reserves.

Helped by two wonder saves from keeper Andrew Roberts, Stanley took their spot-kicks chance with both hands to claim a 4-3 win after their high-flying Cheltenham League top-tier counterparts had put themselves in with a chance of progression via Joe McCauley and Stuart Midwinter strikes in normal time.

While Charlton, who inflicted a 5-1 licking on Leonard Stanley in last month’s league tussle at East End Road, will enter the contest undoubted favourites, they will be mindful too that their lowly opponents not only won October’s corresponding fixture 2-0 thanks to James Glastonbury’s brace, but also pipped them 3-1 on penalties in a Reg Davis Memorial Cup opener at the start of the campaign after the sides had been tied at 2-2 on 90 minutes.

Charlton, however, have good reason to want to lift the trophy too, having frustratingly fallen short at the final stage last season when Stonehouse Town, who went on to County League promotion success, emerged 2-1 victors at the home of Tuffley Rovers.

After watching James Campbell and Richard Gamble doubles, along with Ryan Caddock’s strike, sink spirited Southside Star in Saturday’s semis affair, their happy secretary Ian Courtney-Smith enthused: “Everyone at Charlton Rovers is delighted to have come through such a thrilling game.

“Having gone two goals down early on and suffering an injury to our already-depleted defence, the players fought so hard to gain control of the match which ebbed and flowed dramatically and was only decided in the final minutes.

“We are now looking forward to the final at Slimbridge where we hope to give a good account of ourselves and go one better than last season when we suffered a disappointing loss in the final.”

Leonard Stanley midfielder Joe Hill Pemberton said: “The club is very excited about a major Saturday league final and we’ll be doing extra training in preparation for it.

“We usually generate big crowds for such occasions and hopefully that will be the case again, but in the meantime we need to concentrate on trying to save our Northern Senior One existence.”



City stalwart Kenny targeting Youth Shield success with his Gloucester starlets

GLOUCESTER City Youth’s long-serving manager Kenny Blackburn is out to ensure his team bury the bitter memory of their 2014-15 near-miss when they take on Warmley Rangers for this year’s GFA Youth Shield showdown.

City convincingly brushed aside the challenge of Somerset Floodlit Youth League counterparts Bitton in the semi-finals thanks to Ashley Bird’s brace and Harrison Iddles, Will Tunnicliff and Ollie Barnes efforts, to see them safely to Oaklands Park on Tuesday, March 28 (7pm) via a 5-1 romp.

It was the second time in three seasons Gloucester’s talented crop of under-18 starlets had reached the last hurdle of the county competition, one they’re hoping to overcome this time after Yate Town edged a 3-2 penalty shoot-out win following a hard-fought 2-2 draw in the 2014-15 final.

The Tigers’ latest Oaklands appearance comes on the back of a successful season, in which they reached the first round proper of the FA Youth Cup.

They’ve also been riding high again in second spot in the Midland Floodlit Youth League’s Southern Division with all to play for over the next few weeks, as they strive to secure a third straight title success in the section following 2014-15 and 2015-16 triumphs.

This season represents Blackburn’s and Neil Mustoe’s third together at the Tigers helm, although Blackburn has been boss for far longer than that, 16 years to be precise.

His faithful cohort Mustoe, 40, is a vastly experienced former professional who began his career at Manchester United where he went on to win an FA Youth Cup, as they beat Tottenham Hotspur in a mid-nineties final at which Blackburn was a spectator!

Gloucester-born midfielder and one-time England Youth international Mustoe went on to make 364 appearances for his home town Gloucester club at adult level, where he led them as captain to their current National League North status in 2009 with a Southern League play-off success.

Blackburn too is a former professional who enjoyed FA Youth Cup outings himself, with Cheltenham Town, before going on to score a winner on his debut for Brighton against Shrewsbury Town at Football League level.

He too turned out for Gloucester City, as well as Cinderford Town, before focusing his mind on providing a pathway for young players to progress through City’s youth system, something he holds close to his heart today having overseen their founder membership of the Midland Junior Premier League in 2003 when five teams, from under-12s to under-16s, enthusiastically set out.

Of today’s challenges in the Floodlit League competition, Blackburn explained: “Our current team is made up entirely of players from in and around Gloucester.

“Most will be playing in their first county cup final and they are really looking forward to it.

“Some of them will hopefully be finishing their youth development on a high note before going on to progress into adult football.”



Super-saver Smith helps inspire Warmley Rangers route to Oaklands Park showpiece

WARMLEY Rangers and Gloucester City are gearing up for a fascinating county cruncher in this year’s GFA Under-18 Youth Shield final.

The match takes place on the Oaklands Park 3G on Tuesday, March 28 at 7pm and sets Bristol Under-18 Combination  Premier Division hopefuls Warmley against a Gloucester side currently embroiled in a fascinating struggle for title supremacy in the Midland Floodlit Youth League’s Southern section.

City earned their place in this year’s spring showpiece courtesy of a 5-1 romp over Bitton, while Rangers booked their place via a draining semis encounter with Fairford Town, which ended up in 3-3 deadlock before the South Gloucestershire side snatched victory in a 3-1 penalty shoot-out decider.

Fairford had started well too with a goal on 15 minutes before Warmley captain Joe Mills volleyed in from Harry Saunders’ long throw to equalise.

Kian Mugliston was then denied a goal from a corner when the Fairford keeper made a superb acrobatic save, before Aaron Mansfield scored with a cross-shot from 20 yards to hand Rangers the lead.

Fairford were denied an equaliser just before half-time when Warmley keeper Marcus Smith brilliantly pushed a well-struck volley on to his crossbar.

Rangers found themselves on the back foot for a ten-minute period after the interval which culminated in Fairford scoring twice to take a 3-2 lead.

Forced into a rapid response, Warmley pressed hard and hit the woodwork three times through Joe Mills, Ben Jeffries and Saunders’ free-kick as they urgently sought an equaliser.

It duly arrived ten minutes from time when Lewis Skidmore scored his first goal for the club with a searing volley from the edge of the box.

Before commencing with the penalties both managers made a joint presentation of a trophy to referee Dave Peeling, who was officiating in his 1000th game.

Shortly after that Smith was proving the hero of the hour for Warmley, just as he had been in the quarter-final against Lawrence Weston Colts, as he saved three of four penalties he faced, while his team converted their first three spot kicks thanks to successful Jefferies, Saunders and Mansfield ‘takes’ to secure that prized place in the late-March final.

Disappointed yet unbowed, Fairford coach Graham Merrington said: “It was a real feat for us having played only two seasons of cup competitions. We managed to reach the quarters last season in the North Wilts League and the semis here, never having had a home fixture either!

“We thought this competition was excellent, with really great games, sporting opposition coaches and really terrific officiating.”



Easter mission: McConachie boys set to hit the road on football fundraising grounds

OLDLAND Abbotonians’ intrepid secretary Martin McConachie is poised to embark on an Easter mission to remember – and he’s taking his two enthusiastic identical twins with him!

While most of his counterparts will get to visit half-a-dozen or so football grounds in a month, Martin will be heading for almost a hundred of them in two weeks over the festive period.

The 48-year-old and his 16-year-old lads, Ryan and Harry, are travelling to all 92 Premier League and Football League grounds next month collecting signed memorabilia for charity. The two lucky recipients of their efforts are the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation and Adam Stansfield Foundation, both set up following the deaths of the two popular football personalities.

Martin explained: “I did the same trip back in 1998 and raised £4,750 for Macmillan, and I have been itching to do it again for years.

“My lads and I are mad-keen Yeovil Town fans and Adam was a hero of ours when he was at Huish Park. His tragic death at the age of 31 was so very sad and after the Foundation was created in his name, it was an easy decision to raise funds for them.

“Sir Bobby was a personal hero of mine and his Foundation does some great work in the field of cancer treatment, so we are happy to help them too.”

Sponsorship of a vehicle, fuel and hotels has come from the likes of Practical Car & Van Rental, Gulf UK and Redrow Homes, plus a private individual who contributed £140 to the cause, despite never having met the three of them.

Martin’s trip with his two youngest sons begins on Saturday, April 8 when he leaves his home in Oldland Common and heads for Yeovil, then Bournemouth, Southampton, Portsmouth (for the Yeovil game there), Brighton and Crawley. And that’s just the first day!

He finishes at Exeter City a fortnight later with hopefully a bootful of signed items.

“Yes, the itinerary is tight but keeping it to two weeks means we can fit it into the school holidays,” Martin said. “It’s around 2,750 miles to cover but we will have a ball going around on the tour with the added bonus of helping two fantastic charities.

“We’ve also got some signed shirts from England (Wembley), Hereford United and Sunday League YouTube sensations Palmers FC, plus a couple of non-League clubs, so we’ll visit about one hundred stadia in the end.”

Sponsoring or supporting Martin is easy. Simply visit his website at www.4-2-3-1.org where you can read about the tour, see what has been pledged or even sponsor him via a Virgin Giving account.



Griffin’s excitement at 3G advent tempered by crucial Cirencester Town safety push

CHARLIE Griffin says he is rubbing his hands in warm anticipation of a new chapter in Cirencester Town’s 128-year history, reports Simon Parkinson.

The Evo-Stik Southern League Premier Division club will be performing on a brand-new 3G pitch next season, 70 per cent of its £500,000 outlay to be met by a significant Football Foundation grant.

Almost from the moment Cirencester’s final match of 2016-17 away against Kings Langley concludes, work on the community facility will begin in earnest, with the digging up and levelling off of the sloping ground and the installation of the hard-wearing artificial surface.

It’s a project expected to take between eight to ten weeks to complete but hopes are high it will be ready in time for the August off.

Single-minded manager Griffin admits that with his team currently uncomfortably close to the Premier Division drop zone, he can think of little else now other than to steer them safely to calmer waters.

However, he was happy to declare: “These are exciting times for the club. I think the new surface will be a good thing and who knows, it could give us a little extra home advantage when it comes to playing sides who aren’t used to these artificial pitches.

“That said, more and more clubs are having 3G put down and these days many teams train on them, so they’ll not be unfamiliar to a lot of players.”

The Kingshill Lane outfit have shown a marked improvement of late, with three straight 1-1 draws and a 1-0 win at Stratford Town offering them foundations to a potential escape route.

The 37-year-old former Swindon Town, Forest Green Rovers and Gloucester City striker Griffin certainly hopes so and he said: “I’ve not been thinking too much about the 3G pitch thing or discussed it too much with the chairman (Steve Abbley) and everyone else.

“We have some important matches coming up against teams around us (including Hayes & Yeading at home on Saturday, March 4) and my absolute priority is to make sure we stay in this league. We’ve drawn a few games lately but at least we’ve not been losing.

“Everyone needs to work hard on what’s immediately before us and then we can think about rebuilding in the summer and going again next season on the new pitch.

“We’re also looking forward to our county cup (Senior Challenge) quarter-final against Shortwood United on March 28 (7.45pm) at our place and make no mistake, we want to get through to the next round: it’s a game I will not be taking lightly.

“We do our homework on all our opponents and rest assured that will apply to Shortwood by the time the game comes around.” 


Disability programme a whole new ball game for Griffin’s Longwell Green Juniors

LONGWELL Green Sports Juniors have taken their “football for all” philosophy to a whole new level by introducing a section for disabled children.

The immensely-popular South Gloucestershire club, named Gloucestershire FA Charter Standard Community Club of the Year for 2014 and 2015 while also receiving a Highly Commended accolade in 2016, say they have long been striving to put in place a “complete provision” for enthusiastic young players of all ages and abilities within their football framework.

While the junior section as a whole has shown impressive growth over the past few years, the eagerly-awaited introduction of a “much-planned” disability wing, delivered with backing by the GFA and Bristol Sport, has sparked delight and satisfaction within the club’s Shellards Road confines.

Longwell Juniors general manager and award-winning coach Paul Griffin said: “Our vision was always to provide a disability provision and I am delighted that, having worked so closely with the GFA and Bristol Sport on the project, we have now made that vision a reality.

“Following much planning as part of the Longwell Green family we were delighted to be able to launch our first-ever inclusive football training group covering all disabilities for boys and girls aged between six and 16.

The intention now is for this group to grow and become a permanent part of our community club.

“I am delighted this has been launched because it is something I have been keen to introduce for a while, and seeing the theory move into the first sessions was very pleasing.”

Of his club’s burgeoning junior and youth departments, Griffin acknowledged: “The club has shown remarkable progress in recent years with an increase of 40 per cent to the 500 boys and girls we now have participating regularly.

“Our venture into the soccer tots game with Longwell Littluns has led to the introduction of 70 kids who have not yet started at school. Add to that another 100 or so children of reception and year 1 age and the future looks very bright.

“I am also delighted Jamie Griffin and Amy Sillitoe, two fantastic young people who have worked with me on a variety of projects, are yet again assisting me. Having two such reliable and capable people by my side is very reassuring.

“The weekly sessions (Thursday, 6pm-7pm) are currently being held at Brunel Academy and they have been really enjoyable. I’m looking forward to coaching and growing this group every week.

“We always welcome new people and anyone wishing to find out more can get in contact with me at goaliegriff@tiscali.co.uk to arrange to come along.”


New supremo Alex aiming to hit heights with County League title chasers Stonehouse

ALEX Lumsden is a young manager in a hurry after being presented with a challenge that would test the mettle of the most seasoned campaigners, writes Simon Parkinson.

The former Brimscombe and Thrupp reserve team forward has just, at the tender age of 23, been handed the task of attempting to steer Stonehouse Town to a Marcliff Gloucestershire County League title in this their first-ever campaign at the level following their triumphant rise from the Northern Senior League last summer.

Not that management is anything new to Lumsden, who had confidently held Brimscombe’s second-string reins for two-and-a-half seasons before an opportunity at Stonehouse arose which proved too enticing to ignore.

“I’d already decided to leave Brimscombe at the end of this season in the knowledge that my assistant there, Tom Deakin, an under-16 academy coach at Forest Green, would be taking on the manager duties then,” Lumsden explained.

“I’d been a player there for three seasons in Hellenic Division Two prior to taking on the manager’s job at the age of 20, which made me younger than most of the lads there!

“It was a good and challenging experience but a few weeks ago I noticed on Twitter that Stonehouse were looking for a new manager as Haydn Murray was stepping down, so I applied straight away.

“I was aware they were flying high in the County League and looking to go places, and I knew a couple of their players which helped. Within four weeks I had the interview and was offered the job.

“I’d had a lot of support from people as I went for the job and the players seemed positive, so I was really chuffed to get it.”

Lumsden, a Bristol Rovers Academy Under-10s coach, counts his local side Wickwar Wanderers and neighbouring Wotton Rovers among clubs he featured for during his formative years as a player, while also turning out for Cirencester Academy and Jamie Shore Academy at various stages.

Having become attuned to the Oldends Lane hot seat over the past month or so, Lumsden is eyeing more exciting times for a Stonehouse outfit clearly meaning business where their prospects lie.

Most pressingly, on Saturday, March 4, fellow promotion candidates Bristol Telephones were due to arrive at Oldends Lane for a crucial top-table tussle (3pm).

Of the bigger picture Lumsden maintained: “There’s no pressure. I feel the pressure’s all on the other teams trying to catch us.
“We’re top of the table for a reason and while many see us as a surprise package, it’s not something I go along with because I know how much hard work is being put in behind the scenes.

“There’s a lot of effort going into getting our facilities up to scratch for the next level up, which we have a dedicated committee on top of.

“We’re confident that all planning applications, which haven’t faced any objections to date, will go through by March 31. I’m just focusing on getting things right on the pitch as these things could become a distraction.

“Make no mistake I want to take Stonehouse into the Hellenic League. We have a great squad and the opportunity to progress has given everyone a buzz.

“And when the likes of Brad Moore (central midfielder) and Jamie Spring (centre-half) return from their long-term knee injuries, it will be like having new signings aboard.

“That takes nothing away from the boys so far as everyone has stepped up their game to get us to where we are.”


Gill’s Bristol City Deaf hopefuls gearing up for big national semis battle with Barnet

BRISTOL City Deaf’s player-manager Mark Gill admits he has plenty of thinking to do as he steps up preparations for their latest epic appearance on the national stage, writes Simon Parkinson.

The WISE Campus-based side have been drawn against Barnet in the England Deaf Challenge Cup semi-final at Warwick University on Saturday, March 18, after brilliantly overcoming old foes St John’s Deaf 3-2 in an enthralling and draining last-eight tie at their Stoke Gifford HQ.

While they could be forgiven for believing all things are possible now on the strength of that success over a St John’s side who broke their resistance and hearts with two late goals in the May 2015 final at Basingstoke, Gill is understandably preaching caution too as their semi-final opponents Barnet are proving a tough nut to crack this term.

The teams battled it out recently in the quarter-finals of the British Deaf Cup on Keynsham Town’s 3G surface, an encounter the in-form London outfit took 2-0 to claim a place in the last four of that tournament.

Last month they also became the first team to beat City in this season’s English Deaf League, their 3-1 win in Bristol over Gill’s previously-unbeaten fliers taking them to the top of the table at the expense of their frustrated opponents that day.

While there’s all to play for yet when it comes to second-spot City Deaf’s chances of regaining their seat at the head of the pile, the same applies to their hopes of cementing another place in the Challenge Cup final. Gill agrees, but with wariness a watchword.

He admitted: “I take full responsibility for our 2-0 loss against Barnet last week as the tactics I put out to my team simply didn’t work.

“That said our players also have to realise they need to put in more effort out on that pitch to make it happen.

“We’re not in a position to dream of winning the Challenge Cup just because we beat St John’s, as Barnet are a completely different team. They are a more structured unit who like to play the ball out wide to stretch the opposition.

“This is something I need to consider and I aim to come up with a plan to make sure we get more possession of the ball than them.

“We’ve now lost twice against Barnet this season and we also lost a couple of good players to them last summer.

“They will know a few things about us too but we have nothing to lose and we’ll give the tie a real go.”

That quarter-final win over St John’s courtesy of a Frankie Vaughan brace and Gilson Sly strike nevertheless sparked delight and optimism in the City Deaf camp, moods Gill and Co would dearly love to replicate in the semi-final.

“It was a very close game and our tactics were simply to get our lads behind the ball and play on the break,” Gill explained.

St John’s are not an easy team to beat as they will be getting involved in the European Deaf Champions League in the summer, so it showed again that we are making real progress.”


Senior Amateur run acting as silver lining for Leonard Stanley basement battlers

LEONARD Stanley are hoping the county cup stage can throw up some overdue silverware for the cabinet this spring following a series of agonising near misses, writes Simon Parkinson.

Rob Harkins’ men have suffered this season compared with last season’s high-hitting exploits when a third-spot finish last term was enough to sweep them back into the Gloucestershire Northern Senior League top flight for the first time since their 2013 tumble from first division standing.

Yet while they had won only four of their 19 league outings to date ahead of their crucial bottom-three meeting at home against fellow strugglers Harrow Hill on Saturday, February 25, Leonard Stanley’s form in the GFA Senior Amateur North competition has given rise to hope and enthusiasm amid testing times.

Their mid-January 2-1 quarter-final win at Quedgeley Wanderers sent them into a second semi-final appearance in three years following their 1-0 2014-15 last-four defeat by a high-riding Brockworth Albion outfit playing, at the time, a division above their opponents.

While they have never reached a Senior Amateur final, Leonard Stanley are no stranger to county cup finals as a whole.
Remarkably they reached the Junior North Cup showpiece three times in a row, in 2007, 2008 and 2009, only to lose out on each occasion. In the 1990-91 season they fought their way through to the final of the GFA Intermediate tournament, only to finish up runners-up once more.

Their experienced central midfielder Joe Hill Pemberton admits they will have to pull out all the stops this time too to claim a berth in this April’s Senior Amateur final, as they prepare to entertain Cheltenham League Division One high-fliers Cheltenham Civil Service Reserves, 2-1 home victors over Ruardean Hill Rangers in their last-eight tussle, in the Saturday, March 4 semis (2pm).

Of that previous 2014-15 Senior Amateur semis appearance, Hill Pemberton recalled: “It was pretty disappointing because we’d never been to a final at that level of county competition before.

“Brockworth were going well a league above us in Northern Senior One so we were always underdogs. We hung on and hung on until the final stages when they won with a penalty about ten minutes from time.

“We’re very much looking forward to the semi-finals this time, and while we know little or nothing about Cheltenham CS, we do know they knocked out Ruardean, who are pushing hard at the top of our league and who gave us a 4-1 pasting at our place earlier in the season, which tells you something of the strength of Civil Service.”

Hill Pemberton believes he knows a good reason why Leonard Stanley have failed to build on last season’s promotion success.
“We’re an ageing team and while we have some promising young players developing, they need to grow in strength and experience and while I’m sure it will happen, it does take time,” the 33-year-old reasoned.

Our keeper Andrew Roberts, defenders Joseph Yemm and Andrew Sargent; midfielders Brad Brinkworth and me, and striker Matt Fanstone, are all into our 30s, and that’s six players out of a squad of 12 or 13.

Pleasingly the likes of Samwezi Mutalindwa, a pacy, skilful left-winger, and James Glastonbury, a quick lad upfront who has scored a couple of good goals for us lately, have broken through but they just need to develop physically as they’re still only young teenagers.

“Others are coming through too but we’re just struggling a bit for the required quality at this standard and reliability has been an in issue as well for us, with injuries and other absenteeism affecting us quite a bit.

“With Avonvale United pulling out of our league at the start of the season it could be that only two teams go down this season rather than the usual three, but we can’t afford to rely on that and we just need to keep pushing for as many points as we can.” 



District League One fliers Nicholas Wanderers and Hillfields set for Junior South joust

NICHOLAS Wanderers and Hillfields Old Boys will lock horns for a mouthwatering GFA Junior South Cup final cruncher at Oaklands Park on Tuesday, April 18 (7.30pm).

It’s an encounter that is likely to be as tense as it is tight as the sides occupy the top two places in Bristol and District League Division One, a table which currently parades Wanderers as leaders in the knowledge their chief title rivals Hillfields have vital games in hand with which to overhaul them in the run-in.

The teams have already clashed twice in league combat this season, and the fact both games finished up as draws says it all about what can be anticipated in the April showdown. December’s fixture ended up goalless while the spoils were shared once more courtesy of a 1-1 January stalemate.

Hillfields had to do it the hard way, however, in order to book their passage to the final as semis opponents Made For Ever swept into a 2-0 lead through Nathan West and Darren Burt goals, only to find themselves flattened by a ferocious four-goal response as Paul Coles’ double, Mikey Golding’s strike and Jamie Jordan’s penalty swung the tie 4-2 the visitors way.

As for Nicholas Wanderers, they scored once in each half with an Ashley Scrase header and Billy Arnold’s crisp drive to cement a 2-0 victory over Downs League visitors Wellington Wanderers.

Meanwhile Tormarton’s 2-1 win at Sneyd Park Reserves has ensured the District League second division side a place in the final of the Intermediate South competition against Yate Athletic at GFA HQ on Monday, April 10 (7.30pm).

Strikes by Laurence Hope and Ed Condon could not save Old Cliftonians from a 4-2 home defeat on the Downs against Churches League first division pacesetters Woodlands FC in the semi-final of the GFA Minor Cup.

John Sykes, Ieuan Pearse, Andy Taynton and Ghanaian Alagie Keiti were on target for Woodlands, whose opponents in the final on Monday, April 3 will be Real Thornbury Reserves, 5-4 victors on penalties away at Sporting Greyhound Reserves following a 0-0 draw on the Downs.

Goalkeeper Billy Plummer was the toast of District League Thorns after saving Sporting’s first spot kick before Calum Davies-Smith held his nerve from the same-12 yard marker to slot in the decider.

Kyde Collins and Jowan Nicholls were the first half scorers for VCF Santos in their 2-1 GFA Primary Cup semi-final success against Bristol Eagles, whose reply from Lukasz Marek proved too little too late.

In the final at Oaklands Park on Monday, March 27 (7.30pm), Churches League Division Two championship contenders Santos will meet Hillfields OB Reserves, who overcame Avon League Bikkle Sports 3-0 in a rearranged affair after the original game was postponed because of a waterlogged Thicket Avenue surface.


On the move . . . ambitious Charlton Rovers seek new HQ for springboard to success

CHARLTON Rovers plan to make a bold move when it comes to their hopes of reaching higher echelons of local football – and quite literally too!

The ambitious and high-riding Northern Senior One outfit entertain league rivals Southside Star for a tasty GFA Senior Amateur North semi-final clash on Saturday, March 4 (2pm), a welcome distraction from their ‘bread‘n’butter battles attempting to take the race for the championship to the wire.

There’s a much bigger picture here. Eager to maintain their rise up the football pyramid, Rovers have identified three possible future ‘homes’ in the hope of acquiring the requisite facilities to make the County League grade.

The club’s senior secretary Ian Courtney-Smith explained: “We can’t really progress playing at our present ground (at Balcarras Sports Centre, Charlton Kings).

“It’s a school pitch and you can’t put up barriers and make other changes that we would need to make to meet ground grade requirements, so we’re looking hard at three options for relocation which could offer us the long-term leases we’d need.

“One is land where Shipton Cricket Club currently play and another is a council facility at Cold Pool Lane in Up Hatherley.

There’s a third option available too in Cheltenham so there’s been lots to weigh up.

“Although we’ve set ourselves no time limits, we do want to go up to the County League and we simply can’t do that unless we find new premises.

“We have to move on because we’ve such a thriving set-up, with three senior teams, an under-18s youth side and junior sections from under-6s to under-16s, making us the third biggest club in Cheltenham.

“There are guaranteed funds in the club pot to improve facilities and we’ll be seeking sponsorship and FA grants with a view to moving to a new home the season after next, all being well.

“At that stage we can begin to think about making a concerted push for promotion.”

When it comes to their 2016-17 county silverware prospects, Courtney-Smith stressed: “We’ve never won a Senior Amateur Cup. Last year we lost in the final at Tuffley (2-1) to Stonehouse, although our reserves did beat their third team 4-0 in the 2009 Minor Cup final.

“Last year’s Senior Amateur final was disappointing because we didn’t play too well in the first half and found ourselves 2-0 down at half-time to two early goals before getting one back and piling on the pressure.

“The pressure isn’t on as such to go all the way this time but it’s added to the desire to do so as the lads felt they let themselves down in that game.

“We’ve now got Southside Star in the semi-finals who we beat earlier in the month 3-2 in the league and 4-0 at their place in October. They’re a good, solid side who have one of our former players in their ranks, Josh Coakley, a talented midfielder who could well feature against us.”

Charlton’s ambitious firsts have been led this term by Richard Cox and Courtney-Smith explained: “He’s been with the club a long time and involved with youth development at Cheltenham Town.

“It’s been his first foray into management as he took over at the start of the season from Tom Price, who is still very much with us as chairman!


Time to rise to the challenge, Davies urges his Thornbury Town promotion strivers

THORNBURY Town manager Andy Davies is hoping there’ll be little or no turning back now as he continues to plot a route all the way into the Toolstation Western League.

The Mundy Fields side are among three Marcliff Gloucestershire County League clubs – Stonehouse and Bristol Telephones are the others - who have set their intention on making the grade for Step 6 football and have all filed their applications accordingly.

While even Davies acknowledges Telephones appear to be firm favourites to succeed given the wealth of games they have in hand over their top-table rivals and unrelenting form, he is determined to ensure his own talented team are braced for an enthralling and crucial 2016-17 race to the promotion line.

Stung by a series of three straight defeats at the hands of Lebeq (3-1), Kingswood (2-1) and Telephones (3-1), Thorns suddenly found their hold on pole position had been relinquished while Stonehouse, to many seasoned observers’ surprise, continued their promising early-season form unabated following their meteoric 2015-16 elevation, to happily wrest top spot away from Davies’ hopefuls – for now, at least.

The South Gloucestershire side hit back from their setbacks with some gusto to smash seven without reply past struggling Hanham Athletic with Luke Franklin, Danny Haines, Dan Thompson, Scott MacLeod, Mark Viner, Pete Fowler and Craig Lancastle all carving up the goals evenly among them.

The Thornbury supremo acknowledged: “We need to be wary of the chasing pack behind us. Bristol Telephones have lots of games in hand over everyone and given the form they’re in, they have to be favourites to win the league and go up.

“It’s in their hands but we have to play Telephones at our place (on April 1) and you never know.”

Of that frustrating three-game run of reverses, Davies accepted: “We didn’t come out for the second half at all against Lebeq after a very good first-half display, and I just don’t know what happened against Kingswood; we simply didn’t perform at all.

“Telephones weren’t better than us; I was pleased overall with our performance and we lost because of basic errors and wrong decision-making.

“That said how can I criticise my players when we’ve been top of the league and still lie second?”

A philosophical Davies added: “Maybe the pressure of where we are has affected some players’ mindsets, possibly subconsciously; lads who are not used to being at the top. You’re there to be shot at and opponents tend to raise their games against you.

“Now we’re second it’s possible the boys will relax a little more and any pressure they may feel will be off them.

“Nevertheless they have to handle it and be strong because we want to be in these situations, competing for honours and trying to kick on as a club.”



Hartpury’s comeback kings prove a real knockout to clinch ninth BUCS crown

HARTPURY’S jubilant university performers are basking in the afterglow of a magnificent recovery to claim a ninth British Universities and Colleges (BUCS) Premier League title.

Chris Knowles’ men exacted their revenge as they beat Cardiff Met 2-0 under the floodlights at home to ensure they finished top of the table once more, two points clear of their nearest rivals University of South Wales.

Hartpury had been on an incredible run since losing three of their five opening games to find themselves languishing in the lower reaches of the table.

But after suffering a 2-0 defeat at the hands of Cardiff Met back in November, they lifted themselves from the doldrums to win five straight games, including victory over the University of South Wales (USW), to cement their place at the summit.

With three sides including themselves, Cardiff and USW all still capable of clinching the title heading into the final round of games, Knowles’ hopefuls needed a win against Cardiff to ensure the crown returned to Hartpury.

Despite playing against the wind in the opening 45 minutes and Cardiff seeing the majority of the ball, Hartpury were able to capitalise with two breakaway efforts from Pablo Haysham and Hayden Turner to lead at half-time.

An evenly balanced second half saw no further goals which meant that despite USW’s best efforts in beating the University of East London, Hartpury’s 2-0 victory was enough to claim top spot and a home tie in the quarter-finals of the knockout stage.

A thrilled Hartpury senior manager Knowles said: “It’s great to see the hard work the boys put in during the early part of the season come together to finish the league season so strongly and complete the turnaround. It always takes time for a team to gel.

“It’s an amazing feeling to win the title for a ninth time and the lads put in a very professional performance to clinch it.

“We’ll look forward to the knockout stages now and continue to train hard and make sure that we’re prepared for whoever we will face.”


Super Solomon can help revitalise stuttering Henbury fortunes, new boss Giles claims

HENBURY’S enthusiastic new manager Ian Giles is hopeful the surprise acquisition of some World Cup talent can spark a revival at the Arnell Drive outfit.

It’s not every day a Marcliff Gloucestershire County League club can boast personnel with such playing pedigree within their ranks.

But Henbury may well have unearthed a gem in Donald Solomon at a time when it is all hands to the pump in the mission to haul them up to the higher reaches of the table once more, following a torrid few months which led to the recent departure of their former central midfield maestro Darren Sealey as boss.

Shortly before Giles was called to hot-seat duties in tandem with his former Cheltenham Saracens cohort Ryan Goodson as his No.2 once more, a recommendation from a “friend” had pointed Henbury chiefs in the direction of Solomon, and Giles insists he is very glad to be a beneficiary of that move.

The 27-year-old right-back has featured in several World Cup qualifiers and international fixtures with the Cayman Islands against Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Puerto Rico and Bermuda among other nations.

Lately he has been lining up alongside his new Henbury team-mates against the likes of Kingswood and Hanham Athletic in more modest County League settings and Giles smiled: “I’ve already picked Donald out as one of my key players.

“He signed for us the week before I joined and I quickly found out that he has the makings of a strong player with a mature head who understands and reads the game very well.

“Although he’s a right-back he can also fill in at centre-back and fit in as a central midfielder too with no problem, because he can see a pass and execute it extremely effectively.

“Donald is capable of playing at a higher level but I’m confident he’ll stay with us for the foreseeable future and help get us moving in the right direction.”

UEFA C-badge holder Giles took time out from the game following a difficult three months in charge at Hellenic Leaguers Cheltenham Saracens early into the current campaign before being lured to Henbury, who landed a laudable runners-up spot last season under Sealey’s stewardship before their fortunes nosedived.

“They lost a lot of players and quality ones like Aaron Anglin, a prolific scorer last season (with 35 goals), and Scott Thomas (centre-half and captain), who both went to Hallen,” Giles stressed.

“But there’s a core of decent lads who remained and we’re looking to top up numbers again rather than look to undertake a full-blown rebuilding programme.

“We’re safe from relegation and I’m looking at us finishing off this season well and having a really good pre-season in readiness to go again.”

The 44-year-old supremo has just drafted in one-time Newport County and Cardiff City youngster Cedrick Matondo, a striker snapped up from Southern League Slimbridge.

“Cedrick was with me for a brief time at Cheltenham Saracens before moving on quickly to Slimbridge,” Giles explained.
“He’s a greedy type of forward, just what we’ve lacked since Aaron left us, with a bit of pace to burn.

“There are two other lads I had with me at Saracens coming in to help with squad depth so we’re slowly but surely getting there.”


Kilminster joy as six-goal Olveston blaze past Bourne to seal Senior Amateur final spot

OLVESTON United manager Tom Kilminster labelled his team’s six-goal GFA Senior Amateur South Cup semi-final whitewash of Winterbourne United as his “proudest moment”.

The third-placed Bristol Premier Combination side unceremoniously dumped their Premier Division rivals Bourne out of the competition with a 6-0 home success and will now take on AEK Boco Reserves - 3-2 victors over Rockleaze Rangers Reserves - in an April 24 showdown at Oaklands Park (7.30pm).

Olveston were quick to spring from the blocks and they were soon in front when George Williams broke free before unselfishly squaring the ball to his strike partner Matt Knight to calmly slot it home.

Unrelenting Olveston continued to press hard and with five minutes of the first half remaining Ben White’s cross fell to Knight, whose strike deflected into the path of Ash Richter to find the net for a 2-0 half-time lead.

The second period was much the same with Olveston starting off the brighter team. And they effectively put the one-sided tie to bed when Knight again powered through on goal to slip the ball past helpless Winterbourne keeper George Sowden.

Five minutes later it was even better for the rampant hosts as an under-hit back pass was snapped up by the livewire Knight, who slid in and stroked the ball under the oncoming keeper for his hat-trick goal.

Fifteen minutes from time Rob Cave seized possession and played the ball through to Williams, who gave the under-fire Bourne custodian no chance in registering his 33rd goal of the season.

Two minutes later Olveston added a sixth goal when Williams beat his man down the left and cut it back for the onrushing Matt Barnes to despatch his chance with relish.

A clearly chuffed Kilminster chirped: “It’s my proudest moment at the club. The boys really delivered on the day and we’re just overjoyed to be going to the cup final.”

Olveston chairman Martyn Lansdown was another brimming with delight.

“Our boys were outstanding,” he beamed. “It’s a massive achievement for the club and we’re looking forward to the final and the biggest game in our club’s history.”

Subdued Winterbourne chairman Robyn Maggs accepted: “We were dreadful and in all honesty outplayed.

“Despite conceding six goals our keeper George Sowden was our man-of-the-match. He made some outstanding saves and spared even more embarrassment on our part.”


Hopes remain high that Bristol and Gloucestershire U-21 League is here to stay

ORGANISERS of the Bristol and Gloucestershire Under-21 League say they are determined to continue with the format next season.

The competition is in its third season following its reintroduction in 2014-15 as part of the long-running and still-popular Bristol Under-18 League system.

Eight teams from across the region enthusiastically kicked off the 2016-17 under-21 programme, but some have since fallen by the wayside as they’ve struggled to maintain a healthy player base, leaving league chiefs with little choice other than to oversee a shortened version of the tournament.

League president and founder member Ken Howitt nevertheless maintains his belief that football at that level can still provide an essential bridge between the under-18s youth game and full-on adult football for many flourishing footballers.

And he confirmed: “We’re definitely looking to take the Bristol and Gloucestershire Under-21 League into a fourth consecutive season.

“I, along with my colleagues at the league, feel it has a big role to play in bridging the gap between under-18s and adult football.

“Some young players, talented though they may be, simply aren’t physically up to making the leap straight into the senior game, especially at the lower end of the grassroots spectrum.

“By making a more gradual transition they’re given an opportunity to continue gaining pleasure from their sport and buy time to adjust to the more physical footballing challenges they’ll encounter in the years ahead.

“It can be frustrating for good and enthusiastic young players when they make that jump straight into adult football, as many find themselves left on the sidelines or as regular substitutes and don’t get many chances to get on.

“Under-21s fixtures present an ideal opportunity for these lads to continue unabated with what they have experienced and enjoyed over so many years as junior and youth players, and it gives them a valuable extra year or two to grow into fully-fledged adults more able to meet the rigours and demands of men’s football.

“And what we don’t want to see is lots of under-18s calling it a day because they can no longer play with their mates.”

To support the transition of under-18s players to under-21 and adult football, Gloucestershire FA plans to offer a 60-minute 8v8 Summer League for under-18 and under-21 teams.

Further details will be made available in the near future but anyone wishing to know more about the proposals can contact senior football development officer Scott Milne on 01454 615888 (option 3).

While Bristol and Gloucestershire Under-21 League officers would dearly like more teams to come forward as soon as possible to give next season’s campaign a leg-up, the same applies to the under-18 league, which has also had its share of drop-outs this term but still operates with 26 teams across four competitive divisions.

“There really is no other league like it in this area and if we can get numbers up again for both the under-21 and under-18 sections, that would be great,” insisted Howitt who, in tandem with Peter McPherson, first set up what became famously known locally as the Bristol Under-18 Combination back in 1995.

Teams looking to sign up for both under-21 and under-18 leagues can do so by contacting Martin Peters on 07963 828061 or Ken Howitt on 01454 314822.


Pay what you want for Tytherington derby day, title-chasers Fairford tell fans

FAIRFORD Town are to put the ball firmly in the court of supporters when it comes to their crucial all-county encounter with Tytherington Rocks on Saturday, February 25 (3pm).

While the Cinder Lane hosts are out to cling firmly to Hellenic League Division One West top spot with three more points, perennial strugglers Rocks find themselves in familiar territory second from the foot of the table and desperate to add to their solitary victory of another tough campaign.

With so much at stake for both sides, Fairford have declared the fixture a ‘Pay What You Want’ occasion, the first initiative of its kind offered by the club and one they hope will attract a sizeable turnout.

The standard matchday ticket price of £5 for adults has been waived in favour of spectators enjoying the freedom to hand over as much or as little as they wish to at the gate in a bid to introduce first-time fans, residents or followers of other clubs to football in Fairford.

Regular supporters are also encouraged to take a friend along to get behind the team and to back “a great initiative” by the club.

A Town spokesman requested: “All we ask is that people make a donation to the club when coming through the turnstiles. It really is that simple and kids will enter for free with someone making a donation.

“Anyone paying a fiver or more will be entered into a draw to win a range of prizes, as will all season ticket holders when they come through the turnstiles.

“There will also be the chance to support the club’s charity of the year, the League of Friends of Fairford Hospital, who will have collection buckets in the ground.”

Sharp-shooting Fairford have rattled in 95 goals in the league thus far this term and conceded only 17 times.



Shortwood hit-man Morford can’t wait for Senior Challenge Cup date with Ciren ‘pals’

WILL Morford has as much reason to look forward to Shortwood United’s trip to take on Cirencester Town next month in the GFA Senior Challenge Cup as anyone, writes Simon Parkinson.

The 30-year-old marksman pounced to fire Shortwood in front against his former comrades with an unerring edge-of-box finish inside the bottom corner, following enterprising work by the impressive Nick Hancock, 19 minutes into Monday night’s morale-boosting 2-1 first round away defeat of Gloucester City.

The Southern League side, enjoying a run-out at the Evesham United facility Gloucester will call their temporary home next season, held out grimly in the face of a determined late Tigers riposte before finally having their defences breached five minutes from time when Joe Parker completed a slick move to finish well.

The National League North outfit appeared favourites at that stage to go on and win it, or at least take an entertaining contest to penalties.

But that wasn’t to reckon for a dramatic 93rd-minute Shortwood clincher, as Chris Withington fastened on to a diagonal Nick Peare delivery before teeing up Liam Meredith perfectly to triumphantly head home at the back post and send the Southern Leaguers through to that Cirencester last-eight date on Tuesday, March 28 at the Corinium Stadium (7.45pm).

A delighted Morford, who is also No.2 to Shortwood manager Alex Sykes, insisted: “We performed well. Gloucester started the stronger but we kept our shape and defended well.

“We hit them on the break for our first goal, thanks largely to Nick who pressed their midfielder well to win the ball and roll it through to me to put away.

“Gloucester were chasing the game hard towards the end and I’d just come off the pitch and didn’t actually see their equaliser, but thankfully the lads kept going and managed to get the winner.”

While mid-table Shortwood’s Southern League One S&W battles take precedence right now as they bid to try and rekindle their flagging fortunes after making a flying start to their 2016-17 programme, Morford is nevertheless rubbing his hands at the prospect of locking horns with Premier Division strugglers Ciren in quarter-final Senior Challenge Cup combat next month.

 “My day job is coaching at Cirencester’s Academy but I’ve also had a couple of spells on loan with them, so it’s a club I know inside out,” he explained.

“I also played alongside their manager Charlie Griffin at Gloucester towards the back end of my time there, so without doubt I’m looking forward to the game which I expect to be a close and competitive one.”

Winners of the Ciren-Shortwood fixture will travel to face in the semi-finals either Cinderford Town or Bristol Rovers Reserves, who tussle on February 28 at The Causeway (7.45pm) for a quarter-final affair.

Mangotsfield United and Bristol City Reserves are ahead of the game and will fight for the right to secure a place in the Oaklands Park final when they clash in the semis.



Hopson’s hopefuls out to prove they have ‘bottle’ this time for Intermediate glory

YATE Athletic say they are determined not to “bottle it” this time as they aim to go one step further than last year’s GFA Intermediate South Cup misery, writes Simon Parkinson.

The Kelston Close outfit and runaway District League Division Two leaders were beaten 5-2 by Hillfields Old Boys in the 2015-16 Oaklands Park showdown and find themselves back for another crack at county headquarters on the strength of Wednesday night’s 6-2 success against Thornbury Baptist Church.

Yate had to come from behind to achieve it, the high-riding Bristol Churches League snatching an early lead before going down to Sam Vile’s hat-trick, James Hicks’ double and Daniel Edwards’ contribution.

Ben Hopson’s fliers will now lock horns with the winners of the Sneyd Park Reserves-Tormarton semis tie, which takes place on Wednesday, February 15 (7.30pm).

Athletic’s happy secretary and current reserve team boss, Kevin Milford, revealed: “The first thing our lads said when they came off after beating Thornbury was, ‘we’re not going to bottle it again’.

“They were referring to last year’s final when they felt – and still do – that they let themselves down, even though Hillfields are clearly a good side.
“It was hard to take and there was no celebrating after Wednesday’s victory. There is a determination to go all the way this time as we’ve never won a county cup competition. We’re also top of our league at the moment, so a league and county cup double would be very nice.”

When it comes to progression, Milford insists there’s an appetite too to secure District Division One football after coming relatively close to achieving it last term.

“Ben and his assistant Gary Knowlson, both players of ours still, strengthened the squad this year and we haven’t looked back,” remarked the 54-year-old secretary and former third-team manager with neighbouring Chipping Sodbury Town.

“We want to get our firsts into Division One but we also want to get our reserves out of Division Four.

“While we’re always looking to progress, first and foremost with us it’s about enjoyment and it’s a bonus to win any silverware.”
Of Wednesday’s second straight cup final clincher, Milford maintained: “It’s funny because we beat another Churches League team (6-1) in Woodlands, who are currently top of their table, in last year’s semi-finals.

“We deserved to get past Thornbury; the right team came through but they’re not a bad side either and 6-2 was a bit harsh on them if I’m honest.”



The Real McCoy... Oaklands 3G sharp-shooters Thorns keep on rattling in the goals

OAKLANDS Park 3G slickers Real Thornbury are proving the real McCoy right now and taking some stopping in the Bristol Premier Combination’s second tier! Writes Simon Parkinson.

Paul O’Connor’s fliers are certainly making the most of the artificial facility, opened by former FA chairman Greg Dyke late in 2013, which has been afforded them at the Gloucestershire FA’s headquarters in Almondsbury, as Saturday’s 7-1 evening stroll over St Pancras exemplifies.

Four-goal Ross Griffin led the rout while Adam Hooper, Mike Barton, Josh Crawford and Brad Jenkins shared the rest around.

Mid-table Saints, whose Aiden Taynton offered some consolation with their sole goal, aren’t the only side to have found themselves unceremoniously sent spinning to defeat with such force of late by lethal Thorns.

Fourth-placed Real, who still find themselves ten points behind pacesetting Shaftesbury Crusade despite their hot form, have scored no fewer than 47 goals in their last five games, one of which ended in a 4-3 defeat at a Chipping Sodbury Town Reserves team going well in third spot.

Thorns’ satisfied supremo O’Connor observed: “We play good football above anything else. We’ve learned to take the chances we create and it would be madness to play a long ball game on such a surface and, as such, we have adapted our style to suit.

“If you can’t play football on the floor at Oaklands Park there must be something fundamentally flawed with you as a football team.”

Thornbury were due to take a break from home comforts in their next important outing on Saturday, February 11 as they were pencilled in for a trip to Kings Head Lane to confront a De Veys outfit who themselves have been in freescoring mode of late, as amply demonstrated by 9-4 and 10-3 defeats of Bristol Manor Farm Reserves and Greyfriars Athletic respectively in recent times.

Greyfriars have gone on to string together a four-game unbeaten run since that demolition day, the latest a 4-3 home victory over Frampton Athletic afforded them by a Harrison Hardy double, an own goal and an 85th-minute effort from substitute David Brown, after the spirited visitors had levelled up at 3-3 five minutes prior.

The win put fourth-from-bottom Greyfriars level on 12 points with a Frampton side immediately above them in the table and in good heart for Saturday’s (Feb 11) tough away-day against second-spot Hambrook at Whiteshill Common.



Warmley and Fairford to lock horns in semis as GFA Under-18 Youth Shield intensifies

WARMLEY Rangers Under-18s will entertain Fairford Town Youth in the semi-finals of a GFA Under-18 Youth Shield tournament reaching a crescendo of excitement.

While Bitton and their visitors Gloucester City will battle it out in the other last-four tie on Sunday, February 26 (2pm) following 4-1 and 5-1 away victories over Painswick and Longlevens respectively, Warmley were requiring a tension-packed penalty shoot-out in order to overcome Lawrence Weston Colts in their quarter-final affair on the road.

In heavy conditions, Bristol Under-18 Combination Premier Division side Warmley began the stronger and five minutes in, a long ball beyond the Lawrence Weston defence was perfect for skipper Joe Mills to finish with an audacious lob to open the scoring.

Buoyed by the breakthrough, Rangers doubled their money when, following an incisive counter attack, a defensive error on the muddy pitch presented Mills again with a one-on-one opportunity to slot home his second goal.

Warmley squandered several chances in a second half Lawrence Weston, who perform in the Central section of the Bristol league, generally took control of, and the hosts reduced their arrears through a spectacular 30-yard Alfie Taylor free-kick into the net.

Five minutes later they were on level terms when Taylor was brought down inside the box and he duly slotted home from the spot to make it 2-2

Lawrence Weston came closest to snatching outright victory as Josh Pearce beat three opponents, only to shoot wide.

In the end Warmley were indebted to their keeper Marcus Smith for producing three excellent saves in the shoot-out, while successful spot kicks from Aaron Mansfield-Smith and Matthew Bryant saw their side safely into the semi-final.

Ready to confront Rangers for the Sunday, February 26 encounter (2pm) are Fairford, the title-chasing North Wiltshire Youth League Division One side who just squeezed past Cribbs - 3-2 - on their travels in the weekend’s outstanding last-eight tie.


We’re getting closer to a Hanham Athletic revival, insists assistant manager Sperring

HANHAM Athletic No.2 Bob Sperring is adamant a modest injection of fresh blood can provide a cure for their current County League malaise.

Hopes had risen when the Vicarage Road strugglers followed up a 1-1 draw against basement rivals Southmead Athletic with a 1-0 late-January victory over Henbury, given them by centre-back Liam Norm Robson’s spectacular overhead sizzler.

A 5-1 away defeat by a Kingswood side going great guns in third spot on the strength of a six-match undefeated stretch set Hanham back again, but a disappointed but unbowed father-son managerial combination, with Daniel occupying the hot seat, have both witnessed enough of late to believe better times lie in store.

Sperring Snr stressed: “We’ve been playing good football for quite a while but not everyone will be aware that we had to pitch into our first team a bunch of guys more used to playing District League Division One football with our reserves.

“So it was always going to take time for them to adapt and to adjust to the concentration levels required in the County League. We’ve played really well against teams and then inexplicably switched off and ended up having four or five goals put past us.

“We’re still some way off being where we want to be but I feel that another three really good players could transform us from a struggling bottom side into a really competitive team again.”

Hanham’s cause has not been helped by a series of injuries to key players, with both influential full-backs Ashley Bowle and Steve Collins sidelined with knee and hamstring conditions and keeper Mitch Norman, who can also play upfront, absent with a groin complaint of late.

All three are available for selection again along with another goalie in Dan Fletcher, although Adam Grinter, who returned to the front line against Henbury only to sustain another knee injury after a spell out, is being closely monitored.

“With all these guys back it makes for a stronger bench and means we can give our hard-pressed reserve manager Craig Smith a few more bodies!” Sperring smiled.

“He’s taken on the ressies at a time when it’s not the strongest but his spirit is brilliant and people want to play for him, which bodes well for next season.

“In fact the atmosphere at the club is second to none and when we scored our winner against Henbury, everyone on the balcony, including our reserves whose game had been called off, leapt up and down in celebration which was really nice to see. And the clubhouse was packed afterwards.”


Stay undefeated and promotion is ours for the taking, Johnson urges Telephones fliers

DETERMINED Bristol Telephones gaffer Dave Johnson has challenged his irrepressible team to stay undefeated in the enthralling race to the promotion line, writes Simon Parkinson.

The Stockwood Lane fliers crushed Bishops Cleeve Reserves 10-0 in a one-sided Saturday, Janaury 28 meeting to sound further warnings of their credentials as serious Marcliff Gloucestershire County League title contenders this term.

With several games in hand over each of the four teams currently above them, Telephones know that a golden chance to stake a claim for Toolstation Western League football next season is up for grabs and it would take a brave person to bet against them achieving their cherished goal.

Certainly not with the likes of Dhani Golding and Mile Alvis at their disposal, both of whom fired hat-tricks in the clinical despatch of Cleeve.

Johnson, who accompanies Shaun Collins in a co-manager capacity at the Telephones helm, pointed out: “It’s in our hands; if we go unbeaten until the end of the season no one is likely to touch us and we’re capable of that.

“We’re always a threat going forward and when Dhani’s upfront you always have a chance of nicking even the tightest of games.
“It’s not just about us; there are six or seven teams who could all theoretically win the title but we haven’t spent all the money we have, and worked as hard on the ground as we have, to stand still and admire it.

“Shaun and Gerry Holmes, the chairman, have given it so much financial backing and they’ve done so much to ensure the facilities are up to scratch for the next step up. And all the work has been done by ourselves.

“We’ve managed to acquire Melksham Town’s old floodlights ready for installation in the summer so we want that reward of promotion to the Toolstation League.”

Telephones, who were next due to hit the road for an away encounter with struggling Gala Wilton on Saturday, February 4, only had a 2-0 lead to take into the interval against Bishops Cleeve before running riot in the second half to find the back of the net eight more times.

Golding had given the red-hot hosts the lead on 20 minutes when he turned inside the box to net from a perfect Alvis cross.
Deadly Dhani made it 2-0 on 35 minutes when he turned in a Martin Blacker cross, and two minutes into the second half Blacker himself scored from close range for 3-0.

A great piece of skill on the hour mark by Golding set up James Batchelor to score, before the same marksman claimed a quickfire second courtesy of a 20-yard half-volley.

Still the goals continued to flow, as Alvis’ shot was only parried on its way into the net and Golding laid the ball off for Luke Palmer to get on the scoresheet and make it 7-0.

Alvis then netted his second when he cut in from the right to drive the ball across the keeper; Golding was upended inside the box before hauling himself to his feet to fire home a Telephones ninth with the resulting penalty, and Alvis completed his own hat-trick four minutes from time with a crisp finish.

Johnson said: “We really should have been five-up at half-time. They (Cleeve) played a high line and we just got balls in behind them and punished them,

“February is a massive month for us now with Thornbury (Feb 11, home) and Patchway (Feb 18, away) among our fixtures.


Beecham’s Cribbs battlers on determined mission to rein-in Toolstation’s big guns

TONY Beecham believes Cribbs are in an ideal position as a thriving club to maintain this season’s meteoric rise.

While his talented first team have burst into the top eight of the Toolstation Premier Division on the strength of an impressive run of form, Cribbs’ second-string currently top the Bristol Premier Combination top-flight charts with 15 wins from 16 games.

That’s not to mention the thirds, who are pushing hard for a runners-up berth in the Bristol and District League Senior Division, having gained promotion from a similar standpoint in Division One in 2015-16.

Cribbs’ encouraged first-team supremo Beecham, whose men pulled off another notable victory, 2-1, at Bradford Town to make it six straight outings without loss ahead of Saturday, February 4’s home encounter with Chipping Sodbury Town, enthused: “I am very happy with the way things are shaping up.

“We’re looking forward to all our games and always looking to improve on our position.

“We finished 15th in the (Toolstation Premier) league last season and I always felt we could build on that.

“We’re currently in eighth, while our reserves are flying at the top of the Premier Combination and the third team are going well in the Bristol and District Senior. All of us managers communicate regularly and keep an eye out for potential first-team prospects, which can only bode well for our future.

“We’re achieving all this without a player budget and the way we’re going at the moment, I’d like to think we’re currently top-ten material from which we can push on even further next season, provided we can keep this squad intact.

“When you’re doing well you tend to get clubs sniffing around your players, so hopefully we can keep it all together and make a really good go of challenging the big boys even harder next year.”

Beecham observed: “We’ve done really well against top sides already this season. We drew 1-1 with Manor Farm in the first month of the season and we beat Street 3-1 at our place in December.

“We’ve also won (3-1) at Odd Down while recently we held Willand to a draw (2-2) and beat Bradford 2-1 on their own patch, so we’ve competed really well against teams above us.”

The Cribbs boss has two more fresh faces to call upon in midfielder Harry Hope, from Nailsea United, and goalkeeper Ben Reed, who is on a month’s loan agreement from Mangotsfield United.

They join fellow newcomers Darren Edwards, who led the previous weekend’s 7-2 romp against Longwell Green Sports with a treble before netting another against Bradford; George Brimson and Horace Ormsby.

Beecham acknowledged: “Darren has performed at the higher level with the likes of Yate, Bath and Gloucester and the know-how he brings to our young side cannot be underestimated.

“It’s the same with George, who also joined us around November time, from Manor Farm, and he brings valuable experience too to our midfield and attack.

“Horace is a university lad from London who got in touch with us and he’s shown real potential since he joined this season as a very quick and direct right midfield player.”



Matty’s the man for the moment as BSU Hambrook Blacks U18s book semis spot

BSU Hambrook Blacks and Oldland Abbotonians will battle it out for a place in the semi-finals of the Bristol Under-18 Combination League Cup.

While Oldland had already cemented a quarter-final berth courtesy of a straightforward 6-0 away success over Chipping Sodbury Town in early January, Hambrook went on to join them via a 7-2 home victory over Thornbury Town at the Common to tee-up a potentially enthralling last-four encounter at Coronation Park on Sunday, February 12 (1.30pm).

Hambrook will certainly have their hands full on the afternoon. While they are currently trying to make inroads into the upper half of the Bristol North table, Oldland have been clinging hard on to the tails of Premier Division leaders AEK Boco in an absorbing race to the title line that includes third-spot Golden Hill.

Nevertheless Hambrook and their in-form marksman Matt Hoare sounded a significant note of warning as he led their last-eight march with a hat-trick to help dispense of Thornbury.

Thorns, who are far from out of the Bristol North title race, were all but down and out at the interval as they trailed 4-1, although a second goal for Denym Di Mauro after the break to reduce their arrears to 4-2 gave them fleeting hope until Hambrook exploited weary heads and tired limbs to pull well clear with three more goals.

While the other semi-final tie features the Premier Division’s winless bottom side Almondsbury Youth and Central Division leaders Cribbs at Little Stoke Playing Fields on the same February 12 afternoon (also 1.30pm), Lawrence Weston Colts marched into the semi-finals of the Bristol League’s Under-18 Plate competition via a 4-2 away victory over Wotton Rovers at Synwell.

They now entertain either Nicholas Wanderers or Highridge United, who tussle at Dundridge Lane on Sunday, February 26 (1.30pm), on a date to be decided.

Wotton opened the scoring early on when a corner into the box ricocheted around before Joe Sands poked the ball past the keeper.
However, on a boggy pitch Lawrence Weston dominated for long periods and Tommy Taylor’s pin-point cross found Alfie Richardson in the six-yard box to equalise.

Again Lawrence Weston pushed forward and Taylor’s delivery from an acute angle confused everybody and the ball ended up in the net to hand them the lead.

As Wotton attacked downhill after the break, the momentum appeared to swing in their favour, until their visitors broke with a devastating counter attack. Josh Pearce cut through from the halfway line and slid the ball between defenders to allow Alfie Taylor in to place it past the sprawling keeper for 3-1.

Wotton kept working hard, only for Lawrence Weston keeper Harry Reynolds to pull off some superb saves to deny them.
The spirited hosts finally got the break they deserved as Sam Dover slotted home, but in the final 15 minutes Lawrence Weston took more control and Pearce again drove into the box to score their fourth goal.



Warren adamant a Sunday Cup success can help ignite a Churchdown resurgence

CHURCHDOWN Parish stalwart Bob Warren is keeping everything crossed the only way is up again for his team as they eye another County Cup success, writes Simon Parkinson.

The Gloucester-based village club have been in freescoring form of late in the Gloucester Sunday League Premier Division, four wins and a draw, and goals galore, in a five-game unbeaten sequence propelling them into second spot in the table ahead of their February 5 fixture at home against Coney Hill Wanderers.

The sides clash again on Sunday, March 5 (10.30am) in Coney’s Stanway Road backyard for an enticing GFA Sunday Premier Cup semi-final affair, when the chance to lock horns with either FCC Frampton, or unbeaten league leaders S&W Commy, in the spring showpiece presents itself.

It’s a competition Churchdown have fond recollections of winning, in 2014, when they overcame White City 4-3 on spot kicks following a hard-fought 1-1 draw at Tuffley Rovers’ Glevum Park.

Warren, however, is taking nothing for granted, despite the promising signs richly displayed under the leadership of player-manager Phil Halstead, who took up the reins at the start of the campaign.

Club secretary for the past ten years, an enthusiastic 74-year-old Warren said: “We’ve reached four, maybe five, county cup finals down the years and that was our only success when we beat White City.

“I remember when we had a fantastic team in the late eighties, early nineties, and played another Gloucester side in Fielding and Platt and lost to them in both County Cup and League Cup finals that year.

“So we’re really looking forward to playing Coney Hill next month in the semis. Earlier in the season we were 3-0 up at half-time at their place and our manager - Hobbit as we call him - decided to change the entire back four at half-time thinking the job was done and we ended up losing 4-3!

“Coney also have brothers Mike and Richard Dunn in their team who played for us before going back there, which always makes it interesting.”

Of those Sunday Premier Cup prospects, Warren stressed: “We’re certainly capable of getting through to the final but to actually win it will be very hard as both Frampton and S&W are very good sides. We don’t tend to have much luck against Frampton, while Commy have a few former Cirencester and Cinderford players in their ranks, which says it all about their strengths.

“We played them away (in November) when we were struggling for a side and they gave us a 9-3 pasting.”

Formed in 1978 by a group of locals socialising regularly together at the village’s Chosen Hotel, Churchdown’s impressive emergence as league champions in 2014-15 hit the buffers the following year when they finished up rock-bottom of the ladder with only two wins from their 20 appearances.

“For a variety of reasons we lost 13 or 14 of our lads that summer and really had to start all over again,” explained Warren, a local referee for 42 years until 2004 and one-time Parton Rovers player.

“We’ve since brought in some promising youngsters, including our keeper Adam Fenner who has had a fantastic season, and Jordan Alderman, who has really impressed as an attacking midfielder.

“Both are still in their teens and then there are more experienced lads such as Phil Webb and Chris Clarke, who complement the younger players well.

“It’s likely that we’ll not be strong enough to win the league this year but if we can keep the nucleus of this squad together and maybe add to it, I’m sure we’ll be looking to give it a good go next year.”


Targeting national glory: arresting Avon & Somerset Police team on big trophy beat

AVON and Somerset Police’s talented trophy-hunting team are chasing the national dream again – starting this Monday (Feb 6) in Oxfordshire.

Richard O’Brien’s men safely saw off Devon and Cornwall Police, and Dorset Police, to come through the regional stage of the Police Sports UK Football Championships to set up a last-eight encounter with Thames Valley Police at Thame United’s Meadow View Park facility.

Last year the A&S Police boys reached the final of the same prestigious tournament before Police Scotland West pipped them 4-2 in an exciting showdown played at the Lancashire home of North West Counties League club AFC Darwen.

O’Brien stressed: “They are, in effect, Strathclyde Police and a very professional outfit as well, so losing to them was no disgrace.
“I’d say we have a fitter, quicker and younger team this year as we continue through a transitional period. We have to keep freshening things up or the team will simply fold.

“If we can keep our stronger players fit and available, allowing of course for work demands, then there’s no reason why we can’t reach the final again.”

A&S Police play their home fixtures at Hallen’s Moorhouse Lane HQ while also putting Keynsham Town’s 3G facilities to regular use.
Yet the logistics of pulling together a group of capable, largely semi-pro standard performers from across Gloucestershire, Bristol and the West can be quite a challenge for O’Brien, who is a Detective Sergeant with the CID.

“We try and get together as a squad once or twice a month but we don’t train as such,” he explained.

“Trying to get shift workers together for weekly training sessions from such a vast area would be too much, so we’re reliant on our lads featuring for their regular clubs at a decent level. If they aren’t doing that then they quickly get found out when they come to us!

“The Police Sports UK knock-out championship is the only truly competitive tournament we get the chance to partake in, so it’s important we’re up to speed right from the start of it or your hopes of silverware for a season are over in a flash.

“We play low-key friendlies against sides such as Sneyd Park, St Andrews, Seymour United and Lebeq from local Bristol leagues, and we’ve taken on Royal Marines and Fire Brigade sides. We’re also planning a trip to Poland in June to play some teams out there.”

Asked about the make-up and qualification requirements of the A&S Police side, O’Brien said: “Our players are all part of the wider police service, not just police officers. We have civilian support staff and special constables involved.

“It’s essential we pick people of a certain football calibre because every game is competitive.

“My captain Ricki Lippiatt won a County League title with Thornbury Town (in 2009-10) and Jacob Hiscock, who plays alongside Ricki for us at centre-back, is with Hallen in the Toolstation Premier Division.

“Jordan Cleary, a central midfielder, performs with Portishead Town, as does Dan Hamblin, who recently re-signed for them and is a versatile left-sided player.

“We’re fortunate too to have Matthew Stevenson in our side who, at 37, is a former England Schoolboy international and pro with Bradford City. He’s a superb athlete, a right-back by trade but so quick we play him upfront!

“Charlie Gates is a good young defender who has also turned out for Hallen, and Dan Nash is a smashing little player who plays as a young winger in Longwell Green’s reserves, so it’s a good mix of youth and experience we have.

“Our Bristol-based lads who aren’t quite good enough for our senior team get some competitive football through the GFA Intermediate Cup, although that ended quite quickly this year with a 5-2 first round defeat by Olveston United Reserves!”

Meanwhile Stevenson, Cleary and Sam Hughes, a star striker with SW Peninsula Premier pacesetters Saltash United, all featured recently for Police England in a 3-0 defeat by Bristol City Academy Under-18s at Hallen FC.

The fixture was a warm-up one ahead of a home international against Police Scotland which is being earmarked for a yet-to-be-confirmed local Football League venue in May.

O’Brien said: “Police England were stronger in a goalless first half but we made several changes at half-time which allowed City to dominate the second half.

“The game was generally played to a good standard and had it not been for all those changes, the outcome may have been a different one.”


Boco boys eyeing Les James Cup prize as means to raise spirits for promotion assault

GARY Lancaster says AEK Boco’s stuttering season can be given an injection of life if they overcome Henbury to take their place in the final of the Marcliff Gloucestershire County League’s Les James Cup.

The sides, battling to make themselves heard in and around the lower realms of the table, tussle at Boco’s Greenbank Road HQ for the right to face either fast-emerging Lebeq United or Broadwell Amateurs, who joust in the other last-four tie on the same afternoon of Saturday, February 4 (2pm).

This time last year Lancaster’s lethal charges were blitzing all before them en route to a maiden County League crown in only their second season at the level, having sounded a serious note of warning 12 months prior in finishing as runners-up to Cheltenham Civil Service.

But Boco’s relatively modest standing 11th on the league ladder entering the home fixture with Lebeq United on Saturday, January 28 only serves to underline the importance of completing the campaign with a flourish, a fact not lost on their devoted manager.

Lancaster acknowledged: “The Henbury game has taken on new meaning for us in the light of how our season has been shaping up.
“Having the Les James Cup to play for has kept our season alive and it has been a difficult season, particularly when you consider the momentum we’d built up over the past few highly-successful years.

“We’ve not always had the commitment levels from everyone that we did when we were flying and that tends to happen when things aren’t going your way in football.

“We’ve been unfortunate too in that respect as there have been times when I’ve been really short of established central midfielders in particular. Jason Thatcher has only just returned to action after missing virtually the entire season with a severe sciatica condition, while Charlie Stevens and Ben Menear have missed a lot of games through work commitments.”

It’s not been all doom and gloom, however, for a Boco outfit currently sweating on a local authority verdict over plans to complete an ambitious upgrade of their facilities in order to undertake a concerted promotion push next season.

“We’ve still had some valuable experience to call on in (defender) Austen Shopland, who is in his eighth season with us, and our captain and centre-half Richard Sperring, who has been with me since I joined the club six seasons ago,” Lancaster acknowledged.

“Some promising young lads have also come through, such as Callum Ball (central midfielder) and Brad Wheadon (left-back), who have been outstanding. Harrison Kyte, Ben Sayers and Frank Taylor-Fox have been in and out of the side but will be that bit stronger and knowledgeable from the experience when it comes to next season.

“We’re also delighted to have our keeper Joe Pople back from his spell with Bitton. He kept 14 clean sheets for us last season which was fantastic and he’s made a significant difference since he’s returned.”

Lancaster is adamant the future remains a bright one, whatever status their first team performs at.

“We have 40 teams at the club, four of them senior, including ladies and junior set-ups which is a phenomenal effort,” he enthused.
“We had looked well on course for promotion last season but unfortunately for us some concerns were voiced by local residents about noise potential and floodlights and South Gloucestershire Council wanted to go back for consultations and feasibility studies relating to our ground, which of course has held everything up.

“To be honest it took the wind out of our sails more than I initially thought it would but we’ve bitten the bullet and we remain hopeful that we’ll get the go-ahead soon to crack on with the project, with a view to reapplying to go up next season.

“A positive response from the local authority will galvanise everyone and give me and the players that incentive to go for it again because, let’s face it, everyone needs goals and targets.”


Bristol City Deaf determined to go the distance in quest to claim coveted national prize

MARK Gill and his Bristol City Deaf FC team-mates believe they have it in them to “go the distance” and atone for their agonising English Deaf Challenge Cup final defeat of 2015.

Two goals in the final five minutes of a draining May showdown with the richly-successful St John’s Deaf at Basingstoke Town’s HQ condemned City to a heartbreaking 2-0 defeat, one they have been eager to rid from their systems ever since.

It’s a case of so far, so good for the Bristol battlers this term, as they not only top the English Deaf Football League table with an unbeaten record to date but are also on course for success in the British Deaf Cup, with a last-eight tie against Barnet (venue TBC) on Sunday, February 26 promising much.

However, it is the England Deaf Challenge Cup which is setting pulses racing once more as City prepare to take on old foes St John’s in the quarter-finals of the tournament a week prior on Sunday, February 19, although where the tie takes place is again subject to confirmation.

Gill and his colleagues are just keen to get stuck into their London-based rivals wherever it may be, while a repeat of the 4-0 home romp over St Albans Deaf in the previous round will do very nicely with another semi-final within tantalising reach.

The player-manager confessed: “Losing to St John’s as we did in the EDF Cup final three seasons ago was absolutely gutting. We knew they were the favourites but we worked so hard for 85 minutes against a team used to winning everything, only to concede those two quick goals.

“We were a relatively new team back then but it showed the potential in us and hopefully we’ll go one step further in the competition this year.

“It won’t be easy; St John’s and Fulham are regarded as the top two sides year on year but if everyone is available for selection, we definitely have it in us to beat them and go the distance this time.”

Bristol City DFC, who play their home fixtures at Stoke Gifford’s WISE Campus, have become accustomed to near misses as they strive to secure some prized silverware for the first time. They did clinch an EDF Cup Plate final prize under their previous banner of Bristol Deaf several years back, a secondary competition for teams who lose their place in the first round of the main event.

The present day City side, formed a few years ago in a tie-up with Bristol City Community Trust, were pipped 5-4 on penalties in spring 2015 by Fulham in the final of the British Deaf Cup Plate, after a hard-fought 1-1 draw had taken the contest into the dreaded shoot-out. Last season also presented a near-miss for Gill’s men, who were edged out of the British Deaf Cup by Glasgow at the semis stage.

“Our average age was 23 and we had only two players over 30, so it was a good achievement,” Gill acknowledged.
“We’ve lost two major finals now but we’ve really improved. Whilst in our early days it was about winning games to build up confidence levels, now we’re all about trying to get our hands on cups, to have the mental strength to turn negatives into positives and enjoy our football.

“The overall progress has been shown by the selection of two of our players for their countries in Jordan Slater, a central midfielder who has succeeded in teaming up with Ireland Deaf FC, and Mitchell Price, a winger from Wales, who has been picked for the Great Britain Deaf squad.”


Winterbourne defeat Sartan to set-up Senior Amateur semis spot with Olveston rivals

ROBYN Maggs was a delighted chairman as Winterbourne United powered into the semi-finals of the GFA Senior Amateur South Cup with a 5-0 away defeat of Sartan United.

The in-form Bristol Premier Combination sharp-shooters proved too hot for their Suburban League opposite numbers on the day as doubles each for Dave Herbert and Tristan Day, and an Alex Hill effort to cap it off, propelled the visitors to a comfortable win.

Maggs, whose team now entertain their league rivals Olveston United on Saturday, February 11 for a place in the final, announced: “It was a great win; our best of the season so far.”

The tie could be a tight one too if the early January 3-3 league draw at Olveston, when Ben Dowdell fired a treble for Bourne, is anything to go by.

AEK Boco Reserves entertain Rockleaze Rangers Reserves in the other semis showdown on the same afternoon.   

Mid-table District League Division Two side Tormarton made no mistake in booking their place in the semi-finals of the GFA Intermediate South competition.

Nathan Harrison hit a hat-trick and Martin Cooper and Adam Bates weighed in with singles as their team cruised to a 5-1 home success over third division Bradley Stoke Town Reserves.

Richard Gardener’s double and Lee Robinson’s goal also ensured runaway District Division Two leaders Yate Athletic a safe passage into the last four of the tournament courtesy of a 3-1 Kelston Close win over visiting AFC Mangotsfield District of the Suburban League.

Nicholas Wanderers Reserves crashed 5-1 to strikes by Nigel Halligan, Steve Marsh, Pete Pratt, Ed Bicknell and Joe Hunter for Sneyd Park Reserves.

Thornbury Baptist came back from 3-0 down at the interval to share six goals with Saints OB Reserves. Ashley Tuck (2) and Jack Ocone were the scorers before James Hancox netted the decider in Thorns’ 5-4 penalty shoot-out success.

Josh Crawford delivered a deadly double to ease Real Thornbury Reserves, currently third in District Division Four, into the semi-final of the Minor South Cup at the expense of Downs Leaguers Clifton St Vincents A.

Woodlands fell behind to a goal from Simon Foster for Sneyd Park A, who were ultimately sunk by replies from Andy Baynton and John Sykes in a 2-1 victory.

Bristol and District Division Five pacesetters Hillfields OB Reserves made it a super club double on the day following their first-team’s GFA Junior South Cup exploits. They handsomely overcame Bristol Technique, of the Bristol and Avon League’s top-flight, 5-1, thanks to Lee Britton’s brace and George Snowden, Jed Fields and Kyle Thomas efforts to take their place in the semi-finals.

Danny Copeland, Chris Darlington and Tom Ahern strikes proved insufficient for Sea Mills Park A as they tumbled out of the competition 5-3 at the hands of travelling VCF Santos, who are undefeated in the Bristol Churches League second division boasting a perfect record.

In an incredibly tight last-eight encounter Bristol Eagles, who loiter with intent in second place behind Hillfields OB Reserves on the District League Division Five ladder, finally put paid to their hosts Nicholas Wanderers A after a goalless stalemate at Dundridge Fields  resulted in a 6-5 penalty shoot-out success.

Marcin Taras, Przemyslaw Andrzejewski, Sebastian Klimczok, Damian Kafara, Lukasz Szwed and Mateusz Michalak all hit the mark from the penalty spot to see Eagles safely into the semis.


Apperley on the march as Brown, Scarrott spell double trouble for Taverners Reserves

APPERLEY had two of their prized performers to thank for applying deadly doubles as they breezed through to the semi-finals of the GFA Intermediate North Cup at the expense of Taverners Reserves.

A close contest was always anticipated as both sides entered the tie competing hard in and around the top of their respective leagues, with Apperley clinging determinedly on to the tails of Cheltenham Division Three pacesetters FC Barometrics 3rds, while Taverners have been poised to strike in second spot behind Stroud League Four leaders Upton St Leonards Reserves of late.

When it boiled down to it Apperley had a little too much firepower for their Nailsworth-based opponents on the day as braces each for Aaron Brown and substitute Ed Scarrott, to complement an Ian Dawson effort, sent them on their way into the last four of the competition with a 5-2 win, Dean Neale netting both goals for a Taverners team whose cause wasn’t helped by the dismissal of Simon Lloyd-Jones.

Whitminster Reserves have experienced a relatively modest campaign battling it out around the middle of the Stroud Division Three table. But they kept their hopes of county silverware alive by overcoming Lydney Town 3rds 2-1 at School Lane courtesy of Josh Cowe and Brandon Mead goals to seize a semis spot.

McCadam made it through too thanks to a 3-1 victory over Stroud Division Three rivals Trident, Harry McCloskey among the scoring for them and Craig Cooke notching for the defeated away side, just as he did when Trident edged a 1-0 away win when the teams clashed in an early-season league fixture.

Also securing a last-four place were jubilant Ramblers, high-riding in Stroud League Four but nevertheless underdogs when it came to their home tussle with a Minchinhampton outfit topping the third division ladder with an impressive unbeaten record.

It counted for little on the afternoon as a gripping contest went all the way to penalties, Nathan Halford and Mark Potter goals for Ramblers, and Minchinhampton responses by Ryan Edwards and Jack Hornsby - all goals came in the first half - ensuring a tense 2-2 scoreline in regular time, before the Tuffley Park hosts claimed a 4-3 victory from the spot in an equally-absorbing shoot-out scenario.

As for the GFA Minor North tournament, sharp-shooting Painswick and Siddington both rattled in five goals as they marched into the semi-finals in style.

Stroud League Six fliers Painswick overcame Division Five counterparts Saintbridge 5-2 with pairs apiece for Edward Andrew and Connor Huntley to go with a Jordan Hutchinson single.

Spirited Siddington, meantime, cast behind them a tough time fighting to clamber clear of the M4 Karting Cirencester top-flight basement by beating league leaders and last season’s Minor North semi-finalists The Beeches 5-3 thanks in no small part to Dennis King’s hat-trick and James Lees and Jerome Dodson strikes, Ian McSherry, Scott Smith and Adam Leighfield goals keeping the away side in the competition until time was blown on their hopes of further progression.

Clinical King, who has 23 goals from 14 outings this term, had also struck twice when his Siddington side were pipped 3-2 by The Beeches in a close-fought league encounter at Kingshill Sports Complex in November.

Elsewhere in the last eight of the Minor North Cup, Kingsway Rovers emerged from a gruelling away fixture with fellow Stroud Leaguers Kings Stanley Reserves with a 5-4 shoot-out win after the teams had entered the ‘lottery’ in goalless deadlock.

And North Nibley were indebted to Alfie Harper’s double for seeing them safely into the semis at Jubilee Fields courtesy of a 2-1 victory over North Gloucestershire League second division strugglers United Longhope, whose Ben Andrews kept them in the contest.


Manor Farm fliers ready for big Vase crack again after sealing GFA Trophy semis spot

BRISTOL Manor Farm warmed up for their big FA Vase adventure in the Midlands this Saturday (Jan 28, 3pm) by cementing another GFA Challenge Trophy semi-finals place, writes Simon Parkinson.

The Toolstation Premier Division leaders overcame Lydney Town 3-1 on the road on Tuesday night to keep on course for a hat-trick of Trophy triumphs following their 9-2 mauling of the same opposition in April’s showdown and 2-0 win against Shirehampton at Oaklands Park the previous year.

A first half strike by new signing Will Hailston after good work by Jake Cox saw Manor Farm into a 1-0 interval advantage.

And although away keeper Connolly Jarrett was beaten by Declan Morley-Lyne soon after the second-half start, the Bristol battlers finally pulled away with Pete Sheppard and Liam Farmer finishes to seal a semis clash at home against another Hellenic League outfit in Fairford Town, scheduled for Tuesday, March 28 at 7.30pm.

While all three strikers entered the scoresheet, all may well have to make way this Saturday as Troy Simpson, who hit a hat-trick in the 3-1 league defeat of Chipping Sodbury Town last weekend; Dean Stamp and Ben Bament brace themselves for recalls on the big Vase fifth round stage.

Their opponents, Bromsgrove Sporting, ominously top the Midland League Division One table with an unbeaten record and Manor Farm boss Lee Lashenko acknowledged: “It’s going to be tough; they are second favourites with the bookies behind South Shields to win the competition and they have a large following. I’m told they’re expecting a crowd of around 1,500 which will make it intimidating.

“We’ll respect them but I feel it’s the strongest squad of players I’ve had at my disposal in my time at Manor Farm and it promises to be a great football match. There was a similar-sized crowd in the last round at Melksham when we came through (5-3) so we’re accustomed to that.

“It’s the last 16 and we went one round further last year. Everyone is fit and available and looking forward to the whole experience. We’re a determined football club anyway and I’m proud that we’ve never shied away from parading our ambitions.”

Of a latest GFA Trophy mission shaping up nicely, Lashenko said: “We freshened things up at Lydney but the players who came in demonstrated what a strong squad we have here and really we controlled the match and should have been more than just a goal up at half-time.

“We knew Lydney would be seeking revenge because we were never seven goals better than them in last season’s final; they were well in the game until the last half-hour.

“Fairford will be another unknown for us in the semis but sometimes it is better that way and we’ll be ready to go.

“I’m in it to win it; it’s a competition we always have a chance of winning and not many people would bet against us succeeding again.”



Spirited Southmead determined yet to put paid to County League trapdoor threat

CO-BOSS Jason Tarr and his Southmead CS Athletic comrades are adamant they are on the cusp of turning the corner as they continue to target answers to their basement agonies, writes Simon Parkinson.

The Pen Park Pavilion battlers were scheduled to enter their home clash with fallen champions AEK Boco on Saturday, January 21 still seeking a first win of a torrid Marcliff Gloucestershire County League campaign and rooted to the foot of the table with only three points to their name.

Hopes were high, given some encouraging showings of late, that frustrating statistic would end last weekend as they travelled to take on a Hanham Athletic outfit occupying a second-from-bottom berth with just two wins behind them.

It all began well enough, Rob Sivers’ fine angled finish on 14 minutes setting the pulses racing among the Southmead contingent, only for Hanham to rescue a point courtesy of Ashley Bowle’s sizzling second-half free-kick as a crucial contest finished up in 1-1 stalemate.

“We may just have shaded the first half while Hanham put us under a lot of pressure in the second,” accepted Tarr, who oversees team affairs in tandem with Trevor Richards.

“There was a lot of last-ditch defending and numerous goal-line clearances, not to mention some great saves from our keeper Callum Flinn.

“Nevertheless we came close to nicking it ourselves with a vicious strike from Luke Bayford after his corner came back out to him and he drilled a shot across the goal that flew narrowly past the post.

“Any kind of touch on the way through would have diverted it into the net and then Aiden Hill beat a man and drove into the box. Unfortunately, under pressure from another defender, he was unable to steady himself before shooting and he ended up hitting the ball straight at their keeper.

“Obviously we were disappointed not to win, although player availability made the task a lot harder and ultimately our 90-minute performance did not deserve three points.”

Bullish club spokesman Tony Paisley insists Southmead have far from given up hope of salvaging their place in the league. He reasoned: “Cheltenham Civil Service have just withdrawn from the league, which was extremely sad given all they achieved in winning the title in their first season.

“It means for us that if we do finish, say, second from bottom, we might be better placed to win a reprieve.

“What we really don’t want to do is finish bottom and given we’re in a better position off the field now, more so than many clubs at our level, it would be a real shame were we to lose our place in the County League.

“Results and performances have been a lot better and we’re getting nine or ten regulars turning up to training now too which is unheard of here, even when we had second and third teams in operation years ago!”



Davies eyes Challenge Trophy glory to accompany Hellenic League promotion charge

FAIRFORD Town will be pulling out all the stops now that they are a step away from a prized place in this season’s GFA Challenge Trophy competition.

So declares happy boss Gareth Davies, whose Hellenic Division One West promotion chasers clinched a place in the semi-finals with a fighting 3-2 Cinder Lane victory over a Chipping Sodbury Town team who twice had their leads pegged back.

Toolstation Premier Division Sodbury deservedly went in front through Sam Jenkins’ close-range finish 20 minutes in.

The Reds’ response was rapid, with Jason Milhench, in the starting line-up due to an injury to Scott Chilcott in the warm-up, levelling up the last-eight encounter with a well-taken finish ten minutes before the interval.

Having gone into the break at 1-1, the tie burst to life just after the hour mark as the visitors regained the lead when Fairford’s makeshift right-back Dan Drewett lucklessly bundled the ball over his own line with his knee.

Sodbury’s advantage lasted just two minutes as almost straight from the restart a penalty awarded for a foul on Milhench handed Josh Morse the chance to level from the spot.

And when Chris Jackson, in an advanced position from left-back, was bundled over by a combination of right-back and keeper, Morse sealed the win with another penalty to round off the scoring on 73 minutes.

Two superb stops from home debutant Jamie Zoldan denied more visitors’ efforts in the closing stages, while a second yellow card for Harley Warren four minutes from time all but ended Sodbury’s hopes of a comeback.

Remarkably the sides had already clashed in an early-season FA Vase meeting, when the outcome was precisely the same.

“We managed to beat them then when we were poor and we weren’t at the races in the first half of this latest game either,” admitted Davies, “although we did have to shuffle the pack because of a few injuries and Scott pulling out with an ankle problem before the start.

“It was good to get Jamie (Zoldan) a first run-out in goal since signing him from Clanfield. He’s had an injury too and been patiently awaiting his chance but he showed what a very good keeper he is and he made a tremendous save to keep us 3-2 in front.

“Of course what happens in the league is always our ultimate focus but now we’re in the semi-finals we’d be silly not to give it a good go.

“We’ll certainly not be fielding an understrength side for the game as everyone likes to reach a final; it’s what we’re all in football for.”
Meanwhile a Matt Huxley hat-trick helped catapult Cadbury Heath into the semi finals of the Trophy - but not before Gloucester County League visitors Kingswood had given them a scare.

The hosts received a shock five minutes in when Ryan Mudd beat goalkeeper Jamie Powell to put the underdogs ahead.

It was the wake-up call Heath needed and they drew level on 12 minutes when Huxley slotted the ball home thanks to a Harry Paice assist.

It was one-way traffic now and the Toolstation top-flight team forged in front on 34 minutes, Andy Campbell heading in a George Boon corner.

Just after the hour point continued home pressure paid off again as Huxley rifled a Cory Simpson cross into the net.

Spirited Kingswood still weren’t finished and they dramatically pulled a goal back when Mudd headed home once more, only for Heath’s ace marksman Huxley to settle a 4-2 win by netting amid a goalmouth scramble for his 34th of the season.

The outstanding Lydney Town-Bristol Manor Farm last-eight tie will take place at Swan Road on Tuesday, January 24 (7.45pm) after the scheduled fixture seven days prior was postponed due to a waterlogged pitch.



Knowles jubilation as happy Hillfields Old Boys set out to seal GFA cups double

HILLFIELDS Old Boys co-supremo Dwayne Knowles says he is “thrilled” to witness a second straight march into a GFA cup semi-final by his unstoppable team.

Hard on the heels of last season’s 5-2 Intermediate South final success against Yate Athletic, clinical Paul Coles and his prolific Hillfields compatriots stormed into the last four of the 2016-17 Junior Cup competition in emphatic fashion.

Coles led the rout with a hat-trick while braces each for Jamie Johnson and Mikey Golding saw the District League Division One promotion chasers to a 7-1 away victory over outplayed Bristol and Suburban League Division Two hopefuls Oldbury.

Knowles, who continues to play for the team while occupying the hot seat in tandem with John Towler, glowed: “We’re over the moon to reach a GFA semi-final for a second successive season.

“We have such a great team here, one which looks to win every game it plays, and we will give it everything in the next round to reach another final.

“Our back four were superb as always, giving our midfield and attackers the platform to play their normal game which they did to potent effect.

“But it was just a fantastic team display all told.”

Goalkeeper Richard Guest was the toast of Nicholas Wanderers after saving two spot kicks in the 3-0 penalty decider away against Old Elizabethans in the quarter-finals of the same Junior Cup competition following a 2-2 draw on the Downs.

Tom Butt gave the Old Boys the lead, only for Ashley Scrase to strike back twice in response for the District League Division One table-toppers, with a long-range free-kick and then penalty.

Despite having a man sent off, the hosts levelled the scores at 2-2 through Mark Brown but were unable to beat classy keeper Guest again in the shoot-out.

Jonny Ruff and Tom Hunn strikes were not enough to prevent District League Senior Division side Iron Acton falling to a 4-2 home defeat at the hands of Made For Ever, who perform a step down in the league’s first division.

Downs League first division side Wellington Wanderers also stepped into the semis, at the expense of their visitors Bromley Heath United who they overcame 5-3 in a shoot-out decider after the sides completed 90 draining minutes in 4-4 deadlock.

Sam Elwell (2), Steve Lane and Ryan Durney grabbed the goals for Welly to give Bromley the boot, prompting secretary Ben Skevington to say: “We went 3-0 up and then 4-1 up, but with only 11 players in the squad we were bound to get tired.

“It’s incredibly satisfying to reach the semi-final for the second year in a row, though, and we’re determined to go even further this year.”



Oliver at the double as Tetbury Town breeze into Junior North Cup semi-finals in style

OLIVER Jones and Tetbury Town powered into the semi-finals of the GFA Junior North Cup courtesy of a 4-0 victory at Newlands Athletic.

Cheltenham Division Two side Newlands had been in freescoring mode in league and cup entering the tie but they were no match for the Stroud and District Division One outfit on the day as they clinched a last-four spot via two Jones strikes and Richard Jones and Kyroe Thomas efforts.

Newton, Whitecroft and Charfield all made it through too as they continued to eye silverware prospects.

North Gloucestershire Premier Division title contenders Whitecroft had Kurtis Locke at the double and Scott James and Carl James on target for them as they dispensed of their top-table rivals Redbrook Rangers 4-2 in a mouthwatering battle at Grove Road Recreation Ground.

Colin Morgan and Tom Wareham responded for second-placed Redbrook but could do little more than provide those consolations on the day.

Charfield and their visitors Barnwood United also know much about each other as they joust for supremacy in Stroud League One.

What sweet revenge it proved to be too for the South Gloucestershire side, thrashed 6-1 at their Memorial Fields HQ home by Barnwood in a one-sided league meeting in late October but now celebrating a 2-1 quarter-final victory at the same venue with goals from Jonathan Rosser and Adam Smith.

Rob Slatter’s strike for Barnwood ensured his team were in the contest, and competition, still until the very last whistle.

And in an eagerly-awaited encounter involving two top four sides in Cheltenham Division Two, Newton edged a 3-1 win at Andoversford courtesy of goals from Darren Hope, Alistair Stoops and Curtis Wise, Riley Woodman netting the Temple Fields team’s consolation.

Just as it did for Charfield, the outcome went down well for a Newton outfit who had found themselves on the receiving end of a 6-1 mauling themselves by Andoversford in October’s league fixture.



Memories stirred as Rockleaze Reserves continue bold quest to emulate 2008 vintage

CHAIRMAN Andy Myland heaped praise on his Rockleaze Rangers Reserves management and team following their superb GFA Senior Amateur South Cup win at Bitton Reserves.

Peter Bradbury’s men currently perform in the lower reaches of Suburban League Premier Two, albeit with games in hand to help prospects of yet turning their campaign on its head.

Rangers’ quarter-final hosts, Bitton, have been struggling around the foot of the Bristol Premier Combination’s top bracket. That said, given home advantage too, they were nevertheless expected to come through unscathed to secure a spot in the last four.

The Coombe Dingle underdogs were having none of it, however, and despite Marcel Smith firing Bitton into an early lead, second-half goals by Ali Boyer and Toby Sharpe ensured Rockleaze their place at the penultimate juncture.

It’s not the first time in this season’s Senior Amateur tournament Rockleaze have put paid to higher-ranked opponents.

“We beat Cribbs Reserves (current Premier Combination leaders) by the same scoreline in the third round and obviously we’re delighted,” Myland enthused.

“It’s strange because our first team, under Carlo Micciche, won this same cup on penalties against St Aldhelms in 2008, the season we won promotion to the County League. So it shows how far we’ve come that our reserves now have the chance of reaching the final.

“Peter Bradbury has done a wonderful job as player-manager to get us this far but we both know how difficult it will be to get to the final with some very good teams left in the competition.”

One of whom is Olveston United, who reached the semis too in thrilling come-from-behind fashion away against AFC Mangotsfield.
The high-riding Bristol Premier Combination outfit entered unfamiliar Blackhorse Road territory to lock horns with Suburban League Premier One opponents they knew were sitting in the bottom half of their table.

All that counted for nothing to begin with as Olveston inexplicably found themselves 2-0 down inside the first five minutes via a Mitch Stalley opener and a 30-yard own goal by the visitors’ Chris Barnes, whose pass back to Ash Newman bobbled somewhat comically over the retreating keeper’s foot as he tried to clear a ball which instead entered his net.

Matty Knight then pulled a goal back for the visitors to seemingly set them on their way at last, only for Mangotsfield to regain their two-goal advantage through Harry Ball almost immediately afterwards to make it 3-1.

Unfazed, Olveston continued to play good football and create chances and their captain Phil Williams scored at the end of a mazy run to reduce the arrears to a single goal once more, before sibling George Williams netted from the penalty spot after Knight had been upended inside the area to send the sides into the interval in 3-3 deadlock.

United took the contest by the scruff of the neck after the break and had plenty of opportunities to seal the match before George Williams finally struck again to make it 4-3 and send his jubilant side through to the semi-finals.

While Premier Combination AEK Boco Reserves also progressed courtesy of a nerve-jangling 7-6 penalty shoot-out victory over travelling Torpedo at Greenbank Road following a 1-1 draw after 90 tight minutes, the remaining last-eight tie between Sartan United and Winterbourne United was scheduled for Saturday, January 21 (2pm) on an all-weather pitch at West Town Lane.


It’s about digging deep as Leonard Stanley (somehow!) seal Senior Amateur semis spot

JOE Hill Pemberton admits he and his Leonard Stanley team-mates were forced to dig deep in order to clinch a place in the semi-finals of the GFA Senior Amateur North Cup, writes Simon Parkinson.

The Northern Senior One strugglers finally managed to an edge a 2-1 away victory in their Waterwells Centre backyard over Quedgeley Wanderers hosts currently fighting to join them in the league’s top section as they compete around the upper spheres of Division Two.

Stanley, promoted themselves only last term, fell behind following a goal-line scramble from a corner and, by Hill Pemberton’s own admission, rode their luck a little to level up with a Matt Fanstone penalty before sealing the win 10 minutes from time through Brad Brinkworth.

The central midfielder accepted: “Quedgeley were the better side overall and were punished for missing their chances.

“Our keeper Andrew Roberts saved two one-on-one situations while they missed a penalty AND had two efforts cleared off the line.

“I even managed to hit my own crossbar which sparked some amusement and entertainment among the spectators!”

Who, though, can possibly stop goal-hungry Charlton Rovers as they continue their assault on this season’s Senior Amateur North crown?

The Northern Senior One high-fliers have been in extraordinary form in the prestigious competition this term, netting no fewer than 30 times as the likes of Woolaston (6-1), Dursley Town (7-0) and Newent Town (9-3) have been put to the sword.

That eye-catching exploits propelled them into their latest tie, a quarter-final affair away against Cheltenham League first division side Kings, another which ended up on a one-way ticket as the visitors cruised to an 8-0 success with pairs apiece for Oli Bues, Josh Swales and substitute Dan Ledger, and additional efforts from James Campbell and Rich Swales.

Ruardean Hill Rangers squeezed through too, requiring a 3-1 penalty shoot-out success to overcome their Cheltenham Civil Service Reserves hosts after the sides had been locked in a 3-3 draw after 90 enthralling minutes.

The teams entered the Tewkesbury Road tie topping their respective tables, with the Servicemen enjoying pole position in Cheltenham One and Ruardean setting the pace in Northern Senior One with games in hand to boost title prospects.

Hardly surprising, then, the contest was a close one as two Luke Johnson penalties in normal time and a Luke Brown contribution put Ruardean Hill 3-2 ahead after the break after the sides had been beautifully poised at 2-2 heading into half-time, only for Civil Service to steal an equaliser inside the final ten minutes to take the tie to the dreaded spot-kick ‘lottery’.

Ruardean keeper Aaron Underwood proved a hero of the hour, saving two of the Cheltenham ‘takes’ before adding himself to a list of scorers including Johnson and Matt Creed, to their immense relief.

Not least that of drained chairman Martin Coleman who confessed: “It was pleasing although we weren’t at our best and the players said as much.

“Cheltenham had a good midfield and they were difficult opponents, but while we’re certainly taking nothing for granted, we are the top-ranked team left in the competition which presumably makes us favourites. It would certainly be great to reach the final now we’re so close.”

Last but not least, Southside Star secured a 2-0 victory at Brockworth Albion to seize a prized place in the semis thanks to goals both sides of the break by Josh King and James Lee, for a first win in 2016-17 over their Northern Senior One rivals following two tight league games between the pair.


Horseman turns to talented reinforcements in effort to rekindle Patchway fortunes

PATCHWAY Town manager Dean Horseman has expressed encouragement at the way a crop of established and inexperienced performers have taken to the County League stage of late.

Right-winger Rob Wilks, who have featured for  Thornbury Town and Southmead CS in bygone times, made a lively bow in Patchway colours in the recent 2-1 victory over Little Stoke following his arrival from league rivals Henbury.

Versatile left-sided reserve team captain Matt Hopley has also impressed since making the sizeable step up recently from District League Senior Division duties with the club’s second string.

And last but far from least, one-time club captain Phil Vice is back in the thick of it after finally shaking off the crippling injury that sidelined him since suffering anterior cruciate knee ligament damage at the back end of the 2014-15 campaign.

Horseman, whose underachieving team were surprisingly cemented to seventh spot heading into their trip to take on Rockleaze Rangers on the afternoon of Saturday, January 14 (2pm) given the calibre of their personnel, is hopeful the new additions can help reignite their spark.

He admitted: “Our disciplinary record hasn’t been great of late and we’ve had a few suspensions, which is why I needed to get some new players in.

“We signed Rob from Henbury, who is a fit lad, quite quick, who looks a steady County League player and almost scored on his debut.

“Our usual left-back Mark Stoneham hasn’t been available much of late so Matt Hopley came in to fill the breach against Thornbury recently and he was excellent against Little Stoke on the left of midfield.

“Matt is from Huddersfield and is based here with his work and he’s a determined and aggressive player.

“It’s not been common for the club’s reserve-team players to make it up to first team level in the four years I’ve been in charge but it’s credit to their managers Paul Woodward and Thomas Vaughan, that not only has Matt progressed to the firsts but Dave Ishi, who is still in his late teens, has also featured regularly for us after scoring a lot of goals for our ressies. He’s been looking a really promising prospect.”

The imminent return of 32-year-old central midfielder Vice to the fray has also gladdened the heart of Horseman, who explained: “Phil was my first signing when I took over as manager and I made him club captain straight away.

“He’s been back training us while playing out on loan with his old club, Stoke Gifford, for whom he scored twice for their reserves at the weekend.

“Phil is a real 100 per cent player who gets around the park so well and it will be like having a new signing.”

Horseman and Patchway were recently handed a prized football by the County League after being heralded as the ‘best marked technical area’ over a recent five-game period, all part of the organisation’s Respect programme.

The Scott Park gaffer grinned: “I’m not quite sure how we achieved it; it’s the first time we have received anything like this at Patchway in my experience!

“It’s a bit like being teacher to a bunch of naughty kids!”


Pollard in charge again and keen to catapult Nicholas Wanderers back to Combination

AMBITIOUS boss Kevin Pollard has made a bold pledge – to lead Nicholas Wanderers back to former heights in the Bristol Premier Combination over the next three years.

The Dundridge Fields supremo enjoyed a successful three seasons in charge until 2009, celebrating a Combination top-flight title triumph in his first campaign at the helm a decade ago before going on to achieve third-spot and runners-up finishes in subsequent seasons.

Now back at the Wanderers rudder after a stint as a player and then manager with Wick A and reserve teams respectively, Pollard admits he was not prepared to turn down the chance of a return to his former stamping ground last summer – and he hasn’t looked back since.

His team currently sit pretty at the head of District League Division One and their confident manager made no secret of the fact he is targeting quickfire back-to-back promotions in a bid to return them to Premier Combination contention once more.
He explained: “I wanted to stay loyal to Wick until the end of last season but as soon as I walked back into Nicholas Wanderers territory it felt right.

“There were a few people there who were massive influences in my decision to come back. The chairman Jon Scrase, who was my first team captain when I was at Wanderers previously, was very persuasive. He’s the type who doesn’t give up until he gets what he wants!

“And then there was Bob Fudge and Dave Hale, who have been involved with the club since the late 1940s when they started up as a church team for young men at Dundridge Farm, and were chairman and vice-chairman respectively when I was last here.

“Dave has been at the club since the start and Bob joined some years after. The story goes that they called themselves Nicholas Wanderers as the pitch was at the bottom of Nicholas Hill while around 1948, Wolverhampton Wanderers were a dominant force in England and across the world!

“Bob and Dave played a key part in my decision to rejoin them too with their continued hunger to push the club forward again, after unfortunately feeling moved to withdraw the first team from the Premier Combination a couple of years back following a few years of struggle to compete properly at that level.”

Pollard stressed: “I’m lucky enough to have a lot of player contacts and I believe in bringing young players through. We have a reserve team going well in District Division Two and this season we added a third XI, made up of Hanham Athletic’s former under-18 team, who are up near the top of Division Five and possess some very promising players.

“I’ve asked the club to give me three years to get Nicholas Wanderers back to the Premier Combination and that WILL happen, no ifs or buts.”

Former Fishponds Athletic and TC Sports player Pollard, who enjoyed a five-year coaching role with Keynsham Town Juniors while his teenage son Joshua, who he ended up performing alongside with for a spell with Wick A’s senior men to his delight, was an emerging fledgling, admitted: “It’s a shame that Nicholas didn’t have the facilities in place to push on to the County League when we had that title win in 2007.

“Still, things are progressing well again and the 4-2 win we achieved from a huge game against (third-placed) AEK Boco A at the weekend was testament to how competitive our lads have become against that calibre of side.”


Shock as Cheltenham CS fold – but race is on for big County League elevations

GLOUCESTERSHIRE County League officials are targeting a return to an 18-team competition next season following the “shock” of Cheltenham Civil Service’s withdrawal.

A stunned league secretary Ron Holpin was contacted on Wednesday last week by the 2014-15 champions to say they could no longer compete at the level due largely to financial issues and a lack of support behind the scenes.

He explained: “Cheltenham’s secretary got in touch to say they were very sorry that they simply couldn’t continue as they were.
“It was a bit of a shock in all honesty; I hadn’t expected it and neither had anyone else at the league. Obviously Cheltenham struggled last season but they managed to get through it and avoid relegation and this season they had been going quite well in and around mid-table, with no apparent threat of going down.

“It’s a shame because Cheltenham came into the league in the summer of 2014 and won the title in their very first year with us. Their problems last season largely stemmed from losing virtually their entire team and manager (Nick Locke) to Cheltenham Saracens.

“But many of them returned for the start of this season and while they did have their disciplinary problems and found it hard to raise the necessary money that comes from that, things appeared to be progressing nicely on the whole.

“I know their chairman resigned recently and in the end there were only a couple of people left to run it.”

Holpin revealed that five teams have applied to gain entry to the County League for 2017-18, while three clubs among the current membership are targeting elevation to either the Hellenic League or Toolstation League.

“We’ll be running with 17 sides until the end of the season but the aim is to try and get it back up to 18 for the start of the next one,” he said.

“We’ve had five applications to join the league, two from the south – Olveston United and Wick – and three from the north in Ruardean Hill Rangers, Sharpness and Newent Town, who applied last season but ended up finishing third when a top-two finish is a must to be considered for promotion.

“All these clubs must receive the necessary ground grading certificate to be considered and inspections will be starting within the next fortnight or so. It often means that, with a March 31st deadline to adhere to, a big rush is on to get requisite work on facilities done in time and that isn’t always possible.”

Holpin added: “Bristol Telephones, Stonehouse and Thornbury Town have applied for promotion to Step 6 football. Normally only one team gets to go up which could mean for an exciting end to our season, as all three are currently in the top four.

“Whether any sides come down from the Hellenic or Toolstation leagues remains to be seen.”



Supremo Sammy on a mission to steer Brimscombe battlers to Challenge Trophy glory

DETERMINED Brimscombe and Thrupp supremo Sammy Prior admits it would be “wonderful” to claim a place in this season’s GFA Challenge Trophy showpiece at Oaklands Park in the spring.

The London Road fliers swept aside Hellenic League compatriots Cirencester Town Development last Tuesday night to book a berth in the semi-finals of the competition, where they’ll entertain either Toolstation Premier Division side Cadbury Heath or Gloucestershire County League hopefuls Kingswood, who were set to tussle at Springfield in Bristol on Saturday, January 14th (2pm) for an intriguing last-eight tussle.

Ollie Pitt and Jack Smith both registered with goals against their former Ciren comrades, while Joe Williamson, Ashley Caldwell and John Evans all weighed in too. The relentless Pitt had a penalty saved and twice rattled the woodwork for good measure as he sought to add to his single strike.

Despite their current mid-table status on the Hellenic Premier ladder, Brimscombe have been in potent form in front of goal of late, netting 18 times in their four league and cup outings up to and including the midweek GFA romp against the high-riding Division One West outfit.

Prior acknowledged: “We played really well and it was better because in previous games in this competition against lower-league sides in Little Stoke and Shirehampton, our mentality was poor on both counts. This time their (Cirencester Development) young team couldn’t live with our tempo and that’s credit to our lads.”

The Brimscombe boss said of his team’s hot form of late: “We’re scoring a lot of goals and full of confidence and I can’t really put my finger on it! But it’s a great position to be in.

“On Tuesday night we knew the chance was there to play in a semi-final and at home too, against either Cadbury Heath, who like us reached the third qualifying round of the FA Cup this season, or Kingswood, who are a dangerous County League side.

“I can’t recall Brimscombe ever reaching the final of the Challenge Trophy but it’s a competition I like a lot having been around the GFA scene with Kings Stanley and it would be wonderful to reach the final.

“I’ve not weakened our team in any way throughout the tournament; I’ve always taken it seriously as you could see on Saturday as we went with the same back five as we’ve had for a while.

“And those lads that did come in for the game did very well as the scoreline shows.”

Two Josh Morse penalties and Jason Milhench’s first-half equaliser saw Fairford into the semi-finals too, 3-2, at the expense of visiting Chipping Sodbury Town. They’ll now travel to take on either Hellenic League fellows Lydney Town or Bristol Manor Farm, who clash at Swan Road on Tuesday, January 17 (7.45pm).



Cadbury Heath chief Black so wary of threat posed by Trophy giant-killers Kingswood

WARY manager Andy Black admits he will approach his Cadbury Heath team’s home tie with Kingswood (North) this weekend with some caution – and with good reason.

The teams tussle for an intriguing GFA Challenge Trophy quarter-final clash at the Toolstation Premier Division club’s Springfield HQ, a fixture originally pencilled in for three days prior but hastily rearranged due to faulty floodlights requiring attention.

While Heath, who have the likes of 31-goal Matt Huxley and 23-goal Simon McElroy up their sleeve, will inevitably start as favourites against a side two divisions beneath them on the football pyramid, County Leaguers Kingswood can rightly enter the contest full of confidence themselves.

They have already dispensed of higher opposition in the shape of Hellenic top-tier side Tuffley Rovers, on penalties after a tense 3-3 second round draw, and Toolstation first division strugglers Oldland Abbotonians, 3-2, in round three.

While Heath breezed to a 6-0 defeat of another County League side, Frampton United,  at the same juncture to tee-up this Saturday’s contest (Jan 14th, 2pm), their boss insists he is taking nothing for granted, despite having his prolific hot-shots at his disposal should he opt to pitch them in at any stage.

“I’m planning to give a few lads who haven’t been playing for us an opportunity but we’re aware of what Kingswood did to Oldland and Tuffley in the precious rounds and we have to respect that,” Black reasoned.

“We also come off a disappointing result (1-0) at home against Hallen in the league and I’m hopeful we won’t put in a repeat of that performance when we play Kingswood.”

Black can recall Cory Simpson to his attack but is without influential midfielder Matt Britton for some time now with persistent knee problems.

Kingswood manager James Cole insisted: “It’s our club’s biggest games in years and we’ve done extremely well to get to this stage.
“We are enjoying a more successful season and my goal as manager of finishing in the top seven and having a good cup run is turning out quite well.

“We are still green behind the ears as a team but my boys listen to instruction and always give 100 per cent.

“All I ask of them is that they give it everything again in an effort to cause another upset. If we play well, you never know.”

Bristol Manor Farm, meanwhile, travel to take on familiar opposition in Hellenic Premier side Lydney Town at the Rec this Tuesday night (Jan 17, 7.45pm) hardly anticipating a repeat of the 9-2 mauling they meted out to the flattened Gloucestershire side in last season’s final but nevertheless eyeing a golden chance of progression themselves to another semis spot.

And Farm chief Lee Lashenko, whose men were due to be embroiled in big FA Vase fourth round replay action at Toolstation Premier top-table rivals Melksham Town three days prior (Sat, Jan 14th 3pm) at the Wiltshire side’s brand-new stadium, warned: “The Lydney game is one we’re definitely looking forward to and it has come at a good time for us, which means I’ll have a strong squad at my disposal for it.”


Newlands and Charfield cruise into last eight as GFA Junior North competition hots up

NEWLANDS Athletic marched on purposefully in the GFA Junior North Cup to tee-up up a mouthwatering quarter-final tie with Tetbury Town.

The Evesham Road outfit, handily placed in a mid-table position in Cheltenham League Division Two with games in hand to aid their cause, put four without reply past Longlevens A to set up that Saturday, January 14 (2pm) date at home with high-riding Stroud League One hopefuls Tetbury.

There was no stopping Newlands on the day as two Nathan Lock strikes and further goals by substitutes Mason Beasley and Danny Wright assured them a place in the last eight, while Tetbury progressed courtesy of a 2-0 home victory over Stroud second division promotion contenders Horsley United, Oliver Jones among the scoring.

Charfield made no mistake booking a berth in the quarters either as they overcame Ellwood Reserves 6-1 thanks to Jonathan Rosser’s double and Harvey Bain, Zach McAllister, Adam Smith and Matt Siddon contributions.

They now entertain Barnwood United, who squeezed past Stonehouse Town Reserves 2-1 through Tom Rich and Daniel Rosenburg efforts, James Hughes’ goal ensuring the tie went right to the wire, despite his side’s comeback hopes being hampered by the sending off of Josh Patel for a second bookable offence.

There were impressive wins too for Redbrook Rovers and Andoversford, as they brushed aside Chalford Reserves and Stroud United with 6-2 and 7-0 home successes respectively.

North Gloucestershire League Premier Division pacesetters Redbrook had pairs apiece by Jack Jones and Colin Morgan, and singles each for Tom Wareham and substitute Sam Blake, to see them safely into the next round and an enticing away meeting with league rivals who currently occupy second spot, Whitecroft, who pipped Coleford Town 4-2 thanks to goals from Carl James, Jordan Locke, Kurtis Locke and Scott James.

Deklan Powles and Ian Callow strikes at least gave the North Gloucestershire Premier visitors hope.

As for Cheltenham League Division Two promotion contenders Andoversford, they, and their six-goal hot-shot Riley Woodman, were simply too strong for Stroud One opponents United, Sam Green the other scorer as their rampant team secured a last-eight date at home against in-form Cheltenham Division Two side Newton, who registered a hard-fought 2-1 victory over visiting Broadwell Amateurs Reserves with goals from Kelvin Cole and Alistair Stoops.

Meanwhile Minchinhampton and Ramblers were among the chuffed sides to reach the quarter-finals of the GFA Intermediate North competition.

Stroud League Three leaders Minchinhampton overcame travelling FC Barometrics A 4-0 courtesy of a Jack Hornsby brace and Giles Arnold and Liam St Clair-Moore goals, while Ramblers, currently second in Stroud Division Four, were just too strong for spirited Stonehouse Town Thirds as they eased to a 5-2 home success thanks largely to clinical Connor Dallimore’s treble.

Ramblers now play host to Minchinhampton in an intriguing quarter-final clash at Tuffley Park on Saturday, January 14 (2pm).


It’s VCF Santos next for District League Sea Mills Park thanks to Dodington dismissal

SEA Mills Park A came through a testing GFA Primary South Cup third round tie with Bristol and Avon Premier Division high-fliers Dodington unscathed.

The District League Division Five side had Conor Buckler, Pete Rogers and Charlie Brewer on target for them in a 3-2 victory at their St Bede’s HQ to take their place in the quarter-finals of the competition and a home fixture with Bristol Churches League Premier Division pacesetters VCF Santos on January 14 (2pm).

Sea Mills’ rivals Bristol Eagles, going well in second place, came through more comfortably as Kolacki Marcin, David Ciencisla and Bukiert Krzysztof goals handed them a place in the last eight away against Nicholas Wanderers A via a 3-0 victory at Suburban League fifth division side Lockleaze Community.

Two Avon League clubs were successful in the third round as Bikkle Sports, who now travel to face Tebby Reserves, and Bristol Technique, who will go to Hillfields OB Reserves, secured emphatic 6-2 and 4-1 successes over Avon Plate and Redcliffe Raiders respectively.

Bradley Stoke Town crashed out of the GFA Junior South competition, despite Luke Johnson and Ashley Andrews getting among the goals in a 5-2 home defeat by District League Senior Division counterparts Iron Acton, who cruised into the quarter-finals on the strength of it.

Easton Cowboys Reserves tumbled to a 3-0 defeat on the Downs at the hands of Old Elizabethans, the Norman Hardy Cup holders, in their third round encounter.

The Old Boys’ 51-year-old manager Chris Hawkes made a rare appearance at the start of the tie due to the late arrival of one of his players.

Nevertheless it all ended happily as two Alex Kwong strikes and Tom Butt’s effort saw them safely through for a home meeting with Nicholas Wanderers on January 14 (2pm).

In the GFA Intermediate South Cup, District League Division Two leaders Yate Athletic kept alive their county knock-out hopes by sweeping past Lawrence Rovers 5-1 at Kelston Close in a third round contest thanks to Dan Edwards’ double and Richard Gardener, James Hicks and Michael Chilcott strikes. 

They were joined in the last eight by Bradley Stoke Town Reserves, who were grateful to a Luke Boswell brace and George Foulger single for securing a hard-fought 3-2 win at District Division Three rivals Pucklechurch Sports Reserves, the side they overcame 3-0 at the same Rec venue in October’s league meeting.

Thornbury Baptist flew the flag for the Churches League after dispensing of North Bristol Trust 2-1 at home with John Cordle and Ben Keen their second-half marksmen.

The Baptists’ reward is another home tie, against Downs League Division Two side Saints Old Boys Reserves, in the quarter-finals on January 14 (2pm).


Classy Cribbs put Senior Amateur South shock behind them to maintain perfect form

CLINICAL Cribbs Reserves responded to the setback of a first defeat of their campaign with an 8-1 league trouncing of Old Sodbury!

The Bristol Premier Combination top-flight leaders suffered a 2-1 GFA Senior Amateur Cup third round loss at the hands of Rockleaze Rangers Reserves seven days prior.

Clearly stung by the setback, Cribbs roared back with some gusto, maintaining their 100 per cent winning league streak with an emphatic three points in their Lawns backyard, their 11th victory from 11 outings to ensure confidence levels remain firmly intact ahead of this Saturday’s potentially-tricky away encounter with sixth-placed Lebeq (2pm).

Andy Forward and Dan Burgan both hit doubles while Dan Monk, Henry Jones, James Clayton and James Pellowe weighed in with the rest for what Cribbs’ joint management team of Alec Mills and Rob Hetherington branded “a great performance”.

Sam Makepeace’s goal, and Reece Buss’ rattling of the crossbar, was the sum total of Sodbury’s first-half efforts as they trailed 5-1 at the break, prompting their own boss Paul Passaway to concede: “We went Christmas shopping against a very well organised and solid team.

“None of our lads wanted to head the wet ball in the first half and while we began the second half better, Cribbs were clinical in the last third and we were poor.”



New supremo Griffin on a mission to rouse Southern League strugglers Cirencester

CHARLIE Griffin says he continues to “relish” the chance he’s been afforded to launch his managerial career at Cirencester Town – and sees no reason for that to change.

The 37-year-old former Bristol Rovers Youth prodigy, who went on to play professionally with Swindon Town before performing for a whole string of clubs including Woking, Forest Green Rovers, Bath City and Gloucester City, always knew he faced a baptism of fire after casting aside off-field duties at Cirencester in order to occupy the hot seat at the start of October.

Griffin has ridden a real rollercoaster results-wise after a steady start to his tenure in charge which reaped three successive draws, some promising displays and admirable outcomes mixed with luckless and, at times, heavy defeats, such as the recent 6-1 thumping inflicted by travelling Kettering Town.

Nevertheless their bullish boss is taking all the positives going right now and is clearly determined to stamp his own mark on a project he insists he won’t be relinquishing in a hurry, not if he has anything to say about it.

“It was strange,” he smiled, “because on the Tuesday night I was a player as we won 1-0 at Basingstoke and four days later I was in charge as manager.

“I’ve no regrets whatsoever; I’ve really enjoyed it although it’s challenging. It’s something I feel passion for and something I’ve wanted to do for some time and I’m relishing it.

“You want to bring in your own players and I’ve brought in seven or eight, including my brother Alan from Chippenham because of his experience as much as anything. He knows the league inside out and you need that.

“It takes time to get things as you want them but I’ve been working at trying to bring another couple of players aboard and I won’t stop until we get it right.

“It’s definitely a long-term thing in my mind and I’m honoured that the chairman has given me this opportunity. We need to get Cirencester competing hard and of course you think about how nice it would be to be challenging at the higher end of the table.

“But it’s first things first and we can’t look too far ahead yet; we need to make sure we stay in this league.”

Such is Griffin’s commitment to the cause that he spent several draining hours on Sunday ringing each and every member of his first team squad following that Kettering thrashing.

“I felt it was the right thing to do, to call everyone individually, some young lads as well. The calls lasted anything between 25 and 40 minutes and as much as it was about keeping people’s heads up, it was a chance for them to get things off their chest if they felt the need to.

“It was disappointing, the manner in which we lost, because five of Kettering’s goals were from set-pieces, yet we were better than them in open play.

“It took a lot of my Sunday but that sort of thing comes with the territory and it’s important players don’t feel isolated.”


Sartan sizzlers book Winterbourne date as Selman’s Stapleton fliers are flattened

STAPLETON supremo Rob Selman admits his soaraway side’s GFA Senior Amateur Cup crash at the hands of Sartan United left him dumbfounded.

The Frenchay Park Road fliers have enjoyed a magnificent 2016-17 where their ‘bread and butter battles’ are concerned, as ten wins from ten outings to claim pole position on the Bristol and District League Senior Division ladder amply demonstrates.

Selman and his men fancied their chances of progression at a new and higher level in the county knock-out tournament too after getting their hands on the GFA Junior Cup prize last season courtesy of a hard-fought 2-1 win over De Veys in the April Oaklands Park showpiece.

Yet with a quarter-final place tantalisingly up for grabs, Stapleton suddenly fell flat at the home of Suburban League Premier One hopefuls Sartan, who streaked to a 6-1 success in their West Town Lane backyard, leaving the away camp, for once, at a loss to explain an unexpected capitulation – and a first defeat of an otherwise very productive programme thus far.

Selman simply admitted: “It was just a bad day at the office but Sartan took their chances and they do have a very good side.”

Stapleton went on to clinch an important 3-2 win at Bristol Barcelona to maintain that impressive perfect form in the league at the weekend while Sartan, who by coincidence went on to defeat Old Georgians seven days on by the same 6-1 scoreline they’d racked-up against Stapleton, were left rubbing their hands at the prospect of a last-eight date at home with Bristol Premier Combination top-flight high-fliers Winterbourne United scheduled for Saturday, January 14 (2pm).

In that eventful third round tie there appeared few signs of what was to come as Sartan and Stapleton entered the interval locked at 1-1 as Callum Gardiner’s 25-yard screamer had restored parity after the hosts had stolen into a second-minute lead.

But Sartan produced a stirring second-half performance to net five more times and run out handsome winners with Wes Hawkins and Jacob O’Donnell both hitting doubles and Jimmy Vowles and Connor Walker weighing in with the rest.

Their delighted secretary Steve Clark acknowledged: “According to our management team of Alan Jones and Jeff Wells it was a fine all-round team performance and we ran out deserved winners.

“I was gutted I wasn’t there; it was the first cup game I’d missed since we were formed in 2012 as I was at my grandchildren’s joint birthday party in Kent. I also missed the club’s Christmas party on the same night which must have gone with a swing on the strength of that victory!

“Still, it was a very good result after a couple of bad results leading up to it. We like silverware at Sartan having won a couple of pre-season tournaments and now everyone is looking forward to playing Winterbourne, who are going well near the top of their league.

“We have already booked the 3G facility next to our main pitch at South Bristol Sports Centre to ensure the game goes ahead.”


It’s a ‘19’ from us . . . De Veys and Roman Glass serve up back-to-back goal treats

DE Veys player-manager John Nutland is rubbing his hands at the prospect of more helter-skelter sizzlers with Roman Glass St George Reserves – despite now having to wait until next season!

The sides have served up a mammoth 19-goal feast over their two Bristol Premier Combination encounters this term, the latest ending in 6-5 victory for Saints in an enthralling Whiteway Road spectacle at the weekend.

Saints eventually squeezed home thanks to Ian Power’s hat-trick, Jake Thomas’ double and Jackson Osikomaiya’s strike, as Phil Burford and Darren Bloomfield both bagged braces for Nutland’s battlers and Dylan Whittle weighed in with a penalty.

That epic match came hard on the heels of a 4-4 draw at De Veys’ Kings Head Lane home only three weeks prior, prompting their central midfielder and leader to grin: “Obviously we were disappointed to lose the latest game but what a game it was! Both sets of attacks ran riot and it could easily have ended up ten-apiece.

“You couldn’t blame any of the keepers either but both sets of players were laughing at the end and saying that if one of us could defend, we’d win the league by a country mile!

“It was one of those games in which the midfields pushed on and the defences were overwhelmed. Both teams abandoned any thoughts of defending and it’s just a shame we weren’t drawn against each other in any of the cup competitions.

“We felt the first game was a cracker but this was even better, with more goals, more incidents and a red card to each team for straightforward ‘last-man’ fouls, nothing malicious.

“It was a classic Kevin Keegan approach, the ‘you score five and we’ll have to score six’ scenario.

“Both sets of players were milling around afterwards and saying it’s a pity we’ll have to wait until next season for the next one.”
Nutland heaped praise on young referee Joe McKimm. “He could only have been 20 and he was really good,” he acknowledged. “The ref allowed the game to flow and I liked the fact he explained his decision-making and I was impressed.
“I feel he could go up through the ranks pretty quickly on that evidence.”

De Veys, who were 4-1 down at the interval and never quite got close enough to reducing the arrears to single goals until right at the end, are newcomers to the Premier Combination scene this season following their District Senior Division promotion success and Nutland, who is in his 19th year with the club, recalled: “We were on the brink of folding nine years ago when we were in Suburban Premier One and only raising nine or ten players for games.

“So to have rebuilt as we have done and gone on to achieve this level of football is fantastic.”


Clinical Charlton keep the goals a-flowing to see off Newent in Senior Amateur romp

CHARLTON Rovers have been scoring goals for fun of late – a trait that has catapulted them into the last eight of the GFA Senior Amateur North Cup.

The Northern Senior One high-fliers had netted 15 times in their two league outings heading into their trip to take on mid-table rivals Newent Town for a tantalising third-round meet at Wildsmith Meadow, where the hosts had overcome Rovers 2-1 in a hard-fought early-season league encounter.

It could not have been more different this time as the visitors filled their boots once more with a 9-3 success thanks largely to four-goal James Campbell’s exploits, Oliver Bues’ brace and Josh Swales, William Testeil and Ben Williams goals.

They now travel to take on Kings on January 14 (2pm), who have been finding the going tough at times in Cheltenham Division One.

Nevertheless they handed themselves a spirit-lifting place in the quarters too thanks to a battling 2-1 home victory over Bibury, Alex Febery supplying both the Staverton-based side’s goals, while Scott Reynolds’ strike at least kept their Northern Senior One guests in the hunt.

Charlton’s hot form showed no sign of let-up at the weekend either, as they surged to a 7-0 away success in the league over Bredon to occupy fourth spot in the table.

Meanwhile Brockworth Albion had been on a fine run of form entering their tricky-looking home tie with Hellenic Division Two West promotion chasers Moreton Rangers. They negotiated it safely, however, goals for Craig Fairley and Billy Stokes securing them a 2-0 Mill Lane victory and prized place in the quarter-finals.

Lowly Leonard Stanley have steadied the ship well of late after a rocky opening to their Northern Senior One campaign. They gave themselves a further boost by booking a place in the last eight with a 4-2 penalties win at Cheltenham first division strugglers RSG, substitute Ryan Hoden’s goal for Stanley, and Eamon Brennan’s reply for RSG, taking the tie into a shoot-out as the sides were locked at 1-1 after regulation time.

Kyle James-Bryan scored two of the goals as Quedgeley Wanderers squeezed past Northern Senior Two rivals and hosts Stroud Harriers, who had fought back from a 2-0 interval deficit to hit back to equalise through Joe Hoyle and Dean Turner strikes before tumbling out of the competition by a 3-2 scoreline.

It was the first game of a quickfire double header between the sides, who were due to clash in an important top-table tussle on Saturday, December 3, this time at Quedgeley’s Waterwells Sports Centre HQ.

Shaun Tingle scored for Harrow Hill as they fought hard for their 1-1 away draw with Cheltenham Civil Service Reserves, only to lose their place in the tournament as the Cheltenham League One pacesetters, who replied through Martyn Curnock’s goal, booked a last-eight berth thanks to a nerve-jangling 6-5 penalty shoot-out success.

It was a similar outcome at Station Road where hosts Berkeley Town, who entered the interval a goal to the good through Aaron Nash’s effort, were eventually held to a 1-1 draw by opponents also battling around the lower reaches of the Northern Senior One table, Southside Star, whose James Lee rescued their place in the competition with an equaliser before going on to celebrate a 7-6 shoot-out victory along with the rest of his team-mates.

It was far more straightforward for Northern Senior League leaders Ruardean Hill Rangers as they crushed Brimscombe and Thrupp Reserves 8-2 on the road courtesy of Luke Brown’s four-timer, Luke Johnson’s double and Stuart Cornwell-Boote and Joseph Kilty contributions.


Chasing the double dream – Maggs’ revitalised Winterbourne are back in business

ROBYN Maggs believes the buzz is back at Winterbourne United as they eye the potential for a GFA Senior Amateur South Cup success this season.

Bourne battled back from a goal down to safely negotiate a tricky third round tester against Bristol Premier Combination compatriots and Division One leaders Shaftesbury Crusade at the Rec with a 4-2 win, courtesy of a first-half Matt Plant brace and second-half strikes by Jack Hamblett and James Mainstone.

While that success – Martin Day’s men had to respond swiftly to falling behind to an early goal AND a Shaftesbury equaliser at 2-2 soon after the break before prevailing -  earned them a place in the last eight, a spot in the Oaklands Park final showpiece next spring is far from the only honour Maggs and Co are targeting this term.

The long-serving chairman spoke candidly last December of his relief at “removing the burden” of their “unsustainable” first team set-up after withdrawing it from the Toolstation Western League competition due to spiralling costs.

Now, after a reasonable start to their Premier Combination top-flight campaign through their existing second-string set-up, Winterbourne are daring to gaze upwards again, at the prospect of another promotion to their former County League stomping ground from where they attained elevation to the Hellenic League via a 2000-01 championship-winning triumph.

The 59-year-old maintained: “The club has responded very well to the Western League fall-out and it has the buzz back. It reminds me of the days when you could barely get everybody in the clubhouse after games and it’s rekindled my enjoyment; it’s not so stressful.

“We’ve not played many league games so far and maybe there are too many points to claw back when it comes to finishing in the top places this season, but we’ll certainly have a go.

“We want to push for the County League again and if we can achieve it, I’m pretty sure that’s how far we’d aspire to go financially-wise. With some good young players coming through with a bit more nous, it’s certainly attainable in the next year or so.

“We’ve added a promising under-15s team to the fold this season so everything’s moving in the right direction.”

Asked about their prospects of adding another piece of Senior Amateur silverware to the cabinet, Maggs replied: “Why can’t we do it this year? We’re in the quarter-finals now and it’s a competition we enjoyed winning when our firsts were last in the Bristol Premier Combination. We beat Highridge United 2-1 in the final 20-odd years ago and also won the league that year to gain promotion.

“We knew we were in for a tough game on Saturday against Shaftesbury as they have quite a young side and you can see why they’re top of their table.

“They managed to take the lead against the run of play but found themselves chasing shadows after that.”


Brave Boco Reserves pass the 12-yard challenge to earn Senior Amateur South spot

AEK Boco Reserves were spot on to take their place in the quarter-finals of a 2016-17 GFA Senior Amateur South competition starting to grow in intensity.

They progressed courtesy of a 5-4 penalties decider after they and their Moorhouse Lane hosts Hallen Reserves had produced a 1-1 draw through Scott Fear and Danny Webb goals respectively in normal time.

Olveston United seized a place in the last eight too, at the expense of Premier Combination rivals Hambrook, but only after squeezing through a tight shoot-out by the same 5-4 scoreline as Boco’s match produced after the sides had also been locked at 1-1 heading into the ‘lottery’.

Hambrook conceded an early goal when their keeper Adam Lumber was dispossessed with the ball at his feet and Matt Knight pounced to score.

Late in the first half Olveston's own shot-stopper brought down striker Chris Cook with a strong tackle and Tom Dailley put away the resultant penalty to equalise.

Both sides had chances to win the match after the break while Olveston had a reasonable shout for a penalty of their own turned down.

The tie went to spot kicks and it was a delighted home side who just edged through with Ash Richter, George Williams, Russ Knight, Joe Loney and debutant Ben White all deadly from 12 yards.

There was disappointment for Cribbs Reserves, who finally fell to their first defeat of the season courtesy of a 2-1 away loss at Suburban Premier Two outfit Rockleaze Rangers Reserves.

James Clayton’s 90th-minute goal gave the Premier Combination pacesetters, who boast a 100 per cent winning record to date, a glimmer of late hope before time was blown on their comeback attempts.

Callum Gardiner’s goal was scant consolation for Stapleton as the District League Senior Division pacesetters were comprehensively dumped out of the GFA Senior Amateur Cup at the third round stage 6-1 by rampant hosts Sartan United, of Suburban Premier One.



Lydney Town’s Lee relishing the chance to right a few Challenge Trophy final wrongs!

MANAGER Mark Lee says Lydney Town “can’t wait” for the chance to get last season’s GFA Challenge Trophy final shocker out of their system next month.

The in-form Hellenic Premier Division side overcame Cribbs with a 3-1 midweek victory at Swan Road to set up a captivating last-eight clash at home against another Toolstation top-flight opponent, league leaders Bristol Manor Farm (date TBC).

Lee and Co need no reminder they were on the receiving end of a 9-2 thrashing in April’s Oaklands Park showpiece and while he is wisely making no predictions about the New Year bout given Farm’s sizzling league and FA Vase exploits, their boss is happy to be afforded the opportunity to right a few wrongs.

“We want to at least try and improve on that performance in the final,” Lee stressed. “It was a strange game because at 3-2 down we were still in it, yet we always looked fragile, like we’d concede every time they attacked, and so it proved.

“Still, it’s nice to have that challenge and while we don’t like to get too far ahead of ourselves, there was the incentive going into the Cribbs game to try and set up this ‘reunion’ with Manor Farm.

“It will be a massive task; they’re still in the FA Vase and they’re flying at the top of their table but all our players and supporters are talking about it already.

“It’s definitely one to look forward to and see if we can put some of what happened in that final right.”

The Swan Road supremo has been encouraged by his side’s showings of late, as three straight league and cup wins entering the weekend’s (Dec 10) home fixture with fourth-placed Flackwell Heath in the Hellenic Prem testified.

Lydney were 11th in the table heading into that and Lee said: “We’ve been going well and we’re doing it by having a relatively small set-up compared with others who have greater financial muscle.

“If we could break into the top six we’d really be punching above our weight and we are capable of it. As happens at any level, though, you’re not guaranteed all your best players available to you all the time and that can affect your plans. But we’re lucky to have a strong core of players to pick from most weeks.”

Deadly Declan Morley-Lyne continues to lead the Lydney scoring charts with 14 goals in tandem with makeshift striker Niall Halford, a centre-half by trade who has filled the breach vacated by luckless marksman Pat Gibbs.

“He was a regular goalscorer before damaging his cruciate knee ligament and he’d just been making good strides this season after a long lay-off until four weeks ago when he injured his other knee against Longlevens.

“I really feel for him because he’d worked so hard over pre-season to get back and he’d scored a few goals (five) before the latest setback. Fingers crossed he’ll be back playing soon.

“In the meantime Niall has stepped in and struck up a really good relationship up top with Declan.”


Looking upwards again: Langdon is backing new-look Bitton to maintain their recovery

DAN Langdon believes he can see a welcoming chink of light at the end of what has been a long and dark tunnel where he and Bitton are concerned.

The Rec co-boss was, in a bolt-from-the-blue move, handed the first team rudder in February after a cash crisis led not only to the departure of manager Paul Britton and virtually his entire squad, but the withdrawal of the club’s promising third XI from Bristol and District League Five activity.

Mercifully, enough points had already been safely banked to avert the relegation threat and now, with some more expert hands with Western League know-how aboard, Bitton appear to be on their way to resembling the force they were before the plunge.

Langdon, who took up the senior reins with the help of his reserve team No.2 Sam Greatorex at the time, smiled: “In some ways it was easier then because there were no big expectations of us; there was no real pressure.

“Our reserves had been flying at the time. We’d won promotion from (Bristol Premier Combination) Premier One the previous year and we were sitting second in the top division when we were asked to step up to manage the firsts.

“Our ressies ended up taken over by all our third team players and unfortunately they ended up on the receiving end of some heavy defeats from then on until the end of the season.

“It was a shame we had to disband the thirds because they, like our reserves, were capable of winning their league. We went from the prospect of winning two club titles to nothing.

“The entire reserve team suddenly found themselves pitched into Western League football and the only original first-team player to stay put was our keeper Jamie Powell!”

A rookie boss by comparison with many still at 26, Langdon is wise enough to know the road ahead is paved with pitfalls. The recent battling 1-0 away defeat of Cribbs was at least another indicator that better times are afoot.

“The lads showed an all-for-one spirit in the face of an onslaught towards the end of the game and I saw a proper Bitton team out there for the first time in a while,” he enthused.

“Yes, we’ve got a lot of ground to make up but we’ve made some good signings in Zemell Burton, Billy Fletcher, Ryan Bennett, Kyle Tooze, Ryan Madge and Craig Parsons. Ryan and Craig have been doing well and scoring goals from the left and right wings respectively since their moves from Oldland and Bishop Sutton.

“We’ve had our keeper problems at times but our 16-year-old youth team goalie Dan James has been phenomenal. He’s certainly got the attributes to go on and play at a higher level.

“So it’s a very positive camp and we’re all looking up rather than down. We believe in ourselves again and some decent attendances and sponsorship income is helping put us on the road to recovery.”


We’re far from finished with our five-year plan, Rockleaze boss Thomas is warning

ROCKLEAZE Rangers insist they will not waver in their attempts to ensure their bold five-year plan comes to fruition.

The Coombe Dingle outfit enjoyed a morale-boosting last season as they landed up a commendable fifth on the Marcliff Gloucestershire County League ladder, topped the league’s Respect table for a second time in recent years and were beaten finalists in the Les James Cup competition.

Richard Thomas’ team haven’t been so fortunate this time around, the loss of a raft of key players to injury and unavailability costing them valuable ground and leaving them battling to make themselves heard around the lower realms of the table.

A frustration, then, for Thomas, who is well into his second season in charge – and the second year of that ‘bigger picture’.
He explained: “We set in place a five-year plan last year, which involved finishing in the top five consistently and laying the foundations for a push towards Toolstation League status.

“This is the club’s ninth year in the league and we felt it was time to push on. The idea was that the first two seasons of the plan would be about stabilising and being consistent top-five material and then in our third and fourth years, looking to kick on.

“Instead this is turning out to be a season of reflection, about assessing what has gone wrong.

“Nevertheless we’re aiming to hit the top five again next year and looking to stay there.

“Nothing has changed in terms of the plan and it is widely known the club is in the process of trying to identify a ground away from Coombe Dingle which we can call our own, where we’ll have our own facilities and bar in order to generate revenue.”

Of their 2016-17 struggles to date, Thomas stressed: “We actually started the season really well with some big wins against strong sides like Bristol Telephones (4-3 away), Hardwicke (2-1 at home) and Frampton United (2-0 away).

“But we’ve had so many injuries since then, six key players at least missing at any one time on a consistent basis, and we’ve just not had the firepower to call upon with lads like James Fitzpatrick and Jay Connor injured.

“Still, these things happen in football at any level and I remember a similar thing happening to Patchway Town and Dean Horseman when he first took over from his dad, Kevin.

“Dean had a very good first season in charge and a difficult second season. They’ve regrouped and now they’re a really strong side again, one who could do well at the higher level with the players they have.

“It makes you realise that as a manager you can never switch off; you have to be at it 24/7.

“It’s a particularly wide open league this year too with the newcomers - Stonehouse, Lebeq and Little Stoke - doing well and everyone beating everyone, and there’ll be a lot of chopping and changing of places yet before the season is out.”


Making a stand . . . how Tuffley Rovers are preparing for a shot at higher-level life

TUFFLEY Rovers have made a stand where their future prospects of attaining promotion are concerned . . . quite literally!

Under the co-stewardship of Mark Pritchett and Shayne Anson, the Glevum Park hopefuls have made a positive start to their 2016-17 Hellenic Premier programme after ending up an agonising fourth from the foot of the pile last term.

Their latest outing, at home against lowly Henley Town, reaped three more valuable points from a 2-0 win to assure themselves sixth-placed status heading into a next big fixture, away at second-spot Thame United, on Saturday, December 3.

In the meantime Rovers chiefs have been focusing fully on important off-field matters, which has involved the erection of a brand-new 100-seat stand and a new covered standing terrace, all designed to prepare a launch-pad to their ultimate goal – the Evo-Stik Southern League.

Executive chairman Neil Brinkworth explained: “The successful purchase of our ground last summer from National Grid, who we’d hired it from over some 30 years, gave us the opportunity to start various development work and the seated and terraced enclosures were the first two stages of the project.

“A significant Sport England grant enabled us to strike the deal to buy the ground and money from the Football Stadia Improvement Fund has helped a lot with the cost of the new stand and terrace.

“It’s not as though there’s a specific target when it comes to pushing for a Southern League place but there’s a welcome feeling of progression, on and off the field, with the new managers, who were both Cirencester Town players, coming in at the start of the season and doing so well after our fight with relegation the previous year.

“They’re both aged around 28 and that’s what we wanted, younger guys with good contacts in local football. It’s enabled us to bring in good quality players, even though we do not pay any of them.”

Brinkworth added: “The fact we can put out five senior sides in this day and age, including our reserves in Northern Senior One and thirds, fourths and fifths in the Stroud League, says it all about how well we’re doing and the beauty of having links with a strong youth section.

“It’s a couple of years now since our amalgamation with Windsor Drive Youth and we’re running teams from under-8s to under-18s, as well as a girls’ side.

“Everyone at the club is buying into what we’re trying to do and there are only a few minor improvements to make to bring our facilities up to Southern League standard.

“If we can maintain our improvement on the pitch as well as off it, that will put us in a position to apply for Southern League football if we reach a promotion spot at any time in the future.”


Chipping Sodbury on revenge mission as Fairford stand in way of Trophy semis spot

CHIPPING Sodbury Town have revenge in mind when they go to Fairford Town for their testing GFA Challenge Trophy quarter-final match.

Hellenic Division One West leaders Fairford dumped the South Gloucestershire side out of the FA Vase with September’s 3-2 home win.

While Fairford overcame Bristol Telephones on the road with Saturday’s 3-1 success thanks to Matt Boucher, Jason Milhench and Lee Smith strikes, Sodbury were sticking six without response past shellshocked visitors Almondsbury UWE in midweek, despite fielding a “much-changed” line-up, via Jack Parker and George Box doubles and Ben Dowdell and Joshua Cann efforts.

“This is a competition we’d like to go as far as we can in but Fairford away will be tough again,” warned Sodbury supremo Karl Reese. “We lost to them in the Vase but didn’t really turn up that day and it’s a game we definitely feel we can win.”

Elsewhere, Oliver Pitt netted a pair, one from the penalty spot, to spare Brimscombe and Thrupp’s blushes in regular time as the Hellenic Premier visitors needed a 5-3 shoot-out victory to dispense of hosts Little Stoke after a 2-2 draw, to tee-up a home tie with Cirencester Town Development in an all-Hellenic tussle.

County League new-boys Stoke had snatched the lead through Neil Simons’ strike following good work by James Laver and Sacha Tong, whose initial saved shot fell kindly to the scorer, before Frazer Robertson doubled their money from the penalty spot after marauding full-back Russ Church had been upended inside the box.

Disappointed Stoke boss Ashley Coles conceded: “We were very unlucky. After Brimscombe had pulled it back to 2-1 just before half-time against the run of play, we had chances to make it 3-1 and they got a penalty ten minutes from time to pull level and go on and win it in the shoot-out.”  

Cirencester, going well in the higher realms of Division One West, were grateful to goals by Danny Gudger and sub Kyle Chambers both sides of the break for seeing them past Longwell Green Sports with a hard-fought 2-1 win in Bristol.

Marcliff League Kingswood will go to either Cadbury Heath or Frampton United – those two clash on Wednesday, December 7 (7.30pm) at Heath’s Springfield HQ - on the back of a splendid 3-2 home victory over Toolstation first division strugglers Oldland Abbotonians.

Josh Stokes, Jamie Evans and Ryan Mudd grabbed the goals, sparking an appreciative manager James Cole to chirp: “Every player gave of their best and the only downside was we conceded a late goal when we’d been comfortable and should have scored more.

“That’s no disrespect to Oldland who are a good side, but the incentive of trying to win silverware was there and we really wanted to come through and progress.

“It’s a great cup to win and we’re really looking forward to the next tie.”

The defeat prompted Oldland secretary Martin McConachie to generously tweet: “Met some good people at @TheKingswoodAFC yesterday. Good little club with the right people; ambitious & realistic too. Wish them well!”

And his club also tweeted: @TheKingswoodAFC @GlosFA Congratulations, fully deserved. Good luck for the rest of the season!”

GFA Challenge Trophy quarter-finals are scheduled for Saturday, January 7 at 2pm.  Home teams with floodlights will host games as a midweek evening fixture either side of this date.

You can keep up-to-date with fixtures and results in ALL county cup competitions by visiting the Cups section of this website.



Relief for Manor Farm as Hardwicke braves almost claim big Challenge Trophy scalp

CUP kings Bristol Manor Farm are on the GFA Challenge Trophy trail again – and their happy boss sees no reason for it to end now.

The classy Creek side were made to fight all the way by gallant County Leaguers Hardwicke for Tuesday’s 3-1 third round win, which carried them into the last eight once more and a trip to take on either Hellenic top-flight side Lydney Town, who Farm crushed 9-2 in last season’s goal feast-of-a-final, or Toolstation Premier rivals Cribbs.

A frozen Swan Road surface on the same night means Lydney and Cribbs go head-to-head on Tuesday, December 6 (7.45pm) to determine who confronts Toolstation League table-toppers Manor Farm in the quarter-finals.

Farm boss Lee Lashenko, who has led his team to back-to-back Trophy final successes in the past two seasons, was quick to praise Hardwicke’s attempts to dethrone his seemingly-unstoppable outfit.

The County League hopefuls had taken a 1-0 interval lead through Craig Harris following enterprising approach play by Will Matthews, only for their imposing opponents to turn the tie on its head over the final ten minutes, former Bristol City star Alex Russell restoring parity with a searing edge-of-box strike from a partially-cleared corner, before Harley Purnell, with a superb volley, and Dean Stamp goals clinched it at the death.

A relieved Lashenko, whose men were in FA Vase third round action at home against Hellenic Premier leaders Thatcham Town on Saturday, December 3, told GFA Local Football News: “Hardwicke are a good team; they gave it everything and I’d say on that evidence they are underachieving (12th place) in their league.

“We’ve enjoyed the Trophy wins over the past two years and I’m fortunate to have players with a winning mentality. We’re probably the top-seeded team left in the competition and there’s no reason to think we can’t make another final.

“There’s always quite a good crowd at the finals, as we’ve seen when we’ve played Shirehampton and Lydney, and it’s a good opportunity to enjoy that trophy-winning feeling.”

GFA Challenge Trophy quarter-finals are scheduled for Saturday, January 7 at 2pm.  Home teams with floodlights will host games as a midweek evening fixture either side of this date.

You can keep up-to-date with fixtures and results in ALL county cup competitions by visiting the Cups section of this website.



Luckless Lawrence Weston insist new clubhouse can provide building blocks to success

LAWRENCE Weston chairman Matthew Melias is keeping everything crossed that it will be third time lucky where their ill-fated clubhouse is concerned.

The 33-year-old former player, secretary and manager of the Bristol and Suburban League set-up’s first, reserve and A-team sections has, along with his hard-pressed comrades, been forced to pick up the pieces of not one, but two, catastrophic clubhouse fires.

He explained: “Twelve years ago we had what can only be described as an outdated shack burnt down in an act of vandalism. It only had a small bar and communal shower facilities and it was rudimentary to say the least.

“Nevertheless it caused a lot of problems and it took us two years to set in place a new and lovely wooden and modern structure with a fantastic bar and facilities. Three years later the vandals got their hands on it and it was burnt to the ground again.

“It had been built out of fireproof wood too which, unfortunately protected only the outside of it, not the inside, which is where it was set alight.

“Over the past seven years we’ve been using temporary Portakabins from private rental companies and paid £65,000 over seven years for the privilege, while at the same time campaigning for a new clubhouse. Our local MP, Charlotte Leslie, has been a big help in trying to make that happen.”

Lawrence Weston hire their facilities, as do Bristol Premier Combination club Sea Mills Park, from Kingsweston Sports and Social Club at Napier Miles Road, their home since 1993 when an amalgamation between Kings Weston and Lawrence Rovers set-ups took place to form a new and successful Sunday side initially.

And Melias explained: “The stipulation now is that this new clubhouse has to be built with brick and although we’ve been quoted over £300,000 to have the work done by the council, the Kingsweston Social Club and Lawrence Weston FC committees came up with a plan that involved the use of our own labour and resources, with the help of a local building contractor, at a cost of less than £200,000.

"Thankfully during these difficult years we’ve maintained active social provision for footballers and officers, despite operating out of those metal containers.

“We’ve made the best of a bad scenario and hoping that the building work can start in the next few weeks.

“When completed it will contain a small bar, male and female changing facilities, referees room and disabled toilets, and because it’s to be made of bricks and mortar, and because security lessons will hopefully have been learned at our rather isolated but beautiful and picturesque setting, we can put those previous troubles firmly behind us.”


Cheltenham Saracens turn to rookie boss Ashley for inspiration

CHELTENHAM Saracens chairman Chris Hawkins believes the expertise of an established player-coach could go a long way towards addressing an alarming slide.

The Hellenic League Division One West club’s long-serving youth and senior midfielder Ashley Hill has, at the tender age of 22, bravely put his fledgling head above the parapet to take up the reins in the wake of more managerial departures in the shape of co-bosses Ian Giles and Ryan Goodson, who called it a day after witnessing a recent 8-0 home rout by local rivals Shortwood United Reserves.

The pair had been at the helm together since early October when previous incumbent Richard Stevenson stepped down following a 9-0 away mauling by Milton United, one of a string of punishing defeats taken by the Petersfield Park battlers throughout a torrid campaign.

Hill, who is said to be keen to add to his FA level 1 and 2 certificates with a UEFA B badge, experienced a baptism of all fires on his first outing in charge, as a player too, as Saracens were mashed 10-2 by Milton once more, leaving the new incumbent wondering where on earth to turn to for answers.

Hawkins is also clearly at a loss right now and he confessed: “It’s all been pretty disastrous, ever since Nick Locke said he couldn’t deal with his travelling demands and left us at the end of a successful last season in charge.

“All the players entering the summer seemed to want to stay, but after Nick left they all dispersed. Some went to local clubs like Bishops Cleeve, Shortwood and Slimbridge and a lot returned to Cheltenham Civil Service in the County League.

“Rich Stevenson came in and really wanted to make a go at it, as did Ian and Ryan after him, but they just couldn’t bring in enough players with the quality required at this level.

“Now Ashley has taken it on after spending six months coaching in the States and he’s a Saracens lad through and through and has coached our juniors in the past.”

A rueful Hawkins added: “Trouble is, we have players coming and going every week and we just can’t get a settled side. But Ashley is very enthusiastic and hopefully he can address that.

“He’s been thrown in at the deep end but we’d love him to stay on, and if we could just add that extra bit of experience to work alongside him, or allow Ash to concentrate on playing again, I’m sure it would be of tremendous benefit.”

Anyone interested in taking up a senior coaching role with Saracens can call secretary Bob Attwood on 01242 515855.



Makeshift marksman Caelen proves man for the moment to give timely lift to Henbury

HENBURY are keeping fingers firmly crossed that Caelen Simpson can continue to fit the bill as a makeshift marksman.

The midfielder found himself pitched upfront in his stuttering team’s recent home clash with lowly Gala Wilton in the Marcliff Gloucestershire County League and rewarded his boss Darren Sealey with a hat-trick feat in the 5-1 romp.

Simpson’s supershow was a timely and important one for Henbury who have so far failed to recapture the mojo that rocketed them into a runners-up position behind runaway champions AEK Boco in the 2015-16 shake-up.

All three of his goals came in the second half too, a 50th-minute header putting daylight between the sides at 3-1, before the pacy attacker twice broke clear of the offside trap to plant cool finishes past the under-fire Gala keeper and complete a deserved treble.

Simpson’s performance provided a welcome boost to both Sealey and Henbury following frustrating news that two of their star assets, striker Aaron Anglin, who had bagged 12 goals in 12 outings so far for them this term, and well-established centre-half Scott Thomas, had suddenly decided to join Hallen’s drive to hoist themselves out of the Toolstation Premier Division basement.

All of which led the Henbury gaffer to admit: “It was a massive disappointment to lose those two, and our keeper Callum Flinn to Southmead. It’s been an unsettling time compared with the success and stability we enjoyed last season and we’ve had to pitch a few local lads and reserves in to keep things going.

“They’ve all been giving their best and there remains an all-for-one atmosphere at the club.

“Caelen came to us from Rockleaze Rangers a couple of years ago and he’s been more of a midfielder than a striker. But we gave him his chance against Gala and he took it with both hands and hopefully he, and we, can carry that on.

“He’s a quick lad and he has the finishing attributes to go with it, and now we need to try and push up to a mid-table position and go from there.”

Sealey, 40, who has also coached at Bristol City Junior Supporters Club, was installed as Henbury first-team boss in December having been a long-serving central midfielder with the Arnalls Drive outfit.

“Henbury were looking for a manager and I put myself forward for it. I’m hoping to be here for the long-term,” he stressed.

“I’d love to think that one day we could progress even further, but while we do have a close-knit set-up and fund-raising is a feature here, it will be a hard task as it will all boil down to the money we have available to fund a promotion push.”


It’s a whisky wonderland as Mangotsfield target more spirit in push for play-off places

DAVID Mehew is hopeful the delivery of a 4.5-litre bottle of Bells Whisky and glass trophy to Mangotsfield United’s Cossham Street HQ is a sign of things to come!

The prizes, handed to club officials by Evo-Stik Southern League director Brian Rose last week, came courtesy of Mangos’ three-game victory spree in September, one that landed them the league’s new Club of the Month distinction.

As the former Bristol Rovers midfielder strives to keep his in-form team among the Division One S&W frontrunners, the Field supremo is hopeful more such gifts will adorn the Mangotsfield ‘mantelpiece’ before the campaign is out.

“It would be nice to have at least another bottle come our way,” Mehew smiled. “It will show we’re on the right path.
“It’s the first time we’ve won it and I like the club of the month idea over manager of the month, because the first thing most managers do when they win those awards is praise their players and club.

“It was a nice accolade to have because we’d been given a tough start to the season and we came through it with flying colours.”
Mehew’s men did, as though luck would have it, suffer an October of discontent with three league defeats, including a 5-1 home grilling at the hands of county compatriots Shortwood United, as well as an eyebrow-raising 2-0 FA Trophy exit by local rivals Yate Town.

Mangos, who make the short distance this time to face Yate again for a GFA Senior Challenge Cup quarter-final affair on Tuesday, December 6 (7.45pm), appear to be back on course again now, back-to-back wins taking them into an unfortunate experience against Winchester City at Cossham Street at the weekend when the visitors’ 18-year-old full-back Joe Hayward sustained a broken fibula, prompting a 65th minute abandonment of the game.

Thankfully the brave teenager was quickly discharged from Southmead Hospital, while Mehew reflected: “These league awards do tend to put the mockers on things for the next month and that was what happened to us in October!

“Still, we’ve won our last two games and we were looking comfortable at 1-0 up (through Lewis Powell’s fifth-minute header) on Saturday,” emphasised Mehew, who has just enticed attacking right wing-back Ben Withey back to the club after a spell with Weston-super-Mare, while plucking central midfielder Mitch Tippins from Yate Town.

“Our aim was to be in and around the play-off positions come the end of the year but we have some tough games coming up and winning promotion will be hard because of the quality of teams up there, not least Hereford who will romp the league barring a catastrophe.”


‘Happy’ Kingswood (North) eye Challenge Trophy opportunity at expense of Oldland  

CHUFFED Kingswood (North) supremo James Cole is gearing his men up for what he deems their “biggest” fixture in many a year.

The eighth-placed Gloucestershire County League side welcome the relative might of Toolstation first division outfit Oldland Abbotonians to their Wotton-under-Edge den (2pm) aiming to make it into the quarter-finals of this year’s prestigious GFA Challenge Trophy tournament.

Kingswood have already seen off league rivals Southmead CS Athletic (3-0) and Hellenic Leaguers Tuffley Rovers, who they overcame by the same scoreline in a penalty shoot-out after an exciting 3-3 second-round stalemate.

Former Slimbridge boss Cole, who once steered the now-Southern League side all the way from the Northern Senior League’s second tier right through to an Hellenic League Premier promotion triumph before well-documented cash troubles set them right back again, believes his Kingswood charges are much better placed now to give their higher-ranked opponents a run for their money.

“I took over in January last year after they’d suffered 22 defeats and a draw in 23 games,” the 39-year-old recalled with a rueful grin.

“I had been living in Bristol at the time and the Kingswood chairman (Ian Evans) persuaded me to take charge. I lost my first two games, then steadied up with a draw, and after that we just got tighter and tighter defensively, got things back to basics, and went on to win 12 of our next 13 games!

“Facing Kingswood in an opposition dugout was always tough in my experience and I wanted to replicate that. I got Simon Clarke (central midfielder) back playing from Cheltenham Saracens and called up some reserves too good for that level, and suddenly the buzz returned to the place; it was a fun and happy camp again.”

Cole admitted: “This season has been a bit indifferent; we win a couple and then lose the next. We lost 6-0 at Frampton United last week but we were short on numbers and even I had to keep the bench warm.

“We’re only a small village team but we have a 17-man squad of players available this Saturday for what will be our biggest game in a long time.”

Kingswood remain without their England Cerebral Palsy star James Blackwell. The 30-year-old full-back is taking a breather after featuring three times for Great Britain in the Rio Paralympics and scoring a goal during the 5-1 victory over Ireland.
“I’ve had a few training sessions at Kingswood now and hoping to make a comeback soon,” Blackwell revealed.

“The whole Rio experience was absolutely amazing; I’d underestimated how big the Paralympics is and we had 15,000 spectators for our game with Ukraine.

“We finished fifth out of eight teams, the highest GB have ever finished in football at the games, which is great considering we only train once a month at St George’s Park while the majority of other nations are full-time.

“I’ll be back to concentrate on England CP from January and looking forward to the prospect of the World Championships in Argentina in September.

“Unfortunately CP football has been taken out of the Tokyo Paralympics in 2020, so the next chance now is 2024, something I really can’t begin to think about just yet!”



Bristol Telephones calling the shots as they step up quest for Western League place

BRISTOL Telephones say it is all systems go when it comes to their efforts to secure promotion this season.

The Stockwood Lane outfit have blazed their way to the higher realms of the Marcliff Gloucestershire County League with some powerful and freescoring performances of late, to raise an emphatic signal to the rest that they aim to be a Toolstation Western League product as quickly as possible.

A recent 3-0 away defeat by an AEK Boco side who have failed to replicate their title-winning form of 2015-16 did raise eyebrows, but boss Shaun Collins and his management team, which incorporates his No.2 Dave Johnson, are hopeful that was only a blip.

Former DRG and Boco boss Johnson confirmed: “We have everything in place when it comes to our facilities, although the floodlights remain an issue. We have them ready to go but we need permission to install them.

“We’re confident we’ll get the green light soon and then we can look to be applying to go up again, hopefully this season.
“It will then be about the team staying up there among the top sides, to give us the best possible opportunity, and if we could succeed it would be just reward for all the hard work and money put in by Shaun, as chairman and manager, and our vice-chairman Gerry Holmes.

“Everyone is involved in it, though; it’s a club and community thing and we have a promising reserve team, full of enthusiastic young lads, all mates, battling to adjust to Suburban League Division One demands.”

Telephones chiefs, who recently moved to bring one-time Boco, DRG and Bitton central midfielder Hanin Romdhane to the club to good effect, will be taking nothing for granted – and understandably so.

“We had a spell around September time when we couldn’t buy a win,” Johnson stressed. “Then, when we were in a winning position against Frampton United, we conceded an equaliser, a 25-yarder stuck in the top corner, with the very last kick of the game and ended up taking only a point.

“That really hurt the lads and it took Shaun and me a while to get over it. But the reaction was devastating and we beat Gala Wilton 6-1 in our next game and then Hallen 7-0 in the GFA Trophy after that, even though they have been struggling.

“We hit nine past Hanham and we beat Stonehouse, the leaders, 4-0, despite having four regular players missing.

“We know we can’t be destroying teams all the time but it’s fair to say that games can’t come around quickly enough at the moment.”

Johnson cited 37-year-old central midfielder Martin Blacker as a reason for Telephones’ rise.

“He’s absolutely unbelievable; he has a massive heart and charges around the pitch like he’s a five-year-old,” grinned Johnson.

“But out keeper Will Osborne, defenders Billy Downes, Ryan Hicks and Keiron Golding; Mike Alvis on the right and, of course, Dhani Golding upfront, have all been terrific.”



Lebeq Sunday stalwart Owen so keen to turn Anfield agony into 2017 ecstasy

OWEN Smith is determined to erase the bitter memory of Lebeq’s FA Sunday Cup final flop as his team continue to make strides in this year’s prestigious national tournament.

The club’s long-serving founder member was in charge of the famous Bristol side, just as he has been as manager for the past three decades, when they secured a dream outing at Anfield in May 2007 for a showpiece date with Coundon Conservative Club, one that ultimately fell flat.

Lebeq’s Durham-based opponents inflicted a 5-0 win at a canter, leaving Smith and Co reflecting on what might, indeed “should”, have been.

The 55-year-old said bluntly: “We played the occasion rather than the game and that’s why we lost, and so heavily.

“We went up to Liverpool on the Friday to make an occasion of it and the players spent two nights out enjoying themselves more than they should have done. It was poor preparation for such a big and important game and it affected their performance.

“Of course the whole experience was fantastic; it was the highlight of all of our careers.

“But we were much better than we showed on the day and one thing’s for sure, if we were to get there again, and that is always the aim, we’ll go with open eyes having learned from that mistake.”

Lebeq’s march to the famous stadium in this year’s competition continued at the weekend as they beat Sussex side Broadwater 2-0 on the road thanks to a second-half own goal and a 20-yard Neikell Plummer strike in the closing stages, to earn them a third-round tie, this time in Surrey, against Chessington United.

Smith’s Bristol Premier Sunday League fliers had set out on their 2016-17 adventure with a 4-2 first-hurdle mid-October victory over Middlesex-based Southall United at the Bristol Manor Farm FC facility they’ve acquired for home games.

And he enthused: “We’ve done really well over the years, reaching the quarter-finals lots of times, and we also reached the semis one other time too.

“We’ve always had a good bunch of lads and the one thing that can affect your prospects is injury and unavailability which we’ve tended to suffer with at times.

“When we have a full-strength team to call on consistently then I’d always back us to make a strong push for the final. But we’re an ageing side now. There are some promising young players coming through but they don’t have that experience and know-how yet.

“We’re hoping to start up a new youth under-14s section for next season, the first of its kind at Lebeq, and it’s all hands on deck trying to get it sorted.

“Our centre-half Tarik Whitcliffe was our captain when we went to Anfield but unfortunately he missed out because of an injury. At 34 this is likely to be his last season so he’s desperate to bow out on a high.

“Leon Simpson’s legs are going a bit now that he’s 35 and he has bags of experience at a high level of local football as a striker with Taunton Town and the like.”

Of his own future leading Lebeq’s crack Sunday side, Smith admitted: “It’s hard to know how long I’ll carry on for. It boils down to someone taking it on and sticking with it as I have done.

“But the Sunday Cup always sets the pulses racing for me and key people behind the scenes like Carl Saunders and Paul Whitelock, who both assisted me at Anfield in 2007.

“We all want to put things right after the last time.”


A review of the GFA Intermediate South Cup Second Round

AFC Mangotsfield made their higher-status tell as they secured a place in the third round of the GFA Intermediate South Cup.

Division Two outfit Chipping Sodbury Town A came to Pomphrey Road for the second-round affair knowing an entire division separated the mid-table Bristol and District League sides.

And although they made a fight of it, they couldn’t prevent Ross Porter, Dan Crossland and Ben Russell strikes dashing their hopes of progression as first division Mangotsfield prevailed with a 3-1 victory.

The win sets up an intriguing third-round affair as Mangos travel to take on District League third division pacesetters Bristol Barcelona Reserves on Saturday, December 3 (2pm).

John Davis and Lawrence Rovers made no mistake securing their place in the third round of the Intermediate Cup either.

The sharp-shooter fired a treble while Reuben Tsagurnis, Luke Mathison and Louis Curtis all weighed in to join the goal spree as their side emphatically dispensed of Sea Mills Park Reserves 7-0 to keep their trophy hopes alive.

Liam Milton, Joe Watkins and Charles Moore shared the goals as Bradley Stoke Town Reserves narrowly edged out Retainers Reserves with a 3-2 away win, while Sam Vile’s hat-trick and Richard Gardener and James Hicks efforts ensured Yate Athletic marched into round three with a 5-2 home defeat of Kingswood.

And Tormarton had Adam Bates, Nathan Harrison, Chris Cook and Jon Kerley among their goals as they sent DAC Beachcroft packing with a 4-1 home success.

Robbie Underwood was on target for Bendix but they were no match for Olveston United Reserves on the afternoon as the visitors swept to a 5-1 victory, Will Trueman leading the spree with a four-timer and an own goal adding to the home side’s headaches.

Meanwhile, in the GFA Junior Cup, Iron Acton progressed to the third round with a 9-2 home victory over Patchway Town Reserves with Jonny Ruff celebrating a hat-trick, while Jamie Johnson and Liam Towler goals delivered Hillfields Old Boys a safe path, even if they did have to fend off a stern challenge from visiting Pucklechurch Sports, whose Dan Mullen kept them firmly in the contest.

Adam Dibble and Jordan Pepper goals were sufficient to see Greyfriars Athletic Reserves into round three with a 2-0 win at Avonmouth Reserves.


Fairman: New-boss Ben Wilshire has attributes to reverse flagging fortunes at Hallen

BEN Wilshire’s ruthless revamp can provide a passage to happier days at Hallen.

So insists chairman Lee Fairman who, together with his boardroom colleagues, has had his hands full trying to turn around the fortunes of a Toolstation Premier Division club which has been in freefall since the commencement of their 2016-17 mission.

While the club’s vastly-experienced striker Tom Collett did his utmost to reverse the slide after courageously agreeing to occupy the hot seat in the wake of previous boss Steve Winter’s departure last December, a bold move was made recently to shake things up once more as the harsh reality of a 7-0 thumping by County Leaguers Bristol Telephones in the GFA Challenge Trophy was absorbed.

That led to Hallen’s one-time right-back Wilshire, who made some 122 appearances for the club between 2009 and 2013 before joining Bristol Manor Farm, receiving a call to duty, and the fledgling manager has wasted no time engaging in what his chairman describes a nigh-on “complete clear-out” in the bid to avert the evident threat of relegation.

In the meantime, the Moorhouse Lane side have been taking more heavy defeats on the chin, as latest respective 5-1 and 3-1 losses at the hands of Willand Rovers and Sherborne Town, the latter defeat a particular blow given the Dorset side’s own plight, fully demonstrate.

Nevertheless Fairman and Co are putting a brave face on their basement battles and he said: “The players we are bringing in are good ones but some aren’t match fit yet and it takes time for them all to gel.

“We’ve effectively had a complete clear-out and it’s going to take a few weeks to effect the changes, but at least we still have half the season left to turn it all around.

“We still have a couple of our old guard with us in our centre-half Mark Reid and striker Tom Collett, who stayed on after stepping down as manager and is unfortunately carrying an injury at the moment.

“But we’ve recently brought our old central midfielder Ronnie Mowatt back to the club after a spell with Cheltenham Civil Service and Scott Thomas (centre-half) and Aaron Anglin (striker) have joined us from Henbury.

We’ve also signed (forward) Liam Farmer from Manor Farm, who have been fantastic in helping us out, and our former manager Gary Domone, who Ben played under at Taunton Town, is also involved again helping out behind the scenes.

“A few younger lads have stepped up too from our under-16s from a couple of years back, lads like Josiah Jones, a winger, who played for the county under-18s team last week, and some reserve team players have featured as well, just to give Ben that chance to look around and properly stamp his mark on it all.”

Remarkably Hallen have never had a team relegated from any division in their 67-year history, according to Fairman, who maintained: “It’s a nice record to protect and we don’t want it to happen to our first team this season.”


Clinical Cox on the double treble trail to keep Fairford Town fliers on the up and up

LEVI Cox is certainly making a dramatic impact at high-flying Fairford Town since his arrival from Hellenic League Division One West rivals Shrivenham, to the delight of manager Gareth Davies.

Not content with firing a three-goal salvo on his Cinder Lane debut in the 8-1 away demolition of Woodstock Town, the deadly marksman proceeded to produce a second straight treble in his new team’s 7-0 home romp over Cheltenham Saracens in the recent Gloucestershire derby.

Cox had only teamed up with Gareth Davies’ men 24 hours ahead of the trip to Woodstock. It took him an hour to get his impressive account underway with a skilful flicked finish before adding two more to his haul before time was called on the home team’s mauling.

Lifted by an influential bow, clinical Cox then made himself known to lowly Saracens, taking only seven minutes to fire Fairford in front, or so he thought, as celebrations from that particular ‘goal’ were muted by an assistant referee’s offside signal.

By the midway stage of the contest he was up and running again, the midway point of the opening period heralding his first of the afternoon courtesy of an astute finish from a corner, paving the way for the floodgates to open as they had done in Oxfordshire a week earlier – and lethal Levi to leave with the match ball safely tucked under his shirt once more.

Fairford, who in-between those two high-scoring exploits stuck six without reply past Holyport in the Perpetua Press Hellenic Floodlit Cup, clearly mean business this term following their fourth-placed 2015-16 conclusion. Josh Morse does too – he scored four in that knock-out rout of Holyport and a brace in the Saracens win.

Fairford have stormed to the head of the table on the back of ten wins from 11 outings ahead of this Saturday’s important home clash with fourth-placed Purton.

And their encouraged boss Davies acknowledged of his in-form marksmen: “They’ve both been great additions. Morsey came in from Swindon Supermarine in pre-season and we’re very lucky to have him; you can see he’s played at a higher standard.

“Levi is an out-and-out poacher, not scared to put in a shift either, and you bet on him to score when he gets inside the box.

“One reason we’re where we are, I feel, is down to having a happy camp. With so much competition for players around our locality we go the extra mile to try and look after our lads.

“We want them to play with smiles on their faces, to enjoy themselves, and they’ll go through brick walls for one another.”


Rampant Rodborough pip Mushet to set up Intermediate cruncher with Whitminster 

RODBOROUGH Old Boys took their prolific ‘bread‘n’butter’ form into the GFA Intermediate North Cup - by mashing Mushet & Coalway United 3-0 on their travels.

The Cainscross-based class of 2016-17 had entered the tie brimming with belief after finding the net 21 times in their previous three league and knock-out outings.

And while they weren’t quite able to replicate that firepower in second round county cup action, they still had too much for the Mushet men who have enjoyed a brisk opening to their own North Gloucestershire Division One campaign.

Rodborough, who eased through with a Mike Carter double and Phil Ruthers effort in a 3-0 victory, now hit the road again, this time for a meeting with Whitminster Reserves on December 3.

Stroud Division Three side Whitminster made it into the third-round hat themselves courtesy of Brandon Mead’s brace in a hard-fought 2-1 home victory over Fintan at School Lane.

Ben Spragg was also at the double too, for Tetbury Town Reserves, as his two goals helped secure his team a third-round away encounter with fellow Stroud Leaguers Taverners Reserves thanks to an exciting 5-3 home victory over lowly North Gloucestershire League first division battlers Westbury United Reserves.

Martin Seal and Joel Skinner were among the Tetbury scoring too, while Taverners were indebted to goals from Callum Hooke (2) and Tamas Csavar for seeing them into the draw via a 3-1 success at their Nailsworth home over Lydbrook Athletic Reserves.

FC Barometrics A have stormed to the top of Cheltenham League Division Three with some big wins to their name, most notably a 9-0 demolition of Smiths Athletic Reserves in the lead-up to their Intermediate North bout at their Evesham Road HQ with North Glos One strugglers Blakeney.

While not quite finding the same potency on the day, Barometrics nevertheless cruised to a 3-0 win with goals for Mike Short (2) and Jai Maisey and now go to Minchinhampton, who have rocketed to the Stroud League Three summit on the back of an unbeaten opening to 2016-17, for an intriguing tester on December 3.

They had Giles Arnold, Jack Hornsby and Robert Walker among their goals as they clinched a 4-1 away win over Gala Wilton’s third-string.

Minchinhampton’s closest challengers in the race for Stroud Three supremacy has been Trident, who squeezed into the third-round hat with an enthralling 4-3 home defeat of Kings Reserves courtesy of Matt Hindley and Karl Robertson braces.

Trident will now entertain a red-hot Harrow Hill Reserves who have catapulted themselves to pole position on the North Glos One ladder with nine wins from nine. They did, however, require a 7-6 penalty shoot-out success to overcome Bourton Rovers A in a closely-fought second round affair which ended in 1-1 stalemate, Scott Davies’ goal for the Hill taking the tie to the dreaded spot kicks.  

Avonvale United may be experiencing a few wobbles around the foot of Stroud League Division Four but that didn’t stop them powering into the third round of the competition with a 5-0 victory over Woolaston Reserves, to set themselves up for a tricky third-round date with Division Three side McCadam.



Prestbury punished (again!) as Billy’s brace helps keep Andoversford cup dreams alive

HOW Prestbury Rovers must dislike the sight of Cheltenham League Division Two rivals Andoversford right now!

They fell to a second defeat of the campaign at the hands of their opponents as Billy Frewin hit a double in Andoversford’s 5-1 away success in the GFA Junior North Cup, Rovers’ consolation coming from Nick Bevan.

Jake Berry and Dave Cleal were also on target to help send the visitors through to the third round and a home date with Stroud United, 3-1 victors at Kingswood, on December 3.

It was the second time this season Prestbury had been beaten by the Temple Fields outfit after losing a hard-fought early-season league encounter 3-2 on the road.

Substitute James Hughes proved the hero of the hour for Stonehouse Town Reserves as the Stroud League first division outfit came away with a tense 1-0 away win after a competitive tie with brave Bream Amateurs, who have found the going tough at the start of their North Gloucestershire League Premier Division programme where they currently occupy bottom spot.

That slender victory sets Stonehouse up for a tough-looking away-day with Barnwood United, who are sitting pretty at the head of Stroud League Division One and were boasting an unbeaten record ahead of their trip to take on Longford in the league on Saturday, November 12.

Elsewhere in the Junior North competition, Longlevens A had efforts from Nick Bradley and Jaybe Kennedy to thank for seeing them to a 2-1 win at Bush, whose Paul Huitson kept them in the all-Stroud Division Two tussle with a goal.

Longlevens now take a potentially-difficult round three trip to face Cheltenham Division Two outfit Newlands Athletic, who have been in promising form of late.

Whitecroft, Broadwell Amateurs Reserves and Charfield all edged through to the next stage by the same 4-2 scoreline.

North Glos Premier battlers Broadwell overcame Old Richians at home courtesy of substitute Ian Price’s pair and Mike Etheridge and Craig Lewis strikes, to tee-up a third-round tussle away against Cheltenham League second division hopefuls Newton.

Charfield, trying to make headway from the lower reaches of the table in this season’s Stroud One mission, had a little too much firepower on the road for second division Quedgeley Wanderers Reserves as James Gilvear, Matt Siddon, Adam Spiers and Robbie Richards made their mark, Dave Needham’s two goals ensuring the hosts at least remained in the tie right up to the final shrill.

While Charfield now entertain Ellwood on December 3, Whitecroft, in freescoring mode at the top of North Glos League’s top tier, will play host to Coleford Town after themselves dispensing of gallant visitors Cheltenham Civil Service Reserves 4-2 with Jacob Biddle, Joel Giddins, Luke Hutton and Brad Kear sharing the honours equally between them.



Hanham Athletic turn to father and son duo in bid to turn flagging fortunes around

BOB Sperring is backing a unique father and son combination to help bring the good times back to Hanham Athletic – and he should know.

The club secretary has just agreed to act as No.2 to his 34-year-old son Daniel Sperring, who has been at the Hanham helm since the start of what has so far been a tumultuous 2016-17 opening to their County League campaign.

Indeed, it’s been a challenging period for the duo AND the entire Vicarage Road set-up, which continues to pick up the pieces of losing two senior sides from its operation and is battling to keep first team heads above water, with the relegation trapdoor a little too close for comfort entering the arduous winter months.

Their one other surviving team, Hanham Reserves, have only just been able to get their Bristol & District League One programme underway because another newly-installed manager, one-time Hanham player and coach to the juniors Craig Smith, needed time to recruit enough bodies capable of making a fist of it at the level.

When it comes to those all-important first-team matters, Sperring Snr is cautiously optimistic the tide can turn in their favour, providing they acquire the slice of luck that has so far largely eluded them.

“It’s been quite a traumatic few months,” he admitted. “All the previous committee members left and we’ve found ourselves in a difficult position running just two senior teams with only a small committee, which puts pressure on everyone.

“Daniel took over at the start of the season, having had a three-game spell in charge last year. He’s had a taste of it because he was Nicholas Wanderers manager for a couple of months two seasons ago and at 18 he took on the management of our third team.

“In fact he’s been involved with Hanham since the age of five, coming along with me when I was playing and managing here. And when he was old enough he became more and more involved himself.

“Daniel played quite a bit at junior level and went on to play for our reserves, so he knows all about the set-up at Hanham.”
A recent 9-1 County League home drubbing by Bristol Telephones hardly inspired a mood of confidence around Vicarage Road, although Hanham did follow it up with a spirited showing and a point from a 1-1 away draw in the big local derby with AEK Boco.

“We were beaten by a Telephones side so superior to us, end of story,” Sperring conceded. “They have Dhani Golding upfront and his brother Keiron at the back and the football they played was too much for us.

“We had injuries, yes, but even a full-strength Hanham side would have struggled to cope on the day and getting a settled side out has been a problem for us all season.

“There’s also amazing loyalty and devotion to the cause shown. For example our defender Steve Collins works in Manchester but he comes back every Friday ready to turn out for us on a Saturday.”

Sperring is relieved to see the club’s second-string up and running now and he stressed: “The District League has been absolutely superb in giving us time and room to get things in place off the pitch and entice some players back.

“We’re fortunate to have someone in Craig in charge who is a great character, one of those types you meet and never forget, and people seem to want to play for him.

“We have a new chairman too, Mark Cozens, who took charge of the first team alongside me for a few games recently when Daniel was away, so things are starting to happen.

“The atmosphere at the club is very good and the hospitality we continue to provide is second-to-none.

“But the main priority, of course, is to avoid relegation from the County League.”


Elated’ Griffin so proud to add Bristol Post award to long list of Longwell Green gongs

LONGWELL Green Sports Youth coach and general manager Paul Griffin says adding a Bristol Post award to his burgeoning collection of accolades left him feeling “elated".

The 49-year-old Bristol City season ticket holder won the newspaper’s Amateur Coach of the Year category after being nominated by Longwell officials and arrived at the prestigious presentation ceremony at Ashton Gate Stadium aware he was among a short-list of three expectant hopefuls in his class, but uncertain what the evening would hold for him.

Griffin admits that when well-known broadcaster John Inverdale, who compered the occasion, called out his name as a winner, it took his breath away.

“I was elated and it felt extra special because there were so many high-profile people there - managers, players, coaches - from a variety of sports, not to mention other worthy candidates up for awards,” he said.

“What was so different to other such ceremonies I’ve attended was that the compere was ready with the mic to ask a series of questions to each and every winner, myself included.

“It didn’t faze me because I’m perfectly used to public speaking in the course of my work and I was impressed how well prepared and good John Inverdale was, a natural host as you might expect.

“It gave me an opportunity to talk for a couple of minutes about what we at Longwell Green are about and how important it is to ensure junior football is made enjoyable and played in safe surroundings. That’s pretty much all the early-years battles are about, to make football fun for kids.

“If they want to be there with a football at their feet then hopefully they’ll be hungry to progress through the ranks and, in our case, right up to our under-18s and then the four senior men’s and one ladies team we have on offer to those who stick with it.”
Griffin and his teenage son Jamie, who performs for Longwell’s under-18s, have claimed countless personal and club hand-outs, including GFA Community Awards and also the West of England Sports awards.

And he said of the impressive developmental programme at Longwell: “We have around 500 children participating, 65 of whom are part of our Longwell Littluns sessions which we provide for two-year-olds and up ahead of them starting primary education.
“Jamie and I run it at Sir Bernard Lovell School sports hall on Sunday mornings, while we both also take sessions for under-5s on Saturday mornings, generally at the club’s Shellards Road base, with the help of Amy Sillitoe, who featured for the GFA select squad and plays for our ladies team.

“Amy has been a fantastic addition and we hope she will remain coaching with us for many years ahead.

“The fact the Littluns have familiar faces in us coaches to look after them when they make the step up to under-5s football makes the transition that much smoother for them.

“We’re always trying to provide extra benefits to our community and to that end we are keen to set up a disability section within our juniors.

"Discussions with the GFA about this are taking place and we will be doing everything we can to make this happen.”



Dale at the double as Boco boys roar into third round of Senior Amateur Cup  (GFA Senior Amateur South Cup preview part 2)

DALE Cottle delivered a double as AEK Boco Reserves brushed aside Premier Combination rivals Longwell Green Reserves 3-0 to secure a place in round three.

With both teams giving their all in a frenetic local derby, neither was able to find the killer touch in a goalless first half at Greenbank Road.

But Boco took control after the break and Cottle’s back-post finish five minutes into the second period set them on their way.
Clinical Cottle then bagged his second goal with a brilliant volley into the far top corner of the net, and as Longwell heads went down, so the tackles began to fly in, resulting in a string of yellow cards for both teams.

There was to be no way back for the visitors when Alex Paterson ran on to a good through ball and finished with a shot across the keeper and into the bottom corner for Boco’s third goal, to tee-up a tie away against Hallen Reserves.

Hallen had few difficulties in easing into the next round as they overcame Suburban Premier Two side Cadbury Heath Reserves via two Jamie Moore strikes and Jacob Hicks and Paul Francis efforts.

Olveston United are through to take on Hambrook at home in the third round as a George Williams brace and singles for Sam Peplow and Matt Knight saw them to a 4-1 victory over visitors Ridings High, Peplow and Rob Cave sharing the man-of-the-match honours on a positive afternoon for the Premier Combination outfit.

Hambrook claimed their place in the third round of the GFA Senior Amateur Cup in some style.

They inflicted a 6-2 home defeat on Premier Combination One rivals Oldland Abbotonians Reserves, which was as tense as it was even at times.

Hambrook netted to enter the interval with a slender lead which was doubled early into the second half, Jenson Mannings and Frank Stallard their scorers, before Oldland struck almost immediately to get themselves back into the tie.

However a double substitution by Hambrook changed the course of the match as both substitutes, Chris Cook and Jamie Dye, each netted twice, before spirited Oldland – Ryan Williams and Owen McCullum their marksmen - pulled a late one back before bowing out.

Follow ALL county cup results and fixtures by visiting the Cups section of this website.



Cribbs hold firm as spirited Old Sodbury make a fist of it in Senior Amateur sizzler (GFA Senior Amateur South Cup preview part 1)

THE second round of the GFA Senior Amateur South Cup produced plenty of thrills and spills – not least at a breathless Lawns ground on Station Road.

That was the scene of Bristol Premier Combination top-flight leaders Cribbs Reserves’ enthralling encounter with their league rivals Old Sodbury, in which the home team relinquished their tight hold on the tie borne of a three-goal advantage as Sodbury roared right back to level up at 3-3 through two Matt Ellery efforts and an Andy Miles strike to force penalties.

Unfortunately Sodbury’s brave hopes of salvaging their place in the competition evaporated in a dramatic shoot-out contest as Cribbs, who have made a 100 per cent winning start to their league campaign with seven wins from seven, squeezed through with an 8-7 success.

They will now travel to take on Rockleaze Rangers Reserves, of Bristol and Suburban Premier Two, in round three on Saturday, December 3 (2pm).

Fred Hopkins, Dan Burgan and Elliot Mason goals had seen Cribbs into a seemingly unassailable 3-0 lead in regular time before spirited Sodbury mounted that stirring fightback.

DRG Frenchay’s hopes of brushing aside their disappointing fortunes in the Premier Combination by gaining some joy in the county cup competition evaporated as they were hit for seven with no reply by travelling Old Georgians.

Remarkably the away side had to wait until the 55th minute mark to break the deadlock before netting four times in a devastating ten-minute spell.

DRG battled hard but conceded three more goals as Georgians booked a third-round spot away against Suburban Premier One rivals AFC Mangotsfield, with seven different players unusually sharing the goals equally in Nick Jones, James Chenoweth, Chris Watts, Dean Gifford, Harry White, Dan Pursall and Jake Leat.

Shaftesbury Crusade didn’t have it all their own way in their home tie with Downs League Division One opponents Clifton St Vincents.

However Nicky Martin and Mike Wilmott goals proved enough to see the Premier Combination One high-fliers to a 2-1 win and set up a December 3 date away with Winterbourne United, whose 1-0 home defeat of Sneyd Park courtesy of Dave Herbert’s effort edged them into the third round mix.



City Legends on show as Adam Taylor memorial match proves a storming success

IRON Acton players and officials were left overjoyed by the success of their eagerly-anticipated football special held in honour of long-serving former manager and devoted clubman Adam Taylor.

A crowd of some 500 descended on Yate Town’s Southern League headquarters for a memorial match involving past and present Iron Acton players and a Bristol City all-star XI comprising well-known Ashton Gate professionals from the relatively recent past.

Importantly the Sunday afternoon spectacle generated £3,000, which will be distributed evenly to the British Heart Foundation and Iron Acton’s new ground fund, as they seek a return to their spiritual home in the village.

A City line-up including James Cope, Aaron Brown, Clayton Fortune, Ivan Testemitanu, Gary Owers, Kevin Amankwaah, Joe Burnell, Alex Russell, Marvin Brown, Scott Murray and Damian Spencer had a little too much experience and potency for their District League counterparts, as they racked up a 16-2 win to show they had lost little of their familiar Football League touches.

City’s illustrious line-up had a helping hand too from a trio of Acton’s own old-guards, namely third team boss Jonathan Wilmot and first team manager Jamie Angell. First team goalkeeper Mathias Rodrigues played a key off-field part in securing the services of those all-important Ashton Gate aces, some of whom he already enjoys a run around with in occasional five-a-side activity.

Wilmot enthused: The former pros were a class act and a great bunch of lads. They showed a brilliant attitude and everyone was very complimentary of them, on and off the pitch.

“Everyone had a terrific day and it was nice to hear so many people saying how well we did behind the scenes to organise a great occasion for a great bloke.

“Iron Acton FC and the Taylor family extend their thanks to players, spectators and the Bristol City veterans for their generosity on Sunday.”



It’s a selection conundrum as Lancaster prepares County League reps for Gwent clash

GLOUCESTERSHIRE County League’s new rep boss Gary Lancaster says picking a squad for Tuesday’s intriguing tester with their Gwent League counterparts proved a “challenging” experience.

The successful boss of reigning champions AEK Boco has been charged with overseeing the return of the County League’s representative side for an intriguing Step 7-level tussle, to be played out at Tytherington Rocks’ Hardwicke Fields HQ this Tuesday night, November 8.

And Lancaster admits trying to pick a final 16 to lock horns with their Welsh opponents was no easy task.

“It’s the first time I’ve taken charge of the rep team and I’m thoroughly looking forward to it,” he said.

“It’s a nice break from routine and it’s apparent straight away that the County League has a vast pool of talent. The hardest thing was narrowing the list to 16 and that’s before I even get to whittling it down to a starting XI.

“To be honest it’s quite early in the season still and I haven’t had a chance to see all the teams. But I’ve spoken to a lot of managers who were very helpful and I’ve tried to give representation to as many clubs as possible while trying to maintain a competitive edge.

“It really isn’t possible to include all the league’s teams but my aim is to mix it up a bit and give a few other players a go in future games.”

Former Keynsham Town boss Steve Cains, these days Boco’s second-string supremo, will accompany Lancaster as his No.2, while Paddy Armstrong, of Paul Tompkins Physiotherapy, has agreed to undertake physio duties. Henbury’s Aaron Anglin will captain the side.

Lancaster says he is hopeful the occasion will attract much interest from other County League players, officials and associates on the night and he stressed: “While I know absolutely nothing about the Gwent lads it should be an exciting test because we’ve lost all three of our previous games to them 1-0, and this is a side who have scored goals for fun against other teams.

“It will also act as a nice little appetiser for another important home nations fixture three days later, when England play Scotland in a World Cup qualifier on the Friday (Nov 11)!”

Tuesday’s contest kicks off at 7.30pm and admission is £2.

Gloucestershire County League (squad v Gwent, Tues, Nov 8th, 7.30pm, Tytherington Rocks FC): Joe Guest, Craig Lancastle (Thornbury); Joe Blakeney, Simon Clarke (Kingswood); Alex Kibble (Stonehouse); Richard Sperring, Darren Werrett, Liam Powell (AEK Boco); Aaron Anglin (capt), Scott Thomas (Henbury); Ibrahima Sarr (Lebeq); Dhani Golding, Kieron Golding (Bristol Telephones); Liam Gale (Stonehouse); Tim Griffiths (keeper), TJ Bick (Cheltenham CS).



Valiant Vixens out to mark promotion jubilation with a final-day title clincher

EVERYONE at the Gloucestershire FA has been thrilled by Bristol City Women’s magnificent quickfire return to the FA Women’s Super League One.

Last season ended in abject misery as the valiant Vixens found themselves propping up the rest of the table with only two wins from their 14 appearances to take the dreaded tumble down to Super League Two.

But how well they’ve responded and Saturday’s superb nerve-jangling 3-2 victory inside Everton’s own impressive stadium in Widnes demonstrated the steel, resolve and spirit that has characterised their campaign.

And that’s not to mention hero of the hour, Caitlin Leach’s wonderful 96th-minute penalty save as City’s promotion hopes on the evening hung on a knife edge; fit-again Millie Farrow’s cool finish from an Everton slip, and Claire Emslie’s two screamers both sides of the break which, as overjoyed boss Willie Kirk suggested, would grace any level of the game.

The Scot went on to add: “The girls were fantastic; with so much at stake Everton threw everything at us but we dealt with it.
“Six-and-a-half minutes into stoppage time the ref awarded a penalty but Caitlin pulled off a stunning save in 98 minutes that had everything.

“As a group they’ve been fantastic this year and they’re such a young group. But everyone has played their part.”

The intrigue and excitement isn’t quite over, as City seek to cap off their promotion success in style, with a title triumph.

Saturday’s victory kept them level on 36 points with West rivals Yeovil, who currently lead the way courtesy only of a six-goal margin heading into this Sunday’s (Nov 6) big final day, when City travel to take on second-from-bottom Oxford United and Yeovil, who also kick-off at 2pm, seek to apply home advantage when they entertain mid-table Sheffield.



Over 300 girls descended on WISE Campus, SGS College in Bristol in October to take part in a free FA Girls’ Football Festival, aimed at increasing and retaining girls’ participation in the game, mirroring The FA’s ‘We Can Play’ campaign.

The final FA Girls’ Football Festival this year brought together schools from across the city and was organised through the support of the Gloucestershire County FA. Girls aged between five and 16 years from various schools in the county were invited to test their skills in a range of activities combining football, fun and music.

The festivals are a joint initiative by The FA and Continental Tyres, providing an exciting, interactive football experience for both those new to the game and regular players.

FA approved coaches led the event, with a number of FA staff and volunteers also there to help out and referee. Sessions from the FA Skills team included drills, interactive games, mini matches and the ContiWarmUp Programme - the coaching programme from Continental Tyres endorsed by the FA.

Caroline Hulme, National Women’s Football Project Officer at The FA commented “It is fantastic to see so many young girls enjoying playing football here today in Gloucestershire, some of whom it is their first experience of football and may even be the very first time they have kicked a ball. Thank you to Alexis and her team from Gloucestershire County FA for all the hard work they have put in leading up to the event to ensure girls in the County have the opportunity to play.”

“We hope to see these girls continuing to play football in the future as a result of today, a huge thank you must go to our sponsor Continental Tyres who have given over 8,000 girls the opportunity to try out football this year supporting our aim to double female participation by 2020!”

Girls also had the amazing opportunity to talk to Jasmine Matthews and Hayley Ladd from Bristol City Women. They ended the festival with a great question and answer session, to inspire the young girls, as well as give an insight on the many pathways and opportunities there are in order to get into football.

In addition to the two local FA WSL stars, Charlotte Lade, one of the world’s leading professional football freestylers, who throughout the fulfilled day, demonstrated her amazing tricks and skills.

Alexis Lunn-Gadd, Football Development Officer at Gloucestershire FA said “The Festival in Gloucestershire was a massive success engaging over 300 girls from 20 different primary schools. We will now work with these schools to build the links with our local charter standard clubs to ensure that there are further opportunities for the girls to play locally.”

“We were delighted to host the event at the Wise Campus of SGS college and home of Bristol City WFC. Having the first team players involved and engaging with the girls really added to the atmosphere and overall experience for everyone including the girls, teachers and parents.

For more information on women’s football and where to play please visit www.TheFA.com/womens.



Olveston after new second-string supremo in wake of manager Monks’ departure

BRISTOL and District League Division Two side Olveston United Reserves are looking for a new manager following the resignation of Troy Monks.

Anyone eager to take up the reins can call secretary Jake Lansdown on 07772 900845 or email him at jakelansdown@icloud.com

Lansdown said: “We would like to thank Troy for his commitment and all the work he has done for the club.”
Olveston have made a steady start to life at the level this term with two wins and a draw from their seven games thus far ahead of Saturday’s trip to take on bottom side Bendix (Oct 29).

The club were recently featured among a new series of features on this website entitled In the Spotlight -  http://www.gloucestershirefa.com/news/2016/oct/in-the-spotlight---olveston-united



Fairford football fanatic Tony on a mission to kick-start the sport in Sierra Leone

FAIRFORD football enthusiast Tony Warrington is about to embark on an emotion-stirring mission to remember – to Sierra Leone.

The 54-year-old FA Level 2-licenced coach is perfectly accustomed to putting youngsters through their paces in and around his home town, with Fairford Youth, where he is also child welfare and club development officer, as well as overseeing Cirencester Town under-11s’  Junior Premier League activities.

Tony will bid farewell to all that, and wife Nikki and children Caitlin, 13, and Joe, 10, for a fortnight in order to take his coaching skills and know-how to a poverty-stricken corner of the world.

He explained: “It’s a voluntary mission. A good friend of mine and his wife set up a clinic attached to a village school in the very small town of Madina, located near the border of Guinea, to provide frontline health care.

“Sierra Leone is the second poorest country in the world and Madina is situated in the poorest area of the country.
“One in five children die before the age of five and one in eight women die during childbirth and my friends, who are both doctors, spend a large amount of time and money doing what they can to improve such stats.”

Tony, who is production director of E Sports Publications which produces handbooks for county FAs, the GFA included, still enjoys a regular kick-about himself at Fairford Sports Centre with fellow seniors.

He said: “My veterans football buddy Rohit Sethi, a GP in Cirencester, has been on to me for a while about going over to Sierra Leone as the children have one thing that takes their minds off the daily slog of just surviving, and that is football. Another of my football friends, Pascal Tertois, is coming too.

“Outside of school, the majority of the children’s time in daylight hours is spent playing football and there is a very loose football league amongst the neighbouring villages. My aim is to put some structure into what they have and in particular look at the coaching side of things.

“There is a Catholic mission in the village and the brothers have already set things up so that I will coach the coaches of the area. The plan is to end up with a youth tournament where I hope to hand out awards and gifts to every village that takes part.

“I am told the teams can consist of players from 10 to 18 years old which should be interesting and I guess they have no playing time constrictions either.

“I will also be digging wells and I have set up a link with my local (Fairford) primary school who will be sending letters and gifts, as well as learning all about the mission and why it is so important.

“Pappillon Media (commercial division of E Sports Publications) is going to sponsor magnetic tactics boards, cones and bibs for all 20 coaches who will be involved partaking in classroom and practical sessions.”

Tony’s hands will certainly be full as he flies out to West Africa laden with kit and other all-important equipment in order to give local children and their mentors the best possible footballing experience.

And he wants, in months and years to come, to acquire help from the Gloucestershire area’s professional and grassroots set-ups with a view to ensuring there is never a shortage of vital essentials to transport for future expeditions.

“I’m trying to get a scheme going which involves old kit and equipment belonging to clubs and individuals being stockpiled and sent to Africa via ourselves,” Tony revealed.

“We’ve already received plenty of donations for this trip, including some from Cheltenham Town and Fairford Town, and the Hampshire FA has supplied a load of kit.

“This mission has been on my bucket list and I’m hoping it will be just the start. I would love to leave each village with a team kit, even just a set of shirts.

“It’s an opportunity to spread the message that while lifestyles can be so different, one thing that can bond people throughout the world is football.”

Anyone wishing to know more about charitable work already taking place in Madina can click on the following links:



New boss boys Richards and Tarr can oversee Southmead resurgence, Paisley insists

SOUTHMEAD CS’s devoted clubman Tony Paisley believes the good times are just around the corner once more with a brand-new new management team firmly in place, writes Simon Parkinson.

A miserable last campaign threatened to culminate in the big crash out of the Gloucestershire County League and back into the relative obscurity of Bristol and Suburban football, from which they’d hoisted themselves via a Premier Division One title-winning triumph in 2011-12 when they enthrallingly edged Broad Plain House into a runners-up position by a goal difference of six.

A commendable fourth-place finish at the new level 12 months later was followed up by an encouraging fifth-spot conclusion the following year.

Yet as a raft of their brightest talents drifted away to try their hand at Toolstation Western League level, so that rapid progress, so carefully crafted and cherished over preceding years, suddenly hit the buffers.

The Pen Park Pavilion outfit, who went agonisingly close to relegation last term after finishing bottom of the pile with only six wins from their 32 appearances, find themselves in the same sticky position on the ladder and seeking a first victory of 2016-17.

Southmead recently installed former Bristol Manor Farm Under-18s management team of Trevor Richards and Jason Tarr as their new co-bosses with a view to stopping the rot following a gutsy stint at the helm by their 27-year-old right-back Chris Williams, who took on the top job over the summer when the club were on the brink of folding.

Paisley explained: “We’d finished rock bottom of the league last season, not helped by an exodus of players to higher-level clubs, and we were in danger of going under altogether.

“Certainly we were informed we’d be relegated back to the Suburban League until we heard that Yate Reserves had resigned from the league and that we’d suddenly won a reprieve, and there was this huge scramble to get everything together again on and off the pitch.

“Two seasons ago we became victims of our growth and lost nine of our best players to higher-level clubs, a few of whom went to Portishead Town. Our star striker Rob Sivers went to Winterbourne and another of our forwards, Luke Mills, left for Hallen along with Chris Williams.

 “Chris is a Southmead boy who played for us during our Suburban League and early County League days but ended up with Bradford Town in the Toolstation Premier last season. He agreed to take over and were it not for him, and the help of players like his brother Rob Sivers and our experienced player Gary Booth, we’d be history now.

“They were the mainstays of our original County League side and the one which got us up out of the Suburban League.”

Paisley added: “Chris was still in charge for our first eight games or so but was more than happy to step aside and concentrate on playing once he heard of Trevor and Jason’s interest in taking charge. He knew they had more experience of managing and coaching – Jason was also Manor Farm’s reserve team manager – and we’re extremely grateful to Chris for what he’s done and what he continues to do on the field.

“Jason is a former player of ours and Trevor lives in Southmead, which has helped bring that old spirit and togetherness back to the club. He was at Manor Farm for 16 years or so and has strong connections. Their arrival has been well received by everyone.

“It’s great for us that they’ve walked away from all that to team up with us at Southmead.”

Far from dwelling on their evident difficulties, Paisley, who also assists Gavin Tuckett at the Bradley Stoke United Under-14s helm in Division One of the Avon Youth League where his son Joe Paisley performs, believes there is a lot more to come from Southmead Athletic in future times.

“We have a new under-16s team now, one which began with the younger age groups and stopped for a few years when we were struggling for numbers,” he reflected.

“Clearly at first team level we have our work cut out at this time just trying to stay in this league, which is getting more and more competitive. But if we can achieve it, get our under-16s up to under-18s status and maybe reintroduce our reserve team, then we can give ourselves foundations to rebuild.

“The facilities here are fantastic and in our encouraging early days in the County League there was talk about prospects of going even higher up the football pyramid. Maybe it’s the right thing given what happened last season that we stalled, so the aim now is to slowly but surely work our way back.”



Off to fliers: clinical Cribbs and Sodbury slickers ease into second stage of Youth Shield

CRIBBS and Chipping Sodbury Town can look forward with relish to taking their places in the second round of the GFA Under-18 Youth Shield after embarking on first round goal sprees.

Oldland Abbotonians entered their home encounter with Cribbs anticipating good things following a perfect opening to their Bristol Under-18 League Premier Division mission, in the knowledge too that their Bristol Central opponents had made a steady start themselves to their own season.

Typically of cup football the unexpected occurred as Cribbs flew into a three-goal advantage at the break with goals by Jordan Kearns, Fred Welsman and Khane Young, before Alex Bucsek added a late fourth to set the seal on a splendid victory and secure them a tie at home against Bristol South side Longwell Green Sports on Sunday, November 6 (2pm).

Chipping Sodbury have made a promising start to their Bristol North programme and it got better for them as they breezed through to round two of the Youth Shield by netting 17 without reply against league rivals Hambrook Reds.

Tyler Dacres fired six of the goals, Kacy Brown four and Ryan Mundy a treble, while Harry Barber, Jack Derrick, Indie Newman and Bayley Greenaway added the rest.

The win earned the Sodbury slickers an intriguing away-day at Blackhorse Playing Field on November 6 (2pm) against league rivals Mangotsfield United, who have been topping the same Bristol Under-18 North League table with 100 per cent winning form.

For updates on all Youth Shield results and fixtures, visit the Cups section of this website and follow the links.



Bristol City legends braced for emotional memorial match for Iron Acton great Adam

IRON Acton players and officials are making final preparations for this Sunday’s emotional memorial match for Adam Taylor.

The long-serving first team boss and secretary died of a heart attack in August just short of celebrating his 44th birthday, stunning not only family and friends but the entire local football community.

Now the club has organised an exciting encounter with a former Bristol City XI which will boast Scott Murray, Joe Burnell, Aaron Brown, Marvin Brown, Clayton Fortune, Gary Owers, Martin Kuhl, Darren Hawkins, James Cope, Kevin Amankwaah and Micky Bell among a clutch of very familiar one-time Ashton Gate aces.

The Iron Acton team will feature some 20 of its past and present performers and entry for the occasion, which is to be staged at Yate Town’s Lodge Road ground kicking off at 1pm, is by donation.

All who come through the gates will be handed a raffle ticket when the chance to win a signed Bristol City shirt presents itself among other items up for grabs. Proceeds from the event will go to the football club and charities including the British Heart Foundation.

Iron Acton’s new chairman Warwick Andrews said: “Everything still feels a bit raw but the club has come together incredibly well to make sure all Adam’s hard work around the place for so many years does not go to waste.

“We miss the banter with him at Shire Way Community Centre where we used to go for our drinks after games, especially where his other favourite club Manchester United goes!

“Because of who Adam was some of our ex-players have returned and we have a new committee now including Chris Sweet (treasurer), Chris Wilmot (secretary) and Asa Taylor (vice-chairman).

“I have taken over as chairman from Adam’s father Basil, who is staying on as club president and there are others on the new committee too.

“Adam’s dream was always to get Iron Acton FC back into the village and we want to continue that fight in his memory.”

Warwick added: “Yate Town were quick to offer us their ground free of charge when they heard about our plans for this match and we’re grateful to them for that.”





Churchley relishing overseeing revitalised Cheltenham Civil Service class of 2016-17

KRISTIAN Churchley is relishing life at the Cheltenham Civil Service helm and small wonder after the bright start they have made to their Gloucestershire County League campaign.

The fallen 2014-15 champions are approaching their afternoons with renewed vigour once more now that Churchley, who helped lead the club to that impressive title triumph as No.2 to Nick Locke, finds himself in full command this time after the pair enjoyed a successful promotion stint in Hellenic Division One West with Cheltenham Saracens last term.

While they were experiencing life at the higher level along with many of their prized Civil Service performers who joined them on the new adventure, the County League outfit, by stark contrast, were heading in the opposite direction, despite a valiant attempt by John Banfield and Neil Bonner to reverse the slide.

Mercifully for the Tewkesbury Road club they managed to maintain their place in the league by the skin of their teeth and now find themselves back where they were two seasons ago, competing hard at the right end of the table and savouring every moment of breathing down the necks of newly-promoted Stonehouse Town currently occupying pole position.

Churchley, Civil Service’s one-time youth under-18s boss, is assisted now by the club’s former player Stuart Mitchinson, who was on the books of Cheltenham Town as a youngster.

The duo set about the task of restoring the first team to former heights upon their spring-time arrival with some gusto, a whole raft of new players recruited together with the few who had performed in that title-winning success of 2015, keeper Tim Griffiths, defender Ryan Smith and skipper TJ Bick, all of whom spent the last campaign with neighbouring Saracens.

The new faces included Sam Mason, Sonnie Burrows, Adam Loveridge, Callum Preece, Dan Avery, Josh Ellin, Dan Keating, David Lodge, Spike Rhodes, Andy Varnham and Leigh Rayson.

Prolific striker Jack Sklenar also rejoined the club recently on dual registration terms from Slimbridge, where he is hoping to make an impact with the Southern League side.

Churchley, who performed as a centre-half and central midfielder with Civil Service in the Cheltenham and Northern Senior leagues over a 14-year stretch, said of their promising start: “We’ve already reached last season’s final points’ tally (19) so we’re heading in the right direction!

“We played our entire August schedule away from home too because of the cricket taking precedence then at the club.
“Naturally everyone wants to win leagues and that would be great but my aim is to improve on last season, which was a difficult one for Neil and John who did a very good job under difficult circumstances.

“Every team you take on in the County League is well organised and well drilled; you can expect a tough game against everyone you play.”

The Civil Service supremo added: “Getting a competitive squad in place over the summer wasn’t easy as I’d not had very positive feedback from the existing players when I messaged them all.

“But we’re up and running now and the future’s looking bright again, although we’ll always struggle to get out of the County League because we’re a sports and social club.

“We’re always looking into trying to find ways around the promotion problem but we knew from the outset that this was the situation.”


A GFA Challenge Trophy Second Round Review 

HOW Patchway Town must dislike the sight of Frampton United right now after tumbling to a second slender defeat in seven days.

The teams met once more for a GFA Challenge Trophy second round affair, with host side Patchway out to put right their 2-1 away loss in County League combat at the hands of their Bell Field rivals the previous weekend

The outcome was just the same, although Patchway did start brightly, Paul Noyes going close with a header on 18 minutes and Matt Davies rattling the crossbar two minutes on.

However it was Frampton who broke the deadlock from a breakaway move which ended with Jonathan Lewis finding the back of Town’s net.

Nathan Dennis then went close for the visitors from a free- kick before Patchway, who had been threatening an equaliser, did so on 41 minutes when Luke Garbacz set up Matt Tovey to score.

Town had a goal disallowed in the 54th minute and it proved crucial as Frampton grabbed a winner seven minutes from time when the ball was played into the Patchway box and their central defender Dan Dunt was unable to prevent a deflection going into his own net.

Minutes later luckless Garbacz hit an upright as Town pressed for penalties but Frampton held firm for a 2-1 success to book themselves a date on the road with Toolstation Premier Cadbury Heath at Springfield on November 26.

There was drama at Mundy Fields too where Toolstation top-tier team Cribbs emerged 5-4 away victors over battling County League side Thornbury Town to tee-up a third round tussle on November 26 with Lydney Town of the Hellenic top flight.

George King gave Cribbs the lead on five minutes and experienced marksman Darren Edwards made it 2-0 ten minutes later.

In a lively opening, Craig Lancastle pulled a goal back for the home side on 19 minutes and two minutes later Nathan Irwin levelled it up at 2-2.

Still the fortunes swung to and fro as Josh Jones restored Cribbs’ lead, only for clinical Lancastle to make it 3-3 two minutes before the break.

An eventful second half showed no sign of let-up as King fired the visitors ahead again on 58 minutes and Jack McKenna finally put daylight between the teams with a Cribbs fifth.

Still Thornbury weren’t finished as Nathan Sage reduced the arrears in the 91st minute before time ran out on their hopes of salvaging a thrilling draw and a shoot-out opportunity.

There were seven goals at Coombe Dingle where Rockleaze Rangers couldn’t close the two-league gap between themselves and Cadbury Heath, despite a valiant effort in a 5-2 loss.

Ever-prolific striker Matt Huxley hit a hat-trick and Simon McElroy netted a brace for the visitors, with Steve Fitzpatrick scoring both Rockleaze’s goals.

The home side found themselves 2-0 down after ten minutes as McElroy’s shot from the edge of the box was mishandled by the home keeper.

Huxley then stabbed the ball home for Heath’s second and hit the mark again on 29 minutes to make it 3-0 before Fitzpatrick pulled a goal back for the home side.

McElroy scored with a header on 45 minutes to give the visitors a 4-1 lead, but again Rangers fought back on the hour mark as Fitzpatrick drove home after Aaron Day’s header had been saved by Jamie Powell.

Rangers had a goal disallowed on 85 minutes which would have made the final stages extremely interesting. Instead their hopes were killed off for good right on full-time time when Huxley swivelled inside the box and drove the ball into the corner of the net for Heath’s fifth goal.

The Western League hopefuls now entertain Frampton United on November 26.

For all the GFA Challenge Trophy results and fixtures, and updates on ALL county cup competitions, visit the Cups section of this website.


Tuffley Fox-ed by classy Chris as Kingswood are spot-on to claim GFA Trophy victory

SUPER spot-kick saver Chris Fox and his fast-emerging Kingswood (North) side claimed a notable scalp as they entered the third round of the GFA Challenge Trophy in dramatic fashion.

The village outfit neighbouring Wotton-under-Edge have become well accustomed to ending their Gloucestershire County League campaigns in the lower reaches of the table over several years now.

This time is promising better fare, as they amply demonstrated why they have swept into fourth spot for now on the league ladder by not only holding Hellenic Premier high-fliers Tuffley Rovers to a 3-3 draw over regular time in their GFA Challenge Trophy second round tie at Kingswood Playing Field, but went on to claim a 3-0 win in a one-sided penalty shoot-out.

Kingswood, who have been rewarded with a home tie against Toolstation first division Oldland Abbotonians on Saturday, November 26 (2pm), had to come from behind to achieve it too as Mark Pritchett gave Tuffley the lead with a header on seven minutes, only for Gary Simmons to restore parity for Kingswood from a breakaway move five minutes on.

Kingswood then took the lead three minutes before the interval when Ryan Mudd headed home a Josh Stokes corner.
Luke Chappell had to clear off his own line to deny Tuffley soon after the break and it got better for the County Leaguers on 62 minutes when the visitors were reduced to ten men as Shayne Bradley received a red card for a foul on Kingswood keeper Fox.
Unfazed, Tuffley levelled up 11 minutes on via a scrambled Warren Mann goal and then Pritchett again headed Rovers into the lead eight minutes from time.

Yet the spirited home side had enough in the tank to haul themselves level right on full-time from a cross driven low across the six-yard box by Adam Eldridge, which took a deflection off Tuffley defender Ben Tunnicliffe.

In the penalty shoot-out Fox proved an influential figure between the Kingswood sticks as he brought off two great saves to help see his jubilant team through.

There was delight also for fellow County League team Bristol Telephones as they stuck seven without reply past Toolstation Premier Division strugglers Hallen in their second round encounter and will now host Hellenic League Division One West leaders Fairford on November 26.

Dhani Golding’s header after some good individual work by Ben Griffiths down the left side gave them an eighth minute lead, and after the supplier had himself gone close to extending Telephones’ advantage following some neat footwork and shot, the busy Griffiths was brought down for a penalty which Hanin Romdhane converted for 2-0.

On 30 minutes Griffiths inflicted more punishment on the Hallen defence by crossing the ball to Mike Alvis, who squared it for Golding to finish with a left-foot shot into the corner.

In a remarkable first period for Telephones, Alvis fastened on to a through ball from Romdhane and slid it across goal for veteran Martin Blacker to score off the underside of the bar to make it 4-0.

On 40 minutes Golding completed the perfect hat-trick with a right-footed effort after Griffiths had again tormented the Hallen defence.

The shellshocked visitors, meanwhile, only had one attempt at goal in the opening 45 minutes and had their frustration intensified as Adam Gregory blocked the shot on the goal-line.

Hallen did manage a few more chances after the break but ran into a stubborn Telephones defence. At the other end Blacker should have extended the rampant home side’s lead but was denied by a fine Will Osborne save.

On 66 minutes Telephones extended their lead to 6-0 when Blacker broke free of the Hallen back line and while his effort hit a post, the ball fell to the feet of Golding who netted his fourth of the afternoon.

The hosts wrapped up the rout with a seventh goal as Romdhane ran at their creaking defence and slid the ball to Alvis, who drilled it into the bottom right corner.

For all the GFA Challenge Trophy results and fixtures, and updates on ALL county cup competitions, visit the Cups section of this website.



Four-goal Frewin fuels Andoversford aces’ Junior Cup quest at Tigers’ expense

ANDOVERSFORD have made a super start to their Cheltenham League campaign – and they haven’t started off too badly in their GFA Junior Cup quest either!

The Temple Fields outfit have been scoring goals for fun in Division Two following their fourth-spot finish in 2015-16.

That form was taken into county cup action as Billy Frewin’s four goals, Sam Green’s brace and Kai Mahon’s single swept them to a 7-2 home success over Tredworth Tigers who, by contrast, are yet to win a game in Stroud League Division One activity.

The Andoversford aces now hit the road to take on Prestbury Rovers in the second round of the Junior North tournament on Saturday, November 5 (2pm).

Coleford Town have made a mixed start to this season’s North Gloucestershire League Premier Division programme but there was no disputing their potential as they stuck eight without reply past league rivals Viney St Swithins to progress.

Joseph Clarke led the march with two goals both sides of the break and the rest were shared evenly among Ian Callow, Keith Patterson, David Revill, Lee Roberts, Jordan White and substitute Rob Merry.

Coleford next travel to take on another North Gloucestershire League top-tier side in Westbury United, who narrowly saw off Didmarton 3-2 in their first round tie thanks to Michael Jeffries’ double and Greg Artus’ strike.

Elsewhere, Hardwicke AFC Reserves, who have made a promising start to their Stroud League Division Two season, eased through to a home date with Redbrook Rovers on November 5 courtesy of a 6-1 success over visiting Southside Star Reserves.

Mark Carter and Laurie Conner both celebrated pairs to go with Shane Thorp and substitute Lee Simpson efforts.





Friends reunited: Oldland Abbotonians turn to former favourites for matchday boost

OLDLAND Abbotonians are tying in their important home fixture with Bishops Lydeard this Saturday (Oct 22nd, 3pm) with a special reunion day.

The Castle Road outfit have contacted throngs of former players, supporters and officials with a view to increasing the afternoon’s attendance while giving club funds a boost.

The occasion, which includes an evening gathering, has been organised by treasurer Paul Bray and president Derek Jones, two familiar faces at Abbotonians over many years at a South Gloucestershire club these days staging Toolstation first division football and striving to progress to the next level up as quickly as possible.

Bray explained: Oldland progressed through the leagues as Oldland Decora and Longwell Green Abbotonians before merging into the existing club, which was originally formed in 1910.

“These days we have a reserve team, two under-18s squads and a successful women’s side in the South West Premier League. In addition, the youth section comprises 13 teams, formerly under the name of Deerswood, to feed through into the adult squads and provide a pathway from age five right through to the first team.

“The club recently spent approximately £70,000 on ground works and the revamped Castle Road facility is looking forward this Saturday to welcoming anyone who has played for, or managed, any of the sides in the past.

“We have contacted former players such as Mark Shail, Mark Pillinger, John Toy, Scott Impey, Andy Boulton, Jon Mayo and Craig Grimshaw as well as many others via Facebook and Twitter and we are expecting a bumper crowd to help boost club funds and increase bar takings.”

Oldland will welcome the additional support on Saturday afternoon after experiencing a wobble of late.

A victory at home on Saturday against Western League newcomers Bishops Lydeard would give Dale Dempsey’s team a timely lift ahead of four straight away outings.

Last season’s Somerset County League champions Lydeard have made a stirring start to life at the higher status, as Wednesday night’s 2-1 home victory, which ended high-riding Hengrove Athletic’s impressive 11-game unbeaten league and cup streak, demonstrates.



Hebert on hat-trick trail as Taverners slickers set up Lydbrook date with Longford win

TAVERNERS Reserves haven’t risen to the Stroud League Four summit for no good reason as their GFA Intermediate North Cup exploits amply demonstrate.

In an enthralling first round fixture involving the division’s top and bottom teams, they racked up a 9-4 victory over gallant Longford Reserves thanks to Sheldon Herbert’s hat-trick, Tamas Csavar’s double and Luke Ostle, Joe Powell, Simon Larner and Kealan Wallace contributions.

The outcome was hard on Longford marksman Wesley Held, who hit a treble, while Nathaniel White was their other scorer.
The reward for Nailsworth-based Taverners is another home date on November 5, this time with North Gloucestershire League One high-fliers Lydbrook Athletic Reserves, who came away from league compatriots Redmarley 5-1 victors to take their seat in round two in convincing fashion.

Jacob Hatcher hit the target for Redmarley but it was never going to be enough to stop their unbeaten opponents marching on.
Abbeymead Rovers Reserves needed no second invitation either at finding a way into the second round as they emphatically overcame fellow Stroud League competitors Cotswold Rangers with a 7-0 away stroll, despite playing a level beneath them in Division Four.

James White and Tobias Ghebru were among the Abbeymead marksmen booking an appointment, this time in their own Barnwood backyard, with Tidenham of the North Gloucestershire League’s first division.

There was a thrilling first round tie at South Cerney where the spirited hosts fell to a 5-4 defeat at the hands of Lydney Town A, who now entertain Dursley Town Reserves on November 5.

South Cerney, promoted from M4 Karting Cirencester and District League Division Two last term, and their main man on the day Nathan Littler, went through the agonies, as he scored all four of their goals for no reward.

Nevertheless it was the Aylburton Fields outfit, of North Gloucestershire League’s top bracket, who squeezed through with Michael Robbins registering twice and Scott Burrows, Richard Screen and substitute Joshua Bethell weighing win with the rest of the goals.

Dursley secured their place in round two with a comfortable 6-2 home success against near-neighbours and Stroud League Division Three rivals Coaley Rovers, who had two men dismissed while the hosts, who converted only one of three first-half penalties given them, had braces by Kieran Austin and Nathan Vines, and singles from Will Hazelwood and Rich Gillingham (pen), to thank for getting them through.

Ed Robinson scored both Coaley’s goals on an otherwise bleak afternoon for his team.

• All fixtures and results in this season’s GFA cup competitions can be found on the Cups section of this website.



Lydney supremo Lee is out to ‘right the wrong’ of GFA Challenge Trophy final misery

LYDNEY Town manager Mark Lee has put one cup competition to the top of his list of priorities this season – the GFA Challenge Trophy.

The Swan Road supremo is out to bury the bitter memory of last April’s 9-2 final humiliation at the hands of Bristol Manor Farm in an extraordinary encounter on the Oaklands Park 3G which, strange though it may seem, could easily have reaped many more goals for his own chastened team.

Lydney, enjoying a promising run in the top half of the Hellenic Premier right now, set off as they mean to go on in the Challenge Trophy with a 3-2 Tuesday-night win at home against Toolstation League top-flight strugglers Bitton, thanks to a Pat Gibbs double and Lewis Halford effort in a second round affair.

The outcome ensured them another opportunity to progress in their own backyard in the third round against either Thornbury Town or Cribbs, who were set to lock horns at Mundy Fields on Saturday, October 15 (2pm).

Lee insisted: “We deserved our win but Bitton surprised me a little in that they were better than their position at the bottom of their league suggests.

“I was pleased again with Tom Baldwin at right-back, who has only just stepped up to our new under-18s at the age of only 16. It’s a massive jump for him, senior football at this level, but he’s a good head on young shoulders who never misses training and he has a bright future ahead of him.

“We’ve been given another home game in the next round and it’s in my mind to right a few wrongs after last year’s bizarre final when Manor Farm looked as though they’d score with every attack.

“So I’d like us to get to that final again and this time go all the way. Out of all the local knock-out competitions, this is one I’ve put top of my agenda.”

Lee reasoned: “What that final did do was highlight our shortcomings, something I moved to address in the summer and Pete Macklin and James Morse have fitted in really well at centre-half. I recently brought in another for that position in Niall Halford, Louis’ brother, from Shortwood United, although he’s been playing as a makeshift centre-forward and scored five in eight games!

“Tom Maxted joined us at the start of the season as a wide player who was with Monmouth Town last year and he’s pacy, strong and direct and proved a really good signing.

“Considering we’ve had so many players missing through injury and suspension we’ve exceeded expectations and got some precious points on the board, which is important because in the run-up to Christmas we’ll be playing most of the top sides.

“We finished 12th last season and I’d like us to see us continue taking baby steps forward and hopefully, ultimately, bring  Southern League football to Lydney.”



Super striker Sklenar out to show he can be a hit in Southern League with Slimbridge

JACK Sklenar is back in business and two of the county’s aspiring clubs are delighted that he is.

The 26-year-old one-time Cheltenham Town Youth prodigy who has just served out a lengthy suspension, made his eagerly-awaited return sporting a Cheltenham Civil Service shirt in Wednesday’s 3-2 GFA Challenge Trophy second round defeat at Oldland Abbotonians.

The prolific marksman, whose 51 goals helped catapult County League newcomers Cheltenham CS to title glory in 2014-15, was back in the colours of Kristian Churchley’s rejuvenated team following an otherwise successful spell with Saracens last term, his 26 nets from 27 outings inspiring another promotion, this time for the Hellenic Leaguers.

While he didn’t hit the target in Wednesday’s comeback game, he did, according to Churchley, show glimpses of his best attributes, good news for Civil Service and even better news for Southern League Slimbridge, who Sklenar is hoping to feature for predominantly from now on.

The Division One South & West side have experienced a testing spell of late with goals in short supply and their manager Leon Sterling is hoping that Sklenar can make a difference.

“I signed Jack on dual-registration terms when he was enjoying a promotion push with Cheltenham Saracens last season so we didn’t get much opportunity to see him in a Slimbridge shirt,” he explained to GFA Local Football News.

“He was due to play for us when his season finished but of course he was sent off and given that long ban. It was a shame because I wanted to give lads like him a chance to show what they could do heading into the summer, but at least he’s back now and has more than 30 games ahead of him to try and establish himself in our team.”

Sterling added: “Jack is a natural goalscorer. He’s been out a long time but you don’t lose those instincts, those habits. We’ve never really had an out-and-out No.9 striker so it’s a calculated gamble, with nothing for either party to lose.

“He’s worked and trained with our lads and it’s good that a club like Cheltenham CS gave him that chance to start building up his match fitness with the game at Oldland.”

Keen to address that downturn in fortunes following a positive start to their 2016-17 mission, Sterling recently entered the transfer scene to recruit midfielder Mike Oliver, who has been performing with Bishops Cleeve and Cheltenham Saracens.

Notably too the Swans supremo has drafted in, from Cirencester Town, one-time Gloucester City, Cinderford and Forest Green marksman Lee Smith and Sterling said of his arrival: “Lee has been a big player in Gloucestershire. We’ve been friends a long time and as a team we lack experience.

“I’ve given him the captain’s armband and hopefully his leadership skills and playing qualities will help lads like Jack to develop.”


Challenge Trophy hots up as Cirencester Development, Oldland and Fairford stay put

THIS season’s GFA Challenge Trophy is taking shape nicely thanks to an eventful few days and goals aplenty involving the county’s cup hopefuls.

While Lydney Town progressed with a hard-fought 3-2 home victory over Toolstation Premier Division strugglers Bitton at Swan Road (see separate article), Cirencester Town Development squeezed through by the skin of their teeth too via a 4-3 penalty shoot-out success after they, and Hellenic Division One S&W rivals Tytherington Rocks, had fought out a 2-2 draw at Hardwicke Playing Field.

Lewis Bezer and Daryl-Herbert-Smith goals had given the league’s bottom team hope while first-half efforts too by Danny Gudger and Sam Walsh kept Cirencester firmly in the contest.

They now face another away trip, this time to either Longwell Green Sports or Hanham Athletic, who are poised to face off at Shellards Road for a round two tie on Tuesday, October 18 (7.30pm).

Oldland Abbotonians overcame Cheltenham Civil Service inside their own Castle Road confines with a 3-2 second-round win, having found themselves two-down to the revitalised County League outfit courtesy of Sonnie Burrows and Adam Loveridge strikes.

As Oldland battled back to win through Matt Curnock’s two penalties both sides of the break, and Tyrone Fudgell’s superb 20-yard winner into the bottom corner eight minutes from time, their opponents’ cause was not helped by the dismissal of two players for second bookable offences. 

Dale Dempsey’s Oldland now travel to take on either County League Kingswood North or Hellenic Premier high-fliers Tuffley Rovers, who were involved in second round action at Wickwar Road on Saturday, October 15 (2pm), at the next stage.

Elsewhere in the competition two-time Trophy holders Bristol Manor Farm demonstrated why they top the Toolstation Premier Division at this time as George Brimson’s treble, and Ben Bament and Jacob Cox efforts, eased them to a comfortable 5-1 win at Bishops Cleeve Reserves, who had levelled up at 1-1 on 28 minutes with Danny Gittings’ exquisite lob from Mark Magee’s through pass.

The Farm fliers now face a home fixture with either Hardwicke or their visitors Lebeq United, who were scheduled to play each other on Saturday, October 15 (2pm).

Meanwhile Fairford Town will hit the road for a third-round tie in late November against either Bristol Telephones or Hallen, who were also set to clash, at Stockwood Lane, on October 15.

First-half goals by Jason Milhench, Josh Morse and Lee Smith set Fairford on their way to a 4-1 success at Cinder Lane against their Hellenic League compatriots, and while Brad Martin did pull one back for the Premier Division side, Smith added a second in stoppage time to kill their opponents’ challenge off for good.


Arresting Olveston give Police the runaround to march on in Intermediate Cup

A CLINICAL performance by Olveston United Reserves saw them to a 5-2 away victory over Avon & Somerset Police in their GFA Intermediate Cup opener for 2016-17.

Two Ollie Chappell strikes and Chris Auburn, Will Trueman and Troy Monks contributions saw them safely into round two and an appointment away with Bendix on Saturday, November 5 (2pm).

Dan Edwards cracked a treble to help ensure Yate Athletic a safe passage with a 5-0 away romp over Jersey Rangers, James Hicks and Russell Perkins their other marksmen.

Bendix squeezed through a gripping tie with Evergreen Athletic via a 4-3 penalty shoot-out success after Robbie Underwood, John Mason and Lee McNeill goals had ensured spot kicks were required following a 3-3 draw with Evergreen Athletic.

Adam Hay hit a double while Bradley Stoke Reserves’ cause was helped by two own goals gifted by unfortunate visitors Filton Athletic Reserves in a 6-1 home victory, Joe Watkins and Luke Johnson the other Stoke marksmen.

Meanwhile Daniel Harris thumped in four of Lawrence Rovers’ goals in an emphatic 7-1 home defeat of Greyfriars Athletic A, John Davis’ double and a Mike Holloway strike easing the hosts into round two. Luke Prosser netted the visitors’ sole goal.

There were few problems for Talbot Knowle United either on the road as they overcame Downs League Division Two outfit Lion 4-1 through Edwin Reed’s brace and Wesley Griffin and Matt Gallagher singles, while Tormarton came through their fixture with much-depleted Hambrook Reserves with a 2-0 win thanks to efforts by Adam Bates and Mason Harrison.

Wick A and Pucklechurch Sports fought out a 2-2 draw in an enticing local affair in which Reuben Fisher and Ryan Frampton registered for Wick, only for their visitors to prevail with a 4-3 win from the penalty spot to clinch a place in round two.

Justin Hardwell scored Roman Glass St George A’s consolation in a 6-1 home reverse by Kingswood.

Almondsbury UWE A won’t forget their GFA Junior Cup bow for 2016-17 in a hurry!

They found themselves on the receiving end of a 12-0 away defeat by AEK Boco A with Kyle Russell and Steve Cains both firing four-timers and Michael Sadler (2), Martin Nicholls and Sam Kitson all weighing in.

Greyfriars Athletic Reserves got their cup campaign off on a sound footing too. They had goals from Ed Smith, Adam Dibble and Lee Ridout to thank for seeing them to a relatively comfortable 3-0 home victory over Soundwell Victoria to progress to the second round.

Pucklechurch Sports required a penalty shoot-out to get them through 5-4 from the spot, after goals by Ben Shaw, Mika Williams and Conrad Goulden had earned them a 3-3 draw in regular time against battling Henbury Reserves.

Bristol Barcelona breezed into round two at the expense of AFC Bohemia, the goals shared evenly among Freddie Short, Andrew Bush, Billy Manning, Liam Gardner and Steve Mroczvowski.

Robin Cater and Mike Beake were on target for Frampton Athletic Reserves but their goals fell short of what was required as they were beaten 4-2 by Suburban League Division Two side Wessex Wanderers.

And the same applied to Josh Duncan of Rangeworthy, whose two goals weren’t enough to stop Downs League Division One’s bottom side Rangeworthy claiming a second round place with a 3-2 away win.

Tyler Stone’s strike for Seymour United Reserves wasn’t sufficient either as travelling Rockleaze Rangers A edged a 2-1 victory, while Mark Gifford’s goal for Wick Reserves wasn’t enough to prevent his team tumbling out of the competiton as AFC Mangotsfield Reserves clinched a 2-1 win.


More of Freeman’s GFA Rep Squad fledglings poised to hit the heights on local stages

CO-MANAGER Simon Freeman has spoken of his “excitement” at the potential displayed by his latest crop of GFA Under-18 Representative Squad starlets.

With a new South & West Counties Championship campaign about to unfold, the team has already provided a springboard to senior semi-professional status of late for a clutch of effervescent hopefuls and Freeman believes that trend will continue in the months to come.

Simon’s own son, Jack Freeman, produced a stirring man-of-the-match performance on his first start for Shortwood United’s first team during their 3-1 Southern League Challenge Cup victory over Gloucestershire rivals Yate Town on Tuesday night.

Fellow midfielder Tom Harrison is another of the county’s promising products currently being nurtured by Yate, while a recent trip to Hartpury College by Roman Glass St George officials to watch the rep hopefuls in action in a friendly resulted in goalkeeper Joe Purnell being plucked by the Toolstation Western League outfit, where he joined team-mate Junathain Walker, another of Freeman’s county fledglings.

While not performing quite at those levels as yet, centre-back Sid Fawcett has nevertheless impressively risen to become a regular in Quedgeley Wanderers’ ranks in Gloucestershire Northern Senior League combat.

An encouraged Freeman Snr, who runs the rep side in tandem with Arnie Iles, said: “We’ve produced quite a few lads like these from our under-18s set-up and this year’s squad is looking strong.

“These rep games give players an opportunity to get themselves spotted and into a good level of senior football, and the most promising ones can find themselves pitched straight into first team contention at high-ranking semi-pro clubs because they’ve hit the ground running performing at a good standard of county football.

“Our keeper Joe Purnell is a former SGS College student at Filton and he’s a confident, assured lad with a great character who played for Tytherington Rocks in the Hellenic League last season.

“Roger Hudd (Roman Glass chairman) was impressed with Joe during our recent run-out against Hartpury and I gather he did well for their firsts away against Wellington in the Toolstation first division at the weekend, despite losing 2-0.

“My Jack made his first start for Shortwood’s first team in central midfield against Yate in the week and he was made man of the match. Tom Harrison is a very good player too and he and Jack are vice-captain and captain respectively for our rep team.”

Chair of the GFA county match committee, Sue Henson-Green, added: “Our representative games occasionally attract scouts as well as parents which provides the boys with great opportunities to progress in the local game.”

The GFA U-18 side are next in action on Wednesday, October 19 when the Navy Under-21s visit Oaklands Park for a friendly fixture (7.30pm).

The team then embark on their first competitive outing of 2016-17 for an FA County Youth Cup tie with old rivals Cornwall on Saturday, October 29, again at the GFA’s 3G facility in Almondsbury (2pm).



Four-goal Frewin fuels Andoversford aces’ Junior Cup quest at Tigers’ expense

ANDOVERSFORD have made a super start to their Cheltenham League campaign – and they haven’t started off too badly in their GFA Junior Cup quest either!

The Temple Fields outfit have been scoring goals for fun in Division Two following their fourth-spot finish in 2015-16.

That form was taken into county cup action as Billy Frewin’s four goals, Sam Green’s brace and Kai Mahon’s single swept them to a 7-2 home success over Tredworth Tigers who, by contrast, are yet to win a game in Stroud League Division One activity.

The Andoversford aces now hit the road to take on Prestbury Rovers in the second round of the Junior North tournament on Saturday, November 5 (2pm).

Coleford Town have made a mixed start to this season’s North Gloucestershire League Premier Division programme but there was no disputing their potential as they stuck eight without reply past league rivals Viney St Swithins to progress.

Joseph Clarke led the march with two goals both sides of the break and the rest were shared evenly among Ian Callow, Keith Patterson, David Revill, Lee Roberts, Jordan White and substitute Rob Merry.

Coleford next travel to take on another North Gloucestershire League top-tier side in Westbury United, who narrowly saw off Didmarton 3-2 in their first round tie thanks to Michael Jeffries’ double and Greg Artus’ strike.

Elsewhere, Hardwicke AFC Reserves, who have made a promising start to their Stroud League Division Two season, eased through to a home date with Redbrook Rovers on November 5 courtesy of a 6-1 success over visiting Southside Star Reserves.

Mark Carter and Laurie Conner both celebrated pairs to go with Shane Thorp and substitute Lee Simpson efforts.

North Gloucestershire League high-fliers Redbrook booked their own place in the second round by overcoming Premier Division rivals Yorkley 5-1 away with Colin Morgan and Stephen Morgan both bagging braces and Chris Somers completing the scoring. Alex Fraser scored the home side’s sole goal.

•         All fixtures and results in this season’s GFA cup competitions can be found on the Cups section of this website.



Justin time –Sodbury hot-shot Bishop’s at the double in afternoon goal frenzy

JUSTIN Bishop won’t forget one particular recent weekend in a hurry – by the ace marksman’s own admission.

The 35-year-old forward was asked to turn out for newly-promoted Chipping Sodbury Town Reserves for their Bristol Premier Combination One meeting with Greyfriars Athletic at the Ridings.

He agreed - to potent effect - firing four of the league leaders’ goals in a 6-0 success, including a ‘proper’ second-half hat-trick courtesy of right and left-foot finishes and header to boot.

His job happily done for the day, or so it appeared, Bishop returned to the changing quarters for a shower and wind-down, only to be informed he was required as a second-half substitute for the club’s first XI, who were trailing 2-0 to Dorset side Gillingham Town in a Toolstation Premier Division tussle.

Five minutes after entering Saturday afternoon action for a second time at the same impressive site, Bishop was celebrating a fifth goal, a strike which ultimately proved a frustrating consolation only as Sodbury slipped to a 2-1 defeat.

Nevertheless Bishop returned to his nearby home with his head in a spin after a whirlwind few hours and he grinned: “I don’t think I’ll have too many more days like that on a football field.

“I’d stepped down from first team duties to concentrate on our new women’s team but I informed the ressies manager Les Theobald that I could make myself available at times as and when required.

“Les called me up for the Greyfriars game on the top pitch which kicked off half-an-hour before the first team’s match and I scored the four goals before helping take the nets down and carry them with other equipment back, duties I haven’t been too familiar with in my career so far I have to confess!

“I’d had a shower and was in my flip flops about to enjoy a piece of Les’s birthday cake when he popped his head back around the door and said that buried among his birthday greetings there was a text he hadn’t spotted, urging me to get down to the first team’s pitch asap where they needed me.

“People were suddenly throwing any pieces of clean and dirty kit at me in an effort to get me prepared and back out there and when I did eventually appear, there was about 20 minutes to go and we were 2-0 down.”

Bishop added: “Five minutes or so after coming on, having yet to touch the ball, I gambled on a long punt upfield from our keeper and found myself one-on-one with their goalie. I managed to tuck it between his legs into the net to give us a lifeline.

“I was buzzing a bit by now thinking all things were possible but unfortunately I didn’t score again and we couldn’t find an equaliser.”
Bishop has every reason to add the two-game scoring feat to his list of most cherished recollections.

On the final day of last season he hit a hat-trick to dramatically help see Chipping Sodbury Town into the Toolstation top-flight as champions on goal difference ahead of Wells City courtesy of a 6-0 away thrashing of Calne Town.

The former Patchway Town, Yate Town, Brislington, Tytherington Rocks and Longwell Green striker also appeared in two FA Sunday Cup finals at Anfield, with UK Flooring and Lebeq, lucklessly finishing up on the losing side on both occasions.



Little Stoke target new reserve team supremo and physio in bid to keep progressing

LITTLE Stoke are targeting an ambitious new reserve team manager willing and able to play a key role in establishing the club as a significant local football force.

Successful previous boss and long-serving clubman and central midfielder Luke Brunt, who led his second-string starlets to Bristol and Avon League title success last season before a switch back to the Bristol and Suburban League, announced he would be standing down in the close season to afford him more welcome opportunity to continue performing as a player.

Hopes were high when a temporary replacement was unearthed, only for work commitments to call an unexpected halt to a brief stint at the helm with the new Division Three campaign barely underway.

With Little Stoke’s first team boldly adjusting to life at a higher level themselves, in the Gloucestershire County League following their joyous 2015-16 Suburban League promotion, club chiefs are determined to ensure their reserves keep pace with the first team’s impressive progression – and that means a promotion remit as rapidly as possible for whoever takes command.

First team boss Ash Coles, 37, explained: “We’re looking for someone keen and local and we’re keeping our options open, to see who is willing to put themselves in the hat for the role.

“We’re looking for our reserves to keep progressing, to try and win their league this season, continue the climb up the Suburban League and stay as tight as possible to what the first team is doing.

“There’s a massive wave of enthusiasm around the place after what has been achieved over the past couple of years and we want that to carry on.

“Naturally we’re still finding our feet at first team level but we’ve just picked up our first home win (2-0 v Broadwell Amateurs) and we’re looking to consolidate first and foremost.”

Coles added: “This is only my second season as Little Stoke’s manager after gaining promotion in my first year and having myself played in the Suburban League for a few years, this represents a whole new challenge to me too.

“But it’s an exciting one and something we’re all relishing.”

Little Stoke are also seeking a physiotherapist to regularly attend first team games.

“It could be someone who’s established eager to get involved in, or stay involved at, a good level of local football, or perhaps a university student who is looking to gain experience to enhance their studies,” Coles said.

Anyone interested in either position at Little Stoke should email littlestokefootballclub@gmail.com



Britton and revitalised Yate raring to go for FA Trophy tester with mighty Mangos

PAUL Britton insists he is as determined as ever to deliver the goods at Yate Town as he prepares them for this Saturday’s juicy FA Trophy opener against local rivals Mangotsfield United (Oct 8th, 3pm).

The Bluebells appointed the one-time Oldland Abbotonians, Longwell Green Sports and Bitton boss as their new leader in the close season following the resignation of Craig Laird in March.

A poor pre-season campaign led to a wretched opening to Yate’s 2016-17 Evo-Stik Southern League Division One S&W mission, an August of discontent producing an encouraging-enough opening-day 1-1 draw away against newly-promoted Barnstaple Town before a series of six straight defeats, including an FA Cup exit at the hands of Fleet Town, shook the Lodge Road foundations to its core.

Spurred on by strong public backing by his board, ‘Polly’, as he is known, oversaw a sharp upturn in fortunes, the ensuing month reaping three wins and a draw from five games as Yate suddenly propelled themselves away from the basement and into more promising climes.

On the eve of their second trip to Cossham Street to take on in-form Mangos following their 3-1 August Bank Holiday defeat in the league, Britton enthused: “We’re evolving as a group; there’s a different feel about the place now.

“I went into the job with my eyes wide open. We had a brand new squad so I knew it would be challenging, the scale of what we had to achieve with such a young squad. The board and fans have been very supportive and embraced what we’re trying to do. They’ve seen the hard work that is going on behind the scenes.

“There are always people in football who want to see you fail, whether they know you or not, and our aim has always been to show people we’re up for the challenge.

“I for one have never had a negative thought. It’s been hard and injuries along the way haven’t helped.

“But I still have the buzz for it; I turn up to training and games raring to go and I can see where we’ve progressed.”

Britton accepts his side will have their hands full attempting to overcome their local rivals in Saturday’s enticing Trophy tester.

“Mangotsfield have made a great start to their season to get themselves up to second place behind Hereford, and they have a striker in Lewis Powell who scores goals season in, season out, including two against us in the recent game,” Britton noted.

“But we did okay in that and it was more down to silly mistakes on our part that cost us that day.

“But we’ll be up for it; the FA Trophy is a huge and important national tournament and it’s something me and my players have never experienced before.”

Field manager David Mehew warned: “Yate have been going well ever since our league victory over them and I’m sure they’ll come here with a bit of belief and we must be ready for that.

“This is a really important match because neither us nor Yate got past the first stage of our FA Cup campaigns and the fact Bristol City and Bristol Rovers are without games should help swell the gate.”



Patchway Reserves raring to go under new managerial duo Woodward and Vaughan

PATCHWAY Town say they are in much better health as a club now thanks to major rebuilding work undertaken to their reserve section.

The Scott Park second-string struggled to recover from the blow of relegation from the Bristol Premier Combination at the end of the 2014-15 campaign and spent last season in the District League Senior Division battling to avoid a second straight drop before staging a valiant late recovery to stay afloat.

A new managerial partnership comprising Paul Woodward and Thomas Vaughan was installed at the start of the season and while it is early days yet, first team boss Dean Horseman is adamant things are looking up at last.

“It’s been a real struggle getting a competitive reserve team out over the past two years but hopefully things are changing for the better now,” he said.

“My brother Chad offered to oversee the final few night fixtures, even though he was a regular in our first team, and it did the trick; they just managed to stay up and live to fight another day in the Senior Division.

“As far as our new managers go, Paul used to play under my dad Kevin Horseman in the 1980s and 90s when he was Patchway’s first team manager and Thomas managed Patchway North End and played under me for our thirds a few years back.”

Of those positive early signs, 29-year-old Horseman enthused: “They’re doing well so far, especially considering they had only one member of last season’s team, Craig Clifford (centre-half), to call on.

“But they’ve brought in lots of young lads who are as keen as mustard and train regularly and enthusiastically and it’s making for a proper club atmosphere again.

“Touch wood it continues and it can only be a good thing for the future of our first team because many of them are champing at the bit to be part of it and I’m already looking at three or four of them as potential recruits.

“It’s such a relief now to turn up to training at the ground on a Wednesday evening and see so many numbers again and long may it continue.”


Caddick, Bloomfield fire De Veys to Senior Amateur South second round prize

LEAGUE newcomers De Veys got their Senior Amateur Cup campaign underway with a tense 2-1 away victory over Premier Division side Talbot Knowle United.

Darren Bloomfield and Connor Caddick, who settled the tie ten minutes from time, scored the goals to set up a second round match at home against Bitton Reserves on Saturday, October 29.

Winterbourne United cruised through to round two with a stylish 4-0 home victory over Seymour United and will now entertain Sneyd Park, 3-0 winners over Frampton Athletic, on the same October afternoon.

A Dave Herbert double helped them there while Liam Barrett and Matt Plant (penalty) ensured for a much happier outcome following below-par recent performances.

There was delight too for Old Sodbury, who made the difference between Premier Combination top-flight and first division tell by overcoming St Pancras, who had entered the contest parading a perfect start to their first division mission, 6-1 via a Reece Buss brace and Darren Bell, Matt Ellery, Ben Ingram and Andy Miles strikes. Dan Hedges notched Saints’ consolation goal from the penalty spot.

Sodbury now travel to take on Premier Combination rivals Cribbs Reserves, who have won all three of their league fixtures to date, in the next round on October 27.

The in-form Lawns side came confidently through their first round tester at Real Thornbury as Tom Headford continued his rich scoring vein with two more along with an unexpected goal from centre-half Alex Crane.

Chipping Sodbury Town Reserves are safely through to the second round too, and a home date with Rockleaze Rangers Reserves, after clinically dispensing of Bristol Manor Farm Reserves 4-0 with strikes by Chris Simsek, Jason Bradford, Ollie Clarke and Jon Morgan.

While Combination Premier One leaders Shaftesbury Crusade were securing a slender 2-1 home win over Ashley to book a second-round spot at home against more Downs League opposition in Clifton St Vincents, and Bitton Reserves were celebrating victory by the same scoreline at home against Port of Bristol, Sam Thomas was netting for Wick but ending up a disappointed loser.

His team agonisingly went down 5-4 on penalties at Cadbury Heath Reserves after the sides had been locked in 1-1 deadlock heading into the shoot-out.

Roman Glass St George Reserves also lost their place in the Senior Amateur competition at the first hurdle as Old Georgians, of the Bristol and Suburban League’s top tier, returned home with a 3-1 victory.

Saints found themselves 2-0 adrift after 30 minutes due to what they deemed “poor defending” before reducing the arrears at half-time through Adrian Thompson’s strike.

However Old Georgians, having survived a series of raids at their goal and near misses, restored their two-goal advantage on 70 minutes with a penalty and didn’t look back.


Injuries biting hard – but Lancaster warns his Boco champs are ready to bounce back

AEK Boco boss Gary Lancaster has pointed to a raft of injuries and absenteeism as prime reasons for his team’s surprisingly static start to their County League programme.

Last year’s runaway champions and 2014-15 runners-up had won only once in the league ahead of Saturday’s trip (Sept 17) to take on Broadwell Amateurs to find themselves in unchartered territory in the lower reaches of the table.

A fact not lost on their loyal gaffer who accepted: “It’s been hard going but tough as it’s been we’ve had some seriously bad luck to contend with.

“In fact our entire central midfield has been wiped out, with the players’ player of the year Ben Menear taking a break for personal reasons and Jason Thatcher, Charlie Stevens, Liam Powell and Brad Wheadon all sidelined through injury.

“Add to that the fact our keeper Joe Pople, who was an ever-present last season, left us to join Bitton while our reserve team keeper, who played for us over pre-season, fell off a ladder while working and broke both wrists.

“Thankfully we’ve got another goalie in Tom Sheppard aboard now who played for Tytherington Rocks and Winterbourne. He’s 37 and his experience should steady the ship.

“We could maybe do with a 20/30 goal-a-season man and I thought I had that in Luke Bryan when he joined us from Yate a week before the season began, only to then join Oldland after playing one game for us. So it’s been one thing after another.”

Lancaster admits that the ambitious Hanham club’s ongoing wait to be given the green light for floodlights has “affected us” when it comes to plans for further progression.

“We applied to the Toolstation League to go up last year when everything else facilities-wise was in hand,” Lancaster explained.

“The council wanted more time to undertake a feasibility study and consultation with local residents relating to the lights and we’re still awaiting the outcome of all that.

“It’s still our ultimate aim to go up, whether or not we have a sticky season this time. The games we’re losing are not by big margins.

“We’ve tried a few promising under-18s but it’s hard on them asking them to come in and dig us out of the mire.

“But we’ll be fine and Brad Wheadon and Liam Powell are back now and just need to build up match fitness. And AEK Boco as a whole is in great shape.

“There can’t be too many clubs around who can put out four men’s sides in four different leagues every week. And the amount of kids who play here is phenomenal too.”


Harris hungry for more as Gloucester set for third qualifying bout with Hemel

TIM Harris has good reasons for wanting Gloucester City to come through this Sunday’s FA Cup third qualifying round tie with Hemel Hempstead Town unscathed (Oct 2, 3pm).

The Tigers chief savoured some golden moments as a manager in the famous competition and is hungry for more when it comes to mixing it with the bigger boys at the first round proper stage.

Gloucester, going well in seventh spot in Vanarama National League North, have two more tricky hurdles to negotiate before they can truly immerse themselves in that type of prestige, starting with a home fixture against a Hemel Hempstead side who perform at a similar level of the game in the equivalent National League South section, where they currently occupy 12th position.

Harris, however, in an interview with GFA Local Football News, was happy to cast that to one side and reflect on cherished days of yore.

“I was Cinderford manager when we played Gravesend & Northfleet (now Ebbsfleet United) in the second round proper in December 1995,” he recalled. “We drew 1-1 at our place, knowing that the winners of the replay had Aston Villa away in the third round. Unfortunately we lost 3-0 and it didn’t quite happen, but we went that close.

“In 2001, when I was with Newport, the Sky cameras were there to watch our first round replay with Blackpool after we’d held them to a 2-2 draw at Bloomfield Road and nearly beaten them.

“My now-assistant at Gloucester, Matt Rose, put us in front but Brett Ormerod equalised to take it to extra time and we eventually lost 4-1.

“Four years later I was managing (Southern League) Merthyr Tydfil when we again had the Sky cameras at our place for a Friday night first round game against Walsall in front of over 3,000 spectators and again we were unfortunate to lose only 2-1.
“They’re great memories, though, and of course the aim is to get into that fourth qualifying round this Sunday, knowing and respecting our opponents will have precisely the same desire.”

Of his team’s present form Harris stressed: “We’ve started the season quite well. We undertook a good summer recruitment programme and it’s helped that lads like Luke Hopper, who we signed from Swindon Supermarine in January where he was a regular scorer, has come back from an injury looking really sharp in front of goal.

“He’s a big lad, a targetman, and he’s scored nine goals in ten games, including two hat-tricks. Luke scored with a header to bail us out ten minutes from time to see us past Salisbury (2-1) in the last round.

“But we have a good balance of youth and experience all round and it bodes well.”

Harris noted too: “Brimscombe & Thrupp are also playing at this stage of the competition and it’s great for them and this part of the county to have these games.

“We all wish them every success in their match.”


Off to the seaside: Weymouth presents shellshocked Brimscombe with their biggest day

BRIMSCOMBE and Thrupp boss Sam Prior weighed up the enormity of his team’s away-day with Weymouth this Saturday (Oct 1, 3pm) and remarked: “It’s the biggest game I’ve been involved in.”

The former King’s Stanley manager is, at the age of only 29, enjoying every minute of his Hellenic Premier Division side’s record-breaking run in the FA Cup but knows that Weymouth, in their own Bob Lucas Stadium backyard, present an entirely different proposition to the type of tests they usually face.

And when it comes to their league form heading to Dorset for the third round qualifying cruncher, Prior admits he’s a far from satisfied man on the strength of heavy 3-0 (Flackwell Heath) and 5-1 (Thame United) defeats since their 2-1 FA Cup win at Brislington a fortnight back.

“It’s not just those two games; it’s been our last five league games and really the lads are only getting the benefit of the doubt at this time because of the FA Cup run,” he said.

“We did so well last season so it’s very disappointing and something we had a good chat about in the dressing room after the Thame match on Tuesday night.

“It’s not always about losing; it’s about the manner in which you lose and we looked lacklustre, lethargic; just going through the motions. We’re a small village club playing Hellenic Premier football and we need to work overtime to keep pace with the bigger clubs.

“Last season we did that, working as a unit and throwing bodies on the line to keep the ball out of our net, but so far it’s not been good enough and the only comfort is we’re early-season still and on an exciting FA Cup run.

“I did have something of a sleepless night on Tuesday after the Thame game but when the luck’s not with you the luck’s not with you and we’d hit the bar three times and had what we felt was a stonewall penalty turned down. Yet a few weeks ago those efforts were flying in for fun.”

Nevertheless Prior and Co will dust themselves down and be raring to go again for Saturday’s unexpected FA Cup adventure.

“We’ll see it as a one-off game and we’ll go there with a positive outlook,” he insisted. “It means something to the boys and they feel disappointed at what’s gone on leading up to what is the biggest game I, and we, have ever been involved in.

“It’s fantastic for the football club and on a personal note a long way from managing Kings Stanley in the County League.

“They gave me the platform to go on and try my luck at this level and it’s to savour these kind of occasions that I made the switch.”



Let’s do it for ‘legend’ Terry, boss Black tells his Cadbury Heath glory-chasers

ANDY Black says he will spare more than a passing thought for one eminent Cadbury Heath ‘legend’ when his team set out on another exciting FA Cup expedition this Saturday (Oct 1, 3pm).

The Toolstation Premier Division hopefuls head into West Sussex for a third qualifying round tie with Burgess Hill Town, who play two divisions above the Heathens in the Ryman Isthmian League’s top flight.

Black’s boys have secured almost £11,000 in prize money from their four victories to date in the tournament, knowing the sums are increasing sharply the further they progress, an eye-watering £7,500 more on offer to the winners of this Saturday’s cruncher.

For Black, however, Cadbury Heath’s glorious adventure is about far more than filling the Springfield coffers with hard cash. He said: “I think – we all do – of Terry Green, our vice-chairman and general manager who died of a heart attack whilst working on our ground in March.

“He was a real long-serving stalwart, a club legend, who did so much for Cadbury Heath and it’s such a shame he’s not around to experience this FA Cup run we’re on because he would have absolutely loved it.

“That said I’m sure he’s up there somewhere watching over us and keeping the balls out of our net!”

Black and his players will know a little about their weekend opponents; board member Dave Smart set off on a fact-finding assignment, to Bognor Regis, on Tuesday night to take in Burgess Hill’s 1-1 league stalemate with the hosts.

“We know what we’re up against because Burgess Hill are a long way in front of us on the football scale,” Black accepted. “The standard is a bit like us going to play Chippenham Town but stranger things have happened in football.

“It’s a huge fixture for us and I’d have loved a home draw, but we’re on the road and we’ll be doing our utmost to get through as Brislington did at this stage only three years back when they won at Weston-super-Mare.

“We’re just hoping Matt Huxley overcomes the hamstring injury he picked up in the last round against Alresford Town. He and Simon McElroy have played a big part upfront in getting us to where we are in the competition.”

Black added: “It’s a three hour-plus trek by coach but we’ll have our little band of supporters backing us and all the Toolstation clubs have wished us well.

“We just hope we can continue flying the flag for the league and ourselves.”


Beecham in Severnside Vets seventh heaven - and finally succumbs to his Achilles heel

EXPERIENCED striker Tony Beecham won’t forget his first – and last – game of the season in a hurry after embarking on a scintillating personal goal spree.

The former Hallen and Shirehampton marksman, who currently oversees the fortunes of Toolstation Premier Division rivals Cribbs as manager, struck SEVEN of Severnside Veterans’ eleven goals without reply in a recent Gloucestershire FA Veterans League campaign opener against Exiles on St Bede’s Catholic College’s 3G surface in Lawrence Weston.

Beecham smashed 25 of Severnside’s goals in nine appearances to help them to a third-placed finish last season and he was clearly keen to start their latest quest off on a sound footing, knowing it was likely to be his final outing of their 2016-17 mission in the three-division league’s fiercely-fought southern section.

The 38-year-old goal ace explained: “I’ve been waiting to have an operation for a while to cure an Achilles problem on my left leg.

“So I played on the Sunday against Exiles, scored seven goals in an 11-0 win and the following day I was in for surgery! Talk about signing off in style!

“It’s needed doing and although there’s been pain and swelling to deal with, touch wood it’s all sorted now.

“It means I’ll most likely be out for the rest of the season but I have to think about my long-term future. With a family including three children I have to look after myself.”

Beecham is clearly disappointed to be missing out on Veterans League activity he clearly rates highly.

“It’s a really great and competitive league and all the teams seem to enjoy it,” he acknowledged.

“I certainly do and it’s nice to get together once or twice a month and play.

“It’s not always the quickest football as you might expect but it’s very enjoyable and rewarding.”


Gloucestershire County League rep XI to be reassembled for enticing Tytherington date

THE Gloucestershire County League’s representative team is about to be reassembled - and an attractive-looking fixture has already been pencilled in.

While they will no longer be taking part in national tournaments due to the spiralling costs involved, Gloucestershire County League chiefs are nevertheless hopeful of organising competitive and prestigious one-off games involving fellow Step 7 sides.

To that end Tytherington Rocks’ Hardwicke Playing Field HQ will provide the venue for a clash with their Gwent County League counterparts on Tuesday, November 8 at 7.30pm.

Secretary of the Gloucestershire County League, Ron Holpin, explained: “We’re really pleased to have an opportunity to stage a representative game. They’re very worthwhile fixtures because they offer some of the best players around at this level the chance to pit themselves against similar talent, which in our case is Step 7 category under the National League System.

“We’ve played Gwent twice before and been beaten only by a single goal on each occasion, so there’s a little score to settle there!

“But they’ve both been good and competitive games and we’re looking forward to welcoming them here in less than two months time.”

AEK Boco’s 2015-16 title-winning manager Gary Lancaster has agreed to take charge of the Gloucestershire side.



Gloucester, Brimscombe and Cadbury Heath continue on FA Cup glory trail

THE 2016-17 Emirates FA Cup action is hotting-up on a local scale - and for a trio of our county hopefuls the enticing prospect of a first round proper place is a tantalising two victories away.

Next Saturday, October 1 will be fasten-your-seatbelts time for Gloucester City, Cadbury Heath and Brimscombe & Thrupp as they strive for coveted spots in the fourth qualifying round of the world’s most famous club domestic knock-out tournament.

But what do we know about their opponents? Well, Gloucester, who had lost only twice in their opening National League North appearances ahead of Saturday’s trip to face second-placed Harrogate Town (September 24), entertain Hemel Hempstead Town for their all-important cup outing, a Hertfordshire side currently loitering around the lower reaches of the equivalent southern section of a league formerly known as the Conference.

While Tim Harris’ hopefuls reached the third round qualifying courtesy of a 2-1 win at Southern League S&W side Salisbury, Hellenic Premier Brimscombe & Thrupp, already enjoying a club record-breaking run, gained a place at the same juncture with a slender 2-1 away victory over Toolstation top-flight team Brislington at Ironmould Lane.

Sam Prior’s men now hit the road south to Dorset take on the relative might of Southern League Premier Division side Weymouth, who compete two divisions above Brimscombe where they are perched a little beneath a mid-table position.

Last but not least are Andy Black’s Cadbury Heath charges, who pack their trunk for a trip into the unknown – the Green Elephants Stadium in West Sussex is the destination - for a tussle with Ryman League top-flight outfit Burgess Hill Town who, like Weymouth, are trying to make inroads into the top half of their table at a similar level of the semi-pro game.

Heath have enjoyed a splendid run to reach this stage for the first time in their history, home wins over Folland Sports (7-0), Team Solent (4-1), Plymouth Parkway (3-0) and a 3-1 away success over Alresford Town catapulting them to the brink of something truly famous and memorable at Springfield.

GFA deputy chairman Roy Schafer said: “Everyone at the Gloucestershire FA wishes Brimscombe and Thrupp, Cadbury Heath and Gloucester City the very best in their forthcoming FA Cup qualifying matches.

“These are important matches because the prize of being in the draw for the first round proper is within reach.”


Fabien on treble trail as Forest Green begin Senior Cup defence with Cheltenham win

FABIEN Robert and Billy Waters both fired hat-tricks in an exciting GFA Senior Challenge Cup opener at the New Lawn – but it was Frenchman Fabien and his Forest Green Rovers comrades who eventually prevailed.

His first-half brace, along with an Easah Suliman own goal, saw the hosts and trophy holders to a healthy 3-1 interval advantage over Cheltenham Town after 21-year-old Waters, clearly eager to stake a claim for a regular place in Gary Johnson’s first team, had equalised an early Robert strike midway through the first period.

In-form one-time FC Lorient performer Robert was at it again shortly after the break, this time from the penalty spot after Cheltenham’s Birmingham City loanee Koby Arthur had upended Christian Doidge inside the area.

Rovers, a mix of youth and experience in the shape of captain and centre-half Aarran Racine, striker Matt Tubbs and ex-Bournemouth and Bristol City right-back Wade Elliott, appeared to be cruising to victory at 4-1 before a rejuvenated Cheltenham rallied to net twice more through Waters, the last in the 90th minute, before bowing out of the flagship county tournament following three minutes of tension-filled stoppage time by a slender 4-3 margin.

Forest Green, who edged a 1-0 victory over Bishops Cleeve in last season’s final on home territory, now join Bristol City in the last-eight hat.

Other first round matches involve Bristol Rovers’ meeting with Southern League Slimbridge on Tuesday, November 1 (7.30pm) and Gloucester City’s home fixture with Shortwood United (date TBC).

This Saturday, September 24, sees north and south first round action in the Senior Amateur, Minor and Primary cups.
Keep up to date with all results and fixtures in the GFA competitions by checking the Cups link on this website.



County League delight as Marcliff sign on to deliver backing for a further two years

YATE-BASED business Marcliff have agreed a new two-year deal with the Gloucestershire County League to maintain sponsorship of the competition.

The plumbing and heating merchants had come to the conclusion of an initial two-year arrangement and were quick, according to league secretary Ron Holpin, to seize an opportunity to continue with their “staunch” backing.

He said: “They are really good people at Marcliff; I’ve known them a long time and when I asked them whether they would like to continue or not as our main sponsor, they came back to me straight away and said a resounding ‘yes’.

“Cliff Orchard, the managing director, and his director son Robert came over to the local derby between Little Stoke and Patchway Town to sign the paperwork.

“It’s really pleasing because we can use the money from the deal to subsidise ten new footballs each member club receives at the start of a new season.

“These are Mitre balls, really good quality ones which match the design of those used in the Football League.”

Holpin and County League chairman Bob Stewart were present at Little Stoke Playing Fields for a match very-near neighbours Patchway clinched via a single volleyed Luke Garbacz goal.

“Little Stoke and Patchway had never played each other before and in terms of local derbies you don’t get two grounds closer to one another than these two,” Holpin smiled.

“As you might expect it was competitive, not always the most inspiring, but it did attract a 124 crowd which was great.

“It’s already shaping up to being an intriguing season where the title race is concerned because teams who were right up there last year like Boco, Henbury and Frampton United haven’t hit the ground running this time, and it’s opened it up for other sides to have a crack.

“There have been some surprise results and anyone can beat anyone it would seem.”

Injuries biting hard – but Lancaster warns his Boco champs are ready to bounce back

AEK Boco boss Gary Lancaster has pointed to a raft of injuries and absenteeism as prime reasons for his team’s surprisingly static start to their County League programme.

Last year’s runaway champions and 2014-15 runners-up had won only once in the league ahead of Saturday’s trip (Sept 17) to take on Broadwell Amateurs to find themselves in unchartered territory in the lower reaches of the table.

A fact not lost on their loyal gaffer who accepted: “It’s been hard going but tough as it’s been we’ve had some seriously bad luck to contend with.

“In fact our entire central midfield has been wiped out, with the players’ player of the year Ben Menear taking a break for personal reasons and Jason Thatcher, Charlie Stevens, Liam Powell and Brad Wheadon all sidelined through injury.

“Add to that the fact our keeper Joe Pople, who was an ever-present last season, left us to join Bitton while our reserve team keeper, who played for us over pre-season, fell off a ladder while working and broke both wrists.

“Thankfully we’ve got another goalie in Tom Sheppard aboard now who played for Tytherington Rocks and Winterbourne. He’s 37 and his experience should steady the ship.

“We could maybe do with a 20/30 goal-a-season man and I thought I had that in Luke Bryan when he joined us from Yate a week before the season began, only to then join Oldland after playing one game for us. So it’s been one thing after another.”

Lancaster admits that the ambitious Hanham club’s ongoing wait to be given the green light for floodlights has “affected us” when it comes to plans for further progression.

“We applied to the Toolstation League to go up last year when everything else facilities-wise was in hand,” Lancaster explained.

“The council wanted more time to undertake a feasibility study and consultation with local residents relating to the lights and we’re still awaiting the outcome of all that.

“It’s still our ultimate aim to go up, whether or not we have a sticky season this time. The games we’re losing are not by big margins.

“We’ve tried a few promising under-18s but it’s hard on them asking them to come in and dig us out of the mire.

“But we’ll be fine and Brad Wheadon and Liam Powell are back now and just need to build up match fitness. And AEK Boco as a whole is in great shape.

There can’t be too many clubs around who can put out four men’s sides in four different leagues every week. And the amount of kids who play here is phenomenal too.”



A section reborn: Chipping Sodbury Town Women back in action after 75-year break

CHIPPING Sodbury Town Women are back in business – after 75 long years away from the action.

The enthusiastic class of 2016 took to the field recently for the first time since their early forties forerunners for a Gloucestershire County Women’s League bow against a Mitcheldean side who had finished the previous Division Two campaign in third position.

Far from fazed by the strength of the opposition and cheered on by a sizeable turn-out of equally-enthralled spectators in their Ridings backyard, Sodbury tore into their opponents from the start and didn’t look back as they raced to a 4-0 victory to get life at the level off to a flier thanks to Rosanna Blacker’s brace and Libby Goater and Sarah Price contributions.

The reformation of the team was spearheaded by Chipping Sodbury Town’s club manager Scott Gibson with the help of friend and experienced player Justin Bishop. The pair previously coached up-and-coming girls at neighbouring Yate United over a six-year period, including their own daughters Emily and Katie Gibson (now with St Nicholas) and Kyra Bishop.

In more recent times the Gibson-Bishop combination helped oversee the rollercoaster fortunes of Mangotsfield United Ladies, who reached the final of the GFA Women’s Challenge Cup last season and the semi-final of the Wiltshire League Cup to boot.
Of the drive to bring adult female football back to Sodbury, Gibson explained: “I spoke to Sue Henson-Green at the Gloucestershire County Women’s League who was very supportive of what we were trying to do and her enthusiasm was backed by a unanimous decision taken by the club committee to go for it.

“Our club chairman Mike Fox was absolutely thrilled, saying it was the first time since the very early 1940s that a ladies team had featured at Chipping Sodbury. In fact there’s a picture of that original side up in our clubhouse which is a real gem. Why they folded, we have no idea. It was maybe due to the war.

“Anyway, we drafted in a few of our Mangotsfield players and other former Yate United girls and new recruits from every angle to such an extent that we now have around 30 players, 70 per cent of whom are from the Yate and Sodbury area. Among them is Rosanna Blacker from Wotton, a centre-forward who represents the county which is a huge honour for us.

“We have three 16-year-olds in our ranks too, including Justin’s youngest daughter Tianna Bishop, a wide midfielder; goalkeeper Emma Roddan, who has an excellent future ahead of her, and Libby Goater, who scored one of our four goals in our first game.”

Gibson continued: “Everyone in the town is talking about this new team and the historical significance of it.
“I can honestly say the first match against Mitcheldean – one of the favourites to go up this season – was one of the best games of football I’ve watched in a long time and there were around 76 spectators present to witness it. We were ecstatic; overwhelmed, and we’re still buzzing now.

“It’s strange because we’ve struggled for players down the years at Yate and Mangotsfield and now we have so many that it’s unbelievable.

“We train on Thursday nights at the Ridings (6.30pm) and on one early occasion we had five women turning up unannounced asking if they could join in.

“They all seem to love the facilities we have here and there are six of us coaches, all FA-qualified, dedicated to the women’s section.



Senior Challenge Cup finalists Bishops Cleeve get a lesson in finishing by City slickers

BISHOPS Cleeve’s hopes of going one step further than last season’s luckless GFA Senior Challenge Cup defeat were dashed at the first hurdle on Tuesday night (Sept 13).

The Mitres men fell to a solitary Anthony Jeffrey strike against Forest Green Rovers at the New Lawn in May’s final showdown but were beaten more comprehensively by Bristol City’s exuberant young guns 4-0 at Kayte Lane in the week.

A 37th minute Aaron Drake own goal set City on their way before a three-goal burst inside eight second-half minutes settled the tie, Jake Andrews netting twice and Charlie Harris completing the scoring on 81 minutes.

Senior Cup holders Forest Green launch their tournament defence at home against Cheltenham Town Reserves on Tuesday night, September 20, at the New Lawn (7pm).

Winners of that match will travel to take on Bristol City in the quarter-finals.

It is anticipated that Forest Green will pitch a “strong” development side into combat against Cheltenham. All spectators will be housed in the East Stand and refreshments can be obtained from the Carol Embrey Suite.

Admission cost is £3 for adults and £1 for juniors but do check Forest Green’s official website for purchasing details.

Keep up to date with results and fixtures in ALL GFA competitions this season by checking the Cups section of this website and here on Local Football News.


Kids continue to flourish as Almondsbury UWE boss Black eyes an upturn in fortunes

ALMONDSBURY UWE’s experienced manager John Black believes some good old-fashioned know-how is a key ingredient missing from his ranks as he keeps the faith with his ‘kids’.

The former Bristol Manor Farm boss could do with a dose of good fortune right now too as while they have been seeking only a second win of their Toolstation first division mission, Almondsbury’s six defeats thus far have, in the main, been by no more than single-goal margins, while three of their nine games ahead of Saturday’s home match with Hengrove Athletic (Sept 17) ended in 1-1 draws.

A fact not lost on Black who is diligently and determinedly trying to plot ways of turning his team’s luck on its head.

“There’s not been much in all our games bar the one early into the season when we were hammered 5-1 by Chippenham Park,” he reflected.

“We lost 4-3 against Welton who went straight up the other end to get a winner after we’d equalised in the 92nd minute and the same thing happened at Keynsham earlier in the season when we lost 3-2 there in the 94th minute.

“Scoring goals is not a problem; it’s stopping them going in at the other end!”

Black admitted: “We haven’t been helped by injuries to the likes of our strikers Ryan Gourley, a good centre-forward who has been out with a hand injury, and Ashley Knight, who has had a hamstring problem. Dan Dunt, Danny Lane (captain) and Marcus Thatcher have also been absent for one reason or another so it’s meant we’ve barely had the same side out since we lost (1-0) to Westbury in our first game.

“But I’m confident we can turn it around. Our performances have not been as bad as the results show. We do need to stop conceding from set plays, giving away silly goals, and it can be difficult at times.

“We’re not that far away from getting it right but you do need the blokes out there to steady things up.”

Black stressed too: “It’s important you have the right mix; you need the experience but you need the youngsters’ legs as well and we have some good young kids here.

“There’s a bright future for the likes of Liam Sheppard, Ben Farrell and Taylor Anderson, who all came to us from local football, while there’s former UWE lads such as Harry Thomas and Ed Harris.

“Then there’s Fraser Venables and Max Gourley who have both been among the goals of late so there’s plenty of encouragement to be taken.”



Supremo Sam and record-breakers Brimscombe set for big FA Cup date with Bris’

SAM Prior and his Brimscombe & Thrupp charges are rubbing their hands at the potential in store for them in the FA Cup this Saturday (Sept 17, 3pm), writes Simon Parkinson.

The Hellenic League Premier Division side take the relatively short road south to face Toolstation top-flight Brislington for a tasty second qualifying round tie which presents exciting prospects for both teams.

The Bristol outfit reached the fourth and final qualifying stage in 2013 before being agonisingly beaten by Conference National opponents Welling United 1-0 in their Ironmould Lane backyard, having experienced one of the most dramatic and exciting days in their history in the previous round in dispensing of Conference South Weston-super-Mare 3-2 at the seaside thanks to a last-gasp Mike Rimmer spot kick.

Brimscombe, already savouring a record-breaking FA Cup run of their own, have, like Brislington, experienced a mixed start to their league campaign. Intriguingly both sit seventh from the foot of their respective tables at the same Step 5 level of the National League System with similar records to date and are bruised from three straight league defeats.

Prior is aware of all that, just as he is mindful a further £4,500 presents itself to Saturday’s winners on top of the £6,425 safely gathered in from their three-game run to date.

The former Kings Stanley supremo said cautiously: “If we can keep it together at the back better than we have been of late then we’ll give ourselves a chance.

“We can’t keep gifting teams three-goal head starts as we have been and giving ourselves too much to do.

“That said it’s the FA Cup and anything can happen and it’s huge for the club, the run we’re on. It’s excellent for all the volunteers who put so much in behind the scenes week in, week out. They’ll be out there mowing the grass as usual when it all ends.

“It’s a competition we can’t win but there are good rewards to be had. After all, in what other circumstances would someone walk in and offer you £11,000? It just doesn’t happen.

“Occasions like these don’t come around every day so we’ll be making the most of it. I understand a coach carrying our supporters will be going down there and no doubt cars too. The further we go, the more fans we seem to take, just as we did last year when we went to Moneyfields (in Portsmouth) for an FA Vase tie.”

Prior revealed he has had one key member of his playing staff prepared to be leant on for all-important information about the Brislington camp.

“Jordan Yeo, our right winger, played for Cribbs in the Toolstation League last season so he knows a bit about Brislington,” he said.

“Other than that we don’t know much about them and we’ve never played them, so it’s a step into the unknown but one we’re really looking forward to.”

Brimscombe are far from the only Gloucestershire side embroiled in second qualifying action this weekend as Cirencester Town entertain Banbury United (Southern Premier), Slimbridge travel to Taunton Town (Southern S&W), Gloucester City are at Salisbury (Southern S&W) and Cadbury Heath, with regular keeper Jamie Powell, midfielder Matt Britton and defender Dan Vile all set to return to their ranks, are at Wessex Premier outfit Alresford Town



Cautious Saint Roger so eager to see his Roman Glass battlers soar to fresh heights

ROMAN Glass St George’s long-serving chairman Roger Hudd has been in the game long enough to know how quickly fortunes can change, writes Simon Parkinson.

These days concentrating solely on off-field affairs as chairman to afford Andy Gurney licence to conduct first team matters now into a third year at the helm, Hudd insists his club continue to “punch above our weight” at Toolstation first division level, territory they have held since their glorious County League promotion as champions approaching a decade ago.

Understandably, then, any hopes of further progression are accompanied by notes of caution, although Hudd is adamant he would ultimately love to see his beloved club mixing it with the Western League’s big boys on the Premier Division stages.

The Saints chief, whose team continue to utilise the Gloucestershire FA’s splendid 3G facilities on matchdays, has already encountered a rollercoaster opening to their campaign and is bracing himself for more after four victories and five defeats, some of them heavy, marked their opening nine outings.

He maintained: “Our aim this season has to be to finish mid-table, maybe just above, and do things in stages.

“When we have everyone to call on we feel we are a good, competitive team and even when we were struggling over the second half of last season we were seldom pushovers, despite finishing fourth from bottom.

“We were going along quite well until two of our main strikers, Kehinde Oni and Andrew Hamilton-Dunn, became sidelined for several weeks through injury and another, Kris Douglas, had to take a break for family reasons.

“On the surface of it we appear to be stronger than we were last season. This is our tenth year at this level and we don’t want to stand still. Although we haven’t set the world alight from the moment we joined the league in 2007, I feel we’ve done extremely well to stay there because we have been punching well above our weight.

 “We have a new assistant manager too in Liam Greening, an acquaintance of Andy’s who has helped out behind the scenes at local clubs, including Sea Mills, and that’s a positive move.

“Yes, we’ve flirted with relegation at times without ever being in serious trouble and hopefully, with new players aboard who do need time to bed in, we are putting together a squad that will do even better going forward.”



Pucklechurch prepared for assault on Premier Combination football again, says Savage

PUCKLECHURCH Sports stalwart Richard Savage believes manager Adam Hathway can sweep his first team back into Bristol Premier Combination contention on a wave of “enthusiasm”.

The once proud Rec outfit continue their long journey back towards the higher echelons of local grassroots football after their senior side were forced to disband citing on and off-field shortages while a Premier Combination top-flight outfit on the eve of the 2011-12 campaign.

The decision came amid a turbulent spell for ’Church who had already hit the slippery slide to relative obscurity in losing their place in the Gloucestershire County League at the conclusion of the 2007-08 campaign.

Rescued from the threat of oblivion altogether as Sports’ second-string filled the gaping hole vacated by the club’s departed first XI players and management, prompting their thirds to become a new-look reserves as part of the knock-on effect, Pucklechurch’s first team have steadily worked their way back up, winning successive promotions in 2012 and 2013 in the Bristol & District League to reach their Senior Division standing of today.

A consistent last three seasons has seen them claiming a top-six finish and secretary Savage, a club member for some 50 years, would dearly love to see them regain their place in the Premier Combination.

“This season is looking a bit more positive but it’s not always been that way,” he said. “We’ve been on the verge of folding at times.
“Even at the start of last season we were struggling for players and it was causing me a real headache as secretary, but Adam, our former reserve team manager, really came to the fore with his enthusiasm and passion and insisted that we had to carry on regardless.

“It says a lot about him that he’s been our clubman of the year for the past two years. He began playing for us when he was 15 but he’s now in his 30s and a Pucklechurch villager through and through.

“Then there’s Ben Shaw who, remarkably at aged only 18, took over the management of the reserves and did so well to help land us fourth from bottom last season during difficult circumstances. He’s a fantastic player upfront for us and he’ll be playing for the first team again this season while Jordan Hume, who is himself only in his early 30s and a right-midfielder, takes over the running of the reserves.

“He’s another local boy, born and bred in Pucklechurch, which is another positive.”

Savage added: “Adam put out quite a few adverts and as a result we’ve signed on quite a few players this year.

“The aim is to try and get back into the Premier Combination, which we haven’t been so far away from achieving over the past three seasons.

 “The likes of myself, our treasurer Malcolm Grainger, the chairman Chris Belcher and Bob Wiltshire and Mike Abbott, who look after the ground, have been at the club for a long time

“Players come and go but the committee has always stayed loyal and when you give 100 per cent service over all those years, it can be hard when you go through periods like we have.

“Provided we can keep this group of players together, and hopefully the very good facilities we have here will help, we’re quite confident we can be in the mix.

“The club as a whole is in a better position than it’s been in for quite some time which is great to be able to say.”



Oldland Abbotonians still building the blocks towards the Toolstation Premier dream

OLDLAND Abbotonians are on a concerted drive to get their house in order on and off the field in a bid to secure promotion to the Toolstation League Premier Division for the first time.

The Aitchison Field outfit went agonisingly close to doing just that last time out when they concluded their 2015-16 campaign fourth in the table and only four points adrift of the teams who pipped them to the promotion prize, champions Chipping Sodbury Town and runners-up Wells City.

Dale Dempsey’s men have begun the new season in reasonable guise too and secretary Martin McConachie is adamant firm foundations are being laid with a view to “continued progression”.

 “Naturally promotion is what we all aspire to and we weren’t very far from achieving it last season,” he stressed.

“We are continually bringing our ground facilities up to scratch and it’s helped that we’ve received £21,000 from South Gloucestershire Council and £49,000 from the Football Foundation to help keep the momentum going.

“There’s a perimeter fence up now and we’ve built two block dugouts, while improvements have been made to the car park. We’ve even had new gates at the entrance to our ground put up and installed a new PA system.

“We’ve contacted Premier League clubs like Spurs and West Ham in the hope of obtaining 150 blue seats to increase the seating capacity of our stand, to go along with the 60-capacity covered terrace enclosure we now have.

“We’re just trying to bring a more professional look and feel to the place. For example the players look smarter on matchdays and we have a new kit sponsored by Avon Truck and Van. We’re not the ragbag Oldland we once were and we’re just looking to keep matching that off-field progression on it.”

Dempsey, meanwhile, engaged in a recruitment drive over pre-season in a bid to bolster his ranks after forwards Karim Rendall and Josh Williams exited for Bradford Town and Brislington respectively and the left-sided Jack Parker joined Chipping Sodbury.

In came Fry Club winger Ryan Madge, Bridgwater Town midfielder Jack Welling and former Hallen goalie Craig Beavis, while midfielder Tyrone Fudgell, who had spells with Hanham Athletic and Bitton, rejoined the club.



Sterling ‘delight’ as super Slimbridge extend FA Cup run thanks to Thwaite’s thumper

LEON Sterling was a “delighted” manager as defender Richard Thwaite proved the hero of the hour for Slimbridge.

The Swans squeezed through for a prized place in the second qualifying round of the FA Cup on Wednesday night with a 1-0 victory over Fleet Town.

Asked about his thoughts by GFA Local Football News on his team’s continuing cup conquests, Sterling beamed: “I’m delighted. Both games were tight and credit goes to both sides for playing so well on the night, but in the end we were the lucky ones to go through as it really could have gone either way.

“The squad as a group are performing well right now to remain unbeaten. We know that won’t last forever but we’ll keep on trying to maintain the good form we have shown so far.”

In a predictably tense replay watched by well over 100 spectators at Wisloe Road between two teams who perform on an equal footing in Southern League Division One S&W and Central sections respectively, Thwaite’s headed strike ten minutes into the opening period of extra-time proved sufficient to book Sterling’s battlers a slot in the next round at the home of league rivals Taunton Town in Somerset on Saturday, September 17.

The late but very welcome breakthrough came after a goalless stalemate had forced the extra minutes. Marley Thomas swept over a corner and Thwaite was loitering with intent in the middle to triumphantly punch home a header for the winning blow.

In a nailbiting finale the Swans, who had held their opponents to a 1-1 draw on Saturday to force a rematch, went agonisingly close to killing off the challenge of their Hampshire opponents completely when the marauding Thomas burst clear but couldn’t find the required finish.

Nevertheless the hosts held on for the victory and join county compatriots Cirencester Town in second qualifying round action on September 17 as they entertain Southern League Premier Division rivals Banbury United, while Tim Harris’ Gloucester City, of National League South, will fancy their chances of progression in Wiltshire as they take on Southern League One S&W side Salisbury.

Hellenic Premier Brimscombe and Thrupp’s reward for beating East Sussex side Peacehaven & Telscombe 3-0 via a Jack Smith double and Ollie Smith penalty last weekend at the first qualifying stage is a trip to face established Toolstation top-tier team Brislington.

Brimscombe are enjoying the glow of their most successful FA Cup run, one they are more than capable of extending against their Bristol-based opponents.

AT A GLANCE (county clubs in bold):

FA Cup 2nd qualifying round: Taunton Town v Slimbridge, Cirencester Town v Banbury United, Salisbury v Gloucester City, Alresford v Cadbury Heath, Brislington v Brimscombe & Thrupp



Tytherington, Lydney among our county clubs out to crack on in FA Vase this Saturday

THE FA Vase takes centre stage for a clutch of our county hopefuls this Saturday (September 10) as they prepare to try and overcome tricky first qualifying round hurdles.

Tytherington Rocks, still seeking a first win this term as an Hellenic League Division One West side, aim to put that right as they travel to Surrey to take on Combined Counties Division One outfit Ash United.

Lydney Town, who have experienced a mixed start to their Hellenic Premier assault, also enter Surrey, for an encounter with mid-table Combined Counties top-section side Chertsey Town, while Cribbs head into Dorset for a date with Bridport in an all-Toolstation Premier Division tussle.

Freescoring Fairford Town, who have enjoyed a sparkling opening to their Hellenic Division One West campaign after losing their only league game to date on the opening day at Abingdon United 2-1, are braced for a mouthwatering all-Gloucestershire affair with Chipping Sodbury Town, who have made an impressive start of their own to life in the Toolstation Premier Division for the first time.

Sodbury are sadly without their summer signing from local rivals Yate Town, George Box, who sustained cruciate knee ligament damage in a 3-2 victory over Sherborne recently.

Boss Karl Reese has moved quickly to find attacking cover with the capture of former Winterbourne United forward Ben Dowdell, while James Mackie is close to a return after injury.

As Western League Division One side Oldland Abbotonians host Wessex Premier Division visitors Lymington Town from the New Forest way, Hallen, battling to make inroads into their Toolstation Premier Division mission after a shaky start, search for a confidence-booster as they entertain Hampshire-based Wessex Premier team Fawley for a first qualifying round tie.

AT A GLANCE (county clubs in bold):

FA Vase 1st qualifying round: Ash United v Tytherington Rocks, Fairford Town v Chipping Sodbury Town, Chertsey Town v Lydney Town, Bridport v Cribbs, Hallen v Fawley, Cowes Sports v Cadbury Heath, Oldland Abbotonians v Lymington Town.



Black’s Cadbury Heath hopefuls keeping the national FA competitions dream alive

ANDY Black weighed up Cadbury Heath’s epic FA national tournament adventures and glowed: “It’s been fantastic”.

The Toolstation first division club booked a place in the second qualifying round of the FA Cup last weekend with a crushing 3-0 home victory over unbeaten South West Peninsula Premier Division outfit Plymouth Parkway at Springfield.

The outcome means Black’s battlers now face a second trip to Hampshire in the space of a week as they hit the road to take on Wessex League top-flight team Alresford Town on Saturday, September 17 for a second qualifying round affair, only seven days after stepping foot on the Isle of Wight for this Saturday’s FA Vase opener with Cowes Sports (Sat, Sept 10, 3pm), who are Alresford’s Wessex League rivals.

 While happy at banking a further £3,000 in prize money to go with the £3,425 already safely pocketed from their two preliminary round successes, Black was also enthusiastic about the way his charges went about their business in dispensing of their Plymouth opponents.

“It was a great performance; up there with some of our best since I’ve been at the club,” he chirped.

“After we had taken a fifth-minute lead (through Matt Britton) Plymouth got on top but couldn’t break us down.

“We threw bodies in the way of everything and in the end we hit them with two sucker punches right at the end with a Matt Huxley lob over the keeper from the halfway line and then a fantastic Harry Churchley strike into the top corner from 25 yards as he cut in from the left on to his right foot.

“We’re pleased with the run we’re on but not so pleased with an away draw in the next round. But it’s another chance to progress and the club is really relishing it.”

A bumper £4,500 is up for grabs to Heath and their Gloucestershire county counterparts also involved in second qualifying round action on Saturday, September 17.



Becker so keen to propel Westerleigh Sports back to former District League heights

WESTERLEIGH Sports are set on a return to former heights – and the way they are going about their mission, who would bet against it?

During the five seasons the village club have been back in business following their sad demise, Westerleigh have shown little let-up in the fight to regain their former Bristol and District Senior Division status, as three promotions to their present third division standing amply demonstrates.

Manager, secretary and, at 58, occasional player still, Martin Becker, was among a clutch of local players and former committee members behind the resurrection of Sports in 2011 and there is little doubting their desire to keep that impressive progression going.

He recalled: “A group of local players, some of whom were, like myself, with neighbouring Pucklechurch Sports around the time they folded their first team, got together and considered ways we could form our own team.

“We were aware there were three or four members of the old Westerleigh Sports committee still around, with £100 or so still left in the pot, and we got together with them to get the club up and running again and it all went from there.

“We’ve enjoyed three promotions in those five years and last season we were a bit unlucky not to get another. We had a good enough team but too small a squad and when we lost a few to injury we didn’t have that strength in depth.

“In the end we finished in fifth place while the four teams above us all went up to Division Two, so that was disappointing.

“But we’ve added four or five players to the group and the new problem now is keeping everyone happy!”

Westerleigh, who also pitch a relatively-new reserve team into Bristol & Avon League action, lost one of their most prized assets, prolific marksman Dan Clement, to Chipping Sodbury Town in the close season. And while Becker hasn’t found a like-for-like replacement, he is encouraged by the promise and performances of Conner Hollier and teenager Tom Pallot in the attacking positions.

“Both of them joined us around the middle of last season and Conner went on to score ten times while Tom chipped in with half-a-dozen goals from the front and wide positions, a fearless young player with a lot of pace,” enthused their manager, who counts BAWA Sports, Wick, DRG and Pucklechurch among his former clubs.

“So it’s looking good for this season and we’re expecting our midfield to keep contributing with goals and hopefully help take us another step nearer our ultimate goal, which is to have Westerleigh Sports performing in the District League Senior Division once more.”



Focused Driver-Dickerson targeting a maiden County League title for Frampton United

FRAMPTON United boss Lee Driver-Dickerson has revealed his intention for the new season – to end it as champions.

The 37-year-old first-team supremo of ten years wants to build on an encouraging conclusion to their 2015-16 programme, which hoisted them into third spot behind champions AEK Boco and runners-up Henbury, by finishing in pole position this term.

The Bridge Road outfit have made, in their manager’s words, a “satisfactory” opening to their season but is clearly after more.
He stressed: “We’ve made a satisfactory start to the season and we’ve got to be looking to win the league this time, especially after the way we finished the last one. It will be hard, as it always is, but you always have to try and progress.

“At the moment we’re struggling a bit for bodies, not least in the central midfield department. Adam Cox is injured and Steve Jackson is unavailable for a few weeks, but we have made two new signings in that department.

“Joel White, who was with Gala Wilton last season, and Jack Phillips, who was with Gloucester Elmleaze in the Cheltenham League, are two good additions who I have high hopes for after making promising starts.

“Hopefully when we have others back then competition for places should start to intensify around the start of October.”
Driver-Dickerson, born and bred in the village, is hopeful too that Frampton’s second-string side, who compete in Stroud League Division One under Stuart Maule’s stewardship, can improve on last season’s ninth-place finish.

“Our reserves experienced something of a transitional time and Stuart has just entered only his second season in charge of them but they have a good young team, while our thirds, who gained promotion to Division Four under Ryan Mann, should be competitive again.

“So the club as a whole is in good shape and I’m excited to see how we fare.

“I’ve enjoyed continuing progression since I joined the club ten years ago, coming through the Stroud and Northern Senior Leagues as we did to our current County League status for the past four years while, winning a Stroud Charity Cup along the way.

“I’d love to think that one day we could go even further; something we do talk about.”


Back at last – Mitcheldean out to make it a Northern Senior League long stay once more

MITCHELDEAN’S players and officials are enthusiastically gazing to the skies once more following their promotion back to the Gloucestershire Northern Senior League, writes Simon Parkinson.

The club’s first team claimed their first Division Two victory of 2016-17 with a 3-1 home win over Abbeymead Rovers on Saturday, August 27 following six long seasons in the North Gloucestershire League attempting to find a route back after finishing bottom of the second division pile, and relegated as a consequence, in the 2009-10 campaign.

Secretary Martin Scrivens, player and devoted club-man over some 16 years, revealed that Mitcheldean’s last successful season, which included the first team’s promotion triumph as runaway North Glos League Premier Division champions, and the reserves’ own feat in finding a way into Division Two courtesy of attaining a runners-up berth in the third division, had led to a renewed wave of interest in the club, leading to the reformation of their A-team thirds.

And that, he pointed out, included the ladies section, who finished a commendable fourth in Gloucestershire County Women’s League Division Two last term.

Experienced centre-half Scrivens, also co-manager of the men’s reserves in tandem with ex-first team boss and ongoing central midfielder Rob Brown, acknowledged: “The profile of the club was raised as a result of last season’s successes and it’s meant that after four years without one due to a shortage of numbers, we now have an A team again who are playing in Division Four of the North Glos League.

“People started to talk about us again, helped by interest generated through social media and the FA Full-Time website updates, and we’ve probably attracted another 15 or so players to the club on the strength of it while managing to keep hold of all 19 of our reserve players, which has helped with the reintroduction of our third team.

“Stuart Smith, who managed our reserves a couple of years ago, has taken on the A-team duties. But it’s nice to see the ladies section, run by Liam Ryder, looking in good shape too as they did struggle to put out 11 players at times last season. Numbers are up to around 20 now as existing members have encouraged more females to come along and try it.”

As for the firsts, managed jointly by goalkeeper Alex Goode and long-serving Mitcheldean man Andre Titmuss, 37-year-old Scrivens explained: “Andre has been with the club for 20-odd years and he was co-manager when we were relegated from the Northern Senior League six years ago.

“He was despondent about it as we all were initially – we’d been in the league since 1996 - but there was a real will to get us back and while it has taken us longer than we’d hoped for – we almost got relegated to Division One of the North Glos League in 2013-14 before picking ourselves up and finishing up runners-up the next year – what has eventually happened has been brilliant.

“It’s a challenge at times, running four teams, but we’re delighted with the progress that is being made and the target now for our firsts is to finish in the top four. We’ll need to adjust, of course, but if we could emulate the likes of Ruardean Hill and Newent Town in going up to Division One in their first seasons, that would be fantastic.

“We have a strong and committed committee who play, run it and ensure the finances are stable, but we’re keeping our feet firmly on the ground.”

Goode said of Mitcheldean’s prospects at the loftier level: “We gave ourselves a decent foundation by finishing runners-up (in the North Glos League) a couple of seasons ago and that momentum has carried us on to the Northern Senior League which is great, because it is where we were when I was growing up.

“We’ve didn’t have the best pre-season in all honesty with injuries and unavailability but we picked up our first win recently and hopefully we can go on from there.

“It’s not helped that we’ve had to keep changing our back line but when the likes of Adam Beaumont, Alex Mason, Tom Brickel and Mikey Donaldson are all together on a consistent basis again, it should really shore things up.

“Our new signing Jimmy Moreton played semi-pro for Pegasus as I did, and he’s been looking really sharp upfront. He’ll make a difference there, especially as Justin Halfpenny is out with hernia problems.

“Clint Jones and Damon Beaumont were excellent up top for us last season and with Jimmy now aboard I’m sure we’ll be a force to be reckoned with in attack again.”


Sky’s the limit: generous North Glos League givers hit fund-raising heights - again

NORTH Gloucestershire League’s generous clubs and officials have flown to the aid of the Great Western Air Ambulance service once more.

For the third successive year they generated a meritorious £3,000 for the charity over the course of the season, including proceeds from three showpiece cup finals held at three separate venues over the spring.

That bumper haul means they have pumped some £12,000 into GW Air Ambulance coffers over the past few years and league registration secretary Sid Jones said it was the league’s intention to keep raising funds for a “very valuable and worthwhile service”.

GFA life member and proud recipient of an FA 50-year service-to-football award, Sid, insisted: “I can’t see us changing charities, not while we are all in office.

“I’d like to thank all the clubs who donate and all the people who work so hard during our cup finals to make all this happen.”
Sid, 80, took over the running of Mitcheldean FC for 21 years after his Army career ended in 1957, and he was present once more to enthusiastically partake in the cheque presentation to Filton-based GW Air Ambulance representative Nicole Beebee at the North Gloucestershire League’s HQ at Mitcheldean Community Centre.

“She was delighted about the money we have raised, not just this time but over the past few years,” said Sid, whose league has been supporting charities for around a century.

“The funds come from fines incurred by clubs over the course of the season and by the £2 entrance fees we charge at our three cup finals, along with raffle prize proceeds and the like.”

Roy Schafer, GFA deputy chairman, said: “I must congratulate the North Gloucestershire League on raising such a large amount of money which is donated to charity each year.

“This is such a worthy cause because it benefits the whole community. It is a magnificent gesture and I congratulate all those who contributed to it.”

The most senior of the competitions, the J O Roberts Cup, was held at County League Broadwell Amateurs’ Hawthorns home and won by a delighted Mitcheldean side promoted this summer to the Northern Senior League as North Gloucestershire League Premier Division champions.

The intermediate tournament, the George Sandoe Cup, was played at Lydney Town’s Swan Road venue and claimed by Howle Hill, while the junior final, the F J Pope Cup, for the lower-ranking sides in the five-division league, took place at Newent Town FC and saw Ross Juniors emerging victorious.

Each of the three runners up claimed silverware too, the trophies all named after devoted former directors of the league.

Coleford United (R W Davis Trophy), Whitecroft Reserves (Stevens Cup) and Weston (Bob Wilton Cup) were all beaten finalists by Mitcheldean, Howle Hill and Ross Juniors in the Roberts Cup, Sandoe Cup and Pope Cup showdowns respectively.



All change at the top as Premier Combination/District League officials gear up for start

OFFICIALS serving the Bristol Premier Combination and Bristol and District leagues are finalising preparations for the new campaigns . . . following a busy summer of role swapping!

Both competitions kick-off for a brand-new start next Saturday (September 3) and while many of the loyal and devoted volunteers who run them are familiar names, for some their duties will be altogether different from now on after an intriguing close-season of change at the top.

General secretary Vernon Windell has taken up the role of chairman with both leagues following Pat Sice’s decision to step down following a sterling two-decade stint in the seat.

Windell has been replaced as general secretary of the two leagues by Ralph Pratten, the Combination League’s registration and disciplinary secretary who also served in a similar position as assistant to Ray Bean with the District League.

While Bean is now registration and disciplinary secretary of the District League only, having also assisted Pratten with similar Premier Combination undertakings previously, Andrew Sedgemore, a long-standing District League referee and administration secretary for the league, has taken up the position of registration and disciplinary secretary of the Premier Combination.

Despite his switch from general secretary to chairmanship responsibilities, it is effectively business as usual for Windell who has immersed himself in Premier Combination and District League matters since 1974 after performing as a “right-sided left-winger and prolific goalscorer” with the one-time South Bristol Central set-up.

“It’s funny because I came to the District League and Premier Combination as match and referees’ secretary in 1974 from South Bristol Central, which is where Ralph (Pratten) came from, although we were there at different times of our lives,” Windell explained.

“Ralph was a secretary and player there, as I was, and he kept them going until they unfortunately folded a few years ago.”
Meanwhile president of both leagues, David Hughes, who is set to embark on his 60th season covering football for local newspapers, paid tribute to outgoing chairman Sice, who received a retirement gift at Monday’s annual pre-season meeting of the two leagues at Bristol Manor Farm FC.

“Pat has been a long-serving and efficient chairman and well respected by representatives of all member clubs.” he said.
“I’ve known him for more than 40 years when he was associated with Thornbury Town and I was covering Star Matches for the Evening Post.”



Time to get focused, wary Cadbury Heath boss Black urges ahead of FA Cup cruncher

CADBURY Heath manager Andy Black welcomed his team’s entry into the first qualifying round of this season’s FA Cup competition – with a big note of caution.

The Toolstation Premier Division hopefuls booked a prized place at the next stage courtesy of handsome 7-0 and 4-1 successes over Sydenhams Wessex League sides Folland Sports and, last weekend, Team Solent respectively at the fledgling preliminary round junctures.

Black, whose club have pocketed £3,425 in prize money so far, acknowledges that it can only get harder for his charges as South West Peninsula Leaguers Plymouth Parkway are next up, again at Heath’s Springfield HQ in Bristol, next Saturday (Sept 3, 3pm).

The Devon outfit’s vibrant early-season form hasn’t gone unnoticed by the ever-observant Black, who has noted not only an unbeaten opening to their league campaign but the stunning 6-0 away thrashing of Southern League Division One S&W strugglers Bridgwater Town in a one-sided preliminary round joust.

Heath’s own fine win over Team Solent at the same time that was all unfolding in Somerset prepared a base for them to go on and secure their first Toolstation League victory of the campaign three days on with a 5-2 defeat of Hallen at Moorhouse Lane.

Black, however, stressed: “While it was very pleasing to get through our cup game against Solent in such a dominant way, which gave us confidence to go on and do well at Hallen, our league form has been a cause for concern.

“Yes we’ve been unlucky at times but our mindset just hasn’t been right on other occasions and we’re continuing to ship daft goals left, right and centre.

“We’ll have to be bang at our game if we’re to progress any further in the FA Cup because reports I have had about Plymouth inform me they are a very impressive side, as the results they have had, not least against Bridgwater, suggest.

“That said if we can get the defensive side of our game right then we know we have forwards like Matt Huxley, Simon McElroy and Saikou Janneh, who is only 16 and returns from suspension for the game, who can hurt any team at our level and more.”



Cribbs’ golden groundsman Derek Walker pitches in for second national FA accolade

DEREK Walker and Cribbs are celebrating the scooping of a coveted national accolade – for the second time in three years.

The Toolstation Premier Division club’s chief groundsman with the Midas touch was awarded the FA’s 2016 Groundsman of the Year trophy for Step 5 and 6 levels at the annual prize-giving ceremony at St George’s Park, the FA’s national football centre in Staffordshire.

And in a splendid day of hand-outs where Gloucestershire clubs were concerned, Yate Town stalwart Roger Hawkins accepted the Southern League Groundsman of the Year distinction and then claimed the national award relating to Step 3 and 4 levels, fending off competition not only from his own league compatriots but those nominated groundsmen representing Northern Premier League and Ryman Isthmian League clubs up and across the land.

There was delight too for Matthew Rainey, who was highly commended in the National League category, although he recently ended a brief second spell at Forest Green Rovers following a five-year stop at Cheltenham Town where he served as assistant groundsman to Terry Roberts.

Of Walker’s latest success, Cribbs secretary and vice-chairman Simon Hartley said: “Derek has been our groundsman since 1978 when we operated under the old Sun Life brand and he was a paid employee. But he’ll be the first to say he’s received fantastic support since the 1980s from Ian Lewton when it comes to pitch preparation, along with other dedicated members.

“I’ve been with the club since 1994 and we’ve always had excellent playing surfaces. These days Bristol Rovers use them for training, as do other professional clubs when they come to this area, and while we may be biased we feel there are no better pitches at non-League level in the West.

“Derek still lives on the site and looks after two pitches, including the main one, while Ian looks after the two Rovers pitches.
“We rarely have any games called off, perhaps two over the last six years, including last season when our match with Welton was cancelled after we’d had something like 65mm of rain from the Friday night through to the Saturday lunchtime.”

Hartley added: “Derek’s award is a great achievement although I wasn’t surprised that he won it again, even though a few people locally raised eyebrows at the fact he’d done it twice in three years.”

One delighted onlooker at the presentations was Toolstation Western League grading officer Tony Stone, also GFA finance director, whose league nominated Walker for the award once more.

He said: “The main Cribbs pitch, which these awards are judged on, hardly ever has a postponement; it really is a super surface

“The FA send professional groundsmen out to view the pitches and talk to all nominees about their budget, the equipment they use, what they put on the pitches and other things pertaining to their duties, so they’re interested in the bigger picture, not just about the ornate cut of the grass.

“Derek was among an eventual shortlist of six nominees in his category and it was extremely exciting as the announcements were being made and he was getting closer and closer to being picked out first. He was really chuffed; we all were, and it was a rewarding experience for the Toolstation Western League too.”

Stone also congratulated Hawkins on his double accolade. “Yate’s ground is one I have visited many times and in fact I only graded it last year in my role as FA grading officer working with Southern League clubs,” he explained.

“Our congratulations go to Roger and Matthew too on his highly commended award while with Forest Green.”

Yate Town secretary Terry Tansley said of Hawkins’ award: “Roger’s been at Yate as long as I have, since the 1960s, as a player and official so it’s very well deserved, although he’ll be quick to praise his fellow groundsmen for their hard work too.”

The club also issued a statement saying: “We are delighted and very proud that our head groundsman Roger Hawkins and his team, especially John Lewis, Pete Kirby and Barry Neale, have been formally recognised by the FA.

“The playing surface here at The Jelf Stadium is one of the best, if not THE best, in the league and county and that is down to Roger and his team who put in hours of work week after week to ensure the pitch is always in pristine condition.”



All aboard the Creek ship as ambitious Lee plots latest Manor Farm promotion assault

BRISTOL Manor Farm boss Lee Lashenko believes his squad is in an even stronger position than in previous times to mount an assault on a so-far elusive title-winning and promotion success.

The Creek club have flirted with a place in the Southern League for several years now and went agonising close again to achieving the big objective last season when they wound up third in the Toolstation Western Premier behind a second-placed Barnstaple Town team who instead snatched that prized promotion spot from under their noses.

Alex Russell, the 43-year-old former Bristol City and Cheltenham Town midfielder who more recently turned out for Toolstation Premier counterparts Shepton Mallet, has signed, as has Martin Stowell, a centre-half who helped Odd Down to title glory last term and once featured under Lashenko’s wing while at Bishop Sutton together.

Versatile defender James Turner has returned to Manor Farm from Brislington while former Yate and Mangotsfield full-back Jake Cox; centre-forward Ben Bament, who has had Southern League experience with Clevedon, Paulton and Mangotsfield and is another who played under Lashenko at Bishop Sutton, and left-sided Cadbury Heath performer George Boon, are all also aboard the Creek ship.

Lashenko’s GFA Challenge Trophy-winning charges for the past two seasons were disappointed to lose their place at the extra preliminary round stage of this year’s FA Cup competition no thanks to Gillingham Town’s dramatic 4-3 replay success.

But they have responded in ominous fashion with crushing 5-0 and 8-0 defeats of Cadbury Heath and Longwell Green Sports respectively in the league.

The Farm supremo maintained: “We make no secret of what we’re trying to do.

“The progress off the pitch is running at the same speed as on it, as you can see by the new 3G training centre behind our main stand. It’s for the community too and it’s great to see under-6s running enthusiastically around it on a Saturday morning.

“We’re also in the process of building a hospitality area for officials at the ground so everything is gearing up for a life beyond where we’re at now.”



Determined Newent braced to go again in bid to exit Northern Senior League arena

NEWENT Town will redouble their efforts to try and secure a place in the 2017-18 Gloucestershire County League competition following their recent near miss, writes Simon Parkinson.

With Ellwood unexpectedly dropping out of the league in recent weeks, Newent were quick to seize a potential opportunity to replace them after finishing third in the Northern Senior League One shake-up with requisite ground facilities in place for the big step up.

To their dismay they were pipped to that prized place by Bristol and Suburban top-tier side Little Stoke, who were instead promoted on account that they’d finished a rung higher than their northern county compatriots on their own league ladder.

Unbowed, Newent secretary Phil Clarke believes all is in place on and off the pitch, at a Wildsmith Meadow HQ which has undergone extensive and impressive renovation, to embark on a concerted push to strike once more for County League prestige in the forthcoming campaign.

Clarke, a former first team player and second team skipper and manager among other roles, admitted: “The biggest disappointment was losing out on promotion outright to (runners-up) Stonehouse, because we’d beaten them twice in the league and 3-2 in the Reg Davis Cup final after coming back from two-down inside the first 15 minutes!

“We showed we were capable of going up but dropped a few clangers along the way which is why we ended up third.

“So it was a bit of an after-thought anyway to try our luck at getting into the County League after we were told Ellwood had dropped out and it’s fair enough that Little Stoke nipped in ahead of us, given they finished above us in their league.

“Without doubt the aim now is to try and win our league this season and we feel we’re in a stronger position to do so.

“We have good stability now on the management and committee fronts and we’ve made far more improvements to the ground than we had to.”

Of those off-field improvements, Clarke explained: “We were initially given a list by the County League of things we needed to do, including extending the kitchen and making the referee rooms three times the size, to include separate changing quarters for female officials.

“We completed the safety rail around the pitch and went on to make improvements to our changing room facilities, showers, toilets, bar area and car park, which is all tarmacked now. We have new gates at the entrance to the ground and it’s all fenced off so people can’t just walk in.

“It’s been a mammoth operation but we have a dynamic and ambitious committee with some good sponsorship behind us and we want to progress, although we’re careful to make sure it is one step at a time. Establishing ourselves in the County League is the first step.
“We have floodlights in storage which we need planning permission to install but we’re putting things in place, bit by bit, ahead of time.”
For a second season successful former Quedgeley Wanderers and Gala Wilton boss Ben Symons will take charge, assisted by Ben Stringer, son of chairman Dennis Stringer.

Kevin Young will oversee Newent’s reserves in North Gloucestershire League Division Two while Chris Powell is to manage the thirds in Division Three.

“Everyone’s positive going into the new season and we have a policy here now to give youth a chance,” Clarke stressed. “We lost 3-2 to Malmesbury Victoria, who have just been promoted to the Toolstation League, in pre-season, a really creditable result, and we came back from 2-0 down against Patchway Town, an established County League side, to draw 2-2.

“For ten years or so we had battled to try and get out of the North Gloucestershire League and when we eventually did in 2013, we managed to go straight up to Division One (of the Northern Senior League).

“Unfortunately our first season there proved a bit of a struggle and we finished third from bottom, but Ben came in, introduced a few new faces, mixed in a few of our talented youngsters and ended up almost gaining promotion last time out.

“Teenagers like Harrison Jones (central midfield) and Kieron Slatter (left-sided) played all last season and winger Will Kneen has now broken through and he’ll be preparing for more regular first team calls this season.

“And they’re all local lads who came through our under-16s youth set-up, which bodes well for our future.”


Local coach heads to Thailand with a Premier League Foundation

A common perception for most is that you have to have played football to make career out of coaching. A 21 year old from Gloucester is proving those who believe this wrong.

Robert Mathews started his coaching career at the age of 16 in 2011 with Cheltenham Town FC's Community Programme. While undertaking the programme Robert and the other candidates took their FA Level 1 badge and he volunteered coaching at clubs and schools around the area.

Unlike many youngsters, Robert never wanted to be a player “I only started liking football at 12 years of age, and initially I wanted to be PE teacher. A bad experience of grassroots football made want to become a coach. It put me off the game and from that point I didn't want another youngster to have a bad experience of football, which was why I decided to take up coaching”.

Robert has not stopped climbing the coaching qualification ladder and now holds the UEFA B coaching license along with youth modules 1 & 2. Robert also holds various other badges including Futsal and non-related FA qualifications.

All this while gaining experience at Cheltenham Town FC, Basingstoke Town FC, and Sway FC (non-league club in the New Forest) and also with the Hampshire FA and two Premier League club's Foundations.

Having just graduated from a degree in Football Studies from Southampton University, Robert now embarks on a new adventure with a Premier League Foundation. He has an opportunity in Thailand which involves developing and improving the quality of football provision in and around Bangkok.

Robert now looks set up to meet his ambition of working full time and working with a variety of different players of all ages and abilities on a regular basis. He is also planning on doing his masters at University and continue picking up his coaching qualifications.

Robert has some advice for youngsters interested in football “starting as young as possible. Football and sport in general is a tough industry and experience talks, I think it shows a lot of maturity and initiative when you start your career quite young in any profession.
Learn and accept criticism, undertake as much work as possible whether that be in coaching or football development, analysis etc.”

If you want to follow in Robert’s footsteps then head over to http://www.gloucestershirefa.com/coach and get booked on to one of the many courses available.



Cinderford ‘kids’ ready to confront rigours of Southern Premier football, says Tait

CINDERFORD Town chairman Stuart Tait insists they are braced and ready for the “considerable challenges” they’ll confront at the top level of Southern League football.

The Football Association decreed that the Forest of Dean club must accept promotion to the Evo-Stik Premier Division following last season’s epic Division One S&W title triumph, despite Town’s wish to stay put citing financial troubles, much of it relating to an historic tax bill.

New co-bosses Chris Burns and Allan Gough have been gearing up for life at the higher level with barely a familiar face in the ranks following a raft of player departures.

Centre-half Josh Nelmes, a local product, has taken on the captaincy after agreeing to remain at the Causeway along with young midfielder Lewis Fletcher.

Another midfielder, Sammie Hicks, has returned to Cinderford following a successful loan stint last season from Gloucester City. But attacking right-back Keiran Thomas and prolific striker Ethan Moore, who both went in the opposite direction to Gloucester, were among the many to head out of the exit door over the close season.

Nevertheless club officials and management have been putting a brave face on the scenario approaching their new adventure and Tait said: “In some ways the whole thing, difficult though it has been for everyone, has been a blessing in disguise.

“The community has really come together to help us by providing things like a new kitchen, the re-roofing of part of the clubhouse, new flooring, all for free.

“The local Fern Ticket Inn has, quite breathtakingly, offered to look after all our first team and under-18s catering for nothing, and the coach firm, Michael’s Travel from Mitcheldean, have given us reduced rates for first team travel. So the community has really rallied round the cause.

“Of course it will be tough on the pitch; the majority of our players are aged 20 and below and we accept they might get overwhelmed at times against the big-budget sides.

“It’s a step by step thing while we rebuild and the priority has to be to keep our heads above water and try and stay up.”



Cadbury Heath win services of ex-Gas favourite Bater in bid to kick-start campaign

CADBURY Heath are benefiting from the coaching experience and know-how of former Bristol Rovers favourite Phil Bater.

The 60-year-old Welshman, who made 310 league appearances over two stints for the Pirates in the 1970s and 80s before going on to manage them in caretaker capacities for spells in the early noughties, went on to take charge at Clevedon Town and Mangotsfield United.

More recently he is understood to have been “helping out” at League Two club Newport County.

Toolstation Premier Division outfit Heath are out to try and better last season’s 12th-place finish and their boss Andy Black believes Bater can make a difference.

“We’re very lucky to have the services of Phil at this time and already he’s been a real asset,” he enthused. “He’s got great experience and coaching credentials and he’ll be good for our players and club, I’ve no doubt about that.”

Heath, who got their season off to a flier with a 7-0 FA Cup extra preliminary round thrashing of Hampshire opponents Folland Sports, continue to enjoy the luxury of possessing last season’s 44-goal marksman Matt Huxley in their ranks, together with former Almondsbury UWE forward Simon McElroy, who bagged ten of his own in only 21 outings.

All of which means they should be a reasonably competitive force once more, while their manager has moved to strengthen his front line with the capture of Conor Biggins from first division Ashton and Backwell United.

Left-sided Bath University youngster Dan Vile is another Black has high hopes for after arriving on a recommendation, but the Springfield boss is adamant he knows which areas he needs to address if his team are to emerge as a genuine force.

“Going forward we were as good as anyone in the league but defensively we struggled and it’s something we need to get sorted,” he said.

One notable absentee in the Heath camp this season will be the left-sided George Boon, who has been snapped up by Bristol Manor Farm.



Super-servant Edwards so eager to see Ellwood rise again after County League setback

ELLWOOD super-servant Ian Edwards says he is ready to enter a new season full of hope and expectation – even if his cherished first team are no more, reports Simon Parkinson.

The 61-year-old secretary, who has been at the club since 1972 when a player, admits the decision to bail the first team out after a remarkable 31-year stint in the Gloucestershire County League this summer was an “extremely difficult” one to accept, after they found themselves unable to replace not only a raft of departed players but a management team headed by Chris Addis.

Edwards, however, is adamant Ellwood’s existing reserve team can take up the mantle of club seniors in the North Gloucestershire League, where they celebrated unbeaten treble-winning success as a Division One outfit under Mike Nelson’s leadership in 2014, before enjoying two progressive seasons in the Premier Division with Tom Creed and Mark Wayman at the rudder.

The pair will be in charge again as the Bromley Road club targets a spot in the Northern Senior League and, ultimately, a prized place back in the County League.

Edwards said: “We’re quite happy now and we’re comfortable with the decision we’ve made. Had our reserves gone into the first team they would have struggled and we might well have gone the same way as Kings Stanley did last season in withdrawing from the County League soon into the new season.

“Chris Addis had had six years as manager of ours firsts and was understandably looking to finish at the end of the season. But we only picked up four points in 18 games from around Christmas time and it just went downhill from there.

“There’s a pool of players around locally that are chased by a lot of clubs and we simply weren’t able to compete with others for their services.”

Edwards added: “It’s been extremely difficult because I’ve been with Ellwood for 44 years and secretary for the past 20 years, and I was a player here when we won the County League in the late 1980s.

“It was a hard decision, to take our firsts out of the County League, but it was the only option we had and now everything is in place for more people to come in and help take us forward again. We own everything so finances are not a problem in that sense.

“The youth section is thriving, with boys’ teams from under-5s to under-15s, and we have girls’ under-14s and ladies sections.
“We’re effectively starting over again but we’re looking forward to the challenges ahead.”



County League gratitude as Suburban League give green light to Little Stoke switch

GLOUCESTERSHIRE County League secretary Ron Holpin welcomed Little Stoke into this season’s 18-team line-up – then thanked Bristol and Suburban League officials for giving them the green light to do so.

Ellwood’s pain proved to be Little Stoke’s gain in a belated change to the composition of both leagues.

Some quick and earnest negotiation needed to be done but, after an eventful few days, Holpin was happy to say: “Our sincerest thanks are offered to the management committee of the Bristol Suburban League for allowing Little Stoke to leave them at such short notice and become members of Marclifff Gloucestershire County League in a move sanctioned by the Football Association.

“We’re delighted to have them because they were naturally disappointed not to be considered for entry to our league initially after finishing as runners-up behind Lebeq.

“Now, due to Ellwood’s withdrawal, they have been given a second chance and while their facilities are good enough as it is, once they’ve finished their improvements, with the new extension and all that goes with that, it really will be a top-notch venue.”

Holpin added reflectively: “Of course it was very disappointing to lose Ellwood after 31 years. They were one of our longest-serving clubs along with Henbury and Patchway.

“They have a lovely ground in the Forest, one of the best in our league, and everyone seemed to enjoy going there, which of course people will carry on doing as they continue life in the North Gloucestershire League through their reserves set-up.

“About three weeks ago I received a sad call from their secretary Ian Edwards informing me they were unable to raise a team and management. He was clearly upset about the decision they’d come to.

“But he seems much more buoyant now and hopefully they can progress and win their place back in the County League some day.”



Bigger stage for ‘shocked’ Little Stoke as they win prized County League seat after all

LITTLE Stoke’s overjoyed manager Ashley Coles insists his club will be out to grasp a golden second chance of promotion with both hands.

Upset to be edged out by Bristol and Suburban League Premier One rivals and winners Lebeq United in the tussle to gain entry into next season’s Gloucestershire County League, runners-up Little Stoke found themselves elevated after all when an out-of-the-blue phone call from the County League alerted them to the fact Ellwood had withdrawn from the league – and they would be taking their place.

Little Stoke had initially made a promotion advance late in 2015 when they were informed by the County League their facilities would be fit for the higher level. That was confirmed at the back end of last season with the award of a prized ground grading certificate, only for Lebeq’s own fight for the bigger stage to win through courtesy of their nine-point winning margin at the Suburban League summit.

However, Ellwood’s recent demise paved the way for Little Stoke to step in, much to the surprise of manager Coles and his comrades.

The 37-year-old centre-half, a one-time winner of Suburban Premier One with Almondsbury and former Patchway Town Reserves captain, smiled: “Ron Holpin (secretary) at the County League rang me up a couple of weeks ago on a Thursday night to tell me we’d been accepted into the league after all.

 “It was a real shock because we’d already been gearing up for another season in the Suburban League and all of a sudden we had to discuss it all with our players and officials and start rearranging things and planning something completely different.

“Of course losing out to Lebeq for the title and promotion had been a bitter pill to swallow but we were ready to just get on with it and go again. We’d been unbeaten until March, yet had someone told us at the start of last season that with eight or nine new players in the team we’d be finishing second, we’d have taken it.

“I’ve never managed in the County League before but thankfully a good handful of our players have done and we have some experienced ones in there. All we can think about right now is consolidating our place because there will be new grounds to go to and new challenges to overcome.

“But I can’t wait to get going and the same applies to everyone here.”

The foundations for Little Stoke’s success appear to have been laid in the 2013-14 campaign when Coles, as a player, helped them to a league and Bosley Cup double under the leadership of Ricky Evans and Matt Bernard, who had hoisted them into the top section from Premier Division Two.

Since then, significant improvements have been made to their facilities, while an extension to the existing kitchen and hall, to incorporate a new bar and kitchen area, dressing room block, public seating space and meeting area, is at the planning stage.

“We’re basically knocking through the present building to create an exciting add-on only a short walk from the pitch, and if it comes off it will be great not only for the football club but the local area too,” enthused Coles, who will again be assisted on the sidelines by Dave Franklin and Paul Williams.

“The players and club officials have been brilliant, spending their own time and money on making the improvements, re-routing electrics and water and helping get the new referee shower room and toilets in place, as well as updating the seating.

“Stoke Gifford Parish Council have been superb too in backing us so everything is geared up for a bright future,” added Coles, whose team kick-off life in the County League with a Les James League Cup opener at Henbury on Saturday, August 13 (3pm).



Lavis: Buddy’s the boy to get Berkeley Town moving in the right direction again

EXPERIENCED player Pete Lavis believes the “Berkeley Town spirit” has been rekindled amid hopes of a rapid return to Gloucestershire County League standing.

The 36-year-old central midfielder, who was about to turn 14 when he made his senior third-team bow some 23 years prior, was at the managerial helm when his beloved club tumbled out of the County League at the conclusion of the 2014-15 campaign after finishing bottom of the pack for the second successive year.

With their successful former boss Terry ‘Buddy’ Stevenson back at the helm last term following a stint in charge of Northern Senior League One rivals Dursley Town, Berkeley wound up a modest fourth from the foot of the table but at least managed to avoid a second straight relegation following a positive final few weeks.

Lavis, whose father Jimmy, currently still active as a linesman at 70; his late uncle Carol and grandfather Alf were all instrumental and popular figures on and off the field with Berkeley at various stages, believes the Stevenson factor, backed by a devoted committee, can propel the first XI back to former heights in the next year or two.

He insisted: “That old Berkeley spirit seems to be coming back and Buddy is a good reason for that, supported by a great committee who help out in any way they can.

“Numbers have been up at training and things generally are looking brighter. Off the field a lot of money has been spent on improving training facilities and the bar, changing rooms and kitchen have all been revamped. We’re looking like a proper club now.

“We’re aiming to try and get into the top six, something we’d hoped to achieve last season in all honesty. Instead we struggled for a large part of it and only just managed to avoid relegation, although getting some of our best players back at a crucial time helped and we started to compete with the top sides really well.

“If we can start performing like that more consistently then a top-six finish is not out of the question, and of course the ultimate goal is to get back into the County League.”

Lavis acknowledged: “Buddy’s man-management skills are very good. He has the club at heart being a former manager and goalkeeper here, and he’s the type who’ll put an arm round a shoulder when appropriate but won’t stand for any messing. He’s told players that with the new season fast approaching they need to decide whether they want to stay and help take Berkeley forward, or simply go elsewhere.

“This is a guy who, when previously manager with us, won a treble in one season – Northern Senior League, County Cup and Stroud Charity Cup – and he’s very ambitious to replicate that sort of success.”

Asked for reasons behind Town’s two years of turmoil and struggle culminating in the big drop out of the County League back to Northern Senior League status in spring 2015, Lavis mused: “We were out of our depth in the end. We’d enjoyed a couple of decent years but once standards started to slip, so did the commitment levels and we lost a lot of players, all local lads, all mates, and we simply struggled to attract replacements.

“It was about calling out for helping hands as and when we could and it wasn’t enough.

“There are so many teams around us – Stonehouse, Sharpness, Cam, Dursley and Frampton – all fighting for players so it’s hard to get people to commit.

“A few of our lads, all Berkeley boys, went off to university and took an opportunity to travel round Australia at the start of last season which was fair enough, but as they gradually came back to us, we began looking a different team and over the final few games we showed real capabilities against top sides which bodes well for next season.”



All change at the top as Bristol & Gloucestershire U-18/U-21 League moves forward

BRISTOL and Gloucestershire Under-18/Under-21 League stalwart Ken Howitt believes the competition is in good hands as it gears up for the new season.

A dramatic summer has seen some key changes to personnel behind the scenes with a new chairman and secretary safely installed and raring to go.

Howitt, a founder member of the league in 1995 in conjunction with fellow former secretary and one-time GFA president Peter McPherson, explained: “Phil Barnett stepped down as chairman around February time and our referee secretary Martin Peters offered to take it on until the end of the season.

“Phil is a former GFA Under-18 representative manager and was a manager with St Nicholas and our own rep team.
“He decided to take a back seat as our chairman due to work commitments and we’re delighted that Martin has now so enthusiastically offered to take on the role permanently after his temporary stint.

“Martin is a Level 4 referee who officiated in our league for several seasons. He took over as referee secretary when Brian Sims stepped down a couple of years back.

“At the moment Martin has also agreed to continue as referee secretary and it’s great he’s playing such an active role with the league because he’s a young man full of ideas and a real ‘do-er’, someone who carries out what he says he will.”

Howitt added: “Unfortunately our secretary Ann Price, who had only been with us in that capacity for a year, recently decided to relinquish her position too so it meant for more reshuffling within.

“But we’re very pleased that Tom McDermott has offered to take up the secretarial duties, as well as keeping on his role as fixture secretary.”

Last season’s competition, formerly known as the Bristol Under-18 Combination, comprised an elite Premier Division for the second successive year, won on both occasions by AEK Boco Juniors.

“The concept has worked well, having a top division which gives our strongest teams with the best facilities the chance to perform at the best level we can offer, and it’s something we’ll certainly be continuing with next season and hopefully beyond,” Howitt said.

The under-21 wing of our league (won last season by Stapleton) also did well in its second year back and we’re again looking at around ten teams competing hard against each other in 2016-17.

“All last season’s divisional winners, including Cribbs (Bristol Central), Golden Valley Rangers Chalford (Bristol North) and Port of Bristol (Bristol South) are looking to defend their titles and on the whole I feel very positive about the future of the league.
“It is well established now and I’m confident it will go from strength to strength.”



Determined Davies on a mission to lift Thornbury ‘underachievers’ to greater heights

AMBITIOUS Andy Davies will again pin his faith in a clutch of seasoned performers as he plots ways to try and better last season’s “bitterly disappointing” conclusion to their Gloucestershire County League programme.

The Mundy Fields side finished in, what on the surface appeared to be, a commendable fourth position on the ladder.

 Their frustrated boss saw it altogether differently, however, and explained: “We underachieved in the end; I was bitterly disappointed as we really should have ended up runners-up (to AEK Boco).

“We went to Henbury for our penultimate game and got hammered 5-0 because six of our best players were unavailable. Had we won it we would have finished second as we went on to beat Rockleaze 1-0 in our final game.”

While the first team launch a concerted bid to try and gain a place in the Toolstation Western League over the next year or two, Davies admits he and they may rely heavily again on the regular availability of vastly experienced players such as 38-year-old midfielder Danny Haines, fellow midfielder Mark Viner, utility man Nathan Irwin and skipper and centre-back Pete Fowler.

“They are important to us because we do lack experience,” He stressed. “They may not have the legs they once did but we need that know-how and quality to complement what the ‘kids’ bring to us.

“Danny has played at a high level of non-League for many clubs, has a sweet left foot and is a real leader on the pitch and good talker in the dressing room.

“Mark is a holding midfielder and Nathan is as fit as a fiddle and can play anywhere. Both are in their mid-30s now and they’ll play a key part again.

“Our captain Pete Fowler is great for us too. He is also in his mid-30s and has been at Thornbury his entire playing career.”

While Davies has retained the services of last season’s squad, including his own player of the season, 27-goal forward Craig Lancastle, the Mundy Fields gaffer has added some fresh legs in the shape of 20-year-old central midfielder Jordan Saxton, a regular last term in Yate Town Reserves’ now defunct side.

“Jordan is a ‘holder’, likes to tackle and picks out a nice pass,” said Davies, whose men travel to take on Toolstation Premier big-guns Bristol Manor Farm for their final pre-season work-out this Tuesday, August 2 (7.30pm).

“That should be a decent one because Lee Lashenko, the Farm manager, will be finalising his line-up for his first game,” Davies enthused.

And of those hopes of trying to forge a place at the higher level in times to come, Davies stressed: “We’re planning to apply to go up to the Toolstation League this year, although there is much to do on the ground such as fencing it off, installing floodlights and a 100-seat stand and laying hard standing.

“Planning permission has gone into the council and we’re hoping for some grants. Whether time is on our side with everything we’ll just have to wait and see but we don’t want to stand still as a club.”


County clubs braced for start of the long road to Wembley with extra prelim ties

THE 2016-17 football season is looming large and for many of our member clubs that means the magic and romance of the FA Cup is about to blossom.

Next Saturday (August 6, 3pm) sees the start of the long road to Wembley (well we can all dream!), with extra preliminary round ties taking place across the nation, not least in our fair county which has thrown up some intriguing tussles with places in the preliminary round, scheduled to take place a fortnight later, up for grabs.

One stand-out match takes place at the Creek where Bristol Manor Farm, sure to be challenging hard for title and promotion success again after a series of near misses in recent seasons, entertain Toolstation Premier Division rivals Gillingham Town from Dorset.

And the draw has thrown up another all-Western League affair, with Bitton, under the management once more of Dan Langdon, travelling to take on a Welton Rovers side eager for a quick return to the Toolstation top flight following last season’s relegation setback from bottom spot.

Hellenic League hopefuls Brimscombe and Thrupp, Longlevens, Fairford Town and Lydney Town have all been granted home ties to boost prospects of progress.

The FA Cup extra preliminary round stage involving GFA-affiliated clubs involves: Brimscombe & Thrupp v Henley Town; Longlevens v Bedfont & Feltham; Ardley Utd v Tuffley Rovers; Fairford Town v CB Hounslow Utd; Cadbury Heath v Folland Sports;  Oldland Abbotonians v Newport IOW; Lydney Town v Team Solent; Whitchurch Utd v Cribbs; Odd Down v Longwell Green Sports; Blackfield & Langley v Hallen; Bristol Manor Farm v Gillingham Town; Welton Rovers v Bitton. 



Friendly fire: Bishops Cleeve produce a comeback to remember in a pre-season cracker

STEVE Cleal can be forgiven for not knowing whether to laugh or cry as he watched his Bishops Cleeve team in action against Westfields in Hereford on Tuesday evening.

The Midland League Premier Division outfit stormed to a 4-0 advantage by the 50th-minute mark against Southern League S&W side Cleeve and looked well on their way at that stage to a comfortable win in a seemingly one-sided pre-season encounter.

What they didn’t bank on was a fightback to end all friendly fightbacks, as the Gloucestershire battlers suddenly discovered their shooting boots – and somehow secured a victory over the final half-hour of the contest that will be talked about long into the new campaign.

And that, with all due respect, is a feat few summer warm-up matches at any level throw up!

A perfectly flighted free-kick into the top corner of target by Jack Horrell first reduced the deficit to 4-1 before 21-year-old recent recruit Ieuan Crowe, who scored five goals in 11 outings for Rockleaze Rangers in the County League last season, slotted home the second at the rear stick for the first of his treble haul.

Matt Magee had a now-rampant Bishops Cleeve believing all things possible with a cool finish to make it 4-3, before the marauding Crowe struck twice more by finding the bottom corner via a precision finish, and netting with a 30-yard thunderbolt that flew in off an upright, to provide the jubilant away camp with an unlikely victory.

There was even time for flying winger Jack Watts, on as a second-half substitute and a constant thorn to the home side with his relentless breaks from the flank, to squander an opportunity to make it six from the penalty spot, as shellshocked Westfields keeper Rory Hollingshead leapt to save and hand the hosts some belated hope.

Whether Westfields can play their part in producing another such spectacle this Saturday (July 30, 3pm)) at the home of another of Gloucestershire’s Southern League S&W One sides, Slimbridge, remains to be seen.

Cleeve boss Cleal won’t particularly care, although he will be hoping his players don’t suffer too many more of the type of first-half calamities he witnessed in Hereford when the real business gets underway, starting at Wimborne Town on Saturday, August 6.

Credit to the lads; they showed character but we need to defend better than that and we will,” he pledged.


Rich to the rescue: Cheltenham Saracens hang on in for bold new Hellenic chapter

CHELTENHAM Saracens stalwart Bob Attwood is cautiously optimistic the club can cast behind them a “helter-skelter summer” and embark on a successful healing process under the leadership of new manager Rich Stevenson, writes Simon Parkinson.

Jubilant initially at reclaiming their place in the Hellenic League Premier Division thanks to last season’s second-place finish in Division One West under Nick Locke’s stewardship, all appeared to be progressing well as Simon Goodwin swept in as the new incumbent, together with a strong-looking backroom team comprising ex-FC Barometrics boss Mike Rhodes, Ryan Betteridge and physio Sam Coleman, following Locke’s decision to step down after only one season in charge.

Former Southampton trainee Goodwin, who went on to become Cheltenham Town’s youngest-ever player at 16 in 1996, barely had his feet under the desk at Petersfield Park when he suddenly announced his close-season resignation along with that of his entire new management team and player captures.

Shaken by that bolt from the blue, Attwood and his committee were on the brink of removing their first XI from the Hellenic League altogether in favour of operating with just the one side – their youthful thirds – in Division Five of the Cheltenham League, having also taken the decision to withdraw their reserve team from Hellenic Division Two West.

Yet just when it appeared Saracens would be giving up their proud 20-year stint in the league altogether, urgent appeals for a new supremo to step forward to take it all on were answered, while earnest talks with the Hellenic League and Football Association led to the green light eventually being given for Saracens to continue as an Hellenic League force after all, albeit in Division One West once more.

Attwood, long-serving club secretary and founder member in 1962, admitted: “It’s been very helter-skelter over the summer and there’s no knowing how next season will shape up.

“We felt that given the difficulties we were facing, going into the Premier Division would have been too big a step to take.
“The whole object of playing is to progress, of course, but it was only five weeks ago that we weren’t planning to function at all as an Hellenic League club. So now it’s about steadying the ship and trying to put in some good performances.

“We know all about the standard of competition at this level and we just want to hold our own for now and see how it goes.
“We’re delighted Richard stepped forward so soon after Simon and the other three new members of his management team left us so suddenly. He is very enthusiastic, always talking and a willing worker.

“Rich had heard about our plight and sent me an email saying he’d be prepared to take on the job, despite having no previous experience.

“He is, though, a former full-back of ours and has good playing experience at this level with the likes of Tuffley Rovers, Slimbridge and Clanfield among others. He’s been busy getting some of last year’s second-team players involved along with others who heard about our situation, 20 of whom were at training last week.”

Attwood added with a smile: “It’s funny because when I helped set up Cheltenham Saracens over 50 years ago we were a Cheltenham League Division Five team, which is precisely what we’d have been left with had we withdrawn from the Hellenic League.
“After Simon Goodwin left us Brian King (chief executive) of the Hellenic League asked us not to make a decision about our future until he returned from holiday, so I kept in touch with the chairman of the league, trying to get things sorted. We were also mindful at one stage that the FA had given us two weeks to make a decision about what we wanted to do.

“Thankfully the appeals that went out generated a response from Rich and now we’re keeping fingers firmly crossed that all the promises from players to play for us come to fruition.”

Stevenson, 33, said of his unexpected move: “I had only been looking to get involved somewhere as a player but when I saw the manager had left, I really didn’t want to see the club dropping all the way down to Division Five of the Cheltenham League.

“I felt it would be a good opportunity for me too but I’ll not be doing it on my own. Phil Crabbe, who I played alongside at Tuffley, Carterton and a local Cheltenham Sunday side Spartak 76, has coaching badges that I currently don’t hold and he’ll be assisting me.

“We’re still looking for players but we’re getting there. Players who were with Saracens a couple of years ago, and lads from the uni set-up, have come aboard and it’s really been about getting numbers up first and foremost and building from there.

“Our first XI should be relatively competitive as it stands and it will be a case of adding quality where we can as we go along.”

Players interested in teaming up with Stevenson at Cheltenham Saracens can call him on 07838 753745 or email him at rstevenson261082@icloud.com



Cheltenham Spa Ladies so thrilled by double FA Community Award accolade

CHELTENHAM Spa Ladies secretary Guy Stirling Lee reflected on the two prestigious community awards received by his club and enthused: “It’s a fantastic accolade for what we’ve achieved.”

At the recent Gloucestershire FA (GFA) Community Award presentations, Cheltenham Spa Ladies were delighted recipients of the FA Charter Standard Development Club of the Year for their efforts in enticing more girls into the game through their free-to-play half-term football festivals, as well as for providing a clear coach development pathway for their devoted managers and coaches overseeing some 120 enthusiastic protégés.

Not content with that, the club were this week acknowledged as the Regional Charter Standard Development Club of the Year. The GFA’s Women and Girls’ Development Officer, Alexis Lunn-Gadd, made a surprise visit to a training session at their Springfields Park ground on Tuesday evening to hand over the certificate.

Alexis enthused: “Cheltenham Spa are a progressive club who have developed over the last few seasons.

“They are at the heart of the Cheltenham community, providing girls of all ages with the opportunity to play football, as well as developing their volunteer coaches who give up endless hours of their own time to work with the players and attend training events to better themselves.

“The half-term festivals which the club provide see new players joining on a regular basis, having enjoyed what is quite often their first experience of the game.

“On presenting them with the award it was clear there was a real club spirit with coaches, players and parents all working together to ensure the girls can play.”

Alexis added: “Winning the Regional Award is a real accolade for a predominantly female club who would have been competing against County Award winners from Wiltshire, Somerset, Dorset, Devon and Cornwall.

“Winners are selected by an independent panel having won their County Award which, in Gloucestershire’s case, is judged by Gloucestershire FA.”

The coaching of coaches has become a serious undertaking for a club who, as well as operating a senior women’s team in Division Two of the Gloucestershire County Women’s League, launch female under-8s, under-10s, under-12s, under-14s (two teams) and under-16s (two teams, including a Cheltenham Youth League boys’ section) into regular weekend action during the season.

No fewer than six of their younger teenage players have embarked on the FA Junior Football Leaders Course with a view to giving themselves the best possible grounding for the full coaching qualifications they will, it is hoped, go on to take.

Stirling Lee, who is also chairman of the Gloucester County Girls League which won both the Regional and GFA Charter Standard League of the Year in 2015, explained: “We grab every opportunity we can to develop ourselves as coaches and mentors in order to give our players the best possible environment to go on and maybe gain their own FA qualifications.

“We have two FA Youth Award Module 1 coaches and to ensure all eight of our teams keep recruiting we put on a free half-term football festival three times a year, something we’ve been running for four years at All Saints Academy in Cheltenham.

“We usually get between 24 and 30 Year 2-plus players coming along to these festivals where we hope to pick up four or five players each time.

“We also link in with FA Skills coaches who come in and lend their expertise, and with Bristol City Women, who offer player appearances to help stimulate the interest of young girls who perhaps don’t know too much about football. Semi-professional players of that standard can be real role models.

“Naturally we want as many of our girls as possible to progress to the ladies team, my goalkeeper daughter Caty, who has just turned 16, among them as she’s looking to make that step up next season.”

Cheltenham Spa Ladies were founded in 2009 by current chairman Gary Goodhall in tandem with Martin Tustin, whose daughter Emma, a midfielder, recently broke into Bristol City Women’s squad.

“Emma began with us as an under-12 player and what she’s achieving goes to show that all things are possible with some hard work and determination,” stressed Stirling Lee, who was delighted to be highly commended at the 2015 GFA Community Awards in the Volunteer of the Year category and is gearing up for a stint as senior ladies manager in the new campaign.

“We make sure our players are given opportunities away from training and playing football too. For example our girls get the chance to watch Cheltenham Town men’s team once a season and be part of their Robins Flying Squad, and we enjoyed a visit to Ashton Gate to see England Women play Bosnia in November.

“We also went to Wembley a while back to see England Ladies play their first-ever fixture at the new stadium, against Germany.
“It’s just a great club to be part of and to have been given this award by the GFA is really encouraging, not only for the players but the 12 qualified and devoted coaches we have and the many others behind the scenes driving it all on.”

Anyone wishing to get in touch with Cheltenham Spa Ladies can email cheltspalfc@gmail.com



Simply inseparable: Bristol Bilbao and Sartan United are Suburban League sizzlers . . .

TWO of local football’s fastest emerging teams are taking rivalry to a whole new level when you weigh up their admirable exploits over the past four years.

Bristol Bilbao and Sartan United found themselves pitched into the modest climes of the Bristol and Suburban League’s basement Division Six when their efforts to gain entry succeeded ahead of the 2012-13 off.

Far from fazed, Bilbao raced to the title at the end of it all, pocketing the Len Bartlett Cup for good measure, by a mere two points from a Sartan side boasting a similarly impressive record. It proved just the start of a stunning two-horse joust as the pair have been virtually inseparable ever since!

The following season – 2013-14 – saw the new-found rivals engaging in neck-and-neck combat again, this time in Suburban Division Three to which they’d been hoisted courtesy of their excellent achievements the previous term and some reorganisation on the part of the league.

Despite the two-tier leap the outcome was just the same, Bilbao again seizing pole position by a more decisive 11-point margin from runners-up Sartan thanks to 22 wins from 22 games, a Suburban League record.

With the sides continuing to hit the heights, league chiefs catapulted them all the way into Division One for the 2014-15 programme and, you’ve guessed it, Bilbao finished up top of the pile with Sartan once more forced to play second fiddle as runners-up some six points adrift, although they did get one over on their big rivals by defeating them 2-1 in the Bartlett Cup final.

When it came to their league priorities, United’s luck surely had to change over the latest season. Bilbao, though, were having none of it, scooping the Premier Two crown by just two points from second-placed Sartan, ensuring both teams will now be tussling for honours in the Suburban League’s Premier One elite come the autumn restart.

League secretary Derek Cumner smiled: “It’s quite remarkable that since joining us in 2012 the two clubs have moved together through the entire league to play Premier One football next season and on the very same pitch too, at South Bristol Sports Centre.

“The clubs have kept the majority of players who formed the teams and the two secretaries, Cory Clark (Bilbao) and Steve Clark (Sartan), have served in their respective roles from the beginning.”



Buoyant Beecham so eager to grasp Cribbs managerial opportunity with both hands

TONY Beecham says he is “excited” about the opportunity he has been afforded to try and hoist Cribbs to fresh heights next season, writes Simon Parkinson.

The 38-year-old, a familiar face as a player, manager and assistant boss around the local scene with Hallen, Shirehampton and Winterbourne United, accepted sole control at the managerial rudder this summer after serving as No.2 to secretary Simon Hartley over the second half of last season.

Hartley, also the Henbury-based outfit’s vice-chairman, found himself pressed into hot-seat duty last term following the decision by former incumbent Dave Pettitt, who had steered Cribbs into the Toolstation Premier Division with a third-spot Division One finish in 2014-15, to step aside citing family commitments.

Beecham, however, who has confirmed Rob Sage, James Williams and Dave Lane as his backroom team, is no stranger to the Station Road club.

“I played for Cribbs when we won the Gloucestershire County League and Les James Cup competition a few years back (2011-12) and gained promotion to the Western League for the first time in the club’s history,” he recalled.

“The facilities here are excellent and the pitch is second to none. The fact Bristol Rovers train at our place says it all.

“The quality of our ground was undoubtedly one of the factors in my decision to take on the job and now it’s a case of establishing ourselves at this level after winning promotion under Dave a couple of years back and hopefully using that as a means to progress.

“Last season, our first in the Premier Division, we managed to haul ourselves up to 15th position in the end after putting a good little run together and we were very unlucky not to reach the semi-finals of the Les Phillips Cup after losing in extra time to Melksham Town, the league champions of the time.”

Far from resting on his laurels, Beecham has been busy piecing a squad together he believes can build on the base borne of that encouraging conclusion to 2015-16.

“Things are looking good for the start of the season,” he said. “All the players have signed up again and we’re hopeful of adding two or three new faces. We’re trying to bring local lads through too and the club as a whole is in good shape, with four Saturday teams as well as veterans and under-18s sides playing on Sundays.

“The improved form at the end of last season gave everyone a lift and there’s a belief now that we can match many teams in our league.
“Of course it’s a tough one to compete in; there are no easy games and Manor Farm and Buckland are likely to be favourites to win it.”

Cribbs entertain a Bristol Rovers XI tonight (Fri, July 22, 7.15pm) before travelling to take on Toolstation Les Phillips Cup winners Hengrove Athletic on Wednesday (July 27, 7.30pm) and hosting Hellenic Premier Longlevens next Friday evening, July 29) at 7.45pm.



Back from the brink: Southmead CS welcome back old favourites in bid to rise again

SOUTHMEAD CS Athletic’s loyal clubman Gary Booth believes the “good old days” are on their way back to Jarratts Road thanks to the return of a clutch of established players – and the appointment of a new manager.

Athletic are eyeing better days after enduring two seasons of struggle since their impressive rise to the higher echelons of the Gloucestershire County League ladder on the strength of their Bristol and Suburban League top-tier title conquest four summers back.

Southmead weren’t the first at the level to soon discover that success does not always guarantee stability, an exodus of key players over the summer of 2014 prompting a sudden downturn in fortunes, culminating in last season’s rock-bottom conclusion to the campaign with six wins from 32 outings following a difficult previous season.

Now with one of those departees, right-back Williams, aboard again, as manager this time following spells as a player in the Western League with Winterbourne United and Bradford Town, Booth is adamant life can only improve at Pen Park Pavilion after two years of turmoil.

The 37-year-old former skipper, who led Southmead to that Suburban League crown as manager and is hopeful of making a playing return in the new season after shaking off a persistent knee condition, admitted: “We became a victim of our success, although we were unable to progress to an even higher standard because of issues relating to our facilities, not least the absence of boundary fencing which we’re trying to address now.

“Six or seven of our best players chose to pursue higher-level football, which you couldn’t blame them for, but many are now returning to us.

“As well as Chris coming in as player-manager we’re also benefiting from the services of his brother Rob Sivers, who is a very experienced centre-forward at this level and a proper goalscorer, something we’ve been lacking.

“A couple of lads from Avonmouth are joining us too in Everton Senior (full-back) and Ben Fry (centre-half), who is an ex-Southmead player.

“It’s all positive and refreshing because the last two years have been really tough, so much so that we were on the brink of folding as we’d simply not been able to effectively replace all those players.

“Hopefully we can re-stabilise now and start thinking about going in the right direction again. No one’s getting carried away but there is a real buzz about the place again. Everyone wants to see a return to the good football we were playing before the problems set in.”

Of the new manager, Booth enthused: “Chris was a youngster on Bristol City’s books a decade or so ago and he has good contacts in local football. Hopefully we can use a bit of that background to attract more good players to Southmead.”

Anyone wishing to be part of Southmead’s proposed reawakening is welcome to attend Tuesday and Thursday training sessions (7-8pm) at their Jarratts Road HQ.



Chipping Sodbury braced for big FA Vase bow with county cruncher against Fairford

THE opening stage of this season’s FA Vase tournament has thrown up an intriguing tussle where our fair county is concerned.

Hellenic Leaguers Fairford Town, who finished up a commendable fourth in last season’s Division One West shake-up, have been granted a home tie against Chipping Sodbury Town, who are entering the competition for the first time after gaining two straight promotions to enter the 2016-17 Toolstation League Premier Division programme as first division champions.

Club boss Scott Gibson enthused: “All this is putting our little town on the map and it’s great. It feels good and shows just how all the hard work is paying off. We’re looking forward to the Fairford game and hopefully trying to progress in the competition.

“These are exciting times for Chipping Sodbury. We’ve got a Swindon Town side coming down for our final pre-season friendly (Tuesday, August 2, 7.30pm) and we’ve just generated almost £3,000 towards club running costs from our annual Sodbury 7s tournament, in which a record 24 teams took part.

“To cap it all our Sodbury A team won the main event with a 1-0 win over Upton St Leonards and Yate Athletic down the road won the Plate competition.”

Sodbury have enjoyed a promising pre-season too, as 1-1 draws in front of large crowds against Bath City and local rivals Yate Town, on Wednesday night, demonstrate. Josh Morgan-Williams had handed Yate the lead on the stroke of half-time against the run of play before fit-again striker George Box, against his former club, bounced off the bench to fire a left-footed equaliser from 12 yards out.

The first round qualifying stage of the Vase offers fixtures for more GFA-affiliated clubs, including Tytherington Rocks, who travel to face Combined Counties League Division One outfit Ash United, as well as Rocks’ Hellenic League compatriots Lydney Town, who are also away, against Combined Counties Premier Division side Chertsey Town, like Ash also Surrey based.

Elsewhere at the early hurdle Oldland Abbotonians host Lymington Town (Wessex Premier), Cadbury Heath head for the Isle of Wight to confront Cowes Sports (Wessex Premier), Hallen entertain Fawley (Wessex Premier) while Cribbs travel to take on Bridport, now under new management following Adam Fricker’s decision to join them from Chard Town, in an enticing all-Toolstation Premier Division affair.

First round qualifying fixtures are scheduled for Saturday, September 10.



Aidan opener for Cirencester not quite enough to see off Rovers’ fledgling hopefuls

CIRENCESTER Town produced a positive display as they stepped up preparations for their 2016-17 Evo-Stik Southern League Premier Division campaign by holding Bristol Rovers’ aspiring under-18s to a meritorious 1-1 draw on Tuesday night.

They snatched the lead too, 20 minutes into the second half, as new signing Scott Bevan’s driven delivery from the left was skilfully headed above the despairing clutches of Pirates keeper Charlie Phillips by Aidan Bennett for the opener.

Despite having further chances to see off their professional opponents in an entertaining encounter at the Corinium Stadium, Rovers, who’d had their opportunities too, restored parity four minutes from time when Centurions substitute Angus Brereton was adjudged by referee Rob Cockle to have impeded Lewis Ellington, and Jamie Lucas needed no second invitation from the penalty spot.

Nevertheless it was an encouraging display by Brian Hughes’ men, with Bevan showing appetite and drive down the left flank once more following his switch from Chippenham Town, while James Mortimer-Jones, who capped making his 250th appearance for Cirencester last term by carrying off two end-of-season first-team awards, and Chris Taylor, snapped up recently from Swindon Supermarine, showed real potential together in the midfield engine room.

Meanwhile Cirencester will entertain Havant & Waterlooville in the first round of the FA Trophy on Saturday, October 29 at 3pm. Havant, famous for twice taking the lead against Liverpool at Anfield in 2008 before falling to a 5-2 defeat, were relegated from National League South last season and will now start afresh in the Ryman Isthmian League Premier Division.

* Cirencester Town Development will kick off their Hellenic Division One West programme on Saturday, August 13 with a tricky away clash with Oxfordshire outfit Clanfield 85, who finished a single place below Ciren third from the foot of last season’s table.



New reserve team manager required as Wick target continued progress on all fronts

WICK are pursuing a new and ambitious reserve team manager as they plot ways to hoist the club as a whole into Gloucestershire County League contention.

Kevin Pollard’s departure as second-string supremo has opened the door for a new hot-seat occupant, one, Wick hope, who will aid the drive not only to lift their Bristol and District League Senior Division side up a level but who is prepared to play a part in the aspirations of the first XI, who concluded last term in a commendable sixth position in the Bristol Premier Combination’s top section.

Treasurer Matt Davis urged: “We really need someone who is prepared to push our reserves forward and support the aims of Mike Strawford’s  first team, which are to make a concerted effort to win the Premier Combination title and get all our ground facilities in place for a crack at the County League.

“As it stands there are issues to consider on that score but they’re something we’re hopeful of addressing as quickly as possible.
“If we could promote our first team then that would free up an opportunity for our reserves to gain entry into the Premier Combination, something other local sides such as AEK Boco Reserves and, just last season, Chipping Sodbury Reserves, have achieved. If they can do it, why can’t we?”

Davis revealed of former Nicholas Wanderers boss Pollard’s recent Wick exit: “We understand Kevin is looking to manage elsewhere next season but we’d like to thank him for his efforts over the past couple of years, not just in his roles as manager with our thirds and then reserves, but for his general help and support around the club.

“Kevin is a local lad who played in both our thirds and reserves with his teenage son Josh and we’re sorry to lose him.

“It’s that sort of support you need at clubs like ours. We get great voluntary support at Wick and the spirit and camaraderie is good. Our first team assistant manager Nigel White, referring on Facebook to our nickname of The Owls, wrote affectionately about our pitch being our nest, and how our barn was looking better too; ‘up the Owls, wwooo’, which gave us all a laugh!”

Wick, meanwhile, face their first pre-season work-out this evening (Fri, July 15, 6.30pm) with a fixture at their Oldbury Lane home against Bristol and Avon League side Hanham Abbotonians.

Anyone interested in the reserve team manager role, or knows someone who may be, can call Matt Davis on 07977 510352.



Super St Aldhelms eye 2016-17 success after claiming unique Suburban League double

ST Aldhelms are a Bristol and Suburban League outfit eager for the new campaign to get underway on the strength of a unique double in 2015-16.

The Bishopsworth-based club became the first in the league’s 122-year history to win both senior knock-out competitions and are eyeing more of the same next time around.

Saints’ first team, who ended up eighth in Premier One, beat champions and Gloucestershire County League newcomers Lebeq United 1-0 in the Hillard Bosley Cup final at Cossham Street, while their second string, who secured a commendable fourth-place finish in Division One, overcame Parson Street OB Reserves 4-1 in the K.I.T.co Goulding Memorial Cup showdown at the same Mangotsfield venue.

Saints’ eye-catching double was just one of many intriguing and informative topics highlighted at the Suburban League’s annual meeting held at the Stapleton and Begbrook Social Club in Frenchay.

In his tenth annual report, secretary Derek Cumner revealed a five per cent increase in player participation but stressed the need for teams to recruit more players due to availability issues.

Cumner, a GFA director, also described the weather as the “worst in memory”, with 14 of the 34 Saturdays affected by the adverse elements.

Several rules were altered too last season, including the scrapping of extra-time in cup games to come into line with the county association’s own knock-out tournament policies, while kick-off times were made more flexible to suit sides.

Meanwhile the league’s three senior officers, chairman Roger Tovey, treasurer Elizabeth Tovey and secretary Cumner, were elected for the tenth successive season, while Martin Peters is to return as fixture secretary. However, referees secretary Rod Green announced he would be stepping down for family reasons.

When it came to the hand-outs, AFC Mangotsfield’s Paul Smart won the Tom Pitts Award for best secretary, while Lockleaze Community and Stockwood Wanderers both claimed the Sportsmanship Award. Pete Bessell was made a life member of the league after completing 60 years’ service to the same Parson Street OB club.

Cumner concluded by thanking the league’s three sponsors, Dentmagic, Hillard Sports and K.I.Tco, for their backing.



Enticing derby date is first up as Hardwicke begin defence of Les James Cup crown

GLOUCESTERSHIRE County League Cup kings of 2015-16 Hardwicke will hit the road to take on local rivals as they begin the defence of the crown they claimed in mid-May – while the competition’s two new-boys have been granted home comforts for starters!

It seems like only yesterday that Tytherington Rocks’ fine facility at Woodlands Road was bathed in spring sunshine and a large crowd watched on as Craig Harris clinically lobbed Rockleaze Rangers’ keeper Sam Burgess from the edge of the box for a 63rd-minute Hardwicke clincher in a 1-0 win in the latest Les James League Cup final spectacle.

Delighted manager Lee Chivers, in hailing his team’s victorious feat in their very first season back in the league, quickly spoke of a desire to not only push for a top-five finish next term following their commendable 11th-placed conclusion to 2015-16, but to retain the Les James trophy to boot.

That may well prove no easy feat as if Hardwicke ARE to progress next time around they will first have to overcome near neighbours Frampton United in their opponents’ own imposing Bell Field backyard, which witnessed only two defeats from 11 home outings last season.

As for recent beaten finalists Rockleaze, they kick-off with a testing home encounter against ambitious Bristol Telephones, while the league’s two elevated newcomers, Lebeq United, from the Bristol and Suburban League, and Northern Senior League runners-up Stonehouse Town, start with first and preliminary round fixtures respectively at home against Southmead CS Athletic and Gala Wilton.

The full draw is:
Preliminary round: Patchway Tn v Broadwell Amtrs; Stonehouse Tn v Gala Wilton.

First round: 1. Rockleaze Rgrs v Bristol Telephones; 2. Frampton Utd v Hardwicke; 3. AEK Boco v Stonehouse Tn or Gala Wilton; 4. Hanham Ath v Patchway Tn or Broadwell Amtrs; 5. Kingswood v Thornbury Tn; 6. Henbury v Ellwood; 7. Lebeq Utd v Southmead CS Ath; 8. Bishops Cleeve Res v Cheltenham CS.

Preliminary round fixtures, and first round matches 1, 2, 5, 6, 7 and 8, will be played on Saturday, August 13.
Match 3 takes place on Tuesday, August 23 and match 4 the following evening.



Ambitious Old Sodbury ring the changes as Passaway and Pearson take on the top jobs

PAUL Passaway is targeting bigger and better things for Old Sodbury after accepting the role of first team manager.

The Bristol Premier Combination side concluded the last Premier Division campaign in a club record fourth place under the stewardship of John Rendell, only for the former Bitton keeper to announce he was taking up a position as first team coach with near-neighbours Yate Town in the Southern League.

While Rendell has been rubbing his hands at the opportunities in store for him at the higher level, Old Sodbury have moved swiftly to elevate assistant boss Passaway as their new leader.

And in a busy period of transition for the South Gloucestershire club, their Bristol & District League Division Two side have appointed their 22-year-old goalie Jamie Pearson as new reserve team supremo.

Both are relishing the chance to stamp their mark on their respective departments and Passaway enthused: “It’s a great pleasure to move up the ladder from assistant to first team manager following John Rendell’s move up the road to Yate Town.

“I would like to thank John for his leadership and assistance over the last year at Old Sodbury and wish him all the success in his new role.

“I’ve been quick to add some quality around me in Chris Young and Mark Williams. Chris is a level-headed fella with a long history with Old Sodbury. He will help with team selection and match feedback, as well as continuing his playing role.

“I have also brought in Mark as head coach. He is UEFA-qualified has a lot of experience as a manager and player. Mark has travelled around the local scene - Winterbourne and Hanham to name a couple - and he has also played in the Welsh National League.
“Mark will take the coaching sessions and will be a big part of team selection along with Chris and myself.”

Passaway confirmed the services of James Hicks, who controls matchday administration and the club’s social media page, would be retained.

“James did a great job for the club last season and we are pleased he has stayed on board for the upcoming campaign,” the new manager said.

“We also have a new reserve team manager in Jamie Pearson, who takes over from Steve Clapp.

“Steve has done a fantastic job over the past few seasons while Jamie played in goal for the reserves and even picked up Player of the Year last season!

“I’m really looking forward to working with this fantastic team and hoping to improve on our fourth spot last season, which was the highest finishing position in the club’s history.”

As for Pearson, who has featured at Old Sodbury “on and off” over the past three years, he explained: “As a goalkeeper I used to help them out every other week due to work commitments and last season was my first full one at the club.

“Because I’m only 22 I haven’t actually been in the senior game for too long. My youth career started at the age of ten with a team in Bath called Bath Arsenal. I became a goalkeeper straight away as I was taller than most kids and had good hand-to-eye coordination thanks to playing cricket.

“I moved to Pucklechurch at 13 where I played centre-half for three-and-a-half seasons before going back in goal for Wotton Rovers in the under-18s County League.

“I’ve done a few coaching courses and I’m much looking forward to taking on the reserve team ‘gaffer’ challenge and hoping for a good season.”

Hicks added: “It has been a busy close season for the club with two new managers coming in.

“The good thing is that they have both come from within the club, so there’s no real disruption for the players. Despite the new faces there’s no reason why we can’t challenge for promotion just like last season.

"I would also like to thank John (Rendell) for his hard work here and wish him all the best for his new challenge at a much higher level at Yate Town.”



Signed Manchester United ball set to top Warmley Rangers’ clubhouse auction

A SIGNED Manchester United football looks set to head the exciting offerings at Warmley Rangers’ big fund-raising auction in September.

The enormously-popular 40-year-old youth set-up have been granted planning permission by South Gloucestershire Council to build a clubhouse on the land they hire for their football activities from Sir Bernard Lovell School (SBL) at Oldland Common.

A new long-term lease means that for the first time in those four decades all of the FA Charter Standard club’s 15 teams, from under-6s to under-16s, and the 300 boys and girls who enthusiastically turn out for them, can all play on the same site.

Under-10s manager and Richard Exon explained: “Over the years our teams have had to play wherever they can; at Grange School, Fry’s in Keynsham and here at Sir Bernard Lovell School among other venues.

“In the past couple of months we have come to an agreement with SBL to make use of their entire playing field, which we’ll be looking to turn into five or six small-sided and full-sized pitches.

“The school has a 3G artificial pitch these days so it doesn’t make so much use of the fields and that has opened up a big door for us.
“Our teams have always played there but it means now we can ALL play and train in one place rather than travel around the area, when we’ve not always had proper facilities to make use of either.

“But we have a long-term lease in place now and permission to build a clubhouse, which we hope will get underway next year.
“It finally means that four decades on we can finally call ourselves a proper football club with its own home and facilities for everyone.”
Hard cash will, of course, need to be generated for the new building and the auction, which is scheduled for Friday, September 9 at Stapleton Cricket Club between 7.30pm and 11pm, should go some way to meeting the cost.

The Manchester United ball is sure to attract considerable interest with many of last season’s team, including now-departed manager Louis van Gaal and captain Wayne Rooney, among the signatures. Rangers’ fund-raising committee is, in the meantime, finalising other contributions and prizes, with free days out and free vehicle MOTs among the possibilities.

Anyone wishing to donate to the auction, or learn more about the project, can call Richard Exon on 07810 374183 or email him at sheo1980@hotmail.co.uk



On the rise: Tewkesbury Colts’ tenacious under-14s girls reaching for new heights

TEWKESBURY Town Colts Girls Under-14s may have ended their latest league campaign bottom of the pile.

But their optimistic manager Will Plummer believes the only way is up now - and with very good reason!

Despite their final position propping up the rest on the Gloucester County Girls League ladder, Tewkesbury’s stoic collection of enthusiastic players and coaches emerged with heads held high and something to cherish after all, after being presented with the Bob Lethaby Award, offered annually to teams who have persevered in the face of adversity, at the recent GFA Community Awards.

Their encouraged boss believes he knows why their winless 2015-16 mission proved such a punishing one and feels the harsh lessons can stand them in much better stead for the fresh challenges the new season, again at under-14s level, will undoubtedly present.
“Part of the struggle was due to the fact four or five of our girls simply weren’t used to playing football at all,” Will explained.

“We did have a core of players who had been with us since they were under-10s and had come through two years of under-12s and that difficult first year of 11-a-side football at under-14s level.

“That said, those girls who were still adapting to playing for the first time grew into it as the season went on and they never allowed their heads to drop. Even though they were getting beaten heavily pretty much every week, they continued playing with smiles on their faces.

“Our team was also made up almost entirely of school year 8s – we had one from year 9 - and although the majority all go to the same Tewkesbury School, we feel that going forward it would be of greater benefit to have our sides made up of girls from the same school years, to enhance the bond between them and hopefully establish a more competitive team.”

Will admitted: “To be honest I used to find all the defeats frustrating but in the latest season I began to relax more and appreciate the effort the girls were putting in and the enjoyment side of it. It dawned on me that even though results were always going against us the players were having fun and wanted to come back for more every week.

“If winning was everything this team would have folded a long time ago and while it is about enjoyment for us, we are trying to raise the bar a bit higher each year.

“In fact there were definitely signs of improvement in our final game of the season at Cirencester Town. Because we approached it with only ten players the actual competitive fixture was given as a home walkover. But both teams agreed to play a friendly thanks largely to Cirencester offering us a goalkeeper and we scored three good goals, which had us heading into the summer feeling much better and more positive.

“Two of our aims last season were to recruit a female coach and obtain a new sponsor and we achieved both of these things.
“Now my hope is the girls continue with the same enthusiasm levels they are showing and will want to play football as adults.”
Will, who has been coaching and managing with Tewkesbury Colts for four seasons, also keeps a keen and personal eye on his daughter Beth, a right-sided midfielder and last season’s Manager’s Player of the Year.

He is assisted by trusty No.2 Martin Coupe, whose daughter Serafina features prominently in Town’s midfield ‘engine room’. The family links continue with social secretary Claire Bowes and her daughter Anna, a versatile defender and their 2015-16 Players’ Player of the Year.

Will smiled: “Martin is great; I listen to him a lot and we also do the admin together, while Claire organises fun outings and such like.
“Our new sponsor is Tewkesbury Cookshop, run by Helen and James Townsend, who we’re very grateful to. They are providing full kit and all-weather jackets for the new season.

“I do believe that much better things are afoot. The most points we’ve ever had in a season is three so we’ll be looking for two or three wins next time.

“While we’re always looking for new players, it will essentially be the same group entering the new season, a year older and wiser, and they’ll have grown in physical stature too because we were quite a small side.

“So there are lots of positives to take before it all starts up again.”



Rockleaze Rangers Vets ready to take on all-comers again in next GFA Veterans League epic

BUOYANT boss Mike Hughes insists his Rockleaze Rangers Veterans side will be all out to emulate a “successful” last GFA Veterans League season when the competition resumes in the autumn.

Rangers used a modest maiden campaign in 2014-15 as a springboard to new heights, winning last term’s South Division title on goal difference ahead of Bristol North Vets in a thrilling end-of-season run-in.

Their hopes of outright success were dashed in the county final at Oaklands Park when North Division One winners Ashton United, parading former Aston Villa and Everton stars Lee Hendrie and Lee Carsley respectively, sprung back from two-goal arrears to win 3-2 on the GFA’s slick 3G surface.

Despite that ultimate disappointment, Hughes was full of enthusiasm about the league and promised his men would be redoubling their efforts to go all the way next time around.

He explained: “After many years in the Bristol Casuals League we decided in 2014 to move to the GFA Veterans League.

“We were encouraged to join by a team already in the league and they promoted it to us on a number of fronts, including the fact there are three good officials at each game; that fixtures are played on quality (artificial) pitches and that it’s a competitive league with good teams and a well-organised schedule of games, enhanced by a simplicity of paying and playing. “All of these benefits were apparent to us immediately and continued into our second season.”

Hughes confessed: “Our first season was a challenge as the difference in class between the two leagues soon became apparent. The teams we played in the GFA League were well organised, played a good passing game in the main and were very competitive. As a result we won only three of our 11 games and conceded 31 goals in that first season.

“But we added a few players to our ranks for 2015-16 and concentrated much more on maintaining possession and defending a bit deeper.

“The 3G pitches are very big and it can be easy to run out of steam if you are constantly chasing the ball, but we started the season well with five straight wins until a tough game against Avonmouth brought us back to earth with a 4-1 drubbing.

“Getting back to winning ways, including a 9-0 thrashing of Avon Plate in which we had seven separate goalscorers, gave us real confidence before our penultimate crunch game against the previous season’s runaway winners, Severnside.

“We rode our luck quite a bit, which included  our keeper saving a penalty as well as the rebound, before winning a very close match 2-0 to put us in touching distance of winning the league.”

Despite their morale-boosting performances in the lead-up to the big finale, Rockleaze still had it all to do as the league remained extremely tight, so much so that three teams were still in the shake-up to cement top spot entering the final round of games.

“We only needed a win against a depleted Bedminster side to make us champions, but despite a big pre-game rallying cry we found ourselves 2-0 down after 15 minutes!” Hughes recalled.

“In the end we came back to win 4-2 to clinch our first trophy for some years and well deserved it was too. After conceding 30 goals the previous season we tightened up to such an extent that we let in just 11 throughout last season.

“As South Division champions we played Ashton United, the winners of the North League, in a play-off at Almondsbury and another hard-fought and close game confirmed there is little to choose between the north and south leagues.

“In a high quality game we took a 2-0 lead before letting in a soft own goal late in the second half to make it 2-1 at half-time.
“It stayed that way until near the end when Ashton scored a late penalty and then again with a well-worked free-kick to win 3-2.
“The class of their former Premier League players Lee Hendrie and Lee Carsley was still evident for Ashton and probably proved a small difference between the two teams.

“But it was a hugely enjoyable and successful season for us and one which we hope to emulate next season.”



Gloucestershire clubs out to atone for unproductive years in Les Phillips Cup tourno

GLOUCESTERSHIRE clubs vying for honours in next season’s Toolstation Western League will be hoping to make up for some barren years in the league’s Les Phillips Cup competition.

The last GFA-affiliated side to win the famous local knock-out trophy was Bristol Manor Farm in 2012, while prior to that Hallen, in 2010, and first division Oldland Abbotonians, in 2009, had flown the flag for the county with finals victories, the latter upsetting Premier Division Calne Town with a 2-1 victory at Welton Rovers’ HQ courtesy of a Wayne Pierce pair which included a dramatic 90th-minute winner.

Since Manor Farm’s 2-1 victory over Willand Rovers some four years ago the cup has twice gone to Willand, as well as Larkhall Athletic and, last season, Hengrove Athletic, who pipped Les Phillips final specialists Willand 2-1.

GFA Challenge Trophy holders Manor Farm will kick-off their campaign at home against last term’s Division One strugglers Devizes Town for a first round tie, while Hallen go to Portishead Town at the same stage and Oldland find themselves in preliminary round action at local rivals Cadbury Heath.

The full draw is (dates to be confirmed, GFA-affiliated clubs in bold);

Prelim rd: Cadbury Heath v Oldland Abbotonians; Cribbs v Sherborne Tn; Roman Glass St George v Chippenham Park; Chard Tn v Welton Rov; Street v Wincanton Tn; Radstock Tn v Malmesbury Vic; Longwell Green Spts v Keynsham Tn; Bishop Sutton v Bitton; Calne Tn v Gillingham Tn; Odd Down v Bridport.

First rd: Roman Glass or Chippenham Park v Longwell Gn or Keynsham Tn; Chipping Sodbury Tn v Clevedon Tn; Buckland Ath v Chard Tn or Welton Rov; Almondsbury UWE v Shepton Mallet; Portishead Tn v Hallen; Corsham Tn v Cribbs or Sherborne Tn; Cadbury Heath or Oldland Abbotonians v Hengrove Ath; Bristol Manor Farm v Devizes Tn; Melksham Tn v Bishop Sutton or Bitton; Wellington v Street or Wincanton Tn; Willand Rov v Odd Down or Bridport; Wells City v Ashton & Backwell Utd; Cheddar v Westbury Utd; Radstock Tn or Malmesbury Vic v Warminster Tn; Bishops Lydeard v Calne or Gillingham Tn; Brislington v Bradford Tn.



Lawrence Rovers appeal for new reserve team boss in drive to maintain their progress

LAWRENCE Rovers are on the hunt for a new reserve team manager as they brace themselves for life at a higher level next season.

Secretary and long-serving clubman Tim Richards took up the reins last term when Richard Court announced he would be stepping down at the conclusion of the 2014-15 campaign.

Richards, who joined the Lawrence Weston Road outfit in 1968 as a player and went on to enjoy successful, trophy-laden spells at the first team helm in tandem with co-boss Bernie Harrington, now wants to focus on off-field affairs, to incorporate a concerted push to enhance their ground facilities with a first-team bid for County League status in years to come at the forefront of their plans.

After guiding his reserves to Bristol and District League Division Four promotion last term, the Lawrence stalwart is eager to ensure the progress continues under the wing of a new hot-seat incumbent.

“We have a group of talented under-20 players in our reserves and we need someone to take it on and try and keep the gap between that section and our first team as tight as possible,” 63-year-old Richards stressed.

“Some of them played for Bristol Manor Farm Under-18s, the Somerset Floodlit Youth League (North Division) winners, last season which says it all about their potential.

“It was brilliant for those youngsters in particular to achieve what they did because they were competing against some strong and, let’s say, seasoned opposition! They showed a lot of spirit, passion and commitment to finish second by only two points behind Rangeworthy Reserves.

“If we could secure the services of a new manager with ideas and enthusiasm to stamp his own mark on it, then the future for these lads can only be a bright one and it will benefit the club as a whole.”

Richards added: “Lawrence Rovers are looking to get things in place off the pitch and try and meet the conditions required for life at a higher level.

“A few years ago our firsts, who thankfully managed to avoid relegation from Premier One of the Premier Combination last season under the guidance of Mike Holloway, enjoyed a good season in the Premier Division and our facilities then were considered to be acceptable for County League football.

“It may be that grading requirements have changed since then and that we have to step things up to reach today’s standards, but it shouldn’t take too much as our ground already earns a lot of praise around the local scene for the facilities we provide.”

Anyone keen to take on the role of reserve team manager at Lawrence Rovers can contact Tim Richards on 07866 531636.


Hanham Athletic call to teams to contribute to District League third and youth sides

HANHAM Athletic are putting a brave face on a testing dilemma after losing their Colts third team and manager to a rival club.

Many of the players who exited to join neighbours Nicholas Wanderers this summer also played for Hanham Athletic on a Sunday in the Bristol & Gloucestershire Under-18 League, which has left a big gap to plug on that front too ahead of the new youth campaign.

The Vicarage Road club have a new committee in place while the County League’s long-established first team will be managed next season by 33-year-old Dan Sperring, who has had close ties with Hanham Athletic over some 25 years since performing for them as an enthusiastic boy.

His father, Bob Sperring, who recently returned to the club as secretary, said of the scenario:  “Everything is looking positive when it comes to our first team and reserves (managed by Daniel Tarr) with a brand-new committee in place. We are confident we’ll have two competitive teams in the County League and District League Division One.

“But we do have an urgent situation to address regarding our Colts team, who play in District League Division Five. All of the players and the manager who helped us obtain a mid-table position last season left to join our neighbours Nicholas Wanderers, which means we are now looking for either a replacement team to join us under the Hanham Athletic umbrella, or an already-established team to come aboard in their own right and hire our pitch and use of facilities.

“We are determined to ensure that we fulfil our District League fixture programme next season and while we clearly would like the new third team to be part of us and able to make full use of all our facilities; training pitches, minibus when available, club functions and such like, we are keen to talk to clubs who wish to keep their own name with a view to hiring one of our two pitches for their District League games.

“The same applies to our Sunday afternoon youth side, either at under-16 or under-18 level, for whom we would be happy to talk to any teams looking to join us as a separate entity or as part of our existing set-up.”

Anyone interested in talking to Hanham about these team vacancies can call Bob Sperring on 07703 771835 or email him at bob.sperring@blueyonder.co.uk



‘Golden oldies’ game soars in popularity thanks to GFA Veterans League opportunities

COMPETITIVE football for ‘golden oldies’ of the local game is becoming “increasingly popular” as the years roll by.

So say organisers of the Gloucestershire FA Veterans League, which recently brought the curtain down on an exciting sixth campaign featuring 12 teams in the South Division and two groups of eight sides tussling for honours in the North Division.

Rockleaze Veterans, having finished up in the lower reaches of the southern section the previous year, turned their fortunes on its head by pipping Bristol North Vets in a thrilling race for the title courtesy of a superior goal difference after the pair paraded a nigh-on identical record.

However Rockleaze’s hopes of clinching the prized trophy were dashed in the county final when Ashton Reunited, winners of North Division One for the third straight time but ultimately defeated 4-0 by Severnside in the 2015 ‘play-off’ showdown, went one better to edge a 3-2 victory on the GFA’s 3G pitch at Oaklands Park in Almondsbury.

The full-sided fixtures, all played out on similar artificial surfaces, take place fortnightly to mirror the months of a regular football season. Matches north of the county are hosted by All Saints’ Academy, Cheltenham (Division One) and Hartpury College (Division Two), while southern section games are performed at St Bede’s College in Bristol.

Every match is overseen by three qualified officials and while five new teams spread across the two regions – second division north winners Tuffley Rovers, Leckhampton Rovers, Redland Internazionale, Avon Plate and Cheltenham Civil Service – were pitched into combat in the latest campaign, four more newcomers – Brockworth Albion, AFC Brislington, Exiles and Black Horse Thornbury – have registered ahead of the 2016-17 start.

The local veterans’ league was the brainchild of the GFA’s Football Development Manager Matt Boucher some seven years back and his colleague Jack Stanbury, a Football Development Officer with the county association who has taken over the running of the league, welcomes the wave of enthusiasm for the format.

He said: “It really was another terrific competition this year, across both regions, and very competitive with titles still up for grabs going into the very last games.

“The interest seems to be growing in veterans’ football year on year and although it is predominantly a 40-plus league in terms of age qualification, each team is allowed two players aged 35-40 in its line-up.

“The winners of the south and north sections play off in an annual county final and the recent one looked set to be won by our South Division winners Rockleaze, only for Ashton to come back and score three times in the final five minutes to win it.

“Although registration for next season is already complete, there will be opportunities to sign up for 2017-18 and anyone wishing to do that can get in touch with me (by calling 01454 615888 (option 3) or by emailing jack.stanbury@gloucestershirefa.com)

Rockleaze manager Mike Hughes observed: “The quality of officiating remained very high, while the pairing of experienced referees and their assistants with younger officials gaining experience works very well and is to be commended.

“The organisation of the league remains very good too which makes it easy to register players, update results and just turn up and play.”



Community champs: Why Bradley Stoke Youth are multiple GFA award recipients

TREBLE-WINNING Bradley Stoke Youth believe they can justifiably lay claim to the notion they are a genuine club of the people - and who can possibly disagree?

Having achieved coveted FA Charter Standard Community Club status in 2010, the increasingly popular South Gloucestershire set-up went on to be crowned GFA Charter Standard Community Club of the Year no fewer than three times at the county association’s Community Award presentations, the latest enthusiastically accepted only last week at the annual Oaklands Park showpiece.

Their long-serving coach and community officer, Martin Lee, points to a raft of reasons why Bradley Stoke Youth can consider themselves to be the real deal when it comes to reaching out to all, regardless of age and ability, on the football front.

“To win the GFA Community Club Award for a third time in six years is fantastic and it’s recognition of the way we run things and how we strive to be as inclusive as possible,” he stressed.

“For example we have a school/club link programme in which we go into 14 primary schools across South Gloucestershire and provide fun football sessions for over 750 Year 1 children, free of charge, and then invite all the schools to attend our annual football festival – the latest one marking our tenth anniversary - at the Jubilee Centre where 150 Year 1 children participated.

“We also run what we call enrichment coaching sessions at the new Bradley Stoke Primary School in the town, separate to our link programme and tailored for reception classes.

“Then there’s the hour-long disability coaching sessions three of us deliver on Saturdays at Bradley Stoke Community School, again completely free of charge, for around ten children between the ages of five and 11.

“We do it not only because there are precious few football opportunities for young people with specific needs in these parts, but also because we feel you should cater for all abilities, children and adults alike. We conduct all these sessions on an artificial pitch to make the environment a little more comfortable and safer for them.”

Martin, a former manager too with Bradley Stoke men’s first team, hailed the club’s “successful” Young Coach Mentoring Programme, which prepares teenagers for life as fully-fledged coaches ahead of the courses they can begin to undertake as they reach adulthood.

“We have won the GFA’s Young Coach of the Year Award three times thanks to the efforts Jason Lee, Ross Lee, and Matt Smith,” Martin said. “Another, Jamie Kerton, was also highly commended in the same category last year, so it highlights again what we’re about.

“We take people in at 14 and 15 and offer them two years of good practical and theoretical coaching opportunities, to give them that grounding and experience if they want to start taking their coaching badges from the age of 16, or are considering going on to further education to study sports coaching as one of our lads, Matt Smith, is currently doing at Hartpury College.

“Matt has already achieved his FA Level 1 badge and he is now just completing his Level 2 course which has been funded by the club.

“Jason and Ross also went to Hartpury to study sports coaching while Ross and Matt currently coach our under-5s, under-6s and under-7s players, as well as our under-14 girls, the disability section and our ladies team, who I manage.

“We set the women’s adult side up just last year and they enjoyed a very good first season in the Gloucestershire County Women’s League, finishing fourth in Division Two.

“In fact the future is looking really bright for female football because we have five girls teams from under-8s to under-14s and the older age group will certainly become a feeder into our senior ladies team within the next couple of years.”



Dad ‘n’ lad duo Paul and Jamie so happy to fly the flag for Longwell Green Juniors

GLOUCESTERSHIRE FA’s 2016 Community Awards cast the spotlight on many deserving clubs and individuals in the county - not least a delighted dad and lad combination picking up awards in three categories!

Paul Griffin and his 15-year-old son Jamie featured together at the annual presentations held last week at the county association’s HQ in Almondsbury and both left another emotional evening of prize-giving with beaming smiles.

Dedicated long-serving volunteer at Longwell Green Sports Juniors Paul, who counts the general manager, welfare officer, adult mentor and Littluns/under-5s and under-6s manager duties among the many roles he undertakes, received the GFA Volunteer of the Year Award while Jamie, who recently completed his GCSE exams at Oldland Common’s Sir Bernard Lovell School, was highly commended in the Young Volunteer category.

Griffin Snr has become familiar with the awards scene in recent times as he currently holds the West of England Sports Volunteer of the Year distinction as well as the South Gloucestershire award he was handed the year before, while his GFA Community Club of the Year winners in 2014 and 2015, Longwell Green Juniors, were this year highly commended in the same class.

Paul said: “To be this year’s GFA Volunteer of the Year, and for Longwell Green Juniors to be highly commended, is very pleasing because it’s recognition that  as a club we’re going about things in the right way and putting children at the centre of what we’re doing.

“It’s about encouraging kids, through football and sport, to get themselves fit, to experience the camaraderie and team ethics that are such a part of it and to enjoy the social side. In terms of all that we have to be one of the most successful clubs in the region.

“We have 500 juniors at Longwell Green altogether, 200 of whom are aged between
two and six, starting with the sessions for toddlers we call Longwell Littluns which we introduced only last year.

“Something like fifty new under-5s have been joining us year on year for several years now and the Littluns group has pleasingly led to a high percentage of girls taking part, something we hope will persuade them to stay in the game well into their teens and beyond.”

Paul, meanwhile, praised the support given by son Jamie, both to himself and the Longwell Juniors section at large.

“Of course I’m proud of him; he’s an incredible help and it was nice that he was also recognised last year at the West of England Sports Awards in the Young Coach category,” stressed Paul who, at the same presentations, was recognised in the Children’s Coach category and Longwell Juniors in the Club of the Year class.

“Jamie has helped out at Longwell for a number of years now and is currently involved with our Littluns, under-5 and under-6 age groups.

“He also helps out with the admin and paperwork side of things but he plays too, as a goalkeeper for our youth section, so there’s no denying his enthusiasm for Longwell Green and football in general.”

Jamie said: “Football is a big part of my life and coaching the younger ages enables me to help others have the same journey I have had.

“To be recognised for this is fantastic.”



Hardwicke Rangers so ‘proud’ to be handed GFA Charter Standard Club accolade

HARDWICKE Rangers Youth’s proud secretary Phil Addle says landing the Charter Standard Club of the Year prize at the 2016 GFA Community Awards could not have come at a more appropriate time.

The increasingly popular Gloucester-based club caters for some 280 young football enthusiasts performing in age categories ranging from under-6 to under-18.

But it is for their determination to get it right off the field that has led to so much acclaim, not least from the GFA which was quick to recognise those “commendable efforts” through its annual presentations at Oaklands Park.

Earlier this year Hardwicke became one of the first clubs of its kind in the country to provide an FA Youth Award Module One course for 16 of its coaches at their own Green Lane facility, when sessions such as these have tended to be held externally at neutral venues.

The four-day course was delivered by FA County Coach Developer for Gloucestershire Steve Lilley, who has been invited back to oversee a Youth Award Module Two course which has just got underway at the club to be held two evenings a week over three weeks for nine of the original Module One coaching participants.

Small wonder Hardwicke’s diligent approach to the training of its coaches caught the attention of GFA staff and representatives ahead of last Wednesday’s ceremony and Phil said: “We’ve had a couple of individual awards in the past but nothing as a club and it’s very pleasing.

“It’s perfect timing too because we’re coming to the end of our 25th anniversary celebrations as a youth club and we’ve managed to give our award a mention in our programme for this weekend’s annual tournament for under-7s to under-15s.

“We have greatly benefited as a club from our first year on the FA Coach Mentoring Scheme, with our mentor Kurt Doyle providing invaluable support and advice to many of our coaches, and helping the club develop a coaching philosophy to enable us to provide a consistent high level of coaching across all of our age groups.”

Phil added: “As a club we’re very much about giving all young players a chance, irrespective of their ability. That approach means we’re not always fantastically successful in terms of winning trophies, and it’s fair to say that on occasions some of the more competitive players and adults prefer to go clubs which offer more chance of silverware and the like.

“The FA has issued guidelines about giving at least 50 per cent game-time opportunities to all registered players and we’ve turned that into part of our club philosophy, because we feel that nobody should have to stand on the sidelines in the cold for the majority of a match and only get five minutes of action at the end.

“Everyone likes to win, of course, but at Hardwicke we believe it should not be at all costs and it’s an ethic we intend sticking firmly by.”



Bristol City hot-shot Sawyer showing the way for the county’s aspiring female starlets

PAIGE Sawyer is a shining example of the exciting opportunities available to dedicated, upcoming female football talents dreaming of life on the bigger stages.

The 17-year-old forward from Emersons Green in South Gloucestershire began her fledgling career as so many do, performing enthusiastically for a local team as a youngster – Warmley Rangers boys in her case between the ages of five and nine – before making a name for herself as a Bristol Academy (now Bristol City Women) prodigy and England Colleges (ECFA) starlet.

Such has been the rapidity of her rise that Paige is now an established member of City Women’s first team eagerly trying to hoist themselves back to the top tier of the FA Women’s Super League from their current fourth-placed, second division standing.
After making her big bow in a 7-1 FA Cup romp against QPR at Stoke Gifford Stadium in February, Paige celebrated her first senior goal for the Vixens in April’s 3-0 away defeat of London Bees in the league.

As she this week prepared herself for her next adventure in City colours tomorrow (Sat, June 25) at home against Oxford United (6pm) Paige, a first-year BTEC Level 3 Sport student at Filton’s SGS College and occasional referee, happily spoke of her delight and pride at her meteoric emergence and insisted many more local girls were capable of embarking on a similar path to the one she is enjoying.

She explained to GFA Local Football News: “I’d played for Warmley boys’ team until I was nine when I managed to get into Bristol Academy’s Centre of Excellence, where I stayed until I was an under-17 player.

“I then played for the SGS College Girls’ team and it was through their links with Bristol City that I was given the chance to play for City’s reserves on a regular basis before getting that first-team opportunity, which made me really proud because I’d effectively been there since I was nine.”

Of her experiences on the international circuit Paige, who received the Luke Buckingham ECFA Player of the Year Award for 2015-16 for her stirring England Colleges showings while also gaining recent selection for an England Development U18/U19 training camp, enthused: “It’s been a real privilege representing my country, which I’ll always cherish.

“I had to get through two stages of trials before playing my first game for the ECFA, which we won 5-0 against the Independent Schools FA at Charterhouse (in Surrey) in December.

“I also scored a hat-trick against Welsh Colleges before going on tour with the ECFA to Portugal, which was a real eye-opener in terms of seeing how another nation prepares for games and performs tactically.

“Women’s football is improving massively, locally as well as nationally, and there’s much more awareness and information about what is out there for young girls. For example City players like me like to do player appearances and presentations at local clubs and engage in a bit of coaching.

“We often get asked how we came to play football at such a level and it’s nice to see the children’s reactions, to see a belief in them that they too can go down a similar route if they work hard enough.

“My own ambition is to keep progressing, hopefully win more first team appearances and maybe, one day, get myself in a position to be considered for a full England call-up.”

City’s first team manager Willie Kirk said: “Paige has a huge desire to improve her game and achieve her goals and the England call-up is richly deserved.

“When you have that focus and desire it is somewhat inevitable that you start getting the rewards that your hard work deserves and she is a great example to both young and old players at this club of what can be done if you apply yourself properly.”



Delighted new Yate boss Britton says he is braced for the Lodge Road long haul

YATE Town’s new boss Paul Britton surveyed his new Southern League surroundings at Lodge Road and insisted: “I’m definitely not in it for the short term”.

The 51-year-old Bristol Rovers Under-15s coach, who counts Mangotsfield United Reserves, Oldland Abbotonians and Longwell Green Sports among his one-time stomping grounds as a manager, relinquished his position as first-team supremo with Toolstation Premier Division side Bitton in January amid a period of on and off-field instability at the club.

It didn’t take long for Britton to find himself back in business and at a higher level to boot too, with an Evo-Stik Southern League One S&W side who parted company with Craig Laird in March following a 12-month stint at the Yate Town helm.

In an interview with GFA Local Football News the new incumbent smiled: “It’s the first time I’ve ever applied for a job in football.

“I wanted a challenge, something to excite me and give me a boost. I didn’t actually know anyone at Yate but I went through the process and was honoured to be given the job.

“I absolutely live and breathe football and I’m passionate about the youth development side of the game. The moment I stop enjoying it is the moment I stop but I’m buzzing for the new season.”

Yate concluded their 2015-16 mission in 16th place on the ladder and Britton, as new managerial arrivals often do, soon found himself faced with a raft of key player departures, something he has moved quickly to try and address.

“I’ve lost quite a few senior players, despite my efforts to keep some of them,” he confirmed. “Some had already made up their minds to go, leaving us with a collection of youth and inexperience to take it on.

“We knew we’d have to start again but it’s great that Darren Edwards, our leading goalscorer last year who has a wealth of experience with the likes of Bath City, Gloucester City and Mangotsfield, has agreed to stay on as a player after filling in as caretaker manager for a few weeks when Craig left.

“We do have more players coming in over pre-season, some of whom I would really like to keep as I feel they could do good things with us. We want a good Yate Town ethic with players who want to be here for the right reasons.

“I’m definitely not in it for the short term and the only way I can ensure that is by creating a successful team.”

In the meantime Britton has also begun the process of forming a backroom team with some intriguing additions.

“John Lester, who occupied just about every role at Bitton over 21 years from player to manager, has joined me as my No.2 and I’m delighted because he is someone I can trust and he knows the game so well,” he explained.

“He’ll keep me on my toes and I need that sometimes; a little nudge in the right direction from time to time.

“And John Rendell, a terrific goalkeeper at Bitton when I was there, is joining me as first team coach. He’s been manager with Old Sodbury in the Bristol Premier Combination and he lives in Yate, so that offers us a little more continuity which is important.”



Gloucestershire FA Community Awards 2016

THE annual Gloucestershire FA Community Awards evening proved more enthralling and popular than ever – and for two local clubs there was double delight to savour.

While Bradley Stoke Youth carried off the Charter Standard Community Club of the Year prize, their coach, Matthew Smith, who plays a key role in supporting both the club’s schools and mentoring programmes as well as coaching girls, ladies and disability teams, happily collected the Young Volunteer of the Year accolade during the prestigious presentation ceremony held at the county association’s headquarters in Almondsbury.

Gloucestershire County Women’s League also had more than one reason to celebrate as it not only won the Charter Standard League of the Year category but one of its enthusiastic member clubs, Cheltenham Spa Ladies, picked up the Charter Standard Development Club distinction.

The awards, the seventh to be staged by the GFA, set out to recognise and reward volunteers who help keep local football alive and kicking within their own communities. Winners are awarded at local, county and national level.

GFA football development officer and organiser Jason Lee said of the 2016 Gloucestershire awards: “Our own presentations seem to get more popular each year and this latest one is no exception.

“In the seven years we have been hosting them this was our biggest, attracting more than 50 nominations for the various categories.

“As always it was a fantastic occasion and each of the categories were extremely hard-fought and tough to call; there was precious little to choose between the winners and the highly commended.”

Bradley Stoke Youth received the vote in the Community Club section for their sterling work in delivering a school/club link programme in which 14 schools participate. They have also developed ladies and disability teams while implementing a Coach Mentoring Programme to support young coaches, female players and coaching volunteers.

Gloucestershire County Women’s League came through adversity to claim their award after losing their chairman, secretary and treasurer at the end of the 2014-15 season. After working closely with the GFA to recruit new committee members and additional female and male referees, the league was soon back on its feet and is now identifying support it can offer to clubs as well as piloting a ‘player pool’ for the new season.

Cheltenham Spa Ladies claimed the Charter Standard Development distinction after delivering a successful girls football festival to encourage young females to try football. They were recognised too for their drive in offering a clear pathway from girls to women’s football, for ensuring their licensed coaches are provided with CPD opportunities and for their close association with the FA Skills Team to develop “additional opportunities”.

The annual Oaklands Park occasion produced many more worthy winners and highly commended clubs and individuals.

In their 25th anniversary year, Hardwicke Rangers achieved Charter Standard Club of the Year status for their efforts in offering football for under-8s through to under-18s while forming links with local men’s teams. They also worked closely with the GFA’s County Coach Developer to deliver a Hardwicke Youth Module 1 course.

Leckhampton Rovers, who provide football for more than 280 players ranging from youth to veterans while developing a hub with University of Gloucestershire to develop coaches, were highly commended, as were Longlevens in the Development Club class after becoming Respect and Fair Play award winners for the Hellenic Premier Division while praised for their provision of football for under-6s to open age groups.

Longlevens also worked closely with the GFA to develop a coaching workforce ahead of the FA Coach Mentor Programme they will utilise next season.

Bristol club Longwell Green Sports were highly commended too, in the Charter Standard Community Club category, as they not only developed a club DNA last season which is now supported by four club mentors, but set up a session for toddlers as well as establishing a girls’ development group to aid progression into four senior sides.

Following hard on the heels of Gloucestershire County Women’s League’s success in the Charter Standard League class were the highly commended men’s Gloucestershire County League on the strength of their provision of an annual coach CPD event in partnership with the GFA, and their delivery of a ‘club matters’ finance workshop to ensure clubs are sustainable.

The league, the large gathering at Oaklands Park was told, continues to promote the FA Respect Programme, with clubs rewarded for good discipline records.

Meanwhile Longwell Green Sports’ tireless member and Jack-of-all-trades Paul Griffin claimed the Volunteer of the Year honour. Paul has set up Longwell Little’uns to deliver sessions for toddlers and is now looking to introduce a disability section to the club as well.

Lebeq’s long-serving secretary Errol Thompson, who sits on the GFA’s anti-discrimination committee and has played a lead role in encouraging players from deprived areas of Bristol to take up the game, was highly commended in the Volunteer of the Year category.

The People’s Choice Outstanding Contribution to Community Football Award went to Brockworth Albion’s servant of 30 years Andy Price, who has played, managed and held committee roles at the set-up neighbouring Gloucester.

Andy was instrumental in the launch of Brockworth Junior FC, which 18 years on offers football for under-6s to under-14s. He has also organised more than ten tournaments while spearheading the development and refurbishments of the new Mill Lane Pavilion.

Close behind him on the night was highly commended Rob Hetherington, who has been associated with Cribbs for 39 years as a player, manager and committee member in various roles.

Rob, a member of the Bristol & District and Bristol Premier Combination leagues, formed the Cribbs Sports and Social Club in 2012, which provides financial support for all its teams.

As is customary, the GFA made its own special awards presentations separate to those of the community hand-outs.

Tetbury Town’s Ian Jones, who gives up 30 to 40 hours a week to ensure their Preston Park pitch is in tip-top shape, was named FA Groundsman of the Year for Gloucestershire (Step 7 and below), while the Bob Lethaby Award, which has been a feature since 1983 and is presented to teams who have persevered in the face of adversity, was given to Tewkesbury Town Colts Girls Under-14s, who came through a testing season with flying colours.

GFA chairman and FA vice-chairman Roger Burden, who again led the presentations and conducted a question and answer session with award winners and their supporters related to his role with the game’s national governing body, spoke of his admiration for all the county’s football volunteers, stressing that without their hard work, devotion and loyalty, the local game simply wouldn’t be in a position to offer so many people; young, old, male and female, not to mention participants with disabilities, the chance to play.



On a mission: Barometrics’ new-boys Tustain and Waller eye Hellenic League dream

ROOKIE FC Barometrics boss Joe Tustain has declared he aims to bring Hellenic League football to their Newlands Park HQ within the next five years, writes Simon Parkinson.

Not content with simply stepping into the managerial cauldron for the first time with caution and trepidation in the wake of Mike ‘Spike’ Rhodes’ recent departure, the 30-year-old former Shortwood United and Gloucester City front man has indicated an appetite to lift last season’s Gloucestershire Northern Senior Division One’s fifth-placed side into County League contention “as quickly as possible”, with a view to using the stage as a springboard to even greater heights.

Tustain’s determination to deliver success to Newlands stems in part from his long and cherished association with Baros.
“The club is based in my village of Bishops Cleeve and as a boy I used to watch my cousin David Mellor playing for them,” he recalled.

“Between the ages of 16 and 18, when Barometrics were a Sunday side only, I myself played as a striker with them and when I left Brimscombe and Thrupp in the Hellenic Premier last season due to family commitments, I made a decision to play more locally which is when I turned out eight or nine times for Baros around Christmas time under Spike.

“My dad Philip, who has been the Cheltenham League’s registration secretary for a long while now as well as secretary at Bishops Cleeve, was secretary at Baros for a couple of years a decade or so again when we were still a Sunday team, while our club founder Alan (Dobbin) Roberts, who so sadly passed away in December, was also a good family friend.

“So my Baros background was extensive before I applied for the job with my assistant Dougie Waller, who was himself a former player with the club and someone I have known since our school days.”

Tustain, a one-time Slimbridge forward and ex club captain with Cheltenham Saracens, said of the new partnership: “Dougie has always been keen on coaching while I lean more towards the management side.

“When Spike left the club at the end of the season we felt it would be a good time to see what we could do together at management level, so we took our ideas and enthusiasm to the committee and they all seemed very keen on what we had to say.

“The two of us bounce ideas off one another and it’s an exciting step, to try and get our thoughts and strategies across to a football team as managers for the first time.

“While there’s work to be done off the pitch in terms of the ground and its facilities, the aim is to get into the Hellenic League within five years and we’d love to achieve it by staying at Newlands. Whether that’s possible or not we’ll just have to see.

“It’s also very important to Dougie and me that our on-field discipline improves. Our record on that front was not good at times last season, something that was well documented, and we have to show that our commitment to the cause is done in an appropriate way.

“We’re looking to clean up our act and the many fresh faces coming into the camp will all be made aware of that.”

Barometrics secretary Paul Hockey confirmed: “A lot of last season’s players have gone with Mike Rhodes to Cheltenham Saracens, where he’s taken up the position of assistant manager.

“Joe and Dougie have come in, both former players here, while Dougie has assisted with our reserves in the past. They’re both good guys with an ambition to take the club up a level or two and perhaps emulate what our former manager Steve Cleal has achieved with Bishops Cleeve.

“We’re looking for our reserves (Cheltenham League One) and thirds (Division Three) to keep pushing on too, to ensure the gaps between them and our first team are as small as possible.

“Our under-15s last season also enjoyed a successful year, winning the County Cup, and we’re looking to integrate as many of those into our senior sides as possible over the coming months and years.”

Of that philosophy, Tustain concurred: “At 15 I was playing Hellenic Prem football for Bishops Cleeve and I’m a big believer in blooding young lads if they have the ability.

“To have players in the first team who have progressed through the club is something to be proud of and testament to the work of our youth coaches Simon Powell, Leigh Soule and Steve Finch.”



New reserve team boss required as Patchway Town plan for life at a higher level

PATCHWAY Town are targeting an ambitious new reserve team manager as they attempt to chart a course to bigger and better fare over the next few years.

The Scott Park club want a second-string supremo capable of lifting them out of the District League Senior Division and back into the Bristol Premier Combination, a key element, they feel, in first-team hopes of progression to the higher level too.

Dean Horseman, 29-year-old manager of Patchway’s long-established Gloucestershire County League set-up, believes a successful reserve outfit can play a significant part in catapulting his senior side into the Toolstation Western League for the first time in their 58-year history.

Attempts to reach that objective last term were dismissed as Town’s Scott Park HQ did not receive a requisite ground-grading green light for progression.

Nevertheless Horseman, who in August will kick-off his third season at a helm once loyally occupied by his father and dedicated club-man Kevin, is hopeful all that will soon change, with the potential for some “exciting ground improvements” loitering tantalisingly on the horizon.

In the meantime filling a reserve team role last season occupied by co-player bosses Matt Fowler and Jason Ford has become a priority.

Horseman Jnr explained: “Our reserves have been struggling for a few years now in all honesty and Matt and Jason offered to take it on last season.

“Unfortunately it didn’t work out and there was a parting of the ways with three games to go. Thankfully we managed to stay up and now we’re looking to rebuild under a new incumbent and hopefully start making strides towards regaining our place in the Premier Combination.

“We are an ambitious club, one I am privileged to be managing as I had followed Patchway since I was five years old, and we feel that with the right person in place we can make some big steps forward.”

As for Town’s firsts, Horseman is hopeful that if they can finally complete the necessary facility improvements, another shot at Western League prestige is only a matter of time away.

“We applied last year but had to withdraw because we just couldn’t get the work done in time to be considered,” he confirmed.
“If we can get everything in place over the next few months then the aim is to apply again in December and look to get ourselves in a position on the pitch to strike for promotion, which has always been my aim.”

Pre-season training is already underway on Tuesdays and Thursdays at Scott Park from 6.30pm and any prospective players are welcome to join in. Anyone wishing to apply for the reserve team managerial position can email deanhorseman86@hotmail.co.uk

Patchway have pencilled in five away pre-season fixtures at Sharpness (Tues, July 19), Bitton (Thurs, July 21), Newent Town (Tues, July 26), Taverners (Sat, July 30) and Brislington (Tues, Aug 2).  



Cheal has credentials to keep Bishops Cleeve Reserves on track, insists chairman

BISHOPS Cleeve chairman David Walker believes the arrival of their own new reserve-team ‘gaffer’ can prove just the ticket when it comes to their on-field aspirations.

Alex Cheal, a one-time youth and second-string performer with the club, recently received a call to duty on the strength of a successful application and is already gearing up in earnest for the new County League campaign with Cleeve now he has his feet under the table.

Walker was encouraged by what he saw from the Kayte Lane club’s reserves last term as they finished up seventh under the stewardship of Rich Gill, their best final placement since their laudable fourth-spot effort in 2008-09.

However a late-season announcement by Gill of his intention to step down at the end of the campaign following two progressive years in charge had club chiefs unexpectedly scouring the market for a replacement. Thankfully they didn’t have to wait long for a promising response.

Walker explained: “Last season we did a lot better than in recent years, but Rich informed us a month or so before the end of it that he would be stepping down in order to try and obtain his full FA coaching badges with a view to trying his hand at coaching in America.

“We began to advertise, Alex approached us and we’re very pleased that he did so.

“Not only is he a local lad who lives in Bishops Cleeve and has strong links with our club, but he’s done a lot of futsal and women’s football coaching at University of Gloucestershire as head of each, so his CV looked good.

“For now we’ll be giving him a bit of time to stamp his mark on the role and look to continue our progression in the County League.

“He’s brought in John Banfield, last year’s Cheltenham Civil Service co-manager alongside Neil Bonnar, as his assistant, who managed our reserves a few years ago in this league and we believe they’ll be good together.”

Cheal, 27, said of his appointment: “Football coaching is not new to me as my background suggests but this is my first job in the football pyramid and I can’t wait to get started.

“I played for Cleeve Colts for many years as a youngster and progressed to senior football with their third and reserve teams, as well as captaining the under-18s, so it’s good to be part of it all again in this way and hopefully we can go on and build on a good last season.”



Hicks: Collett-Wilson partnership can propel Hallen hopefuls to higher reaches again

HALLEN’s vice-chairman Andy Hicks is confident fledgling manager Tom Collett and his new No.2 Rayan Wilson can bring the good times back to Moorhouse Lane.

Experienced hot-shot Collett boldy stepped into the breach in a caretaker capacity when previous boss Steve Winter resigned in December.

Despite a fourth successive season of struggle following their commendable fourth-spot finish in 2011-12 – Hallen concluded the latest campaign fourth from the foot of the Toolstation Premier Division table – hopes are high that the new duo can galvanise player support and team spirit sufficiently to ensure a much better showing next time around.

Hicks revealed: “Tom will take us into the new season as manager with the help of Rayan Wilson, who is well known around the football scene as a fitness trainer and sports therapist through his Back2Action Rehabilitation business.

“Tom has been our top goalscorer for many years now and he’s planning to continue playing. He and we are keeping our fingers crossed for a much better next season because the last few years have been difficult, it’s fair to say.

“We’re hoping to bring through some of the young players from our former Hallen Youth side as well as looking to blood a few more lads from our reserves, players like Danny Webb who made a lot of appearances for us last season.

“Tom’s still only 30 and he’s only had half a season as a manager under his belt, but with Rayan alongside him, who is well known and respected in the local game, I’m sure they’ll both prove a hit with players and supporters alike.

“We’re also pleased that Back2Action have agreed to become our main club sponsor for next season.”

It’s been a hectic time behind the scenes over the summer as a problem area of Hallen’s pitch around the dugouts has led to £8,000 worth of new drainage being installed, which has seen some 60 tonnes of sand, soil and seed packed into the surface.

“It would get quite stodgy there and while we were still able to get games on, it was affecting the quality of the pitch and the work really needed to be done,” Hicks insisted.

While work to the ground continues to be undertaken, Hallen will play all five of their pre-season games away from home.
They kick-off with a fixture against newly-promoted Hellenic Premier Division side Cheltenham Saracens on Wednesday, July 20, followed by an encounter with Saracens’ league rivals Longlevens on Friday, July 22.

Hallen then embark on a tasty trip to take on Southern League top-flight side Chippenham Town on Tuesday, July 26, while promoted Welsh second division champions Caldicot Town are next up for Collett’s men on Saturday, July 30 before Toolstation first division team Keynsham Town provide the opposition for the final warm-up match on Tuesday, August 2.



Fifty-up Longwell Green Sports on a mission to ensure more people pitch in...

LONGWELL Green Sports have waved through Ali Biggs and Andy Summers to continue in charge of first-team affairs – while maintaining a keen eye on significant off-field developments right now.

The pair managed to keep the Toolstation Premier Division relegation trapdoor firmly at arm’s length in their first stint at the helm last season and have already secured the services of several new recruits as they seek to continue the momentum borne of an encouraging last few weeks, in which they beat two of the division’s big boys Barnstaple Town and Buckland Athletic by 2-0 margins.

Chairman John Gibbs confirmed: “Ali and Andy will be running it again and there’s the promise of quite a few new faces coming in.

“Their remit was to keep us in the Premier Division but far from settling for just that we finished the season really strongly, including victories over a Barnstaple side who went on to be promoted to the Southern League and a Buckland team with big ambitions to go up themselves.

“We also enjoyed derby victories over Bitton and Cadbury Heath so now we’re looking for that form to continue into next season.”

Longwell Green do, however, have a vacancy for a new reserve team manager to plug. They perform in the Bristol Premier Combination’s top flight and Gibbs acknowledged: “We have had several different people running them and it’s an opportunity for someone to come in and really stamp their mark on it.

“A lot of promising young talent has come through to play for our ressies and the goal is to see if we can close the gap between our two top sides by becoming a truly competitive Premier Combination team.”

With the burgeoning Longwell club in the midst of celebrating its 50th anniversary, attentions are being turned towards a conundrum relating to their Shellards Road HQ.

Gibbs explained: “We run 35 teams of seniors and juniors, which is great, but we only have two full-sized pitches and the potential for finding areas of land for all these players to utilise is decreasing as school and council pitches aren’t so readily available.

“It’s quite a concern and it’s really only down to the sterling work of all our volunteers that we’re able to achieve what we do. But it’s becoming increasingly difficult to maintain.

“We feel we have found a solution long term but we need more hands to help ensure it actually happens. Like any other club, we need more volunteers to come through with the same levels of enthusiasm.

“In the meantime we are looking to pack the perimeter of our ground with advertising boards which should enhance the look of it and generate some revenue, while work on new dugouts is underway and the pitch is being improved as well, so there’s a lot going on.”



Brave Blackwell overcomes injury horror to take Team GB place for Rio Paralympics

INSPIRATIONAL South Gloucestershire footballer James Blackwell says he “can’t wait” for the Rio Paralympic Games to get underway now he has been given clearance to participate in Team GB colours, writes Simon Parkinson.

The 30-year-old full-back with County League side Kingswood suffered life-threatening injuries midway through the second half of last season’s opening fixture, a Les James Cup tie against Patchway Town at Scott Park.

The experienced former Shortwood Reserves and Tetbury Town defender crashed awkwardly to ground under the challenge of an opponent and was later found to have not only broken his neck but sustained spinal cord damage significantly triggered by a prolapsed disc.

Aided by a hard collar around his neck, and unwavering support from his wife Holly and other family and friends, a determined Blackwell began the long and painful road back to full health over the ensuing months, reaching his goal to such an extent that he was recently passed fit, an artificial disc bolted fast inside his neck for added protection, to partake in September’s Paralympic Games with Team GB’s Cerebral Palsy seven-a-side football team.

It’s been quite a journey for a player born with a condition which, in his case, affects the movement and flexibility of muscles down the entire left side of his body.

His Cerebral Palsy (CP) diagnosis as a youngster came with a stark warning to his devoted parents, who were informed at the time their son may never walk.

Blackwell, who has had a 13-month-old son Charlie to consider too amid the turmoil, smiled: “I’ve had it said about me twice now that I may never walk again, because the specialist I saw after the neck injury on the opening day of last season couldn’t understand how I was still alive. At best it was thought I might be paralysed for life.

“My parents ensured I received lots of occupational therapy as a child when they were told I had CP and may never walk and it was scary not only for them, but my wife too, about the likely effects on my health after the incident last August.

“I had 14 weeks with a hard collar on not allowed to lift anything or exert myself in any way, that after being led on a flat board for a week after the op.

“It was a low point, those few weeks, because I’m very active and independent normally and my poor wife had to feed and wash me. But it gave me more drive to prove I could get back playing football again and by the end of February I was ready to get stuck into it again.”

Blackwell and his England CP comrades had secured their place as representatives of Team GB in the forthcoming Rio Games courtesy of a laudable fifth-place finish in last year’s World Championships held on home soil at the FA’s national football centre at St George’s Park in Staffordshire.

An initial 30-man squad, selected by Team GB head coach and England manager Keith Webb, was whittled down to the final 14, comprising ten Englishmen, three Scotsmen and a Northern Ireland player.

Despite the dreadful injuries sustained and lengthy recuperation process that followed, Blackwell, who scored four times in those World Championships, somehow made the cut.

He explained: “Obviously my place was in considerable doubt over many months from the moment I picked up the injury but they extended the March deadline to enable myself and another player, Emyle Rudder from London, to have the best possible chance of proving our fitness and making the squad.

“They did insist on me being back playing well before then and thankfully by the end of February, when I was finally allowed to engage in contact sport, I was ready to start playing again and I was able to take part for Team GB in a tri-nations tournament involving Holland and Russia, again at St George’s Park.

“Everything went well and I went on to play a few games for Kingswood’s reserves in Stroud League Two.”

Only last week Blackwell and his Team GB colleagues were in Brazil on a fact-finding mission to attune themselves to the stadia, culture and climate they will encounter between September 8 and September 19. Three initial group games will determine who reaches the semi-finals and final of a competition comprising two leagues of eight teams, which include the host nation, ranked third, and world champions Russia.

Despite his incredible recovery Blackwell admits he still experiences “pins and needles and itchiness when tired”, adding: “No one knows how severe the effects of the injury will be long term because the spinal cord is damaged. In many ways I am just pleased and relieved to be walking.

“The pain is nothing like it was initially after the injury. I lost the use of my arms and legs for about 15 minutes after being knocked to the ground. My legs slowly came back to me but I was told at Southmead Hospital that the pressure on my spine, caused by the elbow from the challenging opponent which went into my neck and clean snapped it, could have killed me.

“I can look back on my three years as an England CP player with a lot of affection; it’s taken me to Spain twice, Portugal, America and now Brazil.

“But the Paralympics will be extra special and I’m really proud to be selected to represent my country at such a prestigious competition, especially after everything I have gone through over the past few months.

“Now I can’t wait to board that plane from Heathrow on September 2 with the rest of the lads, knowing that we have the support of the British public.”



We have lift off – Lebeq and Stonehouse win Gloucestershire County League entry

STONEHOUSE Town and Lebeq United have been accepted into the Gloucestershire County League ahead of life at the level next season.

Northern Senior League runners-up Stonehouse, and Bristol and Suburban Premier One champions Lebeq, were among seven clubs to apply for elevation to the ever-popular step 7 competition, the most to attempt to join in one go in its distinguished 48-year history.

Town have been there before, having been the first club to claim a County League title way back in 1968, while Lebeq step into new territory altogether after being granted permission by the FA to gain promotion through the use of the GFA’s 3G facilities at Oaklands Park in Almondsbury next season. They previously performed at Netham Park in east Bristol.

League secretary Ron Holpin confirmed that Little Stoke, Newent Town, Mangotsfield Sports, Highridge United and Mendip Broadwalk had all tried and were unsuccessful in gaining entry this time around, although the latter did win a switch from the Bristol Premier Combination, where they were crowned champions last term, to Somerset County League Division Two East.

Holpin said: “We welcome Stonehouse and Lebeq into the league and the fact that Lebeq will be playing on an artificial pitch for the first time in the league’s history will make for an interesting and intriguing challenge for all of our member clubs.

“It’s heartening that the County League is still held in such high esteem by so many as we had the most clubs ever applying to join us in one season. Unfortunately for three of the seven they were turned down because they didn’t get the required ground grading certificate in time.

“The league remains a target for many aspiring clubs because it is a first rung on the ladder to Football League status and a springboard into the semi-pro game.

“Forest Green Rovers began life in the County League and look where they are today. We’re also a supply league, which means we provide a referee and two assistants to all games as part of the Western League match officials’ pool.”

Meanwhile the league is looking for an assistant secretary with a view to potentially taking over the reins of secretary at some point in the future.

“The future of the league depends on someone taking over from me in time, someone with experience of administration and a passion for local football,” Holpin stressed.

Anyone wishing to be considered for the role can call Ron on 01454 612842 or email him at sec.gloscountyleague@btinternet.com



Third team boss required as flourishing Longlevens bid to keep momentum going 

LONGLEVENS are basking in the afterglow of the “most successful period” in the club’s 62-year-old history.

Now the Gloucester outfit are looking for that momentum to carry on throughout their vast and burgeoning ranks with the appointment of a new manager to run their Stroud League Division Two ‘thirds’ in the hope of maintaining the impressive progression that particular corner of the camp has enjoyed in recent times.

Keeping a firm eye on all that’s been happening at Longlevens has been something of a challenge for club chiefs, not least Andy Davis, who has been associated with them since he was a 16-year-old player and these days oversees the smooth operation of their three Stroud League sides as secretary.

His father, Bill Davis, is a Longlevens life member having been involved with the club for some 40 years, while Andy’s brother Steve Davis manages the club’s fifth team, who will kick off next term at the higher Division Six level thanks to elevation via league restructuring.

As for the ‘fourths’, their sixth division title success last season propelled them into Division Five for the 2016-17 campaign, while Longlevens Reserves have quickly established themselves as a competitive Northern Senior League Division Two force, their mid-table finish last time out a promising start on the strength of their first-ever Stroud Division One championship success of 2014-15.

With such a pool of talent at their disposal distributed right across the board, small wonder Longlevens’ first team, based at Saw Mills End, have experienced such a meteoric rise in recent years, back-to-back County League triumphs followed by a title and promotion clinching Hellenic Division One West success leading to an admirable mid-table conclusion in 2015-16 in their first crack at Hellenic top-tier activity.

In an interview with GFA Local Football News Andy Davis, 33, enthused: “It’s been a wonderful period for our club; the most successful in our history. And we want that progression to continue.

“Our first team manager James French and his staff and players have done magnificently well to reach the level they’re at. We entered the FA Vase for the first time last season and now we’re looking to add entry into the FA Cup to that next season.

“Everyone at the club is delighted by the way we’ve put ourselves on the football map of Gloucester and we’ve done it in a respectful and proper manner. How well we conduct ourselves on and off the pitch is something we take especially seriously.

“We’ve shown as a club how far we have come over the past six years and the aim with our firsts is to cement their place in the Hellenic Premier with a view to improving our facilities and seeing how we’re fixed in future for making the move up from step 5 Hellenic Premier and step 4 Southern League football, which really is a big leap.

“To make that transition we’d need to look at revenue income and approach it in the appropriate way, without taking undue risks with the finances and making sure the correct infrastructure is in place.

“It’s been a really quick progression and as far as moving forward is concerned it’s about striking the balance between being sensible and being ambitious.

“That said we’ve always been a progressive and ambitious club and why wouldn’t we want that to continue? Had we not shown that ambition and expansion already we’d certainly have lost James and his best players to other clubs by now.”

Davis insisted it was an aim too for Longlevens’ second-string to continue their own rise to become a County League member in time.

“That is the target long-term and it will be a challenge, of course, he stressed. “But we’ve faced many challenges at Longlevens and overcome them.

“That includes the running of our youth section which has come on leaps and bounds in recent years.”

Meanwhile Longlevens are hosting their popular annual seven-a-side tournament on Saturday, July 2 starting at 10.30am. Any teams affiliated to the Gloucestershire FA interested in taking part can contact Andy Davis on 07739 966967.

Anyone keen to take up the reins as third team manager can call Chris Bishop on 07720 600529 or email him at chris@perpetuapress.net



Fighting fit at 50 – Leonard Stanley braced for ‘special’ annual six-a-side extravaganza

LEONARD Stanley midfielder Joe Hill Pemberton has every reason to believe this year’s six-a-side festival will be extra special.

The Sunday, July 3 event will be the village club’s 50th of its kind and teams are still invited to take part, with registration opportunities on this occasion afforded right up until an hour before the 10.30am start.

So far some 30 teams have pencilled themselves in for the Marsh Road tournament which involves group stages and extended opportunities to reach the knock-out phases.

Hill Pemberton plays in the Leonard Stanley ‘engine room’ for their Northern Senior League Saturday side, as well as performing secretarial duties for the club’s successful Sunday section which celebrated victory in the final of last month’s GFA Sunday Intermediate North competition.

He said: “For the six-a-side festival to have been held here for 50 unbroken years is a magnificent achievement and says much about the loyalty and dedication shown by everyone involved in that time, from players and their families to our very committed committee.

“It’s always a great family day out with a big barbecue, raffle and fully-licensed bar and of course it’s a very important annual fundraiser for the club.”

Teams interested in partaking in the tournament can contact club secretary Roger Merrett on 01453 822927 or by emailing leonardstanleyfc@hotmail.co.uk

Hill Pemberton and many of his team-mates who perform for both Saturday and Sunday sides will find themselves competing at higher levels in both next term, as the Northern Senior section won promotion to Division One on the strength of last season’s third-place finish, while the Sunday team will play in the Premier Division of the Gloucester & District League thanks to league restructuring.

“We’re looking forward to the new levels but it will be tough on both counts,” he insisted.

“We’re always on the look-out for players for our Saturday and Sunday teams so people keen to try us out are very welcome to get in touch.”



Slimbridge’s newly-named Thornhill Park is perfect tribute to loyal ex-chairman Evi

SOUTHERN Leaguers Slimbridge are looking forward to a special occasion of their own next month.

Not only are Forest Green Rovers, who recently missed out on the chance of promotion to the Football League for the first time in their history following Wembley play-off defeat by Grimsby, the visitors to their Wisloe Road HQ on Monday, July 25, but a formal ground renaming ceremony will be staged ahead of the 7.30pm kick-off.

The well-known local football venue is to be renamed Thornhill Park as an act of respect for the club’s former chairman Evi Thornhill, who bequeathed the land that went on to become Slimbridge’s home as part of his will way back in 1960.

Club spokesman Tim Blake said: “We are delighted that we can finally confirm the date for the renaming ceremony. Our club’s history for over 55 years has been built upon the land and the legacy that Mr Thornhill bequeathed to us.

“We are in a very precious position of owning our own ground, something that many other clubs cannot rely on, and we greatly appreciate the extra level of security that brings to our club and which we will do nothing to risk.

“We have been in touch with Evi Thornhill’s son Tony who has agreed to come along and help us out with the ceremony on the night, and I think it’s fair to say that he was very touched that the football club is recognising his father’s bequest in this way.”

Slimbridge, who concluded their first-ever campaign in Southern League Division One S&W in a fifth from bottom position well out of harm’s way, have arranged a packed programme of pre-season friendlies, details of which can be found on their official website.



Miles better: Dursley Town are targeting swift return to Northern Senior top-flight

OPTIMISTIC chairman Neil Sharp believes luckless Dursley Town’s fortunes can only change for the better now their experienced former player Phil Miles has taken up the reins, reports Simon Parkinson.

Miles left for a successful three-season, double-promotion stint in the Stroud League with local rivals Charfield.

But he has returned to the Rec not only as a senior player once more but as Dursley’s brand-new leader following Lee Thomas’ relinquishment of the top job.

Town completed a tough Northern Senior Division One campaign bottom of the pack and relegated to the league’s second tier.
Sharp attributes much of their 2015-16 troubles to rank bad luck on the player front and explained: “We lost a lot of players to Cam and Sharpness in and around the start of the season and then two of our strikers, Curtis Mills and Kyle Ward, suffered cruciate ligament injuries.

“Two of those players who left us for other clubs, Liam Jones and Greg Penlington, went on to win the title with Sharpness.
“Losing Kyle and Curtis to injury early into the season and just after Christmas respectively didn’t help anything. Curtis is a former left wing-back with Gloucestershire Youth and had attracted interest from elsewhere when he picked up the injury, which says it all about his credentials.

“It was a shame all round because we had begun the season confident we could stay out of the relegation places on the strength of a positive pre-season, and we showed at times that we could compete strongly with the top teams in the division, Sharpness and Stonehouse among them, with good performances.”

Dursley had kicked-off the season with some purpose too with an early strike in their opener with Ruardean Hill at the Rec, only to have a man sent off shortly after the break en route to a 4-1 defeat.

They had no inkling then that they would fail to win a single game until the 2-1 January 30 home victory over FC Barometrics, before going on to win one more match before the campaign was out, by the same scoreline at Berkeley Town the following month.

Nevertheless Sharp is adamant that under Miles’ stewardship Dursley can again prove themselves the sort of force that once took them all the way into the County League for a five-year stretch between 1996 and 2001, although patience is likely to be a virtue.

“Phil has done really well at Charfield and that experience of being a manager for the first time can only stand him in good stead,” reasoned Sharp, who has been involved with the club in various on and off-field capacities since 1991.

“He’s also an experienced midfielder and centre-half and we’re very pleased to have him back on board because he must have been with us for a decade or so before he left for Charfield.

“He has good contacts and he’s talking about bringing in new players. Above all Phil wants to win the league and be successful with Dursley; he’s not in it just to make up the numbers.”

The new manager is currently on the search for someone to assist him as he prepares for life in Northern Senior Division Two.

The club, who also parade second and third teams in Stroud Division Three, under Robbie Cox, and Division Six, led by Lee Matthews, respectively, are hosting their annual six-a-side tournament on Saturday, July 9.

Any teams wishing to partake can contact Neil Sharp on 07860 556374.



Stonehouse, Lebeq play anxious waiting game – but Yate pull plug on reserve team

TWO high-flying members of our local leagues are waiting with bated breath to learn whether their hopes of gaining promotion to the Gloucestershire County League will be realised.

Stonehouse Town, who finished in a runners-up position in the latest Gloucestershire Northern Senior League shake-up, and Bristol and Suburban League Premier One champions Lebeq United, are poised in eager anticipation of gaining acceptance to the higher level.

The pair are now the only contenders after Bristol Premier Combination champions Mendip Broadwalk, who had hoped to be considered but are not GFA-affiliated, one of the requirements for entry, were instead accepted into Somerset County League’s Division Two East section.

It means Stonehouse and Lebeq could fill both vacant spots available in next term’s Gloucestershire County League due to Kings Stanley’s early-season demise in the 2015-16 campaign and, more recently, Yate Town’s decision to disband their reserve team.

The fact two places are up for grabs and no teams are to be relegated presents potential welcome news for Southmead CS Athletic, last season’s bottom club, who live to fight another day together with the second-from-bottom champions of 2015-16, Cheltenham Civil Service.

Stonehouse, who were champions of the first-ever County League competition in 1968, and Lebeq will learn their fate at the league’s rescheduled AGM this Tuesday evening, which had originally been pencilled in for a fortnight prior.

Yate’s second-string have been perennial basement battlers for several years, although the decision to remove them from competition of any sorts was not taken lightly according to their long-serving secretary Terry Tansley.

He explained: “It was a difficult one to take for us but our reserves have struggled for a few years and the gulf between them and our Southern League first team became too great. In the end we felt it in the best interests of the club as a whole to disband them in order to concentrate on our first team and successful youth set-up.”

A club statement read: “We wish to advise that Yate Town Football Club have discontinued the reserves from the Gloucestershire County League.

“The decision was made following a meeting attended by the chairman, directors, first team manager and reps from the development side where all aspects were considered and it was agreed this would be in the best overall interests of the club.”

County League secretary Ron Holpin admitted: “It’s always disappointing when you lose a club in this way, just like Kings Stanley before them, and Yate have been members of our league for some 14 or 15 years.”



Ian Harvey factor can add fuel to our promotion fire, insists Manor Farm boss Lee

BRISTOL Manor Farm boss Lee Lashenko believes the appointment of Ian Harvey as his new No.2 will prove just the ticket as they seek a pass to the promised land of Southern League prestige.

GFA Challenge Trophy winners once more and FA Vase quarter-finalists, Farm also looked odds-on to clinch promotion at last from their third-spot station in last season’s Toolstation Premier Division race, only for Devon rivals Barnstaple Town to pip them as runners-up and instead claim a place in next season’s Southern League One S&W competition, having initially been informed their facilities did not meet requisite standards for the level.

Despite their undeniable frustration the Creek club have regrouped while Lashenko, true to form, has emerged from his end-of-season sabbatical fighting and talking up their chances of not only going all the way next season, but as Western League champions too.

The fact he now has 38-year-old former Chippenham Town and Bath City midfielder Harvey by his side can only enhance those prospects, he feels.

“I’ve known Ian since we were at Chew Valley School together and I even attended his testimonial dinner at Chippenham the year before last,” 39-year-old Lashenko explained.

“He joined us as a player in December and I’m delighted he went away promising to consider my offer to make him my assistant and came back pledging to dedicate himself to our cause.

“It’s his first job in management and he’s full of enthusiasm about the role. That sort of hunger and spirit rejuvenates everybody.

“Ian knows all about the higher level as a player with the likes of Chippenham, Bath, Tiverton and Clevedon and it mustn’t be forgotten he was a youngster at Swindon Town when Steve McMahon was manager.”

Harvey’s opportunity came as a result of previous No.2 Danny Greaves’ decision to accept an offer to become boss of Toolstation Premier Division side Bradford Town.

Manor Farm have also moved to appoint their reserve team manager Andy Cole as the club’s first-ever director of football.
Of those hopes of hoisting themselves into the Southern League next time around following a series of agonising near misses, Lashenko warned: “While losing out again was hard to take we’ve shown guts and determination before and these situations make you all the more determined.

“We not only want to go up but we want to win the league, although the likes of Melksham and Buckland, who I have big respect for and have the facilities themselves to win promotion, will no doubt be big contenders again.

“But we’ll be up there challenging hammer and tongs ourselves and I’m confident that not only will we have the nucleus of the team that did so well for us last season, but that we’ll be topping it up with one or two quality additions.”  



Taxing times but new chairman Tait says cash-hit Cinderford will come bouncing back

CINDERFORD Town’s new chairman Stuart Tait insists his club will be doing “everything possible” to try and ensure they are in a fit state to go up when next they find themselves in a position to strike for promotion.

Financial constraints, relating much to an historic tax bill which is yet to be paid, prompted Town chiefs to reject a golden opportunity to perform in the Southern League Premier Division next term following a glorious first-ever Division One South & West title triumph.

Concerned that the team simply would not have the cash clout to compete properly at the higher level, the board’s decision was met by a mass exodus of players and staff, including manager John Brough and player-coach Lee Smith, who have both since joined league rivals North Leigh, while assistant boss Gerry Oldham and coach Mark Lockwood left for Evesham United.

Veterans of the local professional and semi-pro scene Allan Gough and Chris Burns, both popular former Cinderford players and club-men, have since been appointed in a co-manager capacity, while former vice-chairman Tait is adamant a fresh wave of interest, both from inside and outside the club, is promising to deliver what he is labelling “an exciting new dawn”.

“We’ve a new committee of 14 enthusiastic people and there’s an emphasis now on the commercial side of things, something which has up until now been pretty non-existent,” Tait stressed to GFA Local Football News.

“The sustainability of the club is paramount and when I informed the committee about the historic tax bill, it was a no-brainer to pull out of promotion. As it turns out, the figure is even higher than we initially thought.

“Had we not had that bill to pay we’d have been in a position to go up, without question. It wasn’t solely my decision not to; a lot of people were involved in the decision-making, including the board, key supporters and fans.

“Of course it didn’t go down well with some people and that hurt a bit, but I didn’t want to see us becoming a Hereford or a Salisbury in future. Others gave us a lot of understanding and support, which is great, but the situation is what it is.”

Tait mused: “Winning the league as we did gave everyone an unbelievable buzz and to go from utopia to rock bottom in such a short space of time was tough for everyone to take, and it must be remembered that we’re all volunteers. But it just wasn’t feasible.

“If we get ourselves into a promotion position on the field next season then I’m sure we’ll be in a much stronger position to finance it. We’re learning as we go and a lot of people are rallying behind us.

“It won’t be easy, of course, because the new management team won’t have anything like the budget the previous team had and of course we’ve lost an entire squad.

“But we’ve had 15 pledges from players keen to join us and to say we’ve all worked hard to get things back on track over the past few weeks is an understatement.”

With that all-important cash drive firmly in mind, Cinderford have organised two fun weekends, on Saturday, July 23 and over the August Bank Holiday weekend, which will include football festivals for local Forest sides of all levels, evening entertainment, stalls, sideshows and children’s activities.

Updates on both events can be found on the club’s social media sites.



Laying foundations: Southern League hopefuls Tuffley win big Sport England leg-up

AMBITIOUS Tuffley Rovers, who know all about cash crises themselves and the extreme effects they can have on a club’s standing in the game, are making more significant strides in making their Glevum Park facilities ship-shape for the Southern League, writes Simon Parkinson.

While they are keeping everything crossed that their fourth-from-bottom finish in 2015-16’s Hellenic Premier Division battle will ensure their place at the same level in next season’s competition, much work is being undertaken off the pitch to put them in the strongest position possible to go on and perform on bigger and better stages in future times.

Recently, with the significant aid of a £40,000 Sport England grant, Rovers jubilantly completed the purchase of the ground they had leased for some three decades from British Gas and National Grid.

Safe in the knowledge their immediate future is secure, an additional steel standing enclosure capable of accommodating 100 spectators is on its way, while a new management team comprising 27-year-old one-time Bishops Cleeve, Shortwood United and Gloucester City defender Mark Pritchett and his No.2 Shayne Anson who, like Pritchett, performed for Cirencester Town last season, has been installed in the wake of former boss Warren Evans’ departure citing family reasons.

Chairman Neil Brinkworth explained: “As it stands we’re awaiting confirmation from the Hellenic League that we’ll be retaining our place in the Premier Division.

“Once that’s been confirmed then we’ll be looking to consolidate our place in it again next season as a hopefully stronger Premier Division team, just as we were before financial constraints forced us to withdraw (in 2006) and start all over again in Northern Senior League Division Two.

“It’s been a steady climb back through the leagues and our dream now is to play Southern League football. We don’t want to be a club without ambitions and it’s something we’d like to push for going forward.

“We’ve carried out significant improvements to the ground this summer and over the past 30 years as a whole, when we turned a patch of wasteland owned by British Gas into a proper football pitch with good facilities to match.

“Naturally it’s too early to say how strong we’ll be heading into next season but we’re confident of retaining the majority of our squad and we’re sure that the experience our new management team’s acquired playing at Southern League level, and the connections they undoubtedly have, can stand us in good stead.”

Tuffley’s managerial changes extend to the third team too, where last season’s co-boss Jamie Harper has taken sole charge after his colleague Dan Gillespie (see article below) accepted an opportunity to take up the reins at Hellenic rivals Tytherington Rocks.

Meanwhile Rovers raised an impressive £3,000 from their recent charity match against Aston Villa Old Stars in aid of the James Hopkins Trust, which helps children with life-limiting and life-threatening conditions.

Mark Burke, Julian Joachim and Ian Ward featured for Villa’s golden oldies, watched by a bumper Glevum Park turn-out of some 500 captivated spectators. 

* Tuffley Rovers are seeking a stand-in physiotherapist to occupy the position over the early months of next season as regular incumbent Keith Wallington takes a breather.

Anyone interested in taking up the role can contact chairman Neil Brinkworth on 07833 235260.



Now Dan’s the man tasked with taking hopeful Tytherington to more profitable climes

TYTHERINGTON Rocks are hopeful the latest in a series of managerial changes in recent times will bear fruit as they begin to think about how best to tackle their 2016-17 Hellenic Division One West mission.

The Woodlands Road club and its dedicated committee, not least chairman Ted Travell, have suffered a wretched downturn in fortunes since their title-winning success in 2014, their second in a golden three-season spell around the time.

In stark contrast the two ensuing years have seen them finish-up bottom of the pile, despite several hot-seat incumbents, the latest Nigel Gaston, doing their level best to steer them to safer shores.

Dan Gillespie, who ran Tuffley Rovers’ third team last term in tandem with Jamie Harper, has now been given the chance to stamp his own personality on the position, at a much higher level with Rocks’ first XI.

Travell is adamant Gillespie has the credentials to prove a winner with Tytherington and he said: “We are delighted that Dan has accepted the role. We’re looking forward to bringing together a management team and players who will take the club forward.”

Travell issued an invitation to past Rocks’ players to join pre-season training sessions under the watchful eye of their new supremo, commencing at the end of June.



Delighted former Fry’s boss Mallett eager to grab big Bitton chance with both hands

ROB Mallett says he can’t wait to get to grips with the new challenges co-managing Bitton in the Toolstation Premier Division will undoubtedly present.

The ambitious 28-year-old recently left Keynsham-based Fry Club, consistent perennial performers in the higher reaches of the Somerset County League, following a fine five-year stint at the helm in order to team up with Dan Langdon, himself new to the Bitton hot seat having boldly taken up the reins late last season when Paul Britton and a clutch of senior players exited the club amid revelations of cash problems relating to the player budget.

Langdon had previously enjoyed a successful spell in charge of Bitton’s second string in the Bristol Premier Combination in tandem with his No.2 Sam Greatorex, so the call to first-team duty was as unexpected as it may well have been daunting given the gulf in status between the two.

Nevertheless the pair adjusted to the leap admirably and while it was always going to be a baptism of fire for them, Bitton ended the 2015-16 campaign promisingly in 14th spot and now Mallett and Co are confident the only way will be up again as the ship continues to stabilise at Rapid Solicitors Ground.

Of his decision to bid farewell to what appeared to be an ambitious project in its own right with Fry Club, Mallett told GFA Local Football News: “I felt I needed a new challenge after five years of trying to gain promotion with Fry’s.

“I wanted to test myself at a higher level and a month or so ago, after I’d already made up my mind around March time to call it a day at the end of the season, Dan got in touch offering me the opportunity to co-manage Bitton with him and it was too tempting to turn down.

“It’s nice that I’m leaving Fry’s with no hard feelings and I have lots of affection for them. We had our end-of-season presentations last Saturday and everyone wished me well; no one questioned why I was leaving.

“I learned a lot there and hopefully both myself and the club benefited from the time we had together. I combined my role at Fry’s with an academy position at Yeovil Town which also taught me much, although I am stepping away from that in order to fully focus on Bitton.”

Mallett stressed: “I’m young and ambitious and Bitton has a strong reputation in local football.

“We’re looking at building a proper football club; it won’t just be about the first team and hopefully everyone buys into what we’ll be striving to achieve.

“I’m realistic; it’s not going to happen overnight. But I’m looking forward to playing a full part in getting things moving in the right direction again and on a personal note it will be nice being back at a club I lived and breathed as a player between the ages of 11 and 20.”



Clean sweep of titles makes Hartpury manager Tassell so ‘incredibly proud’

HARTPURY’S young footballers have played a full part in an astonishing year for the college on the sporting front.

All four under-19 teams won their league titles, while the first team claimed a second successive under-18s English Schools Football Association (ESFA) Boys Colleges’ Trophy title.

Hartpury football programme manager Paul Tassell said: “We are incredibly proud of what the football programme has achieved. We judge ourselves on our league records as it is the best measure of performances throughout the year.

 “To win all four leagues firstly shows the consistency of our players, and secondly it shows that the services, mentoring and coaching the players are receiving is ensuring they are developing and are being challenged.

 “Each team has worked extremely hard to compete in their respective leagues as many of the development teams are up against against other college and school first teams. Plus, as the second XI have won the league which filters into the first XI league, they are not able to step up and compete any higher.

 “Perhaps most encouraging is the fact that we’ve seen so many of the players move through from the lower teams into the first XI, who have had their most successful league campaign in our successful history, winning all of their games and cementing our tenth ECFA Premier League title.

“The players and staff deserve recognition for achieving this historic moment.”



Race is on to join 2016-17 GFA Walking Football League thanks to first-season success

TEAMS comprising male players over 50 years old and above are invited to sign up for next season’s Gloucestershire FA (GFA) Walking Football League following the success of the county’s inaugural campaign.

Seven enthusiastic and competitive six-a-side sides took part in the final round of fixtures at the GFA’s 3G facility at Oaklands Park to establish the winners of the 2015-16 competition.

Bristol City FC entered two teams for the tournament while further north came representation from Abbeymead Rovers, Cirencester’s Phoenix Force, Malmesbury Marauders, Stroud Walking FC and, another from the outskirts of the town, Inside Football.

After an eventful occasion at Almondsbury in which all seven sides concluded their 12-fixture programmes with two to three games apiece, FA People’s Cup finalists Abbeymead lay claim to the title honours by a six-point margin over second-placed Stroud, who edged Phoenix Force to runners-up spot by a single point.

Other venues to stage games over the season were Gloucester’s Abbeydale Community Centre, Cirencester Arena and Brimscombe-based Inside Football.

Each match is played over two 15-minute periods and qualified referees are to hand to keep good law and order.

GFA football development officer Jack Stanbury says having proper officials to hand is far from purely for show either!

He smiled: “It can get quite tense and competitive at times; these guys take it pretty seriously and why not? They’re at a time of their lives, generally 50-plus with limited movement in some cases, when they’re hardly going to sprint after balls down the channels or chase back at full speed to make a goal-saving interception.

“It’s fun and it’s friendly but they want to win, make no mistake, and this type of league is perfect for them because they want something more than the popular turn-up-and-play sessions we offer people, men and women, across the county.

“It’s a very tactical spin on the regular game because you’re not, of course, allowed to run and no balls can legally be kicked over head height. It’s all about passing to feet but there’s a real art to it as you can imagine.

“As we saw here on Friday and over the season, you do see some very good passing movements and very good finishing and the participants seem to love it.

“Everyone was asked to fill out a feedback form and that all came back very positive. There’s clearly a desire for this pace of football to be delivered as they feel it’s perfect for their ages, abilities and general life circumstances.”

Jack said the good weather had helped the final day, along with an array of refreshments, to go down well with players and spectators and that plans to introduce a second bigger and better league season were already underway.

“We’re looking to start up again around September time,” he confirmed. “We’ve already had interest and we’re opening it up to even more teams with a view to possibly forming two regional divisions, to help make travelling to games easier for everyone.”

Anyone interested in registering a team for next season’s GFA Walking Football League, or to find out more about turn-up-and-play sessions, can email Jack at jack.stanbury@gloucestershirefa.com or call him in office hours on 01454 615888 (option 3).



Hambrook prepared to join forces in attempt to regain prized County League seat

BRISTOL Premier Combination side Hambrook are considering merging with another local club in a bold attempt to rekindle their glory days.

The once-proud Gloucestershire County League outfit ended their latest campaign in a respectable mid-table position in the Combination’s second tier, despite experiencing on and off-field battles which led club officials to consider the prospect of a tie-up with a rival club.

Not only have they lost players from both their first XI and District League Division Two sections over the course of their respective campaigns, but Hambrook find themselves in urgent need of some off-field help too, not least where key roles of chairman, secretary and reserve-team manager go.

First-team boss Dave Davies, a one-time centre-forward with Hambrook and their County League rivals-of-the-time DRG, admits more needs to be done not only to protect the club’s existence but to drive them on to previous heights on the football ladder.

He explained: “The loss of some players left us near the bone at times and unfortunately we had to forfeit two first-team games and two reserve games towards the end of the season. Had it not been for the help and dedication of our committee, we would be in a worse state than we are.

“On top of that our chairman and secretary stood down, while running the reserves boiled down to three of the players, which means a new manager is a priority too ahead of next season.

“It’s a shame because this really is a fantastic club. We own our own ground with function room, skittle alley, bar; but it needs an influx of good players and off-field volunteers to make it happen.

“Our first team were second in the table until Christmas when the poor weather broke our momentum, and then we picked up again towards the end of the season and finished eighth.

“I love being manager of the first team – we’re higher than we’ve ever been since our County League days some two decades ago – but it would be helpful if someone with the requisite managerial credentials were to take over to enable me to concentrate on off-field affairs as there are simply not enough hands to the pump right now. And we have two under-18s teams to look after too.”

Of the merger talk, Davies confirmed: “We are considering joining forces with another club and continuing to use our ground as our HQ, but any such tie-up would have to be beneficial to both parties, of course.

“The aim remains to return to the County League and certainly the pitch is good enough.

“You only have to look at the wonderful old pictures up at the club of those County League days to feel inspired to make another push for that level of football.”

Anyone interested in joining the Hambrook mission can contact Dave Davies on 07764 760921 or email him at ddavies@harrissports.co.uk



All about the lights now as County League kings AEK Boco point way to bright future

GLOUCESTERSHIRE County League’s runaway champions AEK Boco are already plotting a fresh assault on defending their crown – and hoping it will catapult them into the Toolstation Western League this time.

Using their runners-up position in 2014-15 in their maiden season at the level as a springboard, Hanham-based Boco cruised to the title 12 months later by an impressive 13-point margin ahead of Henbury, whetting the appetite of Greenbank Road players and officials eager to continue laying building blocks to bigger and better fare in the times to come.

Boco always knew they were never serious contenders for elevation to the Western League this spring as council chiefs weighed up potential to install requisite floodlights at the ground and give the green light to other necessary improvements with a view to gaining entry into bona fide semi-pro settings.

While a feasibility study is currently being undertaken by the local authority to establish whether floodlighting for the ground is appropriate, Boco are keeping everything crossed that their dreams of further progression will be granted. For now, they remain a little in limbo but full of hope.

Manager Gary Lancaster said: “Everyone’s buzzing still; it was hard work right up until the final game and then suddenly we could sit back and reflect on what we’d achieved and it has been a massive achievement, to finish runners-up in your first year and then go all the way in your second.

“This is a very tough league at the best of times and when you consider how many games we have won by the odd goal, it says a lot about our style of play and how competitive the league is.

“We have built our success on simply being hard to beat, keeping lots of clean sheets. We play one upfront in (12-goal) Jordan Scott, whose work-rate is tremendous, and we have midfielders in Ben Menear, Charlie Stevens, Jason Thatcher, Liam Powell and Liam Jenkins who all chip in with their share of goals.

“Our top scorer for 2015-16 was Jason with 13 goals. Compare that to, say, Dhani Golding at Bristol Telephones who ended up with 38 goals. So defensively we were strong all over the park and for me our keeper Joe Pople is right up there among the best the league has to offer.”
Lancaster added: “You have to be excited about what is happening at Boco. Our reserves are now in the top division of the Bristol Premier Combination, our A team finished third in Division One of the District League and could themselves go up, and our fourths are in Suburban League Division Two.

“To field four men’s teams in this day and age is quite something and with all these teams progressing, it becomes doubly imperative we at first team level keep moving forwards too, which is why this feasibility study is taking place to ascertain whether we can push on with our plans for floodlights.

“We’ve had all the inspections relating to the rest of our facilities and everything is fine there, so we’re just waiting to see whether the lights can in theory go in.

“If the council gives a positive response then we’ll put in an application asap and tell the lads that if they go out and repeat what they’ve done this season, their chances of playing for Boco at an even higher level can only be enhanced.”



Chipping Sodbury prepare for summer spectacles – and life in the Toolstation top-flight

CHIPPING Sodbury Town will gear up for life at the higher level with some intriguing pre-season spectacles in their own Ridings backyard on the Wickwar Road, writes Simon Parkinson.

Bath City, who recently agreed terms with Gary Owers to remain in charge of the National League South side, kick-off Sodbury’s pre-season home fixtures on Wednesday, July 6 (7.30pm) while a fortnight later, on Wednesday, July 20 (also 7.30pm), local rivals Yate Town, themselves under relatively new management in Paul Britton, are the visitors.

Town will face another severe test of their new-found credentials on Saturday, July 30 (3pm) when Brimscombe & Thrupp, impressive fifth-place finishers in the latest Hellenic Premier Division shake-up, travel south to the Ridings.

Sodbury have been enjoying something of a meteoric rise themselves in recent times, their first XI clinching a second straight promotion to land a place in next season’s Toolstation Premier Division for the first time in their history on the back of their exciting Division One title success, which led to their young boss Karl Reese collecting manager of the year for the section.

Not content with that Chipping Sodbury Reserves, under the shrewd stewardship of manager Les Theobald, gained a place in the Bristol Premier Combination via a District League Senior Division championship-winning route, while Richard Bisp’s A team cemented a commendable tenth position in Division Two, foundations they hope to build upon next time around.

Hardly surprising, then, that club manager Scott Gibson, who celebrated his 49th birthday this week, has been finding the achievements hard to absorb along with the rest of his delighted Sodbury comrades.

“To be honest we hadn’t expected to come this far so quickly,” he confessed of his first team’s accomplishments.

“We’re enjoying it though; it’s massive for us. We’re making further improvements to our ground, by erecting a second 50-seat stand and another enclosure with 80 standing spaces.

“There’s more hard standing going down on the far side of the pitch and the dugouts are being revamped. The terrace in front of the clubhouse is also being extended to enable more spectator standing.

“How will we fare in the Premier Division? The target has to be to try and stay well out of trouble, in and around mid-table. We have to make sure we’re not in a relegation battle.

“Then you look at what Barnstaple have achieved. Like us they won the first division (in 2014-15) and are now about to ply their trade in the Southern League.

“We’re on a high and hoping to sign some good, well-established Western League Premier Division players in time for next season, so it’s all positive.

“We’d like to get to the Southern League ourselves in time but it’s important we don’t try to travel too fast. It would take more money to allow more upgrading but I’m sure that if we found ourselves in a position to go for it, we’d definitely do everything required of us facilities-wise.”

Gibson revealed Sodbury’s successful second string had been offered a place in next season’s Hellenic Division Two West competition but opted, without much hesitation, to pitch themselves into Bristol Premier Combination combat as originally planned.

“The Hellenic League were impressed with our ground and we’ll be keeping our options open going forward, but we want to stay local for now and enjoy the derbies,” Gibson stressed.

“We’re looking for our reserves to go up another level again if possible and for our thirds to win promotion too. The irony is we were looking for the ressies to close the gap on our first team, only for the firsts to gain promotion themselves!

“It’s been a great season for our reserves and Les has done everything the club asked of him and more in winning their league.

“We’re lucky we have the backing of some good people throughout the club, not least our chairman Mike Fox and his company Tool Design and Manufacture who have been a huge support.”

Town’s busy pre-season schedule is to include the annual Sodbury Sevens’ one-day tournament involving 24 local teams on Saturday, July 16.

Last week the club raised £4,000 from a charity football match staged at the Ridings for eight-year-old meningitis victim Kye Vincent from Bedfordshire, who had both legs and a hand amputated after contracting the lethal infection.



Churchley return can help rekindle our fortunes, Cheltenham Civil Service insist

CHASTENED Cheltenham Civil Service are clearly set on reigniting the glory days which so impressively led to County League title joy just 12 short months ago.

The Tewkesbury Road club endured a torrid 2015-16 programme on the back of success which came in their first season at the level too, a mass exodus of players and management last summer sparking a quite different story, one which saw them finish up battered, bruised and second from bottom in stark contrast.

As Civil Service officials deliberated changes, the management team of John Banfield and Neil Bonnar stepped aside to make way for new incumbents Kristian Churchley and his No.2 Stuart Mitchinson.

Churchley had helped lead Civil Service to that County League success at the first attempt alongside manager Nick Locke, before the pair spent another successful season, at Cheltenham Saracens, overseeing a quickfire return to the Hellenic Premier Division.

Prior to that, Churchley enjoyed a 15-year relationship with Civil Service in player and management capacities while Mitchinson also had a history with them.

After starting out at Cheltenham Town where a back injury prematurely ended  his career, Mitchinson experienced considerable success on the field with Service as they won promotions from Northern Senior Division Two through to the County League, picking up the Senior County Cup along the way.

The new management team are already working at putting the foundations in place for next season and have beaten a number of Hellenic Premier Division teams to the signature of Sean McKeon, who has agreed to spearhead Service’s attack. After a brief spell at the helm of FC Lakeside, McKeon’s goals helped Carterton to the Hellenic Division One West title ahead of Churchley’s Saracens last term.

Of his dramatic return, Churchley enthused: The facilities and playing surface at Tewkesbury Road are among the best in the area.

“The club have shown they can compete with the best of them at this level and I am committed to doing that again. The signing of Sean is a great boost for the club and I hope to bring in a few more lads, as well as working with the players who’ll battle for the club last season.”

Of the departures of Banfield and Bonnar, a Service spokesman said: “It was an extremely difficult situation for the club committee to make.

“John and Neil worked very hard during the season to try and make the club successful but it didn’t quite happen for a number of reasons.

“Whilst maintaining County League status was a big positive, the club felt it was important to review options now to ensure they were not in the same situation next season.

“I know John and Neil will be very disappointed with how things have turned out. The club was in a difficult position when they lost their whole first team squad and management team last summer and the incoming duo worked hard to pull together a squad.

“Just getting through the season, let alone retaining County League status, was an achievement in itself. However the club have hit some real highs over the past few seasons and are keen to get back to this situation as soon as possible.

“Kristian has shown that he is a winner both here and at Saracens and it is hopefully the start of another exciting period in the club’s history.”

Pre-season training starts in June and anyone interested in attending can contact Churchley on 07771 360750.



New manager required to keep Charfield’s Northern Senior League push alive

CHARFIELD are set on taking the fast track back to Gloucestershire Northern Senior League heights – and need a new manager to help drive on the project, reports Simon Parkinson.

While finishing up second-from-bottom of Stroud League Division One knowing they will retain their place next season due to Cashes Green’s mid-term withdrawal from the league and bottom side Didmarton’s automatic relegation, the village club enjoyed some progressive and successful years under the stewardship of former Dursley Town midfielder Phil Miles, who was afforded the chance to cut his teeth in management at the Memorial Playing Fields by Town’s local rivals three years back.

The rookie player-boss oversaw back-to-back promotions in 2013-14 and 2014-15, hoisting Charfield from relative obscurity in Division Three to their current first division status, while enjoying the sweet taste of a county cup triumph too with penalty shoot-out victory over Hardwicke Reserves in the 2014 Intermediate North final.

That feat came in Miles’ first season when Charfield also reached the final of the Stroud Charity Cup.

The 32-year-old now faces an operation to repair a persistent knee problem and has opted to step down as manager, much to the “disappointment” of club committee and players according to secretary Jeremy Lewis, who nevertheless feels “optimistic” the right replacement can be identified.

He explained: “Phil needs to manage his knee condition and he’s decided to take some time away to concentrate on his operation and recovery. We’re disappointed but we respect and understand his reasons.

“Phil has been great for us; we’d had three relegations prior to him taking charge as we’d dropped out of the Northern Senior League (in 2009) and fallen all the way back to Division Three of the Stroud League.

“But he came in as player-manager and not only stopped the rot but took us all the way back up to where we are now, one step away from the Northern Senior League, where we’d enjoyed six or seven years before those setbacks.

“So Phil has made massive inroads and really instilled a winning mentality back into the club after a frustrating few years.

“He’s brought in a lot of youngsters, many of whom helped our reserves to fourth place in Stroud Division Six this season and he takes a real interest in them, making them feel welcome and worthy and it’s been great for club unity and spirit.”

Lewis, who has served as Charfield secretary for some 15 years, insisted hopes lingered that Miles would return to the fold as a player and influential club-man in time.

He stressed, however: “We need a new manager now who can match our ambitions of getting a place back in the Northern Senior League.

“We have terrific facilities, some of the best around, and a strong committee of dedicated people, and I’m optimistic we can find the right man to come in and keep pushing us forward.”

Anyone interested in taking up the Charfield managerial reins can call Jeremy Lewis on 07812 769537 or email him at jeremy.lewis02@gmail.com



Harris chips in with second-half winner to ensure Les James Cup joy for Hardwicke

THIS season’s Les James Cup final will hardly go down as a classic but Hardwicke and their delighted matchwinner Craig Harris will care not a jot about that, reports Simon Parkinson.

It was thanks to his clinical 63rd-minute finish in a hard-fought, relatively uneventful 1-0 spectacle that the team from the north of Gloucestershire were able to overcome southern counterparts Rockleaze Rangers by the tightest of margins in the County League’s popular knock-out tournament concluder.

The league’s long-serving secretary Ron Holpin had predicted a close-run affair and he wasn’t wrong, the picturesque and tranquil setting at Tytherington Rocks’ Woodlands Road facility, bathed in morning sunshine, offering a scene resembling more a village cricket green than a football final.

Neither side appeared to have the big hitters within their camps to provide the breakthrough blows either in a cagey cat-and-mouse start comprising precious few openings, one which eventually warmed up a little on 20 minutes when Rangers’ James Fitzpatrick unleashed a dipping 25-yard shot which ricocheted off the angle of upright and bar.

At the other end Hardwicke eventually had their first tangible sight of goal when Harris pulled the ball across goal for Jamie Reid, who looked to have a clear target to aim at with time to pick his spot, only to completely fluff his lines.

Hardwicke were starting to exert a little authority on the contest and Will Matthews couldn’t get enough behind his finish to trouble Rangers keeper Sam Burgess as he met Steve Bick’s squared pass on the slide, while Bick again scampered down the right channel and was denied a shooting opportunity by an increasingly busy Burgess rushing from his goal to close him down as the Hardwicke man tried to round him.

Watched by a sun-kissed 155 crowd it was Rockleaze who sounded the first note of intent from the second-half off when Fitzpatrick fizzed a venomous shot towards goal, only for the ball to cannon off a Hardwicke body and drift behind for a corner.

The Bristol side were unable to capitalise and they were made to pay 18 minutes into the period when their opponents finally broke the deadlock. Matthews found a gap to play a perfectly-weighted ball through for Harris to take a few paces forward before lifting it above the stranded Burgess and into the net from the edge of the box for a superb winning strike.

Hardwicke eagerly sought a quickfire and killer second goal, Tobie Webb twice getting into position for headed efforts, one which he sent looping straight into the grateful clutches of Burgess and the other directed a fraction wide from a corner.

As the game entered its final stages Rockleaze increasingly camped themselves in Hardwicke territory, only to be denied by an opposition working overtime to protect their slender advantage with some brave blocking and last-ditch tackling.

Rangers substitute Ed Freeman drilled an angled attempt well wide of the far post but that was pretty much as good as it got for a team who huffed and puffed but fell well short of what was required on the craft and invention front on the day.

Hardwicke: Kenny Edward, Nick Jones, Pat Vernall, Rob Hine, Dan Chivers, Andrew Price, Steve Bick, Tobie Webb, Will Matthews, Jamie Reid, Craig Harris. Subs: Will Higgins, Rich Mansell, Shane Thorp, Lewis Tonks, Jermaine Hunt

Rockleaze Rangers: Sam Burgess, Neil Simons, Theo Coombs, Brad Thomas, Josh Grotzke, Greg Parr, James Fitzpatrick, Marcus Williams, Steve Fitzpatrick, Ieuan Crowe, Richard Bray. Subs: James Willott, Ed Freeman, Matt Jones, Tom Murray.

Referee: Jack Seymour



Fighting back: Hardwicke targeting Hellenic League return in time, insists Chivers

AMBITIOUS Hardwicke’s happy boss Lee Chivers praised his players after seeing them clinch the Les James County League Cup with a hard-fought 1-0 win over Rockleaze Rangers – then issued special acclaim to the driving forces off the field.

Craig Harris’ lethal 63rd minute lob was all it took to separate the sides and Chivers felt he knew precisely why that was the case.

“For some reason I always knew it would take one goal to win it and thankfully it went our way via a bit of quality by Craig,” he said.

“Both our centre-halves, Dan Chivers and Andy Price, were rock solid; they didn’t give Rockleaze a sniff.

“It brings to an end a mixed season for us. We’ve finished 11th and of course we’re happy to have kept our place in our first season back in the County League. Now we’ve bedded in I see no reason why we can’t be pushing for a top three or four finish next year.”

The Hardwicke supremo added: “The aim over the next five years has to be promotion back into the Hellenic League and that would be reward for all the hard work put in by our secretary Michael Addle and chairman Dareth Daley, who have both been superb and backed us all the way.

“The club spent around £12,000 installing perimeter fencing and upgrading refs changing rooms in an effort to get us this far.

“I’m happy too with the squad we have in place. We’ll try and add two or three more players over the summer but there’s enough as it is to push us on again next season.”



Rockleaze boss Thomas out to use ‘encouraging’ season as springboard to better days

ROCKLEAZE Rangers manager Richard Thomas believes his charges can take the positives out of an “encouraging season” and hit the ground running in the 2016-17 Gloucestershire County League competition.

The Coombe Dingle-based side rose to the challenge of claiming a top-six finish to their campaign and enjoyed the added spice of reaching the Les James Cup final for the second time in three seasons following their 3-0 2014 defeat by Longlevens in the annual knock-out showpiece.

Thomas said: “Our aim was to finish in the top six and we’ve finished up fifth, so we’re pleased with our progress. We also won the County League’s Respect Table (with only one red card) which was a nice extra.

“We’ve learnt a lot about ourselves and now we’re looking to bring in four or five new faces and lose a couple to the reserves. Hopefully we can continue to move forward on the back of it.

“Our aim next season is to get into the top three and cement our position as a top-five club year in, year out.”

Of their 1-0 cup final fall at the hands of Hardwicke, however, Thomas admitted: “We simply weren’t creative enough; we just didn’t test their keeper at all.

“Neither side edged it overall; they just took their chance when it came and it was all a bit cagey.

“It didn’t help that we had four regular players missing and it made us a little anxious. I felt we could have done better with their goal; three of our players went for the same ball and the keeper was off his line.

“Although the effort was there it was just one of our flatter days, which was a shame given we’d got this far.

“But our season overall has been encouraging and given us something to build on, and all credit to Hardwicke; I was impressed with their centre-half pairing and good luck to them.”



Locke to take a breather as Cheltenham Saracens move on with Goodwin appointment

NICK Locke says he intends returning to football at “some point in the future” after stepping down as manager of Cheltenham Saracens following one successful season at the Petersfield Park helm.

The 31-year-old plasterer hauled the club back to its feet after taking up the reins last summer following a miserable 2014-15 campaign in which Saracens finished up bottom of the Hellenic League Premier Division pile with a solitary win to their name.

Locke had just steered Cheltenham Civil Service to the Gloucestershire County League championship when he and a string of that successful playing squad switched allegiances to try their luck with their near neighbours 12 short months ago.

The move paid off as Locke and Co recently completed their Hellenic League One West fixtures as runners-up only to a Carterton team pipping them to the title post on the strength of a superb run of form when it counted.

Saracens enjoyed some good cup runs too, reaching the semi-finals of the GFA Challenge Trophy before bowing out to Lydney Town on penalties, while the Hellenic League’s Bluefin Sports Supplementary Cup offered promise until they were beaten 3-1 by county rivals Fairford Town at the last-eight hurdle.

Locke, a promising player and Saracens first-team skipper under Gerry Oldham at the age of 17 until a cruciate ligament injury cruelly cut short his career while still a teenager, admitted the collective demands of football and self-employment had caught up with him - and revealed that his managerial days may already be behind him.

In an interview with GFA Local Football News, he explained: “I thought it was the best time to step down rather than lead Cheltenham into the Premier Division and quit, say, three months down the line.

“Dealing with both on and off-field business at the club, and trying to tie it all into my work as a self-employed plasterer, was proving too much and I simply needed a break from the game.

“I’m sure I’ll continue to go and watch them and take in other games too, maybe at Southern League level to see what that’s about, but I’m not sure I’ll ever return to management. Over time I can maybe see myself getting into the coaching side of things but I’m not actively looking for anything yet; I just want to enjoy the summer and see how I feel about things.”

Locke was quickly replaced in the Saracens hot seat by 36-year-old ex-Bishops Cleeve defender Simon Goodwin who, when aged 16, became the youngest player to turn out for Cheltenham Town, a club record which stands to this day. He is to be assisted by Saracens’ former club captain Mike Rhodes.

Meanwhile Locke’s No.2 at Saracens, Kristian Churchley, has taken over as manager of Cheltenham CS, to be assisted by one-time Cheltenham Town forward Stuart Mitchinson.

As for Locke, he insists he can look back on his brief stint in charge at Petersfield Park with some satisfaction.

“My assistant Kris and the players were brilliant,” he acknowledged. “They never let us down and if Saracens keep the majority of their players they should hold their own in the Premier Division; I can’t see them being pushovers.

“I don’t know the new man Simon well but he’s sure to have good contacts and I wish him and them all the best.”

Goodwin has wasted no time making his mark at Petersfield Park, making his one-time Bishops Cleeve team-mate, striker James Vercesi, his first recruit.



Rockleaze Rangers, Hardwicke set for County League cup final cracker, insists Holpin

THIS weekend’s Gloucestershire County League Les James Cup final is likely to be as exciting as it is closely-fought.

So says the league’s long-serving secretary Ron Holpin, who believes both Hardwicke and Rockleaze Rangers have every reason to believe they can get their hands on the trophy given their encouraging form over the latter stages of the campaign.

While fifth-place Rockleaze, managed by former Almondsbury UWE coaches Richard Thomas and Lee Roberts, have been reflecting on their second highest placement on the County League ladder, Hardwicke, in 11th spot, enjoyed a steady and promising start to life back in the league after making serious headway as champions in 2008 before their fortunes dramatically nosedived.

That impressive initial progression continued 12 months later as they were confirmed runaway winners of Hellenic Division One West, only for club chiefs to remove their talented team from the league due to a series of on and off-field difficulties, and that after securing a place in the following season’s Premier Division competition.

It’s been a long road back for the 83-year-old village club, through the higher end of the Stroud League spectrum and Northern Senior League system which, as runners-up last term, provided the launch-pad for a return to County League climes eight years on from that title-winning success.

Lee Chivers’ Hardwicke hopefuls now enter this Sunday’s contest at Tytherington Rocks FC (May 15, 11am) having just had the edge over their opponents in league combat. They won 3-1 at Rockleaze’s Coombe Dingle HQ in April and took a point from a 1-1 draw in September’s corresponding meeting.

Holpin said of the cup final prospects: “It should be a tight and exciting game as both teams had fairly good runs towards the end of the season.

“Hardwicke last won this competition back in 2008, the year they won the league, by beating Ellwood, while Rockleaze reached the final a couple of years ago when they were beaten 3-0 by the promoted champions that year Longlevens. So they’ll be out to put that right.”

Holpin confirmed that the 2015-16 season would be finishing later than any other in the decade the league had been overseen by the current management committee.

“The weather has played havoc with things this year and I couldn’t believe it when I heard that the recent Broadwell Amateurs-Bristol Telephones fixture had been cancelled because it bucketed down just before kick-off and completely flooded the pitch, and here we were at the end of April!” he said.

“That game is being played this Saturday (May 14, 3pm) and finally brings the curtain down on a long but enjoyable season.”

Meanwhile three clubs in the frame for elevation into the County League this summer, Bristol Premier Combination champions Mendip Broadwalk, Northern Senior League runners-up Stonehouse Town and Bristol Suburban League Premier One’s second-place finishers Little Stoke, are all vying for the two promotion places up for grabs, having successfully passed FA ground-grade inspections.

A decision will be made by the league’s management committee at its AGM on May 31.

No clubs will exit the league to pursue higher-level football for only the second time in ten years after champions AEK Boco and mid-table Bristol Telephones, the only clubs to have applied to go up, were deemed not to have the requisite facilities in place at their grounds.



Bartlett’s young battlers fend-off Bishops Cleeve braves to secure Senior Challenge Cup

SCOTT Bartlett made no secret of the fact his head had been brimming with all-else Forest Green Rovers ahead of Monday night’s absorbing GFA Senior Challenge Cup final at the New Lawn, writes Simon Parkinson.

But the interim manager with so much on his mind ahead of this Sunday’s play-off final cruncher with Grimsby Town at Wembley (4pm) still happily delivered a hearty thumbs-up to his gifted collection of youth and experience, as they saw off the considerable challenge of Bishops Cleeve – just – through Anthony Jeffrey’s solitary first-half sizzler in a 1-0 win.

As his team poured forward with pace and skill, inspired by a typically tenacious and industrious performance by their skipper David Pipe amid a period dominated by the sprightly hosts, the 21-year-old one-time Arsenal academy prodigy Jeffrey collected the ball some 25 yards from goal in a central area, took it a few paces on and sent an unerring low shot fizzing past the sprawling Sam Gilder and into the corner of the net for a 33rd minute winner.

The talented forward, who had only made his first team bow for Rovers in March, had earlier rattled the underside of the crossbar with a fierce angled attempt after Pipe had picked him out wide-left with a magnificent 40-yard crossfield pass, while roaming Cameroon-born midfielder Clovis Kamdjo, another with experience in senior Rovers colours, signalled an early warning of intent about his side’s capabilities as he too unleashed a rising piledriver which only just cleared Gilder’s right upright.

Such was the pace and movement of the exuberant home team that they threatened to blow away their much-improved Southern League South & West opponents out of sight before 45 minutes was up, although Cleeve had their chances too, notably through Shane Bumphrey whose drilled effort inside the box shortly before Rovers’ breakthrough goal was well beaten away by an alert Lenny Pidgeley between the Forest Green posts, to the evident dismay of the forward.

And with half-time fast approaching the hard-working Jack Watts was offering agonised expressions of his own after darting on to former Cirencester Town forward Bumphrey’s nod-down and seeing his first-time strike cannon off a defender and corkscrew behind for a corner.

Watts was looking Bishop Cleeve’s best hope for an equaliser in the second period too as his team upped the tempo and slowly but surely began to get a firm foothold on the contest, against an increasingly youthful Forest Green outfit eager to give more of their fledgling performers precious game time and experience.

Ed Major was teed up invitingly by the marauding Watts but completely sliced his attempted edge-of-the-box finish, while substitute Jordan Bryan galloped through a yawning hole in the Forest Green midfield and kept going and going until rounding off his enterprising break with a tame shot at Pidgeley when there were better options to his right arriving in support.

As the one-way traffic continued, Bumphrey had the ball in the Rovers net, only to be denied by an offside flag, while Cleeve defender Leroy Odiero cracked one into the side netting from an acute angle for the second time in the game and Watts once more blazed high and handsome.

Steve Cleal’s battlers were getting closer and closer to rescuing their night in the dying moments, Elliot Kennedy testing the leaping Pidgeley with a stinging 22-yard drive, while Watts’ cross from the right at the death drifted over the head of the giant former Chelsea and Millwall shot-stopper but landed on top of the crossbar instead of nestling inside the far post.

That was that, and five minutes of stoppage time awarded by referee Simon Turner proved insufficient to take the tie to a shoot-out.

Caretaker boss Bartlett was satisfied enough, as would another keen spectator in Forest Green’s new permanent manager Mark Cooper have been, as he acclimatised himself to the New Lawn environment ahead of his proposed five-year stint at the helm.

“We had to dig in and we did very well, especially considering we had a very young team out there at the end against a strong and capable Southern League side,” Bartlett acknowledged.

“We’ve had more pressing things on our minds this week, of course, but we’ve always given the county cup competition the respect it deserves and you’ve seen that by the way we’ve beaten Bristol City, Bristol Rovers and Shortwood to get to this point. Whenever we go out to play, we want to win.

“These occasions serve a real purpose for youngsters in giving them valuable experience, and they give more senior players something competitive to go at. I offered David Pipe the option of training or playing in this game, and he wanted to play.

“This is an amazing time for the club and we now have a great manager aboard in Mark Cooper.”

Bartlett’s opposite number, Bishops Cleeve boss Cleal, accepted: “It was one of those games for us. We had five good chances in the second half and the goal we conceded was a bit sloppy.

“But I’m proud of our lads and they asked serious questions of a (Forest Green) team going places.

“To be honest we’d rather have lost 5-0 than 1-0 like we did. The lads were gutted afterwards and I told them not to lose sight of what we’ve achieved.

“We were willing the ball over that line in the end and it wasn’t to be; we were so near, yet so far.

“But it’s all been very encouraging for me and hopefully we can take it on into next season.”

Forest Green (4-3-3): Lenny Pidgeley; Jack Holmes, Elliott Ripley, Macauley Dodson, Matt Evans; David Pipe (c) (Will Hayward, 63), Clovis Kamdjo (Jack Freeman, 69), Louis McGrory; Tom Anderson, Delano Sam-Yorke, Anthony Jeffrey (Giancarlo Gabbiadini, 63). Not used: Luke Merchant, Jordan Morris.

Bishops Cleeve (4-4-2): Sam Gilder; Aaron Drake (c), Jordan Stoddart, Leroy Odiero, Ollie Burness (Jack Oldham, 76); Ed Major (Jordan Bryan, 64), Dan Sherry (Matt Magee, 70), Jack Horrell, Elliot Kennedy; Jack Watts, Shane Bumphrey. Not used: Adam Gill, Dan White. 



All about the females as women’s walking football takes off in Gloucestershire

WOMEN’S walking football is to be given the green light to flourish in Gloucestershire following a successful pilot scheme.

Backed and funded by the Gloucestershire Football Association (GFA), an initial set of five hour-long sessions held weekly at Sir Thomas Rich’s Sports Hall in Longlevens proved such a hit that the programme is poised to continue at a cost of just £3 per person per time.

The GFA is only the second county football association in the country to organise and fund such activities exclusively for females following a similar initiative presented by Derbyshire FA.

The Gloucestershire sessions, held on Friday evenings between 7pm and 8pm, have attracted up to 12 walking football enthusiasts at a time. Each event is overseen by a GFA member of staff and incorporates not only small-sided games but fun-related drills and shooting practice.

GFA football development officer Jack Stanbury enthused: “We’re delighted that the interest has been such that we’re full steam ahead to continue with the project.

“Up until now the county association has fully funded the sessions and now we’re up and running we’ll be making a small charge of £3 simply to cover costs of hiring the venue.

“The sessions are open to all women over the age of 35 and so far they have attracted people from 36 to 60 years of age, which is great and what it’s all about.”

Jack added: “While walking football can be competitive there is a big element of fun attached to it too and it’s open to females of all abilities. They’ve even began taking music with them to play from the sidelines while they’re in action!

“The feedback has been great and they’ve all been telling their friends about it because they so much want it to continue.

“Walking football has become hugely popular with many men, generally over the age of 50, and hopefully the female version can take off in a similar way. It’s perfect for people who are perhaps recovering from an injury or feel the traditional game is a little too much for them.”

Any female with qualifying credentials can simply turn up to Thomas Rich’s Sports Hall (GL2 0LF) on a Friday evening from 7pm for an hour-long stint.

If further information is required, Jack will be happy to help on 01454 615888 (option 3) or by emailing him at: Jack.Stanbury@GloucestershireFA.com



Skipper’s praise as Fairford lift themselves to new heights in morale-boosting campaign

FAIRFORD Town’s delighted captain Matt Boucher praised his revitalised team after helping them dust themselves down from last year’s “difficulties” in impressive fashion.

The Reds completed their 2014-15 Hellenic League campaign second-from-bottom of Division One West and seemingly at odds for answers to a frustrating season which reaped only five wins from their 28 outings.

A mere 12 months down the line and Gareth Davies’ men were looking at an entirely different picture, pushing hard for promotion for long stretches of 2015-16 before settling for a vastly-improved fourth-place finish, then securing some trophy prestige to boot with a stirring 5-0 romp over Didcot Town Reserves in the league’s Bluefin Sport Supplementary Cup final.

Boucher acknowledged: “It was great to finish the season with some silverware, especially after the difficult season we had last year.

“We did really well in the league this year before eventually being overtaken by teams with games in hand.

“But winning the cup is a credit to how hard everyone at the club works off the pitch and how hard the players and management have worked on it.”

The Reds dominated the encounter from start to finish against a Didcot side who had a man dismissed just after the half-hour mark.

Fairford began the game, staged at Flackwell Heath, strongly and were full of running, backed by plenty of supporters who had boarded the packed team coach from Gloucestershire. A pinpoint cross from Jason Milhench found Jack Ellis, whose downward header opened the scoring with 14 minutes played.

Danny Hale struck the side netting four minutes later before Aaron Gray saw his effort saved by Ben Mitchell at the other end. Didcot went down to ten men nine minutes before the break with Jack Hollister receiving his marching orders for a second yellow card following a late challenge on Steve Hall.

Fairford turned their pressure into a second goal on 39 minutes with Hale heading home to ensure a two-goal cushion going into the break.

Ellis, whose goals had helped Fairford reach the final, was enjoying his afternoon and the pick of the goals arrived seven minutes after the restart. A firm challenge from Milhench in midfield played Ellis through and his right footed curler from just inside the box rocketed past Adam Spurrett to make it 3-0.

Hale added a fourth with a drive from the edge of the box on 62 minutes before Luke Cordery had an effort cleared off the line with Fairford in total control.

However Ellis smashed home the fifth to seal his hat-trick on 70 minutes and further chances came for Hale, Dan Hill and substitute James Lawrence-Forbes before the full-time whistle blew to bring the curtain down on a successful Fairford Town season, and long-serving skipper Boucher happily stepped up to lift the trophy as the champagne began to flow.

Fairford press officer Christopher Tanner said: “It’s been a really good time for the club as a whole with our reserves enjoying a strong finish to their season in Division Two West too.

“We’re looking forward now to a busy summer with our end-of-season awards (May 21, 7.30pm) and the Air Tattoo taking place in Fairford (July 8-10) for the tenth year.

“We’re also showing the England-Russia European Championships game at the club on Saturday, June 11 so there’s lots to look forward to even before the new season kicks off.”



Regional Sunday champs Hillfields issue six of the best to clinch Gilbert Pullin Cup

BRISTOL Regional Sunday League Division Two champions Hillfields Sunday added the Gilbert Pullin Memorial Cup to their trophy cabinet with a storming 6-2 success against The Whitchurch at Keynsham’s Fry Club facility.

After a bright start made by both sides it was Whitchurch, fresh from finishing up sixth in the second division table, who made the breakthrough, Sam Moore confidently netting from the penalty spot on ten minutes to give his team the lead.

With former Mangotsfield United and Yate Town marksman Karim Rendall in their line-up, Hillfields were always going to pose a threat and it was he who almost restored parity for his Sunday side five minutes on with a back-post header which drifted wide.

Rendall had hit the headlines in October 2012 after scoring a ‘perfect’ hat-trick inside 96 seconds in stoppage time for Roman Glass St George in their Toolstation Division One fixture with Wellington. The amazing feat earned Saints an unlikely 4-3 win, having trailed 3-1 with the regular 90 minutes already up and only three minutes of added minutes on offer.

On Sunday at Fry’s he didn’t quite have his shooting boots with him for starters as he next fired waywardly with an attempt from the left side of the box. But he was getting closer and on 36 minutes Rendall finally hit the target with a far-post header from a deep cross to tie a lively contest up at 1-1.

Buoyed by the breakthrough, Hillfields suddenly found themselves entering the interval 3-1 to the good as first Mikey Golding capitalised on a keeper fumble to make it 2-1 with a clinical finish into the bottom corner, and then Jamie Johnson did likewise with a similar strike to put the title winners firmly in charge.

Whitchurch carved a terrific chance to reduce the arrears on 56 minutes with a header that flew narrowly wide from a whipped delivery from the right.

But shortly after Rendall had been issued with a caution for his protestations after seeing a ‘goal’ ruled out, he was celebrating along with the rest of his Hillfields comrades on 63 minutes as Lee Bebbington drilled home their fourth goal following good work by Golding to tee-up the marksman.

Bebbington went on to collect a booking himself for a handling offence 13 minutes from time and for a spell spirited Whitchurch threatened a recovery as they pulled it back to 4-2 with a fine chipped finish, only for their opponents to rally and kill off those comeback hopes with two more goals, Golding again showing industry and vision to square the ball for Paul Coles to smash into the centre of target for the sixth and final contribution.



Classy Clayton is too hot to handle as Cribbs celebrate 3 Lions success at a canter

CRIBBS have this week been celebrating a convincing victory in the Bristol Regional Sunday League’s 3 Lions Cup final.

They simply had too much movement and pace for first division rivals Real Fishponds in the annual showpiece fixture staged at Fry Club in Keynsham, traditionally played out on an adjacent pitch at the same time as the Gilbert Pullin showdown takes place.

It was Cribbs who began the contest the brightest, playing the ball quickly into the channels and into feet while Real struggled to pull the ball down and get anything going at all.

It took Cribbs only eight minutes to make their mark as a well-delivered corner was converted by the head of captain Alex Crane to put them a goal up.

Lifted by the breakthrough, his team continued to pour forward and man-of-the-match striker Liam Clayton rattled the bar with a volley, while Dan Monk raced through to beat the oncoming Real keeper with a header that flew narrowly wide.

Fishponds were struggling to simply stay in the game and on 16 minutes a far-post cross was met with a shot by Clayton which was well saved at close range.

With Real all at sea and their lively opponents so dominant, it was only a matter of time before they added a second to their tally, Corey Burton eluding the challenges of a couple of defenders before finishing neatly to hand Cribbs a 2-0 lead.
It was an advantage which went agonisingly close to being extended on the stroke of half-time as the same Fishponds shot-stopper produced a great save to keep his side in the contest.

The second half kicked-off as a somewhat tepid affair, Real having changed shape slightly and looking to bypass their midfield by playing direct balls up to their forwards, while Cribbs were content to sit tight and pick off stray passes, then bring their forwards into the channels.

This cat-and-mouse approach continued for the first 25 minutes when Real somehow squandered what appeared to be a real sitter with a header.

The miss proved costly as two minutes later Clayton netted from close range to deservedly put his team 3-0 up and out of sight as his persistence paid off.

The inspired Clayton went on to hit the bar again from 18 yards out, while a seemingly easy header by brother James Clayton somehow missed the target.

It mattered not as his team eased over the line to claim the spoils and the prize from a one-sided final.



Cleal: We’ll not fear entering Forest Green ‘back garden’ for Senior Cup cruncher

ENCOURAGED manager Steve Cleal predicts performing within the professional confines of Forest Green Rovers’ own backyard this Monday evening (May 9, 7.30pm) will only add spice to a “magnificent occasion” for his Bishops Cleeve battlers, writes Simon Parkinson.

The Mitres have enjoyed a much better and more fulfilling season as they’ve landed up 12th in Division One S&W following last year’s miserable relegation from the Southern League’s top flight.

Now they’re focusing on the prospect of bringing some prized silverware to Kayte Lane via the GFA Senior Challenge Cup final, as they lock horns with a Forest Green side with plenty else on their minds too when it comes to their hopes of gaining a place in the Football League for the first time in their history through the National League play-off channels.

This Saturday night (May 7, 7.30pm) sees the return leg of their semi-final cruncher with Dover Athletic at the New Lawn, in which they’ll be hoping to capitalise on the 1-0 advantage afforded them by substitute Brett Williams’ wonderful curling strike from 25 yards ten minutes before the break in Kent on Wednesday evening.

Cleal is mindful of the excitement and anticipation levels engulfing the New Lawn right now, with a Wembley final the prize should they come through tomorrow’s big Dover tester in front of their own fans.

But he says he and his players aren’t the least bit fazed at taking on Forest Green at their imposing HQ on Monday evening, an environment he insists can only lift his men as they seek to bring the curtain down on a morale-boosting campaign in all.

“Most of our lads won’t have had the experience of going to the New Lawn so it makes it all the more special that the game is to be played there,” claimed the Cleeve boss, who will be without striker Jack Watts, Polish keeper Matt Wieczorek and suspended skipper Kirk Layton for the match.

“It will be a good experience for everyone, not least for the players who can look forward to performing on a nice pitch in a nice ground. They’ll have no worries about going into Forest Green’s own back garden.

“To top off our season with a cup final against a club like that is massive for us and sets out a statement about what we can achieve at Bishops Cleeve after a much-improved season.

“Were we to win it would be fantastic and would make up for our (6-0) defeat by Bristol City at Ashton Gate in our only other appearance in the final of this competition in 2012.”



180! Devoted Clifton St Vincent’s trio receive FA recognition for services to football 

THREE dedicated members of Bristol amateur club Clifton St Vincent’s have each received a major Football Association award in recognition of the 180 years’ loyal service they have given between them.

The presentation of a framed letter of thanks from the top brass on the FA Council in London, an inscribed medal and lapel badge was made by Roy Schafer, the FA’s Gloucestershire representative and county association deputy chairman.

The special award for long service to the game is the most prestigious that anyone associated with grassroots football can receive and Clifton St Vincent’s president Roger Kirby, life member Dave Wood and club secretary Ray King were all delighted recipients.

All three have been members of the Downs League club as players and officials for more than half a century and can still be found every week watching from the touchline in all winds and weathers.

Kirby joined St Vincent’s as a 13-year-old right-winger in 1948, playing alongside several older players who were adjusting to life after the trauma of the Second World War.

He later switched to right-back and was renowned as one of the hardest tackling defenders of his generation in Bristol amateur football.

But despite playing in more than 1,000 games during a career spanning 52 years and seven decades (he retired in 2000), Kirby was never booked or sent off.

He skippered the club’s first team to several league and cup successes as well as captaining Gloucestershire FA and Downs League representative sides and an FA XI on three occasions.

At his peak Kirby had the chance to sign professional forms for West Bromwich Albion, Wolverhampton Wanderers, Bristol Rovers and Exeter City but instead decided to follow his career as a maths teacher at Wycliffe College in Stonehouse, where he also coached pupils at football and cricket.

One of Kirby’s proudest moments as a player came in 1962 when St Vincent’s completed a unique hat-trick by winning the Gloucestershire Senior Amateur Cup, Downs championship and the league’s Norman Hardy Cup.

He lifted the Senior Amateur trophy after netting a late penalty to beat Sea Mills 2-1 in front of a 4,000 crowd at the old Eastville Stadium.

Kirby, now in his 67th year with the club, said: “I never regretted not signing for a professional club, although I was able to play at a reasonably high standard in the old Western League for the St Luke’s College side when I was studying in Exeter.

“I’ve thoroughly enjoyed playing for Clifton St Vincent’s, being involved in Downs League football and also the Gloucestershire County side. The number of friends I have made is numerous.”

Wood also joined the club in his teens and completed more than 1,000 matches during his long career as an old fashioned inside-forward and workhorse for whichever team he was selected for.

He was picked for Gloucestershire Youth’s under-18 team, the Downs League’s representative side and became a first-team regular over a long period, winning a cabinet full of medals during the club’s successful era in the late 1950s and 60s.

Like Kirby, the highlight of his playing days came in the Senior Amateur Cup final when he headed the first goal in the victory over Sea Mills.

His immense enthusiasm continued after his playing days, as he used his vast knowledge of the amateur game to win the Downs League championship as first-team manager.

Today, as a life member with 59 years’ service completed, he still casts an eye over St Vincent’s four sides, offering advice and encouragement particularly to the club’s crop of promising young players.

He said: “You obviously can’t compare Downs football with the professional game, but the league is like a big happy family and over the years I’ve made so many friends both with my own and other clubs.

“And unlike the big-earning Premiership stars of today, we dipped into our pockets and paid to play through our annual and matchday subscriptions. But I have always considered it money well spent.”

King made his debut for Clifton St Vincent’s in 1963 as a 15-year-old striker and quickly progressed through the four senior sides to lead the first team’s attack by the time he reached his late teens.

His earliest memories date back to the 1966-67 season when the club’s first team, reserves, A and B teams clinched the championships of all four divisions of the Downs League, a remarkable achievement which saw every player handed a winner’s medal.

But his proudest individual moment came the following year when he scored the winning goal to enable the club’s reserves to lift the Norman Hardy Cup.

King switched from the role of striker to become St Vincent’s first team’s midfield playmaker and was an important member of the squad elected to the Gloucestershire County League in 1970. Seven years later, though, they were relegated back to the Downs.

He took over the role of Clifton St Vincent’s secretary in1972, a position he still holds, while today he is regarded as one of the most respected administrators in the local amateur game.

Apart from that King has still found time to attend Downs League meetings as the club’s representative since 1969, while he was elected the league’s assistant secretary in 2008 and a life member the same year.

Now, in his 54th year with the club, he enthused: “I was truly surprised and honoured to receive such recognition from the Football Association.

“On reflection, it makes me think about the thousands, yes thousands, of people I have met through my association with one of the oldest football clubs in Bristol.

“Be it players, referees, committee members, league or county officials, there are so many. I consider them all to have been my friends.

“During my time with Clifton St Vincent’s I’ve had the privilege of receiving so much help and guidance from club members who instilled in me the traditions and values of this great club, which I am hopefully able to pass on to the current younger members.”

Mr Schafer, in a glowing tribute, said: “Football is indebted to people like Roger Kirby, Dave Wood and Ray King, who have given the greater part of their lives to football, and to do it with one club is a remarkable feat.

“I feel privileged to have met and made this award to each of them. I hope that they still continue to enjoy what they are doing and both the club and football as a whole should be proud of each of them because their contribution has been immense.”



Set for big kick-off: county braced for new Severn Valley Youth Football League launch

TWO of Gloucestershire’s most respected and popular youth leagues are joining forces to provide an exciting new focus for football-mad youngsters.

The Severn Valley Youth Football League, as it is to be called, stems from a merger of the Gloucester Youth and Stroud and District Youth Football Leagues and kicks off this September, providing action and opportunity for children from under-8s age category up to under-16s.

To mark the launch of the inaugural season all clubs and teams wishing to sign up can enter the league free of charge, although usual club deposit fees still apply.

The brand-new initiative is a joint one comprising Gloucestershire FA football development officers Alexis Lunn-Gadd and Scott Milne, and officials faithfully serving the two existing youth leagues.

Scott said of the tie-up: “Alexis and I have been working with the two leagues over the past few months to develop one new all-encompassing league, the Severn Valley Youth Football League, for clubs and individuals in the Stroud, Gloucester and surrounding area.

“We feel that the new league structure will create a more sustainable pathway for mini-soccer and youth football in those and surrounding areas, as well as creating a better experience for the clubs, teams and young players involved.

“We have had some very positive meetings with the two leagues and shown what can be achieved by working together to improve the provision of youth football in those parts of the county.

“It is a new competition that all children, coaches and parents can look forward to being a part of from the very start of the 2016-17 season.”

While the two current leagues remain popular to so many people, chairman of the 70-year-old Gloucester Youth League, Ken Fagan, explained: “I was concerned about the dwindling number of teams in our league, particularly in the older age groups.

“When the opportunity arose to discuss a possible merger with the Stroud Youth League it was obvious from the very positive discussions that we had that it was the right way forward.

“We have been able to pool our resources and the new league will benefit from the increased knowledge that the combined committee members will bring to it.

“Having been involved with football for over 40 years as a player, team manager, referee and various committee roles, I am very excited about the formation of the new league which I am sure will safeguard the future of youth football in the Gloucester and Stroud districts for many years to come.”

Clubs or teams interested in joining should contact either Sue Davis (league secretary) at suedavis21@live.co.uk, Scott Milne at Scott.Milne@GloucestershireFA.com or Alexis Lunn-Gadd at Alexis.Lunn-Gadd@GloucestershireFA.com.



Super-saver Stevens a hero as South Cerney are spot-on to claim Primary North prize

SOUTH Cerney Reserves capped a positive season in the M4 Karting Cirencester & District League Division Two by getting their hands on the GFA Primary North Cup – just!

Damian Mueller’s men have enjoyed their best campaign since gaining promotion as champions from the old Division Three in 2010-11 and will end their fixture programme with a top-five spot when they entertain Oaksey Reserves at their Walnut Tree Fields HQ this Saturday (2.30pm).

While they disappointingly followed up their 5-3 penalty shoot-out success against Kingsway Rovers in the Primary North showdown last Thursday night at Slimbridge by ending up well beaten, 4-0, by league rivals and second division runners-up Hatherop in the Cirencester Juniors Charities Cup final at the Corinium Stadium courtesy of red-hot Richie Crocker’s four goals, two of them from the spot to take his tally for the term to an enormous 68, South Cerney’s second XI can nevertheless reflect on an uplifting season.

In dreadful weather conditions at Wisloe Road they went toe-to-toe with runaway Stroud Division Seven champions Kingsway from start to finish of the Primary Cup clincher before a goalless 90 minutes sparked the spot-kick lottery, despite their 33-goal leading marksman George Ford, who had already gone close to winning it in regular time with a skied effort from close range, cried foul moments later as opposition keeper Ben Bland challenged him inside the box.

The penalty claims fell on deaf ears and it was down to Ford, Mike Coram, Nathan Littler, Daniel Hughes and Jordan Allen to score the crucial shoot-out goals for a victory helped in no small way by the performance of Cerney’s man-of-the-match keeper Jake Stevens, both in the normal minutes and penalties decider, in which he produced a vital early save.

South Cerney’s delighted secretary of 29 years, Kay Allen, said: “We’re chuffed to bits; it’s not every day you get to a county cup final, let alone win one.

“Our keeper is not the biggest and he’s still only a teenager, but he was terrific, as he has been all season.

“Everyone’s chuffed to bits and our league form picked up really well too after a slow-ish start, so this Primary Cup win capped an encouraging season and it was just a shame we were beaten by a pretty good Hatherop side in that Charities Cup final on Monday.”



Leonard Stanley prove weekend wonders with promotion and county cup double

JOE Hill Pemberton and his Leonard Stanley comrades won’t forget their 2015-16 campaign in a hurry.

The central midfielder helped his Sunday side clinch the GFA Sunday Intermediate Cup at the weekend courtesy of a 2-0 victory over Tewkesbury Town at Tuffley Rovers’ Glevum Park.

Not content with those trophy exploits, Hill Pemberton and his Leonard Stanley Saturday ‘firsts’ atoned for the bitter disappointment of relegation from Gloucestershire Northern Senior One in 2013 by returning to the league’s top tier at the third time of asking thanks to a comfortable third-spot finish.

As for Stanley’s Sunday section, they are fast becoming renowned knock-out tournament specialists after winning a second Intermediate North cup in three seasons following their 2014 triumph over the same Tewkesbury Town opposition, when a tight and dramatic penalty shoot-out competition back then decided the outcome following a hard-fought 1-1 draw.

Andrew Sargent’s men also ended last season on a high note thanks to a 3-1 victory in the final of the Gloucester Sunday League’s Junior Cup tournament against AFC Renegades.

Just as they did last year, Leonard Stanley Sunday are destined to finish their league campaign in a mid-table berth.

The team is made up of a strong collection of combined Saturday senior and Stroud League Five second-string personnel and 32-year-old Hill Pemberton, a key figure at the club for the past decade on and off the pitch, enthused: “They are a fantastic bunch; the club as a whole is a fantastic one to be part of.

“It has a real fun and social element to it and off-field things have improved considerably with a nice clubhouse and good bar facilities now. A few years ago it was like a dirty old shed by comparison.

“It’s been a great season for our Saturday first team, winning promotion back to Northern Senior One. It hurt a lot, getting relegated three seasons ago, and what made it all the harder to take was conceding a (converted) last-minute penalty to draw 2-2 with Winchcombe when a win would have kept us safe.

“We’ve had ninth and sixth-place finishes in Division Two since then so we’ve slowly found our way back.

“Our Sunday side was never seriously on for the league title so our season tends to be built around moments like these, the cup successes, and the boys were over the moon with the victory over Tewkesbury, the second time we’ve beaten them in the final in recent years.”

That final against a strong Tewkesbury outfit on for a treble at the time was nip and tuck for the most part, but Leonard Stanley got their noses in front around the 25th minute mark when Jordan Measures burst down the right and pulled the ball back perfectly for striker Matt Fanstone to nip between keeper James Andrews and covering defender and finish well from six yards out.

Stanley sealed victory on the hour mark when Barny Jones’ shot through a crowd of players ricocheted into the net off the leg of a defender on the line as he tried to keep it out, and it might have been worse for Tewkesbury had Andrews not produced a fine save to push the ball over the top after a penalty had been awarded against his side for a handling offence.

At the other end Matt Cox went agonisingly close on two occasions to keeping Town in the contest, his first attempt, a header, rattling the crossbar.

But, just as it was two short years back, it wasn’t to be their day.



Hands off our trophy! Hartpury starlets secure ESFA title for second consecutive year

PAUL Tassell was an overjoyed manager as two quickfire goals on the stroke of half-time sent Hartpury Under-18s on their way to securing a second successive English Schools Football Association (ESFA) Boys Colleges Trophy title as they defeated Gateshead College 3-2.

After a frantic opening period that saw both teams score a goal apiece inside the first three minutes, the tie swung in Hartpury’s favour after efforts from Tyler Brock and Ben Hands in the last five minutes of the half gave Paul Tassell’s side the advantage.

And despite Gateshead pulling a goal back late in the game, Hartpury held on and retained the trophy at League One outfit Doncaster Rovers’ Keepmoat Stadium, emulating last year’s squad who saw off Myerscough College.

Hartpury could not have wished for a better start as centre half George Lamb headed home from a Lewis Fogg free-kick in the first minute, but they were pegged back moments later when an unmarked Gateshead player powered his header past goalkeeper Ed Cox to restore parity.

In the 16th minute, a pass from full-back Joe Pickering made its way through to Joe Bates but the striker’s lofted strike trickled beyond the far post. The same duo combined on the half-hour mark when a cross by the defender was headed wide by Bates.

Hartpury eventually restored their lead when a long throw from Fogg was not dealt with by Gateshead and centre-half Jordan Staten’s volley was inadvertently diverted into the bottom corner by winger Brock.

And their advantage was quickly doubled when Hands produced a wicked delivery from a corner that evaded the opposition keeper and went over the line, although Staten also smashed the ball home to make sure.

The second period began with Hartpury in relative control and a marauding run down the left flank by Fogg saw the defender produce an enticing ball across the box that nobody was able to get on the end of, while Gateshead created a rare chance that ended with a shot off target.

In the 70tth minute Hartpury’s appeals for a penalty were waved away when substitute Calum Townsend was bundled over inside the box and the same player then blazed an effort over the bar 15 minutes later.

Gateshead were awarded a fortuitous penalty in the 88th minute and they sent Cox the wrong way from the spot to make the final moments slightly nervy for Hartpury.

But the team comfortably saw out the remaining minutes of the match to be crowned champions, to the delight of junior boss Tassell who enthused: “This was a great achievement for the team and staff. The players have shown tremendous character throughout the competition and even during the game this was tested.

“That said we were always comfortable and the scoreline didn’t reflect that. To win this competition back-to-back is something special and to see many of the team develop from teams below shows the development pathway we have is continuing to produce student athletes capable of winning national titles.”



Watts spells double trouble as Bishops Cleeve book Senior Challenge Cup final place with Forest Green

BISHOPS Cleeve and Forest Green Rovers will go head-to-head in this season’s GFA Senior Challenge Cup final.

Steve Cleal’s battlers, beaten 1-0 at the same Kayte Lane venue in a Southern League S&W tussle only last weekend, made home advantage emphatically count this time as they swept to a 3-0 victory in front of their delighted supporters to book their place in the county showpiece event.

Striker Jack Watts proved to be the man of the moment for the Mitres as he not only bagged a brace with goals both sides of the break - a long-range strike to ensure a slender half-time advantage and a calmly-taken late Cleeve third - but he also won the penalty which Elliot Kennedy clinically converted 12 minutes from time to put them 2-0 ahead.

The final has provisionally been pencilled in to take place at Forest Green’s New Lawn stadium on Monday, May 9 (7pm), although that is subject to confirmation.

Cleeve’s delighted boss Cleal said: “Saturday’s defeat was a bitter pill to swallow and we didn’t play to the best of our ability, something we wanted to put right.

“Now we want to give a good account of ourselves in the final and hopefully win, which would be brilliant.”

As for Forest Green, they hit the headlines this week after announcing they had parted company with manager Ady Pennock, who had taken over at the helm from Dave Hockaday in November 2013, only days before their play-off semi-final first leg (opposition yet to be confirmed).

Chairman Dale Vince said: “It was a difficult decision just a week out from the play-offs after Ady had taken us to our highest placed finish in the National League (second).

“However as a club we felt we needed to make this change, in order to give us the best chance of succeeding in the play-offs.”

It’s been left to first team skipper and academy boss Scott Bartlett to lead Rovers into play-off combat, which kicks off with an away tie this Wednesday evening (May 4, 7pm) and continues three days later on Saturday, May 7 (7.30pm) with the second leg.

The final takes place at Wembley on Sunday, May 15 at 4pm.



Taking flight: Stroud Harriers aim to use Junior Cup and promotion successes as launchpad to bigger stages

STROUD Harriers are on a mission to accomplish more – much more - over the next few years. And given the impressive way they have gained entry into next season’s Northern Senior League for the first time in their history, who would bet against the juggernaut rolling on and on?

Last Thursday night they claimed another club ‘first’, a county cup final win, thanks to a 3-1 Junior North victory over Horsley United at Slimbridge, a second step towards what they had hoped would be a treble haul for the term taking into account last night’s Stroud Charity Cup final encounter with Quedgeley Wanderers at Frampton.

Unfortunately a 2-0 defeat scuppered those hopes, but the season’s successes have nevertheless had management and committee thirsting for more and already earnest talks are taking place behind the scenes with a view to identifying a suitable future ‘home’ for Harriers worthy of accommodating higher-status action.

For now it’s all systems go when it comes to establishing themselves on the Northern Senior League circuit, one they join as Stroud One champions following a SIXTH straight promotion triumph.

Their encouraged 32-year-old player-secretary Archie Evans was there from the start in the early 1990s as an “enthusiastic nipper”, just as current players and fellow club-men Thomas Cole, Marc Roffe and Mathew Weyman were when local man David Guy oversaw the formation of a modest junior soccer set-up for family and friends to utilise and enjoy.

Around a decade on and Guy, who managed the team in the early years, was joining forces with Evans as the pair thrust Harriers on to the men’s stage for the first time at the lower end of the Stroud League spectrum – and they haven’t looked back since.

Such has been the meteoric rise over the past few seasons that a Harriers reserve team is ready to be entered into combat for the first time next season where it will perform at the club’s present HQ at Mason Road, while the successful first XI will switch to improved facilities at Nailsworth Primary School while proposals to secure a new and permanent home continue to be weighed up.

Evans explained: “Winning a county cup for the first time meant a great deal to the majority of our lads. Our centre-forward Daniel Chandler said he’d never played in a final of any description.

“The bigger picture is we’ve been promoted every year for the past six years and really we weren’t expecting to finish top of the league. Anywhere in the top half of the table would have satisfied us.

“We brought in two new players at the start in Daniel (Chandler), who had experience at the higher level with Slimbridge and Kings Stanley and is the leading scorer in our division (with 25 goals), and Chris Applegate, a winger or full-back, who had played for Alkerton Rangers in the lower divisions but has enjoyed a cracking season making the step up.

“It’s exciting times; the club’s status is slowly growing and we’re hoping to compete hard alongside other prominent local clubs such as Brimscombe, Shortwood, Kings Stanley and the like in the years ahead.

“We wouldn’t have been able to achieve it without the help of our sponsors such as A & J Hefferman Groundwork, the Conservative Club and Milano’s Café. And we’ll need more of that kind of support in the years to come.”

Evans confirmed: “We’re currently looking at another site with a view to making it our base in the near future, and along with a new reserve team we’re planning to get a proper youth set-up going in the hope of attracting the next generation of kids to our club.”

Evans, who made a two-minute cameo appearance at centre-half towards the end of the Junior Cup victory over Horsley, watched on in delight as Corey Fletcher’s deflected late first-half effort and Chandler’s second half double - a fierce strike into the roof of the net midway through the period and injury-time spot kick - secured Harriers that maiden county cup distinction.

They were, though, made to fight all the way for the trophy as their opponents had pegged it back to 2-1 18 minutes from time via Jose Guerracampo’s header from a free-kick and gone on to rattle an upright via the boot of the agonised David Smith.

Evans smiled: “It’s time we had a bit of fortune in the county cups because we’ve reached the last 16 a few times in various competitions but never got this far, so it’s capped a great season.”



All about the cups as classy Cheers Then add another county prize to their collection

CHEERS Then are the toast of the Sunday cups scene – and player-manager Alistair Bone is determined to ensure that’s how it stays!

What he and his Gloucester and District Sunday League comrades would dearly like to add now to their string of knock-out honours is a Premier Division title, something that has eluded them for the past three seasons following their elevation from the second tier in 2013.

The club, which slowly began to take shape from the turn of the Millennium thanks to a large group of like-minded five-a-side enthusiasts before becoming a fully-fledged, full-sided Sunday league force in 2007, won a second county cup trophy in three years with last weekend’s dramatic 4-3 penalty shoot-out success against near neighbours Hillside after the GFA Sunday Premier North showdown had entered the spot-kick lottery following a 1-1 draw at the end of the 90 regular minutes.

Twice in three recent years they lifted the eagerly-contested Don King Chairman’s Cup trophy, while in 2013 they were narrowly beaten 3-2 by Holmleigh in the final of another popular league tournament, the Senior Cup.

It’s a memory they would dearly love to put right this coming Sunday (May 1) at Slimbridge’s Wisloe Road ground when they take on runaway Premier Division title winners Frampton (10.30am) in the final of the same competition.

Cheers Then’s busy founder member Bone, 35, who combines club secretary, centre-back and managerial duties, explained: “We are renowned cup specialists, which is great, but we’ve yet to win a Premier Division title, even though we’ve done well to finish third for three successive seasons now.

“The problem we have is that so many of our players play Saturday football too, many of them with Tuffley Rovers in the Hellenic League. With all the midweek fixtures and demands that come from performing at that level they simply can’t all be available to us all the time, much as they love playing with us on a Sunday. It is just too much.

“It’s a good reason why we were beaten 10-1 (by Frampton) in a recent midweek game but thankfully most of the lads were available to us for last Sunday’s county cup final, even though they must have been shattered.

“To win the league we really need to have players available to us week in, week out, but we generally have 18 to 20 players to pick from. We do have strong links with Tuffley’s thirds and reserves, some of whom find they’re playing at a better standard on a Sunday with us than they are on a Saturday.”

Bone highlighted 18-goal Warren Mann, central midfielder and keeper Marcus Foxwell and Cirencester Town centre-back Mark Pritchett as three of Cheers Then’s “stand-out” performers.

He stressed: “They don’t get paid when they turn out for us on a Sunday; they do it for the sheer buzz of it. The lads give their all and to reach so many cup finals is a real feat.”

Asked too how the club’s unusual name came into being, Bone, who did enjoy a title-winning success with Cheers Then when they won Division Two of the now-defunct Cheltenham Sunday League in 2011, grinned: “It happened when we were involved in a six-a-side competition. Every time we scored we were saying ‘cheers then’ to each other and the name just stuck!”

Meanwhile Mann was the provider for Cheers Then’s opener against Hillside in the weekend’s GFA Sunday Premier North showpiece at Tuffley Rovers’ HQ, sending Roman Lyulchuk clear to put them one-up on 62 minutes.

Hillside were soon back on level terms through Liam Gale’s close-range header to force the shoot-out, in which Pritchett calmly converted from 12 yards with the decisive strike to ensure another welcome piece of silverware was heading for the Cheers Then cabinet.



Sharp-shooting Manor Farm make mincemeat of spirited Lydney to retain GFA Challenge Trophy

BRISTOL Manor Farm have had some serious matters on their minds concerning their hopes of making the grade for proposed entry into the Southern League at last, writes Simon Parkinson.

Whatever happens on that front - Barnstaple Town may well have nabbed that prized promotion place from under their noses the way things are shaping up - Lee Lashenko’s team can reflect on another enthralling, rollercoaster season, one which catapulted them all the way to the FA Vase quarter-finals, while their promotion-chasing Toolstation Premier Division campaign yet offers them silverware potential in the shape of the Les Phillips Cup.

With so much on their plate and games coming thick and fast, Manor Farm, who boldy went on to beat champions-elect Odd Down 1-0 in the Toolstation League on Tuesday night of this week, might have been forgiven for giving their GFA Challenge Trophy final against Hellenic Premier hopefuls Lydney Town little more than a cursory glance.

But footballers and their supporters can seldom resist the lure of cups and medals and the Oaklands Park gathering bore witness to a second-half demolition job on their shaken north-county counterparts, a 9-2 rout that might have had lesser mortals than the Lydney crew scampering out of the impressive 3G arena in haste and disappearing from sight the moment the final whistle confirmed the awful truth.

To the Lydney camp’s credit they took it in good part, bitterly disappointed while knowing that they had contributed to a frenzied, open and freeflowing encounter in which they certainly deserved more than the two goals registered. Of course, it was scant consolation too.

Once their opponents had their tails up from around the 55th minute of the game, at a time when Lydney were trailing by just the odd goal in five, few would have stifled their wave of attacks and precision passing. Indeed, few have the class of the likes of three-goal Dean Stamp and two-goal Pete Sheppard in their forward line, and it was because of such quality that Manor Farm were able to display a venomous cutting edge that the Town rearguard simply couldn’t, ultimately, contain.

The Bristol side threatened to run away with it at the start of the evening as talented teenage midfielder Ryan Radford forced the ball over the line, somewhat untidily in truth, as he ran in to meet Sheppard’s driven second-minute cross for the opener, and the same supplier teed up Aron Robbins for a close-range second on 14 minutes.

Lydney had shown fleeting moments of promise themselves through Pete Macklin, Lewis Halford and Declan Morley-Lyne, the latter ending a super move by fastening on to a through ball and rifling it high into the net to peg back the deficit to 2-1 eight minutes before the break.

It was particularly galling, then, for the Town contingent when the Western Leaguers restored their two-goal advantage just two minutes later, defender John Lock powering a partially-cleared header from a corner into the net to send his team into the interval 3-1 to the good.

Lydney came out for the second half as though their lives depended on it and seven minutes in they grabbed another goal back, as Morley-Lyne’s free-kick was pushed away by Farm keeper Ashley Clarke, who could only watch on as Dave Jenkins cut the ball back for Macklin to net and seemingly set up a tight and competitive contest destined to go to the wire.

Instead it all went horribly wrong for Mark Lee’s men, virtually from the moment Manor Farm went straight up the other end and scored all too easily, as Radford picked out Sheppard with a low ball in from the right for the unmarked former Clevedon Town marksman to convert with ease from eight yards out.

Cue the opening of the floodgates, despite Lydney sending a barrage of attempts at the opposition goal which somehow failed to produce even one breakthrough. The energetic Sheppard completed his brace with a breathtaking 35-yard lob over stranded goalie Richard Thomas for Farm’s fifth, Stamp was afforded the freedom of South Gloucestershire as he waltzed through to knock Kye Holly’s pass into an unguarded net, before the goalscorer made it a personal pair by thumping in an unerring left-foot finish on the run for Manor Farm’s seventh.

There was time yet for one-time Yate Town and Mangotsfield United midfielder Harley Purnell to score with a low edge-of-box drive, and for Stamp to fizz a left-footer into the bottom corner to complete the scoring and ensure back-to-back Challenge Trophy successes for the clinical Creek outfit.



It’s a second-half sizzler as happy gaffer Lee hails Bristol Manor Farm masterclass...

LEE Lashenko admitted his Bristol Manor Farm victors were far from comfortable in the face of a stirring Lydney Town response - until they hit their stride with a masterful second half of finishing form.

The Hellenic Leaguers had reduced the arrears to 2-1 and 3-2 in a 17-minute spell before and after the break and looked more than capable of hauling themselves level, until any hopes of wresting the Challenge Trophy away from the clutches of the holders were blown asunder amid a 35-minute Manor Farm goal blitz.

The Creek chief admitted: “For the first 55 minutes it was nip and tuck. Lydney were very committed and they kept coming back at us, but over the last 35 minutes any neutral watching would have enjoyed the way we went forward and took our chances.

“We expected a reaction from Lydney after half-time and we got it. They pulled it back to 3-2 but once we went 4-2 up pretty much straight away, the whole picture changed.

“People can look at it and say, ‘Lydney really weren’t that bad’, and they’d be right. It was more about the quality we showed and it helped that the (3G) surface is ideal at this time of year for the game we like to play.

“Pete Sheppard put in a great shift for us and Ryan Radford (right midfield) showed a superb attitude at 19 years of age and scored our first goal.”



...While bruised Lydney boss Mark is left to admit: ‘We need some reinforcements’

LYDNEY Town manager Mark Lee has warned that reinforcements will be required over the summer sabbatical in an effort to improve on an encouraging first season in the Hellenic Premier Division.

It said it all that Lee politely requested “five minutes out” to gather his thoughts and speak to his chastened team before offering his verdict to GFA Local Football News on their crushing 9-2 Challenge Trophy final defeat at the hands of Manor Farm.
“We were a bit shellshocked and I’ve never known us defend so badly,” he confessed. “Collectively we could have defended so much better.

“Towards the end of the first half I felt we were still in with a shout going into half-time 3-1 down and that seemed to be the case when we got another one back soon into the second half.

“But their fourth goal, coming so quickly as it did, took the wind out of us and we were comprehensibly punished by a very good side.”

Lydney finished their Hellenic Premier campaign in a commendable 12th position and Lee acknowledged: “It’s been our first year at that level and the main thing was to stay up.

“We’ve done that but we need to improve and to do that we need to get some more players in who know all about the demands of this league.

“It won’t be easy because it’s not about us having a shoestring playing budget; we have a non-existent budget. But we’ll be looking to progress because we’re not going to simply stand still and admire what we’ve achieved to get this far.

“This defeat was obviously a low point, how it finished up for us because it had been a massive plus to get to the final.

“Sometimes you learn more in defeat, though, and we’re going to need to do that.”



Second time lucky: AEK Boco aces go one better to secure County League crown

AEK Boco are this season’s Gloucestershire County League champions.

The impressive Hanham-based outfit have won 22 and drawn four of their 29 fixtures thus far with three to play, starting at home against Les Phillips Cup finalists Hardwicke this Saturday (April 30, 3pm).

It’s been a remarkable achievement by Gary Lancaster’s team, who only 12 months ago finished second in the table in their first crack at the level following promotion from the Bristol Premier Combination the previous term.

Watch this space for a reaction from the delighted Boco camp to their title success in the coming days...



Stroll in the Park as lethal Manor Farm retain GFA Challenge Trophy with clinical win

BRISTOL Manor Farm embarked on an Oaklands Park goal blitz to defeat Lydney Town 9-2 and retain the GFA Challenge Trophy in comprehensive fashion on Thursday night, reports Simon Parkinson.

They did so with first-half strikes from promising 19-year-old right-sided midfielder Ryan Radford, full-back Aron Robbins and defender John Lock, and a hat-trick and double respectively after the break by prolific striker Dean Stamp and energetic wide-man Pete Sheppard, Harley Purnell also breaking from midfield to make it a sixth second-half goal for rampant Farm.

The Toolstation Premier Division promotion-chasers, who pipped Shirehampton 2-0 in last year’s final, didn’t always have it their own way to begin with against Mark Lee’s enthusiastic Hellenic League equivalents, as the handful that is striker Declan Morley-Lyne had powered through to reduce the arrears to 2-1 on 37 minutes, while Pete Macklin’s tap-in shortly after the interval pulled it back to 3-2 after their opponents had entered half-time 3-1 up.

From the moment Sheppard restored Manor Farm’s two-goal advantage moments later, the stuffing seemed to be knocked out of a Lydney side who, for a spell, had peppered the Creek outfit’s goal with a series of attempts before they simply opened up in the face of a clinical and ruthless Farm attack.

A full match report and reaction from BOTH managers will appear here soon...



Secretary Thorne so delighted by Stapleton’s impressive burst since DRG breakaway

STAPLETON’S long-serving clubman Ian Thorne applauded his side’s 2-1 Junior South Cup success at the expense of De Veys at Oaklands Park on Monday night and enthused: “We’re really heading in the right direction again”.

Having been part of established County League club DRG for more than a decade after being “bought out” by the former Carsons Road outfit around the turn of the Millennium, Stapleton became a set-up in their own right once more four years ago, as a Bristol and Avon League force, when they flew through their inaugural season undefeated to finish-up as Premier Division champions.

That sparked a switch to the Bristol and District League’s fourth tier, where once more they stormed to 2014 championships success without loss, while the following season, with the wind still firmly in their sails, they were beaten just twice en route to the second division crown, catapulting them into Division One where they currently head the pack with yet another league title a tantalising possibility - and a place in the Senior Division a mouthwatering prospect.

A thrilled Thorne, 58, who played for Stapleton, predominantly as a centre-half, from the age of 16, currently assists boss Rob Selman at the helm, as well as performing secretarial duties for an entire senior section which includes their high-riding District League Division Three second string.

He smiled: “It’s been brilliant, not only all the promotions and cup success for our firsts since we became Stapleton AFC again, but our reserves won back-to-back promotions, which included a Division Six title in their first season (in 2013-14).

“Basically it all began four years ago when DRG became DRG Frenchay and we decided to revert back to being our own club, Stapleton, again, which had been going since the 1920s, 1930s.

“Rob Selman and I had been heavily involved in the junior section down there and we haven’t looked back since. If it wasn’t for Rob, we wouldn’t be where we are today, but everyone, from our chairman Bryan Powell to our loyal helper Bryn Coates, and the reserve team management of Richard Greenhill and Kevin Bence who have done a tremendous job, have all played their part in what is happening here right now.

“The reserves even won the GFA Primary Cup in their first season together a couple of years ago so it’s a real club thing.”

Stapleton’s first team currently play their football at Begbrook Green Park while the reserves and under-21s, themselves pushing hard around the Bristol & Gloucestershire Under-21 League summit having already banked the Sunday Minor South Cup prize, perform at Eastville Park.

“We have an excellent relationship with the community centre at Begbrook and we have a great bunch of lads. There are 43 of us going away this weekend to Portugal for a mini break,” Thorne revealed.

“When I played for Stapleton we were in the County League and we’d love to get there again.

“The one thing we would need to progress, though, is our own pitch and facilities, so only time will tell whether that’s possible.”

As for this week’s Junior Cup victory, Selman’s men first had to hit back from a fine 44th minute Darren Bloomfield breakthrough for De Veys, which they did moments later when Grant Wolsey set-up Luke Clarke to turn his man and fire a well-placed right-foot shot into the bottom corner from the edge of the box to tie it up at 1-1 at the break.

In a high-tempo game, Stapleton had to wait until the 80th minute for their winner, Clarke turning supplier this time to cross with his left foot for Paul Davis to steal in behind the keeper and head triumphantly home.

De Veys did have a golden chance to equalise late on but Stapleton custodian Jason Ryall was only too pleased to see an attempted finish by Bloomfield miscued straight into his grateful gloves.

Thorne remarked: “For the first 15 minutes we had the better of the game but in fairness to De Veys, they really had us under the cosh for much of the rest of the half.

“I feel that in the end fitness told a little. We had most of the possession in the second half and got our reward.”



Bitton put behind them midweek Mendip mashing to clinch Senior Amateur prize

BITTON director John Langdon admitted Tuesday night’s Senior Amateur South Cup success had proved a very welcome tonic on the back of “difficult times” this term.

Just three days after being handed a 13-1 mauling by Premier Division leaders Mendip Broadwalk in the Bristol Premier Combination, Bitton Reserves roused themselves impressively to overcome Suburban League Premier One side Easton Cowboys Suburbia with a 4-3 penalties win, after the teams had entered the shoot-out in 2-2 deadlock following an entertaining and helter-skelter 90 minutes on the GFA’s Oaklands Park 3G.

They had to come from behind to achieve it too, Pat Royal embarking on a solo run and well-placed finish into the bottom corner to level up at 1-1 five minutes before the interval, and Dean Langdon edging Bitton in front on 65 minutes with a tap-in from Callum Baker’s cross, only to be denied outright victory late in normal time as a battling but heavily-depleted Cowboys outfit pounced to restore parity.

Substitute Kye Debbonairre, back from a hamstring injury, crossed from the left with his right foot and Brendan Perkins was on hand to head home from six yards out five minutes from time. Rob Burley had much earlier struck first for Easton midway through the first half with a rebound finish after Dave Walbyoff’s shot hit a post.

However conversions by Josh Penfold, Paris Tilling, Jordan Thaws and Josh Murphy proved enough to clinch the contest from the daunting 12-yard mark, while successful attempts by Cowboys’ Debbonaire, Patrick Thurston and Perkins weren’t quite sufficient.

Langdon Snr, who watched another of his sons, first-team boss Dan Langdon save one Cowboys’ spot kick attempt, enthused: “It was great to see the celebrations at the end after all the well-documented problems we have had this season.

Although we’d fielded a side without several key players, including our regular keeper Stan Hill, against Mendip, it wasn’t nice to lose as heavily as we did, so this cup win has given everyone the boost they needed.

“I thought Cowboys acclimatised to the 3G pitch much better than we did to begin with and we struggled to cope with them at times. Eventually we settled down better and created three or four good chances in the second half, with Steve Jones and Pat Royal hitting the post.

“That said, to be fair to Easton they made a really good game of it and were very sporting in defeat.”



Chuffed Chalford claim spirited CHQ scalp to clinch Intermediate North Cup in style

CHALFORD Reserves management and officials hailed their golden GFA Intermediate North Cup success thanks to a 4-1 victory over CHQ United in a lively contest at Preston Park.

While Chalford got their final off to a flying start, CHQ, for all their efforts, simply could not peg back the early deficit as the Stroud League fourth division side ran out worthy winners within Tetbury Town FC’s confines on Tuesday evening.

Defensive deficiencies played a lead part in their ninth-minute opener, which inspirational captain Joe Freeman happily exploited to squeeze the ball into the net from outside the box after the opposition keeper had spilled it under pressure from 17-year-old striker Jordan Hodges, enjoying a promising first season in local senior football.

Jeb Martin then met Matt Whitmore’s precision delivery with a powerful header into the net to make it 2-0, and after seeing off a brief CHQ flurry, Freeman again was on hand to dart on to his keeper Kris Cheshire’s raking punt upfield before cutting inside and rattling an unerring finish just inside the near post for the third goal.

Had one of a series of Hodges’ efforts at the CHQ goal gone in, Chalford, co-managed by Jason Harries and Gary Smith, would have already been out of sight by half-time. Instead, United hit back with a goal of their own as Ben Saunders’ free-kick was turned in by Troy Weaven at the back post, as his team suddenly found themselves back in the final and only two-adrift heading into the interval.

The second period was a little scrappier with Chalford satisfied to play on the counter attack as their opponents feverishly sought a way back into it, although they might have found themselves facing an anxious finale had Cheshire, who had already made a string of important saves, not produced a fine stop to deny United’s Weaven, who watched on as team-mate Saunders fired the loose ball over the top.

The Cirencester League Division One outfit were punished for those misses at the death as Chalford’s 21-year-old substitute Josh Scrivens drilled the ball in off an upright courtesy of skipper Freeman’s pass, to complete the scoring and ensure his team that deserved Intermediate Cup prestige.

Harries, who is also club chairman, insisted to GFA Local Football News: “I’ve always had a firm belief that if this team perform to their maximum ability, they can match anyone at this level and it was fantastic to see some new and older faces blending so well for the cause.

“Winning a first piece of silverware makes all the hard work worthwhile and the backing we had from everyone, some 50 or 60 supporters and players past and present, showed just what it meant and what passion there is for Chalford.

“My co-manager Gary Smith was there when he really shouldn’t have been as he was facing an operation to ease a long-standing lung problem the very next day. He’s been instrumental in the team’s success this year and Joe Freeman turned in a real captain’s performance on Tuesday night.

“Next year is our 125th anniversary and we’ll be going into it flying; the future is looking very positive.”

Chalford’s secretary of 34 years, Hayden Hunt, beamed: “We’ve had a good season all round as our thirds are in the final of the Stroud Charity Cup (Section D against Tuffley Rovers IV on Sat, May 7, 6.30pm at Quedgeley) for the second year running and our firsts and seconds are going well at the top ends of the Northern Senior League and Stroud Division Four respectively.

“We won the Senior Amateur Cup many years ago and it’s brilliant having another county trophy behind us. We have a good bunch of young lads who all play for each other, helped by strong links with Golden Valley Rangers Youth who provide a really good feeder into senior football with us.”



Watts on the treble trail as sizzling Sun Inn make it a cup double with six of the best

SUPER Sun Inn made it a quickfire trophy double by winning the Evesham and District Sunday League’s Bluck Cup at the weekend - and in scintillating style too.

Hard on the heels of their GFA Sunday Minor North Cup triumph, in which they narrowly overcame battling Barton Rovers with a penalty shoot-out success after a 1-1 draw had taken the tie to spot kicks (see article below dated 15/04/2016), Edd Major’s promotion-chasing Division Three fliers made absolutely certain of their latest cup clincher well inside the regular 90 minutes on Sunday as they raced to a 6-0 defeat of Evesham outfit Pebworth at Evesham United FC’s HQ.

Sun Inn took the lead when Jack Watts produced some impressive skill to slot past the keeper, before the same marksman converted from the penalty spot after Owen von Sekendorff was pushed inside the box.

Adam Collins was next to hit the target courtesy of a 30-yard screamer and the contest was effectively over by the interval as Matty Roberts headed home the Inn’s fourth from a corner.

Pebworth applied the brakes a little better on their opponents’ freescoring exploits after the break, but they couldn’t prevent Watts completing his hat-trick with a delightful curling finish, or Tom Stratford wrapping up a comfortable win and more silverware for the cabinet on the stroke of full-time as he broke through to score a sixth goal.

Major told GFA Local Football News:” It was a tale of two finals really. The previous Sunday, in the county cup game, we looked nervous, didn’t pass the ball very well and struggled to play.

“It wasn’t until the second half that we took control of the game and eventually got the goal to take it to penalties.

“Last Sunday against Pebworth was completely different as from the first whistle we controlled the game, moved the ball quickly with purpose and scored some terrific goals to eventually run out comfortable winners.”



On the up! Cinderford Town secure Southern League top-table seat as champions

SOUNDS of celebration can still be heard reverberating around the Causeway Stadium after Tuesday night’s 2-0 home victory over fellow promotion hopefuls Taunton Town clinched Cinderford Town the Southern League South & West One title and promotion to the Premier Division for the first time in their 94-year history.

Roared on by the majority in a crowd of nigh-on 500, it required two second-half goals by their leading marksman Ethan Moore – his 27th and 28th strikes of the season – to secure the win amid high tension and excitement within the Forest of Dean ground.

Impressively Cinderford, who travel to take on mid-table Bath side Larkhall Athletic for their final game this Saturday afternoon (April 23, 3pm), became the only team in the top eight divisions of the national pyramid system – including all regional sections in both the Southern League and National (Conference) League – to complete their campaign unbeaten at home.

Some more super saving by Alex Harris also ensured Town’s 23rd clean sheet of the season ahead of this weekend’s curtain call, when the league trophy will be presented to them.

Watch this space for more reaction to Cinderford’s splendid success story in the coming days.



Super Stonehouse see off stirring Charlton challenge to end 40-year county cup wait

MIKE Smith believes County League hopefuls Stonehouse Town have their best-ever first-team squad in place after watching them complete part one of a possible treble with Wednesday night’s 2-1 victory over Charlton Rovers in the final of the GFA Intermediate North Cup.

Tuffley Rovers’ Glevum Park was the venue for Town’s first county cup success since 1976, when they won the very same competition.

This time they were grateful for captain Alex Kibble’s penalty midway through the first half after striker Liam Gale had been brought to ground inside the box, and to Gale himself, who fastened on to a fabulous long ball forward by Kibble before taking it on his chest and thumping an unstoppable shot past Charlton keeper Matt Macrow.

Gale and Lee Keveren missed chances at various stages of the period to see Stonehouse into the break in far more commanding vein, profligacy seized upon by a much more purposeful Charlton side after the break.

The mid-table Northern Senior One team pulled one back through Ryan Caddock’s close-in finish from Jack Fairbairn’s delivery and then went agonisingly close to levelling up, as Matt Courtney-Smith’s header struck the crossbar.

Stonehouse held out, however, to lift that elusive county prize, knowing more is surely to come over the next few days.

Away victory over promotion rivals Newent Town this Saturday (April 16, 3pm) will see the Northern Senior League’s second-placed side Stonehouse elevated to the Gloucestershire County League for the first time in their history, with the chance of going up as champions very much up for grabs too in a shake-up currently led, by a solitary point, by Sharpness.

Haydn Murray’s men are also in the final of the Harry Greening section of the Stroud Charity Cup, where they’ll face County League Frampton United, again at Tuffley Rovers FC, on Thursday, May 5 at 7.30pm.

An overjoyed Smith said of the saga: “Things are looking really good. I’ve been with the club since 1986 and this is the best first-team squad I have seen here.

“Last season we enjoyed a great unbeaten run after Christmas and we’ve carried that form on ever since.

“In the past we’ve not been in a position to go up for ground grading reasons but we now have our brand-new £120,000 changing rooms up and running, and we know we can be promoted provided we finish above Newent, which we’ll do as early as this Saturday if we manage a win there.

“We’re still in the running for the league title too and our away match with Sharpness on May 3 is looking a key one at this stage.”

Of Wednesday night’s morale-boosting county cup success, Smith said: “We were brilliant in the first half and should have been out of sight at half-time.

“We were poorer in the second half and Charlton came back into it, with their central midfielder Caddock really bossing things. They almost equalised when the ball came back off the bar and our keeper (Will Pedrick) saved on the line.

“Our man-of-the-match Bradley Moore did just the same for us as Caddock did for them in an outstanding first-half performance and in the end we came through and it was a great feeling.”



Relentless Hillfields Old Boys on five-trophy club mission after Intermediate successes

HILLFIELDS Old Boys can be forgiven for pinching themselves as their all-conquering Saturday and Sunday sides continue to steamroller all before them in the quest for honours, writes Simon Parkinson.

While the brand-new Sunday team secured the GFA Sunday Intermediate South Cup at Oaklands Park last Thursday en route to a possible treble (see match report below), their Bristol & District League wing, many of whom feature for both teams, sit pretty at the top of Division Two and themselves were proud recipients of a county prize, having beaten Yate Athletic 5-2 in Monday’s Intermediate South (Saturday) competition.

The club entered the season never daring to dream so much silverware would potentially be heading for the club cabinet at the end of it all.

Small wonder their 37-year-old Saturday co-supremo, Dwayne Knowles, who operates at the helm in tandem with player John Towler, is rubbing his hands in delight at what has already been achieved – and the prospect of what might follow for the Thicket Avenue outfit.

He smiled: “I’ve been with the club for 20 years, lost in four county cup semi-finals but never reached a final, so what happened on Monday night against Yate was particularly special.

“We’d struggled as a club for the past four years but we’ve got a reserve team and Sunday team up and running and everything is on the up, and everyone gives 100 per cent.

“In the league we’re top of the District League table with games in hand and if we can take advantage of those then we’ll be looking at going up as champions again, just as we did last season in winning Division Three.

“Our supporters over the past two seasons have been fantastic and there must have been at least 150 of them at Monday’s final, and to be fair Yate had quite a few there too so it made for a terrific occasion.”

Just as their Sunday side so successfully did four nights prior, Hillfields Saturday had to hit back from conceding an early goal to go on and cement victory, with Lee Bebbington and Mikey Golding both celebrating doubles and Jamie Johnson, the Sunday XI player-boss, scoring from the penalty spot, as he twice did in the Sunday final. Richard Gardener notched with both Yate goals.

“We went a goal down but showed real character and a will to win to fight back as we did,” Knowles purred. “Most of them had played on Thursday, Saturday, Sunday and then Monday but you wouldn’t have thought it.

“We led 3-1 at half-time and then Yate came out and gave it a really good go. We defended fantastically well and caught them on the break a couple of times to see us home. Mikey Golding was a real handful upfront with Scott Johnson, who did everything but score, and Lee Bebbington was different class in midfield along with Jamie Johnson.

“But to a man they performed brilliantly.”

Of the Old Boys’ meteoric rise this term, long-serving clubman ‘Spike’ Roynon explained: “A lot of the lads are best friends, some old school friends, while some played for other local clubs.

“They all wanted to play football together so they asked me to form this Sunday team and it’s gone brilliantly. We’ve won all our games so far to top the Regional Sunday League Division Two table and we’re now in the league’s Gilbert Pullin Cup final against The Whitchurch at Fry’s on May 8.

“I knew we had a quality team heading into the season, Mikey Golding among them who has now scored 40 and counting.

“Even our reserves could be promoted (from District League Division Five) after a wobbly start, so we’re all very pleased and encouraged by what is happening right now.”



Sunday best: happy Hillfields see off Jolly Boys battlers to land maiden county cup

HILLFIELDS Sunday claimed a county cup trophy in their very first season as they eventually swept aside the stiff challenge of Jolly Boys 6-3 in the final of the Sunday Intermediate South competition at GFA HQ.

For a large portion of the contest, however, it was hardly straightforward as Jolly Boys snatched the lead through Frank Gingell’s close-range finish on the stroke of half-time, before player-manager Jamie Johnson restored parity shortly into the second half from the penalty spot.

Karim Rendall then headed Bristol Regional Sunday League Division Two leaders Hillfields ahead courtesy of Johnson’s inswinging free-kick, only for James Peart’s own free-kick from a wide position for the Boys to evade everyone, including Hillfields keeper Craig Sawyer, and end up in the corner of the net for 2-2.

Peart was at it again moments later, his free-kick from a similar area posing all manner of problems for Hillfields defenders inside the area where Brad Fry was on hand to drill the loose ball home and hand Jolly Boys a sudden 3-2 lead.

Unfazed, their opponents regrouped and tied up an enthralling contest once more through Johnson’s brilliant curling 25-yard free-kick, and with the momentum now swinging their way once more, centre-half Billy Fletcher restored Hillfields advantage with a powerful header from a near-post corner.

There was to be no stopping them now and former Mangotsfield United marksman Rendall motored forward before producing a clinical finish for their fifth goal, and Johnson jubilantly converted from the penalty spot once more for his hat-trick, Jolly Boys defender Pete Bracey sent off by referee James Rampton for his part in the incident after scything down Paul Coles in full flight inside the box.



Burning bright: Barton pay penalty as treble-chasing Sun Inn seal Sunday Minor Cup

SUPER Sun Inn were spot-on to clinch the Sunday Minor North Cup in dramatic fashion at the weekend against Barton Rovers at Stonehouse Town’s Oldends Lane venue.

It was tough on Barton, who had snatched the lead on 20 minutes with a well-placed left-foot Adam Powis finish into the bottom corner from Joe Morgan’s skilful right-sided assist which gave Inn keeper Will Major no chance of stopping, then watched in relief as an Adam Parry penalty for Sun Inn sailed over the crossbar to ensure Rovers a 1-0 advantage at the interval.

Despite an avalanche of Sun Inn pressure and precious few clear-cut chances after the break, they had to wait until five minutes from time for their eagerly-sought breakthrough goal when Owen Von Sekendorff darted on to a Sam Comfort ball, allowed it to roll over his shoulder and finished with a half volley that flew through the surprised keeper’s legs and into the net for the equaliser.

It got better for manager Edd Major’s men as substitute Adam Collins, Matt Roberts, Martin Steger, Sam Comfort, Tom Stratford and keeper Will Major, who had saved a Barton ‘take’ in the ‘lottery’, all kept their nerve from the spot to see their ecstatic side to a 6-5 shoot-out success.

And what a season it’s shaping up to being for a Winchcombe-based Sun Inn outfit prominent in the 1980s and early 90s before falling by the wayside, that was until 2010 when they finally reformed thanks to backing by the local pub which, in turn, has since sadly shut for good.

The team have proudly kept on its name, however, and currently top Evesham & District Sunday League Division Three, while this Sunday (April 17, 5pm) they take on Pebworth in the final of the Bluck League Cup.

Secretary, treasurer and left-back Collins, scorer of one of those penalties, enthused: “The Sunday Minor Cup is the first piece of silverware we have won not only since we reformed six years ago but in our entire history.

 “Most of our lads come from the immediate vicinity while a few are from Cheltenham, Bishops Cleeve and Toddington areas. It’s a good catchment and ensures we’re a close-knit bunch.

“They are a very keen and committed group of players who are determined to push on and, of course, win us a league, league cup and county cup treble before the season is out.”

Barton secretary Adam Bettridge admitted: “It was a rollercoaster of emotions for us as we were leading for most of the game and Sun Inn only managed to equalise right at the end.

“But I suppose penalties were a fitting end for the final.”



Williams, Moore are double trouble as Forest Green pip Gas to reach Senior Cup final

FOREST Green Rovers became the first team to reach the final of this season’s GFA Senior Amateur Cup following a fine 4-3 Tuesday-evening victory at the Memorial Stadium against Bristol Rovers.

Two goals before the interval for Brett Williams, and a second-half brace by his fellow front-man Kieffer Moore, proved just sufficient for the Nailsworth hopefuls, who paraded seven of their regular National League performers together with a clutch of fast-emerging academy starlets.

The League Two-chasing Pirates had a competitive side out too, one which included fit-again midfielder Lee Mansell, former Swindon Town striker Rory Fallon, who went close with two headers before the break; goalkeeper Will Puddy and midfielders Ryan Broom and Jake Gosling in their line-up.

It was Forest Green who broke the deadlock courtesy of a cool finish by the marauding Williams, who then added a second via a similar end product to see his side into the break 2-0 up, although the Bristol side contributed to both goals through defensive errors.

The Gas were far from finished, though, and a Blake Davies double hauled them back into the semi-final at 2-2, only for Moore to hit two of his own with a header from Anthony Jeffrey’s delivery and an edge-of-box strike, as Forest Green restored their two-goal cushion.

The home side set-up a tense finale as substitute Olly Mehew converted Gosling’s pass from close in five minutes from time, but the Nailsworth side held firm for a splendid win.

The second semi-final between Bishops Cleeve and Slimbridge, scheduled for last night (April 14), was unfortunately postponed due to a waterlogged pitch.



Three-in-a-row: Forest Green Ladies capture Trophy prize again with Cheltenham win

FOREST Green Rovers Ladies made it three GFA Women’s Trophy triumphs on the spin as they overcame their Cheltenham Town counterparts 4-1 at Oaklands Park on Tuesday night.

They achieved it with a much-depleted line-up too, as several of their most influential players were injured or unavailable and others carried knocks and illness into the contest.

Nevertheless they came through unscathed, just as they did in the two previous years with impressive victories over Bristol Ladies Union on both occasions, to the delight of watching secretary Richard Hale who acknowledged: “It’s been a really good achievement, especially as we had such a patched-up side out there against Cheltenham, who were really up for the local derby.

The players did everything our manager Josh Giddins asked of them.

“It helped that we had a big pre-match team meeting in the nearby Swan Hotel, where we went through everything thoroughly given some of our players would be playing out of their usual position.

“It was also nice that three of our players – centre-half Jodie Shephard, central midfielder Kirsty Richardson and centre-forward Charlotte King, were able to bow out with a trophy to cherish. Jodie is joining Larkhall Ladies (in Bath) next season while the other two are retiring.”

Rovers swept into a 3-0 interval lead with Shepherd steering home a close-range seventh-minute header from a short corner and Richardson and Paige Stewart, who supplied the inch-perfect through ball for Richardson to net, both running clear to finish clinically for the second and third goals.

Cheltenham improved after the break and a superb free-kick by their captain Jen Wealls-Brown reduced the arrears to 3-1, only for Rovers to kill off any comeback hopes shortly after through Richardson’s successful spot kick.

Cheltenham boss Graham Fletcher admitted: “We had what I would describe as an interesting chat at half-time and we took them (Forest Green) on, scored a great goal and challenged them a lot more.

“But in the end their class told.”

As widely anticipated, Forest Green have experienced something of a baptism of fire in the Southern section of the FA Women’s Premier League, having won two and drawn two of their 20 games to date knowing they will finish up in the bottom two. Whether they retain their place in the division remains to be seen.

“It’s been hard and getting up so early for long away games is something new to the team,” Hale reasoned.

“We’ve also used 24 players during the season, largely down to the fact some of them just weren’t committed enough. But the nucleus of the team has been good.”

Meanwhile the Women’s Trophy will be paraded at the New Lawn this Saturday (April 16, 3pm) for the senior men’s crucial home clash with Woking, all part of what the club calls “ladies day”, a chance to promote the female wing of the club which plays at Wisloe Road in Slimbridge.

“As we don’t play our home games at the New Lawn it is a good chance to draw attention to the female section and hopefully get more interest and support in what we’re trying to achieve,” Hale said.



Frampton Rangers girls set for Wembley stage thanks to FA People’s Cup triumph

THE “fantastic” young females of Frampton Rangers Girls Under-16 continue to bask in the afterglow of their FA People’s Cup success – and small wonder.

The jubilant team received national attention after beating 2015 finalists Ole United, from Manchester, 5-2 at the recent national finals showpiece in Sheffield.

To top-off another wonderful season, victorious Frampton will receive the People’s Cup trophy for their category at Wembley on FA Cup final day on May 21, when they hope to have added even more silverware to the club cabinet.

Not content with their exploits in the national limelight, all-conquering Frampton recently claimed their FIFTH Bristol Girls League title on the spin in their respective age brackets, while early last month a 1-0 victory over Forest Green Rovers on the Oaklands Park 3G secured the unstoppable outfit a THIRD straight GFA Girls Cup success.

As for the hugely popular People’s Cup, which in only its second year enticed more than 35,000 players from over 4,000 teams, adult and junior, to sign up at the start of the year from right across the country, Frampton had to first come safely through two qualifying rounds, in Portsmouth and Luton, before booking their place in the national finals in South Yorkshire.

With the BBC filming the action, Rangers found themselves up against seven other determined sides making up two competitive groups of four. Unfazed, they brushed aside their three other Group G hopefuls to top the table, teeing up a winner-takes-all showdown with Group H victors, Ole United, who were out to go one better than their runners-up placement last year.

In a thrilling contest, Frampton fell behind to an early goal before Ruby Michael fired the equaliser to tie it up at 1-1. With the momentum behind them, they then flew into a 3-1 lead thanks to two quick goals by Abi Todd and Maddy Brown.

Their opponents then reduced the arrears with a deflected effort to bring the score back to 3-2 and take the game into a tense final five minutes.

But Brown and Todd were having none of it and saw off a brave Ole fightback to add to their personal tallies with two great goals to see Frampton to a 5-2 victory, much to the joy of their entire line-up which also comprised Saffy Degg, Shelby Kendall, Beth Kelloway and Ellie Michael.

Their thrilled manager Tony Michael, who has led Rangers since their days as enthusiastic under-12s in 2011, enthused: “This was a fantastic achievement by the girls, who have been rewarded for being national champions by receiving FA Cup final tickets.

“Highlights were shown on the BBC red button after Football Focus and the programme is still available to view on BBC iPlayer!

“The FA People’s Cup trophy will be presented to our girls at Wembley on FA Cup final day, which will be an amazing experience.

 “The team are hoping now to progress to playing ladies football in the Gloucestershire County Women’s League from next season, which will provide another big challenge for them.

“But it’s one they can look forward to with a lot of confidence and optimism, given all their achievements over the past several years.”



Swans next up as determined Cleal eyes Senior Challenge Cup glory for Bishops Cleeve

THE two successful quarter-finalists in last Wednesday’s GFA Senior Challenge Cup are braced to go head-to-head as this year’s most prestigious county competition builds up to an enthralling crescendo, writes Simon Parkinson.

Bishops Cleeve’s come-from-behind 3-2 home victory over Southern League Division One S&W rivals Yate Town, and Slimbridge’s 2-0 success against Cheltenham Town Reserves, sets up a semi-final cruncher between the respective victors at Cleeve’s Kayte Lane home next Thursday (April 14, 7.45pm).

The other last-four tussle, between Bristol Rovers Reserves and travelling Forest Green Rovers, takes place at the Memorial Stadium two days prior at 7pm on Tuesday, April 12.

Bishops Cleeve boss Steve Cleal watched first in frustration, then delight, as his collection of reserves and fringe starlets fought back from 2-1 interval arrears against Yate to clinch the win, Kirk Layton having fired Cleeve ahead from 25 yards following a well-worked move, only for the Bluebells to hit back twice in quick succession before half-time with a fine finish by back-from-suspension Lewis Powell from the edge of the area, and George King following a goalmouth scramble.

In a bid to address the shortcomings, Cleal thrust influential midfielders Jordan Bryan and Jack Horrell into the fray, and the tide began to turn from the moment Elliot Kennedy restored parity for Cleeve on 51 minutes, providing the platform for Horrell to fire over the cross for Aaron Drake to stoop and head home from close range for Cleeve’s semis clincher 13 minutes from time.

A happier Cleal acknowledged: “It’s always going to be tough against Yate, even though they’re having a few (managerial) issues right now.

“Both of their goals were avoidable on our part but after a few words at half-time we stepped it up in the second half and were worthy winners in the end.

“Now we have Slimbridge, a team we know a bit about having beaten them 2-0 at their place earlier in the season in the league, and we have them again at home on the final day of the season.

“When it comes to cup competitions of any description you tend to give your reserves and fringe players a run-out as games come thick and fast, but now we have reached the semi-finals of this one we want to go on and win it and cap what has been a much-improved season.”



Sterling work... now safety-conscious Slimbridge can target county cup prestige

SLIMBRIDGE’S encouraged manager Leon Sterling believes the fact both they and semi-final opponents Bishops Cleeve have already retained their places in next season’s Southern League S&W competition will make for an even tastier GFA Senior Challenge Cup joust.

While Cleeve hover around the mid-table position in the table, county rivals Slimbridge, enjoying their first-ever taste of the status, are sixth-from-bottom heading into this Saturday’s trip to take on Mangotsfield United (April 9, 3pm), having already ensured they won’t be dropping back down to the Toolstation Premier Division from whence they came at the first time of asking.

To cap off a decent first showing at the higher level, Slimbridge secured a pass into the Senior Cup semis with a 2-0 home win over Cheltenham Town’s young-guns with goals either side of the break by Paul Fahy, a splendid individual effort on 20 minutes, and Sean Lawson, who capitalised on hesitant defending by ramming the ball unerringly into the net on the hour mark.

That victory catapulted the Swans into that last-four tie away against Bishops Cleeve next Thursday (April 14, 7.45pm) and Sterling insisted to GFA Local Football News: “Given both of us are safe in the league it means we can focus fully on trying to win this game and getting to a cup final.

“The lads were very excited at the start of the tournament knowing there was the potential for us to play some big clubs, and now we’ve come this far we don’t want it to end.

“I know the Bishops Cleeve manager Steve Cleal and he has a good team. We’ll have to play well to beat them, better than we did in our league game earlier in the season when we lost 2-0 at home to them. We didn’t perform well that day.

“But as time has gone on we’ve learned from our experiences at Southern League level and we’re more accustomed now to what we’re up against, so I’m sure Bishops Cleeve will respect us too.”

Of the Cheltenham quarter-final win, Sterling reasoned: “They fielded a youngish team and some of them aren’t that used to men’s football, but you know that they are going to be talented and enthusiastic and that we’d have to be on our game.

“That said our own average age is around 21, 22, and it was quite an entertaining match, with both teams trying to play the right way.

“As far as the league goes we went into the season with no real expectations; it was a new experience for the club as a whole.

“We’ve enjoyed going to new grounds and some local derbies, and the object was to make sure we could get as many points as possible to make us mathematically safe as quickly as we could.

“We achieved that with a couple of months to spare, which is pleasing.”



Beddoes delight as battling Thornbury Baptists seal another Minor Cup final triumph

DELIGHTED manager Chris Beddoes heaped praise on his never-say-die Thornbury Baptist Church charges as they claimed their second GFA Minor South Cup prize in three seasons with a 6-1 defeat of Frampton Athletic A at Oaklands Park on Monday night.

Hat-tricks apiece for Ash Tuck and skipper Jimmy Cooke saw the Bristol Churches League first division high-fliers to what appeared to be a straightforward success against the District League Division Four strugglers.

However Beddoes, who oversaw the Baptists’ 2-1 win over Easton Cowboys in the 2013-14 final, admitted: “We were lucky to go in at half-time all square at 1-1 because Frampton certainly edged it.

“It was slightly against the run of play that we equalised their 21st-minute penalty (scored by Liam Downer) two minutes before the break through a fine goal by Jimmy, and suddenly we felt as though we were in the ascendancy and went on from there.

“Frampton did come at us strongly again at the start of the second half but fitness levels really told as the game wore on. It’s a big pitch and most of our lads played on it in the final two years ago, and it’s quite telling that we managed to score five of our goals in the final 20 minutes as they ran out of steam, four of them from around the 83rd-minute mark.”

Beddoes added: “It was a very satisfying outcome because we’ve suffered a bit with injuries and unavailabilities, so to come away with a result like that was fantastic.

“They are a good close-knit bunch of guys who pull together really well and don’t believe in defeat. Our goalscorers have been in great form too; Jimmy is prolific and has now passed 30 for the season and Ash is incredibly quick and scored the two goals that won us the same cup in 2014.

“Credit to Frampton too because they were really gracious in defeat given it must have been a real disappointment, the way we took it away from them so late into that second half.”



Supremo Simon so proud of Primary Cup conquerors De Veys Reserves’ rise and rise

DE Veys Reserves ecstatic co-boss Simon Grinnall says last week’s GFA Primary South Cup success has given the entire club a lift following their 2014-15 frustration in the same competition.

Twelve short months ago the then-Bristol and Avon League outfit were trooping dejectedly out of Oaklands Park having fallen on the wrong end of a 4-3 scoreline at the hands of Winford PH Reserves.

Now Bristol and District League fifth division promotion prospects, De Veys’ players privately announced at the start of the campaign that they would be redoubling their efforts to try and secure the county cup prize this time around, and Grinnall is thrilled to declare they didn’t let down, despite losing their semi-final tie against a Shaftesbury Crusade Reserves side who were removed from the final after being found to have fielded an unregistered player.

Shaftesbury’s pain proved De Veys’ gain and they were quickly reinstated in the competition, and the rest, as they say, is history.

A 2-1 defeat of Suburban League newcomers Kingswood South (see feature on Kingswood by scrolling down to 24/3/2016 stories below) on the 3G surface at the GFA headquarters on Tuesday night of last week came courtesy of Caleb Ward’s close-range 50th-minute finish from Curtis Rush’s corner and Mike Kennedy’s knock-down, and the pacy Rush’s effort four minutes later, when he intercepted a misdirected pass from Kingswood keeper Mike Murphy to round defenders and the unfortunate goalie, who was soon forced off with an injury, before coolly slotting home.

Their opponents did set up a tense finale by gobbling up an 88th minute rebound from the boot of Rob Warren after De Veys’ own excellent shot-stopper, Steve Sposito, could only parry an initial attempt by Danny Carter before victory was secured – and the bitter memory of last year’s final defeat was banished.

Grinnall, who runs De Veys’ second string in tandem with player Paul Bodnarazek, explained: “Losing at the same stage last year in awful weather conditions was not a pleasant feeling and the lads wanted to make up for it massively this year; for many of them it was the main priority from the outset.

“Obviously the league is very important but you could sense from the start of the competition that they all wanted it badly.

“Heading into the final they were well up for it and although it was goalless at half-time, Paul, my co-manager, gave a stirring team talk, woke everyone up and there was no way we were going to lose after that. The lads played brilliantly.”

Dundry-based De Veys Reserves are firmly in the promotion mix too and Grinnall acknowledged: “We’re making good strides in trying to establish ourselves as a team in our own right, something Paul and I were keen to do when we took over at the start of last season.

“We won the Bristol and Avon League’s Temple Colston Cup at the end of it, reached the final of the GFA Primary Cup and gained a switch to the District League.

“Now we’re up there challenging for promotion from Division Five but there are no certainties as there are four or five teams in with a shout.

“But it’s all positive and going up is something we’re obviously keen to do.”



Stacey at the double as Abbeymead Rovers Ladies aces surge to Challenge Cup success

ABBEYMEAD Rovers Ladies manager Judith Langworthy heaped praise on her team after seeing them dust themselves down from last season’s Women’s Challenge Cup final despair to lift the trophy in style on Tuesday night, reports Simon Parkinson.

This time last year Rovers were reflecting on the disappointment of a 3-1 defeat at the hands of Bristol Ladies Union in the Oaklands Park showpiece.

Twelve months down the line and the mood in the aftermath was an entirely different one as they overcame Mangotsfield Ladies 4-1 at the same venue thanks to a Stacey Leaver brace and Rachel Lutman and Mel McIlwraith goals.

Not that it was always easy going for the Gloucestershire County Women’s League Division Two leaders, who led by just a solitary Leaver effort at half-time as she finished with aplomb in a one-on-one scenario with the Field keeper.

Evident anxieties within the Abbeymead ranks were eased five minutes into the second half when Lutman added a second with a superb free-kick into the top corner of the net.

And while much-depleted Mangotsfield, who had six key players unavailable and two absent injured, did likewise in reducing the arrears with a fine Laura Curnock free-kick from the left edge of the box midway through the period, despite Rovers goalie Ashli Scantlebury getting a hand to the ball before going on to pull off a crucial stop shortly afterwards as Mangos eyed an equaliser, Rovers soon re-established their hold on the contest to run out worthy winners.

Leaver completed her brace with a brilliant long-range half-volley 15 minutes from time before good work, and subsequent shot, by Chloe Taylor struck the back of her team-mate McIlwraith, who quickly regained her composure to finish well for 4-1.

Langworthy enthused: “It was a great feeling. We’ve gone a stage further in this tournament each year because two years ago we were beaten in the semi-finals by St Nicholas on penalties and last year we lost to BLU in the final.

“The girls are elated and rightly so because it’s been a great season. We’re top of Division Two and we’re in our League Cup final against (first division high-fliers) AEK Boco this Sunday at Oaklands Park (April 10, 2pm). It’s all to play for still but good to have a trophy safely banked.”

Of the Mangotsfield encounter, Langworthy said: “I could sense the players were a bit frustrated at half-time because for all our efforts at goal – Chloe Taylor hit a post among them - we only led by the one goal.

“It was a case of carrying on as we were in the second half and Rachel’s brilliant free-kick really helped ease the nerves.

“Even after Mangotsfield pulled one back we were creating chances but it was a team effort. Paige Ible had a superb game at left-back and our two central midfielders, Rachel Lutman and captain Anni White, were magnificent too.”



Stapleton slickers on the treble trail after superbly pocketing Sunday Minor Cup prize

SUNDAY county cup final season commenced with jubilant Stapleton Under-21s, of the Bristol and Gloucestershire Under-21 Combination, claiming a 2-1 victory over Redbridge Sunday on the Oaklands Park 3G.

Elan Gordon’s magnificent double secured the Sunday Minor Cup crown for the talented Stapleton side, who have been going well in third position in the league table with only one defeat behind them all term and games in hand to bolster their title prospects.

They have also been maintaining a keen eye on this evening’s League Cup semi-final outing against Nicholas Wanderers at Oaklands Park (Fri, April 8, 7,30pm) hoping to keep a dream trophy treble alive for the term.

Stapleton’s exuberant young-guns had to come from behind too to achieve their Minor Cup success after conceding to an early header from a corner.

The all-action Gordon equalised soon afterwards with a fantastic free-kick from well outside the box, then embarked on an exciting run from inside his own territory before slotting the ball past the surprised Redbridge keeper five minutes into the second period for Stapleton’s winner.

Their happy manager Rob Carty claimed: “The lads had gone into the game confident they could come through after a terrific (3-1) win against Bristol Palace Reserves in the semi-finals.

“We actually entered the final with six regular players absent, but the boys applied themselves really well, just as they have done all season, after falling asleep a bit for Redbridge’s early goal, something I had warned them about beforehand!

“To be fair to Redbridge they threw everything at us in the last 20 minutes but our defence stood up to everything and we rode our luck a bit too.”

Carty added: “As a team we’ve come all the way from an under-7s side in the Hanham Minor League to where we are today. We finished runners-up in the our first season at under-21s level last year and now we’re hoping to go all the way AND win the League Cup as well.

“I’ve impressed on the lads that they have a great opportunity to give themselves something to really look back on and cherish in years to come.”

Stapleton club secretary Ian Thorne enthused: “It’s been a fantastic effort by our under-21s but the club as a whole is enjoying a terrific season.

“Our first team is top of Division One of the District League and in the final of the GFA Junior Cup against De Veys on April 18, while our reserves are going well near the top of Division Three.”



Success so sweet: Mushet & Coalway claim county cup first with Minor North triumph

MUSHET and Coalway United put behind them a “barren” decade by clinching their first-ever county prize with Wednesday night’s 3-1 Minor Cup North defeat of Hatherop at Bishops Cleeve’s Kayte Lane ground, writes Simon Parkinson.

The stage was always set for a tight final, with Mushet loitering with intent second in the North Gloucestershire League with games in hand to boost promotion hopes, and their opponents lying in the same position in the M4 Karting Cirencester and District League with a similarly impressive record.

It was a more experienced Hatherop team who struck first too, taking a 1-0 lead into the interval as a quickly-taken free-kick and looping cross evaded the clutches of Coalway keeper Jake Thomas and dropped perfectly for David Legg to gleefully head home from virtually on the goal-line.

A more youthful and energetic Mushet began to assert more pressure after the break and they equalised soon afterwards when Josh Pritchard drilled a powerful low shot into the net from 20 yards.

It got even better for him and his team 15 minutes from time when Pritchard again struck in somewhat scrappy circumstances after the ball had bobbled around inside the box following a set-piece move.

To Hatherop’s credit they kept going and went agonisingly close to tying up a lively contest when Richie Crocker, who has 53 goals behind him already for the campaign, rattled a penalty against the crossbar.

To compound his and his team’s agony, Coalway added a third five minutes from time, Sam Jessop forcing the ball home after Jack Halson’s attempt rebounded from the Hatherop bar and landed kindly for the jubilant marksman to secure that long-awaited piece of county silverware.

Their delighted secretary, Andrew Wilce, who has enjoyed a 25-year stint at the club and counting, observed: “We had a much younger side out than Hatherop did and that was maybe a key factor in the second half, just the fact we had more legs in us, but Hatherop played really well and they could easily have taken it to penalties.

“It’s a really good feeling for everyone because it’s the first county competition we have won and really it’s been ten barren years, more about fighting relegation battles than anything positive to shout about.

“There’s a fair way to go yet but if we keep going as we are in the league it would be nice to cap off this bit of success with promotion too.

“We’d also like to thank Bishops Cleeve for their hospitality and Don Fletcher (county cup north secretary) and Kevin Brain (North Glos League fixture secretary) for their presence and presenting the trophy.”



All hands to pump as promotion-chasers Manor Farm bid to recapture GFA Trophy

LEE Lashenko is adamant he will be putting out “my strongest possible side” amid a critical period for Bristol Manor Farm when they confront Lydney Town in the GFA Challenge Trophy final at Oaklands Park on Thursday, April 21 (7.30pm).

While Hellenic Premier side Lydney Town had already secured their place with a dramatic penalty shoot-out success against Cheltenham Saracens following a 3-3 draw a fortnight back (see stories below dated 24/3/2016), a much-depleted Farm somehow came through last Wednesday’s second semi-final 5-2 victors at the home of Cirencester Town Development, despite kicking off the game with ten men and finishing up with only nine on-field bodies to count on.

Deadly Dean Stamp was one good reason for Manor Farm’s success on the night, his four-goal salvo and general presence upfront as a lone striker proving far too much for the mid-table Hellenic Division One West outfit in their own Kingshill Lane backyard.

Liam Farmer struck the other goal although Farm, who were 3-0 up having performed the whole contest with ten men, then lost captain Jordan Metters through a straight red card for ‘words said’ to the referee, forcing them to conclude the final half hour with even fewer players.

Danny Gudger’s goal, which temporarily reduced the arrears to 3-1, had Cirencester dreaming of a recovery, but Farm soon restored their three-goal cushion and went on to win comfortably, Anthony Brown making it 4-2 five minutes from time for the hosts, only for the Toolstation League promotion hopefuls to score again to wrap-up proceedings.

Their manager, Lashenko, explained: “I had eight players unavailable through injuries and illnesses but there were good reasons why we came through, even when we were reduced to nine men.

“We have a lot of talented players and of course Dean was outstanding, as he has been all season, and there was a bit of determination among the lads beforehand to prove we could still do it in the face of adversity.

“We were also perhaps fortunate to come up against a team from a lower level than us who struggled to live with our qualities on the night, and our performance WAS superb.

“We’re looking forward to the final now and we want to retain the trophy we won last season (with a 2-0 win against Shirehampton). But it also comes amid a really hectic and important spell of fixtures which could make or break our chances of getting into the Southern League.

“So with all that in mind I will have to look hard at who we have available at the time but make no mistake, I’ll be putting out my strongest available side with a view to trying to win the cup again.”

Manor Farm’s Tuesday night 2-2 draw with Buckland Athletic at the Creek meant they enter this Saturday’s away encounter with fourth-placed Melksham Town in third position.

And Lashenko stressed: “We know that only ourselves and Buckland are in a position to go up this season but we have to end up in the top three and also finish above Buckland.”



Hardwicke, Rockleaze Rangers edge through to set up Les James Cup final cruncher

HARDWICKE and Rockleaze Rangers will battle it out in the final of the Gloucestershire County League’s Les James Cup competition at Tytherington Rocks FC on Sunday, May 15 (11:00) after squeezing through two tight weekend semis ties.

Rockleaze required penalties to overcome visiting Bishops Cleeve Reserves following a dour 0-0 draw at Coombe Dingle, while it took a late Steve Bick strike to see Hardwicke safely into the May showpiece.

Cleeve had one shot on target in the opening 45 minutes of their tie, a Martin Tomes effort from the edge of the box that went straight to a grateful Sam Burgess in the home goal, while Rangers’ only real chance in the first half came in the 21st minute via Ieuan Crowe’ attempt that keeper Eric Edge stopped with his legs. Steve Fitzpatrick also let fly from 30 yards just before the break which Edge got safely behind.

Most of the second period was a repeat of the first, with Cleeve coming the nearest on 72 minutes to breaking the deadlock with a great Matt Magee effort which Burgess palmed around the post for a corner.

The game, however, petered out into a goalless stalemate and with Aaron Day, Carl Lakey, Theo Coombs and Neil Simons all keeping their composure from the spot, delighted Rockleaze clinched the shoot-out 4-2 to take their place in the final.

As for Hardwicke, they had drawn their away game in the league with Thornbury 1-1 just seven days prior to their semi-final, and again the match was closely-fought.

Home skipper Rob Hine headed a left-wing corner against the Thorns crossbar early on while Nathan Sage’s cross was headed narrowly wide by Craig Lancastle as Thornbury quickly responded.

An exciting end-to-end encounter continued into the second half when Thornbury keeper Alex Lippiatt mishandled a shot but managed to recover, while his opposite number Jermaine Hunt was forced to save a Tom Webb effort.

Gradually the home side began to exert control and even though Luke Franklin had a chance on 73 minutes to put Thorns ahead, the initiative seemed to be swinging more and more in favour of the home side and on 80 minutes a free-kick was headed agonisingly against the Town bar by Tobie Webb.

The game was finally settled five minutes from time when a misunderstanding between Sage and keeper Lippiatt for the visitors resulted in the former heading the ball into the path of Steve Bick to fire home a dramatic winner for jubilant Hardwicke.



Lots to look forward to as Longwell Green Sports gear-up for some “exciting news”

LONGWELL Green Sports may be finding life on the pitch heavy going at this time but there appears to be a mood of determination to safeguard the club’s future - and much more besides.

So says chairman John Gibbs, who has revealed that the Shellards Road club are gearing up towards the announcement of some “exciting news” before the current campaign is out.

And how timely that would be too given the fact Longwell, in their seventh season as a Toolstation Premier Division force following their promotion from a first division runners-up position in 2009, are in their 50th anniversary year and looking forward to marking that with a series of celebratory functions.

In the meantime Sports, under the stewardship of Ali Biggs since the start of 2015-16, have a very important mission to accomplish, protecting their Toolstation top-flight status as they currently sit above only Clevedon Town and bottom team Welton Rovers in the pursuit of safety.

A typically-sanguine Gibbs is adamant the only way is up, although he warned: “We need to stay in the Premier Division first and foremost and Ali is doing a good job and doing his utmost to ensure we stay where we are.

“It’s been a tough season for him, coming in and building a new side, largely comprising youngsters.

“It must be remembered that our previous manager (Gary Powell) left last summer and so did a lot of the players, so there was a major rebuilding programme for him to oversee.

“As it stands there appears to be a three-way fight to stay up and there’s only one team that will be relegated. We have to make sure that team isn’t us and we have a lot of games to pack into the remaining weeks, which is why we’ve been trying to draft a few new players in.”

Of that future, however, Gibbs insisted: “There are a lot of positive things going on off the field right now and some exciting news to announce before the end of the season.

“It will set the club up for a bright and positive future but we need to make sure we’re playing in the Premier Division next season.

“We’re also celebrating the club’s 50th anniversary when lots of things are planned, such as a former players’ dinner and other social events, so there’s a buoyant feel around the place, even though we’re far from taking our eye off what’s happening on the field.”



All wired up for promotion – Bristol Telephones prepare for life on the higher stages

IT’S all systems go where Bristol Telephones’ hopes of becoming a Toolstation Western League force are concerned.

That’s the view of the Gloucestershire County League club’s ambitious and optimistic manager Shaun Collins, who has served in various capacities at Telephones over some 16 years and yearns to see them battling it out at the higher level, having already overseen a meteoric rise over the past few seasons.

After all the likes of Cribbs, Tuffley Rovers, Longlevens and, most recently, Chipping Sodbury Town have made the step up, to good effect too, in recent times. Collins and his Stockwood Lane cohorts are determined to ensure they are in the mix for bigger and better things as well, and as quickly as possible.

He confirmed: “We’re working extremely hard to get things together and if we aren’t to go up this season, we have to make sure we keep this squad of players together, maybe improve on it, and give it another good crack next year.

“Everything is being done off the pitch to put us in the best possible position to join the Western League. A 50-seat stand has gone up, there’s now a concrete path around the pitch perimeter, there are more spaces in the dugouts and we’re hoping to be able to install floodlights in September.

“There are other clubs at our level keen to improve themselves too, such as AEK Boco, who have been the ones to catch in our league this season, and Fry Club, in the Somerset County League, are also looking to kick on. Like us, they have to try and get their facilities up to scratch to stand a chance.

“The main thing is we’re having a go; we want to progress, which has always been the aim of the club anyway, to see how far we can take it.

“Six years ago we were in Suburban League Division Two and this is our third year in the County League. Now we want to move on again.”

Collins believes there’s plenty of committee clout behind the project to deliver the next big promotion dream to talented Telephones.

“We have a strong group of people driving it all on, headed by Gerry Holmes who has been there longer than me and is the type of person every club at this level needs. And he still turns out for our reserves,” Collins smiled.



GFA’s former football development manager Probert lands City academy top job

EVERYONE at Gloucestershire FA would like to congratulate our former Football Development Manager Gary Probert following his elevation to the role of academy manager with Bristol City.

Gary worked with this county association for some six years overseeing the running of the Football Development Team, while also responsible for the creation and delivery of the FA National Game Strategy within Gloucestershire as well as managing coach education and facility investment.

The self-confessed Liverpool fan (you can’t have it all!) was appointed head of Bristol City’s foundation phase three years ago, looking after the Robins’ aspiring 7 to 11-year-olds, and also worked with the club’s professional development phase for 18 to 21-year-olds.

In January 2015, Gary enjoyed a stint at the helm of City’s under-21s after Mark O’Connor left Ashton Gate to work alongside Tony Pulis on the West Brom coaching staff.

City’s chief operating officer Mark Ashton said of Probert, who replaces the recently-departed Paul Groves at the head of the Robins’ academy: “I'm delighted Gary has been promoted from his position of assistant academy manager.

“Gary has been with the academy for four years and understands the club and our youth set-up.”



A dream start: excited newcomers Kingswood South braced for Primary Cup final bow

KINGSWOOD South’s enthusiastic young player-manager Mitchell Hodge admits his brand-new club’s meteoric rise has “taken our breath away”, reports Simon Parkinson.

Not content with a current second-spot standing in Bristol Suburban League Division Five which promises much on the promotion front, Kingswood also face a semi-final tussle with Fry Club OB in the league’s Len Bartlett Cup competition at Mangotsfield United’s Cossham Street HQ on Wednesday, April 6.

Before that little lot, Hodge’s hopefuls have the small matter of a maiden county cup final appearance to indulge in to, as they take on Bristol and District table-toppers De Veys Reserves on the Oaklands Park 3G this coming Tuesday (March 29, 7.30pm) for another intriguing step into the unknown, this time in the GFA Primary South Cup.

The 26-year-old beamed: “We’re massively excited about it all; we could never have dreamt at the start of the season that we’d have done this well as a brand-new set-up.

“All the lads have been talking about nothing other than the Primary Cup final, against a side we know nothing about, although I did face De Veys’ first team while I was an Oldland player a few years back.

“We know we can handle ourselves well because we’ve played teams two divisions above us in various cup games and done extremely well, although of course we’ll be taking nothing for granted on the night.

“We do feel there’s enough ability in the camp to continue progressing through the divisions over the next few years and establish ourselves in the top divisions of the Suburban League.”

Asked how the dramatic Kingswood South emergence had come about, Hodge explained: “My assistant Simon Laraway and I were at Oldland Abbotonians Reserves, where I’d been a central midfielder for several years.

“Simon was relieved of his duties at the end of last season and we got our heads together and thought, ‘Why don’t we have a go at setting up our own club’?

“Around ten of Oldland’s players wanted to join us, along with some friends from other clubs, and with the help of people like our coach Justin Lane, and Ryan Thompson, who undertakes various duties, we managed to get things up and running and it’s been brilliant, better than expected.

“Southey Park in Kingswood had a pitch up for grabs and Simon and I are both from Kingswood, while a lot of our lads are from the locality too. So it made sense to form a team based there. It was the first time too there had been a club from that area actually operating under the name of Kingswood.”

Hodge added: “Much of our success this season has been down to hard work and enthusiasm, with young players like Ricky Godwin, Matty Sivell, Rhys Hodge and Jordan Laraway balanced with the experience of Rich Neil, Steve Hill, Shaun Kessler and Edd Davis.

“There have also been valuable contributions from Rob Warren, George Twose, Sam Hutton, Mike Murphy, Jack Boyle and Luke Hughes, but we’re also lucky to have the services of lads like Danny Carter upfront for us. He used to captain Bristol Rovers Youth before sustaining a serious knee-ligament injury, which says it all about his abilities.

“He’s gone on to play for Oldland and Radstock among others in the Toolstation Western League so you can imagine that at this level he’s a stand-out player, scoring hat-tricks pretty much every week.

“We’ve also be fortunate to have enlisted the backing of Bristol Safety (www.bristolsafety.co.uk), our club sponsor, who provide accredited staff fire, first aid and safety training for business, commerce, teams and individuals.”

* Kingswood players and staff would like to wish their captain Shaun Kessler and his partner Kelly all the best for a speedy recovery following her recent health problems.



Super-saver Thomas turns super-striker as Lydney are spot-on to reach Trophy final

RICHARD Thomas proved a hero of the hour for Lydney Town as they stepped into next month’s GFA Challenge Trophy final at Oaklands Park under the most dramatic of circumstances away against spirited Cheltenham Saracens at Petersfield Park, writes Simon Parkinson.

Having found themselves in 3-3 deadlock at the end of a captivating 90 minutes, the semi-final encounter entered an immediate shoot-out scenario, one that the Hellenic Premier side managed to clinch 5-4 from the spot over their promotion-chasing Division One West opponents.

Declan Morley-Lyne, James Morse, Jack Rutter and Lewis Halford had all successfully converted their penalties for Lydney when goalkeeper Thomas stepped up to coolly despatch his side’s fifth ‘take’ to hand his side a 5-4 advantage.

Moments later he was being mobbed by his team-mates after palming Saracens’ fifth effort to safety from a more customary position between his posts, to ensure it was they who made it through to the Thursday, April 21 final at Oaklands Park against either Cirencester Town Development or Trophy holders Bristol Manor Farm, who clash next Wednesday night, March 30 (7.45pm) at the Corinium Stadium.

Lydney’s delighted long-serving secretary Roger Sansom acknowledged: “We’ve made it through to the semi-finals a couple of times in recent years, and we won the Senior Amateur Cup in the mid-2000s, but this is a first for the club, to reach the Challenge Trophy final.

“It’s not been a bed of roses for much of the season, with lots of injury problems and the fixture backlog that is making things even tougher at this time with so many games to pack in.

“So given all that, we’re very pleased to have made it into the final and it’s thanks in no small part to our keeper Richard, who made himself quite a hero at the end of that penalty shoot-out!”

In a helter-skelter contest Cheltenham had snatched an early lead through Jack Sklenar in the regular 90 minutes, and while Morley-Lyne restored parity shortly afterwards, Jamie Goodwin had Saracens back in front on the stroke of half-time to send them into the interval 2-1 ahead.

Again Lydney bounced back, Halford levelling up at 2-2 midway through the second period, before substitute Matty Timmins fired them in front for the first time in the tie two minutes later.

Ten Minutes from time, however, Saracens themselves responded with an equaliser via the head of unfortunate Lydney centre-back Sam Elliott, and although his team almost claimed victory at the other end with a Timmins effort ruled out for offside, and a Morley-Lyne rocket brilliantly saved, to penalties it went, and that enthralling conclusion.

Cheltenham boss Nick Locke insisted: “I said to our lads afterwards that I felt we’d been the better side and really all three Lydney goals were down to lapses of concentration on our part.

“We were disappointed to fall short in the end but I’m quite proud of what we’ve achieved and how we more than held our own against a team a level above us.”



Bishops Cleeve, Yate, Slimbridge, Cheltenham all eyeing Senior Challenge semis spots

THINGS are certainly hotting up now where the GFA’s most prized cup competitions are concerned and next Wednesday (March 30) presents some more mouthwatering fixtures.

While Cirencester Town Development and Bristol Manor Farm lock horns in the second Challenge Trophy semi-final at the Corinium Stadium (7.45pm) to ascertain who takes on Lydney Town in the final (see article above), Wednesday also presents the two outstanding Senior Challenge Cup quarter-final ties.

The evening features Bishops Cleeve’s home tussle with Southern League S&W rivals Yate Town at Kayte Lane (7.45pm), and Slimbridge’s meeting with visiting Cheltenham Town Reserves (7.30pm).

With Bristol Rovers Reserves and Forest Green Rovers having already confirmed their place in the semi-finals and set to collide on Tuesday, April 12 (7pm), the winners of the two other last-eight matches will play each other on a date to be decided.

Meanwhile, the following night (Thurs, March 31, 7.30pm) throws up the Sunday Minor Cup final contest at Oaklands Park between Redbridge Sunday and Stapleton Under-21s.



Harrison Kyte at the double as Yate Town Youth retain GFA Youth Shield in style

THERE’S been more delight at Lodge Road this week as Yate Town Youth’s collection of talented youngsters retained the GFA Youth Shield on the Oaklands Park 3G.

Roy Ball’s team clinched the trophy 12 months ago courtesy of a tense penalty shoot-out success against Gloucester City Youth following a 2-2 draw in normal time.

This time they did the job in more comprehensive fashion, as Harrison Kyte struck twice and Tom Norley and Lewis Powell weighed in with the rest as Yate overcame Stoke Lane, of the Bristol and Gloucestershire Under-18 League, 4-0, at county headquarters on Tuesday night.

It’s proving to be a magnificent season for the Bluebells fledglings, who currently top the Somerset Youth Floodlit League ladder, having reached the final of the league’s Roger Stone Memorial Cup against Radstock Town, the date yet to be confirmed.

Town secretary Terry Tansley enthused: “To have won the Youth Shield last season was great to have retained it is quite some achievement.

“Our manager Roy Ball has done an excellent job over the past couple of years and hopefully things are on the right road to laying some firm foundations to a bright future at Yate Town with some of these lads at the heart of it.”



Forest Green, Cheltenham Town, Mangotsfield and Abbeymead seal ladies final places

MANY congratulations to four of our top senior female clubs following their semi-final victories in both the GFA Women’s Trophy and GFA Women’s Challenge Cup at the weekend.

In the Trophy, current holders Forest Green Rovers overcame St Nicholas Ladies 4-2 to set up an eagerly-anticipated Oaklands Park final with Cheltenham Town Ladies, who squeezed past lower-ranked local rivals Cheltenham Civil Service 3-2 to take their place in the Tuesday, April 12 (7.30pm) showpiece on the GFA’s 3G pitch.

Forest Green, currently fighting a battle around the foot of the FA Women’s Premier League’s Southern Division, did not have it all their own way before celebrating semis success, twice falling behind to a spirited SW Division One Saints side to Amy Jefferies and Harriet Gillard efforts following a goalless first half, before edging a gripping contest with a Paige Stewart double, Kirsty Richardson’s single and skipper Amy Baker’s strike, all four of the Green goals coming from outside the penalty area.

Cheltenham Town, who are keeping their heads above water well in a competitive FA Premier League SW One pack, had to do it the hard way too as a brave Civil Service side, who perform in the SW Women’s League Eastern Division, snatched the lead through Gemma Riley and almost added to their advantage before the interval as Bec Panniers leapt to the visitors’ rescue.

But in a potent and rapid-fire spell of finishing prowess after the interval, Graham Fletcher’s girls soared into a 3-1 lead as skipper Jen Wealls-Brown netted from the penalty spot to equalise and Emily Skipp producing a superb finish from the edge-of-the box to make it 2-1.

Jade Wiltshire’s thumping header midway through the period appeared to have wrapped-up Town’s safe passage to the final, but even then they were kept on their toes in a tension-filled finale as Debra Harris forced the ball home for Civil Service following a corner and goalmouth melee before time ran out on their sterling efforts to stay in the competition.

Meanwhile, Mangotsfield Ladies, slender 1-0 home victors over AEK Boco Ladies Development, and last season’s champions and current Gloucester County Women’s League Division Two pacesetters Abbeymead Rovers – they were more convincing 4-0 winners away against Bristol Ladies Union Youth - will contest the final of the Challenge Cup on Tuesday, April 5, again at the GFA’s Oaklands Park facility on the all-weather 3G surface (7.30pm).

A strong Boco side had got off to a promising start in their semis tie on Mangos’ main pitch at Pomphrey Hill, carving out several chances against deep-lying opponents who had set themselves up to play on the counter.

And they almost saw their superiority pay dividends on the 40-minute mark when their centre-forward ran on to meet a pinpoint cross from the right flank, only to see her effort ruled offside by referees assistant Colin Hardy.

Boco kept up the pressure after the restart, dominating territory and possession, although clear-cut chances proved harder to come by at both ends in the second half.

Mangotsfield grew in confidence the longer the game went on and they were rewarded on 69 minutes when their busy and energetic player-of-the-match Laura Curnock embarked on a great solo run from just inside the visitors half and finished well with a powerful shot from the edge of the area, which sailed over the keeper and into the top left corner of the net.

Boco threw bodies forward in the final stages in search of a late equaliser, but the home side’s superb defence stood firm with some terrific individual tackling by Gemma Rallison and Curnock, to earn a deserved place in next month’s final.

As for Abbeymead, their hot-shot Stacey Leaver won’t forget her semi-final exploits in a hurry, as she fired all four of her team’s goals to catapult them into that April 5 Challenge Cup cruncher with their Mangos counterparts. 



Battling Brimscombe and Thrupp up for the cup as they target double semis successes

BRIMSCOMBE and Thrupp continue to hold their own well mixing it with the big boys in the Hellenic League’s top bracket.

When it comes to the knock-out stuff, then it could be suggested that this season they are in an entirely different league to the rest!

With four games in the space of seven days to cram in last week, their supremo Sam Prior might have been forgiven for keeping an eye or two shut at times overseeing two midweek cup outings within the space of 48 hours, knowing he would have to utilise his squad to the max with important league games sandwiching them.

And when managers are pressed into those types of unenviable decisions, quite simply anything can happen.

Prior need not have been concerned as his men overcame county rivals Lydney Town 3-0 in the last eight of the Perpetua Press Floodlit Cup with goals from Billy Jones, Ashley Caldwell and Chris Greenhough to tee-up a mouthwatering semi-final clash away against  Hellenic Premier leaders Thatcham Town on Wednesday, March 30 (7.45pm).

Hot on the heels of those exploits only two days on came a 7-1 thrashing of Gloucestershire counterparts Cirencester Town Development in the quarter-finals of the Bluefin Sports Challenge Cup, in-form Jones hitting a hat-trick this time to go with two more Caldwell goals to add to his Monday-night effort, as well as Sam Blackie and David Woodfield contributions.

Brimscombe await now their semi-final opponents as the remaining last-eight fixtures are still to be played, among them local rivals Lydney, who take on Thame United at Swan Road this Easter Monday (3pm).



Cracking time – Oldland Abbotonians’ Easter ‘oeuf-fer’ a surefire winner for kids

OLDLAND Abbotonians are planning to give local children an egg-cellent Easter treat in the shape of two action-packed soccer camps.

The first takes place on Tuesday, March 29, Wednesday 30 and Thursday 31, while the second in the series is on offer the following week, on Tuesday, April 5, Wednesday 6 and Thursday 7.

For £10 a day, which includes a light lunch, children from the age of 4 to 11 years can enjoy fun-filled football activities, a World Cup tournament, penalty shootouts and much more. All the coaches attending will be FA qualified, DBS-checked and hold emergency first aid certificates.

There will be certificates too for every child as well as winners medals from the World Cup competition. Anyone booking their child on all six days of the camps will receive a discount.

To enrol your child call Premier Soccer on 07557 538247 or 07917 123488.



All about over-50s as teams are invited to sign up for new GFA Super Vets campaign

GLOUCESTERSHIRE FA’s inaugural Super Vets League has proved a real winner in the north of the county.

Now plans are in place to replicate its success south of the region too, as teams are encouraged to sign up to form a southern section and mirror what is anticipated to be an expanded north division programme next season.

Taster sessions are also in the offing this May (south) and June (north) for prospective and current teams eager to find out more about the new and exciting football format for young-at-heart senior performers.

GFA Super Vets is a seven-a-side league played exclusively by men over the age of 50 keen to demonstrate there is no expiry date when it comes to footballing talent.

This season saw four teams locking horns in the north of the county across five fixture dates, making for 12 competitive games played out in a good spirit.

The climax of the season took place on Sunday when league leaders Real Brummagem won two of their three games to clinch the title by five points. Remaining consistent throughout the campaign, the Birmingham-based club proved worthy winners, grinding out four 1-0 wins along the way while also dishing out the occasional heavier beating.

GFA football development officer Jack Stanbury explained: “The league operates very much with the belief that winning isn’t everything and sportsmanship and socialising rule all.

“After every fixture all teams socialise together, discuss the day’s events and begin to look forward to the next meeting.
“Although our first champions Real Brummagem have to make the trip back to Birmingham after each game, you can be sure to see them mixing in with our more local sides such as Charlton Rovers, Southside Star and Stroud .

“This philosophy exemplifies one of the many reasons we all love football, as it always provides an opportunity to socialise with like-minded people, regardless of age, ability and result!”

Now the current campaign has drawn to a close, attentions are firmly turned to the next one, which is likely to start at some point in September, and opportunities are there for veteran players to get involved and form teams, north and south of Gloucestershire, regardless of location.

Teams don’t have to be affiliated to an established club to enter either.

Jack added: “You just need to provide a group of over-50s who want an opportunity to play organised, social football.
“We have a taster event for prospective and current teams in the north of the county on June 12 at All Saints Academy, Cheltenham, while similar sessions will be held before then at the GFA’s 3G centre in Almondsbury on May 8.”

Anybody interested in taking part can contact Jack via jack.stanbury@gloucestershirefa.com or by calling him on 01454 615888.



Time to kick on: Super Vets League can go from strength to strength, say skippers

PARTICIPATING captains reflecting on the first GFA Super Vets League season have hailed it a “success” and thrown their weight behind the tournament’s future.

Stroud Strollers skipper Neil Davidson said of the experience: “It’s been a great first season for the Super Vets League, showing age is no barrier to quality football and a love of the game.

“We’re all old enough now to realise that a competitive spirit can go hand in hand with fair play. We’d really welcome all older players who feel their time is not yet up to join us, and many thanks to the FA as well for helping this league get off the ground.”

Davidson’s opposite number at Southside Star, Tim Carter, remarked: “The league has been extremely enjoyable and given the chance for more of our veterans’ squad to be involved.

“Those of us who are over 50 struggle with the demands of an 11-a-side game for 80 minutes, when some of the opposition are only 35 years old. This shorter/smaller format for over-50s is a lot more tolerable!

“It means we can give opportunities to slightly younger players in the regular veterans matches, thus keeping a bigger veterans squad involved in football.

“Super Vets also has a more social aspect because of the age group involved, which is good. I hope we can involve more teams next season and expand the league, as we need to find someone we can beat!

“I’d also like to think we can play this for a few more years to come as I really can’t see myself progressing to walking football just yet!”

Skipper of champions Real Brummagem, Neil Munroe, added: “Every credit to Gloucestershire FA for organising this inaugural tournament.

“It was all played in the best spirit yet with a competitive edge, showing that when you're over 50, it doesn't have to be dominoes or golf. I'm 65 and still hate to be beaten.

“We travelled a round trip of 100 miles for our fixtures but we’ve enjoyed every minute and would commend the league to any new teams.”

And Charlton Rovers Super Vets captain Jonathan Etherington said: “This is a competitive, skilful, tactical league, a bit slower than the Premier league, granted, as we’re all over 50 and a bit worn out!

“But everyone taking part has really enjoyed the season and looking forward to many more.”



Brave Bradley steps up to the plate in bid to resurrect Tuffley Rovers’ flagging fortunes

IF former football professional Shayne Bradley wasn’t aware his hands would be full attempting to navigate Tuffley Rovers to calmer climes, he certainly does now, writes Simon Parkinson.

The Hellenic Premier Division strugglers called the long-serving forward to the Glevum Park hot seat only four days after Warren Evans resigned citing work and family commitments hours after the club’s 3-2 away defeat by Binfield a fortnight back, and ten short months from their glorious promotion as Division One West runners-up.

Four more days after Tuffley were beaten 5-3 by league leaders Thatcham Town in their ensuing fixture, Bradley, who once made four substitute appearances for Southampton before turning out 47 times and scoring 11 goals for Mansfield Town, was making his dugout debut for Rovers, for a second time in his short managerial career, at home against basement rivals Bracknell Town – and ending up on the wrong end of an exasperating 6-1 scoreline.

With Tuffley hovering precariously around the relegation zone, the Gloucester-born 36-year-old, who once featured upfront alongside Michael Owen for England Schoolboys, has precious little time to stamp his mark on a grave situation, although he has this week enlisted the services of Evesham United’s midfield playmaker Liam Harding, a former Tuffley favourite, on a dual registration deal, and experienced striker Dorian Colling from Hellenic rivals Lydney Town.

Bradley, whose second outing at the helm ended in a 2-1 home defeat at the hands of local rivals Longlevens on Tuesday night in front of a bumper 132 turn-out, accepted: “We have a very young squad and although there is plenty of ability, we need a little more knowledge and know-how if we are to get ourselves out of the bottom four of this division.

“If I can bring in one or two more players, to add to what we already have, it will give us a real chance of climbing the table.”
Tuffley chairman Neil Brinkworth explained: “We considered a number of potential options, including bringing in someone completely new.

“However Shayne has a real affinity with the club and knows the squad, so it ended up being a relatively easy decision to make.”



Forest Green see off Shortwood to set-up super Senior Cup semis date with Gas kids

FOREST Green Rovers will travel to take on Bristol Rovers’ youngsters in the semi-finals of the GFA Senior Challenge Cup after squeezing past local rivals Shortwood United in Monday night’s big last-eight clash at the New Lawn.

They needed a penalty shoot-out to achieve it, despite taking the lead 42 minutes into the regular 90 through Kurtis Guthrie’s header from Ben Jefford’s delivery.

Spirited Shortwood, trying to bridge a three-division gulf between the sides, needed only eight minutes of the second half to tie-up the contest as defender Ed Weeks turned home a corner to ultimately force a spot-kick lottery and give the Southern League S&W side every chance of cementing a semis spot.

It wasn’t quite to be for them as Forest Green keeper Dale Eve produced three saves to ensure his team, chasing Football League status for the first time in their history, a 4-3 shoot-out win and that Tuesday, April 12 date with Rovers Reserves/U-21s (venue TBC).

Shortwood co-boss Alex Sykes said: “I’m disappointed to go out but we matched them for long periods and we created quite a few chances, so I'm pleased.”

Bishops Cleeve entertain Yate Town (7.45pm), and Slimbridge host Cheltenham Town Reserves (7.30pm), in the other quarter-final fixtures on Wednesday, March 30.



Fairford Town’s successful Former Players’ Day set to become an annual occasion 

AROUND 40 former Fairford Town players returned to Cinder Lane for the club’s inaugural Former Players’ Day.

Some had travelled from as far as Cornwall and Devon, whilst others were making their first return to the club in some four decades.

A successful occasion it was too, staged as part of the club’s 125th anniversary celebrations, as the returnees watched the Uhlsport Hellenic Division One West local derby with Shrivenham end in a goalless draw while enjoying a display of club memorabilia, including pictures from the 1930s and club documentation dating back to 1892.

In the evening, Swindon-based band ‘Good Times’ provided “excellent entertainment” as another group of evening guests, many of them still involved in local football, arrived.

Club committee member Chris Tanner commented: “It was great to see so many former players make the day and it will certainly become an annual fixture in the calendar.

“On behalf of the club I would like to thank everyone who played a part in the day, including the many volunteers who once again gave up their time to make the event such a success.”

Fairford recently announced that their main club sponsor, Stuart Pike (Burger Star), had taken over as chairman.



Happy Horfield United are out to prove a caring, sharing community can breed success

HORFIELD United are relishing the view from the dizzy heights of the Bristol and District League Division Two summit thanks to a purple patch of form that has set the one-team club ablaze, reports Simon Parkinson.

Whether they can cling on to top spot or not over the next few crucial weeks appears to be completely out of their hands!

The Muller Road outfit have been in a rich vein of form of late, Saturday’s splendid 2-0 win at top-four rivals Staple Hill Orient courtesy of strikes by super siblings Dan and Andre Chidgey lifting them into pole position for now, helped by previous pacesetters Made For Ever’s absence from duty.

Take a glance at the league table and Horfield’s chief problem quickly becomes apparent. They have played far more games than any other side in their section, not least title contenders Made for Ever, Hillfields Old Boys - they parade a 100 per cent winning record - and last weekend’s opponents Orient.

While United, 21 games in, have only seven games left to perform, the likes of Chipping Sodbury Town A and Highridge United Reserves have not even reached the midway stage of their fixture programmes, with the month of March well into its stride.

Nevertheless Horfield player-secretary Matthew Green is, along with his compatriots, determined to finish the season with a flourish and he insisted: “The top two generally go up and we’re pushing to try and get promoted this year.

“It would be some achievement if we managed it because we’re possibly punching above our weight a bit; we’re not a massive club, we have no reserve team, just the one side comprising 20 decent players from which 14 of them can be named on the teamsheets week to week.

“Only once this season did we have the bare 11 players available and the rolling subs rule seems to help; it means everyone gets some game time.

“We also have no designated manager as most clubs seem to have.”

Green, a one-time Clifton Rockets midfielder/defender on the Downs League scene, believes one of United’s strengths can be found in the distribution of duties, the sharing of responsibilities, which he feels promotes enthusiasm and camaraderie within the ranks.

The 31-year-old explained: “There are three of us, with the help of other senior lads, who oversee the running of the team.

Steve Pollock, our captain and centre-back who has been with the club for quite a while, is one of them, as is John Burden, who combines treasurer and striker roles as well. I chip in too and it all seems to work well for us.

“People’s lives are very busy these days with work and family commitments and it can be tough. I wouldn’t say we’re an isolated case, the way we share management responsibilities from the playing field – and we are ALL players – but you don’t see too many other clubs operating as we do.”

Asked whether plans were afoot to introduce a second-string side to a still-fledgling club, only formed in 2005, by comparison to many, Green stressed: “We’d need possibly twice the number of players we have now were we to consider it.

“If we pushed on and reached a higher level then maybe we’d look at it, to make for better strength in depth. But we’re not aiming for that at the moment.

“As it stands we just want to concentrate on these last seven games and see where it takes us. It would be nice to play in Division One next season but we’re realistic too. It will be a tall order and other results need to go our way, but certainly a top-three finish is a realistic target if we continue playing as we did on Saturday against Staple Hill.

“We have been missing several key players lately but everyone put a fantastic shift in and to win in the manner we did was outstanding.

“I really couldn’t pick a man of the match from our team.”



It’s on at last: Stuart Pearce and Longford braced for big basement battle with Wotton

STUART Pearce’s eagerly-anticipated debut for Longford should finally happen this Saturday (March 12, 3pm) – and he could hardly have chosen a more important fixture in which to make his big bow!

The former England captain was supposed to have featured way back on February 6 when mid-table Smiths Athletic were the scheduled opponents.

To the dismay of both camps the miserable weather put paid to that match, good news, however, for Wotton Rovers who will be the ones instead to line-up against the legendary one-time Nottingham Forest star (scroll down to articles dated 05/02/2016) this weekend.

While Longford have still to win a point, let alone a game, from their Gloucestershire Senior League One programme from 22 outings to date, Wotton’s form has hardly hit the heights either as they sit just a place above Saturday’s opponents in a second-from-bottom berth with only four victories from their 21 appearances.

It’s all hands to the pump, then, for the big basement battle, and lowly Longford have an extra special pair to call upon for the crucial encounter.

Pearce, who turns 54 next month, oversaw a special training session for his new team at Bisham Abbey recently and he acknowledged: “There has been great support from fans of all the clubs I have played for since Direct Line made it possible for me to play for Longford AFC.

“It is strange that 14 years after my last competitive match, I can already feel the nervous energy running through me.

“I hope as many people turn out to watch the team on Saturday and help put grassroots football on the map, as well as cheering on the team. All that energy will not just drive me on, but the whole team as well and we need it.”



Northern Senior hopefuls Stonehouse and Charlton set for Senior Amateur cruncher

CHARLTON Rovers and Stonehouse Town will clash in the final of the GFA Senior Amateur North Cup (date, venue TBC) following exciting victories in Saturday’s semi-finals.

While Charlton came through handsome 5-2 winners over Longlevens Reserves, Stonehouse, who are targeting a place in next season’s Gloucestershire County League (see feature below dated 04/03/2016), needed penalties to dispense of big Northern Senior rivals FC Barometrics.

A predictably tight contest had ended up goalless before Stonehouse, who had won their previous three league and cup encounters between the teams this season, came through 5-4 shoot-out victors.

As for Charlton, they took the lead when a great ball from Matt Hartley found Jack Williams, whose first-time effort from the edge of the box bounced back off the crossbar and landed perfectly for him to prod home.

Tom Price’s men made it 2-0 minutes later when the industrious Hartley won possession and crossed for Ryan Caddock to beat his marker to the ball and poke home at the front post.

Charlton then took their foot off the gas and Longlevens struck twice to dramatically tie up the scores at half-time.

The second half began evenly too, but it was Rovers who reclaimed the lead 20 minutes in when a Caddock cross was held up well by Josh Swales, who laid it off for Jack Fairbairn to find the net.

Both sides were then reduced to ten men after a nasty tackle and some pushing and shoving, but this had the effect of opening up the game for Rovers, whose attacking pace of McFarlane, Caddock, Hartley and Fairbairn found pockets in behind the Levens defence.

With five minutes to go Caddock was brought down inside the box and Hartley stepped up to smash the resultant penalty home to put daylight between the teams.

And in the final minute Caddock again found space in behind the Longlevens defence and was hauled to the floor for another penalty, the same forward stepping up to stroke home from the spot with the final kick of the game and also complete his brace.

In the Junior Cup Stroud and District leaders Stroud Harriers emerged unscathed from their home tie with North Gloucestershire League title chasers Mitcheldean to progress to the final with a 3-1 win with a Daniel Chandler double and Craig Cole strike.

Harriers will have to wait a while to find out who their opponents will be as the other last-four fixture between Horsley United and FC Barometrics Reserves was abandoned.

The final of the GFA Intermediate North competition (date, venue TBC) will be played out between Cirencester & District League first division strugglers CHQ United and Stroud League Division Four promotion hopefuls Chalford Reserves after the pair clinched their semis ties with 2-1 and 4-2 successes against Longlevens A and Poulton respectively.

Josh Scriven, Jordan Hodges, Paul Fawlk and Frank Rimmer were the delighted Chalford marksmen while Ollie Taylor and John Dawson, with a late second goal for Poulton, replied for the disappointed visitors.

Jamie Hall and Chris Saunders supplied the CHQ goals.

And undefeated Stroud Division Seven high-fliers Kingsway Rovers, emphatic 6-0 winners away against league rivals Rodborough & Cainscross Old Boys Reserves, will take on Cirencester League second division side South Cerney Reserves, who saw off Worrall Hill 3-0, in the Primary North Cup final (date, venue TBC).

Meanwhile Hillside, comfortable 4-0 winners over Churchdown Parish, and Cheers Then, who pipped Coney Hill Wanderers 3-1, will tussle for the prized Sunday Premier North trophy in a fascinating all-Gloucester Sunday League affair (date, venue TBC).

Leonard Stanley Sunday, currently battling it out in the lower reaches of the same Gloucester League, made no mistake in booking their place in the final of the Sunday Intermediate North Cup (date, venue TBC) with a crushing 6-0 success against Frocester United.

There they will confront Tewkesbury Town Sunday, pushing for promotion in Evesham Sunday League’s second tier, who overcame Renegades Reformed Reserves with a hard-fought 1-0 win.

Last but not least the Sunday Minor North showdown (date, venue TBC) will involve Gloucester Division Three battlers Barton Rovers and Sun Inn thanks to 4-1 and 2-1 victories over C&G Veterans and Abbey Lions respectively.


Women on a mission as Trophy and Challenge Cup campaigns hit a critical juncture

THIS Sunday (March 13, 2pm) sees the adult females taking centre stage in the GFA competitions, as Cheltenham Civil Service Ladies and Cheltenham Town, and St Nicholas and competition holders Forest Green Rovers, all clash in the semi-finals of the Women’s Trophy.

At the same last-four stage of the Women’s Challenge Cup, Bristol Ladies Union U-18s entertain last season’s beaten finalists Abbeymead Rovers, while Mangotsfield United host AEK Boco Development.

* Also on next week’s county cups agenda is the Boys Under-16 John Kennedy Cup final clash between Bitton Youth and Bristol City Junior Supporters, to take place on the slick Oaklands Park 3G on Thursday, March 17 (7pm).

And what a match it promises to be as both sides share top spot with 33 points apiece in a dramatic Avon Youth League campaign that promises to go right to the wire.



Cheltenham kids ease into Senior Challenge quarters at expense of gallant Gloucester

CHELTENHAM Town Reserves will entertain Southern League Slimbridge in the last eight of the GFA Senior Challenge Cup (date TBC).

They wrapped-up the overdue first round programme with a 2-0 defeat of Whaddon Road tenants Gloucester City with goals by Karnell Chambers and Alex Dinsmore both sides of the break, in an eventful encounter played between two very youthful sides at Bishops Cleeve’s Kayte Lane HQ.

Watched by an absorbed 130-strong crowd, flying winger Chambers proved a real thorn in City’s side as he not only broke the deadlock on 28 minutes via a close-in finish from Lewis Thompson’s astute run and pass, but supplied the through ball that sent Dinsmore away to fire the fledgling Robins’ second goal with a firm drive into the bottom corner of the net 20 minutes from time.

In a fine all-round display by the effervescent Cheltenham team, they also saw two Matt Bower ‘goals’ cancelled out for offside in the first half, while at the other end Gloucester went agonisingly close to equalising on the hour mark when Tom Webb, the Tigers’ long-serving midfielder who added some experience to Tuesday night’s line-up, rattled the bar with a thunderbolt.



Forest Green, Shortwood United go head-to-head for county cup last-eight derby date

FOREST Green Rovers and local rivals Shortwood United are bracing themselves for serious combat at the New Lawn this Monday (March 14, 7pm) in the quarter-finals of the GFA Senior Challenge Cup.

With Bristol Rovers’ mix of youth and reserves awaiting the outcome with interest in the semi-finals, National Leaguer high-fliers Forest Green, enjoying a tremendous season as they cling on firmly to the coat tails of Cheltenham Town in the race to gain entry to the Football League for the first time in their history, lock horns with near neighbours Shortwood for the first time since beating them 2-0 in a pre-season friendly in July 2013.

Both sides have made considerable strides since they competed in the Hellenic League together more than thirty years ago, Shortwood these days battling it out in the higher reaches of Southern League S&W and determined themselves to progress further up the football pyramid.

To add spice to the occasion, the Shortwood management team of John Evans and Alex Sykes are both one-time Rovers players, Evans having also enjoyed a stint in charge there between 1987 and 1990 and Sykes clocking up some 250 appearances, over three separate stints, during a successful period for the club between the late 1990s and mid-2000s.

Forest Green demonstrated their Senior Challenge Cup credentials, as though they needed to, in overcoming Bristol City Under-21s 2-1 in their first round match, while Shortwood progressed to the last eight courtesy of a 1-0 away defeat of Cinderford Town.

Entry to Monday night’s derby will be via the East Stand only but the Carol Embrey suite will be serving refreshments.



Sponsors sought to help FA People’s Cup conquerors Tuffley Girls U-16s travel in style

TUFFLEY Rovers Girls Under-16s are on a mission to succeed at the national finals of The FA People’s Cup on Sunday, March 20 – and they’re calling on the support of the local football fraternity to help make the occasion an extra special one.

Delighted Rovers youth football chairman Roy Craddock is urging people to make donations towards the cost of hiring a “luxury coach” to ‘ship’ them to Sheffield in style.

Roy explained: “This is a nationwide competition that involves teams from all over England. Our girls won several rounds of the local tournament and then travelled to Luton a fortnight ago where they beat sides from Crystal Palace, Queens Park Rangers and the hosts, Luton, before beating Cambridge on penalties in the area final.

“It was a tremendous achievement by the girls in their first season with our club.

“All their travelling to date has been in parents’ cars and we would like to reward the girls by providing a luxury coach to allow them to travel in style and perhaps provide some food afterwards.

“We will make a donation on behalf of the club, but a list of sponsors will be posted up at the club and listed on our website. We are only asking for small donations of, say, £20, but anything will be much appreciated.

“These girls are a credit to our club and the parents give a lot of time and money ferrying them about. Let’s reward their efforts and wish the girls all the best for the finals.”

Roy added: “History has already been made in our girls’ first season with us and we have a record so far of four tournament wins and five runners-up places, while we’re also on course to secure a top-three finish in the Gloucester County Girls Under-16s League. 

“Our under-16 girls have an incentive to hopefully encourage girls of all age groups to join us and follow in the footsteps of these players who have achieved so much. Girls’ football is growing fast in England, so we hope many young females, who may have thought about taking up football, will contact us and come along to our close-season coaching sessions.

“These will be advertised in schools, on our website and in the press and we’re aiming to start an under-14s girls’ team next season too.”

Anyone interested in sponsoring the girls for their People’s Cup adventure, or playing, coaching or just helping out on matchdays, then please contact the club at youthadmin@tuffleyroversfc.co.uk or Roy at coke.craddock@gmail.com



Gloucestershire Under-16s wrap-up their season with five-goal Severnside sizzler

GLOUCESTERSHIRE FA Under-16s’ representative side completed their South & West Counties Championship campaign in sparkling fashion with a 5-0 away victory over Gwent FA in a competitive Severnside derby.

The game started at a frantic pace on a good surface, allowing players to get the ball down and play.

And it was Adam Coyle’s Gloucestershire battlers who struck first when Jack Goddard’s ball into the box caught the keeper out and ended up in the far corner of the net.

Gwent were always a threat on the counter attack as Gloucestershire produced a very open and attacking brand of football which sometimes left the back door open, and were it not for Sam Clay’s speed off his line to smother the ball a few times to keep Gloucestershire ahead, the scoreline may have looked a different one.

Having weathered a mini storm, Gloucestershire began to get on top and take control with lots of chances going begging.

It was only in the last 15 minutes of the first half that they really took command with three wonderful goals, Rhys Sarson, Shea Bennington Manning and Josiah Jones all going for goal-of-the-season as the period ended with Gloucestershire 4-0 up and flying.

The second half began with both sides still attacking, but with the game already out of sight from Gwent’s perspective, the contest lost its frantic rhythm of the first half, although the in-form visitors did manage to add one more to their tally as Jones added to his earlier strike with another terrific long-range effort.

* Gloucestershire Under-18s’ postponed final game of their S&W Championships programme away against Cornwall will now take place on Saturday, April 9 (time and venue TBC).



Why long-serving Bob’s on a mission to tempt fresh faces to Cheltenham Saracens

GFA Challenge Trophy hopefuls Cheltenham Saracens are a club on the up and up at this time – and they urgently require more off-field hands to ensure that progress is maintained.

In a terrific position too to strike out for a quickfire promotion back to the Hellenic League Premier Division, Nick Locke’s in-form first team are riding on the crest of a wave right now as the fight for league and cup honours continues.

But as all devoted and loyal volunteers at the level will testify, the platform for success is built behind the scenes, and club founder Bob Attwood is understandably on the look-out for fresh blood to share around the duties, not least where Saracens’ “thriving” youth section goes.

Bob, a proud recipient of an FA 50-year Service Award, has served as secretary of the Petersfield Park club’s entire set-up – adult and junior – since he introduced them to the local football arena way back in 1964 and he smiled wryly: “I’ve been trying to retire for about four years now. I’m 75 and I’m due a rest.

“The youth section was introduced a bit later, when my son Simon, and then the grandchildren, came along and played. Friends of friends got to know about us and we ended up with teams of just about every age level.

“These days we have what we call an academy for under-6s to under-8s, 30 or so of who train at the university grounds at The Folley on Swindon Road at weekends. When you weigh up the fact we have around 100 young players from under-6s to under-16s altogether, you can certainly say we’re thriving where youth at the club is concerned.”

Bob added: “I still have that passion to be involved – I still do all the admin – but we could really do with more people getting involved, whether it’s on the secretarial, management or coaching fronts, to share the responsibilities a bit and help keep us moving in the right direction.

“It means I could then concentrate more on the senior side of things. In fact it would be nice to have more volunteers helping out throughout the club.”

Bob is nevertheless encouraged by the form of the promotion-chasing first XI under former favourite Nick Locke’s stewardship, having made the switch from last season’s County League winners Cheltenham Civil Service where he was manager.

“Nick is a former youth and first-team player at Saracens, who once took over the running of our reserves when injury cut short his playing career,” Bob explained.

“He has that drive and ambition to do well for us and get us back in that Premier Division.

“We’re also looking forward immensely to our GFA Challenge Trophy semi with our local rivals Lydney Town at home (on Wednesday, March 23, 7.45pm).”

Saracens, who also parade adult men’s teams in Division Two West of the Hellenic League (reserves) and Division Five of the Cheltenham League, do have gaps in their youth department to address.

“We could really do with managers and coaches to run new under-14s, 15s and 16s teams next season,” Bob said. “We’re hoping our under-16s will form next season’s under-18s in the Cheltenham Youth League, with a view to making as many of their lads as possible the nucleus of our senior sides in the years to come.”

Bob said the main responsibilities of a new youth secretary would be to “maintain the club’s Charter Standard status and make sure all managers and coaches have the correct qualifications and attend the necessary courses”.

Anyone wishing to get involved can call him on 07778 502539 or email him at: attwood_robert@sky.com



Abbeymead aces rally to reach People’s Cup walking football showpiece in Sheffield

ABBEYMEAD Rovers player-manager Stuart Langworthy hailed his team’s “huge achievement” in reaching the FA People’s Cup national finals for walking football.

They managed to qualify as runners-up in a dramatic South and West final after rousing themselves from bottom position in the table at one point during the tense group stages to a top-four finish and a place in the semi-finals and final, where they secured that prized pass to the national showpiece in Sheffield on March 20.

Langworthy, who is also Abbeymead’s club chairman, glowed: “This is a huge achievement for what is a housing estate in a rugby city.

“We played against teams from towns such as Weston-super-Mare, Malmesbury and Trowbridge, and then Wiltshire, Southampton and others at the South West final held at the Goals Bristol North facility in Stoke Gifford.

“Now we are very proud to be flying the flag for the city, county and South West in the national finals.”

In that regional final Abbeymead came up against stiff opposition in the group stages, failing to win any of their opening three fixtures, despite drawing twice and Louis Henry-Nayegon (2), Chris Medcroft, Andy Billingham and Langworthy (2) all finding their shooting boots at various stages with goals.

A slender 4-3 defeat by Wiltshire Wanderers sent Abbeymead spinning to the foot of the pile, meaning they had to win their final two games to finish in the top four and gain a place in the semi-finals.

They responded magnificently, firstly beating Southampton Strollers 2-1 with Billingham netting twice, before the in-form marksman delivered the same deadly double to overcome Swansea side YMACHUD by a similar scoreline.

This meant Abbeymead finished runners-up in the group, setting them up for a quickfire return meeting with Wanderers, who they had previously lost to.

Determined to overturn that disappointing group setback at the hands of the Wiltshire team, Abbeymead produced their strongest performance of the tournament, winning 3-0 with Henry-Nayegon and Billingham, who registered twice more, sending them into the final with the crucial goals.

In a very tight contest against Westfield Vets, goalkeeper John Hammonds played a blinder in keeping Abbeymead in the game, but one superb strike eventually beat him, meaning that while Rovers finished runners-up once more, it was enough to catapult them into those coveted national finals in South Yorkshire.



Abbeymead surge can inspire other walking football hopefuls to hit the ground running

GFA football development officer Jack Stanbury believes Abbeymead Rovers’ success in reaching the national finals in Sheffield (see article above) can inspire many more walking footballers to hit the heights.

“It’s great to see a group of gents like these utilising the walking football stage to its maximum and earning national recognition in the process,” he enthused.

“Across the county I have seen more and more people re-engaging with the game they love, with more than 15 different centres delivering GFA-affiliated walking football, and it is pleasing to see Abbeymead Rovers build from this and get involved in other competitions.

“They have also taken part in some close matches against a number of other county teams in our very own Gloucestershire FA Walking Football League, and I am sure everyone within this set-up will be cheering them on in the final!”

Anybody interested in playing walking football can get in touch with Jack and he will direct you to your nearest session in the county.

And he added: “Should any current clubs wish to develop a walking football offer as well, please feel free to contact me and I will be happy to offer support.”

To contact Jack, email Jack.Stanbury@GloucestershireFA.com or phone 01454 615888 (option 3).



Senior Amateur North hopefuls Stonehouse closing in on the County League dream

STONEHOUSE Town secretary Mike Smith has a dream – to end the campaign with a place safely secured in next season’s Gloucestershire County League competition and a coveted GFA Senior Amateur North trophy locked away in their Oldends Lane cabinet.

While riding high at the Northern Senior One summit and on course for promotion, Stonehouse have this week been switching their attentions to this Saturday’s county knock-out semi-final match (March 5, 2pm) away against sixth-placed rivals FC Barometrics, who they have already beaten three times this season in league and cup action.

The latest clash between the sides came only last weekend, when the Mapgies edged a 2-1 victory over Baro in a tense Oldends Lane tussle. They also won more convincingly, 4-0, in November’s corresponding fixture at Newlands Park, while inflicting a 5-3 penalty shoot-out success over their rivals in a Reg Davis Cup quarter-final tie, which had been in 1-1 deadlock heading into the spot-kick ‘lottery’.

Stonehouse enter the Senior Amateur cruncher with not only three cup-tied first-team regulars absent, but they are also without their manager Haydn Murray, who is away with business commitments.

Nevertheless they will be in the capable hands of assistant boss Dan Stephens, while club secretary Smith, who took up the role way back in 1986 and hasn’t looked back, believes they still possess enough clout to give them every chance of progressing to the final.

He said: “We’ll have a decent side out still but it could well be close, just as it was on Saturday when it took an amazing late goal by Alex Kibble to win it, which sent us all wild because of the importance of it!

“Our main aim is to get back into the County League, which we won in 1969 to become the league’s first-ever champions, and without losing a game too.

“We’ve got new changing rooms and other bits and bobs in hand as we try and ensure we meet ground-facility requirements to go up, although we know Newent Town, who are a few places below us in the table, have also applied.

“We need to ensure we finish above them but we still have to play them twice (Sat, March 12, 3pm, home, and Sat, April 16, 3pm, away) and we’ve a game to fit in at some stage against (second-placed) Sharpness too, who I feel are one of the best sides in the league.

“So it’s all to play for still and very exciting.”

Smith, who is also treasurer of the Stroud Charity Cup – his Stonehouse side travel to take on Cam in a semi-final tie at Everlands on March 20 – is also eyeing some Senior Amateur Cup prestige into the bargain.

“Barometrics were a little understrength on Saturday but they usually give us a good hard game and I’m sure Saturday will be no exception,” he predicted.

“We’ve not won a competition like this in the 30 years I have been Stonehouse secretary and of course we’d love to get to the final tomorrow.”



County cups hotting up as Charlton Rovers, Barometrics et al take to semis stage

FASTEN your seatbelts - March is a big month on the county cups calendar for a whole host of male and female footballers in the north of the region, and it all kicks off in earnest this Saturday (March 5)!

Not least in the prestigious Senior Amateur competition, which sees Charlton Rovers and visiting Longlevens Reserves, who clash at East End Road, and hosts FC Barometrics and their opponents Stonehouse Town (see article above), all vying for a place in this year’s final (both 2pm ko).

Charlton lie ninth in Gloucestershire Northern Senior League One while Junior North Cup holders Longlevens are similarly placed in Division Two.

The Junior Cup semi-finals (both 2pm) pit Horsley United, sixth as it stands in Stroud League Division Two, against their visitors FC Barometrics Reserves, who have lost their last three fixtures in Cheltenham League Division One.

In the other fascinating-looking last-four tie, Stroud Harriers, who are enjoying a fabulous campaign as runaway leaders of Stroud League’s top-tier and with an unbeaten record to boot, host a Mitcheldean team looking a good bet to claim the North Gloucestershire League title, as they loiter with intent in fourth place with a 100 per cent winning record thus far and stacks of games in hand to boost their cause.

There are more semis showdowns to enjoy elsewhere in the north of the county this weekend:


GFA Intermediate Cup: Chalford Res v Poulton, CHQ United v Longlevens A.

GFA Minor North: Hatherop v Siddington Vets, The Beeches v Mushet & Coalway.

GFA Primary North: Rodborough & Cainscross OB Res v Kingsway Rovers, South Cerney Res v Worrall Hill.

SUNDAY, MARCH 6 (10.30)

GFA Sunday Premier North: Cheers Then v Coney Hill Wanderers, Hillside v Churchdown Parish.

GFA Sunday Intermediate North: Tewkesbury Town Sunday v Renegades Reformed Res, Leonard Stanley Sunday v Frocester United Sunday.

GFA Sunday Minor North Cup: Barton Rovers v C&G Veterans, Sun Inn v Abbey Lions.

* A reminder that the outstanding GFA Senior Challenge Cup first round tie between Cheltenham Town Reserves and Gloucester City takes place this Tuesday evening, March 8, at Bishops Cleeve FC (7.30pm).

The winners will entertain Slimbridge in the quarter-finals at a date and time to be decided.

* Kingswood South will take on reinstated De Veys Reserves in the final of the GFA Primary Cup at Oaklands Park on Tuesday, March 29 (7.30pm) after beating Bitton A 3-1 in Saturday’s second semi-final fixture.



Weather beaten: Sorry Bristol Premier Combination pulls the plug on League Cup

BRISTOL Premier Combination match secretary Kevin Wilkinson admits it was with “much regret” that the league decided to dispense with this season’s cup competition.

The second round of the popular tournament had barely got underway when the bad weather intervened to play havoc with the fixture programme, just as it has across the county and throughout the land.

Lebeq Saturday claimed the prize last season via a 3-0 defeat of Bitton Reserves in the annual Combination Cup showpiece at Cribbs Sports Ground.

But there is to be no conclusion, no such occasion to savour, this year and Wilkinson conceded to GFA Local Football News: “Usually the second round is over before Christmas but by the end of January/ start of February, we still hadn’t completed it.

“Okay, the fixtures for the second round had been programmed to start later than usual, simply because of how Christmas fell. But with some of our teams also involved in GFA cup ties, which were also being affected by cancellations and take priority over all else, the knock-on effect was proving too much and regrettably we felt moved to take the decision to withdraw our own competition.”

Wilkinson added: “It’s not a first; it has happened previously but not in recent years and it’s disappointing for my own club Greyfriars Athletic, where I’m secretary, who had made it through to the third round.

“But it’s not just about Greyfriars; everyone loves the cup and it’s always a smashing occasion, the final, under lights, at Cribbs.
“It’s a shame but the league felt it had to act quickly, just as it did in extending our league season by a week from the original April 30th finish to May 7th now.

“The poor weather has gone on and on and we just hope we don’t have to extend it still further.”



It’s a battle: vandalism-hit Brimsham Green call for help to aid Combination crusade

BRIMSHAM Green boss and Jack-of-all-trades Philip Martin is praying the only way is up for his team and club following a testing few weeks to say the least,” reports Simon Parkinson.

While the struggle continues to harness together enough capable players to aid their Bristol Premier Combination Premier One basement battles, the club as a whole continues to come to terms with the destruction inflicted by recent vandalism to their Sunnyside Lane Fields changing facilities in Yate.

Brimsham officials are hopeful that work to repair the damage will be completed in time to enable them to entertain Greyfriars Athletic this Saturday (Feb 27, 2.30pm).

As for Martin, he thought he had seen it all in the 28 years he has been involved with the club, having joined in 1988 when his eldest son Tim, 13 at the time, signed up for Brimsham Green Youth Wing.

Of the senseless assault on their football home that met him and his Brimsham comrades recently, however, he admitted: “It was a shock; I was speechless. I couldn’t understand why people would do this and it happened on three separate occasions in the days leading up to our match with Real Thornbury a fortnight ago, which had to be postponed as a result.

“The changing room seating and partitioning were wrecked, along with electrics – wall heaters, plugs - smashed, and even goal nets had been set on fire which in turn lifted the floor in certain areas. And the front doors and windows were also wrecked.
“This not only affected us at Brimsham but Iron Acton FC and Yate United boys, who both also play at Sunnyside.”

Former Bristol Rovers Youth player Martin, who is also, at the age of 68, secretary and chairman of Brimsham, has also had his hands full simply trying to ensure the club’s first team remain a competitive Combination force.

“For one reason or another we’ve lost seven of our better players since Christmas, largely due to work and family commitments and exits to other clubs,” he mused.

“We had 40 or so first-team and reserve players signed on at the beginning of the season, and were we to have everyone available to us now - and that never happens - we’re carving up 24 players between both our sides.

“It means our reserve manager Paul Jay and I are conversing all the time to try and work out how best to tackle it, and we’ve already had to call off games involving both teams because of player shortages.

“It’s become so serious that we’re now hoping the club as a whole pulls through and survives, rather than talking about any sort of on-field ambition, although I’d love to think in time we could find a way into the County League.

“I could also do with a new manager taking over to enable me to concentrate better on the off-field side of things.”

Anyone wishing to put their name forward as first-team manager, help behind the scenes or join Brimsham Green’s on-field mission as a player, can contact Philip on 07930 671000.



Table-topping Fairford turn to golden oldies to kick-off 125th anniversary celebrations

FAIRFORD Town are flying high at the head of Hellenic One West – and what a perfect way to mark their 125th anniversary celebrations it would be were they to achieve Premier Division status come the spring.

While Gareth Davies’ men have been making positive strides towards maintaining their place at the summit, off-field efforts to ensure anniversary celebrations go with a swing have been continuing in earnest.

Pencilled in as the first exciting event of a milestone year is Former Players’ Day on Saturday, March 5 when basement battlers Shrivenham come to town (3pm ko).

A bumper attendance is anticipated as ex-players, managers and supporters reunite for a special occasion to help celebrate the Cinder Lane club’s long and proud history. Anyone associated with the club’s past is warmly invited to attend, when entry to the game will be free of charge.

The clubhouse will be open from lunchtime on the day of the game and as well as the 90 minutes of action on the pitch, there will be an evening bash in the function hall with live music by Swindon-based five-piece band Good Times and food to give former players the chance to catch up and reminisce, as well as view an array of club memorabilia.

This event is free of charge to all former players who are urged to join the club’s Facebook event page to keep up-to-date with it all, or to call president Mike Tanner for more information on 07917 861866.

* Fairford’s Uhlsport Hellenic Division One West derby clash with Cirencester Town Development will be played this evening (Fri, Feb 26, 7.45pm).

The game was due to be played the following day but it has been brought forward with a bumper crowd expected at Cinder Lane for the encounter, with just eight miles separating the two clubs. The last meeting between the sides was on December 28 when an attendance of 128 witnessed a 1-0 Fairford win.

The clubhouse will be open from 6.15pm. Parking is plentiful and free and the approach to the ground (via Cinder Lane) has been improved and levelled out. Tickets are priced at £5 adult, £2 concessions and under-16s go free.



All to play for still as Gloucestershire U-18s hopefuls are out to finish with a flourish

GLOUCESTERSHIRE FA Under-18s can still pull off an unlikely success story as they make the long trek to take on Cornwall in Truro this Saturday for their final game of the regular campaign.

Our boys sit third in the four-team South and West Counties Championship and not only have to win to draw level at the top on six points with Devon, but need to do so by a six-goal margin if they are to overhaul the current Section A table toppers, who have already completed their fixtures.

Second-placed Somerset, who themselves go to Cornwall on March 5 for their campaign concluder, can also clinch ultimate top spot.

Nevertheless Gloucestershire, who have experienced a season of highs and lows to date, at least head to Falmouth Town’s Bickland Park venue knowing they can still enter the end-of-season championship decider with the Group B winners, who are yet to be confirmed.

Chairman of the GFA’s county match committee, Sue Henson-Green, is among the travelling party looking forward to the occasion – and to the outside possibilities for the team.

“Although we lost 4-2 against Cornwall in the FA County Youth Cup (in November), the boys showed in beating Devon 5-3 last month what they can do, and they’re certainly capable of winning on Saturday,” she insisted.

“Whether they can score enough goals to knock Devon off the top, only time will tell, but one thing I do know about our lads is that they’ll give it everything. It’s all to play for still.”

The county contingent sets off from the GFA HQ at Almondsbury at 8.15am on Saturday for the journey south ahead of the 2.30pm kick-off.

“The players are asked to wear smart black trousers and shirts, as well as their county ties, and it offers a real sense of occasion for away-days like these,” Sue said.

“They are a super bunch of lads who are determined to do well and we are extremely fortunate to have tremendous co-managers in Simon Freeman and Dave Iles, who the players all seem to like and respect.”

With their regular keeper unavailable, Hartpury student Eddie Cox, who featured in that previous cup tussle with Cornwall, steps between the sticks.

Meanwhile anyone wishing to get involved with help behind the scenes for county youth representative occasions held at the GFA HQ can contact Sue on 07970 012820 (email nursey61@hotmail.com).

“There are no specific roles as such; we could just do with some help making teas and coffees for our away guests, clearing the decks afterwards and generally entertaining opposition and officials and making them feel welcome,” Sue explained.

More details about county representative football can be found on this website under the ‘Play’ button here: http://www.gloucestershirefa.com/play/representative-football



Top-three finish in sight as Glos Under-16 starlets stay strong to dispense of Dorset

GLOUCESTERSHIRE FA Under-16s gave their chances of nailing a top-three finish in the South and West Counties Championship a boost with a 3-2 defeat of Dorset FA on the Oaklands Park 3G.

Shea Bennington-Manning’s brace, and debutant Rhys Sarson’s screamer, maintained Gloucestershire’s current third-spot standing in the table ahead of their final game of the season away against Gwent on Sunday, March 6 (2pm).

Terrible conditions made it difficult for both teams to enjoy comfortable possession, but Gloucestershire were the brighter from the start as an audacious chip by Manning, and a long-range Tom Harrison strike, both rattled the woodwork.

It wasn’t long after Harrison’s near-miss that his team made the breakthrough as Manning slotted home his first of the game from six yards out.

It took only eight minutes for substitute Sarson to make his mark with a brilliant 25-yard strike which rocketed just under the crossbar and into the net to double the hosts’ advantage.

Nine minutes into the second half Manning grabbed his second of the contest with another composed finish into the bottom corner from inside the box.

Stung into a swift riposte, Dorset livened up after that and it was Henry Newman’s goal-line clearance that stopped his side making an instant reply, before the visitors did finally grab a goal back on 63 minutes with an unstoppable finish into the top corner from 18 yards.

Dorset had their tails up and went in search of another goal, and 14 minutes from time they were awarded a penalty, which was slotted away comfortably.

With the game becoming tense in the final minutes, Gloucestershire held their nerve and their lead to emerge slender but happy winners.



GFA cups committee intervention ensures De Veys win Primary South reprieve 

THERE is to be a change of finalist in this season’s GFA Primary South competition.

Shaftesbury Crusade thought they had cruised into the Oaklands Park showpiece courtesy of their 5-1 away romp against District League Division 5 rivals De Veys in their recent semi-final tussle.

However it came to light that Shaftesbury had fielded an unregistered/ineligible player in the win, prompting the county cups committee to withdraw them from the tournament.

It means that a pleased and surprised De Veys team will instead take on either Kingswood South or Bitton A, who were set to play last night in the second semi-final, in the Tuesday, March 29 final at Oaklands Park.

Although Bitton A have now officially disbanded, they were afforded dispensation by the cups committee to enable the competition to continue in its regular format.



Lebeq Tavern, Black Swan United secure their passes to Sunday Premier South final

A BUSY period on the county cups front involved a series of Sunday semi-finals as Lebeq Tavern and Black Swan United both booked their places in the final of the Premier South tournament (Thursday, April 14) with 3-1 and 6-0 successes against Cribbs Sunday and Real St George respectively.  

Redbridge Sunday and Stapleton Under-21s reached the final of the Minor competition, which takes place on Thursday, March 31, with wins over BAWA Athletico (3-0) and Bristol Palace Reserves (3-1) respectively, Elan Gordon (2) and James Bourton seeing the Stapleton youngsters safely through.

Jolly Boys beat SWYD United 3-2, and Hillfields Sunday thrashed Stoke Lane Athletic Sunday 6-1, to each progress to the final of the Intermediate Cup on Thursday, April 7.

Sunday also produced Women’s Trophy quarter-final action as Cheltenham Town Ladies, with a 4-0 win at Longlevens Greyhounds, and Cheltenham Civil Service, 3-1 victors at Almondsbury UWE, booked their places in the semi-finals, while holders Forest Green Rovers and St Nicholas Ladies were handed walkover wins against Cirencester Town and AEK Boco.

The semi-final games – the draw is yet to be confirmed - will take place on Sunday, March 13.

* The semi-finals of the GFA Under-18 Youth Shield take place this Sunday (Feb 28, 2pm) as Bristol Manor Farm host Stoke Lane Athletic and Yate Town entertain AEK Boco.

* The GFA Senior Challenge Cup quarter-final match between Bishops Cleeve and Southern League S&W rivals Yate Town will now be held at Cleeve’s Kayte Lane HQ on Wednesday, March 30 at 7.45pm.

Well before then, Cheltenham Town and Gloucester City battle it out at the same Bishops Cleeve venue on Tuesday, March 8 (7.30pm) for an outstanding first round fixture to decide who entertains Slimbridge in another last-eight tie (date TBC). One of those three teams will then travel to take on either Bishops Cleeve or Yate in the semi-finals.

On Monday, March 14 (7pm), Forest Green Rovers lock horns with near-neighbours Shortwood United in a quarter-final clash at the New Lawn, the winners next to head into an away encounter with a Bristol Rovers outfit already through to the semis courtesy of their 4-1 success at Mangotsfield United.



Second time of asking as Bristol Manor Farm gear-up for big northern FA Vase mission

BRISTOL Manor Farm are optimistic their eagerly-awaited FA Vase quarter-final clash in Northumberland against Morpeth Town this Saturday (Feb 27, 3pm) will go ahead following the frustration of last weekend’s call-off.

Having been without a game since their 4-3 Toolstation Les Phillips Cup victory over Shepton Mallet on February 13, Manor Farm arranged a much-needed run-out on Wednesday of this week against runaway Gloucestershire County League leaders AEK Boco under lights at The Creek.

Pete Sheppard scored both Farm’s goals and encouraged boss Lee Lashenko said: “He looked sharp, as did all our boys, but Boco are clearly going places and I want our lads to approach our Vase tie on Saturday in the same way Boco approached Wednesday night’s game with us.

“We needed something more than just a training session so this was ideal, although Kye Holly (central midfielder) did pick up a dead-leg injury and we’re keeping our fingers crossed he’ll be out there performing as we need him to be at Morpeth.

“If he doesn’t recover in time then at least we have a decent-sized squad capable of softening the blow.”

Lashenko admitted: “Last Friday fell flat for us after hearing the weather had done its worst up there and we wouldn’t be going. But we trained on Saturday morning and everyone was soon buzzing again, and now we can’t wait for the trip up again.”

If Manor Farm succeed this weekend they will, in the semi-finals on Saturday, March 12, travel to play the winners of the Kidlington-Bowers & Pitsea last-eight clash, which also takes place this Saturday.

Hosts Hereford and Salisbury have already made it through to face each other in the other semi-final tie.



Cut-backs hit hard but director Langdon points the way to a bright Bitton future

BITTON director John Langdon has spoken of the “tough decisions” that “had to be taken” in order to maintain the club’s presence in the Toolstation Western League, writes Simon Parkinson.

With an option on the table to remove the famous Premier Division team from the league altogether because of a cash crisis, club officials instead decided to disband Bitton’s A-team, which had been competing capably in basement Division Five of the Bristol and District League up until recently.

That move sparked a dramatic knock-on effect, as surprised third-team players were asked to make up a new-look reserve set-up which had been enjoying a splendid campaign on all fronts in the top tier of the Bristol Premier Combination, while those successful second-string performers and mentors found themselves elevated to the dizzy heights of first-team affairs in a bold move to secure their Western League status.

Long-serving former chairman and current secretary Langdon explained: “The senior club simply ran out of money; the playing budget allocated for the season had already been used up and the money simply wasn’t there.

“Without that budget the manager (Paul Britton) felt his position had become untenable and he, together with many of the first team players and our chairman Shawn Evans, decided to resign.

“We of course want to thank them for their hard work and commitment during their time with us although leaving when they did, midway through our season, naturally made things hard.

“At the 11th hour we informed Paul we could provide adequate funds until the end of the season but he’d already made up his mind. So we called on our reserve team manager Dan Langdon (John’s son) and his assistant Sam Greatorex to run the first team and we’ve now appointed Chris Ashwood and his No.2 Jay Powell to take on the reserves.”

Asked how Bitton’s collection of youth and more senior performers felt at being asked to make the huge leap from A-team obscurity to Premier Combination activity, Langdon confessed: “Some of our A team players didn’t want to play at such a competitive level, which is understandable, so we have found ourselves requiring a few additional players for the reserves.

“To be honest we came very close to folding the first team because the financial side was, and still is, grim. Instead we opted to promote the reserves to the firsts, to protect our Western League status, while some among the now-disbanded A team moved up to take the shoes of the reserves.

“Although it’s a big step up for our new-look first team, they have started off life in the Toolstation League really encouragingly. We beat Cribbs 3-2 in our last game and before that a 2-0 defeat at Barnstaple Town was certainly no disgrace.

“Going forward we have sponsorship already promised us for next season and I’m confident we will be competitive, albeit without the size of playing budget we previously had.”

Of the task facing goalkeeper and manager Dan Langdon, who left an in-form reserve set-up riding high around the head of the Premier Combination’s elite pack, Langdon Snr stressed: “He and Sam sacrificed a lot in leaving the reserves behind, considering they were not only near the top of the Premier Combination but were still in the League Cup AND in the semi-finals of the Senior Amateur South Cup.

“Dan’s only in his mid-20s still and it’s the first time he’s managed at this level, so he’s got a lot to learn.

“But he’s very professional in his outlook and he has been able to look and learn from people like his predecessor Paul Britton, so who knows where he might take us?”



Hallen, Easton Cowboys to clash at Oaklands Park in Senior Amateur South showdown

HALLEN Reserves and Easton Cowboys Suburbia will clash in the final of the GFA Senior Amateur Cup in April thanks to exciting weekend wins in their respective semis matches.

In a gripping all-Bristol Premier Combination top-tier tussle, it took a dramatic 6-5 penalty shoot-out clincher to decide the contest after an underperforming Bitton Reserves side had hit back from 2-0 down against Hallen through the lively Pat Royal and Jordan Thaws’ superb 20-yard volley inside the regular 90 minutes.

Danny Webb and Andy Cook, with an edge-of-box screamer of his own, had put the visitors two-up following a goalless first half in which their opponents squandered a couple of early chances and were made to pay.

In the other last-four tie, Easton Cowboys Suburbia had Jamie Davies, Pat Thurston, Aaron Cosgrove and Dave Walbyoff to thank for catapulting them into the Tuesday, April 19 final on the Oaklands Park 3G (7.30pm) with a 4-0 romp against Suburban League rivals Stoke Gifford United.

There was a shock for Minor South Cup holders Woodlands Rangers as they were comprehensibly dumped from the semi-finals of the Intermediate South competition by a rampant Yate Athletic cruising to a 6-1 success through John Sims’ double and Neil Ward, Jack Pitcher, Richard Gardener and Steve Beresford strikes.

Yate even delivered a helping hand in Woodlands’ solitary effort, Russell Perkins’ own goal providing the high-riding Bristol Churches League first divisioners with their consolation.

In the other Intermediate South semi, goalkeeper Shaun Trott proved a hero and matchwinner for Hillfields Old Boys as his three shoot-out saves earned his side a final date with Yate Athletic on Monday, April 11 (7.30pm) at Oaklands Park after they and Sea Mills Park Reserves had been locked at 2-2 heading into the penalties decider.

Nathan Bell and Dan Newton had struck for Hillfields in normal time with Grant Giles and Mike Pepper replying for Sea Mills.



Jubilant Jake fires Frampton Athletic into Minor South showpiece with brave Baptists

JAKE Yeo’s 30-yard screamer midway through the second half for Frampton Athletic A was enough to see them into the final of the GFA Minor South Cup at the expense of North Bristol Trust.

His sizzling strike set the Bristol and District League Division Four side up for a Monday, April 4 encounter at Oaklands Park (7.30pm) with Bristol Churches League top-flight pacesetters Thornbury Baptists, who overcame Ashley Reserves 3-2 in the other last-four tie.

De Veys, who narrowly overcame AEK Boco A 2-1, and Stapleton, who were given a rollercoaster ride by Wellington Wanderers before coming through 4-3 winners, will play each other in the final of the Junior South Cup at Oaklands Park on Monday, April 18 (7.30pm).

De Veys currently head the Senior Division table while District League compatriots Stapleton are challenging hard at the head of Division One.

Both weekend semi-final ties were played on the 3G all-weather surface at the GFA HQ in Almondsbury.



Lashenko’s Manor Farm fliers out to keep Wembley dream alive in North East - again 

BRISTOL Manor Farm’s excited supremo Lee Lashenko insists his red-hot hopefuls will be “as well prepared as possible” for the next phase of their FA Vase adventure this Saturday (Feb 20, 3pm), writes Simon Parkinson.

With Wembley starting to loom into view, the Toolstation Premier Division promotion chasers take the long road to the North East this Friday, just as they did in the previous round when they overcame Sunderland RCA 3-2, for a quarter-final encounter with Northumberland side Morpeth Town.

It’s all part of a season shaping up extremely nicely for a Manor Farm outfit who not only remain in GFA Challenge Trophy contention – the holders travel to take on Cirencester Town Development on March 30 for a semi-final clash – but Saturday’s 4-3 victory over Street sent them into the last eight of the Toolstation League’s Les Phillips Cup competition.

Lashenko’s fliers and their Morpeth counterparts could hardly be more closely matched, on paper anyway. While Farm loiter with intent second in the Western League’s elite section, their Vase opponents sit third on the Northern League Division One ladder, a Step 5 equivalent under the National League System umbrella, with a record to date not dissimilar to the Bristol-based hopefuls.

Lashenko declared: “We’ve had Morpeth watched and we’ve seen some clips of them on Youtube. The North Shields manager Graham Fenton has also given us some info, so we’ll be well prepared.

“Yes, we’re heading into the unknown in many respects but we’ll have done our homework as best we can.

“We’re also going to be staying in the same hotel on Friday night as we did when we went to Sunderland in the previous round, as Morpeth’s ground is only 25 minutes or so away, so it will be the same routine and we’ll have had that experience under our belts.

“That last round win was one of the best feelings I’ve had in football, along with winning the (Toolstation) league with Bishop Sutton, and Saturday could surpass that if we come through.”

Lashenko, who has declared a “clean bill of health” to his talented and ambitious squad, added: “We’re in the quarter-finals with some notable names in there such as Salisbury and Hereford, who know all about playing at higher levels. So you can’t knock the standard of this year’s competition and we’re all excited and relishing every moment.

“Manor Farm have never been this far in the Vase before and everyone’s gritting their teeth, determined not only to win this game but to keep alive our hopes of winning four trophies, which would be an incredible achievement.”



Tributes paid as Forest Green mourn untimely loss of popular PA man Garry Mitchell

THERE has been great shock and sadness around Forest Green Rovers and beyond this week following the untimely and sudden death on Saturday of their matchday announcer Garry Mitchell at the age of 52.

Garry, from Kings Stanley, was a well-known and popular figure around the north of the county and was the familiar voice of Rovers at home games since 2012.

He had been a Stroud Half Marathon race commentator too, hosted quizzes for Forest Green Supporters Club and had a background in local and national radio with the likes of local broadcaster Severn Sound and the iconic Radio Luxembourg.
He leaves partner Helen and children Nicholas and James.

Many have been paying their respects and tributes to ‘Mitch’, as he was affectionately known, including Stroud News and Journal sports editor Ash Loveridge who said: “Garry was, quite simply, a great friend. Despite only being a few years older he was a mentor and father-figure to me.

“We would chat about Forest Green, Shortwood, Brimscombe, Gloucester City and, of course, 80s pop music.

“I’ve never met such a positive and funny man, who was always interested in what you were doing, a selfless man, full of vision and ideas.

“I know people always wax lyrical about how great people are when they die, but this is completely true about Garry; he was a complete one-off. I’ve taken and learned so much from him.”

“This Saturday (at home to promotion rivals Eastleigh) will be tough, but the Forest Green football family will unite to remember him and, despite the tears, he will be telling me to get logical and crack on with my match report. A fitting tribute to Garry would be promotion to the Football League.

“I will miss you Mitch.”

Forest Green manager Ady Pennock added:  “I’m sorry to hear such sad news about a true gentleman. Garry had a great voice and will be missed by all. Saturday is a huge game for us and we would like to win for the memory of Garry”

And club vice-chairman David Drew acknowledged: “Garry was one of FGR’s own and typical of one of the many people that make the club part of the fabric of Stroud district.

“He was very professional and friendly to all; the suddenness of losing him will leave a huge hole.”

Details of Garry’s funeral will be announced in due course.



Stoke Gifford United, Easton Cowboys Suburbia set for Senior Amateur semis joust

STOKE Gifford United and their optimistic secretary Ben Bennett are targeting a welcome upturn in fortunes when they take to the GFA Senior Amateur Cup semi-final stage this weekend (Sat, Feb 13, 2pm).

While Bitton Reserves and Hallen Reserves go head-to-head in the other last-four tie, the afternoon throws-up an all-Bristol Suburban League Premier Division One affair, as title-chasing Easton Cowboys Suburbia, once of the Downs League, entertain a Stoke Gifford outfit currently propping up the table with only three points and not a solitary victory to their name all season. And that so soon after their 2014-15 top-flight title exploits.

Club secretary Bennett explained, however: “Things haven’t been helped by the fact our success last season led to several of our best players moving on, and there’s not a lot you can do about it.

“We can’t go up to the next level because of our ground situation so some players will look at it and maybe feel they’ve gone as far as they can with Stoke Gifford United, and see what they can achieve elsewhere.

“We experienced a similar scenario a few years ago and we bounced back from it with some new faces in the side, and I’m sure the same will happen again.

“It’s been a bit stop-start too because of the weather and getting the same group of players together week in, week out, hasn’t been easy for the manager (Martin Black).

“But we’ve often done well in the cups and we’re looking forward to playing Easton Cowboys again, who we’ve had some good competitive matches with down the years.

“It will be tough but we’re capable of getting through to the final; we’re not so far off being one of the stronger sides again in our league.”

Cowboys manager Tim Knight reasoned: “They (Stoke Gifford) might be trying to stay up but they’ve been a bit of a bogey side to us over the past few years, although we have had the upper hand in the last couple of games with them.

“That doesn’t count for a lot because it’s a cup semi-final and this is Stoke Gifford’s big chance to win some silverware.

“But I’d like to think we’ll have the edge over them given our form this season and we’ll be pretty much at full-strength. We’ve never been this far at this level of county cup competitions and of course we want to go all the way and win it.”

It’s a big weekend all round in the GFA cups, with Junior, Intermediate, Minor and Primary competitions all on show this Saturday in the south of the region, while the following day sees semi-final action in the Sunday Premier South, Sunday Intermediate South and Sunday Minor South tournaments, not to mention the quarter-finals of the Women’s Trophy to boot.
For all results and fixtures, click on the ‘cups’ button on this website.



New-look Bitton Reserves to lock horns with old Combination adversaries Hallen

JUST how new-look Bitton Reserves line up for this Saturday’s mouthwatering Senior Amateur South Cup semi-final cruncher with Hallen Reserves at their Rapid Solicitors Ground HQ (Feb 13, 2pm) remains to be seen following the club’s recent upheaval.

Having disbanded their Bristol and District League third (A) team, Bitton say they are now close to appointing new managers to run their reserves after previous incumbents Dan Langdon and No.2 Sam Greatorex stepped up to take charge of the club’s Toolstation League first team, followed in by a strong contingent of second-string starlets, following the resignation of Paul Britton from the hot seat.

A full and enlightening interview with secretary and club director John Langdon can be found here on GFA Local Football News in a few days time.

In the meantime this weekend’s match between two firmly-established Bristol Premier Combination forces promises to be as hard-fought as ever, with Hallen seeking to exact some revenge over their old rivals following a 3-1 early-season defeat at their Moorhouse Lane home in league combat.

*The outstanding GFA Senior Challenge Cup first round clash between Cheltenham Town and Gloucester City has now been scheduled for Tuesday, March 8 at Bishops Cleeve FC (7.30pm).



Iron Acton ‘outcasts’ prepare for prospect of dramatic return to village football

IRON Acton officials are gearing themselves up for the prospect of a dramatic return to village football, reports Simon Parkinson.

The club, which runs four senior teams, has been utilising facilities at nearby Yate’s Sunnyside Lane Playing Field for around a decade, after losing the spiritual home at Rose and Crown public house in Iron Acton which had faithfully served as their headquarters for well over a century.

Talks with a local landowner, however, have been progressing and now club officials are eagerly striving to meet the cost of funding an application which, if granted, would enable the field to be transformed into an exciting and modern sports complex.

Adam Taylor, secretary, treasurer and manager of Iron Acton’s Bristol and District Senior Division first team, told GFA Local Football News of his determination to drive the project to a successful conclusion.

Now 43, Taylor began playing for his local side when he was 15, while his father Basil Taylor, current chairman and former secretary; grandfather Les Gale and uncle Geoff Gale (both were goalkeepers too) were all heavily involved in the running of the club, together with other devoted family members.

Iron Acton were founder members of the 59-year-old Bristol Premier Combination too and that’s where they remained rooted until their relegation to the District League in 2007.

Adam explained: “It was well publicised at the time that one of our very talented former players of some 24 seasons bought the Rose and Crown pub and decided to turn it into residential accommodation, which is why we have spent the past nine or ten years playing at Sunnyside Lane.

“It was tough to take, not least because of our long tradition of playing football there and all the old historical photos that were up on the walls inside it. No one knows what came of them.

“But that’s in the past now and we want to move on. We have been talking with a landowner in the village for two to three years now and we need to present him with a legal document that shows we’re serious about trying to turn his land into a sports facility, one with floodlights, we hope, to enable us to progress as a club in the years to come.

“Back in the 1950s we were the first club other than Rovers and City in the area to have floodlights, but of course they’re no longer there.

“The change-of-use application will cost us between £700 and £1,000 so we’re now thinking about finding ways we can generate that money. If we then get the go-ahead to turn the land into a sports facility, we can then think about obtaining a long-term lease and the prospect of football grants to enable us to push on.”

Adam stressed:  “These are still early stages and we have no idea how long it will all take, but if it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t happen. One thing is for sure, the chances of ever playing at the Rose and Crown again are zero in my estimation.

“The new plot in question provides a lot of scope for development, so we’ll be channelling all our efforts into that and see where it takes us.”

In the meantime Iron Acton, currently sixth in the Senior Division table, are planning for a 2016-17 campaign they hope can lead to elevation back to Premier Combination heights.

“We’ll not get promotion this season; we just haven’t been able to field a consistent enough team, even though we have four sides and 135 players signed up in total,” Adam insisted.

“But we’d been a Premier Combination club for such a long time and winning a place back in it is the initial target. Hopefully next season we can do it.

“Oldland, Longwell Green, Chipping Sodbury and Roman Glass have all been where we are and gone on to bigger and better things so it can be done, and it would be nice to think it could be done back in the village where we belong.”



Glos U-18s prepare for final SW Championships push following Somerset setback

GLOUCESTERSHIRE FA Under-18s have it in them to bounce back from Saturday’s setback at the hands of their Somerset counterparts when they take on Cornwall FA at the end of the month.

Kailan Gould may be a registered Yate Town prodigy but the fledgling hot-shot, who hit local headlines in 2014 when he became Weston-super-Mare’s youngest first-team player aged 16 years and 177 days when he featured in a friendly against Bristol City, proved a valuable and potent weapon in Somerset’s line-up on the Oaklands Park 3G at the weekend.

Gould rattled in a hat-trick as Somerset hit five second-half goals to clinch their first win of the season in the South and West Counties Championship, leaving Gloucestershire with it all to do in their final fixture of the regular three-game programme in Truro against Cornwall on Saturday, February 27 (2pm), if they are to yet top their group and enter the title decider against the Group B victors.

It was hard on Gloucestershire who had entered the Somerset encounter with hopes high following their recent 5-3 defeat of Group A leaders Devon.

But onlooking chairman of the GFA’s county match committee, Sue Henson-Green, believes the team can finish with a flourish in Cornwall and at least give themselves a chance of making the championship play-off.

“I have every faith in the lads that they will come back from such a defeat with positive attitudes,” she insisted.

“Our boys battled well but unfortunately with the very strong wind, driving rain and a well-organised Somerset squad coming at them, it was too much to cope with in the second half.”

Gloucestershire had the conditions in their favour in the first period and it was against the run of play that Ashton and Backwell’s Liam Villis was put through, only to be brought down by home goalkeeper Sam Clay, enabling Gould to convert the resultant penalty for Somerset’s opener on nine minutes.

Somerset nearly increased their lead on 19 minutes but the lively Villis shot wide when clean through.

Gloucestershire hit back with purpose and the pressure finally told when a corner by Forest Green Rovers’ Jack Freeman was converted at the far post by Kingsley Miller, of Bristol Manor Farm.

Soon after that a good free-kick by Forest Green’s Ollie Yates almost gave Gloucestershire the lead, while Ashley Bird, of Gloucester City, narrowly missed with a fine shot on 44 minutes.

In the end Somerset were pleased to reach half-time at 1-1, knowing the second-half elements would be in their favour.
Nevertheless Gloucestershire held their own well for the opening ten minutes before they lost the ball in midfield, and a slick passing move set Gould in to score his second goal on 57 minutes.

As the conditions worsened, the Yate marksman completed his hat-trick with a left-foot volley from 20 yards to increase Somerset’s advantage to 3-1, and ten minutes later Somerset made it four when a square pass was rifled home right-footed by Villis.

With Gloucestershire tiring Somerset rubbed salt in the wounds with two late goals to seal a 6-1 success. 



Shell-shocked Oldland Abbotonians stage second-half fightback to end all fightbacks!

FOOTBALL at all levels is never short of stirring fightbacks as sides seemingly on their knees one minute somehow rally to turn a one-sided contest completely on its head.

It’s not, however, every day that a team finds itself 7-1 down and victory hopes seemingly in tatters at half-time, yet walks off triumphantly at the final whistle having completed a rousing come-from-behind success.

These remarkable feats are what makes the game so beautiful and that’s precisely what happened at the weekend in the Bristol Premier Combination top-flight, as Oldland Abbotonians Reserves, trailing 7-1 at the interval to an unstoppable Shaftesbury Crusade outfit, produced a superb second-half riposte to record only their fourth win of the Premier One campaign with a 9-7 victory.

Their own somewhat staggered, albeit delighted, manager Tim Brain confessed: “I did feel a bit for Shaftesbury but football’s a funny old game as they say!

“The whole team showed great grit and determination to get back into the game, a real never-say-die approach, and in the end we claimed a magnificent victory.

“The pitch had been okay to start with but it soon became very muddy, so it was definitely a game of two halves.”

In a match switched to nearby Keynsham’s Manor Road Playing Field due to Oldland’s own pitch being declared unfit, the ‘host’ team, kicking up the hill in the first half, conceded early on but equalised soon after to