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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

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16/10/2017

Thornbury, Wick prepare to clash for gripping last-eight County League Cup date

THE quarter-finals of the Marcliff Gloucestershire County League’s Les James Cup has thrown up some intriguing ties.

Perhaps the tie of the round takes place at Mundy Fields where Thornbury Town entertain Wick.

The South Gloucestershire sides have been battling it out around the higher echelons of the table, with Andy Davies’ Thorns making no secret of their appetite to chase life at an even higher level and league newcomers Wick eager to build on their 2016-17 Bristol Premier Combination runners-up success and going very nicely themselves thus far under Mike Strawford’s stewardship.

The tie takes place on Saturday, November 11 (2pm), three weeks after the pair clash for the first time at Wick’s Oldbury Lane facility on Saturday, October 21 for a league encounter (3pm).

The last-eight hat has also paired hosts Little Stoke and their visitors Frampton United together, with the Bristol team out to avenge a 2-0 home defeat at the hands of their opponents in their second league fixture of 2017-18.

Last season nothing could separate the sides as they met for the first time following Little Stoke’s emergence as Suburban League runners up to Lebeq, as a goalless stalemate at Little Stoke Park in August was followed up by a 2-2 draw at The Bell Field in the return meeting.

Ashley Coles’ men went on to secure an admirable mid-table berth at the campaign’s conclusion while Frampton, with Lee Driver-Dickerson at the rudder before his departure to Slimbridge as their new No.2 after ten fulfilling years at the helm, finished up as runners up only to champions Bristol Telephones.

Elsewhere in the quarter-finals it’s hard to see anything other than a Lebeq United victory as Rayan Wilson’s fliers, who had stormed to the top of the table in only their second season in the league on the back of six straight wins ahead of their enticing away encounter with Thornbury on Saturday, October 7, are to host a Gala Wilton outfit who, in stark contrast, are desperately trying to reverse their fortunes at the bottom following a winless start to their programme.

The game takes place at the Gloucestershire FA’s 3G facility on Saturday, November 11 at 1pm.

Stonehouse Town’s 4-3 penalty shoot-out success at Ruardean Hill Rangers in the previous round booked them a last-eight place although they will have to wait and see who their opponents will be on home soil.

That’s because Kingswood and their own guests Hanham Athletic have yet to lock horns for a first round match which has been earmarked for Saturday, October 28 (3pm).

LES JAMES LEAGUE CUP QUARTER-FINALS

Thornbury Town v Wick; Little Stoke v Frampton United; Lebeq United v Gala Wilton; Stonehouse Town v Kingswood or Hanham Athletic. Matches to be played on Saturday, November 11.

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16/10/2017

Mansfield at the double as AFC Mangotsfield motor to Intermediate South victory

SIMON Mansfield was twice on target as AFC Mangotsfield cruised into the second round of the GFA Junior South Cup.

The Bristol and District Division One outfit have experienced their ups and downs in the league so far this term but there was no stopping them in their county knock-out opener, as Adam Jeanes, Dan Cole, Ben Russell, Ross Porter and Nathan Churchill all contributed with goals too in a 7-0 away success against Bristol Downs League top-tier team AFC Bohemia.

Mason Harrison fired four of the goals to help rocket Tormarton to the next stage too courtesy of a 6-1 home defeat of Easton Cowboys Reserves, Adam Bates and Ashley Matthews their other marksmen.

George Binding, Corey Burton and Elliot Mason shared the honours as District League Senior Division side Cribbs A brushed aside Division One outfit Totterdown United Reserves 3-0 to progress.

Hillfields Old Boys are not top of the District League top-flight for no good reason. They enjoyed another proverbial stroll in the park as Paul Cole’s hat-trick, Scott Johnson and Lee Bebbington braces and singles for Simon Knight, Liam Towler, Kyle Porter and Jamie Johnson propelled the relentless pacesetters to an 11-1 home victory over Longwell Green A.

Dan House bagged a brace and Sam Jones, Jac Humphries and Simon Hancock also netted as mid-table District One side Stapleton Reserves cruised into round two with a 5-1 win over Suburban Division Two opponents Wanderers.

Iron Acton, who have made a bright start to their District Senior programme, took that form on to the county cup stage as Charlie Lacey’s treble, Danny Coombes and Aston Newman doubles plus a Wes Chipato strike catapulted them to an 8-1 Sunnyside Fields success over winless Suburban One strugglers Avonmouth Reserves.

Patchway Town Reserves had Jack Boulton and Tom Stewart goals to raise hopes of further progression before tumbling to a 4-2 away defeat at the hands of Suburban Two side Old Cothamians Reserves.

Joe Power’s strike for Soundwell Victoria couldn’t prevent in-form Suburban League One hosts Bristol Telephones Reserves progressing with a hard-fought 2-1 win.

Downs League Division One outfit Ashley may have made a slow start to their league campaign but there was no sign of struggle as they stuck 15 without reply past beleaguered Suburban Leaguers Almondsbury A with hat-tricks each for Kevin Goodwin, Will Freeman and Paul Mann.

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12/10/2017

Rockleaze, Telephones, Roman Glass and Hardwicke braced for GFA Trophy testers

DAVID Johnson says he can’t wait to lock horns with Rockleaze Rangers once more, the side he managed for a spell four years ago.

The Bristol Telephones co-boss takes his high-ranking Toolstation First Division team into GFA Challenge Trophy second round action against the Marcliff Gloucestershire County Leaguers at a Jarratts Road ground Rockleaze these days share with their league compatriots Southmead CS Athletic.

Johnson is rubbing his hands at the prospects in store for the game this Saturday, October 14 (2pm) and he insisted: “I enjoyed my time at Rockleaze. It was a fresh challenge for me at the time after leaving DRG.

“It’s a shame I won’t be going back to their old home at Coombe Dingle as they now groundshare with Southmead but I want to win every game I play and this has a bit of added spice for me.”

Johnson feels that despite their impressive start to Western League life Telephones, who remain without injured defender Sam Sarre, are yet to truly hit top gear.

“We’ve not been playing particularly well and the lads owe themselves and the club who support them a good performance on Saturday,” he said.

“I want to see us progressing in this competition although it will be hard with good Premier Division and Hellenic teams left in it.

“But there’s no point entering tournaments like this to simply go through the motions.”

Rockleaze manager Richard Thomas conceded: “It will be a difficult game for us as Telephones score a lot of goals and are clearly a very good team.

“We’ve actually done well against them in the past and they’ll be out to put that right no doubt.

“We also have a very different side now going through transition. In our (2-0) defeat at Gala Wilton last weekend our defence of Cameron Love, Sam Knight, Nathan Worrell and Malick Christian were all aged 19 and under.

“They’re all good players but youngsters need to be led and our more vocal players weren’t out there to help them.”

Rockleaze have been dealt a further blow as experienced midfielder James Fitzpatrick is, according to Thomas, “taking a break from the game”.

Elsewhere in the competition, Roman Glass St George head to the outskirts of Gloucester to do battle with Gloucestershire County League high-fliers Hardwicke for a second round tie which also kicks off at 2pm.

Toolstation First Division Saints only just squeezed past another County League team in Thornbury Town 4-3 at the previous stage.

And they have severe injury worries heading into the tie as Ben Harvey, Rhys Hodgson, Mike York, Jacob Watson, Ken Oni, Ryan Radford, Kris Douglas and Joe Cox are all likely to miss out.

“Our manager Andy Gurney had to play a full 90 minutes in central midfield at the age of 44 against Malmesbury Victoria at the weekend and with a bad back too,” Roman Glass No.2 Liam Greening explained.

“We still managed to pull off a 5-1 win and if Andy has recovered he may have to play again on Saturday.”

Hardwicke manager Jamie Reid enthused: “We went to Bristol Manor Farm in the competition last year when they were flying at the top of the Western League. We were 1-0 up with ten minutes to go when their extra quality came through and eventually we lost 3-1.

“But all our lads are buzzing for the Roman Glass game and we’ll relish pitting our wits against higher opposition.

“I feel we can stand up to it and give it a really good go.”

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12/10/2017

Bailey’s Almondsbury boys eye more GFA Trophy progress at the expense of rivals Oldland

ALMONDSBURY player-boss Neil Bailey is anticipating few favours when his team travel to confront Toolstation First Division rivals Oldland Abbotonians for this Saturday’s GFA Challenge Trophy second round tussle at Castle Road (Oct 14, 2pm).

Mercifully for the Almonds supremo he at least has a clean bill of health to declare following a torrid time on the casualty front.

Centre-half Bailey has himself only just returned to the action following a long-standing ankle condition while midfielders Danny Lane and Henry Greenbury, striker Russ Church and centre-half Lewis Harvey are all back in business after missing sizeable chunks of their campaigns.

Captain and central midfielder Jack Dempsey remains absent with a knee complaint and Bailey admitted: “He’s a big player for us and we’re not sure how long he’ll be out for.

“Our league form has been inconsistent and all the injuries have done little to help that. But we had a good 3-1 win over Calne at the weekend which can put us in good stead for Saturday’s game.

“This is a competition everyone at our level looks at and sees gives you the best chance out of all the cups of a trophy and five wins get you to the final.

“Nevertheless Oldland away has always been a tough one and I don’t expect this to be any different.”

Scott Armstrong’s Abbotonians do have injury concerns and their manager stressed: “We had five players missing for our (1-0) defeat at Radstock at the weekend and I’m not expecting too many of those back for Saturday.

“Almondsbury aren’t easy opposition at the best of times because they’ve had a change of management and picked up more points than at the same stage last season.”

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11/10/2017

A rollercoaster affair: DAC Beachcroft’s hat-trick hero Palmer ends up paying penalty!

SIMON Palmer won’t forget his latest GFA Intermediate South Cup experience in a hurry.

And given the way it all turned out for him and his team-mates in their first round appearance he’ll be forgiven for wanting to cast the helter-skelter memory of it from his mind as quickly as possible!

The DAC Beachcroft hot shot had hit a stunning second-half treble in normal time to haul his team back from 2-0 half-time arrears to a 3-2 lead and the brink of going through to the next stage.

That was until a last-gasp strike by the hosts’ Richard Rees following a free-kick dramatically took the all-Bristol Downs League Division Two tie to spot kicks.

As though luck would have it, Beachcroft’s hat-trick hero turned villain as he missed his vital ‘take’ in the shoot-out to end up defeated and much frustrated along with his team-mates as they exited the tournament in agonising fashion.

That was largely down too to the exploits of St Andrews shot-stopper Dave Phillips as he saved no fewer than three Beachcroft penalties to see them emerge 3-2 victors.

Earlier Gary Westlake and Rob Ricketts had handed Saints their two-goal interval advantage before Palmer’s treble spree propelled Beachcroft to the brink of victory.

St Andrews’ new manager Louis Johnson accepted: “We had a rather fortune late equaliser to take it to penalties but we were on top in the first half.”

Iron Acton Reserves got their Intermediate Cup campaign off the ground in some style.

The Yate-based outfit had yet to pick up a point from their four District League Division Two appearances entering the county cup opener with Division Three side Bristol Barcelona Reserves.

But they put all that behind them in their Sunnyside Fields backyard as doubles apiece from Owen Davey and Max Cooper, and singles for Ryan Crew and Callum Parker, saw Acton to a 6-0 success.

District Division Two leaders Bendix, parading 100 per cent league form to date, are also through as braces each for Matt Norley and Chris Dauncey saw them ease past Downs League Division One side Saints Old Boys Reserves with a 4-1 away win.

Some other closely-fought first round contests were decided amid enthralling penalty shoot-out circumstances.

Chipping Sodbury Town A squeezed past Real Thornbury Town A 9-8 from the spot after the teams had been locked at 3-3 after normal time.

That was the same scenario after 90 minutes at Stoke Gifford United Reserves who eventually prevailed in the shoot-out, 5-4, at the expense of Lawrence Rovers.

Jack Hall’s second-half strike was enough to see Sneyd Park into the second round 1-0 at the expense of Downs League rivals Torpedo Reserves while Luke Brooks celebrated a hat-trick to fuel Clifton Rockets hopes as they powered past Old Cliftonians Reserves 6-1, Ben Price, Owen Newson and an own goal aiding the cause.

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11/10/2017

Emotions abounding as community rallies to support tenacious teen Kieron Hackers

A SPECIAL football match and fund-raising spin-offs in aid of brave cancer victim Kieron Hackers are on course to raise more than £20,000, writes Simon Parkinson.

The talented 17-year-old Chipping Sodbury Town Under-18 midfielder was recently informed that the sarcoma cancer he contracted is terminal and that he is expected to live for no longer than a few more months.

Driven on to help in any way possible, the local community has pulled together to offer support to the tenacious teenager who has happily been undertaking a series of activities on a wish-list that includes Castle Combe track racing and Centre Parcs quad biking, to meeting his Manchester United heroes and taking in a Champions League game at their famous Old Trafford home at the end of this month with the backing of Make-A-Wish.

The charity football event, held at Sodbury’s Ridings base on the evening of Saturday, September 23, comprised a series of games involving Kieron’s Sodbury Under-18 compatriots and an eclectic mix of Yate and Sodbury managers.

One of the organisers of the occasion Sandra King, a club committee member and Kieron’s youth team manager last season, explained: “It was packed; there were well over 1,000 people here when we’d been expecting 300 or so!

“We had some amazing donations too from many local businesses and the raffle in the clubhouse afterwards alone raised around £5,000. Just Giving has generated a similar amount and we reckon we took over £15,000 in all on the night which is a fantastic effort.

“We’ve also been running an online auction which includes a signed Arsenal shirt and an actual Tottenham seat from their old White Hart Lane ground. And Joe Hart, the West Ham goalkeeper, signed a shirt (see Kieron Hackers Charity Game on Facebook for further info).

“People were putting £20 notes into the bucket during the games and it was all very emotional. I was in the clubhouse when Kieron came off the pitch after playing 20 or so minutes in his customary midfield position and the whole crowd clapped and cheered him off. And he set up a goal with an excellent trademark pass.

“We gave Kieron a special Chipping Sodbury shirt and friends gave him a Manchester United top, both of which had his name on the back.”

Sandra added: “It was just an amazing response by the community. The week beforehand we’d taken numerous calls from businesses wanting to help.

“Kieron was clearly enormously grateful to everyone and no doubt overwhelmed. Yate United, his old club, played a big part as did St Nicholas too, and our neighbouring Hogweed Runners club brought in a raffle prize.

“All money raised will be split between Kieron’s Fund and MacMillan Nurses who are, of course, playing an important part in his life at this time.”

Chipping Sodbury’s first team manager Neil Simons added: “It was wonderful to see the whole community coming together like this and I know Kieron and his family were really appreciative of the efforts everyone made.”

A dazed Kieron admitted: “I really didn’t expect so many people to turn up; it was the best day of my life.

“I just want to thank everyone who was there or donated; it means a lot to me and the family.

“I played 20 minutes and we won 3-1. I managed to set up a goal to but I don’t know about the rest as I was busy meeting and taking pictures with people!

“I’ve had some great experiences with more to come. I have tickets to Manchester United for their next Champions League game and a stadium tour there, and I’ve had a signed shirt from (Newcastle midfielder) Matt Ritchie among many other things.”

More money will head the way of Kieron’s Fund on Friday, October 13 when Chipping Sodbury Town Hall plays host to top West Country comedian and panto star Andy Ford (7pm), organised by Friends of St Mary’s School, Yate.

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10/10/2017

Clinical Claytons keep Cribbs Reserves’ Premier Combination Cup hopes on course

CRIBBS Reserves are safely through to the second round of the Bristol Premier Combination Cup – but they were made to work hard for their 3-2 home win by Premier Division newcomers Shaftesbury Crusade.

The Lawns hopefuls flew into a two-goal lead via Liam Clayton and Dan Burgan strikes and went on to miss several chances to kill off their opponents.

Instead spirited Shaftesbury hit back to equalise by the midway point of the second half, only for Keiran Clayton to net Cribbs’ winner ten minutes from time.

It proved a painful passage to round two for their keeper Scott Lovell who made a magnificent save deep into injury-time and took a knee from his own defender, Ollie Dunleavey, to the nose in the process, prompting a hospital trip for the unfortunate custodian.

Premier One side Hambrook were spot-on in overcoming top-flight Totterdown United on the road to book a round two berth.

They almost opened the scoring in the first minute when Nathan Kelly’s snap-shot from distance just missed the far post, and minutes later fellow striker Kane Mannings squandered another chance with a header on goal that bounced off the grass and into the Totterdown keeper’s hands.

It was the home side who took the lead, however, when Aaron Thorne controlled a crossfield pass before nutmegging his marker and curling a sublime shot into the far corner with his weaker right foot.

In an evenly-fought contest Hambrook equalised in somewhat fortuitous circumstances when Jensen Mannings’ delivery from deep drifted beyond the despairing keeper’s clutches and into the top corner.

The tie went to penalties and Hambrook custodian Adam Lumber proved the key to progression for his jubilant side by saving the first, fourth and fifth penalties, whilst his team netted three out of the four that they took to take the shoot-out 3-2.

Hallen Reserves turned in a poor performance to find themselves out of the League Cup courtesy of a 1-0 home loss at the hands of a strong Stapleton side.

The Premier Division hosts’ frustrations were made worse as their player-manager Graham Joint was sent off with 20 minutes to go for a professional foul.

Elsewhere in the League Cup, Chris Simsek, Luke Henderson and Tom Watkins goals saw Chipping Sodbury Town Reserves to a 3-2 victory at Highridge United while AEK Boco Reserves crushed Longwell Green Reserves 5-0 in a one-sided local derby.

Simon Bateman’s hat-trick and Harrison Hardy’s effort earned Greyfriars Athletic a second-round place with a 4-2 win at DRG Frenchay.

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09/10/2017

More misery for St Pancras as deadly De Veys win again to claim Senior Amateur place

ST PANCRAS have every reason to feel sick at the sight of De Veys after taking a third tumble against them in a month, this time in the GFA Senior Amateur South Cup! Writes Simon Parkinson.

Saints had slipped to a slender 4-3 defeat in their own Stockwood Lane yard at the hands of De Veys in a Bristol Premier Combination second-tier opener at the start of September, before going on to crash 6-2 against the same opponents at the same venue a fortnight later in a more one-sided League Cup first round affair.

Most recently St Pancras entered half-time in their county cup first round tussle with De Veys, where they once more set out to make home advantage count, a goal to the good and more hopeful of making it third time lucky against their league rivals, especially after holding out for much of the second half.

Again, though, it wasn’t to be for shellshocked Saints as late goals from Phil Burford (2) and John Nutland secured yet another De Veys victory with a 3-1 success, meaning they will now hit the road again for a second round meeting with Suburban Premier Two side Old Cothamians, who edged a 2-0 win at Rockleaze Rangers Reserves to claim their own place at the next juncture on Saturday, October 28 (2pm).

Hambrook’s county cup hopes were dashed as Suburban Premier One leaders Lawrence Weston finally exited Whiteshill Common with a penalties success behind them after the sides had drawn 1-1 in normal time, Jensen Mannings back-heeling Hambrook’s second-half equaliser into the net following enterprising play down the right wing by the impressive Matt Jones.

It meant that for the second time in a week Hambrook were faced with a shoot-out scenario after coming through unscathed against Totterdown in the Bristol Combination Cup.

Hambrook keeper Adam Lumber saved three spot kicks in that 4-2 victory but this time Lawrence Weston netted all four of their penalties while Hambrook scored only once from their three attempts to fall agonisingly short.

Lawrence Weston now travel on October 28 to face Lebeq, who marched into round two thanks to Janathan Walker’s pair and Casper Larcombe, Ashton Squire and Raphael Waugh efforts in a 6-0 home romp against Suburban Premier Two strugglers Ridings High, an own goal helping the Premier Combination team on their way.

Bitton Reserves will travel to take on Downs League Division One leaders Torpedo for an intriguing second round tussle after comfortably overcoming Seymour United 5-1 away.

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06/10/2017

Knight in shining armour as Olveston kick-off Senior Amateur South defence in style

OLVESTON United kicked off their defence of the GFA Senior Amateur Cup trophy in ruthless fashion, writes Simon Parkinson.

The victorious side who overcame Rockleaze Rangers Reserves 2-1 in a tight Oaklands Park showdown in April started out this time as they clearly mean to go on, as Matt Knight’s hat-trick and man-of-the-match Rob Cave’s contribution catapulted them to a 4-0 victory over Premier Combination compatriots Sea Mills Park at Kingsweston Sports Ground.

Midfielder Luke Garbacz played a full part too in setting up United’s first three goals before the break.

Olveston will now travel to face unbeaten Bristol Downs League side Sneyd Park, who won 4-2 at AFC Mangotsfield, in the second round on Saturday, October 28 (2pm).

Dave Herbert, Sam Vile and their on-song Winterbourne United comrades were simply too much for spirited and youthful Roman Glass St George Reserves visitors taking a mighty tumble out of the tournament at the first round fence.

The deadly duo each netted four times, while James Mainstone’s brace and Khalil Lamri’s single ensured the hosts a straightforward route into round two, and a home date with Old Elizabethans on Saturday, October 28, courtesy of an 11-0 victory.

Bourne’s Combination rivals Hallen Reserves are also through to the second stage, where they’ll travel to take on Bristol Manor Farm Reserves on the same October afternoon (also 2pm), having overcome a strong Avonmouth team, of Bristol and Suburban Premier One, 4-0 at Moorhouse Lane.

After a fairly even first half in which both sides had good opportunities to go ahead, Hallen eventually scored on the stroke of half-time when the Avonmouth keeper allowed Matt Fisher’s 40-yard free-kick to slip straight through his hands.

Hallen dominated the second half with further goals from Adam Lloyd, Ash Andrews and Adam Snook to ensure their own safe progression.

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05/10/2017

Plenty of positives as Gloucestershire U-18 Boys are forced to settle for first-day point

ADAM Coyle insists he and his Gloucestershire Under-18 representative team hopefuls can take “plenty of positives” from their South & West Counties Championship opener with Berkshire & Buckinghamshire.

Kicking off their Section B campaign at the familiar setting of Oaklands Park’s 3G facility, the Gloucestershire boys surged into a 2-0 second-half lead and looked on course for a precious first-day success, only for their opponents to hit back with two goals of their own for a share of the spoils.

Glos boss Coyle confessed: “We came off feeling disappointed about conceding two late goals but our players can hold their heads high after what was a good performance overall.

“We can take plenty of positives from the experience into our next few games, starting against Wiltshire FA at home in the league (GFA HQ, Oaklands Park, Saturday, October 14, 1pm) which will lead us nicely into our cup match (on Saturday, October 28, 2pm), again at home, against the Amateur Football Alliance which we’re all looking forward to.”

Gloucestershire certainly felt two points had been lost rather than a single one gained after leading 2-0 by the 75th-minute mark.

The game had begun at a high tempo with Elliott Gardner causing havoc on the right side and testing the Berks & Bucks goalkeeper on several occasions. Luke Spokes also came close with a free-kick and then a header which he powered just wide from a great delivery by Tom Anthony in a goalless first period.

The second half continued in the same vein with both teams attacking and creating chances.

But it was Gloucestershire who went ahead when a superb Luke Spokes cross was perfect for a delighted Noah Smerdon to net on his county debut.

The hosts doubled their lead when Gardner pounced on a defensive error before slotting the ball calmly beyond the rushing keeper.

Gloucestershire made a few enforced changes due to injuries and began losing their way as Berks & Bucks capitalised with two goals to tie it all up again.

Even then Spokes went agonisingly close to clinching a dramatic late win for Coyle’s team with the last action of the game from a free-kick which drifted just wide.

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04/10/2017

Jennings joy as Upton St Leonards fliers ditch Newent thanks to clinical Cooper

STROUD and District League champions Upton St Leonards are making their mark already at the higher Gloucestershire Northern Senior level – and in this season’s GFA Senior Amateur North Cup quest too, reports Simon Parkinson.

The Birchall Lane battlers lost just two of their 24 fixtures in 2016-17 to hoist themselves into the Senior League second-tier limelight for the first time in their 98-year history, where they’ve set about life confidently on the back of three wins and a draw from the five appearances they’d made ahead of Saturday’s (September 30) trip to take on pacesetting Whitecroft.

They also got their Senior Amateur Cup campaign off the ground tenaciously as they built on their 1-0 half-time advantage against visiting Newent Town Reserves to emerge hard-fought 2-1 victors thanks to two Jordan Cooper goals to seize a place in round two, Jacob Nutting’s effort keeping the Hellenic Two West side in the contest until time was blown on their own hopes of progression.

Upton’s new 30-year-old secretary and established centre-back Jon Jennings, who has performed for the club since he was 16 where his father Mike Jennings is current first-team boss, enthused: “Our progress has been about working as a team and hopefully it will continue.

“Ten years ago we needed to fold our third team due to a lack of players and it meant we took a big drop from Stroud One to Stroud Five.

“But we regrouped, got some new and stronger players aboard and we’ve come bouncing all the way back with a succession of promotions to reach this status for the first time.”

Of the county cup win Jennings smiled: “I think we took them by surprise a bit, even though they battled hard. In the end we had more energy than Newent and overpowered them.

“I played for Newent as an under-18 player many years ago and still have a lot of respect for them, but it was nice to come through.”

Woolaston, who have competed hard in virtually every outing they’ve embarked on thus far in their Northern Senior Two assault despite finding themselves languishing in the lower realms of the table with a win and three draws to their name entering the weekend’s trip to take on Lydney Town Reserves (Sept 30), also made it over the first round fence.

Sam James and Riley Spencer both hit the target as the Netherend Crescent hosts overcame league rivals Broadwell Amateur Reserves 2-0.

Smiths Athletic also squeezed through to the second stage of the tournament after requiring penalties to dispense of Brimscombe and Thrupp Reserves at Tewkesbury School.

Goals from Louie Barnfather and Mark Hawtin for Smiths had taken a competitive tie to spot kicks along with replies from George Blythe and Billy Dangerfield for Hellenic West Two outfit Thrupp.

In the end the Northern Senior Two side prevailed with a 3-2 shoot-out success to secure a berth in the next round.

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03/10/2017

Lydney Town stalwart Sansom’s eyeing a county cup run after Winchcombe win

LYDNEY Town’s long-serving secretary Roger Sansom is backing the club’s second-string to continue making themselves heard on the county cup stage this season, writes Simon Parkinson.

The Swan Road outfit’s reserves pulled off a splendid 5-2 first round victory over Gloucestershire Northern Senior League rivals Winchcombe Town in the GFA Senior Amateur North Cup with first-half goals from Charlie Powell, Sam Wines and Steve Jones’ sizzling volley, along with Steve Warren’s header and Wines’ skilful lofted finish after the break.

Having led 4-0 and appearing to be cruising into round two, Neil Hook’s men instead found themselves in sticky territory for a spell as spirited Winchcombe pegged them back to 4-2 with strikes by Will Major and Daniel Moore, before Wines notched his second of the game to kill off any comeback aspirations on the part of the visitors.

Sansom, who has been Lydney’s club secretary for an eye-watering 42 years, remarked: “It was a good win against a good team from our own division who admittedly are just beginning to find their feet after an inconsistent start to their season.

“We’re only involved in two cup competitions and it’s always nice for clubs like ours to have some silverware to target and that is why we’re taking the Senior Amateur Cup very seriously.

“Of course as a Division Two side it’s always difficult to go on and win them as you tend to come up against first division opposition and strong sides from other leagues along the way, but we’ll be doing our utmost to go as far as we can.”

While Lydney Reserves, now well into their fourth season in the Northern Senior League following their 2013-14 promotion from the North Gloucestershire League, have been looking to lift themselves into the top half of their table, the club’s first XI find themselves in a similar position, 11th on the Hellenic Premier Division ladder and disappointed to have seen their FA Vase hopes dashed at the second qualifying round juncture with last weekend’s 2-0 defeat at Wantage Town.

“We’d played them twice before in the early part of the season,” Sansom explained, “winning 2-1 at their place in the league only a week after they beat us 3-1 in the FA Cup.

“Our main problem has been finding someone to bang in the goals consistently after Declan Morley-Lyne left us for Cinderford in the summer having scored 36 times (in 42 appearances) for us last season.

“It’s a situation our manager Mark Lee is more than mindful of but Mark’s still doing a really good job for us keeping our heads above water at a hard level of the game and if we can finish up in mid-table again, we’ll have done well when you think of the many goals we have lost through Declan’s departure.”

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02/10/2017

Tuffley to mark stadium upgrade in style thanks to FSIF grant and Bristol City visit!

HELLENIC League Premier Division club Tuffley Rovers have grounds for celebration this Tuesday, October 3.

They are to officially unveil their upgraded stadium with an exciting fixture against a Bristol City XI (7.30pm kick-off) at Glevum Park  on Lower Tuffley Lane (GL2 5AJ) thanks to a grant from the Premier League through the Football Stadia Improvement Fund (FSIF) who are the largest funders of non-League football in the country.

The grant has enabled Tuffley to install a brand-new spectator stand as well as ball-stop netting and a public address system. Rovers anticipate the project will help them to attract and retain spectators.

The “state-of-the-art” stand, which has capacity for 100 people, means that the club’s home ground now meets the Grade F requirements of the FA National Ground Grading Criteria for Tuffley Rovers’ Step 5 position.

The project was made possible thanks to a £14,082 grant from the Premier League through the Football Stadia Improvement Fund, the sister organisation of the Football Foundation.

Funded with £6.5m each year from the Premier League, the FSIF is the country’s largest provider of grants towards projects that help improve the comfort and safety of lower league football grounds in both the professional and amateur game.

These improvements range from new football stands and turnstiles to floodlighting and improved provision for disabled supporters.

Tuffley will head into Tuesday evening in buoyant mood too after overcoming Gloucestershire rivals Lydney Town 2-1 on Saturday to move up to 12th in the Hellenic top-flight table.

Joel White’s rasping volley handed Rovers a 38th-minute lead and a minute after the break it got better for the Glevum Park hosts as Danny Wallington rifled home the loose ball after Lydney keeper George Burton had fumbled a flag-kick.

Owen Williams set up an enthralling finale as he gave Dave Evans in the Tuffley goal no chance with an unerring finish into the bottom corner of the net midway through the period.

And the visitors went on to twice go agonisingly close to finding an equaliser as Kerry Hale fizzed a shot narrowly wide and Ross Gabriel rattled a last-minute attempt against the goal-frame to Rovers’ immense relief, although five minutes of stoppage time did little to ease the nerves.

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29/09/2017

We can yet rise to become County League force again, Rockleaze gaffer Richard insists

RICHARD Thomas is adamant his Rockleaze Rangers battlers can quickly turn the corner in the fight to attune themselves to their 2017-18 Marcliff Gloucestershire County League demands, writes Simon Parkinson.

The manager had entered the new campaign eyeing continued progression after back-to-back top-six finishes to their previous two programmes appeared to have offered a springboard to even better fare this time around.

An inconsistent start has instead left Rangers, who now play their home games at County League rivals Southmead CS Athletic’s Pen Park Pavilion facility as part of a ground-share agreement, caught up around the lower reaches of the table.

Their bullish boss, however, insists there are “genuine reasons” for their early-term struggles and remains confident they can soon respond to reclaim their place among the league’s leading lights.

Thomas explained: “We lost quite a few of our best players to other clubs and only three weeks or so before the start of the season too.

“Sam Burgess (keeper), James Kenway (centre-back) and our captain Steve Fitzpatrick went to Chipping Sodbury Town while (midfielder) Greg Parr is now with Almondsbury and our right-back Savas Frangoullis joined Hambrook.

“On a positive note we brought a lot of good new players in such as Danny Webb (ex-Hallen), Kyle Ford (ex-Bitton), Shane Budding (ex-County League representative team captain), Nathan Blackie (ex-Barry Town), Nick Gray (ex-Almondsbury) and Carl Lakey (ex-Yate Town) who rejoined us.

“Four lads from Yate Under-18s – Nathan Goodwin-Worrell (centre-back), Sam Knight (right-back), Josh Blackman (keeper) and Joey Martin-Tulloch (midfielder) - have also come aboard and been showing promising signs.

“Our big difficulty has been numbers as Danny Webb, Shane Budding, Ali Boyer and Alex Morrison have all been injured and that’s not to mention the many who have been unavailable for selection for various reasons.

“Once most or all are back competition for places will be fierce and I expect to see a quite different Rockleaze force in operation and quickly climbing the table.”

Of that sudden summer switch from their previous Coombe Dingle base in Stoke Bishop to Southmead’s Jarratts Road HQ, Thomas said: “Bearing in mind we have four senior men’s teams and a veterans team, we were given a golden chance to get everyone under the same umbrella by joining Southmead at their home.

 “The cost of hiring the Southmead ground was also significantly less and being there means we can use the clubhouse for food – before that we all had to travel two miles to a local pub for catering purposes after games - and we now have use of floodlights and a 3G training court.

“So all in all it’s been a very worthwhile move.”

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28/09/2017

Ambitious boss Alex so eager to keep Stonehouse Town progression alive and kicking

STONEHOUSE Town’s ambitious young boss Alex Lumsden is keeping everything crossed the most testing days are behind them as he bids to drive them back to former heights, writes Simon Parkinson.

The 23-year-old former Brimscombe and Thrupp striker and reserve-team manager is a handful of games into his first full campaign with the Oldends Lane outfit, whom he first took charge of back in February and went on to keep them in title contention before a late-season wobble cost them the chance of going the distance.

A third-placed conclusion to their maiden stint back in the Marcliff Gloucestershire County League was nevertheless an admirable outcome and Lumsden and Co are now out to put behind them a tricky opening to their 2017-18 mission, which had generated only the one win from five league games up until Saturday, September 23 when Little Stoke were set to play host to the aspiring Magpies.

Despite the evident ups and downs, Lumsden insisted: “I love it here. It’s been a good challenge for me to come to a club like Stonehouse and be their first team manager and I’m lucky to have people like Mark Painter and Jason Bird as my two assistants.

“Between them they have given around 50 years of service to the club and they have been absolutely brilliant and really supportive. They’ve kept me quite grounded as I tend to run away with my ideas sometimes!”

The rookie supremo points to the loss of some key performers over a vital pre-season period as a reason for their early-term struggles.

“It’s been a tough start,” he accepted, “but we did lose the spine of our team with Liam Gale and Luke Barstow leaving for Fairford Town while Alex Kibble went to Shortwood. And all of them went at the back end of July which wasn’t ideal. Our regular keeper Will Pedrick also took a break from the game.

“We had a tricky opening to the season too with some tough games against the likes of Thornbury, Wick and (leaders) Lebeq who are all up there, and quite a few of our lads were away for various reasons which is common among all clubs at this time of year.”

Lumsden hit back from the setback of losing that “spine” by signing Barney Jones, Lance Rennolds, Elliot King, Rich Lee, Tom Backx, Joe Woodley, Liam Walsh and keepers Pete Davies, who is currently sidelined with a broken thumb, and Adam Clark.

He maintained: “As a club we’re progressing as fast as possible and grants are in place for the purchase of floodlights. We’re also renovating our stands and other areas of the ground, so a lot is going on off the field.

“It was disappointing to fall away as we did over the final four games of last season which eventually pushed us out of the reckoning.

“It began with a 3-1 loss at home to Frampton United which we never seemed to recover from but maybe we needed another year or two in the County League anyway, to mature as a club and increase squad numbers.”

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27/09/2017

Talbot Knowle put paid to Park again to cement second-round Combination Cup spot

TALBOT Knowle United breezed into round two of the Bristol Premier Combination Cup in remarkable fashion - with a second 5-3 win at Sea Mills Park in seven days following their league victory at Napier Miles Road! Writes Simon Parkinson

Early Premier Division pacesetters Talbot, who won through via Kye Cox, Carl Morgan and Shaun Bailey contributions along with two own goals, were 3-1 up at one point and seemingly home and dry, only for Sea Mills to hit back twice to level up with 30 minutes remaining.

Unfortunately their chances of completing a stirring recovery were hit when they were reduced to ten men due to an injury and no substitutes to call on.

Talbot Knowle took full advantage of their depleted opponents’ downturn in fortunes to net twice more to secure a place in the next round.

Deadly Darren Bloomfield was at the double as De Veys ruthlessly dispensed of Premier One rivals St Pancras to ease through to the second round.

The unstoppable marksman maintained his run of scoring in all four of his team’s league and knock-out fixtures to date with two more in De Veys’ 6-2 success.

Those efforts put him into the Norton Lane outfit’s coveted 100 club as Saturday’s strikes brought up his 100th and 101st goals for De Veys, whose Dylan Whittle also celebrated a brace to go with Caleb Ward and Ryan Parsons singles while Lewis Browning notched twice for Saints.

Bristol Manor Farm Reserves secured a stunning first win of their season with a scintillating 8-4 first-round away success over Old Sodbury, who had got off to a flier when Sam Makepeace scored direct from a free-kick in the third minute.

Manor Farm rapidly responded through Jordan Dent who, along with his strike partner Jack Williams, went on to find Sodbury keeper Jamie Pearson in top form as they sought a quickfire second goal.

However it was the home team who were next to score as Chris Young converted from the penalty spot to put them 2-1 up at the break.

Back came Farm and a Williams thunderbolt hauled them level once more, only for Makepeace to fire his second to restore Sodbury’s advantage.

Manor Farm were far from finished and Williams slotted past Pearson to make it 3-3 before watching on in amazement as Sodbury responded yet again with a goal of their own, Young registering his second via a penalty to hand them a 4-3 advantage.

Not to be denied a relentless Williams soon drew Manor Farm level again before Jordan Dent struck from 20 yards to put them ahead for the first time 13 minutes from time.

Despite an excellent display by Sodbury’s experienced defender and penalty king Young, he could not prevent Dent scoring a further two goals and Matt Hoare netting with a sublime chip to complete a remarkable victory.

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26/09/2017

Cinderford, Gloucester City edge through to book GFA Senior Cup last-eight dates

CINDERFORD Town and Gloucester City both came through stern tests before safely striding into the last eight of the Gloucestershire FA Senior Challenge Cup.

National League South side Gloucester required a 4-2 penalty shoot-out success to commendably get past a strong Cheltenham Town Reserves line-up after the teams had completed a tense 90 minutes in 2-2 deadlock.

Cinderford, meanwhile, squeezed through 2-1 at the expense of Evo-Stik Southern League West rivals Mangotsfield United in another closely-fought round one contest at The Causeway.

It was possibly against the run of play that Mangos snatched a 37th-minute lead as their opponents had twice rattled the goal-frame ahead of the breakthrough while Field’s impressive loan goalie Thom Jonkerman was forced into making some smart stops.

Lewis Ellington and Kyle Knott combined for Nick Pearce to finish with aplomb and hand the visitors a slender half-time advantage.

Paul Michael’s men, who had won their previous four games, turned up the heat after the break and after Andy Lewis had levelled up for them just six minutes into the restart, the hosts seized the initiative and their path to a home clash with Forest Green Rovers Reserves (date TBC) when same former Shortwood United back-man Lewis buried a penalty opportunity two minutes from time.

Field weren’t quite finished and their forward George Lloyd was frustrated to be denied by an offside flag as he stuck the ball into the Cinderford net.

Meanwhile, with the first round tie played behind closed doors at Hartpury College for spectator safety concerns due to building work being undertaken at the site, Gloucester booked themselves a quarter-final home date with Shortwood United courtesy of that shoot-out success against Cheltenham.

* More from that and a reaction from Gloucester’s former Shortwood assistant-boss and scorer in that Cheltenham success, Will Morford, can be found here on GFA Local Football News presently so watch this space . . .

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26/09/2017

Signed and Seal-ed: Goal ace David so happy to be back at Mangotsfield with close pal

FORMER Mangotsfield United goal ace David Seal says he is relishing every moment of being back at Cossham Street – as assistant manager to close friend Wayne Thorne, writes Simon Parkinson.

The pair, along with the help of another one-time Mangos star in coach Lee Collier, have just formed a brand-new management team in the wake of previous boss David Mehew’s resignation.

While 37-year-old Thorne, who himself had a brief spell on loan with United in 2005-06 and became renowned for hoisting Larkhall Athletic out of the Western League as title winners and into the Southern League as their supremo in 2014, is the front man, Seal is rubbing his hands at the possibilities in store as his No.2.

Small wonder too. Sydney-born Seal, who turned out more than 50 times for Bristol City under the leadership of Russell Osman and then Joe Jordan over a three-year period at Ashton Gate spanning the mid-90s, where he bagged ten goals before moving to Northampton Town, made around 240 appearances and celebrated an eye-watering 166 goals for Mangos, emerging top scorer in four of the seven years he performed for them from the turn of the Millennium.

In an exclusive interview with GFA Local Football News, Seal enthused of an unexpected return to his former stomping ground: “It’s quite special being back, especially when you consider I’m Mangotsfield’s all-time record scorer,” he smiled.

“One season I was with them I was leading scorer in the Southern League and then there was the year (2001-02) when I ended up heading the scoring charts in the entire FA Cup competition (with 11 goals) which, when you’re a striker, is something you dream about and will always cherish.

“During my time there as a player we won the Southern League West championship (2004-05) to reach the Premier Division and we won a Gloucestershire Senior Cup, so they were great and memorable days under managers such as Andy Black and Martyn Grimshaw.

“We also reached the fourth qualifying round of the FA Cup three times when I was there and never quite made it into the first round proper hat. One year (2001) we’d have played Stoke City had we not lost 2-0 to Lewes in a replay.”

Seal went on to have brief spells with Yate Town and Bitton, where he served under Black’s stewardship once more, before joining Melksham Town where he reunited with Thorne.

“We’d played at Mangotsfield together and later we partnered each other in central defence at Melksham where he was player-manager,” the 45-year-old Aussie explained.

 “We became the best of mates and it was nice that when he applied and was accepted as Mangotsfield’s manager just recently, he told them he wanted to bring me in to help.

“I had stepped away from football for a bit to concentrate on family matters after a long playing career. I’d signed on as a pro in Australia when I was 16 and finished my playing days in my late 30s.

“Now we’re looking to bring that old spirit back to Mangotsfield from ten to 15 years ago and try to push them towards the higher end of the table again.”

Seal added: “I had my first training session back with them last week and the excitement was there for me; I felt that the bug was back for it.

“While I’d love to still be playing, coaching and management is the next best thing and we’re looking at getting six or seven new players in over the next couple of weeks.

“Wayne is a very honest man, straight and fair with players and he’s driven as a proper football person, someone who gets players really playing for him.

“We’ll be looking to try and get Mangotsfield into play-off territory as quickly as possible, if not this year as we find ourselves rebuilding the team then certainly the next one.”

His one-time Mangos mentor Grimshaw, who recently stepped down after a short stint in a co-manager capacity with Toolstation Western Leaguers Longwell Green Sports, said: “It’s really good to see Dave back in football.

“He’s not just a great player but he’s a top fellow and we had great times together at Mangotsfield, not least in winning the league.”

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25/09/2017

Red-hot Radford the difference as Gurney’s Roman Glass leave it late in GFA Trophy

MANAGER Andy Gurney may not have been overly enamoured with his team’s performance but Roman Glass St George squeezed through to the second round of the GFA Challenge Trophy after being pushed to the limit by Thornbury Town, writes Simon Parkinson.

New signing Ryan Radford proved the key to progression for out-of-sorts St George as his hat-trick, to go with Lewis Wentland’s goal, saw the Toolstation first division team to a next-hurdle away date with more Gloucestershire County League opposition in Hardwicke on Saturday, October 14 (2pm) after eventually overcoming Thornbury 4-3 at Oaklands Park.

Former Bristol Rovers and Swindon star Gurney confessed: “We were poor; our attitude was not what I’ve come to expect of the lads because they’ve turned in some good performances this season and not always had what they’ve deserved.

“On Wednesday night we let ourselves down a bit, even though I’d say we just about deserved to scrape through.”

Leading 2-1 at half-time, Saints turned their early second-half dominance into a 3-1 advantage, one which appeared sufficient to see them through until Craig Lancastle and Brandon Benjamin struck twice – Marcus Wormwell had earlier notched Thorns’ first-half equaliser - to tie up the contest at 3-3, only for Roman Glass to snatch victory in the dying embers.

Town boss Andy Davies mused: “It looked like it was heading for penalties when their keeper (Josh Dempsey) hoofed the ball down the pitch and as our goalie came out to partially clear the ball, it fell to their lad (Radford) to lift it over everyone and in, although our Nathan Sage did his best to clear it off the line.

“It was frustrating because even their manager Andy Gurney would admit that we were as good as them, if not better at times, although they did have a spell at the start of the second half when they really came at us and we struggled to handle them.

“But we then grew back into it and that’s when we got our two goals. I was well pleased because you want your team to test themselves against higher opposition, to establish how well you compare as it’s no secret we want to progress to their league as quickly as we possibly can.”

Elsewhere in the Trophy Ruardean Hill Rangers, who have enjoyed a splendid start to their new life in the County League, overcame Broadwell Amateurs 3-1 on the road through a Luke Johnson double and Mitch Griffin strike to book another away date with more league rivals in Little Stoke on Saturday, October 14 (2pm).

Jordan Whittaker’s 25-yard strike on the half-hour and Mark Johnson’s skilful 68th-minute chip over the keeper from ten yards out saw Shirehampton past visiting Kingswood (North) with a 2-0 win to earn a challenging second round away tie against Hellenic Premier outfit Longlevens on Wednesday, October 18 (7.45pm).

Frampton United made no mistake either as they powered into round two courtesy of a 5-1 home defeat of Southmead CS Athletic in another all-County League affair.

Steve Jackson’s team now travel to face Northern Senior League side Newent Town, also on October 14, for the same 2pm start.

The player-boss was himself on target in the Southmead success, as were Ryan Vincent (2), Ashley Kirby and Zak Tyers.

Jackson noted: “It was a professional effort from the boys rather than anything particularly spectacular. We’re still undergoing a rebuilding period here and while it wasn’t our best performance so far this season, it was by no means our worst either and we’re just happy to have got through.”

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25/09/2017

Cirencester’s second-half sizzlers see off Shortwood to set up Wick GFA Trophy date

CIRENCESTER Town Development booked a berth in the second round of the GFA Challenge Trophy competition in some style, writes Simon Parkinson.

The Hellenic Division One West side, who have shown promising signs at the start of their season, overcame league rivals Shortwood United Reserves 5-2 at Meadowbank Stadium to set up an intriguing step into the unknown at the next stage of the county association’s popular annual knock-out tournament.

Goals by Danny Gudger, Archie Day, Daniel Roberts, Shannon Pocock and Josh Ukoha proved more than ample to send the Centurions hopefuls, who had entered the interval locked at 2-2 following a tight first half, through for an away encounter on Saturday, October 14 (2pm) with Bristol battlers Wick, who are enjoying their first taste of Marcliff Gloucestershire County League activity on the back of their promotion from the Bristol Premier Combination as runners-up.

Disappointed Shortwood secretary Mark Webb, whose team were kept in the contest initially by first-half James Singh and Tom Blackah replies to twice falling behind before their opponents took control after the break, conceded: “We were always behind and Cirencester were the better side and scored some good goals to be fair to them.

“It was a good game although we left feeling that some key decisions went against us.”

Stonehouse Town made it into the second round too although they were made to fight all the way for their safe passage by County League rivals and hosts Gala Wilton at Tewkesbury Road.

The visitors had been leading 3-1 with ten minutes remaining thanks to two own goals and a Tim Williams strike, only for gallant Gala to roar back to equalise and take the tie into a penalty shoot-out.

It was there their luck dried up as successful spot kicks by Brad Moore, Adam Harley, Joe Woodley and Elliot King saw Stonehouse to a 4-2 win, aided by a fine save low to his right by their keeper Adam Clark.

Town now face a trip to take on Hellenic One West strugglers Tytherington Rocks on Wednesday, October 18 (7.45pm) while their encouraged young boss Alex Lumsden said of the first-round affair: “It was a good game and very competitive, although I was a bit disappointed that we threw it away over the last ten minutes of normal time having been 3-1 up.

“Credit to Gala, they kept going and brought on a tricky winger who caused us quite a few problems in the latter stages.

“Still, that’s three penalty shoot-out wins for us in our last three cup games and you have to hand it to the lads who stick their hands up to take the pens when it would be easy to pass up the responsibility.”

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22/09/2017

Gloucestershire Women chomping at bit to chase another double, insists Henson-Green

ELATED local football volunteer Sue Henson-Green is backing jubilant Gloucestershire FA Women to go on and secure more double-winning successes in years to come.

The chair of the county association’s county match committee is optimistic that this year’s South & West Counties Championship title-winning feat, which came hard on the heels of an Inter-County Tournament triumph at their Oaklands Park base in Almondsbury against league rivals Dorset, Somerset, Wiltshire and Devon, can be repeated in 2018.

“Beating Devon as we did (11-0) on the final day of our league season was a very emotional end to a fantastic campaign,” Sue enthused.

“It was hard finishing up as runners-up by only two points to them last season and I well recall our captain Ashleigh Parsons turning to me and saying, ‘We’re going to be going for the double next year.

“It was a view echoed by the other players too and as we’ve just seen, they’ve gone on and achieved it this time and the managers, Steve Lilley and Calum Wands, and all the players have been brilliant.”

Sue said of the back-up the team had been given: “It’s not just about on the pitch but off it too and it’s a credit to everyone behind the scenes that our players have come so far.

“We also won the Inter-County Tournament at the Gloucestershire FA in June, which is a one-day competition involving our South West league compatriots organised and instigated initially a few years ago by Alexis Lunn-Gadd, who is women’s football development officer at the GFA.

“Again we went through the day unbeaten but it’s great to see how much the other counties who come down to Oaklands Park to take part love the tournament and the facilities at the GFA.

“I’m sure they’re all looking forward to next season every bit as much as we are as we look to try and keep our title and go for another double.”

Trophy and medals will be handed to Gloucestershire Women by league chairman David Grainge at a presentation evening at Chipping Sodbury Town FC on Thursday, September 28 at 7.30pm.

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22/09/17

Stars of the world stage: Gloucestershire greats Blackwell and Rutter hit CP heights

TWO true stars of Gloucestershire football have been celebrating an “amazing experience” in Argentina, even if their hopes of ultimate success were denied them, reports Simon Parkinson.

James Blackwell, a full-back with County League team Kingswood, and Jack Rutter, a one-time Birmingham City prodigy who performs as an attacking midfielder with Hellenic League Lydney Town, have been featuring for England Cerebral Palsy (CP) team in the seven-a-side CP World Championships.

The duo were part of a national side taking the group stages by storm with thumping 11-0, 9-0 and 5-0 victories over Japan, Venezuela and Holland respectively, before bouncing back from a goal down to overcome USA 2-1 in the last eight and set up a dream semi-final appearance against a strong Iran outfit.

Rutter’s surging run and unerring right-foot finish into the bottom corner from the edge of the box in that quarters showdown with the States was enough to see them to that last-four tie in the picturesque town of San Luis in central Argentina, an “unforgettable experience” according to Blackwell, despite the disappointment of a 3-1 defeat.

The 31-year-old enthused: “It’s the first time we as a country have ever reached the semis at these championships and it’s been an amazing experience.

“The setting in San Luis is stunning and playing in traditional South American stadiums against the world’s best has been wonderful and memorable.

“We even visited a local school which was a very humbling experience as it seemed to mean so much for the kids there to meet us.

“As a nation we’ve shown how far we’ve come to be challenging for a top-four finish to such a prestigious tournament against professional, full-time athletes.”

Blackwell was born with a condition which 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 that their son might never walk.

In more recent times he suffered what was deemed by specialists as “life-threatening injuries” in a County League Cup tie against Patchway Town when a heavy fall left him with a broken neck and spinal cord damage.

Blackwell and his county compatriot Rutter have both battled through physical and mental traumas to find themselves on the cusp of bronze medal joy, as a third-place play-off tussle with Russia was due to be confronted on Saturday, September 23.

 “I’ve played in every game in the tournament so far, mainly from the bench which is partly down to tactics,” Blackwell explained. “I’m looked at to come on and help see games out or to try and add more goals as it’s very demanding compared with 11-a-side.

“But I’ve scored a goal at the tournament and set a few up so I’m satisfied enough!”

As for Rutter, he continues to perform at a high level of standard semi-pro football with Lydney in the Hellenic Premier, despite having suffered brain damage and permanent loss of hearing in his right ear after being set upon in an unprovoked attack in Gloucester one night as an 18-year-old with the world at his feet.

The player has skippered England CP for the past four years and he glowed: “It’s been a brilliant tournament in a great location and the hotel we are in is unbelievable. And stadiums are of an okay standard too.

“We got off to a flyer in the group stages and we showed great character to come back from 1-0 down against the US, who are a well drilled, strong, quick and fit side, and win through.

“Iran took their chances in the semi-final and we didn’t, simple as. But the progression is there for all to see,” insisted the UEFA B licensed coach, who is a mentor for the Dame Kelly Holmes Trust and head of disability football for McDonald’s’ Play Better programme, not to mention a coach at University of Gloucestershire.

More about Jack Rutter can be found at: jackrutterskillsschool.co.uk

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21/09/17

Lilley so proud as Gloucestershire FA Women bounce back to claim prized double

STEVE Lilley reflected on a superb season for Gloucestershire FA Women on the inter-county representative stage and glowed: “Our players should be immensely proud of what they’ve achieved”.

An 11-0 victory over Devon at Oaklands Park assured the gallant Glos girls the 2017 South & West Counties Championship crown at the expense of opponents who, had they instead prevailed on the evening, might yet have snatched the title from under the noses of their hosts with a game in hand at Somerset next month to fuel their chances.

The outcome was all the more remarkable as only 12 short months ago Gloucestershire had been held to a 2-2 draw by Devon in Newton Abbot as they went on to pip our hopefuls by only two points in the 2016 chase for championship honours.

Lilley, county coach developer for Gloucestershire, recalled: “It was a closely contested game but the result, and the circumstances surrounding their equalising goal, naturally left us with a feeling of deflation and disappointment.

“We had lost out on the league title despite having not been defeated throughout the season but equally by not turning draws into victories, just as we had failed to win the Inter County Tournament weeks earlier in a similar vein.

“It was on the journey back to Bristol that I, along with assistant manager Calum Wands, put a plan in place with the aim of winning the league and cup double this year.

“The plan included areas such as recruitment, additional training sessions and, most importantly, a blueprint for success; in other words a clear understanding of who we are, how we coach, how we support and how we play.

“It was then a case of bringing the plan to life and to do this meant that all players and staff had to buy into the project.

“The only pitch slot we could get at the GFA was on a Friday evening between 8pm and 9pm so we got together on a twice-monthly basis from the New Year and also arranged tough friendly fixtures against Hartpury College, Cheltenham Town Ladies and Frampton Ladies, who have an impressive local set-up, to ensure that we were fully prepared for the annual Inter County Tournament in June.”

The blueprint paid rich dividends as Lilley explained: “Under the guidance of young Calum that day the girls won three matches and drew one before winning the final against Somerset FA to lift the cup.

“Despite our triumph we recognised the need to continue working to improve and our mantra soon became ‘Better Never Stops’, which we will continue to adopt going into next season and beyond.

“Our league fixtures weren’t as straightforward as some of the results suggest. We opened our account with a 7-2 away victory against Dorset but for long periods they were very much in the game.

“Against Somerset at home we were narrowly leading 1-0 at the break and the visitors had had as many chances as us in the first half. However our football in the opening 15 minutes of the second half was scintillating and we went on to win 5-0.

“I wasn’t present for our away fixture against Wiltshire FA but by all accounts it was a topsy-turvy match and our passion, belief and togetherness towards the end of the game saw us emerge 4-3 winners.

“Finally the title decider came against our rivals Devon FA and it was another strange affair because for the opening 20 minutes it was extremely even in terms of possession and goalscoring chances.

“However games are won and lost in both penalty areas and our opponents were stunned by our stubbornness when out of possession, and our pace and quality when attacking.

“We went on to win 11-0 and claim the league title with maximum points and a plus goal difference of 22 to add to our tournament success.”

Lilley observed: “Over the four league matches we encountered some excellent individual opponents, most notably Dorset’s captain, Wiltshire’s front three, Somerset’s young centre-forward and Devon’s central midfielder.

“Although we have our own outstanding individuals it has been the collective that has seen us to victory this season.

“Every single member of the squad has contributed to the cause and they should be immensely proud of what they have achieved, as should Sue Henson-Green (chair of the county match committee) and her backroom team who can take a big pat on the back themselves for all they’ve done off the pitch.”

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20/09/17

Teen ace Oakley leads charge as Gloucestershire Women secure SW Counties success

GLOUCESTERSHIRE FA Women are basking in the afterglow of a remarkable triumph in the South & West Counties Championship.

They overcame fierce rivals Devon FA 11-0 on the Oaklands Park 3G to conclude a magnificent campaign as title victors with a 100 per cent success rate and 27 goals from their four games.

Gloucestershire, knowing victory would kill off any hopes their opponents had of prising the crown away from them, took an early lead in unusual circumstances via impressive midfielder Beth Clatworthy’s direct corner kick.

The goal came as something of a surprise as despite the eventual asymmetrical outcome of the contest, the first half-hour of action had been closely contested and even possession-wise, with both teams having chances to score.

However three more Gloucestershire goals in the final ten minutes of the first period from Maddy Brown, Abi Todd and Abby Rose, who showed excellent footwork throughout, handed the hosts a convincing 4-0 half-time lead.

Devon always knew it would take an enormous effort to find a way back and so it proved as 16-year-old Rhianne Oakley sprung off the bench to enter the fray and soon celebrated Gloucestershire’s fifth goal.

Fellow substitute Elsa Carrera added a sixth and then Brown completed her brace for the freescoring home side’s seventh.

Led by their inspiring captain spirited Devon continued to strive for a breakthrough but couldn’t prevent Carrera notching her second goal to make it 8-0, shortly followed by Jamie-Leigh Worlock netting the ninth before a jubilant Oakley registered twice late on to complete her hat-trick.

Delighted Gloucestershire boss Lilley said: “Praise must be given to Devon for the way in which they battled and kept their discipline throughout.

“But they were beaten by the better side on the night and Gloucestershire proved themselves to be worthy champions.”

County cups committee member and GFA director Derek Cumner added: “I had a friend from Birmingham with me who had never seen a women’s game before, and he was as amazed as me at the skill levels and the joy and pleasure the girls had in playing for Gloucestershire.”

* Watch this space for more reaction to Gloucestershire Women’s storming success.

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19/09/17

A CHARITY match in aid of terminally ill teenage football starlet Kieron Hackers is to be held at Chipping Sodbury Town FC next Saturday (Sept 23, 6.30pm).

The talented midfielder from Yate and his family received the dreadful news on Thursday that the 17-year-old may only have a few months to live after contracting sarcoma cancer, which arises from malignant tumours of connective tissues in the body leading to an attack on vital organs.

The match, which Kieron and his older brother Callum are expected to play in, takes place at Sodbury’s  Ridings HQ on the Wickwar Road between his Chipping Town Under-18s comrades and a team comprising a collection of Yate United and Sodbury managers.

Entry is free and the game kicks off at 6.30pm ahead of an evening of entertainment, auction and prize raffle draw in the clubhouse.

Kieron, a former pupil at Yate’s Brimsham Green School, played for Yate United for much of his childhood having had a spell at near-neighbours St Nicholas and, last season, with Iron Acton, where he performed with distinction for their senior men’s first team.

Sandra King, a committee member at Chipping Sodbury Town and Kieron’s under-18 manager last season, explained: “Kieron was taken ill in July when tests revealed he’d contracted a rare disease called sarcoma cancer.

“Of course this was a terrible shock for everybody, not least of course to his very supportive family who regularly watch his games.

“He has only just found out that he may only have four to six months left to live and we’re very keen to raise as much money as possible to enable him to fulfil a few wishes on his bucket list. He’s a big Manchester United fan and I know he’d love to have the chance to go and watch them play.

“But they also want to make a donation to MacMillan nurses who have been, and will be, a big part of his life at this time.

“Kieron has been doing an engineering course and he’s a very skilful footballer, which is why there’s been talk about him getting involved more with our men’s team at Chipping Sodbury.”

Sandra added: “There will be no charge for the game but there will be collection buckets going around.

“Diane Walters, who has been co-ordinating it all, is among many local people who have worked so hard to get this game and event on, and I include the local community and businesses who have given so much time and made such generous donations.”

Brave Kieron himself promised: “I’m still fighting it! I’d like to thank everyone for their support; it means a lot to me and my family.

“My cancer trust has adopted my wish to meet the Manchester United players and train with them which I’m really excited about.”

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15/09/17

Leading lights again? AEK Boco target a return to former heights in quest for success

AMBITIOUS AEK Boco are back in business and out to ruffle a few feathers once more in this season’s Marcliff Gloucestershire County League competition.

The 2015-16 champions and runners-up 12 months prior experienced a downturn in fortunes last term before rallying well to not only climb into a commendable seventh spot in the circumstances, but go on to handsomely overcome Broadwell Amateurs 3-0 in the Les James League Cup final showpiece at Stonehouse.

Boco had enjoyed an unbeaten start to this season ahead of their Saturday, September 9 home fixture with Henbury, although by their manager Gary Lancaster’s admission, the 5-2 first round defeat by Frampton United and their hat-trick hero Sean Lawson last week came as “a disappointment”, as the trophy holders relinquished their crown all too quickly.

Nevertheless, with a few new faces apparent on and off the field, Lancaster is confident progress can be maintained and is not ruling out making another bid to put them in contention for Toolstation Western League contention while discussions with the local council surrounding the installation of requisite floodlights for the higher level continue in earnest.

He confirmed: “That is our aim, to apply to go up around this December time. Negotiations are continuing with the council to try and get the green light to install floodlights which we’ll need to progress.

“We’ve not set the players any specific targets as we don’t want them feeling any undue pressure but they all know what our aims are. And of course they want it for themselves.

“We know it won’t be easy because there are others like us – Stonehouse, Thornbury, Lebeq – all ambitious, all wanting to progress.

“Last season we started poorly and paid the price for it so it’s important we get as many early points on the board as we can.”

Lancaster has been busy tying up loose ends over the summer break, replacing previous assistant manager Mark Thomas, who stepped down midway through last season citing “other commitments”, with Clayton Woodman.

“Clayton seemed the ideal choice because he’s managed the thirds and reserves at Boco for the past three seasons and his pedigree is such that he played at Norwich City as a youngster, as well as for many local clubs, Bath City and Oldland Abbotonians among them,” Lancaster explained.

“I was grateful to our new chairman John Winter after Mark had left as he assisted a bit on matchdays and he’s a really hands-on guy who’s managed our reserves and under-18s as well as being groundsman.”

Of the player scenario, Lancaster explained: “We’ve had our difficulties early on as Callum Ball, our players’ player of last year, got sent off in our League Cup final so has missed the first three games through suspension.

Darren Werrett and Liam Jenkins, both wingers, have been unavailable and injured respectively and Brad Wheadon (central midfield), another regular last season, has, like Liam, been out with a knee injury.

“But we’ve brought in (striker) Harrison Kyte and (left-sided) Frank Taylor-Fox from our under-18s and we’re fortunate that Clayton’s cousin Gary Woodman, who was running Oldland Under-18s last season, has come across to run our District League One third team and brought some of their talented young players with him.

“I’ve just been trying to add more goals to the team and while the player merry-go-round continues I’m still talking to people with a view to addressing that.”

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15/09/17

Pucklechurch Sports’ devoted secretary Savage eyeing upward momentum once more

PUCKLECHURCH Sports’ loyal secretary Richard Savage is hoping the only way is up again – for BOTH the club’s senior teams.

Adam Hathway’s first XI experienced a challenging last season in the Bristol and District League Senior Division as hopes of using a succession of top-six finishes as a springboard to greater heights evaporated with a more modest eighth-place conclusion to their 2016-17 programme.

Meanwhile ’Church’s second string ended a season of struggle by finding themselves relegated to Division Four of the same District League after winning only seven of their 26 fixtures and finishing one off a bottom rung occupied by Fry Club B.

For Savage the campaign represented something of a setback to a man who has lived and breathed the South Gloucestershire club’s rollercoaster experiences for more than five decades, which includes their proud unbroken 20-year stretch as a Gloucestershire County League force between 1988 and 2008 when several years of turmoil and basement finishes finally took its toll.

The rot had well and truly sunk in by the time Pucklechurch announced six years ago they would be withdrawing their side from the Bristol Premier Combination due to team-raising issues.

Since then a slow but sure recovery mission has been in motion as ’Church have established themselves as a competitive District League top-tier operation, a fact they aim to maintain as they set out on another long campaign in the hope of making themselves heard in and around the promotion positions once more.

An ever-optimistic Savage said: “We’re looking for both our teams to push to go up and the encouraging thing is squad numbers have improved throughout.

“A Downend club from the Suburban League sadly disbanded last season and some of their lads have come to us and shown themselves to be very good players, while five or six under-18s from the village are looking promising.

“It’s always the aim to get our firsts back into the Bristol Premier Combination as quickly as possible. We certainly want to be up there competing hard as we have done for much of the past few years.

“We finished eighth last season after starting it well and then fading as we struggled to get a side out.

“We’d lost around five regular first-team players through work reasons and other commitments and it meant we had to take some players out of our reserves to prop up the firsts, which of course impacted heavily on the reserves who paid the price with relegation.”

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14/09/17

Yate boss Britton so determined to deliver Southern League success to Lodge Road

YATE Town manager Paul Britton has spoken of his determination to turn his team’s fortunes on its head as he digs deep for an antidote to their early-season struggles, writes Simon Parkinson.

The Bluebells were due to head to Hampshire for a meeting with AFC Totton on Saturday, September 9 seeking to pin a maiden win of their Southern League West programme to the board.

Their bullish boss can nevertheless point to 1-1 and 2-2 draws with Mangotsfield United and Kidlington respectively as reasons for optimism and in an interview with GFA Local Football News, Britton, who has also managed a string of local sides such as Bitton, Oldland Abbotonians and Longwell Green Sports, expressed an insatiable appetite to get his young side back on track.

“If nothing else I’m a trier,” he insisted. “I don’t give in easily and I’m here to try and make Yate Town a successful club. I’ve loved every minute of being here.

“Yes, it’s been topsy-turvy but we always knew it would be. The frustration is we just felt we’d have had more points to our name than we do.

“We feel that many of our performances deserved better although we were, in all honesty, terrible in our (1-0) FA Cup defeat by Cadbury Heath. It was a shock to the system because none of us saw that coming after we’d done okay in the Kidlington and Bideford games leading up to it.

“Still, we’re not here to be cannon fodder; we want to win games and for the most part of the season so far we’ve been fully involved in them and even against Wimborne recently when we lost 4-2, and I wasn’t particularly happy with our performance, we had two good chances before they scored so there are fine lines.

“However it’s something we’re looking to address and I’m sure we will.”

Things are looking up on the Lodge Road squad front as right-back Mayson Evans and striker Luke Bryan are back in training after injury while the Bluebells boss is delighted by the promise displayed by central midfielder Theo Llewellyn and winger Matty Tanner.

“Theo was a mainstay for us towards the end of last season and he started our first two games this season before becoming unavailable until now,” Britton explained.

“He was with Bristol City as a youngster and at 17 he is a really good prospect; very competitive, an old head on young shoulders, and he has good knowledge of the game.

“The same applies to Matty Tanner, a very exciting wide-left player who emerged through Dave Hockaday’s SGS College team and did himself a lot of favours when he came off the bench for us against Mangotsfield recently.

“So lads like these, and the re-availability of a few players, are giving me some difficult decisions to make.”

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13/09/17

Shortwood United eager to make a GFA Senior Cup splash as gallant Swans are ousted

SHORTWOOD United stalwart Mark Webb is hopeful his team’s stirring victory over Slimbridge in the first round of this season’s GFA Senior Challenge Cup competition is a sign of good things to come, writes Simon Parkinson.

The Nailsworth outfit were felled 2-0 by Cirencester Town in a 2015 final appearance at Oaklands Park and Wood, now under the stewardship of new boss Paul Meredith and his No.2 Chris Burns, are clearly out to make their mark at Meadowbank Ground, in Southern League West activity and in cup competition too.

Wood set their county cup campaign off to a promising start as goals by Sam Ockwell and Adam Price both sides of the break proved enough to see them past spirited visitors Slimbridge 2-1, just as they had beaten the Swans 3-1 on Bank Holiday Monday in the league on their travels thanks to clinical Levi Cox’s second-half treble.

Slimbridge had levelled up on the brink of the break in the latest joust through a breathtaking Henry Birkett shot from fully 35 yards out, before Price wrapped up another Shortwood success six minutes into the second period as Cox teed him up to skilfully score with a curling 19-yard strike into the top corner and send them through for a second round tie against either Gloucester City of Cheltenham Town Reserves (dates TBC).

Webb, secretary at Shortwood since 1990, enthused: “It was a good cup tie, a really full-on affair with some excellent goals.

“The best of them came from the Slimbridge lad Birkett to be fair; a hell of a shot past our loan keeper (from Forest Green Rovers) Harry Pickering which gave him no chance.

“The first half was fairly even with both sides having chances and I’m not sure how our Marley Thomas didn’t score when he rounded their keeper.

“Levi also hit one against the post which rolled along the line before we scored our first goal (on five minutes).”

Webb added: “We played well in the second half and missed more chances to put the game to bed. Still, we’re underway and it would be nice to reach another final and maybe go one better than 2015.

“These county competitions certainly give the players something to aim for.”

The Shortwood administrator makes no secret of his chief goal when it comes to Shortwood’s 2017-18 league focus.

“We need to stay in this division first and foremost,” he stressed. “Paul Meredith is a successful former reserve team manager of ours and was a good sweeper and central midfielder in his playing days.

“He had just been watching his sons Liam and Ryan playing for Shortwood before rejoining the club as replacement manager for Alex Sykes (in May).

“Chris Burns was Cinderford manager last year and he’s also managed Gloucester City and played for Forest Green and Portsmouth where he made an FA Cup semi-final appearance (at Villa Park) against Liverpool in 1992. Chris also played for Brockworth in recent years.

“So they have bags of knowledge between them but they’ve had to build almost an entirely new team because we lost a lot of players.

“There are encouraging signs that they’re getting things together and getting the team playing good football on the deck.”

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12/09/17

Great Scott! New gaffer Armstrong sets out to restore Oldland to former powers

OLDLAND Abbotonians’ new manager Scott Armstrong is optimistic things are on the up at Castle Road – but is cautious about making any bold promotion predictions just yet, writes Simon Parkinson.

After an intriguing summer scenario which involved then-Bishop Sutton boss Armstrong ,and his opposite number at Abbotonians David Stone, effectively swapping places to take up new positions at the two clubs, Oldland appear to be well on the way to proving themselves a Toolstation first division force again, just as they were in 2015-16 when they finished fourth.

The club have made no secret of their desire to compete at an even higher level than they currently are and while one-time Southampton Youth goalkeeper Armstrong, a young ex-professional with Bristol City and Bristol Rovers, is happy to agree he shares that ambition, he is wary about promising instant success under his stewardship at Aitchison Field.

The 29-year-old admitted of a largely-troubled 2016-17 campaign for Oldland, which at least ended in the comfort of 17th position thanks to Stone’s sterling efforts: “Last season was massively disappointing for the club but a lot of hard work and expenditure has been put in by the committee on the ground and its facilities, to try and make sure everything is good to go for the next step up.

“That is the aim, to reach the Premier Division and as quickly as possible, but there’s no pressure to do it this time around, just to be competitive and try and stay in the frame.”

Armstrong’s switch to Oldland as manager was not the only concern for Bishop Sutton’s new supremo Stone, who could only watch on as no fewer than TEN of the Lakeview club’s players joined him there!

Chris Manns, Jack Metcalf, Josh Southway, Luke Lecrass, Courtney Charles, Scott Gregory, Reece John, Joe Walters, Mason Poole and Shomari Sengor all upped sticks at Sutton to start a new life with Armstrong at Oldland, while attacking midfielder Josh Williams, from Brislington, and Portishead Town hot-shot Ollie Trevarthen, also signed on.

Armstrong confirmed: “The Oldland team now is made up of a nucleus of the squad I had with me at Bishop Sutton last year, which I put together from scratch.

“So it was very much my side and they all wanted to come with me to Oldland. It’s great because they’re tried and tested players at this level, many of whom were part of Gary Powell’s successful Tytherington Rocks team in the Hellenic League.

“In fact only Lewis Parker, Ash Bernard and Jordan Greenwood, who is thankfully back from a cruciate knee ligament injury, remain from last season’s squad.”

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11/09/17

Western League set for bumper 125-year anniversary dinner and match celebrations

PREPARATIONS for the Western League’s 125th anniversary celebrations are in full swing – and secretary Andy Radford says he and his fellow organisers can’t wait for the bumper double-header bash to begin, writes Simon Parkinson.

A special dinner to mark the league’s milestone moment is to take place on Saturday, October 14 at the Bristol Marriott (City Centre) Hotel from 7.15pm, while three nights beforehand, on Wednesday 11, an exciting encounter between a Toolstation Western League representative XI and an England C side, managed by former Stevenage Borough and Barnet boss Paul Fairclough, will be fought out at Melksham Town’s new stadium on Eastern Way at 7.45pm.

Hundreds of people are expected to attend both events and Radford smiled: “The numbers are likely to be high for the dinner because we’ve invited all clubs who have been part of the Western League over the past 25 years or so. In the end we drew the line at issuing invites to clubs going as far back as the league’s 1892 formation!

“We’ve also invited people from the FA and county FAs and Geoff Twentyman is to be our guest speaker.”

Radford pondered: “It’s a humbling situation because it’s quite an achievement for any league to have lasted this long and we’re up there as one of the oldest in the country behind the national English Football League and Northern League.

“I’ve been involved with the Western League for ten years and it’s a very small chunk of time when you think the whole thing goes back to First World War times and the Boer War even further back.

“Us ‘oldies’ keep forgetting that we’re now in the 21st century, having been born in the 20th century, yet the league dates back to the 19th century and it really is a remarkable achievement.

“And it’s great that so many people still want to play football at this level. We have two full divisions and there are clubs always looking to join us.

“You see things in the world come and go but football just stays the same.”

Melksham Town’s chairman and former manager Darren Perrin is taking charge of the Toolstation representative team for the encounter with an England C outfit comprising largely National League (formerly Conference) performers. Perrin’s line-up is likely to comprise several players from our own county.

Radford explained: “Darren will be selecting players from right across our league and to his immense credit he is taking it super seriously.

“He’s been talking to a lot of managers and watching a lot of games and we’re expecting a very big crowd, possibly as high as 1,000 for it.”

Entry for the match at the gate are priced at just £3 and £1 (concessions), while children can enter free of charge.

Anyone wishing to buy the £45 tickets for the anniversary dinner can email Andy Radford at andy.radford@toolstationleague.com

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08/09/17

Swans’ new No.2 Lee backing Jackson to keep momentum going at Frampton United

LEE Driver-Dickerson is backing Frampton United’s new manager Steve Jackson to keep the flag flying high at Bell Field now he is no longer there, writes Simon Parkinson.

The 38-year-old ended a progressive ten-year stint at the Frampton helm last season by guiding them to a new high of a runner-up finish behind only promoted Bristol Telephones.

While Frampton kick-off their GFA Challenge Trophy mission at home against County League rivals Southmead CS Athletic on Saturday, September 9 (2pm), Driver-Dickerson will have bigger fish to fry as his new Slimbridge team travel to take on Larkhall Athletic for an Evo-Stik Southern League West joust on the same afternoon.

The successful former Frampton supremo and player announced around Christmas time he’d be stepping down from the Bell Field helm at the end of the 2016-17 campaign, to enable both parties to experience “fresh starts”.

While United were quick to appoint experienced central midfielder Jackson as their new boss, Driver-Dickerson eventually accepted a call to assist new Slimbridge supremo Freddy Ward as part of a revamped Swans management set-up.

Driver-Dickerson, however, who took Frampton wingers Max Harper-Emerson and Joe Wilton with him to Wisloe Road, is adamant he’ll be keeping a close eye on developments at United and is backing Jackson to build on their accomplishments together.

“Frampton are in very capable hands when it comes to Steve, who played for me as a central midfielder but could play anywhere through the middle,” he said.

“His knowledge of football is very good and he appears to be still playing alongside managing them at this time.

“I’m sure they’ll continue to enjoy some good times under his leadership and I’ll still be watching them as often as I can.”

Of that bombshell announcement to bid farewell to Frampton, former Tuffley and Shortwood midfielder Driver-Dickerson explained: “I had been looking to take a break and I just felt it was the right time to have a change, from my own and also the club’s perspective.

“Around April time Freddy asked me to join him at Slimbridge but I needed to think about it, given it was such a big step up and such a different environment.

“I just wanted to get through the season with Frampton and get the end-of-season presentations out of the way, which was quite a big deal to me having been there for ten enjoyable years.

“I eventually gave Freddy my answer in mid-June and I’ve been buzzing ever since and excited for the season as we have a young and talented Slimbridge side who have started

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07/09/17

Take Thornbury lightly and we’ll get turned over, Roman Glass No.2 Liam warns

ROMAN Glass St George insist they must take nothing for granted when they open their GFA Challenge Trophy account for 2017-18, writes Simon Parkinson.

The Toolstation first division outfit have been drawn against ambitious Marcliff Gloucestershire County Leaguers Thornbury Town for an intriguing first round encounter on the Oaklands Park 3G on Wednesday, September 13 (7.30pm).

Saints’ wary assistant boss Liam Greening is warning of potential pitfalls on the night if they treat their lower-ranked opponents with anything less than “due respect”.

“Thornbury are a good side who have been up and around the top of the County League consistently and we know they’re looking to join us in our league as quickly as possible,” the Saints No.2 emphasised.

“Like Bristol Telephones who have just come up from the County League, Thornbury have dangermen like (forward) Craig Lancastle and are certainly capable of holding their own at our level, so they’ll come to us looking to prove a point under lights.

“We’re there for the taking because we’re expected to win and if we’re not up for it, they’ll likely turn us over.

“It was frustrating to lose to Almondsbury (on penalties) in our first match in this competition last season so we’ll go into it treating Thornbury with the respect they deserve.”

Thornbury have possessed in their ranks of late former Roman Glass striker Josh Morris, although whether he features against his former comrades remains to be seen.

Greening, meanwhile, is adamant an inundation of new arrivals to his team can turn them into a top-six force this term.

Goalkeeper Josh Dempsey and full-back Ryan Dunn have joined from Oldland Abbotonians along with Joe Swift (from Yate), Rhys Hodgson (from Cribbs), former Sherborne and Gillingham full-back Steve McDaid and young Avonmouth defender Ben Harvey.

Central midfielder Jack Kewley, a former Bristol Rovers Youth prodigy who has been undertaking a football scholarship in New Zealand, is also aboard, while centre-half Chris Quinton has been plucked from local football on dual-registration terms.

Greening revealed Saints are also set to swoop for a so-far unnamed “prolific striker”, fuelling still more an appetite to make the new season, their 11th in Toolstation Division One since winning the County League in 2007, the most memorable yet.

“If we finish outside the top six given the players we’ve brought in it will be a massive disappointment,” Greening stressed.

“It’s previously been hard attracting players to our club because we have become a little stagnant and we’ve had a reputation for not building on that County League success.

“It’s an image we’re trying hard to change and we’ve done a lot of work at the GFA headquarters over the summer to try and push things on.”

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06/09/17

Forest Green-mad media man Joyce happy to now be serving Brimscombe and Thrupp

BRIMSCOMBE and Thrupp’s enthusiastic new arrival Richard Joyce admits his head is still in a spin following a whirlwind few weeks, writes Simon Parkinson.

The 24-year-old University of Gloucestershire journalism graduate’s days working behind the scenes at his beloved Forest Green Rovers came to an abrupt end recently when he was informed the media position he cherished at the Lawn was to be made redundant on the back of the club’s promotion to the Football League.

Disappointed but far from floored, Gloucester-born Richard, who grew up in Stonehouse and now lives in Slimbridge, quickly picked up the pieces to accept not only a similar and voluntary role with Sam Prior’s Hellenic League top-flight team Brimscombe and Thrupp, but the chance to join the Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust as their new full-time communications officer.

As far as the football side of his life goes, Richard is clearly relishing an unforeseen change of direction, one tinged with a little sadness at the parting of the ways from the club he supported “from the age of five”.

“Forest Green have always been my team – as a kid I went to Wembley in 1999 for their FA Trophy final with Kingstonian - and it was fantastic to have had the chance when I was 17 to do some radio stuff and then three years of matchday media work, travelling up and down the country with Rovers and my family, unpaid, just for the love of it.

“I presented an hour-long radio show on Thursdays for Stroud FM, interviewing local managers and chairmen, and I did co-commentaries alongside Bob Hunt for several years with BBC Radio Gloucestershire.

“As media officer I was fortunate to be part of their two recent Wembley play-off finals and this year things had been a bit different as I’d been involved as a video analyst, which involved giving presentations to players with film footage to hand in conjunction with Forest Green’s assistant manager Scott Lindsey.

“It was amazing for me as a lifelong fan, to be press officer and go on to study opposition strategies with the players, discussing how to overcome teams and working closely with people like the manager Mark Cooper who had a great career and, like Scott, is a very good coach.”

Of his switch to near neighbours Brimscombe and Thrupp Richard explained: “I was made redundant at Forest Green as they created a new role which wasn’t for me.

“I had quite a few offers from other clubs but Clive Baker, the Brimscombe chairman, and Sam Prior, the manager, were so warm and welcoming and it just all really appealed to me. I also knew their former manager Phil Baker and some of their players.

“They wanted to bring a bit more professionalism into their match preparations and I’ll be looking to do similar there to what I was doing at Forest Green, getting some games filmed and seeing what we can spot from the footage and where we can improve things. I’ll be attending most of their games as I like to be committed to what I’m doing.

“I really appreciated the nice comments I received from fans and players when I left Forest Green and I’ll remain a devoted supporter.

“Who knows, one day I may go back there . . .”

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05/09/17

Upward spiral: Wick thirsting for more after setting County League life off to a flier

WICK manager Mike Strawford is relishing the opportunity to manage on the Marcliff Gloucestershire County League stage for the first time – and the prospect of entering battle with some former comrades! writes Simon Parkinson

Fresh from their elevation from the Bristol Premier Combination last season as runners-up to champions Cribbs Reserves, the South Gloucestershire fliers have been in ominous form in the fledgling stages of life at the higher level, dusting themselves down from a slender 2-1 opening-day home defeat against Hardwicke with successive 5-1 thrashings of Stonehouse Town and Rockleaze Rangers, not to mention a 4-0 romp over Kingswood.

Wick were poised to follow up their Les James League Cup first round date with visiting Broadwell Amateurs on Saturday, September 2 with an enticing league joust at home against Hanham Athletic seven days later (Sept 9, 3pm), certainly from the perspective of their ambitious boss.

“I spent 15 good years as a goalkeeper with Hanham, starting out with their under-10s and progressing through to their under-15s and then all three adult teams until I reached their firsts,” the 39-year-old explained.

“A lot of my players here at Wick used to play for Hanham so it should be an interesting afternoon to say the least.”

Strawford, whose daughters Elyse and Isabelle play in the Bristol Girls League with Hanham Abbotonians at under-12 and under-13 levels respectively, could scarcely have dreamt his team could have attuned themselves to life in the County League quite so quickly, especially as a raft of injury setbacks and absenteeism has presented him with some serious early-term selection posers.

“It’s been brilliant, especially when you consider the average age of the squad is 21, maybe 22,” he reflected.

“I came in as manager of our reserve team for six months and then took over from Shaun Honour as first team manager about four years ago, and we’ve steadily progressed ever since.

“You have to be careful not to get ahead of yourselves too much and the main thing is to stay out of trouble around the bottom.

“We do want to progress even further but we have to be realistic when it comes to money. We’ve done pretty well on the sponsorship front but we’d need to step that up.

“Facilities-wise we believe we could get permission for floodlights although we’ve not really looked into that yet.”

Strawford has two new keepers aboard in Jack Madge and talented 17-year-old prospect Tyler Edmunds.

“Jack is the brother of our utility player Harry Madge and was in and out at AEK Boco last season but was hindered by two wrist injuries due to a work accident,” the Wick boss explained.

“He has played three out of four games for us so far but Tyler, at 18, is a really good keeper which is why he was on the bench for Forest Green’s Wembley play-off final and has just signed for Hallen on dual-registration terms,” added Strawford, who has also acquired 18-year-old central midfielder Alex Whale from Boco and experienced ex-Old Sodbury centre-forward Gregg Rogers.

Dan Stephens, from Longwell Green Sports, and AFC Mangotsfield left-back Charlie Williams, are also Oldbury Lane newcomers and important additions with last season’s talisman skipper and centre-half James Pocock unavailable in the early throes of the season, and vice-captain Ben Stiff requiring rest due to back and hamstring problems.

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04/09/17

Pitching in: GFA chairman Roger Burden hails Cirencester’s brand-new 3G initiative

GLOUCESTERSHIRE FA chairman Roger Burden acclaimed the unveiling of a brand-new 3G pitch at Cirencester Town FC.

The state-of-the-art artificial surface was officially opened at the club’s Corinium Stadium on Sunday and was attended by Mayor of Cirencester Cllr Nigel Robbins, club chairman Steve Abley and GFA football development manager Matthew Boucher among many other enthusiastic onlookers.

Mr Burden, a trustee of the Football Foundation, remarked: “I am delighted that Cirencester Town FC have been able to install a brand-new all-weather pitch.

“The Gloucestershire FA works hard to make football accessible to all in the area. This project is an excellent example of this work as the pitch will boost participation at the site by 73 per cent.

“This wouldn’t have been possible without a grant from the Premier League and the FA Facilities Fund.

“My congratulations go to the club for their hard work in securing this funding and for making the project a success.”

The grant enabled Cirencester to replace a natural grass pitch, which had been prone to waterlogging, at their Kingshill Lane HQ with the all-weather surface.

The new pitch, part of the community sports hub which also includes provision for junior and mini-soccer sessions, will be used by partner clubs Fairford & Lechlade FC and Cirencester Pilgrims FC; Stroud FC; Stratton YFC; South Cerney YFC and Ashton Keynes FC.

Gloucestershire FA will also work in partnership with Cirencester College to deliver coaching development, FA Skills and Just Play sessions.

Cirencester worked alongside Gloucestershire FA and the Football Foundation to compile a five-year Football Development Plan, which is a vision of how sport will be played on site with an emphasis on increasing participation.

The club, currently playing in the Evo-Stik Southern League West Division at Step 4, will introduce ten new teams which will aid the expected 73 per cent boost in football participation at the site.

This includes the development of under-9, under-12 and under-14 girls’ teams, resulting in a 268 per cent increase in female football participation at the facility across all ages.

The club worked in partnership with Gloucestershire FA to secure a £369,383 grant from the Premier League and FA Facilities Fund. The club had previously received £724,400 through the Football Foundation and sister organisation the Football Stadia Improvement Fund towards the upgrading of the Corinium Stadium.

In 2002 the stadium was officially opened by Richard Scudamore, executive chairman of the Premier League.

Scott Griffin, football secretary for Cirencester Town, enthused: “We are extremely grateful to the Premier League and the FA Facilities Fund for their support in helping us achieve our goal with a fantastic new pitch we are extremely proud of.

“The pitch will help grassroots football within the area with teams being able to train and play games all year round.

“As a club we can now offer more football than ever to our growing youth section without having to turn players away due to a lack of playing surface.

“This is truly a fantastic opportunity for the whole community.”

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01/09/17

Bradley Stoke Youth’s modest stalwart Martin Lee basking in a lotto accolades!

BRADLEY Stoke Youth’s dedicated founder Martin Lee could be forgiven for feeling he’d won the lottery of late – and quite literally too!

The South Gloucestershire club’s super-servant – Martin has successfully managed Town’s men’s first team, girls and boys teams of various age groups and is currently in charge of the ladies section – has had awards and accolades coming out of his ears in recent times.

Not content with scooping Highly Commended prizes in three individual and club categories at this year’s Gloucestershire FA Community Awards presentations, Martin also added to his burgeoning ‘trophy cabinet’ a 2017 Coach of the Year gong handed to him at the prestigious Stars of the Stokes Awards ceremony, which recognises “outstanding community engagement and personal achievement” in the Bradley Stoke, Stoke Gifford, Little Stoke and Winterbourne areas.

He smiled: “It’s not something I’d been too familiar with beforehand and it’s a very diverse event, not just about sport, with categories for Star Teacher, Pre-School Carer of the Year, outstanding parents etc.

“It was held at the Double Tree by the Hilton Hotel at Aztec West and a real red carpet occasion it was too; black tie and all that with a sumptuous three-course meal. And the compere was one Alan Dedicoat, the voice of the national lottery draws on the BBC. When he first started speaking people were saying to each other, ‘I recognise that voice’!

“I was presented with my award by the Bradley Stoke Mayor and the bouquet of flowers I received was promptly handed on to my wife Mandie, who deserves the award more than I do with me constantly doing all this football stuff over so many years!”

Martin said of the reasons behind his latest success story: “I guess I was nominated for the award for my long involvement with Bradley Stoke Youth since June 1998 – next year is our 20th anniversary - along with Gunnar Moran who was club secretary then and remains so to this day.

“Bradley Stoke Youth has been a big part of things for me but I was also there for the early days of Bradley Stoke Town men’s section in 2002 and I started up the ladies team when the club’s under-16 girls’ team was coming to an end.

“I spent five memorable years in charge of the men’s first team and we won three promotions and reached a cup final which was all hugely enjoyable.

“It was nice that the Stars of the Stokes evening highlighted our football club’s school link and school enrichment programmes we undertake.

“My own role with Bradley Stoke Youth is about looking after the kids of pre-reception, reception and year one age, as well as the under-16 girls and ladies teams. I was originally from the Forest of Dean and became an early immigrant to Bradley Stoke, and the football club came about as there was absolutely nothing for children to do at the time.

“Now the club is a 20-team operation but you need a lot of committed volunteers to keep it all running smoothly.”

Martin added: “It’s great when you’re recognised for what you do, not just me but all those at these awards presentations who give such long service to their respective causes.

“All have a story to tell and it highlights how much wonderful voluntary work goes on in our communities.”

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29/08/17

More the merrier as Gloucestershire County Women’s League teams prepare for start

GLOUCESTERSHIRE County Women’s League officials have had their hands full administering comings and goings over the summer months – which have ultimately led to a small yet welcome increase in participants.

The new campaign is set to kick off on Sunday, September 3 and as usual teams across two divisions will grapple for honours.

With Almondsbury, St Nicholas Reserves and Royal Wootton Bassett all happily elevated to the South West Women’s League Eastern Division on the back of their 2016-17 exploits, a successful recruitment programme has led to the introduction of four new sides in their stead – Forest Green Rovers Development, Cribbs, Hartpury College and Gloucester City.

Mathematicians among you will have noted that represents one extra team added to the 2017-18 composition as while the top-flight Division One has been reduced from ten teams to nine this time around, Division Two has been increased by two to ten teams.

Opening day first division tussles see AEK Boco Development hosting Abbeymead Rovers, Bristol & West entertaining Longlevens, Frampton Rangers travelling to take on Bristol Ladies Union and Chipping Sodbury Town welcoming Forest of Dean to their Ridings HQ on the Wickwar Road.

There are intriguing opening-afternoon fixtures to savour in the second tier too, as Bradley Stoke entertain Bishops Cleeve, Cotswold Rangers host Mitcheldean SC, Bristol-based Cribbs kick off their new adventure at home against Longwell Green while two more league newcomers, Forest Green Rovers Development and Hartpury, clash at St George V Fields in Nailsworth.

Last but not least, Stoke Lane Athletic are the guests of Gloucester City at Tuffley Park which, like all other matches over the two divisions, gets underway at 2pm.

The opening afternoon of the South West Women’s League season, also on Sunday, September 3, throws up an enticing derby affair involving Cheltenham Town Development and their visitors Cheltenham Civil Service (2pm).

The 2016-17 Eastern section champions, Forest Green Rovers, who won 13 and drew one of their unbeaten 14 games, kick off their new-found Premier Division status at Bishops Lydeard on the same afternoon (2pm).

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25/08/17

Calling the shots: Telephones bid to establish themselves on Western League stage

BRISTOL Telephones co-boss Dave Johnson has expressed encouragement at the way his team have begun acclimatising to life at the higher level, writes Simon Parkinson.

The Stockwood Lane outfit could not have wished for a better start to their maiden Toolstation Western League adventure after winning all three of their opening games and in freescoring fashion too, with 11 goals to their name and only four goals shipped three short months on from their Marcliff Gloucestershire County League title success.

Whether Telephones can ultimately replicate Chipping Sodbury Town’s back-to-back promotion feats in recent times only time will tell – pragmatic managers Johnson and Shaun Collins are adamant there is “room for improvement” where early performances go.

Nevertheless Johnson proclaimed: “We’ve got to be pleased. It’s a results-based game and you can play well and not win and play poorly and win games, but at least it’s a start.

“We’ve been pleased enough but from front to back we have more to offer. In terms of those first three results, you can’t argue with the facts.

“It’s an absolute unknown to us, even though Shaun and I took in a little Western League action last season, just to try and gauge the way managers set up their teams and the systems they deploy.

“But of course nothing compares to actually being involved in a full-blooded game; it’s the only way you truly learn what you’re up against.

“It’s a fresh challenge and a fantastic one, an experience we’re all relishing, and of course we’re an unknown quantity to other sides too which can work in your favour.”

Johnson reaffirmed a club desire to not only cut the mustard as a first division force but to continue the journey into the Toolstation Premier Division and possibly beyond.

“We have aspirations to go even higher and with ambitious people like Shaun, Gerry Holmes, Steve Watkins and now Pete Sarre, who has come on to the committee now with his son Sam playing for us, driving us relentlessly forwards on and off the field, there’s little choice for the likes of me, Neil Osborne and Andy Clark, who has joined this season as a coach and brings a wealth of knowledge and experience, to try and get it right on the field.

“These guys know how they want to push the club forward and between them they have an immense amount of knowledge and enthusiasm with all the off-field, infrastructure stuff.

“It’s down to us then to get what happens on the field right,” added Johnson, who has watched centre-half Mike Grist, central midfielder Leon Britton and centre-forward Lee Pitman, who were all on dual-registration terms with Telephones from Wells City last term, become permanent signings along with Brislington midfielder James Batchelor.

Promising midfielder Jordan Summers is also aboard, from Suburban League Sartan United.

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24/08/17

Northern Senior League secretary John call for ‘unwanted kit’ to boost African kids

JOHN Green has his hands full at the centre of all things Gloucestershire Northern Senior League football – as well as with some important and emotive overseas matters too.

The league’s busy general secretary is eagerly striving to fill his garage with unwanted kit, not to happily parade himself on parks around the local grassroots circuit but to provide disadvantaged and impoverished Ugandan children with the sweet taste of feeling like . . . proper footballers.

John explained: “As many people know, my son Russ has visited Uganda on a number of occasions spreading the ‘football gospel’, as well as carrying out other humanitarian issues.

“Part of this has involved my many appeals to people to pass all their old unwanted football kit to me for onward transmittal to Russ via the Dutch airline KLM, who do it all for free and good on them.

“We have pictures showing Ugandan boys looking resplendent in their yellow and green Berkeley Town kits and other boys looking equally swell in their white Winchcombe Town strip.

“As I’ve said before, these lads have absolutely nothing and when I say nothing, I mean nothing. You just have to look at them and you can see they feel like a million dollars and part of a team when kitted out like that – and they mostly play in bare feet as well.

“I am trying to widen the appeal by letting everyone involved in local football know about this project in the hope they can have a root around at home and see what they can provide for what is a highly worthy cause.”

Of the kit campaign, John added: “One of our referees, Gerard O’Sullivan, has done a sterling job through the RAF where things have really mushroomed on the back of it.

“We have been delighted with his superb efforts while I also had a garage-full recently of Charfield FC kit which Russ picked up and is now en-route to Uganda.

So I’d urge everyone in the local football fraternity to pass word around that my garage is empty and I’m just waiting to store any kit people have going spare. I assure you it will be well received in Africa.”

Anyone able to assist can contact John on 07812 957818 or email him at gnslgensec@gmail.com

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23/08/17

Ben so determined to transform Hallen hopefuls from also-rans into the real deal

BEN Willshire is optimistic Hallen’s early-season fortunes can quickly be reversed as he bids to transform them from 2016-17 Toolstation Premier Division also-rans into genuine competitors.

Having successfully navigated them to safe shores following an arduous 2016-17 campaign that for long stretches threatened relegation from the top flight, Willshire has continued to carefully craft a squad he believes can restore the club to something akin to the heights they enjoyed in 2011-12, when 19 wins and eight draws from their 34 league fixtures earned them an admirable fourth-spot finish under Paul Owen’s leadership.

By anybody’s standards Hallen, so eager to exit the traps flying this time around, have instead experienced a start to test the mettle of any Western League team, with two draining FA Cup ties with Street first off when the Bristol side’s hopes borne of a battling 1-1 away draw in the first game ended in a 4-1 replay defeat in their own Moorhouse Lane backyard.

It was on then to a home joust with another of the division’s ambitious big boys, Melksham Town, for a league opener which again saw Hallen give as good as they got and rattle the goal-frame on no fewer than three occasions in the second half, before a penalty award to the Wiltshire side deep into stoppage-time condemned them to a 3-1 defeat.

And all that coming after Tyler Davis had broken brilliantly from the halfway line before firing a shot into the net from a tight angle to hand Hallen the early initiative.

A 1-1 midweek home draw with Brislington next up at least steadied the ship and gave rise to encouragement for manager and players ahead of a hectic September month.

Davis, meanwhile, is one of a clutch of new recruits snapped-up by Willshire over the close season. The 19-year-old striker had a brief pre-season runaround with near neighbours Hengrove Athletic, while the Hallen chief also drafted in combative central midfielder Scott Cousins and Henbury’s former right-sided midfielder Jack Mills.

All three featured in the dramatic FA Cup extra preliminary round double-header with Street, while Mills not only supplied a composed finish from his old Henbury team-mate Aaron Anglin’s through pass to help take the tie to a second game via that 1-1 stalemate, but he also netted from the penalty spot to reduce the replay arrears to 3-1 before Street added a fourth to progress.

Willshire explained: “We’ve not made many signings; only where we feel it’s needed, and we have Scott Cousins back now, a real presser and ball winner, and young Tyler is very quick with a good first touch.

“Jack Mills isn’t the type of player who flies past people but his end product is good and he can score goals as he’s already shown.”

The Hallen chief added: “It’s still a learning curve for our young players but as a club we’re a completely different kettle of fish to the team that struggled so much last season. We’re well-structured and better organised now and it’s making a difference.

“We know it’s a hard start for us but being the positive person that I am, we’re really not worried about other teams and I’m confident our young players will come good.”

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22/08/17

Happy Ruardean Hill Rangers chief Coleman on a mission to keep on climbing

MARTIN Coleman reflected on Ruardean Hill Rangers’ meteoric rise to Marcliff Gloucestershire County League climes and glowed: “The whole club is bouncing”.

Having hoisted themselves up to Step 7 circles for the first time in their 98-year history courtesy of last season’s impressive march to the Gloucestershire Northern Senior League summit, the 39-year-old chairman is backing his Rangers compatriots to continue their progress, with Hellenic League football a “definite target”.

“The whole club is bouncing right now, helped by three points from our first game of the season (3-2) at Gala Wilton,” he enthused.

“It was massive for us to win that because lose your first game and maybe a few doubts can set in, however early into the season it may be.

“In the end we should have had six or seven goals which even Gala couldn’t have complained too much about.”

Ruardean Hill, managed by Adi Coles and Paul Williams in a co-capacity once more, had already entered the campaign brimming with belief after an encouraging summer of warm-up appearances.

“We beat Lydney, who play in the Hellenic Premier, 2-1, and we only lost 3-2 against Cinderford when we’d been 2-1 up with a few minutes to go and the ref seemed to want to keep going until they scored!” Coleman quipped.

“Luke Johnson got his season underway well at Gala by scoring two of our goals. He was our top scorer last season (with 36 goals overall) but he and Luke Brown, our captain and central midfielder, (33 goals) enjoyed a great battle for supremacy in that department and hopefully there’ll be more of the same on that front.

“Shaun Tingle, who plays up top, scored our other goal on the opening day and he’s among five new players aboard this summer, including his brother and centre-half Ricky Tingle and the two Mason brothers, Charley and Dan, who are both midfielders although Dan did play right wing-back at Gala Wilton to good effect.

“Our other new signing is Robert Adams - everyone refers to him as Teddy - who came off the bench in the last ten to 15 minutes in that game.”

Ruardean Hill are certainly no strangers to success as Coleman happily pointed out.

“We won various leagues three times in five years to get us to where we are,” he said. “It began with us taking the North Glos Premier Division (in 2011-12) and the following season we won the second division of the Northern Senior League.

“Of course last season we won the first division to gain promotion to the County League and really we just want to keep on going as far as we can with that momentum behind us.

“Hellenic League football is something we think and talk about although this season I’d be satisfied to see us finish in the top six.

“We already have changing rooms to meet Hellenic League standards and I don’t reckon adding floodlights to our facilities and a small stand would be an issue.

“The club is on a roll and we even have several new players aboard our reserves in the North Glos League, which in turn can only make our thirds stronger, and there’s a solid platform beneath those sides with under-12s and under-15s in operation too.”

Coleman, a Rangers centre-half-turned-goalkeeper in his latter days as a recently-retired player, did have a warning for rival County League clubs contemplating what’s in store for them on their travels to Ruardean Recreation Ground.

“We’re 950 feet above sea level and it gets very cold up there in the winter when you have all manner of weather to contend with: rain, sleet, snow, wind; you name it; not a fun place to be at all high on top of Ruardean Hill!”

 

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21/08/17

More steps forward: GFA Walking Football League is back with double the value

GLOUCESTERSHIRE FA are making strides towards finalising the make-up of an exciting new GFA Walking Football League campaign.

The popular competition is back for the 2017/18 season with a new format to boot, and entries are now being accepted for people over the age of 50 who want to continue playing the ‘beautiful game’ at a more sedate pace.

This season the league will be fought on two fronts to cater for increased participation. An over-50s division will be accompanied by an over-60s section in a move which will allow the older players to compete in both categories if desired.

Kicking off on Wednesday, October 4, fixtures will take place every six weeks to be spread across the county to reduce travel distances for the teams involved.

Every matchday experience will offer teams three to four fully-scheduled six-a-side games, all managed and refereed by Gloucestershire FA officials.

Matches are to be played on indoor and outdoor 3G-and-equivalent surfaces and will see over-50s games, slightly faster-paced and a little more physical, played on evenings and weekends, and the over-60s encounters mainly performed during weekday daytimes.

Cost per team (subject to change) is £35 per fixture and includes facility hire, management, scheduling and referees. There is also a £10 entry fee required with applications.

Recommended squad sizes are between six and16 players while any players without a team wishing to get involved can be channelled into a ‘player pool’ with a view to helping them find an appropriate side.

People are urged to sign up to the league no later than September 8, 2017.

To do so, or for more information, call Jack Stanbury on 01454 615888 (option 3) or email jack.stanbury@gloucestershirefa.com

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18/08/17

New Almondsbury boss Bailey backs his boys to stage a new-season recovery

ALMONDSBURY’S new manager Neil Bailey says he and his eye-catching new management quartet are set on resurrecting their fortunes as they prepare for a fresh start at The Field.

The club’s long-serving skipper and centre-half was called to the first-team hot seat several weeks after John Black announced late last season he would be stepping down to “take a break” following three-and-a-half years at the helm.

Thirty two-year-old Bailey wasted no time constructing a management set-up he feels can steer Almondsbury to steadier climes after suffering much, along with the rest of his club comrades last season, as they followed up their commendable mid-table status in 2015-16 with a rock-bottom conclusion to last season’s first division mission.

Happy in the knowledge his team had won a relegation reprieve, Bailey promptly called upon his long-time Almonds team-mate, 33-year-old attacking midfielder Danny Lane, to assist him in conjunction with former Brislington boss Jeff Meacham, the one-time Bristol Rovers, Forest Green and Gloucester City forward and defender, who was already a familiar figure at The Field, as a spectator, witnessing his son Ryan Meacham performing for the first XI at times last term.

Bailey stressed: “Even had Jeff not been around the club watching Ryan play I’d have gone straight to him to ask him to assist me.

“I’ve known him a long time and he was the ideal candidate. He’d been out of football for a bit and was top of my list given his character and credentials in playing professional football with Rovers and managing in the Western Premier with Brislington over 11 seasons.

“Danny Lane and I joined Almondsbury at similar times around 2002 when I was 17 and together we went on to win the Gloucestershire County League with them a couple of years later.

“Danny’s also played at a good level of non-League with Taunton and Yate and last season he took over the captaincy from me here while I was out for a spell with ankle problems.

“We’ve also got on board a very good coach in Neil Whalen, a local man who was with us for a bit last season and coaches with Cardiff City Youth.”

Aside from a brief break from routine when he grabbed a chance to play in the Southern League, Bailey has enjoyed 15 virtually unbroken years with Almondsbury performing under the likes of managerial predecessors Fran Johnson, Danny Phillips and David Hillier before former Bristol Manor Farm boss Black’s arrival in November 2013.

“I broke into the first team at 17 in 2002 when Fran was manager and I’ve been there ever since, apart from a year-and-a-half or so between 2008 and 2009 when I made the tough decision to try my luck with Taunton.

“I left Almondsbury as captain and returned as captain in 2010 and then, spearheaded by Danny Phillips who was head coach at UWE, we teamed up with the university and had some good young players come through on the back of it, like Simon McElroy who was a prolific striker and still is, with Cadbury Heath now.

“Unfortunately in recent years we’ve lost too many quality players like Simon whose 25 goals-a-season you’ll always struggle to replace. It’s hard for a club like ours without a budget as we can’t go offering players £50 or £60 a game to play for us.

“Nevertheless I’m confident I’ve put together a squad of players I feel can do well in this league and we’ll go again this season with renewed optimism. When I accepted the job I had playing targets in mind and some have joined us.

“I wouldn’t have taken it all on had I not thought we could challenge at the higher end of the table again. That’s the objective although I’ll not be coming out with any bold statements about precisely where we’re likely to finish up.”

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17/08/17

Mallett aiming to provide Cadbury Heath clout in wake of Andy’s move ‘upstairs’

ROB Mallett is keeping everything crossed life at the Cadbury Heath helm proves a successful one following his summer elevation to the top job, writes Simon Parkinson.

The former Fry Club supremo experienced a mixed start to his Springfield tenure which began all guns blazing with a 4-1 romp over local rivals Longwell Green Sports at the FA Cup extra preliminary round hurdle, before a 4-0 Toolstation Premier Division defeat at the home of a Melksham Town team widely tipped for title contention this term brought the Heathens hopefuls swiftly back to earth.

A baptism of fire, then, for the 29-year-old who once featured for Heath before a serious knee injury brought a shuddering halt to his playing career when aged only 19.

After taking up the reins of co-boss for an ultimately-unsuccessful stint alongside Dan Langdon at near neighbours Bitton last season, Mallett ended the campaign with Heath as a coach under the experienced eye of Andy Black, who went on to bow out of football management on a high note thanks to late April’s GFA Challenge Trophy final triumph over Fairford Town at Oaklands Park.

Black immediately announced Mallett would be promoted to hot-seat duties in his stead while continuing to oversee affairs at Springfield in a director of football capacity.

Delighted to have been afforded the opportunity, Mallett set about a recruitment campaign, persuading ex-Bitton and Yate Town striker Sacha Tong to return to his former stamping ground along with another one-time Bitton performer, keeper Dan Worton, who featured for Portishead Town last season.

Left-back Leon Maloney and central midfielder Lewis Shipp, who has turned out for Yate, Bath City and Mangotsfield in bygone times, are two more who found their way back to Cadbury Heath over the close season, prompting Mallett to say: “These are all established Western Premier players who can add strength to what was already a strong squad.

“I’ve also brought in Danny Hallett, a former Cadbury Heath captain who retired from playing a couple of years ago. I approached him in the summer and getting him in as my No.2 is one of the best signings I’ve made.

“We were 11th last year and I feel that with a little more strength in depth we can be more consistent and get a bit closer to the top teams which will be tough, as a lot of them will be vying for the top places, not least Melksham and Buckland who I expect to be strong again along with Street and Bradford Town.

“But I’m very much relishing the challenge and having Andy Black around still is a real positive for me. He’s someone with a heck of a lot of experience and contacts and I’d be silly not to listen and learn from him and use him as a sounding board.”

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16/08/17

On a mission: Pollard’s promoted Nicholas Wanderers hopefuls chasing more trophies

NICHOLAS Wanderers’ encouraged boss Kevin Pollard is eyeing more of the same from his charges in the new season on the back of a notable pre-season success, writes Simon Parkinson.

The Bristol and District League Senior Division newcomers, elevated to the top-flight last term on the back of a splendid runners-up finish to their first division assault, overcame Gloucestershire County League new-boys Wick 3-0 in the final of the Brunel Shield competition at Somerdale in Keynsham.

It was nip and tuck to start with before Dave Paterson broke the deadlock two minutes before half-time with a header, prompting Wanderers to push on for a second goal which duly arrived shortly after the break when ace marksman Billy Arnold nipped in front of his marker to round off a slick team move with a clinical side-foot finish.

Liam Orchard lucklessly rattled an upright while Sam Thomas’ attempt was narrowly off target as Brunel Shield holders Wick, parading a sprinkling of first-teamers involved in the previous afternoon’s 2-1 opening-day defeat by Hardwicke in the County League, tried hard to respond to their two-goal arrears.

It wasn’t to be their day as Matt Hawkins was teed up by an alert Paterson some 30 yards out, after the Wick keeper had miscued a clearance, and found the top corner of the net with an unerring finish.

Pollard said: “It was bitter-sweet for me in many ways because I ran Wick Reserves before coming to Nicholas Wanderers.

“It was tough on Wick because they’d had a hard game the day before and fielded maybe five or six first-teamers against us. But you can only deal with what’s in front of you and our boys played some really good football.

“Billy (Arnold) scored more than 20 goals for us last season and he’s looking sharp again and is out to do similar for us this season all being well.

“It’s been a really good period for Nicholas Wanderers with winning promotion, beating our title rivals Hillfields, who did eventually pip us to the Division One title, in the GFA Junior Cup final (5-2) and now picking up the Brunel Shield for good measure.”

Wanderers were also chasing a fourth quickfire prize last Friday evening as they were scheduled to take on Tetbury Town in an intriguing pre-season warmer at Oaklands Park, involving the county’s south and north victors respectively in last season’s GFA Junior Cup competition.

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15/08/17

Motoring on: Goals Beyond Grass get set for more powerchair intrigue and excitement

POWERCHAIR football in the county continues to motor forward apace, as an exciting tournament is set to amply demonstrate.

The driving forces behind Goals Beyond Grass (GBG) charity, which is fast approaching its first anniversary celebrations, are to stage a “fun and sociable day” of powerchair football to include a tournament open to all ages and abilities.

Players enter as individuals and will get the chance to perform with “new friends” from across the UK.

The event, on Friday, August 18 at GL1 Leisure Centre on Bruton Way, Gloucester, gets underway at 10am ahead of a team draw at 11am followed by a first round of fixtures half an hour later.

Finals will kick off at 2pm on a day in which all teams will feature for a minimum of two games consisting of eight-minute halves.

Organisers are advising that there is space for only six teams of five players to partake so booking quickly is essential. Every player will be given a free tournament t-shirt once they have paid the £5 entry fee. The top two tournament teams will also receive medals.

The GL1 centre has its own car park and café selling food and drinks while players must provide their own powerchair for the occasion.

The tournament wraps up what promises to be an enlightening and enjoyable five-day holiday camp, which began on Monday, August 14 and is hosted by Goals Beyond Grass at the National Star College in Cheltenham where there have been daily training sessions and matches with a view to putting participants’ new skills to the test.

GBG chief executive Brian Dix said: “We must thank the Co-operative for providing refreshments and the National Lottery and Barnwood Trust for delivering the funding necessary for GBG to host our first holiday camp.

“We’ll then be looking forward to the powerchair football tournament to be held on the final day of the camp (August 18) which is the part where YOU can take part!”

Meanwhile Virginia Slims are to headline GBG’s inaugural music party to mark the charity’s first birthday, to be held on Friday, September 1 at the Walls Club in Barnwood.

Anyone wishing to know more about GBG and the forthcoming events can contact Jenny Rutter at jenny@goalsbeyondgrass.co.uk or call her on 07540 356396.

More details about the work of Goals Beyond Grass can be found at  http://www.goalsbeyondgrass.co.uk

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14/08/17

Nine of the best: Lebeq Tavern Courage rack up record-breaking Fry Club Cup success

LEBEQ Tavern Courage supremo Owen Smith bowed out of football management in familiar fashion – with yet another trophy jubilantly held aloft, writes Simon Parkinson.

The 56-year-old boss of three decades plus to the Bristol Premier Sunday League champions steered his team to a ninth Fry Club Cup success and in some style too, with a 9-1 thrashing of Toolstation Premier Division side Odd Down at the famous Somerdale centre in Keynsham.

Smith is stepping aside to enable striker Twaine Plummer and central midfielder Aaron Wilson to co-manage the team this season while he continues, in his capacity as long-serving club chairman, to steer the club to fresh heights with Western League football firmly at the forefront of their minds.

Perhaps the fact out-of-sorts Odd Down had, less than 24 hours earlier, overcome Bradford Town 4-3 in a draining FA Cup extra preliminary opener had something to do with the one-sided Sunday spectacle at Somerdale.

But that’s to take nothing away from Lebeq’s performers, many of whom had themselves been involved in the famous national competition the previous day with their Saturday sides.

Not for the first time in their illustrious history they were simply unstoppable, a superb strike from inside his own territory by Aaron Cornwall setting the tone for a glut of goals.

Dominic Holver celebrated a hat-trick AND tournament top scorer on the strength of it, while Neikell Plummer twice registered and Zack Young, whose father Barry was a prolific marksman in the same Fry Club competition some two decades prior, hit the target both sides of the break to bag himself a brace.

At 7-0 down at the interval Odd Down really were down and out and staring at the prospect of double figures against. But Young’s second goal and Leon Simpson’s effort spared them that ignominy and they even managed to pull one back through Kye Simpson’s consolatory strike late on.

While the trophy has been lifted a record nine times by Lebeq, the Bristol aces have also reached the final on five separate occasions and their outgoing supremo Smith beamed: “It’s been great; Lebeq has certainly put Bristol Sunday football on the map and it will take a lot to shift us off it!”

Odd Down boss Lee Rendall, a member of their starting XI on the morning, admitted: “We had too many walking wounded after Saturday and had to bring in a couple of teenagers from the reserves.

“But Lebeq have a very good side and they played really well in the first half.”

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11/08/17

Lebeq super-servant Smith eager to drive Rayan’s wonders to Western League heights

OWEN Smith has outlined his beloved Lebeq’s desire to become an even greater local football powerhouse than they are now by stepping down as manager of the club’s successful Sunday side, writes Simon Parkinson.

The 56-year-old founding father of Bristol’s famous football institution has been boss to generations of talented Lebeq Tavern Courage players since the age of 22 and he typically ended his 34-year stint in charge, which included an FA Sunday Cup final at Anfield in 2007, by overseeing an emphatic 9-1 victory over Odd Down in the recent Fry Club Cup final at Somerdale (see separate report here on Local Football News).

Smith, who managed Radstock Town in the Western League for a spell in the 1980s, wants now to focus fully on his role as club chairman with a view to hoisting their flagship Saturday side, Lebeq United, out of the Marcliff Gloucestershire County League and into the Toolstation first division.

Their hopes of achieving that goal were handed a first-night boost when they thrashed Kingswood 6-0 in a one-sided midweek romp.

Facilities won’t be an issue when it comes to meeting ground grading criteria - United, managed by Rayan Wilson, play their home games at the GFA’s Oaklands Park 3G centre.

Smith, along with Lebeq founder members and current secretaries George Phillipou and Errol Thompson – all played for the club in its fledgling days as a forward, flying winger and goalkeeper respectively – has put County League promotion to the top of his agenda and he claimed: “We have a great chance of achieving it and this season with any luck. There are some good lads coming through to complement a few old heads and the target is to win the league this season.

“We only started our Saturday teams five years ago. Had we done so 20 years ago we’d be at a much higher standard than we are right now, I’m convinced of that.

“We’re at the GFA at this time and there appears to be no reason why we can’t stay there, until Roman Abramovich or some other person with big pockets comes along and buys us a plush new stadium!”

Smith enthused: “These are exciting times for Lebeq although maybe not as exciting as when we all first started out with local teams like Newcross, Forgemans Arms and The Black Swan before taking on the Lebeq name when the pub first sponsored us.

“The standard of football seemed to be much higher back then although I’m not sure if that’s a generation thing or not.

“We started off with one Sunday side and now we have three adult Sunday teams, three men’s Saturday teams, a ladies team and, new to this season, an under-18s team, dotted around venues such as the Rose Green Centre and Packers Field at Whitehall, and the Netham Fields along with the GFA’s Oaklands Park facility of course.

“I can well recall our founder members of Newcross FC, where it all began, being Nigel Edmonds, George Phillipou, Steve Taylor, Trevor Bailey, Colin Mullings, Dennis Mullings, Tony Billings, Mike Steele and Perry Steele.

“Lebeq evolved out of people like them before Lebeq Tavern, which I bought with Errol 20 years ago, became our permanent home.”

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10/08/17

Determined boss Davies set for new chapter in Thornbury drive for Toolstation status 

THORNBURY Town’s bullish boss Andy Davies expressed disappointment at the departure of some key assets over the summer but warned: “We can still be a force to be reckoned with”, writes Simon Parkinson.

The Town supremo would dearly like to hoist his side into the Toolstation Western League after three straight promising, yet ultimately unsuccessful, seasons finding themselves rooted to fourth spot in the Marcliff Gloucestershire County League.

Sixty-year-old former Bristol Manor Farm No.2 Davies knows as well as any that they’ll need to step it up this term if their dreams of making the higher grade are to be fulfilled.

Nevertheless he is adamant his would-be promotion contenders will “remain competitive”, despite the loss of some influential assets over the summer.

“Pre-season has been a bit slow if I’m honest with players coming and going,” he said. “Danny Haines, a central midfielder and real leader, retired at the age of 40.

“Danny played virtually all of last season for us. He has a sweet left foot and it was fitting that on his final game for us against Southmead towards the end of the season he scored a great goal from 25 yards out.

“The fact he’s played a lot of Southern League football in his time with the likes of Clevedon, Mangotsfield and Merthyr says it all about the type of qualities we’ll be losing there.”

Davies was also informed by wide man Danny Thompson that he too would be ending his playing days at the tender age of 27, while centre midfield mainstay Luke Franklin, an ever-present over the past four seasons for Thornbury, seized an opportunity to perform at Toolstation Premier Division level with Cribbs.

“It’s a pity because that’s the standard we as a club aspire to and you need your best players on board in order to achieve it,” Davies mused.

“But good on Luke, he always had a goal in him and he scored in pre-season for Cribbs so we wish him well.

“It’s a shame Danny Thompson, having played more games than ever for us last season and a real Thornbury lad, has decided to call it a day. He’s suffered a bit with hamstring and muscular problems and he wanted to spend more time with his family.”

Despite the losses the Thornbury chief has recruited too, drafting in striker Josh Morris and holding midfielder David Jones.

“Josh is a young lad who played for Roman Glass St George lasts season,” Davies explained. “He’s quick but still learning the game so we’ll see how he gets on.

“Dave comes to us through his friendship with our (forward) Craig Lancastle as they once played together. Dave hasn’t played for a season and is just getting back into it. He’s a good passer and looking pretty good so far.

“It’s been a shame losing those other three lads but I’ll not dwell on it; we need to push on.

“I still believe we’ll be strong even though it’s going to be hard. Stonehouse could well try again to go up and I anticipate AEK Boco being a force again. And Lebeq are likely to be competitive.

“But we’re still a good side and I expect us to be up there just as we have been for the past three years.”

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09/08/17

Chance to nominate ‘true heroes’ of local sport for prized Bristol Post awards ceremony

DEDICATED volunteers in grassroots football and amateur sport in general are set to be recognised and rewarded once more at the annual Bristol Post newspaper awards.

The prestigious ceremony, hosted by television presenter John Inverdale, also features the best of the rest when it comes to the area’s elite athletes and is to be held at Bristol City’s Ashton Gate Stadium on Thursday, October 19.

Just as they always do ahead of the occasion, the Bristol Post is inviting people to nominate candidates for awards in no fewer than 15 categories (see full list below).

Mark Easterbrook, sports production editor for the Post, said the presentation evening was an “ideal way” to honour the “true, unpaid heroes” of local sport, as well as those players and coaches striving to better themselves and their charges on the professional stages.

He explained: “Our sports awards are in their fourth year and we’d like to think they have proved a popular way of recognising the grassroots heroes who dedicate so much time and energy to the cause of their team or organisation.

“A few of our awards are aimed at the professional and elite sportsmen and women of our area, but the awards night is predominantly about recognising those who spend countless hours helping out at an amateur level.”

Nominating worthy contenders for an award can be done quickly and easily by visiting the website www.bristolpost.co.uk/sportsawards where further details about the champagne dinner date, dubbed by the newspaper as “the highlight of the city’s sporting calendar”, can be obtained.

Nominations must be received by Wednesday, August 30.

Compere of the event once more, John Inverdale, is a familiar face on our screens with his presentations of major sporting events such as football and rugby World Cups, Olympic Games and Wimbledon tennis.

The 15 categories are: Male Sports Personality of the Year; Female Sports Personality of the Year; Professional Sports Personality of the Year; Young Sports Person of the Year; Senior Team of the Year; Junior Team of the Year; Community Club of the Year; Coach of the Year (professional); Coach of the Year (voluntary); Disability Sports Person of the Year; Outstanding Services to Sport; Footballer of the Year (adult); Footballer of the Year (junior); Cricketer of the Year; Rugby Player of the Year.

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08/08/17

Charlie encouraged as Cirencester are finally floored by Bristol City cup starlets

CHARLIE Griffin was disappointed but unbowed after watching his Cirencester Town hopefuls fall to Gloucestershire Senior Cup final defeat at the hands of Bristol City’s young guns, writes Simon Parkinson.

The Evo-Stik Southern League West side gave as good as they got over sizeable sections of the Oaklands Park showdown, snatching an early advantage and reducing the arrears to 3-2 soon after the break through Jack Watts’ second fine finish of the game after City’s zestful Under-23s had stormed back to lead 3-1 at half-time.

It wasn’t to be for the spirited Centurions as Aaron Parsons’ bullet header 20 minutes from time proved sufficient to wrap-up a 4-2 success for the full-time professionals, leaving Griffin and Co contemplating what might have been while far from deflated too.

The 38-year-old one-time Swindon Town striker reasoned: “I’m pleased with the lads; it was a good test for them and they stood up to it well.

“We were playing a good team who train every day as full-time pros, and they can really open you up with the way they play if you’re not careful. We’re a Tuesday, Thursday team when it comes to training for just a couple of hours.

“We said at half-time that we must keep believing and give it a go and we did that. Felipe (Barcelos) and Jack (Watts) looked really lively going forward and our back lads were superb.

“At 3-2 we fancied our chances and it was just a shame we might have done better with their fourth goal in allowing their man (Parsons) to get in his header as we’re normally stronger than that.”

Griffin conceded: “We could have got to grips with things a bit sooner overall than we did too; we dived in a bit and there were rushes of blood in areas which you can’t afford to do given their (City’s) pace and movement. But our reaction in the second half at 3-1 down was superb.

“Of course we don’t like losing, especially cup finals, but credit to Bristol City who have lads pushing hard for their first team.”

City’s former youth recruitment director now in charge of the club’s loan-market affairs, Brian Tinnion, stressed: “It was a tough game and Cirencester played really well and made it difficult for us over the first 25 minutes or so.

“When we did get hold of the ball we showed real quality and our two wide men Jonny Smith and Opi Edwards caused all manner of problems for them with their pace, and Aaron Parsons was outstanding at the back for us.

“You always feel and hope you’ll win these games but it’s never easy against good sides at Cirencester’s level and fair play to them, Cirencester gave it their all.”

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08/08/17

All change on and off the pitch as Henbury eye better days under the Wright man

HENBURY’S dedicated clubman Sean Heal believes a return to their roots can help transform his club into a Marcliff Gloucestershire County League force once more.

At the age of only 23, the full-back and central midfielder is a voice of relative experience both on and off the field with the Arnall Drive outfit, having found himself an integral part of an inevitable behind-scenes summer shake-up which he hopes can help galvanise a club that has suffered its fair share of rocky days in recent times.

Twelve short months after their commendable 2015-16 runners-up campaign, Henbury were left picking up the pieces of disappointing 13th-spot obscurity, a fact not lost on Heal who explained to GFA Local Football News: “When Charlie Barron – Mr Henbury for around 50 years – retired as secretary at the start of last season, people like myself and Ed Wright, who like me has been a player and committee man over many years, felt we had to act fast or it could all fall apart.

“I was treasurer last year and Ed the secretary while we remained as players. Since Ian Giles left us as manager at the end of the season after taking over from Darren Sealey midway through it, Ed has offered to take up the managerial reins and I’ve taken over from him as secretary.

“We actually tried to persuade Darren to come back in as boss being the local boy that he is, but he wanted to take a break having initially resigned around Christmas time because he felt we weren’t heading in the direction we all as a club had planned and felt it better someone else took over.

“Another of our long-serving club members and reserve team players, Tony Pentland, has become our new treasurer while also assisting Ed with the first team.”

Heal added: “There’s been recognition, one that even Ian Giles, who was coming to us from Gloucester along with players he brought with him over the second half of last season after Darren had left us, spoke about; that we’re the type of club who should be getting back to being ‘more local’.

“Last season was tough and we didn’t finish it in the way we’d hoped, but it wasn’t helped by injuries to key players and the loss of players like Aaron Anglin and Scott Thomas to Hallen.

“Ian did a great job and has since gone to Tytherington Rocks as their new manager, and of course we wish him well.

“Ed has had an ankle injury so now is a good time for him to try his luck as manager. As such a reliable centre-half for Henbury over so many years, and our eldest player at 28, he’ll continue to make himself available to play although he’ll be predominantly on the sidelines alongside Tony.”

Jacob Hicks is among Henbury’s close-season captures, from Hallen, although the striker’s 2016-17 season was severely curtailed by a knee injury which he hopes is now firmly behind him.

Brothers Adam (central midfield) and Arran Rosser (centre-half) are both back now following extended injury absences and Heal said: “They are two of our more experienced and better players and it will be like having new signings with those two available again.

“Ross Johnson will be our captain this year having turned down the chance to play at a higher level. His leadership and central defensive qualities will be invaluable and it’s just a shame that our top scorer last season after Aaron Anglin left us, Jack Mills, has left us for Hallen.

“Most of the lads have stayed, though, and I’m convinced that if we can add one or two more attacking options we can enjoy a good season.”

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04/08/17

Like a ‘dream’: New-look Chipping Sodbury Town are all set for big FA Cup bow

NEW Chipping Sodbury Town boss Neil Simons surveyed “the significance” of the club’s big FA Cup bow this Saturday (August 5) and insisted: “It’s down to us to make it a truly memorable occasion”.

Town take their first steps into the world-famous competition when they welcome Hellenic Premier Division outfit Brackley Town Saints to a Ridings HQ (3pm kick-off) brimming with excitement and anticipation ahead of a milestone day in their 132-year existence.

Two short years back Sodbury were winding up third in the Gloucestershire County League table behind runners-up AEK Boco and a title-winning Cheltenham Civil Service side who sadly capitulated as a County League force after that laudable success.

Nevertheless it was enough to lift Town into the Western League for the first time in their history, and such were the thriving confidence levels and momentum borne of the achievement that Karl Reece’s charges went on to secure the Toolstation first division championship just 12 months down the line to set up an encouraging maiden last campaign among the league’s top-flight elite.

Reece voluntarily stepped down from the helm earlier this summer citing family reasons, paving the way for former Rockleaze Rangers captain Simons to take up the reins with the help of his trusted long-serving team-mate at Coombe Dingle, Aaron Day, as his assistant boss, and UEFA B-licensed Bristol City Academy coach Kerry Georgiou.

Sodbury approach Saturday’s extra preliminary round tie – six wins will take them into the first round hat alongside the professionals - with not only a fledgling managerial set-up in place but several fresh player faces in tow too.

While no fewer than nine of last season’s side have left for pastures new, Simons’ recruitment drive includes attacking midfielder Jack Smyth from Brislington; his former Rockleaze comrades Steve Fitzpatrick, James Kenway and keeper Sam Burgess, plus one-time Roman Glass St George and Yate forwards respectively Jake Thomas and Liam Pullin

The 36-year-old supremo insisted: “They’re all starting to gel well and I’m really happy with what we have. Saturday is a landmark day for Chipping Sodbury and we’re all aware of the significance of it and we want to look back on it for the right reasons.

“Brackley have a new management team too (Gordon Killie and coach Ben Lovatt) and they’ll be determined to make an early impression, so it should be a good and memorable test for us.”

Club boss Scott Gibson added: “It’s a remarkable achievement for our small club sitting on the edge of the Cotswolds to have made it this far, from District League obscurity right the way through the Bristol Premier Combination and Gloucestershire County leagues to our present status in the Toolstation Premier Division.

“In my estimation we have to be one of the fastest growing clubs in the area and it feels like a dream when you consider where we came from.”

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04/08/17

Mangos super-saver Steve targets more Thai World Cup tests with England’s vet aces

MANGOTSFIELD United shot-stopper Steve Phillips is hoping more top performances can propel his team towards play-off contention once more – and keep him firmly in selectors’ minds ahead of another England Seniors campaign!

The 39-year-old former Bristol City and Bristol Rovers star is about to enter his first full season between the sticks with Mangos after featuring over the second half of their 2016-17 programme while on loan from Bath City to aid his recuperation from knee cartilage surgery.

While he is bracing himself for two tough-looking Evo-Stik Southern League West openers, at home against last season’s runners-up Salisbury on Saturday, August 12 followed by a trip to play-off semi-finalists Taunton Town three days later, Phillips is also determined to win a third straight World Cup call-up with England Seniors.

The experienced keeper recently helped his country to back-to-back tournament triumphs in Thailand along with a host of well-known names to West Country football enthusiasts, Jamie Cureton, Barry Hayles, Louis Carey and Lee Trundle among them.

Rubbing his gloves with relish at the prospects of another memorable Seniors World Cup excursion with the victorious vets, Phillips smiled in an interview with GFA Local Football News: “I would love to be involved again next year having played in all the games over the past two years.

“Both trips were amazing experiences, seeing the Thai culture, the people and how friendly they are. And the quality of players on show was something else.

“Iran, who we beat 2-0 in this year’s final, contained six players who had played in the 2006 World Cup finals proper for them.

“But we had a fantastic team too, including Peter Beagrie (ex Everton winger, now 51) and it’s fair to say no one got near us. To captain the side against New Zealand was a real privilege too.

“The tournament has only been going for 11 years and no one has won it three years on the trot, so we’ll certainly be out to put that right.

“Next year’s World Cup is to be held at Ko Samui, which is Thailand’s second largest island, and we should all know by Christmas time whether we’ll be involved or not.”

In the meantime Phillips, who also had a spell on loan with Gloucester City in the mid-1990s, is backing Mangotsfield boss David Mehew to twist what has been a testing summer of comings and goings at the club into a positive campaign.

“The club is brilliant and I have a lot of time for ‘Boris’, the manager,” Phillips said. “It’s been hard for him because several lads who you’d expect to play every week have gone elsewhere for various reasons.

“But a few new faces are steadily coming in (Greg Andrews and Jake Elliott among them) and the aim is still to get into a top-five play-off position. There’s no point going into it if that’s not the aim.

“Granted, some clubs are impossible to compete with financially as they attract the best players, so the idea when you’re in our position is to try and unearth those gems and work on their potential.”

Asked how much he’s missing the cut and thrust of professional football after clocking up some 400 appearances with Bristol’s big two, not to mention more than 106 outings with Crewe Alexandra, Phillips reflected: “I wouldn’t change anything when I look back, even the arguments and fall-outs, because things always seemed to work out for me.

“I had five fantastic years at Crewe too but wherever I went I gave everything I had and that will continue with the specialist goalkeeper soccer school I have now set up.

“I’m very proud of what I’ve achieved given where I came from in non-League (with Paulton Rovers), having never been given specialist coaching back then.

“Yes, there’s a degree of sadness that the pro playing days are at an end because I won’t get them back.

“But after having two months out following a knee op when at Bath last season, I just love playing football still and being able to do it, and I’ll continue to do so for as long as I can and the body allows.

“And when I do finally stop, I’m sure I’ll be involved as a manager or on the sidelines in some capacity.”

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02/08/17

All aboard Creek express as Lashenko prepares Manor Farm for brand-new adventure

BRISTOL Manor Farm’s “excited” boss Lee Lashenko insists he is making no “rash predictions” about his team’s prospects on the bigger stage next season but maintained: “We’re looking to be competitive”, writes Simon Parkinson.

Fresh from their elevation as Toolstation Premier Division champions to the Southern League for the first time in their 57-year history, and a busy and eventful pre-season which continues to thrive, the successful former Bishop Sutton boss has been putting the finishing touches to a Farm squad he is backing to make an impact, a little more, perhaps, than they experienced in one summer encounter with a certain pro side from Ashton Gate!

“It was horrible in terms of the scoreline but a great and memorable day for the club,” Lashenko smiled ruefully as he reflected on an 11-0 drubbing meted out by a strong Bristol City outfit earlier this month in front of a near 1,500 Creek turn-out.

“City appeared to be bang at Championship-level standard and we simply had no answer to their ability. We did have a lot of our best players missing but we also learnt quite a bit from watching them, so I’ll take the positives!

“We did beat a Plymouth Parkway team looking to do well in the South West Peninsula Premier next season 2-0 at home, and won 1-0 away against a good Street side I expect to be challenging strongly for the Toolstation Premier title under Richard Fey, along with the likes of Melksham Town.

“We also won 2-1 at Bridgwater and I was very encouraged to see a mix of our first teamers, reserves and trialists holding their own so well against Hallen in losing only 2-1. With Billy Bond, who used to be with Thornbury Town, now in charge, I’m sure our ressies can enjoy a much better time of it in the Bristol Premier Combination on that evidence.”

With bigger fish to fry at first team level Lashenko has, with typical tenacity, bolstered his ranks with a raft of new faces already familiar with the level and ambitious enough, he believes, to keep attaining in the game.

They include centre-half Steve Kingdon (ex-Tiverton), full-back Stuart Tovey (ex-Larkhall), forward Simon Gilbert (ex-Yate) and Lewis Powell (ex-Bitton, Yate and Weston-super-Mare), while attacking midfielder Kye Holly has, to his manager’s delight, returned to the Creek after taking a breather from the action altogether.

One-time Yate, Oldland and Cadbury Heath keeper Josh Dempsey is also aboard.

Many of last season’s title-winning team have signed on again too, Dean Stamp, Jordan Metters, Jack Durrant, Aron Robbins, Jake Cox, Harley Purnell, Iain Harvey, Ben Bament, Troy Simpson and Martin Stowell among others.

“We’ve retained everyone we wanted to keep and added some strong players with Southern League experience who will have to work hard to get themselves into the team,” warned Lashenko, whose men can also look forward to a first sortie into FA Trophy territory when they entertain Gloucestershire compatriots Cinderford Town on Saturday, October 7.

“I won’t be making any rash predictions about what we’ll achieve next season as we’ll be respecting ALL opposition, which we always did in the Toolstation League.

“But we’re well prepared and ready for what comes at us, starting with what is sure to be a tough opener away against North Leigh.

“We’re looking to enjoy a good first season in the Evo-Stik Southern (West) League and to say the excitement is at fever pitch would be an understatement.”

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01/08/17

A new County League start – and competition is likely to be “as fierce as ever”

A NEW Marcliff Gloucestershire County League campaign gets underway on Saturday, August 5 – and it’s likely to be as open and competitive as ever.

So reckons league secretary Ron Holpin, who believes “six or seven” sides could well be in the title shake-up come next spring.

With the crack Bristol Telephones team safely out of the way and braced for life at the higher Toolstation Western League level following their 2016-17 County League championship exploits, Holpin believes the door is wide open once more to would-be contenders and admits picking an eventual winner from the pack is a nigh-on impossible task.

“There are quite a few teams likely to be up there challenging now that Telephones have left us,” he pondered.

 “It’s become customary for new teams to our league to do well in their first seasons, as we’ve seen with the likes of AEK Boco and Stonehouse in recent years.

“So it will be interesting to see how our latest newcomers – Wick and Ruardean Hill Rangers – adapt to the higher level for the first time. I’ve had a lot of correspondence with them as they’ve been keen to make sure everything is properly in place for the step up and those omens are good; you sense a lot of anticipation and enthusiasm from both clubs.”

Holpin reflected: “Whoever would have thought at the start of last season that Stonehouse would have led the way for such long stretches before eventually ending up in third? It will be interesting now to see whether they can enjoy a season like that once more and maybe even better it, and the same with Frampton United who were always there and thereabouts.

“AEK Boco found themselves battling around the lower reaches of the table last season after winning the league the previous year but they got it together really well in the final weeks to not only end up seventh, but also win our Les James League Cup competition.

“I’m aware that Broadwell Amateurs, who were beaten finalists in that game, are also looking to progress to Step 6 status as quickly as possible so they could be among the challengers too, as could Thornbury Town, who made a very good start to last season to top the table before falling away after Christmas and finishing up in fourth place.”

Rockleaze Rangers, who have quit Coombe Dingle to ground share with last season’s bottom team Southmead CS Athletic ahead of the 2017-18 off, are another Holpin tips to be possible front-runners, while he added: “Southmead, Hanham and Gala Wilton experienced their difficulties last time but that doesn’t mean to say they’ll not come bouncing back with some gusto this season.

“That’s the beauty with football at any level; you simply never know what difference a summer break will make to a team’s prospects when it all starts up again.”

Meanwhile Holpin and his fellow County League officials are already starting to prepare for their eagerly-anticipated 2018-19 50th anniversary celebrations.

“It really has to be planned this year and we’ve put it to clubs that they might want to think about how we can all mark it,” he explained.

“Often for these things you have a representative game of some kind and an anniversary dinner, but we do need to start planning it soon so that everyone knows the direction we’ll be taking.”

Lebeq United, who will be playing more evening games this season at the Gloucestershire FA’s 3G facility at Oaklands Park, get their programme underway at home against Kingswood on Wednesday, August 9 (7.30pm). 

FIRST-DAY FIXTURES

(Saturday, August 5, all 3pm)

Broadwell Amateurs v Frampton United; Hanham Athletic v Stonehouse Town; Southmead CS Athletic v Gala Wilton; Thornbury Town v Henbury; Wick v Hardwicke.

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31/07/17

New Paulton supremo Rendell backs the Yate ‘kids’ to build on late-season resurgence 

JOHN Rendell is backing his home town club Yate Town to “kick-on” after playing a big part in their encouraging late-season form – even though he’ll be running a rival camp next term, writes Simon Parkinson.

The 38-year-old Bristolian was first team coach working closely alongside his former Bitton compatriots Paul Britton (manager) and John Lester (assistant) at the Lodge Road helm throughout a difficult and sometimes torrid last season.

A brand-new and largely youthful Yate outfit did finally acclimatised to the rigours of Southern League One S&W football in the nick of time, a much-improved final two months, in which they were beaten just twice in their ten-game run-in, ensuring their safety for another year and setting Britton and Co in good heart for the coming campaign.

Rendell admits he had been “fully gearing up” for more of the same with the battling Bluebells early-summer, until the chance to become a manager in his own right in the very same league, with local rivals Paulton Rovers, proved too enticing to turn down.

“Had the Paulton job not come up I’d have certainly stayed with Yate,” Rendell stressed.

“I had a memorable year with Yate  in which we simply weren’t good enough to start with after being left with a handful of players from Craig Laird’s time there as manager and effectively having to start all over again.

“We had as many as 30 players training with us in those early days, with triallists and young lads that Polly (Paul Britton) had rounded up from Rovers and City. It was a real mixed bag, a real inexperienced group, who took a while to get to grips with this league.

“The step up was too rapid for some of them but we gradually replaced ones who were not up to it with better quality and experience and the squad became stronger as we went along, and as a result we began to win a few games.”

Rendell, who cut his teeth in management with Bristol Premier Combination outfit Old Sodbury before his switch to near-neighbours Yate, is expecting his former Lodge Road charges to prove a force to be reckoned with in 2017-18.
“As last season unfolded we brought in players who began making a real difference, lads like Charlie Hitchings (centre-half), who came in as our new captain from Taunton Town, and Harvey Rivers, a Hartpury College student who showed real strength of character and confidence as a keeper for someone in their early 20s, having already played for a Hereford team on their way to regaining former powers.

“Eugene Keary, a real box-to-box player with goals in him from midfield who’d been a young lad with Rovers and Bitton, started flourishing, and although it was a massive learning curve for Jack Ball at 17, his 35 to 40 appearances and 17 goals said it all about his attributes and potential.”

Rendell, a one-time fledgling professional with Cardiff City, recently rejoined a Paulton team he once served with distinction as a goalkeeper over a seven-year period, helping them win promotion to the Southern League in 2004.

He insisted: “Going into their second year together I’m sure Yate will improve now that things have stabilised, on and off the pitch.

“I moved to the area when I was aged eight so they’ve been my local club for a long time, even though I only actually played for them for a few months when they were in the Southern Premier Division around the mid-90s.

“It’s been a wrench leaving Polly, Judder (John Lester) and all the lads. The atmosphere in the clubhouse and dressing room got better and better, with so many local lads and people behind the scenes pulling in the same direction.

“But the opportunity to be a manager at that level with my old club Paulton was just too great to turn away and while I hope and expect Yate will do well, I’m keeping my fingers firmly crossed for good things where Paulton are concerned.”

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28/07/17

Bristol City legend Tinnion relishing putting under-23 stars on GFA Cup final parade

BRISTOL City youth chief Brian Tinnion says he is looking forward to more interaction with Charlie Griffin in the Cirencester Town camp at Oaklands Park this Wednesday evening - even though he is not prepared to be quite so acquiescent on this occasion! writes Simon Parkinson.

In his capacity as head of youth recruitment at Ashton Gate, Tinnion happily waved through loan arrangements which took centre-back Jack Challis, a Welsh Under-19 skipper, and striker James Difford to the then-Southern League Premier Division strugglers last season.

Like their professional counterparts the length and breadth of the country, Bristol City seek every opportunity to offer their fledgling performers vital experience at semi-professional levels as part of their football education and more could be on the way to Cirencester in future times if Griffin has anything to do with it!

He explained: “Brian and Bristol City were brilliant when we turned to them for help last season and who knows; we may look to go back to him and them for more of the same if future circumstances dictate.”

Whether any on show at Gloucestershire FA’s Oaklands Park HQ this Wednesday night (August 2, 7.30pm) for the Senior Challenge Cup final encounter involving City’s aspiring under-23s and Ciren’s relegated Evo-Stik Southern League West challengers end up in Centurions’ colours in future times is anyone’s guess.

Nevertheless both camps are approaching the county association’s annual showpiece occasion in eager anticipation, not least City’s legendary 49-year-old former midfielder and manager Tinnion, famed for the artistry of his left foot as Liverpool found to their cost in January 1994 when his winning strike not only dumped the Reds out of the FA Cup at the third round replay juncture at Anfield, but led to then-boss Graeme Souness’ hasty departure from the hot seat.

Of his current crop of Ashton Gate hopefuls, the Geordie explained: “We’ll have around 22 players in our under-23s this season and all are full-time professionals.

“We play our games on Monday evenings throughout the regular season and while some of our home fixtures are played at Ashton Gate, a few take place at Bath City’s Twerton Park and others at the SGS College in Stoke Gifford where the City Women play.

“The league we’re in – the South Division of the Professional Under-23 Development League – is a strong and competitive one and includes the likes of Crystal Palace, Queens Park Rangers and Watford.

“There are some good young lads coming through our academy and under-23 systems, people like Zak Vyner, a defender who broke through to the first team and went on loan to Accrington Stanley, and Lloyd Kelly, a left-back who has also progressed to the first team.

“Then there’s Max O’Leary, the goalkeeper, who played on loan with Bath City last season, Opi Edwards (versatile right-sided player) and James Moreton (midfielder), who, like Zac, has played for the first team in pre-season friendlies.”

Tinnion added: “Freddie Hinds (ex-Luton Town striker) and Joe Morrell (midfielder) both went on the club tour to Tenerife recently so there are five or six of these lads pushing hard for the first team and that’s what we want, our young players progressing to full on pro football as the likes of Bobby Reid and Joe Bryan have for us.

“Our under-23s have been up and running for a few years now and it’s great in that it gives good young players a bit more time to develop in a competitive league and enables clubs like ours more scope to keep them with us for longer periods.”

City’s young guns completed last season’s 28-match programme in a mid-table position, with only Coventry City, Cardiff City, Millwall and champions Charlton Athletic finishing above them.

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28/07/17

Ciren gaffer Griffin set for Bristol City cup final date ahead of big recovery mission

CHARLIE Griffin insists he will be treating his Cirencester Town’s cup final date with Bristol City’s young guns this Wednesday night (August 2) as nothing less than a first team affair, writes Simon Parkinson.

The Corinium Stadium supremo sends his new-look squad into combat with the Ashton Gate starlets for an attractive-looking GFA Senior Challenge Cup showdown on the Oaklands Park 3G at Almondsbury (7.30pm).

Griffin will be eager again to spot signs of potential and promise within his ranks as he steels them for the important business of attempting to bounce back swiftly from the shock of last season’s relegation from the Southern League Premier Division.

And while their first day of Evo-Stik West Division action at home against Taunton Town on Saturday, August 12 will seldom stray from his thoughts, the 38-year-old one-time Swindon Town, Forest Green Rovers and Gloucester City striker is clearly determined to step up his preparations with the big kick-off fast approaching.

He said: “We’re really looking forward to the Bristol City game as it’s been a while since our semi-final victory (3-1 on April 19) against Cinderford Town.

“I may just draft in a couple of players from our Development team as we have another friendly two days later at Newport City, but I’ll be treating the final as every bit a first team game.

“We should be at full strength for it and the new lads seem to have slotted in well so we’re really looking forward to the occasion in the knowledge they (City) will be quick and sharp and a real handful throughout.”

He added: “Pre-season has thrown up some different and challenging tests. We lost 5-2 at Bradford Town for starters when I was taking a look at a few trialists, and we went on to beat Fairford 8-2, Longlevens 3-1 and Cheltenham Town Under-23s 7-1, and you can throw a 3-3 draw with Tuffley Rovers into the mix too.”

Griffin’s summer recruitment drive has seen him raid local rivals Bishops Cleeve for a clutch of their performers, including keeper Matt Wieczorek, centre-back Jordan Stoddart, central midfielder Jack Horrell and forward Jack Watts.

Also aboard are former Didcot striker Ben Whitehead, ex-Lydney and Slimbridge defender Mason Lewis and attacking midfielder Felipe Barcelos, a swoop Griffin labels “a real coup” on the strength of his performances with Oxford City, Banbury United and, more recently, Grantham Town.

“We’ve also retained quite a few players and with Paul Hunt taking time out from football, I’ve replaced him as my assistant manager with (midfielder) James Mortimer-Jones which I’m delighted about, as ‘Jonah’ has good knowledge of the club and our league which he won with Cirencester,” Griffin enthused.

“He’ll give the young lads someone to look up to and aspire to and he’ll also continue to play.

“We’re definitely looking for an improvement on last season, it goes without saying, and we have our expectations. I’ll not say we’ll be doing this and achieving that but the group know what I expect of them and we know where we want to ultimately be.”

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27/07/17

Thriving Tewkesbury Town Colts servants continue to target a home of their own

TEWKESBURY Town Colts’ long-serving secretary Serena Reeve acclaimed a club that continues to grow by the year but admitted: “We’d dearly love a place to call our own”.

The impressive youth and junior set-up caters for more than 300 football-mad youngsters, yet their operation stretches across four locations in and around the historic riverside town, a situation Serena and her fellow committee members are determined – eventually - to address.

She explained: “We’ve always had to spread ourselves around and the Wheatpieces estate has recently been added to our list of playing venues, which include Pamington, Twyning and Tewkesbury School, where our training sessions take place.

“All our teams train there at different times on different days between Monday and Thursday, not to mention the soccer school, which my son Jonathan helps run as a level 1 coach with Chris Martin, we put on for kids aged five to seven on Saturday mornings.

“Chris also heads our girls’ FA/SSE Wildcats mini-soccer programme while Jonathan started out as a five-year-old with Tewkesbury Colts and played right up to under-18 level, so it’s great to see him still involved on the coaching side.

“We have around 23 teams, including girls’ under-10s, 12s and 14s, and that is set to increase with an under-8 side up and running next season.”

Of the effect limited resources have on an otherwise flourishing and successful organisation, Serena stressed: “Having so many teams and players to look after is pretty costly when you have to hire all your facilities and some of our age groups contain three teams playing in the Evesham and Cheltenham youth leagues.

“Girls football continues to grow and do well too and one of our players, Macy Fox, who is becoming an under-14, even had trials for England.

“We’ll also have three under-16 boys teams going into the new season which is why, when you weigh up everything we run, having our own clubhouse, in one central location, would mean so much to us.

“We’d be able to generate our own revenue by holding presentation days and tournaments, that kind of thing, instead of having to pay to hire facilities.

“We do have a changing room – effectively a hut – at Pamington and we’re currently looking to get a grant to modernise it as it’s in a state of disrepair. But we’re still unable to install a second pitch there which we’d like to do because the lane people walk down to reach the ground would see an increase in traffic.”

Nonetheless Tewkesbury Colts continue to fly the flag high for the area on the youth and junior football front and those admirable efforts were recognised and rewarded recently when they were crowned Charter Standard Development Club of the Year at an annual GFA Community Awards ceremony held for the first time at Bristol Golf Club.

Serena smiled: “We were all delighted to win the award. A lot of hard work goes into operations like ours by devoted people and, as you see at most clubs like ours, it tends to be the same small band of people prepared to go the extra mile to ensure the whole thing runs smoothly.”

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26/07/17

Gloucestershire women’s inter-county aces eye more of the same on big rep stage

GLOUCESTERSHIRE FA women’s representative team are hoping to use their recent pre-season success as a springboard to more of the same when the campaign proper comes around.

A recent inter-county representative team tournament at GFA headquarters in Almondsbury involving Wiltshire, Devon, Dorset and Somerset concluded with the Glos girls claiming top spot courtesy of an unbeaten and eventful day-long series of games which culminated in victory over Somerset.

That same women’s team, managed by Steve Lilley and Calum Wands, enjoyed similar experiences throughout last season’s South & West Counties Championship programme when they sailed through their fixtures without loss, only to yet wind up as runners-up just behind victorious Devon Ladies.

It’s a near-miss that will no doubt spur Gloucestershire on to even greater heights in 2017-18 according to Sue Henson-Green, county match committee chair, who acknowledged: “The recent inter-county competition was a fantastic one and everybody enjoyed it, not least our Gloucestershire girls who did so well to win it with an undefeated record.

“It’s been a few years since any of our representative male and female sides – adult or youth – won the South & West Championships and that recent success for our women’s team should really lift them ahead of the new season and who knows, inspire them to go all the way this time after last season’s near-miss.

“It’s great to get the cream of the counties together in this way at our own Oaklands Park and the GFA’s football development officer Alexis Lunn-Gadd does a wonderful job in organising and running the all-day one we host.”

Gloucestershire’s 2017-18 season kicks off on Sunday, August 6 with a trip to take on Dorset Ladies (3pm), before Somerset visit the GFA’s 3G facility on Wednesday, August 16 (7.30pm) and Devon are guests at the same Almondsbury centre on Wednesday, September 6, also at 7.30pm.

Members and coaches from all three of the GFA’s representative squads, under-18 and under-16 boys included, made a welcome appearance at this year’s GFA Community Awards presentations at Bristol Golf Club, where women’s representative team player of the season, centre-back Anna Hubble, who also performed for Bristol Ladies Union, was introduced to the large audience.

Sue smiled: “We were hugely honoured to be invited to the awards for the first time and it was nice that other people involved in the awards system could see the good things that are happening with our representative teams.

“None of our qualified coaches are paid while our 11-strong committee help sort kit, training sessions and matchdays. If volunteers like these didn’t put in the hours and effort that they do, everything would come to a standstill.

“As for players like Anna, it’s not just what they do on the pitch but how they are off it and she is just a lovely, helpful and encouraging person whose attitude and behaviour is exemplary.”

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25/07/17

Laying down the law: Gloucestershire refs to gather ahead of new dissent crackdown  

DOZENS of Gloucestershire-based referees are to attend vital briefings as two selected leagues in the county prepare to introduce sin bins to their 2017-18 programmes, reports Simon Parkinson.

The Gloucestershire Northern Senior and Gloucestershire County Women’s leagues have, as revealed in a separate article below, become one of 32 grassroots leagues of step 7 status or below in England to be chosen to pilot a temporary dismissals programme affecting only instances of dissent.

GFA referee development officer Roger Vaughan has been due to join representatives of the FA for a meeting with Northern Senior League officials at the Victory Club in Cheltenham to discuss the merits of the new law and how precisely it is to be applied from the moment the first competitive balls are kicked in anger this autumn.

A similar gathering, for Gloucestershire County Women’s League referees, has been proposed for next month.

Vaughan welcomed the initiative and revealed more step 7 and lower leagues could adopt the sin bin strategy in future years once their effects are weighed up and digested by the game’s governors.

He also stressed there was much for referees to get their heads around ahead of the big sin-bin scenario.

Vaughan explained: “There’s lots of nitty-gritty to get into about how the law will take effect and in what circumstances. Of course there’ll be situations arising which will need more consideration than simply dismissing people from the field of play for ten minutes and waving them back on.

“Referees attending our courses will be given all the information they’ll need but questions likely to arise will relate to yellow cards and fines, repeat offenders etc, all of which can be clarified.

“First and foremost this scheme affects only matters of dissent and is purely a pilot. It will need to be ironed out and improved before it is rolled out across the country for leagues at similar levels to introduce.

“The sin bin will replace a caution so there will be no £10 club fines for those partaking in the trial like our own Northern Senior League and Gloucestershire County Women’s League.

“A yellow card should nevertheless still be shown to a sin-binned player and if he or she receives a second yellow card for dissent once back on the field, they will again be sent to the sidelines but this time will take no further part in the game.

“In these situations, should their team have any substitutes still available for use, the banished player can be replaced by one of them to ensure 11 players are still active, but ONLY after ten more minutes has elapsed.

“In another scenario a player could receive a yellow card for dissent, find themselves sin-binned, and once back in the action go on to collect another yellow card, say for a routine foul tackle this time. In that instance a player won’t be sent off as would normally be the case after receiving a second yellow as the sin bin for dissent would have dealt with the first one.

“There’s also the question about insulting and abusive language and those situations will continue to warrant a red card in the customary way.”

It is understood that referees will still be required to submit reports to their county associations in respect of sin-binned players as they would customary cautions, in order that the FA can measure the effectiveness of the pilot programme.

And if a player is banished to the ‘bin’ with fewer than ten minutes left of a 90-minute match, the remaining minutes of their time-out will not carry over into a subsequent fixture.

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24/07/17

Turning sinners into saints? Gloucestershire leagues prepare for ten-minute time-outs

TWO of the county’s most popular male and female leagues are gearing up for the advent of a new football law – and it’s sure to generate considerable debate among players and spectators alike, writes Simon Parkinson.

The Football Association confirmed recently that 32 grassroots leagues across the country will partake in a pilot scheme to trial temporary dismissals – sin bins - for players voicing dissent during games.

This intriguing move to crack down on what has long been a headache for match officials and football administrators – 25 per cent of all cautions nationally were administered for dissent last season - applies only to leagues at step 7 level or below, and the Gloucestershire County Women’s League and Gloucestershire Northern Senior (men’s) League have been successful in their attempts to partake in the trial.

Initially 130 grassroots leagues the length and breadth of England registered an interest in the scheme which, in essence, involves referees banishing players from the field of play for ten minutes in circumstances relating to dissent or inappropriate gesturing.

Ten-minute sin bins have been in use in rugby union for two decades and football authorities will be watching closely to ascertain whether the introduction of such sanctions in their sport will change player attitudes and behaviour towards match officials in heated scenarios for the better.

Gloucestershire County Women’s League president and founder member Sue Henson-Green enthused: “We’re delighted to be given the chance to partake.

“The idea was put to all our referees and committee members and most of them felt it was worth giving a go.

“As far as the female game goes dissent seems to have crept in a little more since my own refereeing days, although not many people are reported for it; it tends to be managed on the spot where possible.

“Anything that can make people think twice before opening their mouths has to be a positive thing and you can imagine that team-mates of a player sin-binned for ten minutes for dissent in a crucial match won’t be too happy to find themselves a player down when it’s all hands to the pump.”

General secretary of the Gloucestershire Northern Senior League John Green agreed, saying: “Our committee all felt that dissent remained a major concern in local football everywhere, not just in our league, which we know can lead to a loss of otherwise-willing refereeing participants.

“We’re delighted to be the only men’s league in Gloucestershire to trial it and we’re embracing it big time; we’re 100 per cent behind the idea.

“It’s a way for referees to say to players expressing dissent, ‘I don’t want to be filling my notebook with cautions so go away for ten minutes and we’ll be the best of friends on your return to the pitch when you’ve calmed down’.

“Like anyone else, I’ve experienced from the sidelines the problems dissent can bring and my son, Russell, experienced how bad it could be as a Football League linesman and Conference referee, as well as during his time as a Gloucestershire-based official.

“Our league’s Reg Davis Memorial Cup competition kicks off on August 5 and we’re looking forward to the sin bins coming into force from the word go.”

* Next up here soon: referees to be briefed on how the new dissent laws will be implemented.

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21/07/17

Big community plans in store to give even more Widden Street Soccer kids a leg-up 

WIDDEN Street Soccer’s dedicated mentors and coaches are striving for bigger and better things where their inspirational organisation is concerned, writes Simon Parkinson.

The newly-crowned GFA Charter Standard Club of the Year provide welcome football opportunities in a deprived area of Gloucester for many young and often-disadvantaged children who attend multi-cultural, cosmopolitan Widden Primary School (see separate article below).

Some 30 boys and girls partake in Tuesday evening sessions at the school under lights on a tarmacadam pitch, but their football coach Kurt Doyle, who also fronts the school’s Young, Gifted and Talented Programme, has revealed there are plans to transform the rudimentary facility into a state-of-the-art complex.

 “We’re planning to turn it all into a 3G community facility which would be a really exciting not-for-profit development,” Kurt enthused.

“In due course we’re also looking to start up an under-9s team to accompany our existing under-11s section in the Mid Glos League and then introduce a separate girls’ side all being well.

“Girls can still feature alongside the boys next season and it’s encouraging that four girls were due to recently attend the Gloucestershire FA ACC (Advanced Coaching Centre) trials, and two of those are Syrian refugees which is really heartening.

“Once all our kids are better coached and equipped, and their language improved, the aim is to get them into other local teams or academies, and getting them out and about is important to their development as people, as everything is here for them, everything they need, and it would be good to ease them out of those comfort zones.”

Kurt, surveying the potential, maintained: “We could easily double our numbers at Widden Street Soccer were we to have the manpower and 3G facility in place, and we could in theory pitch three or four more teams into the league. But for now we’re quite content to ensure the logistics and coaching are as good as they can be.

“The programme has helped not only enhance the image of our area but it’s played a part in improving the behaviour of the children, their schoolwork and their discipline, and there’s a clear correlation between their improvement in all these areas and Widden Street Soccer.”

Of that recent GFA award, presented to them at a Bristol Golf Club ceremony as part of the county association’s popular community presentations, Kurt smiled: “To win that was fantastic. We were not expecting to be nominated, let alone win the FA Charter Standard Club award.

“It’s recognition for all the hard work that has gone into it and our success has maybe shown other areas similar to ours that it is possible to make a difference, and that what we’ve achieved through our programme is something worth exploring.”

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21/07/2017

Widden Street Soccer . . . Gloucester’s remarkable award-winning success story

LEADING county coach Kurt Doyle has spoken of his enthusiasm at the recognition gained by his remarkable and inspiring football operation, writes Simon Parkinson.

Widden Street Soccer may hardly be a household name in local football circles, but its value in offering young people an opportunity to shine in and around one of the most impoverished parts of Gloucestershire cannot be understated.

Having only recently attained FA Charter Standard status, WSS were “stunned” to find themselves crowned 2017 winners in the coveted FA Charter Standard Club of the Year class at the annual GFA Community Awards presentations.

This eye-catching club could not entail a more culturally diverse group of players, all of whom attend Widden Primary School sited in the often troubled Bartongate vicinity of Gloucester.

Kurt, 28, a class teacher there and UEFA A-licensed football coach who acts as club secretary and development officer with Widden Street Soccer, explained: “The school caters for around 400 children, all but 20 of whom have English as an additional language!

“The area and school are full of refugees and others who have, for example, fled places where they’ve experienced turmoil and unrest. We have a lot of Roma children, many of whom had lived tough lives in the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

“Fifty per cent of the local population is Muslim but we also have Catholics and Jehovah’s Witnesses, while the community is represented by Pakistanis, Poles, Nigerians, Congolese, Syrians, Bengalis; you name it, although more than half of our kids are British born, albeit bi or trilingual. The school actually caters for more than 25 languages!”

Kurt’s credentials as an FA coach mentor and tutor with the Gloucestershire FA, and his background as a one-time academy coach with Cheltenham Town at the tender age of 17 which led him to occupy a similar position at Blackburn Rovers, appear ideal for the intriguing Widden Street Soccer project which he has taken firmly under his wing with his coaching compatriots.

“The idea actually came from the school’s headteacher Tim Cooper, who saw football as a means of giving these kids a focus and to essentially keep them out of trouble,” Kurt said.

“While the school footed most of the bill, the local council gave us a good financial leg-up and we got Gloucestershire Police involved to help us out to start with.

“Although we have seven teams at the school itself, we wanted to provide more opportunities for the kids to play football on evenings and weekends. Some had already been sent out to local clubs but simply struggled to cope with life away from the tight-knit environment that they knew.

“So we started up an under-11s team and enlisted the help of teachers, seven of whom are FA-qualified coaches with level 1 certificates or above, and sessions have since been held on Tuesday evenings for more than 30 children at a floodlit area of the school on a tarmacadam pitch. We also have an under-11 team competing in the Mid Glos Mini Soccer League.”

Kurt added: “Although we don’t necessarily go all out to win our games, we do have boys talented enough to have signed academy forms with West Brom, Birmingham City and Cheltenham Town academies, while both Bristol pro clubs have been keeping tabs on what we’re doing.

“We’re not looking to be a football club in the usual mould; we’re about being a social and community organisation and we’ve been commended by everyone who has come into contact with us, not least for our outstanding disciplinary record.

“We’ve had managers ringing us up after games paying lovely compliments and admitting that they’d had concerns about bringing their teams into our area, which is very poor and deprived and high on crime.

“It’s about changing perceptions and they all realise these are just a great bunch of ordinary kids at heart who just love playing football and enjoying themselves.”

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20/07/17

Walking football transforms lives, Abbeymead Rovers servant Stuart proclaims

WALKING football delivered by national award winners Abbeymead Rovers and other such centres has transformed the lives of veteran players.

So claims the burgeoning Gloucester team’s devoted player-manager Stuart Langworthy, who has not only been brimming with enthusiasm at the recent award to his club of the FA Mars Just Play National Centre of the Year distinction (see separate story below) but at the way the walking version of the national game in general has taken off apace.

He said: “Attendance figures (at Abbeymead) have improved significantly over the last two years.

“The over 50s is thought to be a vulnerable group but we have been very successful at being inclusive in terms of our pay and play policy, which means anyone over the age of 50 can come regularly or irregularly: all are welcome.

“In fact some UNDER 50s attend our sessions as well; it’s just these younger participants are unable to play in the tournaments.

“Players travel up to 30 miles to attend our centre and they’ll say the main reason they come is for the three ‘fs’ - fun, friendship and fitness.

“All of them had long given up playing football and are now participating in something good for their health and wellbeing, while many are enjoying competing again and at a higher level than we could ever have imagined.”

Far from concentrating on life solely within their own impressive backyard, Langworthy stressed: “We have also helped to establish walking football sessions at GL1 Leisure Centre (Gloucester) and at Cheltenham Town along with another local club.

“I am extremely proud of our achievements and the national recognition we received through the FA Mars Just Play scheme is the icing on the cake.

“We have to constantly pinch ourselves to comprehend what we have all achieved at this stage in our lives and football careers, and we’re thinking: “What next; England?  Who knows?”

Collecting the FA Mars Just Play award on behalf of Abbeymead Rovers at the national football centre, St George’s Park, were Chris Fletcher, Terry Smith and Mick Sweet, who spent most of the afternoon chatting to ex-England international defender Graeme Le Saux and Kelly Simmons, the FA football participation and development director who said she “loved meeting the walking football guys from ARFC”!

Chris glowed: “We were absolutely buzzing. We had a long conversation with Kelly and Graeme and if you told me any of this would be happening to me and the other lads a few years ago, I would have laughed.

“We have such a great bunch of guys and we all do this because we enjoy it; it really is just an amazing achievement.”

Terry Smith, a keen Spurs fan, had his picture taken with a photo of his goal-scoring idol Harry Kane, while Terry’s dad Dave Smith was one of the most accomplished referees of his time and even took charge of an FA Cup final.

Dave is currently building up the over-60s section at Abbeymead Rovers where the fledgling team have just entered their first tournament.

Jack Stanbury, football development officer at the GFA who nominated Abbeymead for the award, said: “It’s great how much walking football at Abbeymead has grown over the relatively short time it has been up and running.

“It is particularly pleasing that while players take part at a social level, there are also those taking their game to the next level by playing in the GFA Walking Football League as well as other competitions.

“Abbeymead parade one of the flagship sessions in the county in terms of numbers of participants and what they provide to people and they, and Stuart, have become great ambassadors for walking football.”

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19/07/17

Net gain: GFA walking football wonders deliver Bobby Moore bowel cancer boost
 
GLOUCESTERSHIRE FA joined forces with their compatriots across the country for a walking football fest – all in the name of the late, great Bobby Moore.

A fun-filled four-hour event held on the 3G pitch at the GFA’s Almondsbury centre generated almost £1,000 for the Bobby Moore Fund for Cancer Research UK and did much to enhance the profile of this increasingly-popular form of football.

Five teams, the majority of whom feature regularly in the successful GFA Walking Football League, demonstrated that while the legs may not be what they were, the speed of thought and industry haven’t diminished one jot, a joint Abbeymead/Stroud outfit eventually prevailing against Forest of Dean team Freedom Foresters 4-0 in the final of a tournament which encouragingly featured a female over-35s side experiencing competitive walking football action for the first time.

GFA football development officer Jack Stanbury explained: “This was the first time the FA has put on a walking football event like this nationally.

“Around 30 county associations took part and we were delighted to be able to show what we’re about when it comes to providing opportunities for football enthusiasts who aren’t perhaps up to regular competition but still get an enormous amount of pleasure and satisfaction out of the slower-paced version.

“It’s something the FA is very keen to continue supporting but the day was very much about raising money for the Bobby Moore bowel cancer charity and we were very happy to pull in £950 through proceeds, helped by the sale of cake donated by GFA staff!

“We also had a crossbar challenge with footballs and shirts up for grabs to winners, and there was opportunity for people to just have a kick-about on the side of the complex. All in all it was a very enjoyable and successful day which a lot of people thoroughly appreciated, not least myself.”

Jack added: “It was especially rewarding to see a group of over-35s women, who deliver walking football sessions at Sir Thomas Rich’s School in Gloucester on Friday nights (7pm), competing full-on for the first time and they seemed to love every minute of it.

“It was also nice to see a Stoke Lane men’s team performing competitively for the first time and putting their own regular sessions on Thursday evenings at the Little Stoke Park 3G facility (7pm) to good use.”

The action was overseen by 71-year-old John Mitchell, a former official on the county scene who himself experienced the “shock” of being diagnosed in October 2012 with bowel cancer.

“We were living in France when I was told,” he explained. “I ended up having all the ops over there so I was very lucky.

“I’ve a clean bill of health now and that’s largely down to the support of my wife Helen, who has been a dietician, nutritionist, sports scientist, you name it!”

John, who enthusiastically took charge of no fewer than ten games at Sunday’s GFA festival, said of his involvement: “I believe I’m the only accredited walking football referee in Gloucestershire and hopefully more will quickly emerge as it can be a natural progression for players and referees to participate once they bid farewell to regular football.

“It’s a great social thing too, whether you’re playing or officiating, with the banter and drinks after games, and it’s a perfect way for over-50s to keep fit. You couldn’t wish to meet a nicer group of guys than the ones who take part in our Thursday sessions on the 3G pitch at Inside Football at Brimscombe, where I also played before I was forced to call it a day - with a recurrence of an ACL injury I suffered when playing football in America in the 1970s!

“I love refereeing walking football though; it’s a chance to stay involved and it’s important that standards of officiating in the walking game are commensurate with the way the sport is evolving, with well over 1,000 teams now across the country and talk even of a walking world cup tournament in 2020.

In online information accompanying their nationwide walking football extravaganza, the FA stated: “Bowel cancer is the second most common cause of cancer death in the United Kingdom.

“Since Bobby Moore died of bowel cancer in 1993, over 800,000 people have been diagnosed with the disease in the UK – enough to fill Wembley Stadium nine times.

“Stephanie Moore MBE established the Bobby Moore Fund in partnership with Cancer Research UK in 1993.

“It’s because of the support of people that the Bobby Moore Fund is now one of the leaders in the fight against bowel cancer, funding world-class research that is helping more people to beat this disease than ever before.”

Anyone wishing to further their interest in walking football in Gloucestershire can contact Jack Stanbury by emailing jack.stanbury@gloucestershirefa.com (01454 615888, option 3).

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18/07/17

On the up: Jubilant Jack is braced for big County League mission with Kingswood

JACK Richardson says he intends grabbing a golden opportunity to manage in the Marcliff Gloucestershire County League with both hands – at the age of only 20, writes Simon Parkinson.

The remarkable young soccer supremo is hardly a novice either when it comes to hot seat demands – Richardson took up the under-18 youth team reins at his home town club Hanham Athletic when he was 17 before enjoying a successful stint at the helm of Hanham Abbotonians, culminating in last season’s Bristol and District League Division Five promotion achievement.

Richardson, who had been undertaking a BTEC sport coaching diploma with Bristol City Community Trust, decided the time was ripe to chance his arm at a higher level heading into this summer and he explained: “I’d done three years with Hanham and felt I’d reached a pinnacle in winning that promotion.

“I’d also been feeling a little frustrated because a lot of our good young players and mates of mine were getting offers from higher-level clubs, including some from the County League and even Toolstation League.

“I couldn’t really offer them anything to match those opportunities although I was quite prepared to stay with Hanham if nothing suitable came up.

“As a level 2 coach I was also keen to progress and I became aware that a couple of vacancies had arisen at County League clubs, including Kingswood, and decided to give it a go.

“Kingswood invited me up for a chat and to show me around and I was blown away by their facilities, a world away from what I’d been used to in the District and Avon leagues.”

Richardson added: “A couple of days later I had a call to say the job was mine and I really couldn’t believe it.

“I’m really grateful to Kingswood; it’s a bold move to appoint someone so young but I wouldn’t have gone for it had I not thought I was capable of making the jump.

“I’ve brought around eight of my Hanham Abbotonians players with me and it’s exciting for them too to get a chance like this. They’re all aged between 16 and 22 but will relish, I’m sure, getting a chance to show what bright young talents they are.

“If, like me, they work hard and are keen to learn, there are abundant opportunities out there to keep pushing on.”

Kingswood reached new heights in finishing last season in fifth spot, while a last-eight appearance in the GFA Challenge Trophy under James Cole’s leadership proved a memorable experience.

Richardson noted: “While there’ll be young players in abundance at Kingswood and we’ll look to keep bringing them through, there are a few older and established heads still here, players like Adam Eldridge, James Blackwell and Andy Carpenter and those types will be invaluable.

“Next season will be about us all finding our feet but I’d love to think we could build on last season’s achievements and, in future, push for the next level up if that’s the direction the club wishes to go in.”

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17/07/17

Tytherington stalwart Ted so set on turning Rocks into an Hellenic League force again

TED Travell insists he still has a burning desire to rekindle Tytherington Rocks’ fortunes as a step 6 football force – and hoist them even higher if at all possible, writes Simon Parkinson.

Rocks fell on hard times from the moment a string of key players exited their previously successful set-up in summer 2014 along with boss Gary Powell, who had led them to two Hellenic Division One title triumphs in the space of three seasons.

To his and the club’s frustration, Tytherington were unable to gain elevation to the Premier Division as their facilities did not meet with FA requirements at the time.

Since then a raft of managers and players have come and gone, all unable to reverse a slide that continued last term with a third straight bottom-two finish, a trend that Travell, born and bred in the village and a one-time junior and senior Tytherington player, is determined to address.

And if he and they can finally secure a long-held and elusive ambition to complete a switch to the Toolstation Western League then so much the better.

“Our problems began the moment Gary and all our players left to join Longwell Green and since then our managers just haven’t been able to attract players of the standard required at this level,” Travell conceded. “Maybe the fact we don’t have a playing budget, that we only pay travelling expenses, is a factor in that.

“There’s little doubting that having brown envelopes to distribute after games can make life easier for a manager.

“It was just unfortunate that after our last title win (in 2013-14) we didn’t have the facilities to allow us to go up.

“But the main headache for me has been in trying to secure a place in the Western League for the past few years.

“It’s pure logistics; people from our area and further south, Bristol included, simply don’t want to travel as far as Wiltshire, Berkshire and Oxford and that includes spectators.

“We used to have local derbies against Lydney, Winterbourne, Longlevens, Tuffley and Brimscombe to look forward to but all those teams have moved on.

“That, of course, affects revenue for and after games and our gates have fallen by 50 per cent over the past few years which is why Western League football would be so beneficial to us; it would create so much more interest and revenue.”

With a new manager in former Cheltenham Saracens and Henbury boss Ian Giles set to take up the reins, Travell says there is light at the end of the tunnel over those league transfer hopes but is understandably cautious when it comes to premature celebrations.

“We were assured at the recent Hellenic League AGM that we can gain entry to the Western League the season after next, so we’re keeping our fingers crossed that comes to fruition,” he said.

Of his desire to push Rocks to former heights, Travell declared: “The committee and I are determined to be successful.

“It may have to be a gradual process and mid-table next season would be a real achievement when you consider what the past three years have been like.

“If we could just bring some stability back and then push on from there, possibly to Step 5 standard, that would be fantastic.

“Tytherington Rocks have never achieved Premier Division status in their 120-year history. The facilities are all but there now; we have a beautiful set-up with one of the best pitches in the league and we’ve spent a lot of money on improvements with some help from FA grants.

“We’d need a covered standing area for 100 spectators and we could do that without a problem. In fact we have the steel ready for the construction.”

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15/07/17

Setting the pace: Jubilant Abbeymead walking football aces gain national recognition

STUART Langworthy spoke of his “immense pride” at seeing his Abbeymead Rovers Walking Football stars scoop the FA Mars Just Play National Centre of the Year accolade.

The prestigious award recognises an established or up-and-coming Just Play Centre that is experiencing significant success in encouraging adults back into football.

That centre will “show a passion for spreading the word about the power of football” while having grown the numbers taking part through “impactful and creative coaching in a fun, inclusive environment”.

Winners are presented with the Just Play Centre of the Year trophy and spaces for six victorious centre representatives to witness an open England training session are on offer.

Langworthy, who is also chairman of the entire Abbeymead set-up, said the award had made him a “very proud player and manager” of the walking football section at Rovers, which forms part of the largest club in the county with more than 40 teams on parade.

Abbeymead, who have won numerous other awards, were the inaugural Gloucestershire FA Walking Football League champions last year and went on to successfully defend their crown in the latest campaign.

He explained: “Walking football began at Abbeymead in September 2015. We had a spare slot on our Astroturf and, as an FA Charter Standard Community club, we did not have anything to offer the older members of our community.

“We started out with just six players and we now have over 30 registered in less than two years.

“In September 2016 we entered the GFA Super Vets League and we have just pitched an over 60 team into the WFU (Walking Football United) competition.

“The main reason for setting up the session was to provide fun, fitness and friendship for the over 50s.

“Two years on we have certainly achieved this and enjoyed astonishing success. We regularly have 20 or so people attending each week on a Wednesday at 8.30pm for our pay-and-play sessions.”

* Check back here for more on Abbeymead Rovers’ walking football exploits, coming up soon.

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14/07/17

Simons just the man to steer ambitious Chipping Sodbury to new heights, insists Scott

CHIPPING Sodbury Town club boss Scott Gibson is adamant new first team supremo Neil Simons and his management team can drive them to new heights-  despite an exodus of players to contend with, writes Simon Parkinson.

Rockleaze Rangers’ experienced one-time defender, midfielder, captain and, for a spell, manager Simons and his long-time playing colleague at the same Marcliff Gloucestershire County League club, Aaron Day, have just taken up the reins at the Ridings, their remit to try and improve on last season’s admirable 13th-placed effort under Karl Reese’s stewardship.

 Reese, who had steered Sodbury to back-to-back promotions leading to their first-ever crack at Toolstation Premier Division level last term, stepped down from the hot seat this summer for family reasons, paving the way for 36-year-old Simons and his No.2 Day, an ex-Paulton Rovers, Welton Rovers and Cadbury Heath centre-back, to take charge. Bristol City Academy coach Kerry Georgiou, a UEFA B licence holder, is also aboard.
 
Gibson acknowledged: “Neil actually came our way via a recommendation from Karl and he (Simons) is straight as a die, a no-nonsense type and very ambitious.

“He’s a very good motivator and he wants to give everyone a chance in the knowledge that there’s plenty of talent within our three senior sides and under-18 youth section to draw on.

“Training has been very good and there is no clique, which is extremely important.”

Sodbury and Simons no longer have a string of last season’s regular performers at their disposal, including Joe White, Dave Sims-Burgess and Joe Guest, who have all signed for Southern League Paulton, while two more, Sam Taylor and Josh Cann, are there as trialists.

Sam Jenkins, George Box and keeper Tim Griffiths have also departed and Gibson confessed: “I can’t quite fathom why so many of them have gone because we’re a good and friendly club on the up. We wish them well, though, and the door’s always open to them to come back.

“In the meantime we want people to want to be part of the exciting things that are happening here and we’ll not be standing still.

“New players are in the pipeline and there’s a perfect opportunity to improve and we WILL improve.

“We weren’t up to the mark over the second half of last season and we’re delighted that the ones who didn’t leave us have shown such a willingness to stay; they are the sort you want to be keeping hold of.

“There is plenty of talent to take us forward and we’ll benefit from (striker) Justin Bishop’s move back from the reserves to lend us his experience and goal threat.”

Simons, meanwhile, counts County League clubs Yate Reserves, Henbury and Hanham Athletic among his former stamping grounds, while he ended last season with Hambrook in the Bristol Premier Combination.

And the new Ridings recruit smiled: “I was all geared up to continuing with Hambrook into next season when Karl (Reese) asked me if managing Chipping Sodbury would be of interest to me.

“I’d known Karl for many years playing alongside him for Yate Reserves and Beaufort Sunday, where I occasionally stood in as manager for him when he was absent.

“So we met up and then I met with the committee and it went from there.

“It’s a great opportunity for me at a fantastic community club. I’ve always achieved things in my life and been a leader and this is an ideal project with exciting plans afoot for the club and its facilities.

“It’s about building blocks for now and stabilising but it’s a massive ambition of mine to reach the Southern League in time.”

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13/07/17

New teams on show as Suburban League prepares for fresh start after 2016-17 success

BRISTOL and Suburban League officers are keeping everything crossed it will be more of the same in 2017-18 after reflecting on a successful last season at the 122nd AGM.

The enthusiastic turn-out at Frenchay’s Stapleton and Begbrook Social Club were informed that no fewer than ten new teams arising from five new clubs – Bikkle Sports, Bristol Phoenix, Socius United, Timorese and Stoke Rangers – will be kicking off the new campaign.

Secretary Derek Cumner happily reported an upturn in fortunes last season when it came to the “curse of the awarded games”, thanks largely to improved weather and initiatives taken at the previous AGM.

He explained: “It meant that awarded games were reduced by two-thirds, meaning the league tables were a fairer reflection on the strength of the teams.”

There was good news too on the officiating front and Cumner stressed: “There had been a shortage of referees but that has been improved thanks to the sterling work of Simon Turner who, in conjunction with Steve Tanner at the Gloucestershire FA, had a link with young academy referees.

“In fact we had four teenage officials involved in the league’s Len Bartlett Cup final and the referee that day, Ollie Taylor, went on to be voted Young Referee of the Year at the recent GFA Community Awards.”

The long-serving league secretary went on to express his satisfaction that all 2016-17 matches had been completed on time for the fifth successive season thanks to the efforts of fixture secretary Martin Peters, who had “juggled and changed the fixtures to avoid almost any night games”.

League representatives heard also that law changes to be introduced include “three from three” substitutions as opposed to “three from five”, while the cost of cup games will now be shared, with home teams paying for the pitch and the away side covering referee costs.

The league management committee is to remain unchanged with the exception of league website secretary Steve Poole, who has stepped down after ten seasons in the role.

“It was generally agreed that Steve has developed the website into one of the best in the county,” said Cumner, who also confirmed the Suburban League is to operate with seven divisions of 13 teams next term.

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12/07/17

Urgent attention: Longwell Green Sports on a mission to fill secretarial and media roles

VOLUNTEERS are the lifeblood of any grassroots football set-up – and Longwell Green Sports are no exception.

They are on the hunt for enthusiasts to fill two key roles at the Shellards Road club as the countdown to the new campaign continues apace.

Sports vice-chairman Brad Vickerman admitted there is an “urgent need” to appoint a secretary to oversee their reserve and third teams, who will perform in the Bristol Premier Combination and Bristol and District leagues respectively next term.

Longwell Green, whose first team are familiar features of the Toolstation Premier Division scene, are also targeting a website and social media operator with a view to relaying news and views to the local football fraternity at large.

Vickerman explained: “We’re in urgent need of a secretary for our reserve and A teams.

“The position involves running the administration side of those two teams for approximately four hours per week, which can be done from home, while also representing the club at the three meetings we hold during the season.

“We’re also seeking somebody to look after our social media and website, to help keep everybody in the loop as to what is going on at Longwell Green.

“This could also involve creating a press report for the local papers and it might be that there’s a youngster out there interested in the role who might be undertaking media studies and enjoys sport.

“By volunteering it could assist with coursework and help with people’s CV, while a retired person might like to consider the position if, say, they’re eager to give something back to their local football club.”

Longwell Green’s vice-chairman added: “The new additions to our team of volunteers would be most welcome to attend our matches on Saturdays, although that is not a necessity!

“Not only do we run a first team in the Toolstation Western League’s top division but we boast one of the largest junior sections in the South West.

“We are very much family-orientated here and there is a very friendly atmosphere in the clubhouse.

“Anyone filling these roles can look forward to the many social events taking place throughout the year.”

For further information, Brad Vickerman can be contacted on 07789 902503.

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11/07/17

Ref on the rise: Enever so eager to take USA experiences into Gloucestershire game

RISING ref George Enever is set for a cracking career in the centre of the action if recent accomplishments are anything to go by.

The 19-year-old from Emersons Green near Bristol is in his second year as a level 4 referee and recently partook in the prestigious Dallas Cup competition.

Not content with that exciting excursion across the pond, George is to return to the States this month to oversee fixtures at the famous USA Youth Cup in Minnesota, a tournament he first attended as a referee 12 months back.

Over a routine winter weekend George can be spotted keeping careful tabs on Western League and Gloucestershire County League tussles, while he is also an assistant referee with the Southern League.

And that’s not to mention his involvement with the whistle on the Avon Youth, Bristol Premier Sunday and Bristol & Gloucestershire U-18/U-21 Football Combination league stages.

These are busy and enjoyable times, then, for a teenager clearly keen to make raw potential count by “continuing to progress through the referee levels”.

Of his Dallas Cup experiences, George explained: “I was one of six promising young level 4 referees across the whole country to be selected to attend as part of the UK Referee Academy.

“The tournament was a great experience and the group of level 4s worked closely with a group of PGMOL (Professional Game Match Officials Ltd) referees and coach. I learnt a lot from that and it developed me greatly as a referee.

“The UK referee team were split into pairs and stayed with a host family which allowed us to really take in a lot more of the Dallas culture.

“The tournament itself is a very prestigious one that has a long and impressive list of famous alumni. David Beckham, Wayne Rooney, Javier Hernandez and Ross Barkley have all played in the tournament to name a few.

“This year the tournament’s super group was attended by under-19 teams from Manchester United, Everton, FC Dallas, Eintracht Frankfurt, Chivas, FC Monterrey and more.

“I was appointed as an assistant for a match between FC Dallas, who went on to win the under-19 supergroup, and FC Monterrey.”

Of the forthcoming USA Cup event, hailed the largest international youth football tournament in the Western hemisphere, George enthused: “It’s a great opportunity to meet with, socialise and learn from referees from all around the world.

“Last year I worked with referees from USA, Mexico, Brazil, China, Italy, Portugal, Costa Rica, Jamaica and more, while I also refereed teams from Iceland, Brazil, USA, Japan, Mexico and Uganda among others.

“Some of the referees I worked with were on the FIFA list and so it was great opportunity to learn. Some of the referees and the teams at the tournament did not speak any English so it was a new challenge to try and communicate during the games!”

Meanwhile, George was among four representatives from Gloucestershire FA to recently take part in a development workshop held at the FA’s national football centre at St George’s Park in Staffordshire for up-and-coming referees (see more articles below).

He said: “The conference was great and run very professionally. The activities were both relevant and influential and they will provide plenty of new knowledge and skills for many of the attendees.

“I personally learnt a lot to take back to the Gloucestershire FA Youth Council, of which I am a member.

“At the next meeting I will be able to bring new ideas and discussions which should help aid the youth council in achieving its aim of improving grassroots football in Gloucestershire.”

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10/07/17

Gloucestershire’s grassroots game continues to flourish

Gloucestershire FA’s Football Development Manager, Matt Boucher reflects on the successes of the 2016/17 season.

MORE than £800,000 of Football Foundation money was pumped into Gloucestershire’s grassroots game during this season. The hand-outs, issued by the UK’s largest sports charity, were used to produce new football facilities in the county, while the Foundation’s Grow the Game Grant, which enables brand-new teams access to £1,500 of funding to help with pitch hire, administration, coaching and kit costs among other essentials, helped 16 clubs set up 29 teams in Gloucestershire to the tune of £43,500.

These eye-catching figures and many more were relayed to individual and team winners and their supporters, gathered at Bristol Golf Club for the recent annual GFA Community Awards presentations, by the county association’s Football Development Manager Matt Boucher, who began by pointing out that 826 adult male teams and 44 adult female sides operated under the auspices of the Gloucestershire FA during 2016-17.

He added that the county now provides disability football for 40 male teams and one female team, while activity in the junior and youth games continued to be high with 755 boys’ and 89 girls’ teams flourishing, not to mention a 624-strong contingent of mini-soccer set-ups.

At the ceremony, attended by some 100 people, Boucher spoke of the continuing growth of powerchair football in both the north and south of the county, while stating that walking football was becoming increasingly popular in many areas of the region and a new under-8s girls’ football festival had been launched to promising effect.

The unveiling of a midweek 11-a-side GFA Summer Super League proved so popular with its initial eight-team format in 2016 that it has now doubled in size to cater for 16 sides performing under the Oaklands Park lights on the 3G pitch at county HQ this year.

Elsewhere, the cash was splashed too when it came to the £5,990 bursary outlay to support candidates through their FA Level 2 and Youth Award Module 3. Over 300 learners have been supported through their FA Level 1 coaching courses, while Boucher revealed that the county FA would soon be hosting new UEFA B certificate sessions to further enhance people’s coaching credentials.

The GFA Football Development Manager reported too that over 640 registered referees provided an impressive 90 per cent coverage of games played at youth and adult level across Gloucestershire in 2016-17, and that 90 per cent of clubs in the county had subscribed to the FA’s WGS (Whole Game System), which was introduced nationally to help football administrators dispense of old-fashioned paperwork processes in favour of easier online administration.

Like their county association counterparts across the country, the Gloucestershire FA is midway through the FA’s four-year National Game Strategy devised to increase participation in grassroots football, improve training facilities and boost coaching prospects.

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07/07/17

All change at the Rec as new-look Bitton eye better days as a Toolstation Premier force

DAN Langdon wants his new-look Bitton team to prove they are top-four material rather than relegation also-rans when the new campaign gets underway, writes Simon Parkinson.

Having seen them survive the dreaded drop from the Toolstation Premier Division by the skin of their teeth, the young Rec supremo has dusted himself down from the ignominy he and his charges suffered and hit back with a rebuilding programme that could well catapult them to heights among the league’s leading lights once more.

Whether the 2009 champions have truly regained their mojo only time will tell, but it won’t be for the want of trying after an overworked Langdon announced an impressive series of summer acquisitions, not least that of Mangotsfield United’s central defensive pairing of Scott Brice and Ryan Batten.

Former Paulton Rovers and Cinderford Town keeper Ben John has joined from Larkhall Athletic along with fellow former Paulton performers Reeko Best (attacking midfield) and Tom Knighton (striker).

Joe McLellan, a versatile front-man with Weston-super-Mare in National League South, is also aboard, while central midfielder Ben Wych, who Langdon insisted netted 13 times from free-kicks for Odd Down last season, is another poised to sign.

The Bitton boss has appointed a new No.2 to accompany him on the journey in the shape of long-serving club-man Steve Jones, a key cog at centre-half when they clinched that title eight years ago and finished runners-up to Larkhall two seasons on.

Of Jones and other new Rec arrivals, Langdon enthused: “I know all about Steve, not only as he’s been around the club a long time as a former captain but because he’s my brother-in-law too!

“He applied for the assistant manager position when he heard Sam Greatorex had stepped down through work commitments and he’s been superb and worked so hard since he arrived. And that’s one thing you get with Steve, honesty and endeavour; he won’t take any messing.

“He was just the same as a player when you always knew that if you weren’t putting in a shift on the training ground, he’d be the first to bark at you.”

Langdon added: “Scott Brice will be my new club captain and to have someone of his calibre, experience and leadership qualities – he really bosses the park - shows a real statement of intent on our part, as he’s also captained Mangotsfield in the Southern League over the past three seasons.

“His central defensive partner there, Ryan Batten, approached me about coming to us and I wasn’t going to turn him down. He’s someone I played alongside at Bitton when he was a youngster and not only is he tough-tackling but he can score goals.

“Ben John is probably one of the best non-League keepers in the area and another leader with real presence about him, and to have a National League South talent like Joe McLellan just caps off a very good summer of recruitment for us to go with the other excellent additions we’ve made.”

Langdon has been further boosted by decisions from Kyle Tooze, Dean Griffiths and Jack Allward to stay put, while others such as Zemell Burton, George Foyle, Ross Beazer, Dan Reading and Callum Baker have all re-signed.

Sadly last season’s skipper and centre-half Ryan Bennett will be sidelined for several months because of an ongoing back condition, while centre-forward Dean Griffiths misses Bitton’s first five games through suspension.

Nevertheless a bullish Langdon maintained: “My challenge to the players is to push for a top-four finish.

“When you look at the sessions we’ve had so far and the way the lads have shaped up, you’d never think we’d just come off the back of a relegation fight but new faces always helps with that.”

Bitton’s next pre-season friendly is against Paulton on Monday, July 10 (7.30pm) before Mangotsfield, like their Southern League One S&W rivals, also visit the Recreation Ground on Tuesday, August 1 (7.45pm).

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07/07/17

Second time lucky as Rockleaze Rangers Vets atone for 2016 agony in county clincher

ROCKLEAZE Rangers Veterans atoned for their 2015-16 near-miss agony by claiming this season’s Gloucestershire FA Veterans League crown in a tension-filled county showdown.

Runaway South Division champions Rangers, celebrating a second straight title success following their goal difference glory at the expense of runners-up Bristol North Vets 12 months prior, were aiming to go one better than the frustrating 3-2 defeat inflicted by North Division One victors Ashton Reunited, from Birmingham, in the summer 2016 county final, despite the Bristol battlers having led 2-0 and looking fair set to land the trophy.

They did just that, although this time it took a 5-4 penalty shoot-out success over emphatic North Division One champions Shurdington Rovers Vets after a draining 80-minute match on the GFA’s 3G pitch had seen the sides emerge in goalless deadlock, watched by an enthralled Oaklands Park crowd.

The county showpiece, fought out annually by the winners of the South and North Division One sections of the three-division league, brought the curtain down on another exciting and competitive campaign, prompting GFA football development officer Jack Stanbury to enthuse: “Veterans football is clearly growing in popularity as we’re seeing with our own league.

“The nice thing is there’s mutual respect between the players in the knowledge that they’re not as young as they once were, and games by and large are played in a friendly spirit. That said the desire to win is evident and that certainly came through in a fast-paced and tight final this year.

“One referee remarked that he was sure vets players didn’t usually play at that pace on an average Sunday, which said it all about how geed-up they must have been!

“It really was a fantastic spectacle played out at an impressive speed and there were a few firm tackles in there too, which maybe isn’t so surprising given a lot of the players will have performed at a decent level of local football in their younger days.

“In all it was a really good advert for veterans’ football and encouraging to see a good-sized crowd there for it.”

Rockleaze manager Mike Hughes said: “The ten-point margin at the top of the Southern League somewhat flattered us, but with a squad boasting seven centre-halves we were particularly proud of conceding just one goal through the season and winning every game.

“Those defensive strengths continued into the play-off final where we came up against a very strong and well-organised Shurdington Rovers side that pushed us for the whole 80 minutes.

“It was a hard-fought and entertaining nil-nil with both teams having opportunities to win it and neither taking advantage.

“In the end we won by the slimmest of margins, scoring our fifth penalty to win 5-4, and while we were delighted to come through it was a tough way for Shurdington to lose.

“At least it kept the entertainment going nicely all evening!”

The 11-a-side league for players aged 40-plus is to increase in size again next season with Cheltenham Town, Ramblers and Shurdington, who are pitching a second side into combat, all signing up, extending team participants to an impressive 32.

It is expected that the facility at St Bede’s Catholic College, Bristol, will again be utilised for regular Sunday south fixtures while games north of the county should be staged once more by All Saints’ Academy at Cheltenham and Hartpury College.

Although the deadline to register for next season’s competition has passed, players wishing to sign up for existing sides are welcome while complete teams may yet be considered for 2017-18 entry.

Anyone wishing to know more can contact Jack Stanbury at jack.stanbury@gloucestershirefa.com (01454 615888, option 3).

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06/07/17

All change at the top as Hanham Athletic call on Cotter and Preece to take up the reins

HANHAM Athletic have announced a double change to their club management composition – to the evident delight of the new boys on the block.

GFA Local Football News revealed on June 1 (scroll down to headlined article on that date) that last season’s Marcliff Gloucestershire County League strugglers Hanham were “casting the net” for not only a fresh face at the first team rudder but also a new man to lead their Bristol and District League Division One outfit into the new campaign.

The Vicarage Road club have now appointed Tim Cotter to take charge of first team affairs, his remit simply to try and improve on a dismal last programme when a mere three wins from 32 fixtures condemned them to second-from-bottom status.

Relieved to at least have maintained their place in the prestigious local league after 11 years at the level, Hanham are now targeting new heights next term and have swooped accordingly to land Cotter, who has had involvement with Western League clubs Odd Down and Cadbury Heath, where he was reserve team manager, in bygone years.

The new man will operate as an out-and-out boss but has been quick to request the assistance of Dan Sperring, who battled gamely in the face of adversity as sole hot-seat incumbent to keep Hanham’s heads above water in that torrid 2016-17 mission.

Cotter said: “I am delighted to join Hanham Athletic as manager. After speaking to the committee and hearing their vision for the club, this opportunity really excites me and I can’t wait to get started with pre-season and hopefully begin to get them moving forward again.”

Meanwhile Ashley Preece, whose previous stamping grounds include Shepton Mallet Reserves and Castle Cary, where he was a No.2, has taken up the reins with Hanham’s second string and will be assisted by Callum Hall, who is a newcomer to such a role.

Preece expressed his own pleasure at accepting the position, adding: “I can’t see why any player would not want to come and play here at Hanham Athletic FC.

“It’s the club’s great family and social side that was the main reason behind me accepting the job, along with the chance to work with the new first-team management set-up.”

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05/07/17

Full speed ahead: Gloucestershire FA braced for Bobby Moore walking football fest
 
GLOUCESTERSHIRE FA is setting the pace on the walking football front once more by staging a special event this month – and anyone can join in!

Money is to be raised for the Bobby Moore Fund for Cancer Research UK charity by making the walking version of the beautiful game a theme at the fun-filled four-hour festival between 10.30am and 2.30pm on Sunday, July 9 at the county association’s Almondsbury HQ.

The day comprises a tournament for 45-year-olds and over and another competition for more senior participants aged 60-plus.

There will also be ample opportunities for anybody, younger stars of our regular full-speed local game included, to try their hand at the more sedate pace of football action on the popular Oaklands Park 3G surface.

GFA football development officer Jack Stanbury explained: “The event is all about drawing awareness to bowel cancer and to that end we’ll be out to try and raise at least £1,000 for the very worthy Bobby Moore Fund for Cancer Research UK charity.

“There will be cake sales, raffles and competitions on the go and 100 per cent of the money generated will go to the cause.

“Fittingly our referee on the day, John Mitchell from Gloucester, is a former local player and bowel cancer survivor.

“We want as many people as possible, whole families, to come along, get involved and see what walking football is all about.”

More information about the event and the Bobby Moore Fund can be found here:

https://www.gloucestershirefa.com/news/2017/jun/bobby-moore-fund

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04/07/2017

A ref on the rise: Teenage official Jade gets set for Gloucestershire Northern Senior bow

JADE Wardle is one of many young county officials on the up as she prepares to test herself on even bigger stages next season.

The 19-year-old ref on the rise was recently promoted from a level 6 referee to level 5, enabling her to not only continue running the line in the Gloucestershire County League and referee in the Cheltenham League as she did to encouraging effect last season, but to take up the whistle now on the Gloucestershire Northern Senior League circuit from the start of the 2017-18 campaign.

Jade, who is studying sport and exercise science at University of Gloucestershire as well as undertaking a referee scholarship there, explained her experiences to date: “I initially took up refereeing at the age of 14 to earn a bit of money as I was playing football too at the time and wasn’t able to get a conventional weekend job!

“The more I got into it the more I enjoyed it and my confidence to officiate improved during a summer NCS (National Citizen Service) programme I was on, learning life skills and about teamwork. It gave me more confidence to get out of my comfort zone and try other things.

“In fact when I refereed for the first time in men’s football I was filmed in action by the NCS for a campaign advert they were doing at the time.”

Jade was one of four teenage representatives from Gloucestershire FA to take part in a development workshop for aspiring referees held recently at the FA’s national football centre at St George’s Park in Staffordshire (see separate article below).

She smiled: “The St George’s Park workshop day was really enjoyable and something I’d done a few years ago.

“It was good to link up and network with other people from other counties doing the same thing.

“There were activities there not strictly related to refereeing yet were relevant to it too, as they were based on improving communication skills – hand signals, body language, clear voice interaction, for example - and teamwork. One such session involved an obstacle course on a bouncy castle and it was not only educational but great fun too.

“Now I just want to keep working at it and go as far as I can as a football official.”

Jade’s NCS adventure, as told by her, can be found here: http://www.ncsyes.co.uk/themix/ncs-story-jade

Her exciting cameo appearance as part of that NCS campaign film can be viewed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5LobrFZDIyA

With a programme of events being finalised for the summer and early-season shortly, the GFA would love to hear from anyone interested in refereeing by calling 01454 615888.

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03/07/2017

Ollie on the up: GFA award winner Taylor benefits from St George’s Park refs day

AWARD-WINNING official Ollie Taylor’s feet haven’t touched the floor over the past few months as he’s stepped up his football education in impressive fashion.

The teenage prodigy was among four representatives from Gloucestershire FA to take part in a development workshop for up-and-coming referees held at the iconic setting of the FA’s national football centre at St George’s Park in Staffordshire.

Ollie was joined by fast-emerging fledgling officials Jade Wardle, George Enever and Adam McAnoy in representing the county on the day.

The event was aimed at developing individuals’ own refereeing skills, as well as encouraging them to consider ways to boost participation levels of young referees operating across the length and breadth of Gloucestershire’s football parks.

GFA’s new referee development officer Roger Vaughan said the local participants and their national comrades had been able to “experience a mixture of practical and theoretical referee training”.

He added: “All four really enjoyed the day and are all either operating at level 4 or aiming to be involved at their level in the near future. Two of them are also to take up their places at the FA Centre of Refereeing Excellence programme this coming season.”

Ollie is one such ref in a rush as his exploits in carrying off the Young Referee of the Year prize at the recent annual GFA Community Awards presentations at Bristol Golf Club amply demonstrate.

Having received a double promotion from level 7 status to level 5 within the space of a year, the first referee in the county to achieve such a feat, Vaughan spoke enthusiastically of the youngster’s “support” of various county FA initiatives such as the Business 7evens League, Summer Super League and county cup finals.

“Ollie has taken a proactive lead within the Bristol City Referee Academy, showing a real passion to not only develop his own skills but also those around him,” Vaughan said.

With a programme of events being finalised for the summer and early-season shortly, the GFA would love to hear from anyone interested in refereeing by calling 01454 615888.

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30/06/2017

Mangos, Manor Farm stars prove national treasures thanks to World Cup romp

TWO of the county’s most accomplished local footballers have been celebrating quite a feat on the international stage – as England Seniors world champions!

Goalkeeper Steve Phillips and midfielder Alex Russell may only be aged 39 and 44 respectively but they can rightly be labelled ‘golden oldies’ after helping England retain their world title thanks to a 2-0 victory over Iran in the annual Thailand tournament.

Former Bristol City and Bristol Rovers shot-stopper Phillips, set to continue between the sticks for Mangotsfield United in next season’s Southern League One S&W challenges, also featured in the final for his country last year when they lifted the 11th Seniors World Cup trophy courtesy of a 1-0 win over the hosts, Thailand.

Russell also performed for the professionals at Ashton Gate during a three-year stint between 2005 and 2008, while admirably last season, despite advancing years compared with most semi-pro performers, playing a part in Bristol Manor Farm’s promotion to the same Southern League second tier via a Toolstation Premier Division title success.

The triumphant England team comprised more names familiar to football enthusiasts in our neck of the woods.

Former Cheltenham Town and Bristol Rovers goal aces Jamie Cureton and Barry Hayles were involved, along with Rob Edwards, a former assistant boss at Whaddon Road and one-time Bristol City and Welsh international defender. The ex-Ashton Gate element also included Bristol boy Louis Carey and Lee Trundle, both positive fledglings at aged only 40 as England Senior competitors.

Our national hopefuls began the defence of their crown with an 8-1 thrashing of a Thailand representative side, before being drawn in a group that included the USA, Scotland and New Zealand.

An emphatic 7-0 victory over the States, followed by a narrow 2-1 win against New Zealand in which Phillips proudly paraded the captain’s armband, saw the Old Lions top the section with the aid of a 2-2 draw with the Auld Enemy, England then crushed Australia 6-1 in the semi-final to book that second consecutive final in the competition.

It was the fourth time England had lifted the trophy since the event began in 2006 following the devastating tsunami that hit Thailand two years prior. It was hoped the tournament, featuring teams from around the world, would help rebuild tourism after the disaster, as well as providing additional football coaching for underprivileged children.

The England Seniors team is organised by Harrogate Veterans and their manager Paul Bell, with the support of sponsors who make it possible for the team to travel to the Far East every year.

Anyone interested in finding out how they can support the team with sponsorship can email Steve Phillips at justkeepers@hotmail.co.uk

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30/06/2017

New laws look set to affect county football, GFA chairman Roger Burden reveals

GLOUCESTERSHIRE FA chairman Roger Burden relayed some intriguing information to guests at the 2017 GFA Community Awards presentations – about potential law changes affecting our local and national game.

Mr Burden, who was also until last year a vice-chairman of the Football Association, addressed an enthusiastic gathering of some 100 people during the ever-popular annual ceremony, which was this year held at Bristol Golf Club.

Now an FA vice-president, Cheltenham-based Burden remains in the loop with matters pertaining to the national game, even though he no longer serves on the board after stepping down at the age of 70 in summer 2016 under governing body regulations.

After congratulating all award winners in the many different categories offering certificates to successful nominees, Burden spoke of several potential law changes to the national game currently under consideration by FA chiefs.

They include the possible introduction of ten-minute sin bins, the guarantee of at least 60-minute’s worth of action within usual 90-minute matches, plus the automatic resumption of a game with a goal kick if a penalty is saved, or the ball strikes the goal-frame, to eliminate the melees that usually ensue as a ball bounces back into play, a law not dissimilar to that which applies to traditional penalty shoot-outs.

“These are some of the possible law changes currently being discussed by the FA,” Mr Burden said.

“Most of the ideas are only at the discussion stage but the Gloucestershire FA has offered to support pilot schemes for sin bins in two of our local leagues next season.

“When Sepp Blatter was FIFA president he wanted laws to be the same for all across the world, but there’s recognition now that tweaks can be made to suit individual nations or local football.”

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29/06/2017

Ken so chuffed as Severn Valley Youth League are crowned GFA community champs

SEVERN Valley Youth League’s elated chairman Ken Fagan admitted having his organisation nominated for a Gloucestershire FA Community Award had come as a “complete surprise” – let alone winning it!

The league recently completed a successful first season in business following the brave decision 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.

That maiden operation culminated in Severn Valley picking up the GFA Charter Standard League of the Year accolade at the county association’s annual community prize-giving function, which was this year staged at Bristol Golf Club.

Fagan was there to receive the award on behalf of his comrades and he beamed: “We’re very, very pleased, especially given it’s the first year we’ve been running.

“A lot of hard work has been put in by the ten of us on our new committee and it’s testament to what we do that we’ve been acknowledged in this way.

“Receiving a letter from the GFA in the first place to say we’d been nominated for the award was a surprise, so to actually win that category when there are so many other youth leagues in the county is fantastic and unexpected.”

Severn Valley Youth League edged out Hanham Minor League into a runner-up spot and Fagan said: “They are such a well-established and well-run league and they must be congratulated too for being highly-commended in our Charter Standard League section.

“We want to keep moving forward now and we’re planning to introduce an under-18 division the year after next. It would be nice also to see a couple more fresh faces on our committee, preferably some younger ones!”
 
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.

In the meantime it’s business as usual for the Severn Valley Youth League’s collection of volunteers, while their chairman Fagan, who held a similar post with the now-defunct Gloucester Youth League, expressed “encouragement and satisfaction” at the way the amalgamation had 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!

 “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

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28/06/2017

Super Sillitoe banks Young Volunteer prize to become toast of Longwell Green Juniors

AMY Sillitoe’s success in this year’s Gloucestershire FA Community Awards has won her glowing praise - from inside and outside Longwell Green Sports Juniors confines.

The inspirational 18-year-old was crowned Young Volunteer of the Year at the county association’s annual presentations held at Bristol Golf Club for her roles in coaching  Longwell Juniors’ 120 under-5s and pre-schoolers, as well as the club’s new disability section.

Longwell Juniors general manager Paul Griffin said he had observed Amy’s emergence with “pride and delight” and he said of the accomplished teenager, who also plays as a right-winger for Longwell Green Ladies in the Gloucestershire County Women’s League: “She has been fantastic and her progress from novice to someone capable of running sessions on her own is something to behold.

“Amy has played for the GFA’s representative team in the past and she is an essential part of the club and well liked by everyone. If truth be told we’d be lost without her and of course she plays a full-on role in looking after our new disability section with my son Jamie and me.”

Longwell Juniors also scooped the GFA Charter Standard Community Club of the Year award for a third time in the four years since achieving the prestigious FA Community Club status, while last year they were highly commended.

Griffin, who received a high commendation himself at last Monday’s county community ceremony in the GFA Coach of the Year category, acknowledged: “We’ve had an incredible last few years and it’s humbling to see the amount of time that is put into everything by our many volunteers.

“We have more than 250 children aged seven and below, some of them enjoying our Longwell Littluns sessions for two and three-year-olds, while the club as a whole caters for around 600 young footballers up to under-18s level, and we’ll be operating with three under-18 teams next season!

“Our new disability classes are already up to 20 participants and it’s wonderful to see not only their football skills flourishing but how well they’re interacting with each other and everyone else, when some of them may understandably struggle a little socially.

“Of course we’re thrilled to have won the GFA Community Club award again but we don’t do what we do for awards. We do it to deliver an inclusive provision in our communities and picking up so many awards just shows we’re getting it right.

“The biggest challenge we face now is deciding what we’ll be doing new for next year!”
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27/06/2017

Inspirational Annabel the pride of Lebeq Ladies at 2017 GFA Community Awards

LEBEQ Ladies and their founding star Annabel Wilson were among deserved grassroots football heroes acclaimed at the annual Gloucestershire FA Community Awards ceremony, writes Simon Parkinson.

The Bristol-based female club were named winners of the GFA’s brand-new Best Inclusion Project category, which “encourages participation, regardless of age, disability, gender, race or religion”.

The early-evening audience congregating at picturesque Bristol Golf Club heard that the formation of Lebeq Ladies was the brainchild of Annabel, who wanted to create a recreational football session for female players within one of Bristol’s more deprived inner-city areas.

She secured funding to develop the provision and has managed to ensure the project is financially stable, despite many of the 30 players now accessing it each week unable to pay to partake.

There was delight at the presentations too for Longwell Green Juniors’ young star Amy Sillitoe. The 18-year-old coach to the club’s 50 under-5s, not to mention 70 two-and three-year-olds, was announced as GFA Young Volunteer of the Year winner, when it was emphasised she also plays a key part coaching at the club’s new disability section.

Far from content with that, there was more to celebrate for Longwell Juniors at the McDonald’s-backed community hand-outs, attended by around 100 people, including organisers and officials of Gloucestershire FA, who all enjoyed a buffet meal and introductory speeches before awards were distributed in a whole host of categories.

Longwell Green’s burgeoning and bustling junior section not only scooped the prestigious GFA Charter Standard Community Club of the Year accolade for a third time in the four years they have enjoyed FA Community Club status, but their coach and general manager Paul Griffin added to his own rapidly-growing collection of awards by finding himself highly commended in a Coach of the Year category won by Hardwicke AFC’s Veronica Parr.

Longwell Juniors were acclaimed in the Community Club category for “developing their own club philosophy” and supporting every one of their many coaches with four club mentors.

An appreciative and enthusiastic gathering were informed that Longwell, with the backing of Bristol Sport, had now developed disability football within its structure at which 20 players regularly attended sessions. A new girls’ under-9 team was in place while club coaches had begun offering additional goalkeeper training to players.

Longwell Juniors just edged out Bradley Stoke Youth to the top hand-out in the Community Club category.

Bradley Stoke Youth, who were highly commended, were nominated for delivering a school/football club link programme to 14 primary schools which has benefited more than an eye-watering 6,000 children since it began in 2008.

The club, who were highly commended too in the GFA Best Inclusion Project category, have been operating a coach mentoring programme which has seen some £2,500 invested to support its members in gaining new coaching qualifications.

They also secured a grant for £7,000 to aid a pitch maintenance programme through the purchase of a long spiked roller to support the club’s annual growth.

Bradley Stoke Youth stalwart Martin Lee also carried off a high commendation award in the GFA Outstanding Contribution to Community Football hand-outs won by Cheltenham Powerchair FC founder member Brian Dix.

Martin began Bradley Stoke’s youth section in 1998 and has been a “major contributor” to its growth to 20 teams, which includes a girls’ section.

He introduced a young coach development programme at his club which has supported 12 young people in their efforts to become coaches.

While the aforementioned Amy Sillitoe took the Young Volunteer accolade, Wickwar Wanderers’ 17-year-old youth and senior men’s central midfielder Ellis Cox received the highly commended distinction in the Young Volunteer section for his efforts to complete his FA Level 2 certificate and for coaching the popular South Gloucestershire village club’s six, seven and eight-year-olds, not to mention assisting Wickwar Under-15s with their training sessions.

Last but not least there was recognition for the Hanham Minor League, highly commended close behind the new Severn Valley Youth League in the GFA Charter Standard League of the Year nominations, having implemented under-7 and under-8 provision for the 2016-17 season which has led to a “rapid rise” in the number of mini soccer teams within the Bristol and South Gloucestershire areas.

The evening’s attendees were told that the number of FA Charter Standard teams within the HML remains above 85 per cent, while it continues to work closely with the Gloucestershire FA to deliver an annual bespoke FA Licensed Coaches Club CPD event.  

GFA chief executive David Neale remarked: “Without the fantastic volunteer workforce, football simply would not happen.

“The time, commitment and passion shown enable Gloucestershire FA to continue to be seen as promoting best practice nationally.

“The annual awards ceremony is an event everyone associated with the Gloucestershire FA is extremely proud of.”
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26/06/2017

Gibbs: Grimshaw/Tripp combination can revitalise Longwell Green Sports fortunes

LONGWELL Green Sports chairman John Gibbs labelled the return of Martyn Grimshaw to Shellards Road as a “real tonic” as they eye better days in the Toolstation League’s top bracket.

Grimshaw, who was for much of last season embroiled in Southern League One S&W activity as assistant to Tony Ricketts at Paulton Rovers before resigning in the latter throes of the campaign, has agreed to take charge for a second time at Longwell following a stint in 2011.

The former Mangotsfield United boss will not be operating alone, as Sports have called upon Nigel Tripp as co-manager after overseeing a tough last campaign in charge at Toolstation first division Corsham Town following spells leading fellow Wiltshire outfits Chippenham Park Development, Calne Town, Melksham Town and Westbury United.

Tripp hit the local headlines at the back end of last season after being removed from his post as Corsham’s manager, only to be rapidly reinstated on the back of a split among board members about his ousting.

He went on to guide them to safety but is now set to team up with Grimshaw for a new challenge at Longwell Green, one the club’s long-serving stalwart Gibbs is clearly enthusiastic about.

“I know Martyn and Nigel once played football together and I’m confident they’ll complement each other really well,” the Shellards Road chief predicted in an interview with GFA Local Football News. “Nigel has good connections with Wiltshire-based players and Martyn knows the Bristol scene like the back of his hand.

“We’re also delighted to be welcoming our former manager Julian Harmer (former GFA Community Coach of the Year) back as coach, although he’ll continue to work alongside another of our former managers in Matty Hale at Southampton’s Youth Academy during the week.

Both managers are very experienced and been involved at a high level of non-League football all their careers.”

Following Tripp in from his Wiltshire base will be Mike Jefferies to complete the new management quartet. He will be starting pre-season training on June 29 at 7pm.

Of Grimsham’s return, Gibbs said: “I’m really pleased Martyn’s come back to us. His heart is in the club and things are progressing off-field too with a new 3G training pitch expected to be ready by the middle of next season.”

New Longwell Green community liaison officer Fraser Andrews said the club’s management committee were “very pleased” to have “two proper football people” in charge of all football matters at Shellards Road, especially at a time when there are “so many developments occurring”.

Andrews enthused: “We have three under-18 sides in place for next season, including a new Somerset Floodlit Youth League team playing under lights. It will be good for these players to have two managers of this calibre at the helm.”

And vice-chairman Brad Vickerman added: “We are all pleased to have this experienced pair (Grimshaw and Tripp) at the club.

“Martyn has always had his heart at Longwell and will have links with players from the Bristol area, while Nigel will give us great connections with players in the Bath and Wiltshire areas.

“We have many exciting projects happening off the field too, with the new 3G training pitch that’s being organised and funded by our junior section, along with good links forged with the local community centre.

“The club has also been attracting a lot of sponsorship interest so there’s a great buzz around the place already and the Grimshaw/Tripp combination will see us move forward, I am confident of that.”
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23/06/2017

Johnson praise for Telephones comrades as Toolstation first division mission beckons

BRISTOL Telephones co-boss Dave Johnson paid tribute to the club stalwarts who have driven them to new heights as Toolstation Western League first division competitors, writes Simon Parkinson.

The Stockwood Lane side stormed to the 2016-17 Gloucestershire County League title in only their fourth season at the status following their promotion to the Step 7 game as runaway champions of Bristol and Suburban League in 2013.

Johnson admits he and his club comrades are still pinching themselves at the latest elevation, fuelled by 105 league goals and a nine-point winning margin over second-spot Frampton United.

“It’s unbelievable,” he enthused, “to see Telephones rise like this from the Suburban League side they were when I was first at the club a decade or so ago.

“Shaun Collins, our chairman and manager along with me, was my assistant and I’m not really sure what his and the club’s ambitions were back then when I moved on and he took over the running of it.

“Of course, Shaun went on to show beyond doubt how ambitious he was. His self-motivational qualities are second to none and in my 45 years on this earth, and three seasons we’ve worked together again, I’ve not seen so much passion and desire for football as he displays.

“That spirit and appetite has transmitted right the way through the club and everyone, from players to committee, has bought into that ethos.”

Johnson, who went on to have spells at the helm of DRG and Rockleaze Rangers in the County League, pointed out too: “Everything we’ve done at the ground, including the current installation of the floodlights which we purchased from Melksham Town, has been bought and paid for by the committee. There have been no FA handouts at all.

“It’s means everyone on the committee has put their hands in their own pockets and taken valuable time out from other commitments to get the facilities up to what they are, which is worthy of staging Western League football.

“Even our captain Martin Blacker has been there laying bricks and digging holes but it’s testament to everyone what’s been achieved, from Gerry Holmes, our vice-chairman, to Steve Watkins, who is president, treasurer, secretary and barman.

“Then there’s Neil Osborne, who is assistant to me and Shaun, and our vice-captain Ryan Hicks, who comes up and does some roofing work.”

With sterner tests to confront in 2017-18, Johnson would not be pressed into making bold predictions surrounding next season’s targets but stressed: “It’s obviously exciting and it’s a challenge we’re all relishing.

“I’m not aware of any key lads leaving us and we’re in negotiation with a few players from outside the club, so if anything we’ll be adding to the squad.

“Neither me nor Shaun have managed at this level although I played in the eighties and nineties for the likes of Keysnham Town, Brislington and Bishop Sutton.

“All I’ll say is that a lot of sides from the County League have gone on to do well in the Western League – Cribbs, Roman Glass, Bitton, Cadbury Heath and, more recently, Chipping Sodbury – and we’ll be looking to be as successful as they are.

“Pre-season training starts in the first week of July and we can’t wait to get stuck into it.”
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22/06/2017

Fingers crossed for promoted Fairford as Pike hails Smith-Bevan hot-seat partnership

CHAIRMAN Stuart Pike is confident Chris Smith and Jody Bevan can keep the flag flying high at the helm for Fairford Town’s promoted fliers, writes Simon Parkinson.

.The pair were recently installed in the wake of successful former boss Gareth Davies’ surprise decision to quit the Cinder Lane hot-seat fresh off the back of navigating them to the Hellenic Premier Division as runaway Division One West champions.

Pike, 52, relishing still a second spell in the chairman’s seat at Fairford following a stint in the late 1990s, was instrumental in pulling the two men together on a co-manager ticket.

And he explained of the scenario: “We’d had several applicants and Jody was one of them. His credentials, as a prolific former striker locally with the likes of Cinderford Town, Gloucester City, Shortwood United and Cirencester Town, where he’d cut his teeth in management in a caretaker capacity after Brian Hughes had left the club, were just what we were looking for.

“At 38 the timing was right for Jody too as he was keen to get into management and thought Fairford would offer him a great platform to kick-off that aspect of his career.

“He’s also a lovely, down-to-earth gentle giant sort off the pitch but while all that was in the pipeline I’d also been in touch with Tim Harris, the Gloucester City manager, who I know well having been chairman there and asked him whether he had any suggestions for candidates.

“Tim mentioned Chris Smith, who had worked with him at Gloucester and Cinderford, and informed me he’d been out of the game for work and family reasons but could be looking for a return to our level of football.

“Chris had also enjoyed spells on management teams at Cinderford, Forest Green Rovers and Cirencester, as well as Weston-super-Mare, having also been a player with Cheltenham, Gloucester and Forest Green among others at that level, Bath City and Newport County included.

“I toyed with the idea of putting Chris and Jody together and made the suggestion initially to Jody, who told me he’d played under Chris when he was assistant manager at Cinderford and would be more than happy for the two to team up again.

“I then took Chris around our ground separately, showed him the facilities and spoke of our ambitions and I gave him Jody’s number and urged him to ring him.

“Both came back to say they would love to come to Fairford together and we’re delighted that they have.”

Pike admitted Davies’ decision to leave, along with his No.2 Ady Roper, had come as a “bolt from the blue” so soon after that title-winning triumph, not to mention a GFA Challenge Trophy final appearance at Oaklands Park against shoot-out victors Cadbury Heath and an Hellenic Supplementary Cup semi-final defeat by Tuffley Rovers, which also went to penalties.

“I was disappointed Gareth stepped down,” Pike confessed. “He said he needed to recharge his batteries and I thought that while sitting on the beach and reflecting on things he might have a rethink, which wasn’t forthcoming.

“I don’t think we’ll see a season like that one for some time, whatever the level of Hellenic football. We won it by 11 points and scored 131 goals in the league alone which will take some beating.

“When I rejoined the club three seasons ago we were second from bottom of Division One and every area of the club had to change; we had to run it like a business.

“Slowly but surely we turned it around. Suddenly the phone began to ring again as more and more people wanted to be involved.”

Pike added: “We’re not looking to pull up trees next season but a top-ten finish would be good and we can look forward to local derbies with the likes of Brimscombe, Longlevens, Tuffley, Lydney, Highworth and Wootton Bassett, and involvement in the FA Cup again as well as the Vase.

“It’s the first time in five years we’ll have been back in the Premier Division and we’re looking forward to it immensely.
“Chris and Jody both have good player connections and we’ll be announcing some new faces in due course.

“Our gates were up by 40 per cent last season and hopefully, as we test ourselves against stronger opposition, those crowds can continue to improve.”
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21/06/2017

Scott vows to hold fort as Chipping Sodbury Town scour market for new manager

SCOTT Gibson has pledged to hold the fort for “as long as is necessary” after Chipping Sodbury Town announced a first team managerial vacancy had unexpectedly arisen, reports Simon Parkinson.

Karl Reese, who guided Sodbury to back-to-back promotion successes from the County League to their current status as a Toolstation Premier Division force, resigned his position due to “personal reasons” a few weeks after steering them to a laudable 13th-placed conclusion in their first season at the level.

Reese’s recent departure came around the time Sodbury lost their coach Gary Powell to John Rendell’s new management team at Paulton Rovers, while three of their brightest talents, striker Joe White and midfielders Joe Guest and Dave Sims, also quit Sodbury for the same Southern League second-tier outfit.

Town are set to conduct interviews in due course while Gibson, who oversees their five senior and youth sides as club manager, including the relatively-new women’s section, insisted: “I’ll hold the fort until such time as we appoint a new manager. I did it before when we were in the County League but I’ll not be looking to take it on permanently.

“It’s a shame Karl feels the need to step down, for family reasons which we perfectly understand, and it’s nice that he’s said he wants to be part of things still.

“It’s also been disappointing to lose Gary and those three lads who have all been talented players with us, but we’re now focused on keeping as many of our squad, which did so well last season, together and looking to bring some new additions in to complement them.

“The good news is we have a successful reserve team who last season under Les Theobald’s leadership won yet another promotion to reach the top section of the Bristol Premier Combination for the first time, and some of their lads are more than capable of making the step up.”

Despite the unforeseen upheaval, Gibson stressed it remained a club goal to push for Southern League football over the next few years.

He enthused: “The chairman (Mike Fox) has made no secret of his ambition to get Chipping Sodbury up to that level.

“There are big plans to turn our Ridings complex into a state-of-the-art facility capable of hosting higher-level football and we’re a well-run family club with fantastic facilities as it is, so everything’s in place for a new manager to come in and keep the progress going.

“We’re looking forward to entering the FA Cup for the first time next season and setting out to do well in the FA Vase too, so these are exciting times for us.

“Just recently we had ten bands and around 900 people attending our Sodfest music festival, and we also have our annual Sodbury Sevens tournament coming up next month (Saturday, July 15), our sixth year hosting it and one we’re looking forward to immensely as always. 

“Pre-season has started now on Tuesday evenings (7pm) at the ground and all players considering joining one of our teams are welcome to attend.”

Anyone wishing to join Chipping Sodbury Town, as a first-team manager or player, can contact Scott Gibson on 07919 448771 or visit the ‘contact us’ page on the club’s website, www.cstfc.co.uk
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20/06/2017

Jubilant Beer raises his glass to Wick’s mammoth wait for County League recognition

WICK secretary Dave Beer reflected on his club’s 2016-17 promotion triumph and grinned: “The long wait has been worth it!”

The Oldbury Lane outfit’s second-spot finish behind Cribbs Reserves at the end of a long and competitive last Bristol Premier Combination struggle was enough to ensure them a place in next season’s Marcliff Gloucestershire County League for the first time in their history.

For Beer, who is also vice-chairman, and chairman John Towler, the achievement was all the more welcome, if not overdue, given they have served the club for a combined total of 87 years!

In an interview with GFA Local Football News, Dave explained: “I first came to Wick as an 18-year-old 42 years ago after playing for a Kingswood (Bristol) side near to where I lived called Ventnor, which has long since left the scene.

“I was a midfielder initially before gradually moving backwards positional-wise until there was no more backwards!

“John was born and bred in the village and has been with us even longer than I have - 45 years - and continues to be a dedicated and hard-working member of our committee, which includes his fellow groundsman Mark Faithfull, who also plays for our thirds, and Matt Davis, our assistant secretary and treasurer, who has been very instrumental in getting us to where we are.

“We’d been in the Premier Combination since the late 1990s and the ambition was always to try and break into the County League. Until now we’d never managed to finish in the top positions to give us a chance.

“We’ve been knocking on the door consistently over the past few years, though, and now, finally, we’ve achieved it and everyone is of course very happy, although we recognise that the higher you go, the more support behind the scenes you need.

“That’s something we’ve been working on in recent years, to try and entice more village people to the club.”

While Wick’s ground facilities were already flirting with standards suitable for the rise to County League standing – a national Buildbase competition success enabled them to kick-start the refurbishment of their clubhouse in 2014 - there was one significant hurdle to overcome before they could gain acceptance this time around.

“The main issue related to the distance between our clubhouse and pitch,” Beer explained. “So our last big push was to enclose the walkway from the dressing rooms to the pitch to ensure the distance between the two met with the criteria for Step 7 football.

“Our manager Mike Strawford has been instrumental in making that happen. He joined us from Hanham Athletic, a long-established County League club, a few years back, having performed brilliantly between the sticks for them as he does for us very occasionally. He also managed their reserve team at one point.

“Mike’s effort and determination really pushed us over the promotion line and he’s put together a tremendous side which we hope will blossom in the County League.

“We’re also much obliged to Wick & Abson Parish Council for the help and support they’ve given us.”

Asked about Wick’s chances of even further progression over the next few years, Beer stressed: “Many teams on joining the County League do so with an ambition to keep moving forward.

“Longwell Green and Bitton were both in the Premier Combination with us and went on to become well-respected members of the Toolstation Western League’s top division.

“If the backing and finance were there to give it a go then it would be nice to see that level of football here at Wick, but we’d need floodlights and that brings into it planning and funding issues.

“At the moment we just want to bed-in as a County League club and see how things go, but suffice to say everyone at Wick, from our three senior men’s teams to our veterans Sunday side, are looking forward to the challenges it brings.”

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19/06/2017

County League all set to go again with revamped management committee to drive it on

GLOUCESTERSHIRE County League secretary Ron Holpin believes the stage is set for another exciting season – with a revamped management committee overseeing it all.

With Wick and Ruardean Hill Rangers confirmed as new arrivals following their promotion successes, and Bristol Telephones out of the equation now on the strength of their own eye-catching elevation to the Toolstation Western League, all eyes will be on whether the likes of 2016-17 runners-up Frampton United and third-placed Stonehouse can push on to even greater heights.

Stonehouse’s meteoric rise to the summit for long stretches of the season in their first taste of County League action, and subsequent efforts to claim a place in the Hellenic League, were facts not lost on the ever-enthusiastic Holpin who observed: “Stonehouse gave it a really good go and fair play to them.

“They only came unstuck at the end when Telephones proved too strong and made the most of all their games in hand.

“But Stonehouse, in many people’s eyes and mine included, were the surprise package having finished up as runners-up in the Northern Senior League 12 months earlier, yet went on to be top of our league for ages.

“It will be interesting now to see if they can maintain that progress and, who knows, maybe go all the way next time.”

Holpin expressed hope that bottom side Southmead CS Athletic could use their latest relegation reprieve, due to Cheltenham Civil Service’s and Bishops Cleeve Reserves’ withdrawals from the County League, as a springboard to happier times.

“Southmead clearly struggled again but they have a good set-up there and good facilities and hopefully they’ll pull together and enjoy a better next season,” he said.

“We also wish Bristol Telephones well in their new adventure in Toolstation League Division One. We’re all embroiled in the football pyramid in the hope people can progress and they had a magnificent season and deserved their success.

“A good reason for that was their striker Dhani Golding (35 goals) who won our golden boot award for the second year running, which is a great achievement.”

Holpin confirmed that Bishops Cleeve Reserves’ switch to Hellenic League Division Two West meant that no more reserve teams would be accepted into the County League “for the foreseeable future under our current rules”.

Meanwhile league president Peter McPherson’s new position as league patron is among a few changes relating to the management committee structure.

Bob Stewart, who has been chairman for more than a decade, is now president while Peter Langley is new chairman of the league, with former Henbury secretary Charlie Barron replacing him as vice-chairman.

Tim Hewer, Little Stoke’s treasurer, joins the committee as a club representative serving the south of the league.

“It’s great to have new names aboard bringing fresh ideas and it’s important because they could well be the future of the County League,” Holpin reflected.

County League 2017-18 management committee: Patron: P McPherson; president: B Stewart; chairman: P Langley; vice-chairman: C Barron; general secretary: R Holpin; treasurer: M Wheatley; fixture secretary: M Simpson; registration and transfers secretary: N Meaney; development manager: D Herbert; club representatives: C Barron, A Myland, T Hewer (south); D Daley, M Smith (north); match official appointments officer: M Rogers; observer co-ordinator: R Melinn.

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19/06/2017

Shane can spark Northern Senior return for Kings Stanley, super-servant Bassett says

ROGER Bassett is confident Kings Stanley are on course for a return to Gloucestershire Northern Senior League prominence - some 14 years after their last appearance in the competition, writes Simon Parkinson.

The club’s loyal 73-year-old chairman, who arrived as a player in 1960 and never looked back or, for that matter, strayed elsewhere, is spearheading the drive to lift the Marling Close outfit out of the Stroud and District League at the third time of asking following two straight top-five finishes.

Kings Stanley had been well-renowned and respected members of the Gloucestershire County League since joining up in 2003, until a dramatic decision was taken a game into their 2015-16 programme to pull them out of the league.

That out-of-blue move was sparked by fears amongst club chiefs about their competitive capabilities on the back of manager Sam Prior’s departure for a new life in the Hellenic League with Brimscombe & Thrupp, and issues over player availability and commitment.

The swift change of scene involved Kings Stanley’s ailing first team taking the place of their own Stroud One second XI compatriots, disbanding that reserve section in the throes and operating with the single side, although they did reintroduce a second team last term and to potent effect too, as Carl Phelps’ men clinched promotion to Division Five.

Stanley’s senior set-up, meantime, have also proved a force to contend with in the Stroud League’s top tier, finishing runners-up and fifth respectively in the two seasons following their County League demise under the spirited young leadership of fledgling player-managers Ben Newman and Steve Wakefield.

Bassett explained: “In the first two summers since we came out of the County League we struggled to attract new managers to the club. Ben initially took over in very difficult circumstances, it goes without saying, and had we got off to a better start than we did that (2015-16) season we might well have ended up promoted to his enormous credit.

“Ben had been sidelined with a cruciate knee ligament injury so couldn’t play anyway, but he was still brave enough to take up the management position with no one else available.

“He did really well but with family commitments to consider he simply couldn’t take it on into the next season, when again we had advertised long and hard for a new man to take it on to no avail. That is why Steve Wakefield, another player of ours, stepped in at the last minute, just as Ben had done a few months prior, to become manager and only in his early 20s too.

“Steve was given firm support by the committee so he wasn’t left to his own devices and he did a great job to get us up to fifth last season after another shaky start.”

Far from content with their present status, Kings Stanley have finally landed an established manager in 34-year-old Shane Tanner, who had overseen an impressive period of success with Division One rivals Stroud United before making his recent switch to their near neighbours.

“We want to get back into the Northern Senior League and that is where Shane wants to manage, so the fit was perfect,” Bassett insisted.

“It just needs that extra push that an established manager can provide and I believe it’s Shane’s intention to carry on playing too should he see fit.

“He really wants this job; he’s not been press-ganged into it and he wants to get the club up. His reputation in the local game is good and we wanted to give him a chance here.

“Whether we’d ever be in a position to try for the County League again, who knows? It depends on the thoughts and aspirations of the committee in charge at the time, I suppose.”

Bassett added with a grin: “We’re at least blessed with a good-sized and dedicated committee now, if not an ageing one!
“Two of us – Andrew Roseblade and me - have served more than 50 years with the club and been awarded our FA Long Service Awards on the strength of it.

“And Roger Cochrane is in his 47th year as treasurer and loves to tell us he goes back to pre-decimalisation days!”

Former Stroud Harriers skipper Tanner said of his Kings Stanley call: “I am very excited. The club has a long and proud history of playing good football at a competitive level.

“The current squad and facilities offer the potential for both immediate and future success and I, like the committee, aim to guide the club back to where it belongs.”

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16/06/2017

New Oldland boss Armstrong on a mission to get his Abbotonians hopefuls up at last

SCOTT Armstrong says he is relishing the chance to try and turn Oldland Abbotonians into a Toolstation Premier Division operation.

The 29-year-old one-time Southampton Youth Academy starlet has just been installed as the Castle Road outfit’s new manager following a season-long stint occupying the hot-seat at their Division One rivals Bishop Sutton.

Ambitious Oldland, who have spent ten seasons in the Western League’s second tier following their elevation from the Somerset County League, ended a largely disappointing last season 17th on the ladder, with players David Stone and Josh Dempsey working overtime over the second half of the season as a managerial duo to reverse what had been a worrying slide, when hopes had been so high at the start of the campaign that they could partake in a concerted promotion bid.

Armstrong, meanwhile, who had spells as a professional with both Bristol City and Bristol Rovers, was embroiled in a grim battle himself, to turn around 2012-13 Premier Division champions Bishop Sutton’s own flagging fortunes.

 He did so to good effect, as they finally cast aside three years of turmoil to surprisingly finish up a place and point above Oldland in 16th spot.

Ironically Stone has since joined Sutton as their replacement boss for Armstrong, who said in an interview with GFA Local Football News of his own switch to Oldland: “It wasn’t an easy decision to make because Bishop Sutton are a good club with a small and hard-working committee and I enjoyed my season there."

“The whole package Oldland had to offer really appealed to me, though, as they have an excellent youth section from under-7s to under-18s, a reserve and ladies teams and they’ve spent a lot of money on making vast improvements to their ground.
“After meeting with their committee it really was a no-brainer for me.”

Armstrong is acutely aware that he is part of a “local football merry-go-round” and that nothing is guaranteed in the quest for success.

“Players often follow managers from club to club and the only way to break that cycle is to offer contracts and, in turn, payment, and we at Oldland have no plans to go down that route,” he maintained.

“Still, the squad is shaping up nicely and I’m positive about what’s in store, as is my assistant Ian Milton who was with me at Sutton last season.

“He has particular reason to be excited because he once had 20-odd years with Oldland managing their under-18s and reserves, as well as running kids sides there, and while he was a bit torn about whether to leave Bishop Sutton or not he jumped at the chance to come to Oldland once I offered it to him.

“Ian is very knowledgeable and has lots of contacts in the area and above all he wants to win.”

Armstrong added: “The club as a whole is forever pushing forward and I’m yet to meet a committee with more drive to succeed than the one at Oldland.

“The target for everyone is to get us in the Toolstation Premier Division as quickly as possible.”

In the meantime Oldland are seeking a new football secretary to replace Martin McConachie, who has taken up a similar position at Hengrove Athletic.

Anyone interested in the role can contact Oldland’s acting secretary Paul Bray on 07767 655861.

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15/06/2017

Call for a new reserve team manager as Little Stoke plot ways to maintain their rise

LITTLE Stoke supremo Ashley Coles says he is excited at the continuing rise of his club – and wants to see a new reserve-team manager quickly in situ to help keep the momentum going.

The 2015-16 Bristol and Suburban League Premier One runners-up recently secured an admirable mid-table finish in their maiden season in the Marcliff Gloucestershire County League under Coles’ stewardship.

Little Stoke’s second-string, meanwhile, completed their own Suburban League campaign in a similar position in Division Three with Craig Chivers at the rudder. He has since stepped down citing work demands as a reason, leaving the door ajar for a new man to take up the reins ahead of the 2017-18 programme.

Coles acknowledged: “Craig did well because he’d never managed before and we’re pleased with what he did, although he’s been associated with Little Stoke for years as an attacking player and it could be that he continues to play whenever he can.

“Nevertheless we’re looking to get someone in to take over with the running of our reserves, possibly someone with some experience and prepared to take on a long-term view of what we are looking to achieve.

“First and foremost we want to close the big gap that exists between our firsts and reserves by getting those ressies up and out of Suburban Three as quickly as possible.”

Coles found himself with a vacancy to fill of his own after his first-team No.2 Dave Franklin stepped down at the end of the season due to “family and work commitments”.

The club’s former Cribbs (AXA) defender Tim O’Loughlin was rapidly elevated to the assistant role in Franklin’s stead and Coles enthused: “I was delighted when Tim said ‘yes’ and it’s a bonus that he wants to continue playing as well as he’s such a good and experienced defender at this level.

“Things are shaping up nicely as a whole ahead of pre-season. We’ll have a nice influx of talented young and locally-based first and reserve-team players and it’s important because we want to continue building on what we achieved last season.

“It was a rocky road where the firsts were concerned to start with, being new to the league as we were, and we ended the season somewhat disappointingly with injuries and other absentees not helping. All in all, though, I can have few complaints.

“We learnt a lot, on and off the field, as we went along and we’re looking now to fully establish ourselves as a County League force with a progressive reserve side under a new manager, whoever that may be at this time.”

Anyone interested in filling the reserve team management vacancy at Little Stoke can email littlestokefootballclub@gmail.com
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14/06/2017

Suburban League’s dedicated secretary Derek happily celebrating a double fifty feat

REACHING a fifty point represents a milestone in anyone’s life, whatever circumstances it may relate to, writes Simon Parkinson.

For devoted Bristol and Suburban League secretary Derek Cumner, that landmark figure gives rise to a double celebration, on AND off the field of play!

While Derek is still enjoying the afterglow of the FA 50-year Service Award recently presented to him for his voluntary activity in the grassroots game, he is also, appropriately, about to celebrate his 50th wedding anniversary.

Derek smiled: “I was delighted and honoured to receive the 50-year award from the FA because football, especially Bristol football, has played a massive part in my life.

“I’m fortunate because the wonderful thing is I even met my wife Janet through football, as I was buying tickets to watch Bristol Rovers at Scunthorpe in 1964.

“We went on to be married for 50 years next month and she has supported me all through those years.”

The Suburban League servant spent 15 years as a compositor in the printing trade after leaving school and went on to work for three decades at Cadbury’s, where that long stint at the famous Keynsham factory ended in a role as the Transport and General Workers Trade Union convenor and a gold medal for his services to the movement which, he says, “I’ve been very proud of”.

A lifelong Rovers supporter Derek, who has two children, five grandchildren and three great grandchildren, played his early football for Baptist Mills in an under-18 league in Bristol, moving into senior football when he helped form Gateway United in the Bristol Regional League.

This was followed by a move to Fry’s in the District League before his playing career ended with Stothert and Pitt in the Bath and District League.

Derek joined Somerdale United in 1982 as assistant manager to Dave Monks with their reserves side before moving on to second-string and first-team manager duties, as well as looking after the treasurer and secretarial positions.

Having fully immersed himself in local football volunteering, Derek joined the management committee of the Bristol and Suburban League in 1991, and after a near ten-year stint as fixture secretary, he was appointed the league’s general secretary in 2007, having already been elected on to the Gloucestershire FA (GFA) Council in 2004 where he sits on cup, referee, county match and revision committees.

He was elected as a director of the GFA in May 2010.

Of his ongoing Suburban League affairs, Derek explained: “As a director I am involved in all decisions taken, which is a big responsibility.

“But I have continued with my first admin job, which is collecting the results and goalscorers on a Saturday evening and talking to all the club secretaries which is still my favourite role in football, although I did enjoy meeting Sir Geoff Hurst last season!

“I have also enjoyed writing and submitting weekly Suburban League round-ups since 2001 for the Bristol Evening Post when I took over from John Thompson, so there’s plenty still to keep me occupied!”
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13/06/2017

Setting the pace: Abbeymead Rovers running away with it on walking football circuit

ABBEYMEAD Rovers continue to set the pace when it comes to the walking football arena, reports Simon Parkinson.

Not content with scooping a second straight GFA Walking Football League title, the Gloucester-based aces of the not-to-run code have been celebrating a call-up as finalists for the ‘centre’ category at this year’s third annual FA Mars Just Play Awards (see more details at http://www.thefa.com/get-involved/player/justplay/just-play-awards)

It means excited Rovers representatives will be attending the ceremony at the St George’s Park National Football Centre in Staffordshire on Monday, June 26 when the overall winner will be announced.

Abbeymead’s enthusiastic player-manager and club chairman, Stuart Langworthy, joined GFA football development officer Jack Stanbury in nominating his club for the prestigious national Just Play accolade.

The 56-year-old went on to play a key part in tandem with his triumphant comrades as they retained the county’s walking football crown by a mere two points over Stroud once more courtesy of last week’s back-to-back 4-0 and 6-0 romps over Phoenix Force and Bristol City respectively.

Leading marksman Langworthy netted five of his team’s ten goals in those two critical games and glowed: “We only shipped five goals all season which is a huge compliment to our keeper Tony Beckwith and his defence of Chris Fletcher, Louis Henry Neagon, Mick Sweet, Dave Sheppard and Terry Smith.

“At the other end of the pitch we scored a huge 40 goals (in 14 games) with the prolific Andy Billingham and me getting the majority, with Mark Whiting, Steve Cox and Les Reed chipping in with important contributions too.

“In football it is often said that retaining a title is more difficult than winning the first one as everyone is out to get you.

“We had a real wobble in the penultimate round but stormed home with three big victories to win by two points and I am really proud of all the lads.”

Langworthy beamed: “We’ve had a ridiculous amount of success over the past two years, including winning the Gloucestershire Media Sports Award for team of the year last November.

“That includes successes in the Walking Football United county, South West and national finals and we were just two games away from Wembley when we lost to the host city Sheffield United in the FA People’s Cup finals last year.

“On June 17 we’ll be heading for Aston Villa’s Bodymoor Heath training ground ahead of the EFL Trust National Walking Football finals when we, as Abbeymead players, will be representing Cheltenham Town.

“Others involved there for the finals will be Sheffield United, Bradford City, Blackburn Rovers and Blackpool to give you a flavour of the calibre taking part.

“In context, we are a housing estate in a rugby-mad city. We have beaten Portsmouth, Bristol City and Rovers, Swindon Town, Newport County; drawn with Birmingham City and been runners-up to Sheffield United and Plymouth Argyle.”

Langworthy acknowledged of the rise and rise of Abbeymead’s walking football section: “This is a crazy journey we are on as all of us gave up football many years ago and never dreamt we would be playing again; having such fun, keeping fit and healthy, meeting new people and enjoying great banter, not to mention competing at a higher level then we could ever have imagined.

“Having had a hip replaced seven years ago and thinking I would never play again, This EFL final this month will be my fifth national final in three years!

“I played regular football locally for Newent, Longford and Brockworth but I have to constantly pinch myself, as do the rest of the guys, at what we have achieved, and we even have an over-70 in our ranks and players who have had heart attacks and diabetes, so I am proud of us all.”

Langworthy added: “Our keeper Tony was nominated as a Just Play player of the year because he came back to football quite late when in his mid-50s. In his first two months with us he lost a stone and rediscovered his love of the game.

“The whole journey has been unbelievable for us all, though, and our numbers have soared from five to 30. We have no superstars; just a good bunch of blokes who enjoy each other’s company and playing football.

“As a club we’re also proud of the fact Abbeymead’s community section, made up of up to 40 players with learning and physical disabilities and those in care, have done so well.

“Four of our teams won all four divisions of the GFA Ability Counts League and a fifth team finished up runners-up.
“We believe we’re the biggest community operation of its kind in England and it’s wonderful that it’s been run for the past few years by my own son Ben Langworthy and Dale Rawlins, who are both still only 20.”

Meanwhile a walking football event will be held at Gloucestershire FA in Almondsbury on Sunday, July 9 from 10.30am to 2.30 pm.

This will be open to all and the £10 entry fees will go entirely to the Bobby Moore Fund. The occasion is open to everyone over the age of 18 and prizes will be up for grabs.

Anyone wishing to know more can email Jack Stanbury at jack.stanbury@gloucestershirefa.com or call him on 01454 615888 (option 3).
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12/06/2017

On the up: Ruardean Hill and Wick enthusiastically waved in for County League bows

RUARDEAN Hill Rangers and Wick are braced and ready to take their first steps into Marcliff Gloucestershire County League territory after being given the green light to sign up, reports Simon Parkinson.

Their places in the 2017-18 competition were confirmed at the league’s AGM held at Gloucestershire FA’s Oaklands Park HQ, when last season’s bottom side for the second year running, Southmead CS Athletic, were informed they would definitely be awarded another reprieve.

County League secretary Ron Holpin explained: “No teams will go down because Bishops Cleeve Reserves resigned from the league to join Hellenic Division Two West, while Cheltenham Civil Service dropped out midway through the season.

“With (champions) Bristol Telephones confirmed as promoted to the Toolstation Western League we’ll be operating with 17 clubs again, the same number we finished up with last season.

“It means no teams are to come down from higher leagues, a situation those leagues, such as the Western League and Hellenic League, control and not us.”

Holpin said he was “very pleased” for the management and committees running Northern Senior League title winners Ruardean Hill, and Bristol Premier Combination runners-up Wick, at their rise to the new and higher platforms on the football pyramid.

“Both had to work hard to get their respective ground improvements done in time to meet our league’s requirements by the March 31 deadline,” he said.

“Wick’s pitch was fine and they just needed to do some construction work to their building. Ruardean Hill had a heck of a lot of work to do, to build an extension and reconfigure what had been quite small dressing rooms.

“They also needed to erect pitch perimeter barriers and trainer boxes (dugouts), again all by March 31, and to their credit they achieved it all.

“Wick already had the boxes and barriers in place, although they did give their barriers a lick of paint to spruce them up as they’d become a bit tatty.”

Holpin added: “It’s nice to welcome two new teams to the league and we just have one small scenario with Ruardean Hill to overcome as they share their facilities with the cricket club, who have at least said they won’t object to the football club playing some early-season games on evenings if fixtures clash.

“Both Ruardean Hill and Wick were very helpful and offered excellent hospitality to us when it came to our ground inspections, and we’re very much looking forward to having both of them join our league for the first time.”

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09/06/2017

Jubilation as Timorese Community Group Bristol wins 2017-18 Suburban League place

AN intriguing new team will be among the 91 lining up for the start of the new Bristol and Suburban League season in September, writes Simon Parkinson.

The novel side will comprise football-mad members of the Timorese Community Group Bristol (TCGB), who have expressed their joy at having an application to join the league accepted - a decade on from an initial unsuccessful attempt.

Away from the sport the group say they have around 200 members based in the city and its suburbs, all of whom hail from the island of East Timor in South East Asia located between the South China Sea and Indian Ocean.

In a letter to the Suburban League, slightly adapted here to aid clarity, a TCGB spokesman enthused: “We are all from East Timor Island although we are half Portuguese and half East Timorese.

“We share many similarities with Portuguese people because Portugal was in Timor Island for over 400 years.
“In 2006 our oldest people in Bristol tried to get us into the league but it was unsuccessful.

“We gathered again last year to try and take our team into the league and although we thought the outcome might be the same, we thank you for every effort and hard work that the league management has put in to make all of it happen.

“We would also like to set up a friendly match ahead of fitting into the league next season.”

Suburban League secretary Derek Cumner said his management committee had “unanimously agreed” to accept the Timorese team, adding: “They got in touch with us before Christmas and their enthusiasm was unbounded. We said we’d help them all we could with the admin etc in the early stages.

“Their English language is fine so there are no concerns there.

“We had a management committee meeting held for the purpose of interviewing new clubs and the Timorese group had seven or eight family representatives there from three generations which was great to see.”

Cumner confirmed Dentmagic and KITco had agreed to renew their sponsorship deals.

The rest of the league’s constitution is to be agreed at the AGM on Tuesday, June 20 at Stapleton and Begbrook Club.

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08/06/2017

Southside Star Super Vets set on making increased impact in new over-50s assault

SOUTHSIDE Star Super Vets supremo Tim Carter is determined to turn potential into progress as he already starts to plan for next season’s Gloucestershire FA Super Vets (over-50s) League assault.

The Cheltenham-based club’s Jack-of-all-Trades football enthusiast saw his side prop up the rest of their rivals from bottom berth for the second season running but is quietly hopeful their fortunes can reverse next time around.

Despite those ups and downs Carter, who operates as secretary, treasurer, manager AND player for Southside Super Vets, is adamant the latest experience proved an “enjoyable” one and is urging more teams to sign up ahead of the 2017-18 competition.

He said: “We used 14 players last season, including one who turned 60 in February, and we have a few more waiting in the wings, one of which will hopefully be a goalscorer!

“None of us wants to head towards walking football yet as all our lads have enjoyed the games, even in defeat. And the spirit and banter has generally been excellent.”

Of the league itself, which in 2016-17 involved five seven-a-side teams battling it out over 16 22-minute fixtures at  Cheltenham’s All Saints Academy and Tewkesbury School, Carter acknowledged: “I can safely say that it was another enjoyable Super Vets season.

“The standard seemed to go up from the previous year although not so much with ourselves as we managed to maintain our last-place status!

“Again we won one and lost nine and we even finished with the same goal difference of minus 19 as we did in 2015-16.

“However the taking part has been great and people are already asking me about next season and hoping a few more teams will join the group.”

His sentiments were largely echoed by Stroud Strollers’ 62-year-old captain Neil Davidson who smiled: “It was mid-table again for us this year but no mediocrity!

“We’ve really moved on this year and a couple of new players helped but mostly we decided we’d just try our best and learn from our experiences and we did just that.

“The Super Vets League also seemed to move on too with another new team and a quality of football that is getting better, despite us all getting older!

“It’s been really important to have the FA’s support with this league as it makes everyone take it more seriously whilst at the same time being great fun.”

Anyone wishing to sign up for next season’s league can contact Jack Stanbury on 01454 615888 (option 3) or email him at: jack.stanbury@gloucestershirefa.com

Results and tables pertaining to the previous two GFA Super Vets campaigns can be found here: http://full-time.thefa.com/Index.do?divisionseason=732836542&league=713711603

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07/06/2017

Hungary for success: Stroud Strollers skipper Neil hits international arena – at 62

STROUD Strollers’ evergreen skipper Neil Davidson is a shining example of the adage that age is no barrier when it comes to playing the beautiful game, reports Simon Parkinson.

The 62-year-old Glaswegian, who has lived in Stroud for the past 26 years, again figured prominently for the Strollers in their 2016-17 Gloucestershire FA Super Vets (over-50s) League programme, which ended in laudable mid-table status.

Far from resting up after a rewarding yet demanding 16-game seven-a-side campaign, Davidson then immersed himself in some significant end-of-season fare – on the global stage!

First-up was an international over-55s tournament at Swansea University in which eight teams from the home nations, North America and Finland among others met for two days of five-a-side football as part of an ongoing project to promote walking football backed by Qatar University and Canada’s University of British Columbia.

A few days later and Davidson was jetting off to the Hungarian village of Telki for the annual Masters Over-50 World Cup competition, at which 12 teams from Europe, Turkey, North America and Africa met for the ninth time for three intense days of 13 seven-a-side, 20-minute-per-game, activity.

Davidson’s own Stroud Strollers, who were performing as Albion Ancient Britons at the event, were among two teams from the GFA Super Vets League partaking, Midlands-based Real Brummagem, competing as England Old Stars, the others as both fought their way gamely to the semi-finals.

Albion were eventually beaten by the ex-professionals of Ferencvaros while the Old Stars bowed out at the hands of eventual winners Morocco.

Davidson enthused: “It was a real achievement for both teams against tough opposition. Old Stars reached the final last year while Albion have twice previously been semi-finalists.

“The event is organised by Mike Sweeney, a former Canadian international professional footballer who has played in the real World Cup and the Olympics. It’s a great competition showing that over-50s football is alive and kicking.

“In Swansea I was part of an international captains’ team we called World Cup Captains. The idea was to involve captains from the teams which play in the over-50s World Cup event, although in the end we had one Finnish player, a Moroccan, one US player, an Englishman, two Welsh players and me as we were a bit short.

“The tournament comprised fourteen 15-minute games, half of which were walking football and the other half normal speed. It was a first for me at the walking game and it was quite difficult to adjust to, plus I was playing in the same team as players I normally play against which I suppose was good for international relations!”

Davidson reflected of the Hungary experience, in which he switched from midfield at Swansea to a more advanced role: “As a Stroud side performing under the banner of Albion Ancient Britons we do bring in some extra players from outside Gloucestershire.

“It’s a unique experience playing with friends in an intense, mostly friendly but very competitive football competition. There’s nothing like it.

“We all feel it’s very special meeting up with old friends and rivals every year and I for one feel very lucky to be fit enough to still do this. I intend carrying on until I drop or feel too embarrassed to continue!

“I did once play in the Stroud Sunday League for a bit a long time ago but never at a very high level, so it’s great for me to be able to do this.

“It goes without saying that I have some early-50s team-mates to hand to do some of the running for me these days so that I can concentrate on sticking to the fancy stuff!”
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06/06/2017

Lawrence Weston prevail in play-off drama as Bristol U18 Combo is set for revamp

LAWRENCE Weston Colts are basking in the afterglow of their dramatic Bristol Under-18 Combination championship success – as Cribbs continue to lick their wounds following their agonising near-miss.

The teams went head-to-head for a tension-filled Central Division play-off decider after ending their respective league campaigns locked at the top on the same 28 points with identical records.

Remarkably the pair could scarcely be separated during the regular fixture programme either, Cribbs first defeating their big rivals 5-2 in a mid-November bout, only to have the tables turned on them a fortnight later as Lawrence Weston gained a 3-0 revenge success to also claim victory by a three-goal margin.

Small wonder, then, the excitement was tangible as the teams and their supporters gathered one more time for a stirring 2016-17 finale at the Port of Bristol Club on Nibley Road which few dared predict the outcome of.

To their credit both sides continued to parade the brand of football which saw them reach the play-off, Cribbs having the better of the early exchanges but denied any real opportunities by the Lawrence Weston rearguard.

When they did find a way past the opposition’s staunch defence they had a ‘goal’ ruled out for offside.

Lawrence Weston worked their way back into the match and went close to opening the scoring when Jack Hooper saw his chip over the keeper bounce off the crossbar, before Marcus Badlam’s strike was superbly kept out by the Cribbs keeper.

Undeterred, the Colts began the second half the stronger of the teams and opened the scoring when a scramble inside the box led to Ryan Cainey pouncing to poke the ball home.

That provided a wake-up call for Cribbs as they began to get on top, with Fred Welsman instrumental in their attacking play.

But despite relentless Cribbs pressure it was Lawrence Weston who struck the next crucial goal with ten minutes remaining, Alfie Taylor jubilantly netting from the penalty spot after being taken down inside the area.

It was end-to-end fare after that, with Lawrence Weston going close to making it 3-0 as Alfie Richardson’s header rebounded from the bar.

Nevertheless his team had done enough to win an absorbing contest and claim the Central Division crown in the most enthralling of ways.

League secretary Ken Howitt explained: “We don’t decide title issues on goal difference which is why we go to play-offs if teams are level on points.

“On the day Lawrence Weston were the better side although Cribbs will feel disappointed because they looked to be runaway winners at one point of the season.

“That, though, was largely because Lawrence Weston were so far behind with their games and they just kept on winning to eventually catch up with them.”

Howitt revealed that 33 teams, including 11 newcomers, would be competing in a revamped, non-regionalised league next season containing three divisions.

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06/06/2017

Kear’s classy Whitecroft wonders targeting place in Northern Senior top-flight - again

WHITECROFT are targeting the dizzy heights of the Gloucestershire Northern Senior top-flight once more after a decade-long battle to regain their place in the league, writes Simon Parkinson.

The overjoyed Grove Road outfit came through a severe and nerve-shredding end-of-season test to claim the North Gloucestershire League championship trophy with a 2-0 final-day home victory over Huntley through Mo Thompson and Joel Giddins goals.

Whitecroft entered that crucial fixture knowing any slip-ups could be seized upon by second-placed Redbrook Rovers and third-spot Broadwell Reserves, who approached their own dramatic match on a thrilling last day in contention to land the title too.

In the event the pair drew 3-3 to ensure Rich Kear’s table-toppers prevailed by a four-point margin to go one better than the previous term’s runner-up placement and catapult themselves into the second-tier of the Northern Senior League on the back of it.

Club secretary Nick Creed, a Whitecroft player since 1994 who still performs occasionally at 39 for their North Glos League Division Two A team, insisted the hope was to continue the rise and eventually cement a berth in a once-familiar Northern Senior One section.

He recalled with a wince: “We’d been in that league between 1996 and 2006, having got ourselves into Northern Senior One in 2004 before a big decline set in.

“We found ourselves falling all the way back down to North Glos Division One after being relegated as bottom team from the Premier Division with only nine points and two wins the previous season.

“Thankfully, since 2008, we’ve steadily begun to rise up again and this latest title win and promotion have been coming.”

Creed added: “We were actually well on course for a quadruple this last season as we’d already beaten Ruardean Hill Reserves 7-1 in October’s Charities Cup final yet somehow lost 7-1 (to Charfield) in the GFA Junior Cup semi-final and to Ellwood Reserves (3-2), a bogey side of ours, at the same stage in the JO Roberts League Cup competition.

“That thrashing by Charfield in the county cup was particularly concerning at the time as we’d been in such good form going into it and there was suddenly a hint of, ‘oh no, it’s all going to fall apart’.

“But we won a pivotal fixture against Broadwell 4-2 in our next league game and the only blip from then on was against Ellwood, who beat us 3-2 just as they did in the JO Roberts Cup in the very next game, before a five-match winning run saw us safely to the title, including of course a very exciting final day in which any one of the top three teams could have won it.

“It was a wonderful moment when our centre-back Joel Giddins, our players’ player of the year, scored with a bullet header at the clubhouse end where all our supporters were, for a killer second goal.

“We ended up scoring 149 goals in 40 games, winning 31 of them, so no mean feat.”

Creed paid tribute to boss ‘Dickie’ Kear and smiled: “He was our player-manager in 1995-96 when we were last promoted to the Senior League as North Glos Premier champions!

“He played as a centre forward from 1979 until the early 2000s and it’s a great achievement getting us up again so many years on.

“Dickie has just finished his third season back in charge, having got involved again when his son Brad, who scored 30 goals for us in all competitions last season, joined us.

“Both Brad and Luke Hutton, who scored four times in our Charities Cup final success, managed to reach 100 goals for the club during the season.

“The manager’s player of the year was the one new player who joined us at the start, Richard Seaborn, a central midfielder by trade who proved so versatile.

“The brothers, Kurtis Locke and Jordan Locke, were excellent too in the midfield engine room along with Jake Biddle.

“As a small, Forest of Dean, village club we’ve done so well and the aim next season is to consolidate our place in Division Two of the Senior League with a view to ultimately aiming for a place back in Division One.”

Whitecroft’s title winning squad: Ricky Beckett, Lewis Van Poetsch, Nathan Jones, Grant Lane, Joel Giddins, Reece Bowkett, Richard Seaborn, Jake Biddle, Kurt Locke, Jordan Locke, Luke Pratt, Mo Thompson, Adam Weston, Carl James, Luke Hutton, Brad Kear, Matt Timmins.

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05/06/2017

Unstoppable Hillfields make it a hat-trick of Sunday successes with Gilbert Pullin win

BRISTOL Regional Sunday chairman Roger Pullin hailed Hillfields’ “marvellous feat” in adding the league’s Gilbert Pullin Memorial Cup to their bulging trophy cabinet.

Goals each side of the break by man-of-the-match Billy Fletcher and Mikey Golding were sufficient to overcome Cribbs 2-0 at the annual Fry Club showpiece in Keynsham.

GFA Sunday Premier Cup victors Hillfields had already comprehensively forced Cribbs into a second-spot finish by winning 13 of their 14 fixtures en route to landing the Premier Division title with an eye-watering average of five goals per game.

With a league and county cup double already assured them, all that was left to get their hands on was the Gilbert Pullin trophy, and while they were predictably pushed hard by a Cribbs side determined to prove a point, those two goals were all it took to secure Hillfields as a club yet more silverware to go with their District League Division One and Division Five Saturday championship successes.

Gilbert’s son Roger, who is also Regional League secretary, said: “Hillfields really have had a marvellous season.

“They are a very good side and they have a terrific talent in (forward) Karim Rendall who has played at a high level of Saturday semi-pro football.

“The administrative side of their club is excellent too and they thoroughly deserve all three of their successes at Sunday level this season.”

Hillfields had snatched an early advantage through Fletcher’s 20-yard sizzler past a flailing Cribbs keeper Daryl Litten, who went on to save from Lee Bebbington’s long-range free-kick and watched on relieved as Jamie Johnson’s attempt whistled above his crossbar.

The livewire Rendall twice came close to scoring, one of which was ruled out for offside, while at the other end Hillfields keeper Ryan Daly saved well from Ben Pellowe’s 30-yard free-kick.

Cribbs did enjoy more possession at the start of the second half but found Fletcher and his fellow Hillfields back-men in commanding mood.

And after Rendall had seen a 65th-minute header drift just over the top once more, and his close-in attempt rattle the bar, the marksman turned provider to tee-up Golding to triumphantly head home Hillfields’ second killer goal to wrap-up a fabulous campaign in perfect vein.
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02/06/2017

Teen officials Ollie, Tommy, Lewis and Nick targeting life on the bigger stages

FOUR teenagers overseeing proceedings at the 2016-17 Len Bartlett Cup final have spoken of their enthusiasm for matchday officiating and their desire to work their way up the system.

The youngsters kept a tight and competent rein on the Bristol and Suburban League’s popular annual knockout competition for adults, which this year was won by Fry Club OB Reserves courtesy of a close-fought 2-1 victory over Bedminster Cricketers at Yate Town’s Lodge Road ground.

All four aspiring youngsters were featured in the match programme notes, with man-in-the-middle Ollie Taylor, now level 5-qualified, describing himself as a “student living in Bristol” who has “played and loved football since the age of six and had the pleasure of playing for the Gloucestershire County representative team”.

He added: “I became a referee last February after a few unsuccessful trials and falling out of love with playing the game and I have been placed in the Gloucestershire Refereeing Academy.

“Now I am looking forward to the next few years as I try to progress as far as I can.”

One of Ollie’s assistants on the night, level 6 official Tommy Davis, stated: “I started playing football at the age of five and have loved the game ever since.

“I currently play for Cadbury Heath Youth Under-18s alongside refereeing in the Bristol Suburban League and Gloucestershire County League. I came into refereeing because not only did I like the prospect of having it on my CV but because it mixed a few of my skills with my passion for football, which has proved to be a good combination since starting in December 2014.”

Fellow assistant Lewis Ryan said he too was a level 6 referee who had been “reffing since January 2014”.

He explained: “I have been involved in football from a young age, playing for AEK Boco and Warmley Rangers between the ages of six and 16 until I stopped playing to concentrate on refereeing.

“It all started when my brother’s team needed a ref at the time and the more I did it, the more I thought it was fun and I decided to go on a course to become qualified.

“At first I was interested in the money but I soon realised how good a career it could be and since then it has been my dream to become a professional referee and progress through the levels.”

Last but not least fourth official at the Bartlett Cup occasion, Nick Lee, enthused: “Having played for a local youth team in the Hanham Minor League, Avon Youth League and Bristol and Gloucestershire U-18 Combination for over ten years, I’m now in my fifth season as a referee and just had my first in the Bristol Suburban League.

“I enjoy football and am keen to learn and improve my game so that I can progress through the levels as a referee.”

Suburban League secretary Derek Cumner said: “We offer our own free referee courses with the proviso that you referee in our league until such time you earn promotion to a higher level, at which time you go with our blessing.”

Anyone keen to referee with the Suburban League can contact Derek on 07940 319167.
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01/06/2017

Hanham open doors to new managerial opportunities in bid to regain former heights

HANHAM Athletic secretary Bob Sperring believes the only way is up now for the long-established County League team - with or without a new manager at the rudder.

The Vicarage Road outfit managed to stave off the very real threat of relegation last season under the gritty stewardship of Sperring’s 34-year-old son Daniel, at a time when the club had been creaking under the weight of heavy debts to the extent they were in danger of collapsing altogether.

With a small but dedicated committee overseeing their fortunes, Hanham recovered sufficiently to at least maintain their place in the County League 11 years after their arrival and are now casting the net for a prospective manager willing to work alongside current incumbent Sperring Jnr or front the mission alone, possibly with a new No.2 of his own to accompany him.

Bob said of a fluid scenario: “Dan was thrown in at the deep end last summer during a very troubled and turbulent time off the field and no pre-season friendlies organised, and it’s been a long hard battle for him and the rest of us ever since.

“His main job was to simply keep us up and we just about succeeded in that. He fought tooth and nail and it’s taken a lot out of him, not least because he’s our bar manager too.

“That said there’s a lot of us who believe Dan deserves another chance. Not just because of what he achieved but also because he’s Hanham through and through, someone who played for and managed our third team at the age of only 18 and also ran our reserves at one point.

“Dan would still love to be involved now but he’s pragmatic enough to realise that if the right man was out there willing to come in and take the entire thing over, someone with better player contacts at his disposal and a bit more experience, then he’d willingly step aside or even be there to help out as an assistant if need be.”

The Hanham secretary, who is also calling on a new manager to replace, or work alongside, their current reserve team supremo Craig Smith with their District League Division One operation, is adamant foundations are in place for a steady 2017-18 recovery.

“Our committee is a great one, however small it may be, and the social side of the club is second to none,” Sperring maintained. “All teams at various levels who came to us last season commented on the brilliant atmosphere we have here after games.

“Yes, it remains a difficult time with previous hefty debts still to be addressed. But if we can go from second from bottom to a mid-table position and build from there, it would be very satisfying.”

Anyone keen to discuss the managerial openings at first and reserve team levels at 121-year-old Hanham can contact Bob Sperring on 07703 771835 or email him at bobsperring56@gmail.com

Applications should be in by June 30.

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01/06/2017

New Greyfriars gaffer Paisley eyes continuing progress – and an Avon Athletic tie-up

TONY Paisley says he can’t wait to get his teeth into a brand-new challenge attempting to turn Greyfriars Athletic into a truly-competitive force at their level, writes Simon Parkinson.

The 43-year-old Bristolian was a willing helper working alongside long-serving boss Dave Crowley and his No.2 Steve Hodgson during the second half of last season’s rollercoaster Bristol Premier Combination campaign, as they eventually hoisted themselves out of relegation danger to finish up a much more respectable ninth on the Premier One ladder.

Paisley explained: “The three of us worked well together always knowing that Dave, who had managed for seven seasons and led all four of our teams at various times, had made a decision to step down at the end of the season.

“He’ll still be very much part of things as he plays for Greyfriars Vets in the Bristol Casuals League and he’ll maybe feature for our third and fourth teams, but I’ll be managing while Steve, who was a player at Greyfriars for many years, and Jake Cox, who is a first-team player currently sidelined with a knee injury, will both be assisting me.

“I’d made known my interest in taking charge once I knew Dave was to call it a day and I’m very happy to have been given the chance.”

Paisley is no stranger to the local football circuit. While he will continue to lead Bradley Stoke United, where his goalkeeping son Joe performs, as they move into Avon Youth League Under-15 territory next season, his CV includes managing and coaching over eight years at Avon Athletic Juniors, for whom his older son Jonathan played from the age of six before leaving to enjoy a stint with Southmead at the age of 13 and then moving into senior activity with Greyfriars.

The courageous central midfielder is battling to recover from a serious cruciate knee-ligament injury and hopes to make his eagerly-awaited Greyfriars comeback this summer, prompting his father to explain: “Southmead didn’t have a reserve side when Jonathan finished there so he went to Greyfriars, got into their reserves and I started spending more time with him there.

“I’d done some work behind the scenes on the adult side at Southmead (CS Athletic) as press officer and I am the type of person who has to get fully involved in something if I’m keen enough to do it.

“I also had previous connections with Greyfriars in as much as Avon Athletic JFC share their facilities at New Road (Stoke Gifford) with them, so I already knew some of the people there.

“That said there are no direct links between the two clubs and that’s something that maybe needs to change, to try and forge stronger connections in order to give the under-18s a focus when they finish at youth level.”

Asked about his ambitions for Greyfriars’ first XI, Paisley stressed: “At Christmas we were struggling only a point and a place above the bottom side DRG Frenchay. But we went on to put a good run together to get us out of trouble and into a much healthier position.

“So all I can think about is trying to improve on that ninth position and see where it takes us.

“It’s a hard league and this is the highest level Greyfriars have ever been. It’s important to maintain a solid club structure, keep improving the facilities and try to bring in a few new faces which can push us forward.

“I’ll certainly not be making any bold predictions about reaching the County League over the next few years as we’re simply not at that point.”

Meanwhile Greyfriars, who have a new reserve team management duo too in club stalwarts Dave Coggins and Danny White, are to host a six-a-side adult tournament on Sunday, August 20 and teams are welcome to enter at £30 per team.

Anyone interested in partaking can call Tony Paisley on 07454 005270 or email him at: tony197475@gmail.com

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31/05/2017

Northern Senior League the target as Staunton & Corse prepare for North Glos return

STAUNTON & Corse are on course for a return to the North Gloucestershire League this summer, reports Simon Parkinson.

The club pulled their first and reserve teams out of the league at the end of the 2011-12 campaign in favour of a “fresh challenge” with the Cheltenham League.

Officials at the Queen Elizabeth II Playing Field outfit have, five years down the line, decided a return to their former haunt is in order and have all but been given the green light for re-entry into the North Gloucestershire competition as league chiefs are expected to deliver their backing for the switch at their Wednesday, June 14 AGM.

Delighted first-team keeper and secretary Alex Salter confirmed: “We’ve applied for the move back to the North Gloucestershire League and we’ll hopefully find out at the AGM which division we’ll be starting back in.

“Around the time we made the change to the Cheltenham League we’d been struggling to attract players and we felt it might help ease travelling commitments for some, making it more appealing for people to join us.

“That hasn’t really proved as beneficial on that front as we thought it might and it’s funny because since we announced our intention to move back into the North Gloucestershire League, a few more players have expressed an interest in coming to us, including a couple of our former players.

“That is not to do the Cheltenham League a disservice in any way. This is something that just suits us better and we’ve always been upfront with the Cheltenham League about our plans and they’ve wished us good luck and parted on good terms.

“It’s said a change is as good as a rest and we’re really looking forward to a new challenge, one which seems to be putting a new lease of life into the club.”

The 30-year-old Salter has been an active member of the Staunton & Corse football community since he was 16, although he did squeeze in spells with Pitville United and Cleevonians in the Cheltenham League.

He has witnessed a change at the top too this close season and revealed: “Our new manager is Dave Taylor, who played as a striker for our team that went up to the Northern Senior League many years ago before coming back down (in 2007) and is now retired through injury.

“Dave once had a short stint in charge of our reserve side and I’m confident he’ll be an excellent manager, one who has also played at a higher standard and has the respect of the players.

“His assistant is Ian Rose, an ex-keeper who helped coach our goalies last year. He’ll be working alongside Rob Hall, who remains as coach with the first team.

“We’ve also attracted three new sponsors to the club and our main aim now is to get back in the Northern Senior League as quickly as possible and try to establish ourselves there.”
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31/05/2017

Super Sportsman fend off brave FC United of Yate fightback to claim 3 Lions Cup

FC United of Yate’s hopes of turning their title-winning campaign into a double-winning one were dashed as they were sunk 4-2 by Sportsman in the Bristol Regional Sunday League’s 3 Lions Cup final.

The Yate team entered the match brimming with belief following a magnificent league championship triumph in which they edged 3 Lions into a runner-up berth by a mere three-point margin on the strength of 16 wins and a draw from their 18 appearances.

Sportsman, meanwhile, had just completed a more modest programme third from the foot of the Premier Division table, yet the small divide in status appeared to be a glaring one to begin with as Kane Simpson and brother Kye Simpson had promising attempts saved by opposition keeper James Payne and cleared off the line by Luke Lecrass respectively.

While Yate’s Ruben Draper did have an effort of his own kept out at the other end by James O’Brien, Sportsman forged in front on 35 minutes when Titus Chinyama seized on to a mistake by Reece Packer and slipped in Kye Simpson to tuck the ball into the bottom corner with an accomplished finish.

FC United of Yate’s hopes of a comeback assault appeared to evaporate within the opening three minutes of the second period as Samir Shaffi latched on to a pull-back to fire home, before Kye Simpson fastened on to another defensive slip to double his tally and put the second division champs in full command at 3-0 up.

Yate’s fate could have been worsened still with the rampant Simpson squandering a free headed opportunity before United were handed a lifeline as Mason Poole nodded home after being quickest to react to a ball bouncing off the bar.

Suddenly the picture altered completely and Ben Weaver, who had a little earlier forced the Hillfields custodian into producing another smart stop, was unable to convert a one-on-one opportunity, only to this time hit the target 14 minutes from time thanks to a show of tenacity in his approach play.

Yate weren’t finished there and O’Brien sprung to Sportsman’s rescue once more by preventing the marauding Weaver celebrating an equaliser.

Instead, Chinyama put an absorbing contest beyond doubt four minutes from time with a firm strike into the bottom corner to seal the trophy for Sportsman.

The Bristol Regional Sunday League are seeking two more teams to join the 2017-18 season. Anyone interested should contact Roger Pullin on 07774 972617.

Teams will again not be charged to partake in the league.

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30/05/2017

Opportunities galore in Glos for young match officials to showcase their talents

YOUNG referees in Gloucestershire continue to be given the best possible platforms to parade their talents – as amply demonstrated at a recent cup final.

No fewer than FOUR teenage officials – referee Ollie Taylor and his three assistants Nick Lee, Lewis Ryan and Tommy Davis – were on show in the Bristol and Suburban League’s Len Bartlett Cup final involving Fry Club OB Reserves and Bedminster Cricketers in Yate.

Chairman of the GFA Referee Committee, Alan Pearce, says he was heartened by the move to put the fledging officials through their paces in senior surroundings and said there were opportunities in abundance throughout the county for would-be referees and assistant refs to progress through the system.

He said: “It’s really good to hear about all those teenagers involved in a big adult game and while we don’t like to push young people too fast, the fact is that if they’re good enough you have to do just that!

“We have people called mentors, who are generally level 4 and 5 officials, attending games north and south of the county who are, in effect, talent spotters.

“They can just turn up unexpectedly and introduce themselves to the officials before a game, at half-time or afterwards, to offer them tips and advice and generally lend a supportive ear.

“We also have observers at games of a higher refereeing level 4 or 3 standard who act on recommendations from mentors. As an emerging official you need to have observers involved if you’re striving for a promotion.

“Observers contact match officials a couple of days or so before games stating their intention to come and monitor them.”

Alan added: “Any referee can apply for promotion from the age of 16 when they can also expect to be observed during the season at a number of matches. But it’s not just about men; there’s a very good pathway for females too.

“On the whole there is plenty of good young talent coming through: last year we had a level 7 referee who worked his way up to level 5 in the space of a year.

“We also run regular refereeing courses - six or seven a year for beginners - the details of which can be found on the Gloucestershire FA’s website (www.gloucestershirefa.com) under the referee section where there is lots of information about how to get started.”

Alan, himself an observer as a former level 3 official, added: “As well as mentors and observers we also have referee coaches, people like Mike Joy and Roger Milford who refereed in the Football League and Premier League respectively.

“All level 5 referees – they are the senior county referees -  striving to progress to level 4 – that’s Toolstation Western League and Gloucestershire County League statuses - will get a coach and there are 19 of those this year which is a fantastic sum.”
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30/05/2017

Grounds for reflection: Football -mad McConachies back from marathon charity trip

LOCAL football enthusiast Martin McConachie is back in post after an epic journey around the 92 Premier and Nationwide League clubs stretching almost 3,000 miles.

Martin completed the marathon trip with his twin sons Ryan and Harry with the aim of collecting signed memorabilia along the way to auction upon their return.

In the end, more than 50 items were donated ahead of the auction which is currently taking place online.

The two chosen charities were the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation and the Adam Stansfield Foundation and Martin says both should be in for a “bumper boost to their funds”.

Martin, who until recently oversaw the fortunes of Toolstation Western League Oldland Abbotonians as club secretary, enthused: “We had some marvellous support along the way with the FA giving us a signed England shirt and the likes of Everton, Hull and Brighton also donating shirts.

“Chelsea handed us a signed football and Arsenal a signed team photo. Bristol City also gave us a signed shirt while Bristol Rovers kindly donated a pair of matchday tickets to the causes.”

After the exciting fortnight away, during which Martin and his boys also watched 12 matches, the trio collected 25 shirts along with 12 balls, five pennants, three lots of tickets, two signed photos, two pairs of boots, two signed programmes, a stadium tour voucher and a pair of goalkeeping gloves.

Martin cited the “social aspect” as another highlight of the trip, adding: “We met some great people along the way too and not just the likes of Mark Lawrenson, Peter Beardsley and Alan Kennedy.

“There were the unsung heroes who gave us guided tours, presents and their valuable time. As Yeovil Town fans it was brilliant that we also bumped into many top ex-Glovers who were chuffed to see us. It really felt like a trip of a lifetime!”

To get more information on the challenge, and to donate, please visit www.4-2-3-1.org and click on Auctions to see what is currently available.

You can also go to @4231challenge on Twitter for the very latest news. 

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26/05/2017

Nerve-shredded Passaway ends his Old Sodbury supremo stint on highest of highs

OLD Sodbury are optimistic they can enjoy a positive 2017-18 Bristol Premier Combination campaign – with a new man to lead them into it, writes Simon Parkinson.

The South Gloucestershire team finished up in a fourth-from-bottom safety berth thanks in no small way to a 5-0 final-day mauling of AEK Boco Reserves in the tensest of conclusions to the top-flight season in which three of the bottom four clubs all ended up with the same 27 points to their name!

Sodbury announced after that dramatic and status-saving success that their manager, Paul Passaway, would be stepping down following his spirited year-long stint in the hot seat, with Jamie Pearson, who led the club’s second-string side to a mid-table finish in Bristol and District League Division Two, taking up the first-team reins for next term.

A spokesman for the 107-year-old club said: “Paul took over the first team in summer 2016 and has done a sterling job to keep the club going and battle through what has been a hard year.

“Everyone would like to wish Paul all the best and success in the future and thank him for all his efforts over the last two seasons.
“Reserve team manager Jamie Pearson will make the step up and manage the first team next season.

“Jamie has shown real commitment and great communication skills to get a reserve team out over the course of the season to finish a strong seventh.

“It means the reserve team manager role is currently vacant and anybody interested is urged to come forward and get in touch with the club.”

Old Sodbury, who were promoted to the Premier Division in 2012, swept to their highest-ever position of fourth under the guidance of goalkeeper John Rendell, who went on to enjoy a spell as coach under Paul Britton with his home town club Yate before recently filling the vacant manager’s position at Southern League Paulton Rovers.

Remarkably relieved Sodbury broke free of the relegation clutches in some style, and on goal difference only, on the very last day after experiencing a wretched run of ten games without a win.

They began understandably anxiously against Boco while looking well-drilled and organised too, making it difficult for the visitors to break them down.

Eventually Sodbury took the lead heading up the slope from a rare attack as Darren Bell flicked on Tom Maner’s left-sided delivery and Ben Weaver volleyed home from six yards out.

Soon into the second half Shaun Halford’s attempt was fumbled by the Boco keeper and while Weaver saw his shot blocked on the line, Bell was on hand to gobble up the rebound for 2-0.

A confident-looking Sodbury added a third goal shortly after when an in-swinging Kelvin Martin corner was flicked on at the near post for Jamie Yandell to volley home.

With the back four of Maner, Adrian Box, Yandell and Chris Young rock-steady in front of reliable keeper Jamie Pearson, the rampant hosts weren’t finished.

The rampant hosts weren’t finished and fantastic work by Bell and Halford set up Ben Ingram for a cool finish, before an own goal made it 5-0 as Matt Ellery’s cross was turned in by a Boco defender.

Passaway glowed: “It was a fantastic performance and result to secure our place in the league next year.

“Our back four of Tom Maner, Adrian Box, Jamie Yandell and Chris Young were outstanding, not to mention Jamie Pearson between the sticks.

“It was a great way to end what has been a really tough season.”
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25/05/2017

McCallum makes his mark as Oldland Abbotonians U-18s pip Boco battlers to title

OLDLAND Abbotonians’ fast-emerging starlets bowed out of youth football in the perfect fashion by clinching the Bristol Under-18 Combination crown.

On an afternoon of considerable drama at Castle Road, Oldland and their opponents AEK Boco prepared to lock horns knowing that the winners of the final-day affair would also secure the coveted Premier Division prize.

Hardly surprisingly, then, given all that was at stake, that the game was well-contested and remained in the balance right up to the final whistle before the hosts were declared 2-1 victors and 2016-17 champions, while disappointed Boco were forced to settle for a commendable runners-up berth in ultimately trailing their rivals by five points.

Both teams had chances early on before Oldland opened the scoring on the half-hour when their 17-goal marksman Owen McCallum carried the ball purposefully forward and, as the AEK defenders backed off, needed no second invitation as his shot from the edge of the area squirmed under the unfortunate away keeper and in for the opener.

Frustrated but far from fazed, AEK Boco responded positively and their equaliser came on 38 minutes when a cross from the left allowed a delighted Cory Langdon to get in ahead of Oldland keeper Ross Jones and defender to poke the ball home from eight yards out.

The second period began as the first half had finished, with neither side able to dominate to any great extent.
However, it was Oldland who were next to net with a crucial 52nd-minute goal when Aldo Marku drove at the Boco defence before slipping the ball through for McCallum to run on to and rifle an unerring finish past the keeper to restore their lead.
AEK continued to push for an equaliser and Jones was pressed into making some important saves to maintain his team’s slender advantage.

Oldland had chances for a decisive third goal too but were denied several times by the determined Boco goalie and wasteful finishing.

Nevertheless a third league win in three meetings for Oldland over their opponents deservedly wrapped up the title for them to ensure most of their talented players waved farewell to youth football on the highest of highs.
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24/05/2017

Upbeat Down acclaims Torpedo A All Saints Cup success as Helios hopes are dashed

TENACIOUS Torpedo A ended their 2016-17 Bristol Downs League Division Three mission with a flourish – and a trophy to show for their efforts.

The freescoring team had already secured a commendable fourth spot in the table on the strength of three straight wins in a run-in which reaped 13 goals for and only two against, to send them into the league’s All Saints Cup final against third-tier rivals Helios brimming with belief.

The sides had already played each other three times this term heading into the contest, Torpedo emerging victorious by 2-1 and 3-1 margins while another tight tussle ended in a 2-2 draw.

So the All Saints showdown was always likely to be a close and competitive affair and so it proved, before Torpedo saw off a belated riposte by their relentless opponents to come through 3-1 winners for the second time this season and clinch the prize.

Their delighted secretary Owen Dow, who also operates in the same capacity with the Downs League, enthused: “It was a very good game and the key difference was we took our chances.”

Both sides had entered the final, last season won by then-Division Three champions Sneyd Park A, in prolific vein in front of target throughout the knock-out tournament.

Torpedo had overcome Clifton Rockets Reserves (8-1), Jersey Rangers Reserves (5-3), Sneyd Park A (4-3) and Old Cliftonians Reserves (2-1) en route, while Helios breezed past Sneyd Park B (5-1), Lion Reserves (5-0), Torpedo B (3-1) and Old Elizabethans Reserves (4-1) on their way to this month’s showpiece occasion.

Torpedo snatched a 15th-minute lead and didn’t look back when Rupert Bartovsky finished off a slick three-man move with aplomb.

Buoyed by the breakthrough, Torpedo wasted little time adding a second to ensure a two-goal interval advantage for them. Kevin (Bingo) McCarron ran clear and while his initial attempt was beaten out by the Helios custodian, the stray ball ricocheted off the marauding McCarron and into the net.

Any hopes the scorer and Torpedo had of grabbing the second half by the scruff of the neck were dashed as spirited Helios pulled a goal back through influential midfielder Sam Moran’s 25-yard screamer to tee-up a tense conclusion to an already-absorbing encounter.

Chances came and went at both ends of the pitch before Torpedo, stung by the bold reaction from their determined opponents, managed to all but put paid to Helios’ comeback aspirations as the livewire McCarron delivered the killer cross for Andy Williams to triumphantly rattle in their third goal with a firm back-post finish to wrap-up the scoring and the trophy.

“It was a relief,” Dow smiled, “because Andy normally skies those opportunities but he kept that one nice and low and on target!
“It’s the first time our A-team have won a trophy so it was very pleasing.

“We spoke about keeping it tight at half-time at 2-0 up yet Helios quickly scored a very good goal through a player (Moran) who had been a constant threat.

“Now we can look forward to our 20th club tour to an international tournament at Deventer in Holland involving about 20 players from our four teams over the Bank Holiday weekend.”

Meanwhile the Bristol Downs League requires three more teams to make up the numbers for the coming season when free footballs and, possibly, ice packs will be handed to member clubs to accompany the first aid packs handed out last year.

Any teams wishing to sign up can contact secretary Owen Dow on 07980 015853 or by emailing him at bdl1905@gmail.com

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23/05/2017

Red-carded Ball will learn from Les James Cup final experience, says Boco boss Gary

JUBILANT manager Gary Lancaster insists Callum Ball will learn vital lessons from his rollercoaster experience of AEK Boco’s Les James League Cup success, writes Simon Parkinson.

The promising teenage left-back fired his team in front from the penalty spot five minutes into the final after livewire winger Liam Jenkins had been upended by Sam Keetch at the Stonehouse showpiece, to set them on their way to a 3-0 victory over Broadwell Amateurs in the Marcliff Gloucestershire County League’s prestigious annual knock-out tournament.

Eight minutes into the second half, with Boco two-up thanks to centre-half Joe Reeves’ powerful header from Harrison Kyte’s superb corner on the stroke of the interval, Ball was given a straight red card to find himself suspended for the first three fixtures of a proposed 2017-18 assault on promotion.

Mercifully for the left-back Broadwell were unable to make their numerical advantage count and five minutes later a determined, mazy run and fierce low cross by Jordan Scott was helped on its way into the net by Broadwell’s luckless back-man Blaine Smith desperately trying to steer the ball to safety.

“I’d be inclined to give the goal to Jordan because for me the ball was going in anyway and it was a great drilled delivery,” Lancaster maintained.

“There was no way back for Broadwell at that point and Callum was a pleased and relieved man afterwards who held his hands up to what was two silly offences leading up to his red card.

“First he put in a late tackle; no complaints there; and then he reacted to a shove on him by their lad who had been on the receiving end of the tackle by shoving him back, and the referee (Jack Bonnick) rolled the two offences into one and gave him a straight red.

“It’s a shame because Callum has been influential for us this season but he’s only a teenager still and he’ll learn from it.
“To his credit he’d earlier put his penalty away really well after missing his last one against Henbury. He’d got a bit of penalty practice in during training this week and it paid off.”

Lancaster felt that fifth-minute breakthrough had knocked the early stuffing out of their opponents in front of a competition-record crowd of 350.

“I’d been getting disappointed hearing people saying Broadwell were poor on the day but it was a big occasion and scoring as early as we did can knock some of the belief out of you,” he insisted.

“The next best time to score is right on 45 minutes and we did just that after being quite dominant in the first half.

“After Callum had been sent off we regrouped and left our lightning-quick 18-year-old Jacob Saunders up top on his own and we could have gone on to win even more comfortably.

“So it was a great finish to our season and gives us the momentum to go on and hopefully do even better next year.”  

AEK Boco: J Madge; A Shopland, C Ball, B Wheadon, R Sperring, J Reeves, L Jenkins (J Green 76), J Scott, H Kyte (J Saunders 76), L Crewe (S Abraham 68), D Werrett

Broadwell Amateurs: J Merry, S Keetch (S Taylor 65), B Smith, S Albon, G Lewis, B Fishwick, K Burnard, P Manns, R Gabriel, J Sheen, D Latham. Sub not used: L Williams
Referee: Jack Bonnick

Attendance: 350

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22/05/2017

New-team places up for grabs as GFA Super Vets League gets set for big autumn off

GOLDEN oldies of the Gloucestershire game say they can’t wait for battle to recommence this autumn on the strength of another competitive campaign.

The curtain was recently brought down on the latest GFA Super Vets (over 50s) League in which five seven-a-side teams each fought out sixteen 22-minute fixtures at Cheltenham’s All Saints Academy and Tewkesbury School before Charlton Rovers, 2015-16 runners-up to Real Brummagem, were crowned champions with an impressive 13 wins to their name.

County Association organisers would love to see even more teams sign up soon in readiness for a crack at the prizes next term, while the regular participants were left to reflect on what for them proved an enjoyable and competitive opportunity to demonstrate that while the ‘engines’ may be stuttering, the skills and enthusiasm levels on show have far from stalled!

Abbeymead Rovers captain and chairman Stuart Langworthy, whose team managed to avoid a bottom-spot conclusion to their maiden Super Vets voyage, explained: “We entered the league as it was the only area we as a club were not really represented in.

“We had been successful at walking football and felt it couldn’t be too difficult to do a bit of running against other more senior 50-plus players. How wrong we were!

“In our first game we managed a goalless draw with Southside Star but we were chasing shadows.

“For our second game against the Real ‘Brummies’ (Brummagem), no one had told us they play in a national league and in a World Cup! What an introduction: we were hammered 7-0.

“Our lads did a little better against Charlton Rovers next up in losing 3-0 but we had been so used to walking football that we were blown away by two teams whose ability to pass and move tore us apart.”

Langworthy added, however: “We did get better as the season went on and at one point, following a win against Stroud Strollers and a draw with Southside, we were third.

“In the final session we only lost 1-0 to Real ‘Brummies’ and felt hard done by, which was testament to how far we had come in the season. We were just pleased not to finish last and to have closed the gap in terms of results.

“We all enjoyed the experience but we are clearly better at walking football! That said, we will enter the Super Vets League again next year and we will be looking to recruit more players who can run!

“It has to be said too that the camaraderie within - and between - teams was excellent.”

Langworthy’s sentiments were echoed by Real Brummagem’s seasoned and sprightly player-manager Andy Munro who said: “We have just completed our second year (as runners-up) in the competition and whilst most of us still play football a couple of times a week, to the vast majority of us this is now confined to ‘friendly fives’.

“So the opportunity to play outdoors, once a month, in a competitive environment, is something we welcome to the extent that we’re prepared to travel a fair distance for the games.

“Facilities are good, the refs always turn up and, best of all, it has the balance of being very competitive whilst being played in the right spirit.

“As player-manager and the oldest in our side at 66, I would unhesitatingly recommend the league to aspiring teams.”
Anyone wishing to sign up for next season’s league can contact Jack Stanbury on 01454 615888 (option 3) or email him at: jack.stanbury@gloucestershirefa.com

Results and tables pertaining to the previous two GFA Super Vets campaigns can be found here: http://full-time.thefa.com/Index.do?divisionseason=732836542&league=713711603
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19/05/2017

At the double: Cribbs Reserves rouse themselves to claim Combination League brace

CRIBBS Reserves secretary Rob Stone hailed his team’s double-winning endeavours just 12 months on from their title agony.

Stone and his club comrades cut sombre figures this time last year after missing out on the Bristol Premier Combination top-flight prize at the final hurdle by a two-point fraction as Mendip Broadwalk marched to victory.

However, not only did they right that wrong by pipping gallant Wick to top spot this time around after a tense and fascinating race to the line which had been nip and tuck to the very conclusion, Cribbs’ spirited second-string, co-managed by Alec Mills and Rob Hetherington, also triumphed in the league’s Combination Cup tournament courtesy of a 3-1 victory in their own backyard over high-riding rivals Olveston United.

 A delighted Stone said: “To win the league this year has been a great achievement for the team as well as the club.
“To get so close to winning it last year and then falling to worthy champions Mendip on the last day was disappointing.

“We’ve got a really young squad mixed with a few older heads and this blend has worked really well over the last couple of seasons.

“Once again the league went down to the very last game and credit must also go to Wick who look as though they’ll be promoted to the Gloucestershire County League (subject to confirmation) as runners-up.

“In addition, Olveston also gave us some hard games over the season and they too must receive congratulations for winning the GFA Senior Amateur Cup.”

Stone added: “It can’t be forgotten either that our first team finished eighth in the Toolstation Premier Division and lost only on penalties (to Melksham Town) in the Les Phillips Cup final, all of which means the club as a whole has enjoyed a great season.

“Credit has to go to the players for that but we also have a strong committee who work tirelessly behind the scenes. We have to be thankful to all of our groundsmen as well for producing such fantastic pitches to play on every week.”

As for that Combination Cup final, the game finally sprang to life at the start of the second half when Cribbs took the lead.

Striker Tom Headford took advantage of a moment of hesitancy in the Olveston back line to lob the ball over the helpless keeper and open the scoring.

Cribbs doubled their advantage on 70 minutes when substitute Dan Burgan scored a fine solo goal which appeared to kill off their opponents’ hopes.

To their credit Olveston continued to battle manfully and they were handed a lifeline with ten minutes remaining when referee Bob Danaher pointed to the spot after a challenge by Cribbs captain Fred Hopkins on prolific O’s striker George Williams was adjudged to be a foul. Williams picked himself up to dispatch the penalty with familiar aplomb and it was game on again.

However any Cribbs nerves were soon settled when George Binding finished off a fine move down the right side with a stunning finish from outside the box to make it 3-1 and secure that commendable Combination league and cup double.
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18/05/2017

Hawkes’ unstoppable Old Elizabethans aim to continue on the up and up on the Downs

OLD Elizabethans are basking in the afterglow of another super season, despite being a relative newcomer still to the local football arena, reports Simon Parkinson.

The club only launched Bristol Downs League life in 2012 and weren’t about to hang around admiring their more-established basement Division Four counterparts!

They won 21 and drew one of their 26 fixtures to clinch an immediate promotion clinging to the tailgate of Luccombe Garage, whose slender three-point advantage proved just enough to land them the title that term.

While Luccombe went on to finish the ensuing 2013-14 season fourth-from-bottom, Elizabethans more than consolidated their place in the third division by finishing up in fifth position, before becoming a dominant force over the next two years in claiming back-to-back Division Three and Division Two titles to reach the top section of Downs League football.

That progression shows no sign of abating either as Chris Hawkes’ team finished runner-up in recent days only to Sneyd Park by an agonising two points in a tension-filled race to the Division One crown.

Elizabethans did, however, retain their firm grip on the league’s most prestigious knock-out trophy, the Norman Hardy Cup, which they had secured 12 months prior courtesy of a stunning 4-0 victory over an Ashley outfit who had missed out on the first division title to Torpedo on goal difference only entering that tussle.

There was little disputing the outcome of the 2016-17 Hardy Cup showdown either, as Old Elizabethans ran out 3-0 victors over gallant mid-table top-flight rivals Old Cliftonians, who found themselves two-down at the interval and staring at an uphill struggle after Alex Matthews had nodded home from an early corner and Simon Harris doubled their advantage with a fine shot.

Cliftonians had their moments too and midfielder Chris Ashcroft leapt to Elizabethans’ rescue by blocking one effort off his own line, while the goal-frame was all that prevented Harry Greenbury from pulling one back.

There was little to choose between the teams after the break but the crucial next goal went the way of Old Elizabethans as Harris’ firm strike made it 3-0 to effectively kill off Cliftonians’  comeback hopes.

Of his team’s meteoric rise, Hawkes explained: “My son Daniel (club secretary) and a few of his schoolmates from QEH had been kicking a ball about on a Sunday and asked me for my thoughts about starting up their own team.

“I’d been a Henbury player aged from 15 to 42 so I knew a bit about the local scene. I agreed they had what it takes to form a side and suggested the Downs as a starting point.

“I was asked to be manager initially and only intended doing so for a season! I knew the lads were good but it surprised me that they were THAT good, and three years ago we introduced a reserve team too which went on to win a promotion (2015-16) from Division Four.

“The prospect of progression has been discussed and we were offered a football pitch at Old Elizabethans Rugby Club should we want to change leagues, although there are no intentions of leaving the Downs in the immediate future.” 
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17/05/2017

Battling Ben to stay put as chairman Fairman eyes an upturn in Hallen’s fortunes

LEE Fairman hailed Ben Willshire’s decision to remain as Hallen’s manager next season and insisted: “I’m confident we can move forward again now”.

The Moorhouse Lane chairman, whose grandfather Frank Fairman founded the club in 1949, watched anxiously on as his team did just enough to avoid a bottom-two finish in this season’s Toolstation Premier Division programme, although Gillingham Town’s withdrawal from next season’s competition for financial reasons meant only Gill’s Dorset rivals Sherborne Town were demoted to Division One as bottom team.

Nevertheless it has proved a draining, often turbulent 2016-17 experience for Fairman and Co, a staunch member of Hallen FC since his boyhood days and happy, he says with a smile, to continue “taking up the family baton” that his devoted granddad originally introduced.

The 41-year-old chairman also revealed that the club’s long-serving player and reserve team skipper Graham Joint is to take up the club’s second-string reins in tandem with Avon and Somerset Police football manager Richard O’Brien, as they seek to improve still further on an admirable sixth-spot conclusion to their latest Bristol Premier Combination Premier Division assault.

Fairman told GFA Local Football News: “We’ve just had a big end-of-season meeting and we’re delighted Ben Willshire has agreed to stay on as first-team manager.

“There were never any guarantees that he would do so after such a difficult season and, like any other manager would, he wanted some assurances that he wouldn’t find himself in the same testing position next season.

“Of course money talks at this level and we don’t have the cash some other teams at our level have. But we try and look after our players; treat them on nights out etc, and I’m sure most of the players who ended the season with us will stay.

“Had we had the personnel at the start of the season that Ben began bringing in when he first came in as manager (in October), I’m sure we’d have been looking at a mid-table finish.

“Still, even when we knew only one team would be going down and that it was likely to be Sherborne, we were determined to stay out of what are usually the bottom two relegation places and we managed to do that.”

Fairman reflected: “It was a tough last season, for sure, but having known Ben for a long time as I have and played alongside him at Hallen too, I knew what he was about, what strength and resolve he has and how professionally he conducts himself.

“It’s been the first time in the Premier Division (in 13 years Hallen have been members of it) that we’ve really struggled, when we’ve been really worried about going down.

“Now there’s a chance to rebuild and we’ve been successful before without having a playing budget, although I’m not saying we’ll win the league or anything like that.

“I’m also confident Graham and Richard will prove a perfect fit when it comes to our reserves who, despite having to service our first team with half of theirs around November/December time, still did extremely well to finish sixth.

“Graham is Hallen through and through having been with us since he was 18 and he is also a member of our committee as well as being the captain, so he’s the type of person we want at the club.”

The Hallen chief concluded: “Things are continuing to progress with our youth set-up: we’ll be running teams for under-5s to under-12s next season and looking for many of them to be our future youth and senior players. And we’ve already undertaken more significant improvements to our pitch since the season ended.”

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16/05/2017

Keeping it in the family: Hillfields star Knowles backs his boys to continue their rise

AN emotional Duane Knowles has called time on a “privileged” two-decade stint with Bristol and District League aces Hillfields Old Boys – and on the highest of highs too, reports Simon Parkinson.

The 38-year-old is stepping back from the game for now in order to focus more on family affairs but admits he is doing so with “deep regret” where his football activities are concerned.

Knowles has enjoyed a raft of successes with Hillfields, not least the one secured over the past few days as only one defeat in their entire 2016-17 campaign helped them overhaul Nicholas Wanderers at the Division One summit.

The experienced player-boss led the Thicket Avenue club’s unstoppable first team to three straight league title and subsequent promotion triumphs, culminating with the lifting of that latest first division trophy.

Among their cup conquests was last season’s 5-2 GFA Intermediate South Cup victory over this year’s District Division Two champs Yate Athletic at Oaklands Park.

It has, however, been very much a club effort as their reserves claimed the Division Five crown while their Sunday performers won 13 of their 14 games to land the Bristol Regional Sunday League’s top prize along with the GFA Sunday Premier Cup thanks to an exciting 4-3 win over holders Lebeq Tavern Courage.

Their long-serving clubman has since announced he’ll be making way for his co-manager John Towler to take up the Saturday first-team reins in equal tandem with Jamie Johnson.

Knowles explained: “I have decided to call it a day with playing and managing Hillfields due to family commitments, although it’s with deep regret that I’m doing so after 20 years associated with the club. I will miss so much about the place; most of all the matchday buzz.

“But I leave my co-manager John to continue at the helm alongside a new joint-manager in Jamie, who is currently in charge of Hillfields’ Sunday side.

“The club have three fantastic teams who all won their leagues and reached cup finals respectively, so the future is certainly looking bright for them and I wish them all the best going forward.”

Knowles said of his own emergence in the grassroots game: “I started out with Hillfields Reserves as an 18-year-old, working my way up to first-team captain before, over the past four seasons as manager, winning promotion in my first year and then three consecutive league titles, including a double.

“I would like to thank the players so much for producing football the way it should be played and for giving me unforgettable memories.

“One special game that will always live with me is our Intermediate Cup semi-final victory over Sea Mills (on penalties) last season. There was such passion and emotion around the place and the feeling was unbelievable.

“But with my fourth child due in August it’s family time on Saturdays that will keep me busy, although I shall remain a keen spectator when I can for what I regard as the best club in the world!”
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15/05/2017

Ready for action: Brand-new Cribbs Ladies performers set to hit the county stage

CRIBBS are to parade a brand-new women’s football team at their impressive Lawns headquarters next season – and there is still time to sign up! Writes Simon Parkinson.

They are to be run by experienced manager and coach John Shepherd, who counts Bristol Ladies Union, AEK Boco and Port of Bristol among female clubs he has successfully overseen over the years.

Cribbs Ladies are to compete in Division Two of the 2017-18 Gloucestershire County Women’s League competition and their enthusiastic leader and mentor says he can’t wait to enter combat on the strength of positive beginnings, backed up by a facility he regards among the best he has come across in local circles.

Shepherd explained: “We are up to at least 14 players attending regular training sessions and of course, we’ll always welcome more.

 “I’d heard that Cribbs were looking to start up a women’s team so I got in touch and had a chat with them, and some of our girls who’d played for me at Port of Bristol a couple of years back in the same County Women’s League went up and had a look too and really liked what they saw.

“Everything about the place is fantastic; the pitch, the changing rooms; and they provide physios too.”

Players aged 16 and above are welcome to attend training sessions every Sunday throughout the spring and summer months on Cribbs’ artificial surface at Station Road, Henbury, Bristol BS10 7TB between 1pm and 3pm.

Shepherd’s daughters Ceri, now 22, and Myli, 19, were 12 and 11 respectively when they first started playing regular girls’ football at Bristol Ladies Union.

“They’re both playing again now but both know that their places and preferred positions in the team are not guaranteed them just because I’m their dad!” the manager grinned, adding: “As well as additional players I’d really like to get a female assistant in, to help with training and coaching, as I feel that would really benefit our team.

“And of course, unlike me, they would be allowed access to the dressing room which is always helpful when you’re trying to run a successful side.

“Our first training session went really well and while a lot of girls had been keeping fit at the gym, they admitted their first football session was even harder with all the running, shuttles and star jumps they did for about an hour to get the heart rates up!

“This will be our first season so I’d be happy with mid-table for starters. For me it’s mostly about the players enjoying themselves.”

Anyone interested in playing or getting involved with Cribbs Ladies can contact John Shepherd on 07804 643499 or email shepsjohn@yahoo.co.uk

Alternatively contact Cribbs FC secretary Rob Stone at rob.stone@friendslifeservices.co.uk

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12/05/2017

On comeback trail: AEK Boco out to make themselves 2017 County League Cup kings

GARY Lancaster wants a trophy for his AEK Boco cup finalists to parade as a serious signal of ambition ahead of their 2017-18 mission, writes Simon Parkinson.

The Greenbank Road outfit take on Broadwell Amateurs this Saturday (May 13) in the Marcliff Gloucestershire County League’s Les James League Cup showpiece aiming to atone for a modest league campaign by previous lofty standards.

The 2015-16 champions and runners-up 12 months prior to that have run into form more akin to their previous best selves, and hope that continues when they confront the 12th-placed Forest of Dean hopefuls at Stonehouse Town’s Oldends Lane premises (2.30pm).

Boco will start as favourites given they lost only one of their last ten league outings to eventually land up in seventh spot, although their boss of six seasons is wary too of the threat posed by their final opponents.

“We won 3-1 at their place earlier in the season but then they came to us in January and beat us 2-0, so it’s hard to read anything into those games,” Lancaster reasoned.

“All I know is that it’s been a very good end to our season when our lads have all stepped up to the plate, although I truly think it will be a tight affair on Saturday.”

Boco’s early-season struggles were borne largely of injury and unavailability affecting their mainstay title-winning midfield of Jason Thatcher, Ben Menear and Charlie Stevens, while inspirational keeper Joe Pople departed for the Toolstation League scene with Bitton before returning soon into November and going on to make 18 appearances.

Thatcher recently returned from a sciatica problem but is unable to feature in the final under competition rules as he hadn’t played three games or more for his team ahead of Boco’s 1-0 semi-final win over Henbury.

“It’s a shame because Jason injured his back in the warm-up to our first game of the season,” Lancaster said. “He’s played in the Western League with Bitton and Cadbury Heath and he was our top scorer last season with 13 goals from midfield, which says it all about his attributes.”

Boco will also be without Pople due to a knee injury, so third-choice shot-stopper Jack Madge will step between the sticks.
“I have no qualms about that at all, disappointing though it is for Joe who is one of the best keepers in our league,” the Boco boss maintained.

“Jack played in our last two league games, both against Bishops Cleeve Reserves, and kept clean sheets each time and at only 19 he’s very much one for the future.

“As a team we ended up losing only three of our final 17 games and it’s a measure of how things were at the time that I was asked several weeks ago to write my programme notes for this final and spoke in quite negative tones about our season up until then!

“Had I written them in the past couple of weeks my approach would certainly have been more upbeat, although I’m still a little down that we weren’t there or thereabouts among the front-runners.

“Now we’re looking to build on our momentum with some silverware to take into the summer after crashing at the first hurdles of the cup in our first two seasons in the County League.

“Hopefully a win will set us up nicely and put everyone in the mood for another crack at promotion next season.”
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11/05/2017

Great Scott! Bourton Rovers battlers mark debut Hellenic mission with title success 

SCOTT Powles voiced jubilation at seeing his Bourton Rovers team stage a magnificent post-Christmas comeback to claim a maiden Hellenic Division Two West championship.

The red-hot Rissington Road-sters produced nigh-on unstoppable form since the turn of the year to secure the crown just 12 months after their exciting elevation as runners-up from the Witney and District Premier Division.

They got their hands on the 2016-17 trophy in highly-dramatic fashion too, with a 3-1 home victory over a Kidlington Reserves team who only needed a draw to instead lay claim to the prize as they entered the winner-takes-all contest, watched by a captivated 250-strong crowd.

Bourton rose to the occasion, not least their hungry marksman Connor Teague, who took his tally for the term to 17 goals in 19 starts with all three in a victory that will go down in club folklore.

Rovers will have to wait a while longer before they can continue their progression as their facilities require further improvements to meet Hellenic League Division One standards, meaning they will kick-off next season in the same third tier of the competition.

Nevertheless their thrilled gaffer Powles acknowledged: “To win the title is amazing as it is our first time in the Hellenic League after previous seasons in local football.

“I am delighted with my players’ performances this season and the character they have shown since Christmas, given that we knew we had to win almost every game to claim the title.

“We went on to lose just once since then which is a fantastic achievement in a challenging league and we all seemed to relish the pressure.

“I would like to thank the club for supporting me and my players this season and we can now look forward to our presentation evening on Friday, May 13 before a few weeks’ break.”

Bourton only had to wait 20 minutes for their crucial breakthrough goal when Teague fastened on to Adam Webley’s flick and lobbed the onrushing Kidlington keeper.

However, drama was to ensue as Kidlington, desperate to hold on to their seat at the summit, equalised seven minutes before the interval as they seized upon a moment of confusion among the Bourton back-ranks.

Far from fazed, Rovers and Teague hit back to reclaim the lead on the brink of the break through the prolific marksman’s glancing header.

And after a slow opening to the second period, in which Bourton appeared satisfied to hold what they had, the league title became all but theirs on 65 minutes as Webley pounced to take a through pass in his stride and deliver a perfect ball into the box for a joyful Teague to head home his hat-trick goal.
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10/05/2017

Broadwell’s cup finalists aiming to make Boco showpiece a launchpad to bright future

BROADWELL Amateurs are hoping this Saturday’s cup final appearance can act as a catalyst to bigger and better things, writes Simon Parkinson.

The Forest of Dean side take on the 2015-16 Marcliff Gloucestershire County League champions AEK Boco in the league’s Les James Cup showdown at Stonehouse Town’s Oldends Lane facility (May 13, 2.30pm) targeting silverware in only their second season back at the level.

Beyond that, Broadwell are already planning for a proposed future at higher spheres of the football pyramid, a recent visit by Hellenic League representatives to discuss ground-grading requirements underlining those intentions.

The Hawthorns club have experienced a modest campaign compared with their sixth-placed conclusion in 2015-16, winding up 12th this time around.

Nevertheless the potential appears to be there, certainly according to their long-serving clubman and secretary Les Lewis who confirmed: “We’re quite ambitious and yes, we recently had a visit by the Hellenic League to outline what we need to do to get into their league and they seemed quite happy with what we already have in place.

“We need to extend our car park and put a stand up, as well as lay hard-standing on two sides of the pitch perimeter. There are plans for floodlights too but in recent times we built brand-new away changing rooms with ref’s facilities on the side, and we refurbished our home team’s dressing room which is now a very big and impressive facility.

“We own everything here and all the improvements have been paid for by the club with no grants involved, although FA funding is what we’ll be looking for as things evolve.

“Of course, we’d have to win the league too before we could go any further and it is a difficult league to win; quite competitive.

We’ve not given ourselves a timeframe but it would be nice to think we could be pushing for promotion in two to three years.”

The 61-year-old Lewis counts Coleford, Ellwood and Cinderford Town among former clubs he featured for before embarking on a three-decade stint with Broadwell, as a centre-half, manager, treasurer and, for the past ten years or so, secretary.

“We were in the County League for three or four seasons in the 1990s before being voted out and sent back to the Northern Senior League,” Lewis recalled.

“We managed to win it two years ago and we’ve adapted quite well since coming back into the County League.

“A lot of the older boys who got us this far moved into our second XI and our manager Lee Williams, who was assistant to Gary Hurcombe last season, has introduced a lot of young lads which has brought a real spark to the side.

Jamie Merry, our keeper, is only 18 and two of our attackers, Kristian Burnard and Jordan Sheen who are both extremely quick, are only a year older.

“Ross Gabriel is in his early 20s and he’s a very strong and powerful targetman-type, very good in the air and with a bit of pace too which has contributed to him being our top scorer this season with 22 goals. We tend to operate with young legs in midfield and upfront and older heads at the back if we can.”

Lewis explained: “Our manager Lee’s assistant is now Scott Albon, who plays at centre-half alongside my own boy Greg, while Gary (Hurcombe) continues to have an important role at the club as coordinator with our very strong youth set-up for under-5s to under-16s, and there are plans to add an under-18 team to that too in the next two to three years.

“For a few of our younger players this has been their first season at this level and we’ve often lost towards the end of games as they’ve tired, and understandably so as they’d been playing Northern Senior League and North Gloucestershire League football until now.

“But they’ve nevertheless done very well and the talent is undoubtedly there to keep progressing.”

Broadwell’s cup final accomplishment comes as no fluke. Although they lost to Boco 3-1 at The Hawthorns in September, they went on to win 2-0 at the home of the fallen champions in mid-January at a time when the Bristol side were hitting form more akin to previous heights once more.

The Amateurs also saw off eventual league winners Bristol Telephones 4-1 on the road in an eye-catching Boxing Day surprise in the cup quarter-finals, before they went on to despatch of another strong Bristol outfit in Lebeq - 5-2 - in the semis.

Patchway Town (2-0) and Hanham Athletic (1-0) had both been defeated in encouraging early-round affairs.  

Lewis enthused: “Broadwell is a very well supported club too, both spectator-wise and behind the scenes, and we’re all looking forward to Saturday’s final.

“We have a bus-load going to Stonehouse and there will be a good following from our youth section there to watch what I expect to be a tight game.”
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09/05/2017

So near yet so far for Fairford – while Heath boss Black prepares to hand over reins

FAIRFORD Town manager Gareth Davies held his hands up to his side’s GFA Challenge Trophy final shortcomings but stressed: “It’s still been an excellent season”, writes Simon Parkinson.

The runaway Hellenic Division One West champions were beaten 4-3 in a dramatic penalty shoot-out at Oaklands Park (see match report on this page) after staging a valiant fightback in hauling themselves level in normal time at 2-2 after Toolstation Premier Division opponents Cadbury Heath had relinquished a two-goal first-half advantage.

That outcome was especially hard to take for a Fairford outfit who had fallen to an Hellenic Supplementary Cup final loss at the hands of Tuffley Rovers, also in a shoot-out showdown, a week prior to their agonising Oaklands Park defeat.

Heath had stormed into an early two-goal lead and threatened to add to that before Levi Cox stole in unopposed in the middle to peg it back to 2-1 before the break, and then substitute Lee Smith crashed home an equaliser on 75 minutes to take the contest to spot kicks.

A disappointed Davies accepted: “The first half was not good from our perspective and certainly not up to the standard we’ve been used to.

“We gave Cadbury Heath too much space on the ball and simply didn’t get in their faces enough, but getting it back to 2-1 gave us the belief we’d been lacking and the longer the game went on, the better we became.

“So ultimately to lose out on penalties was frustrating, especially as we’d lost the Supplementary Cup only a week earlier.
“It’s disappointing for the players but nevertheless we’ve won the league and the aim is to gain promotion from that.

“The lads have been outstanding this season and deserve every bit of their success, and anything else would have been a bonus.”
Cadbury Heath manager Andy Black reflected:  “We made hard work of it in the end because we played well in the first half and appeared to be coasting it at 2-0 up through Cory Simpson’s two goals and he was outstanding.

“Our front two (Simon McElroy included) were very lively and we had numerous other chances too and didn’t take them. Really we should have put the game to bed at half-time.

“Still, 2-0 can be a funny score sometimes and we switched off defensively for their first goal and suddenly the half-time break had a different look about it.”

Black revealed that he was to step down at the end of a “decent season”, despite a modest 11th-placed finish in the Toolstation League’s top tier.

“I’ve had seven seasons as manager here and 20 years in management altogether at clubs including Mangotsfield, Frome, who I reached the FA Vase quarter-finals with, and Bitton, where we enjoyed a Western League Premier title success (in 2009).

“We’ve had a decent season this time too winning the GFA Trophy and getting to the third qualifying round of the FA Cup.

“My whole career has been a great journey but I just need a break. Sometimes it takes over your life lock, stock and barrel.
“I thought about stepping down last season but the club talked me into staying but I’m not running away from it.

“Rob Mallett recently joined me as a coach and is taking over from me and I’ll be looking to help him in any way I can.”

The new incumbent, who until recently assisted Dan Langdon at the Bitton helm, said: “I’m really pleased to be taking the job and it’s going to be brilliant having someone with Andy’s experience as a sounding board.

“My main aim for the summer is to keep together the squad we already have and go from there.”
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08/05/2017

Euphoric Wickwar Wanderers aces bow out of youth game with under-18 Plate prize

WICKWAR Wanderers Under-18 manager Shaun Cox expressed pride at seeing his “small village team” carry off the Bristol Under-18 Combination Plate prize.

Second-half strikes by Matt Jenkins and Ellis Cox proved enough to overcome the league’s Bristol Central section runners-up Lawrence Weston Colts 2-1 at Brislington FC’s respected Ironmould Lane venue.

Wickwar, who completed their league programme an admirable third in Bristol North, had entered the final following wins against county cup finalists Warmley Rangers and South Division champions Fry Club Juniors, although they suffered a slow start as neither team managed to stamp their mark on the match.

Wanderers did take some control around the half-hour mark with Tom Isaac and the stand-out Matt Bradridge-Jackson prominent at the heart of their defence, while holding midfielder Dave Holt snuffed out any Lawrence Weston raids through the centre and full-backs Lucas Lingham and Adam King astutely shut out any opposition attacks down the channels.

Wickwar did create a few good chances before the break too before going on to dominate for large stretches of the second period, with Luke Messer and Jake Templeton both coming close to scoring early on.

It took their team an hour before finding that elusive breakthrough. Jenkins controlled the ball 40 yards out from goal and set off through the Lawrence Weston defence before sliding it under the keeper with a delicate left-foot finish.

Despite having that advantage to defend, Wickwar instead pressed for a second and they were rewarded with ten minutes remaining when Zach Drew’s knock-down found Jenkins who, from just inside his own half, lobbed the ball over Lawrence Weston’s defence for box-to-box midfielder Cox to latch on to and guide into the net.

With time running out Josh Pearce eventually found a way past Wickwar keeper Davis Newcombe, whose determined Wickwar side almost restored their two-goal lead immediately after conceding.

Jake McNally sent Harry Thompson down the left wing for him to locate Rob Williams with a well-placed pass, but the recipient was just unable to convert the chance.

It mattered not and their delighted boss Cox, who has managed Wickwar teams from under-8 level up over the years and stepped into the under-18 hot seat this term due to a serious knee condition affecting regular incumbent Gordon Jackson, enthused: “I’m really pleased; the cup win has capped off a fantastic season and it’s a great achievement for our small village team to compete like this with much bigger clubs.

“It’s also a great way for most of the squad to sign off from youth football.”
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05/05/2017

Cadbury Heath spot-on as Black savours his swansong with Challenge Trophy triumph

CADBURY Heath manager Andy Black ended his seven-season stint as Springfield supremo by proudly parading the GFA Challenge Trophy, writes Simon Parkinson.

He and his team buried the bitter memory of their 2014 penalties defeat at the hands of Hallen in the final of the same competition by edging a 4-3 victory, again in a tense 12-yard shoot-out, over Fairford Town on the Oaklands Park 3G.

The impressive and hard-working Hellenic Division One West champions had trailed the Western Leaguers 2-0 in an often one-sided first half when Heath looked as though they might run away with it, before Fairford embarked upon a stirring recovery and pulled the contest back to 2-2, only to ultimately lose out on the dreaded spot kicks.

While Fairford played an incredibly high line, a familiar ploy according to their boss Gareth Davies, Heath set about feverishly trying to find ways to spring their opponents’ determined offside strategy and while they did, to the immense frustration of players and their supporters, fall into the trap countless times, they did occasionally breach it too.

Their pacy front-man Cory Simpson had come close to opening the scoring 14 minutes in as he burst away towards the left edge of the box and round Ben Mitchell, only for the Fairford keeper to scamper back and block the attempted finish.

However, after Jason Mihench had responded for Fairford with a sharp turn and 25-yard shot which drifted well wide of target, Simpson did break the deadlock midway through the half as he rose unmarked in the middle to steer home a perfect George Boon centre with his head into the bottom corner.

For a spell it was about how many Heath might score as Simon McElroy was frustrated to shoot directly at a relieved Mitchell as the marksman found himself with time and space to pick his spot.

However, seven minutes on from their opener Heath struck again. Harry Paice powered clear down the right channel as Fairford’s offside tactics fell apart and the midfielder did well to square the ball inside for Simpson haring in at speed to finish with aplomb from just inside the box.

Until the 31st-minute mark Fairford barely had a sniff at the opposition goal, so it was something of a bolt from the blue when Levi Cox was granted the freedom of Oaklands Park to steal in unopposed to meet a right-sided delivery and even have time to control it before rifling it past a startled Mitchell Norman from close range to make it 2-1.

Heath promptly hit back and Boon slightly over-hit the ball, enabling the Fairford goalie to get down and smother it, as he sped on to Harry Churchley’s defence-splitting pass, while at the other end Nathan Blackford’s angled attempt for Fairford was a whisker wide of nestling inside the far post.

The Cotswold team sounded an early second-half warning when Milhench smashed a shot into the side netting, while the same marauding forward was denied by a fine save from Heath custodian Norman before Fairford’s never-say-die team grabbed a 75th-minute equaliser.

There appeared to be little to shoot at as substitute Lee Smith collected possession on the right side of the Heath box, amid protestations from the Cadbury camp that there had been a shove on one of their defenders in the lead-up. Smith needed no second invitation and sent a blistering drive just inside the diving Norman’s near post, the ball ricocheting off post and keeper before landing into the net for 2-2.

Stung by the latest setback, Heath poured forward in search of a belated winner and Simpson set off with a frightening burst of pace down the right before seeing his shot deflected behind.

Fairford then somehow survived a goalmouth scramble from the ensuing flag kick before hearing the welcoming sound of the final whistle as an enthralling encounter went straight to penalties.

Fortune was not to favour Fairford as Norman produced two fine penalty saves to deny skipper Sam Ockwell and Smith, while Ian Simmons, McElroy, Paice and Dan Vile were all steady from the spot, only Heath captain Matt Britton failing as he saw his attempt strike the post with the sides locked at 2-2.

Black beamed: “Mitch’s second save in the shoot-out was fantastic. I’m very pleased, for everyone at the club.”
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04/05/2017

Hillfields cast double county cup disappointment behind them to claim Sunday prize

HILLFIELDS Old Boys made up for two county cup disappointments already this spring by clinching the GFA Sunday Premier South Cup in enthralling fashion.

The Thicket Avenue outfit, who have been heading the Bristol Regional Sunday League table with maximum points, overcame Bristol Premier Sunday League champions Lebeq Tavern Courage, who also paraded a 100 per cent winning record heading into the mouthwatering showdown, 4-3 at Oaklands Park.

The outcome was the perfect antidote to two Saturday county cup final blows when Hillfields’ District League Division One high-fliers crashed to a 5-2 GFA Junior Cup final defeat at the hands of their title rivals Nicholas Wanderers, while their fifth division second-string suffered a similar fate in going down 4-2 to VCF Santos in the Primary competition.

There was little doubting this match was always going to be close-run thing, as Hillfields Sunday sizzlers took early control by surging into a two-goal lead through Karim Rendall and Lee Bebbington strikes before Elan Plummer pulled one back for Lebeq to narrow the gap to 2-1 entering the interval with all to play for.

However they were to be hit hard as the second period unfolded as Hillfields took full command of the contest by racing into a 4-1 lead with Rendall on target again and Jamie Johnson, from the penalty spot, adding to Lebeq’s problems.

That uphill struggle was further exacerbated when Plummer was red carded by referee Steve Densley for a second bookable offence. Yet far from allowing that latest setback to faze them, Lebeq suddenly sprang into life to net twice through Dominic Holver and Twaine Plummer to set up a grandstand finish.

Plummer went agonisingly close to forcing a shoot-out with a fractionally wayward header and it was a relieved Hillfields who were finally able to get their hands on the trophy.

Their satisfied club stalwart and manager Michael Roynon, whose team are targeting a hat-trick of trophies this term when they take on Cribbs in the Regional League’s Gilbert Pullin Cup final at Keynsham’s Fry Club on May 7 (10.30pm) remarked: “We were on top for most of the game and certainly deserved to win.”

Lebeq’s disappointed secretary George Philipou, whose team were pencilled in for another cup final date of their own on Sunday, April 30 (2pm) for a Bristol Premier Sunday Cup tussle with Stockwood at the Rose Green Centre, confessed: “We only came to life after the sending off and then we had enough chances to win the game.”

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03/05/2017

On course for double delight . . . Olveston United celebrate GFA Senior Amateur win

OLVESTON United’s super season continued unabated with a county cup success – and there could yet be more silverware to come for the in-form Alveston Road outfit.

The third-placed O’s, with 15 unbeaten league and cup games in the Bristol Premier Combination top flight ahead of their enticing home fixture with title-chasing Wick on Saturday, April 29 to draw strength from, overcame Rockleaze Rangers Reserves in a close and entertaining GFA Senior Amateur South final at Oaklands Park.

While any hope of securing the championship trophy has long been out of reach given long-time leaders Cribbs Reserves’ and second-placed Wick’s hold on the top two places, Olveston have continued to perform splendidly under manager Tom Kilminster’s guidance.

As well as trying to cement third position at the expense of chief challengers Sea Mills Park, the United supremo has also been keeping more than an eye trained on their Premier Combination Cup final date with Cribbs at The Lawns on Wednesday, May 3 (7.30pm).

As for the Senior Amateur triumph, Olveston had Rockleaze, who entered the contest second in the Suburban League Premier Division table and chasing still a possible title, on the back foot to begin with and a sizzling long-range strike by Ben White handed the O’s the lead.

It got better for Kilminster’s men when George Williams’ attempt cannoned off the underside of the crossbar and Matt Knight was on hand to turn the ball over the line to make it 2-0.

Rockleaze aren’t where they are in their league for no good reason and they made a rapid riposte at the start of the second half when skipper Liam McKervey fired a 25-yard shot into the O’s net to give them a serious lifeline.

Try as they did, however, Rangers’ gritty opponents recovered their composure capably and efficiently in keeping their opponents at arm’s length in the final throes of an enthralling spectacle.

While Rockleaze secretary Ian McNally, who praised the performance of player-manager and club treasurer Peter Bradbury, admitted Olveston’s first-half display had given them the edge, his opposite number at Olveston, Jake Lansdown, insisted: “We controlled most of the play and deserved to win.”

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03/05/2017

Gibbs: ‘Exciting’ Longwell Green projects can prove just the job for a new manager

JOHN Gibbs believes “exciting” off-field events at Longwell Green Sports can provide a new first-team manager with a springboard to future success, writes Simon Parkinson.

The Toolstation Western League club have just parted company with Ali Biggs after two years at the helm and are in the throes of unearthing a replacement supremo capable of steering them to new heights following their battles at the wrong end of the Premier Division table.

Longwell’s long-serving member and current chairman Gibbs enthused: “We have a great opportunity for a new first team manager to join our club in what is an exciting time, with many new projects and developments about to be launched.

“Our very progressive management committee has secured and attracted many local businesses to sponsor and support the club for the coming season, and together with our strong 35-team junior section the finance is now in place to start work on a new 3G training pitch at our Shellards Road ground.

“The new manager will be totally free to bring in his own backroom staff or work with some of those already at the club who have a great passion for Longwell.

“Also, to back up the new manager, the main pitch has been much improved and more work is planned for this pre-season. The large changing rooms and separate management room at the club are some of the best in the league.

“There is an excellent clubhouse and other bar facilities including a new kitchen planned for this year for the players’ and supporters’ food.”

Gibbs added: “Thanks to the club’s main sponsor the first team has its own sign-written minibus for away games.

“We have also linked up with (Keynsham-based) South Gloucestershire Development Centre who will be playing for Longwell Green Sports Under-18s in the Somerset Floodlit League, which the boys will be looking to use as a means of progression into our first team.
“This team is in addition to the other two under-18s sides we will be operating next season.”

After a tough few months which pegged them to the lower reaches of the table, Longwell’s results have shown a marked improvement to gladden the heart of their long-serving chief.

“We’ve won four games in April so far, including a recent win at Odd Down when we could easily have won by more goals,” Gibbs said.

The Longwell chairman said he welcomed any candidate for the manager job and that applications would be dealt with confidentially.
Anyone keen to know more about the role, or to apply, can contact John Gibbs on 07815 794440 or secretary Dave Heal on 07983 247263 (email: daveheal04@gmail.com)
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02/05/2017

Hawkins on the up again as classy Shaftesbury Crusade clinch Combination promotion

DARREN Hawkins says he is likely to stay with Shaftesbury Crusade as they begin a new chapter at the top end of the Bristol Premier Combination spectrum, writes Simon Parkinson.

The Filton Avenue outfit have just clinched promotion to the Premier Division, helped in no small way by their 33-year-old striker and recovering alcoholic and gambling addict Hawkins, who began his career so promisingly with Bristol City.

Shaftesbury, under Victor Gonzalez’s shrewd and determined stewardship, had also been attempting to fend off a stiff challenge from league newcomers Chipping Sodbury Town Reserves when it came to their hopes of bowing out of Premier One as championship winners.

On Tuesday night news filtered through that Sodbury’s hopes of overhauling Crusade at the summit had ended in surprising fashion, with a 6-2 away defeat by Roman Glass St George Reserves, despite having two more games in hand.

A happy Hawkins, who has netted 22 times in all competitions for his team this term, acknowledged: “It’s been a great season. We wanted to win the league from the start: that was always our aim.

“I was happy for my mate Victor Gonzalez when he was given the manager’s job. He’s been a great friend for many years and also a good mentor.

“It took a few games for him to settle in and find his feet as a manager but the time and effort he’s put in I think surprised everyone.
“He brought in new players, sorted the changing rooms and new kit out and he is driven to taking Shaftesbury as high as they can go.”

“Victor’s a bit like Lee Lashenko, who I played under at Bishop Sutton and Manor Farm, in that he admires my football ability and at the same time helps you to stay on the straight and narrow, never giving up on you. So it’s always nice to give something back to them, whether it’s through scoring goals or winning leagues.”

As far as their title prospects go this term, Hawkins smiled: “We’re still hopeful but our season has finished and it’s out of our hands.
“I’ve had a good season and scored plenty of goals and I’ve actually enjoyed playing football again.

“I’ll probably stay with Shaftesbury next season, even though I would like one more season with a semi-pro club before my career is over.”

Shaftesbury’s club secretary Nigel Whitehead added: “The team have been very consistent all season, losing only four games in the league and winning the other 20.

“They have been strong all over the park and special praise must go to Victor, the manager, in his first season in charge, helped by his assistant and the team’s centre-back David Chinnick.

“Nicky Martin, Darren Hawkins and Mike Willmott have been our main goal threats and it’s nice for our captain Dan Flay, who has been with the club a number of years.”
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28/04/2017

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

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27/04/2017

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.”
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26/04/2017

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.”
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25/04/2017

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.”
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24/04/2017

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.”
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21/04/2017

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.”
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20/04/2017

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.
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20/04/2017

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.
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19/04/2017

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.”
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18/04/2017

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.”
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13/04/2017

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.
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13/04/2017

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.”
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12/04/2017

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
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11/04/2017

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.”
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10/04/2017

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

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07/04/2017

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.
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06/04/2017

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.”
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05/04/2017

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.”
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04/04/2017

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.”
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03/04/2017

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).
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31/03/2017

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.”
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30/03/2017

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.”

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29/03/2017

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.”
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28/03/2017

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.”
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27/03/2017

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.”
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24/03/2017

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
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23/03/2017

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.”
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22/03/2017

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.”
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21/03/2017

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.
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20/03/2017

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.”
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17/03/2017

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.”

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16/03/2017

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. 

 

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15/03/2017

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.”

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13/03/2017

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.”

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10/03/2017

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.”

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09/03/2017

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.

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08/03/2017

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.” 
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07/03/2017

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.”
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06/03/2017

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.”
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03/03/2017

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.”
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02/03/2017

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.” 

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02/03/2017

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.
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28/02/2017

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!
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27/02/2017

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.”

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24/02/2017

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.”
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23/02/2017

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.”
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22/02/2017

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.”
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21/02/2017

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.
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20/02/2017

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.

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17/02/2017

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.

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16/02/2017

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.”

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15/02/2017

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.

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14/02/2017

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.
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13/02/2017

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.”
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10/02/2017

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.
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08/02/2017

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.”

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07/02/2017

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.

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06/02/2017

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.”
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03/02/2017

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.”
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02/02/2017

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.”
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01/02/2017

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.”
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31/01/2017

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.
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30/01/2017

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.
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27/01/2017

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.”

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27/01/2017

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!”

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26/01/2017

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.

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25/01/2017

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.”

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24/01/2017

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.

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23/01/2017

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.
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20/01/2017

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.
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19/01/2017

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!”
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18/01/2017

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.”
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17/01/2017

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.”

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16/01/2017

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).

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13/01/2017

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.”
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23/12/2016

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).
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22/12/2016

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).
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21/12/2016

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.”

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20/12/2016

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.”
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19/12/2016

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.”
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16/12/2016

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.”
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15/12/2016

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.
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14/12/2016

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.”
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13/12/2016

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.

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12/12/2016

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.”
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08/12/2016

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.”
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07/12/2016

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.”
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06/12/2016

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.”
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05/12/2016

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.

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02/12/2016

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.

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01/12/2016

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.”
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30/11/2016

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.

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29/11/2016

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.”
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28/11/2016

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.”
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25/11/2016

‘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!”

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24/11/2016

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.”

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23/11/2016

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.”
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22/11/2016

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.
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21/11/2016

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.”
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18/11/2016

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.”
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17/11/2016

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.

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16/11/2016

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.

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15/11/2016

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.”
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14/11/2016

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.”

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10/11/2016

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.

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09/11/2016

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.

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08/11/2016

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.”

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07/11/2016

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).

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04/11/2016

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.

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03/11/2016

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.

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03/11/2016

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

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02/11/2016

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:
http://www.helpmadina.org.uk/
http://www.helpmadina.org.uk/projects/football/

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01/11/2016

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.”

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31/10/2016

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.

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27/10/2016

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.”

 

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26/10/2016

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.”
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25/10/2016

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.
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24/10/2016

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.

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21/10/2016

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.

 

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20/10/2016

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.

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19/10/2016

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.

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18/10/2016

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.”

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17/10/2016

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.”
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14/10/2016

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.
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13/10/2016

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.
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12/10/2016

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).

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11/10/2016

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.

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10/10/2016

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.

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07/10/2016

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

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06/10/2016

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.”

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05/10/2016

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.”
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04/10/2016

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.
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03/10/2016

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.”
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30/09/2016

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.”
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29/09/2016

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.”

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29/09/2016

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.”
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28/09/2016

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.”
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27/09/2016

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.

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26/09/2016

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.”
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23/09/2016

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.

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22/09/2016

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.”

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20/09/2016

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.

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19/09/2016

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.
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16/09/2016

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.”

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15/09/2016

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

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13/09/2016

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.”

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12/09/2016

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.”

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09/09/2016

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.

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09/09/2016

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

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08/09/2016

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.

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08/09/2016

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.

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08/09/2016

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.”

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07/09/2016

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.”
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05/09/2016

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.”
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01/09/2016

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.

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31/08/2016

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.”

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30/08/2016

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.”

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26/08/2016

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.”

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24/08/2016

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.”

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22/08/2016

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.”
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18/08/2016

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.

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18/08/2016

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.”

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17/08/2016

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.

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12/08/2016

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 effect