FA Vase semi-final second leg preview
ST AUSTELL can expect Glossop North End to come at them at Surrey Street tomorrow (Saturday). The Hillmen may hold a two-goal advantage from the first leg but Chris Willcock says it’s simply not in their nature to play a defensive game.
“If you’d offered me a 2-0 win at 3 o’clock last week I would have taken it, but it’s hardly an unbeatable lead. There are lots of instances of clubs coming back from two down,” the Glossop boss said.
“I think the first goal will be very important. If we get it then the tie’s as good as won, but if St Austell score then it’s game-on.
“They have no choice but to go for it and we always look to score goals - we can’t play any other way. I expect St Austell to put in a better performance than they did at their place and I expect more from my lads too. It all adds up to a potential cracker.”
Willcock has a full squad to choose from and agrees that the team has been extremely lucky to avoid impact injuries when it is playing twice a week. Otherwise he has used rotation to avoid fatigue, sometimes making as many as six changes to maintain freshness.
He also insists there is no complacency at Surrey Street. That has been seen off by the club’s pursuit of the North West Counties League championship.
The manager explained: “As you can imagine, on the way back from Cornwall things were very buoyant. We had a brief chat getting off the coach and agreed no one was to mention the W word until the semi-final was settled.
“Fortunately, fighting on more than one front has made it easy to keep the players focused. We had to go to AFC Blackpool on Tuesday so there was no time think about anything else. Those three points were very important. Without the match we might have got carried away.
“On Thursday we had a very good training session and talked through our game plan.”
The only thing spoiling the scenario for Willcock is High Peak Council’s decision to restrict Surrey Street’s capacity to 1,303.
“It’s purely my opinion but I’m very disappointed. I think we should have had more support from the local authority. I think we could have got nearly 2,000 into the ground.
“But there’s nothing we can do. Whatever size the crowd is I’m sure that we’ll rise to the occasion,” said the manager adding: “With any luck we might have one of those Glossop afternoons when we get all four seasons in 90 minutes.
“I’m sure that would be fun for a team from a place as lovely as Cornwall.”
NEW STALYBRIDGE CELTIC boss Liam Watson has been busy this week, bringing in no fewer than six players as he gears up for the run-in.
Striker Chris Simm has arrived from Chorley; midfielders Adam Carden and Dale Wright, and defender Peter Wylie from Skelmersdale; midfielder Michael Powell from Witton Albion, and defender Antonie Boland from Tranmere Rovers.
Watson has also extended keeper Ross Etheridge’s loan from Derby County until the end of the season.
James Cadman has joined Harrogate Town on loan but will not however be allowed to play when Harrogate visit Bower Fold next Saturday (April 4).
Goalie Josh Ollerenshaw, signed last week, has already left Bower Fold for Skelmersdale.
Of the six new players, only Powell and Simm are expected to start the crunch Vanarama North clash at relegation rivals Leamington tomorrow (Saturday). Watson is likely to keep faith with the current players to steer Bridge away from the drop zone.
Harley Wigley misses out through a one-match suspension picked up when he was dismissed at North Ferriby, and Kelvin Bleau and Lewis King are again sidelined through injury.
Bleau will not feature again this season but King is recovering well from the knee injury he sustained against Barrow and could return to the squad sooner than expected.
Keith Briggs is in contention for a place in the ASHTON UNITED side as they bid to maintain their bid for promotion from the Evo-stik NPL premier division.
The former Stalybridge manager comes into the reckoning along with Ben Dennis, Jay Gorton and Kayde Coppin who are all fit after injury. However, Brad Robinson misses out with a damaged ankle.
CURZON ASHTON, who have overtaken Skelmersdale to enter the play-off places, are in Derbyshire to play Matlock Town.
To bolster his squad for the last eight matches John Flanagan has signed Alex Meaney, an attacking midfielder, from Skelmersdale.
Simon Woodford and Mark Betts are both back in training and are thought to be about ten days from a return. Alex Watson and Connor Hampson have recommenced light training.
In the first division north, MOSSLEY, who went sixth after beating Farsley in midweek, have signed midfielders Mike Crosby and Danny Grimshaw from New Mills.
Sam Robinson has regained fitness but Matty Purcell is unavailable for the home game with Harrogate Railway Athletic because of work.
DROYLSDEN have a full squad available for their encounter with Bamber Bridge at the Butchers Arms.
There are has been a great deal of coming and going at the club over the last week. Ben Deegan, Danny McLoughlin and Matty Knowles have left while Dave Pace has signed striker Sam Hillhouse on loan from Halifax, and defenders Anthony Shinks from Prescot Cables and Jason Fragueiro Pena from Padiham.
Ben Holmes will play his last game for relegated HYDE when they meet Stockport County tomorrow, having been recalled by Huddersfield Town. Perry Ng is fit to play.
The crowd will be segregated and Stockport fans have been allocated the covered terrace behind the goal at the Tinker’s Passage end and part of the Leigh Street side. They need to use the turnstiles at the bottom of the car park.
Hyde’s social club will be open to both sets of supporters from noon. Admission to the social club must be before entry to the ground. It will not be possible to get into the club from inside Ewen Fields.
At half time the social club will be open to home supporters only, but all fans will be able to gain access after the match.
The turnstiles open at around 2pm.
POLICE,stewards and even social club doormen will all be in place on Saturday when a sell-out crowd descends on Surrey Street hoping to see Glossop North End reach their second FA Vase final in six years.
High Peak Council has imposed a capacity of 1,303 and every one of the tickets was snapped up within hours, the vast majority going to local fans. With the Hillmen leading 2-0 after the first leg in St Austell, it’s going to take a major upset to prevent them returning to Wembley.
Club chairman Dave Atkinson, his directors and helpers have been busy all week, preparing the ground for the bumper crowd. He said: “Our usual facilities won’t be able to cope so we’ll have a burger van and portable toilets at the top end.
“The Co-op are raffling a hamper and letting us have the proceeds which is very good of them. But they’ll have to sell the tickets outside the ground because there won’t be room inside.
“I hope the people who travel up from St Austell enjoy themselves. They were very friendly to us at their place and I couldn’t fault the way they treated us.
“It’ll be great to see the ground full and we’ll make some money, but we’re spending money too. It cost us £2,000 last week to put the team up in a hotel in Newquay. That’s a big chunk of the prize money we’ve received since the first round proper when we entered the competition.”
If Glossop clinch victory over their Cornish opponents they will receive £6,000, and then at least £17,000 from the final on Saturday, May 9, or £25,000 if they were to win. Their opponents would be Highworth Town or more likely North Shields who hold a 1-0 lead from the first leg.
With their two-goal advantage, the Hillmen are hot favourites to get past St Austell but Atkinson insists he is not getting carried away.
He explained: “Of course I’m excited but I’m keeping my feet on the ground. We’ve got to be sensible and avoid doing something that might bite us on the backside. Clubs have come back from 2-0 down before and it’ll happen again. I just hope it doesn’t happen against us this Saturday.
“But we’re not focused on the Vase alone. The way things are going at the moment we’re chasing a treble.”
Glossop, who are also through to the semi-finals of the NWCL’s Men United Cup, narrowed the gap on Runcorn Linnets on Tuesday when they won 5-1 at AFC Blackpool. That left them eight points behind the league leaders but with five games in hand.
The Hillmen, who are on the crest of an unbelievable wave, have won their last nine league games in a run stretching back to the end of November, and 13 out of their last 14.
They have lost only once in the league since September 6 when their conquerors were Runcorn Linnets.
GLOSSOPNorth End’s pre-match plan for tomorrow’s FA Vase semi-final first leg at St Austell is a simple one. Manager Chris Willcock wants them to win.
There is no talk of holding their Cornish hosts to draw and then beating them at Surrey Street next week. Willcock wants a victory in both legs. However, he is prepared to adapt that strategy if conditions dictate.
“We aim to go out and win. That’ll be our mindset at 3 o’clock tomorrow (Saturday) but we’ll see how the game develops and our thinking could change accordingly,” said Willcock
“Before this season St Austell had never been past the qualifying rounds of the FA Vase and suddenly they’re in the semis and challenging for their league title. There’s clearly been a massive investment in the club and I see them as the Shaw Lane Aquaforce of the South West. There’s been a concerted effort to put them on the map.
“But I also see parallels with Chorley, who we played in the FA Cup. St Austell are a very big, strong, physical team with some real experience. Four of their players were previously at Truro who got to the Vase final in 2007 beating Curzon Ashton in the last four.
“Anyone who gets to this stage of the competition has to be good. It’s going to be a major challenge for us but one we’re looking forward to.”
Willcock has the luxury of a full squad to choose from. Despite the punishing schedule of two games a week the Hillmen have steadily built momentum. No one wants to miss out on the last few weeks of what is already a momentous season.
As well as progressing in the Vase North End have reached the semi-finals of the NWCL cup and won 18 of their last 19 league matches. If they can take advantage of their games in hand they will easily pass Runcorn Linnets to go top of the NWCL premier division.
However, the manager has no time for self-congratulation. “Yes it’s a very, very good run but we’re still eight points behind Linnets. Even though we’ve had a very good season so far there’s still a lot of work to be done. We’ve won nothing yet.”
Glossop have already had a look at St Austell’s Poltair Park home. Willcock says it is similar to Colne or Atherton LR but has a 16ft slope from one wing to the other. The only cover is provided by one small stand. Floodlights were installed earlier in the season.
The Cornishmen are fourth in the Carlsberg South West Peninsula League but have seven games in hand on leaders Saltash who are ten points ahead of them.
Around 400 fans are expected to make the journey west and North End have sold their full complement of tickets.
The Glossop players are staying in Newquay. Willcock said: “The hotel’s great – right on the front. We’ll be out on the beach in the morning for a bit of a walk and I might even get the players to take a swim in the sea to wake them up.”
Weekend match previews
STALYBRIDGE CELTIC start their new chapter under the tenure of LiamWatson with a six-pointer against relegation rivals Gloucester City at BowerFold tomorrow (Saturday), and there could be a new face in goal.
Former Curzon Ashton keeper Josh Ollerenshaw has signed for the club from Colwyn Bay and is available for selection.
The Bridge players have been prepared for the crunch clash by first-team coach David Sullivan and skipper Scott Kerr, but they will be keen to impress Watson and his assistant Dominic Morley who will be in the stands.
Only Kelvin Bleau and Lewis King, both expected to be out for the rest of the season, will be missing for a game that Celtic must win if they are to avoid the drop.
Jake Hibbs has joined HYDE on loan and goes straight into the squad for tomorrow’s match at Vanarama North leaders Fylde. The Halifax Town midfielder has already been at Salford City and Droylsden this season.
Manager Gary Lowe may have to do without the services of Perry Ng who has given some impressive performances since moving to Ewen Fields from Crewe. The centre-back has an ankle injury. Andy Pearson is still troubled by the deep gash at the base of his shin.
Less than a week after resigning as manager of Stalybridge, Keith Briggs could make an appearance for ASHTON UNITED in their Evo-stik NPL premier division home game with Matlock Town.
Co-boss Paul Phillips said: “Briggsy’s joining us as a player, not as a member of the backroom staff. But his vast experience is going to be a help in many ways.”
Kayde Coppin, Jay Gorton and Mark Haslam are all out and striker Martin Pilkington is described as 50/50.
Trafford defender Steve Mason comes into the squad.
In the first division north, striker Sam Robinson misses MOSSLEY’S match at Radcliffe Borough with a badly bruised ankle picked up in last weekend’s game at Brighouse.
Co-manager Peter Band says Mike Fish is around a week away from a return. Defender Liam Gibson has left the club but Arron Hevingham has recovered from ruptured stomach ligaments and played against Spennymoor in midweek.
Band and partner Lloyd Morrison are hoping to make two signings over the weekend.
CURZON ASHTON and DROYLSDEN both have a free day tomorrow but play on Tuesday, away to Stamford and home to Brighouse respectively.
THE name of Stalybridge Celtic’s new manager could be known within a week. With the season drawing to a close, and given the club’s dire situation, there is no time for a lengthy interview process.
Club chairman Rob Gorski will be at Bower Fold on Saturday, having arranged to fly in before Keith Briggs had announced his decision to quit. In the meantime, however, coach Dave Sullivan and team captain Scott Kerr will be in charge of the team for the game against Gloucester City.
Gorski said: “Several people have already shown interest in applying for the job and we’ll be holding a board meeting to look at the candidates. I would hope to make an announcement by early next week.
“I can genuinely say my attendance at the Gloucester game was arranged some time ago. Briggsie’s decision was a complete surprise, but he’s a passionate and loyal guy and was hurting massively after the result and the performance against Bradford.
“He was desperate to do well and I couldn’t fault his preparation or the way he took training. He left nothing to chance and got the players some fantastic facilities at Stockport Sports Village.
“Briggsie gave his all but, sadly, it just didn’t work out. I’m really sorry to see him go because he became a mate. But you could see he was suffering. He decided he had taken the team as far as he possibly could and all credit to him that he’s gone with his head held high.”
Whoever takes over as manager will have to continue with Celtic’s full-time youth project although there will be a review of the system and the way it works over the close season.
The chairman explained: “Some of our fans seemed to think the project should have been axed after Jim Harvey resigned but Keith Briggs was more vociferously positive about the full-time thing than even I was. He was adamant that it was the right thing to do.
“Having said that, with hindsight maybe Alan Hansen was right when he said you don’t win things with kids. This season Briggsie tried to get an experienced spine in the team with Lewis King, Matty Hughes, Scott Kerr and Liam Dickinson.
“We need to review the way the project works – to analyse everything from top to bottom. Clearly teaching good football to inexperienced kids isn’t going to cut it. We need more wise heads in there and a greater physical presence.”
NOone could ever call Keith Briggs a quitter. As a tough and committed midfielder he never pulled out of a tackle. But there comes a point where you have to do what’s best for the greater good.
With eight games left to play, Stalybridge Celtic are second-bottom of Vanarama North and five points adrift of safety. Having surveyed the situation, and the effects of a nine-match run without a win, Briggs decided someone else might be better equipped to save the club and, yesterday (Sunday), handed in his resignation.
“It was a very, very difficult decision,” he explained. “People who know me and my character, or who remember me as a player, know what I’m like. They know I’m not the sort of person who throws in the towel.
“But the final nail in the coffin was our performance on Saturday when we lost 1-0 at Bradford Park Avenue. I thought to myself that if I stepped aside there would still be time for someone else to turn things round and get a reaction from the squad. I think Stalybridge Celtic deserve that.”
Briggs took over at Bower Fold in October, 2013, having spent a successful time there as a player in 2008-10. He was a popular choice but somehow he could never get the team firing on all cylinders.
Last year Celtic survived relegation by the skin of their teeth. This season, they seemed to be finally gaining momentum when they won four consecutive matches over Christmas. Bridge looked to be comfortably in midtable but they have taken only two points from the last 27 and have lost their last three games.
Briggs, who is widely acknowledged as a first-class coach, is at a loss as to why things failed to work out.
“I’m completely baffled. I put my heart and soul into the club. I worked night and day to make a success of things but we just didn’t get the results. I was very particular in the way I went about the job and I know the players enjoyed training. I really don’t think I could have done anymore.
“But what’s happened hasn’t shaken my self-belief. I know I’m a good coach and that I have the capabilities to be a good manager. I know that the players have improved under my coaching and although the results don’t show it there is a lot of ability at the club.
“Unfortunately, they’re young lads and needed longer. They needed to develop mentally and physically.
“Now, for the first time in 25 years I’ll be watching Jeff Stelling do the results on Sky on a Saturday afternoon instead of being involved.
“I really do hope all goes well at Stalybridge Celtic because they’re a great club and I received 100 per cent support.
“You never know what the future may hold but there’s only one word to describe the way I feel at the moment – distraught.”