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CIRENCESTER TOWN have accrued almost £10,000 in prize money at the bank of the FA in their successful cup run – a mini jackpot for a small club struggling on gates of little more than 100. (writes Danny Hall of the Wilts and Glos Standard)
Having previously seen off North Leigh and Tonbridge Angels in the FA Trophy, they gained a deserved victory over National League South high-fliers and 2014 Wembley finalists Gosport Borough on Saturday, with two goals from veteran striker Charlie Griffin. It earned them a trip to Cornwall on Saturday week to take on Truro City in the First Round Proper. The winner of that tie will pocket £5,000 and be just four wins from the Wembley final on Saturday, May 22.
Truro are, like Gosport, going well in the National League, but last season in the Southern Premier Cirencester did the double over the Cornish side, who were subsequently promoted through the play-offs. They hammered them 4-1 at Treyew Road in October and beat them 2-0 back at the Corinium Stadium in February.
"I suppose we are a bit of a bogey side for Truro but it is still a long way to go for non-league players who are working all week," said Cirencester Town boss Brian Hughes. "Travelling to Truro is always sapping. And we're facing a tough schedule, playing top eight sides in Hungerford and Kettering before Truro and all in the space of eight days. That would be tough for any team never mind a little club like ours."
But at least Hughes was encouraged on Saturday by a performance which was characterised by both quality and guts and which was unrecognisable from some of the displays that have seen his side drop to a perilous 18th in their league. "I saw something that could move us forward," said Hughes. "I saw hope. I saw a team which was more like us. I saw a Brian Hughes team again."
Hughes admitted he resorted to a pre-game rant and told some home truths. "But it got a response," he insisted. "We opened Gosport up at will and created more chances than we had in the previous four weeks. I've no idea where it came from and if I did I would bottle it. But I can't be moaning at them before every game. I was not expecting that result and I am very grateful. But I would swap that win for some league points."
Hughes revealed some of the tactical changes he and assistant Keith Knight introduced before the Gosport clash.
"We asked Ross (Langworthy) to do something different and he had his best game in a red and black shirt by a country mile," said Hughes. We've tried him in behind the strikers or as a No.10 and it didn't work. I wanted him to play as an orthodox midfielder but to do Charlie's running for him – running the channels, running past Charlie. I didn't want Charlie going over for throw-ins just to win flick-ons to nobody, wasting his time in the wrong areas. I wanted him where a striker should be – between the lines of the 18-yard box. I took Jonah (James Mortimer-Jones) away from protecting the back four to play a normal midfield role and he and Lidds (Matt Liddiard) were just fantastic. As the Gosport players trooped past me after their warm-up I could see they did not fancy it in the wind and the rain. And then when we went 1-0 so early it was a case of 'have that!' "My only criticism was that we didn't put the game to bed in the first half."
But can Cirencester Town find some consistency to get themselves out of trouble in the Southern Premier.
"I've seen that the team can do it, they will be short changing me if they don't do it again," he said. "I put my foot on their throat – maybe I should leave it there."
Cirencester are at home to Hungerford on Saturday and entertain Kettering on Tuesday night, a game which is free to enter with collections at the gate in aid of Macmillan Cancer Care.