Double chance Brown’s boys chase cup after title triumph
ANDOVERSFORD have applied for promotion to the Gloucestershire Northern Senior League after winning the Cheltenham League Division One title.
Manager Matt Brown’s team are ready to make the step up, after missing out 12 months ago as they finished as runners-up to Cheltenham Civil Service.
“We set a goal at the beginning of the season to win the league,” secretary and assistant manager Phil Hendy said.
“After coming second to a very good Civil Service side, we knew we had a good chance.
“We also recruited well with players coming in to the reserves that were able to make the step into the first team when needed.”
Before they sign off from the Cheltenham League, they are hoping to lift the Senior Charity Cup, with Tewkesbury Town their opponents in Thursday’s final at the Jonny-rocks Stadium.
They were beaten on penalties by Minchinhampton in the third round of the GFA Junior Cup and lost out 4-2 to Bishop’s Cleeve in the Junior Charity Cup final, but they are now hoping to crown a memorable campaign.
“Our main goal was the league and cup runs were a bonus,” Hendy said.
“Now that the league is completed we want to focus on the cup and go for the double.”
On the pitch, Luke Lonergan is the captain, centre-half and leader. Nicknamed ‘Terry’ due to similarities in his style with former Chelsea and England defender John.
Midfielder Ryan Cleal has taken the armband during a period of absence through injury for Lonergan.
“Ryan could easily play a higher level, but he wants to be part of bringing our club through,” Hendy said.
Jake Berry has stepped up from the reserves to become a regular, partnering Lonergan at centre-half.
Up front, Riley Woodman and Ashley Cleal have stepped up due to an injury to Sam Green and a suspension for Sonnie Burrows.
“They are in friendly competition for top goalscorer but are also very unselfish with it,” Hendy said.
Meanwhile, Tewkesbury Town have not had an easy passage to the final.
They knocked Brockworth Albion out in the semi-finals, 4-2 on penalties after it finished goalless after 90 minutes.
And that was after defeating Upton Town 9-8 on spot kicks in the quarterfinals after a 1-1 draw.
They have also disposed of FC Lakeside Reserves (1-0) and Malvern Vale (2-1) en route to the big day.
Manager James Layton-hill believes his mid-table side’s refusal to give up will stand them in good stead against the Division One champions.
“I am under no illusion that we have reached this final with some close results including two shootouts,” he said.
“I know we will be considered underdogs but it is up to my players to embrace that, especially with the feeling of seeing our opponents win the league at our home ground a matter of weeks ago, still not sitting comfortable in our stomachs.”
Layton-hill is a former captain of Tewkesbury who is nearing the end of his first campaign in charge of the first team, having had his playing days cut short by a serious ankle injury.
He is hoping to cap his maiden season on the touchline with silverware.
“Anyone who says their first season in management is easy, I would like to meet them!” he said.
“While this season has been challenging at times, I feel we have certainly progressed as a club.
“While our league form has been slightly underwhelming at times it is testament to the grit and determination of my squad that they will be walking out at Cheltenham Town in a cup final.”