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Gloucestershire (& Evesham) Southern League team of the year 2017/18

By Jon Palmer , Sports Editor at www.gloucesterlive.co.uk

Goalkeeper: Kevin Sawyer (Evesham United)

Not only a popular figure at Evesham and all of his previous clubs, the big man is widely respected throughout non-league football, receiving mementos from several clubs in recent weeks ahead of his retirement.

Now 38, the former Cirencester Town and Gloucester City keeper will hang up his gloves at the end of this season and he is hoping to sign off with a play-off triumph.

Evesham play Swindon Supermarine at home on Wednesday night (7.45pm), with Wimborne Town taking on Didcot Town in the other semi-final.

One of Sawyer's best performances for the club was at old club Salisbury in last year's semi-final, where 10 man Evesham were beaten by an extra-time penalty.

As well as stopping an earlier spot kick, Sawyer pulled off several saves that almost defied belief and whether or not Evesham are successful in their promotion quest, Sawyer can look back with immense pride on his long career.

The number one jersey was one of the most fiercely contested areas in this XI, but Sawyer edges out Mat Wieczorek, Sam Gilder, Harry Pickering and Ollie Hall to earn his place.

Right-back: Olly Butler (Bishop's Cleeve)

Cleeve's relegation was finally confirmed after a 2-0 defeat at Yate Town in their last match.

They struggled massively before Christmas, picking up only a handful of points, but a much-improved second half to the campaign saw them take it to the final day, ending up two points behind Barnstaple.

The likes of Sam Gilder, Jack Watts and Harrison Iddles have all been influential in the closing weeks, but one man has been performing at a consistently high standard for Steve Cleal's side and that is their right-back.

Worcester-based Butler started out at Kidderminster's academy and played for Dudley Sports in West Midlands Regional League when he was 17.

He started a degree in banking and finance at the University of the West of England in 2013, signing for Almondsbury UWE in Western League Division One.

In his second and third years he played for Hallen FC in the Western League Premier Division, winning players' and supporters' player of the year in his first season.

After more than 80 appearances and seven goals he left to join Cleeve upon completion of his studies in 2016, which saw him graduate with first class honours.

Butler suffered a cracked skull in his first training session with Cleeve and he is a brave, whole-hearted competitor who Cleal will want to keep as the club try to bounce back next season.

Centre-back: Linden Dovey (Evesham United)

Club captain since 2016 and a natural leader, many believe Dovey could have played in the Football League if he had been converted from a forward to a defender earlier on in his career.

He brought to Evesham by Paul Collicutt's predecessor Shaun Cunnington as a striker.

Formerly with Hednesford Town, Stafford Rangers, Rushall Olympic and Stourbridge, the 31-year-old is a strong, quick and reliable presence who can operate in any role along a three or four man backline.

Evesham have been without one of their top performers from last year, Liam Harding, due to long term injury.

But Dovey has continued to excel and he edges out mid-season signing Andy Lewis, who has done well for both Cinderford Town and Evesham this season, to earn his place in the select XI.

Outside football, Bromsgrove-based Dovey works as a PE teacher in a primary school and is also a personal trainer.

Centre-back: Mat Liddiard (Evesham United)

The former Cirencester Town skipper joined Evesham last summer and has continued to show why he is regarded as one of the best all-round players at this level.

Liddiard, who has also played for Gloucester City, is a product of the outstanding football programme at Hartpury College.

He could have been included in this team at centre-half or in midfield, dividing his time equally between the two roles this season.

Wherever he is asked to play, the 25-year-old stands out and there is no doubt he is capable of playing at a higher level.

He is always a major threat from set pieces and has weighed in with an impressive 19 goals this season, ensuring his first campaign at the Jubilee Stadium will end with a play-off tilt.

Liddiard left his job with Gloucester City's community department to join Gloucester Rugby as a sports inclusion officer in January.

Left-back: Louis Spalding (Cirencester Town)

The younger brother of Cirencester's attacking wide man Henry, 18-year-old Louis joined on loan from Swindon Town and made a big impact at the Corinium Stadium, where he used every opportunity to go forward.

He edges out Evesham's Lewis Binns, who has enjoyed some impressive displays during an injury-hit campaign, for the left-back berth.

Spalding's Swindon team mate Tommy Ouldridge also made a positive impact in Charlie Griffin's midfield during his loan spell.

A third loanee, Tommy Anderson from Forest Green Rovers, has shown plenty of promise on the right wing and utility man Aidan Bennett has clocked up his 300th appearance for the club at the age of just 25.

Cirencester finished the season with a 16 match unbeaten run, which saw them miss out on a play-off place on goal difference and Spalding showed enough during his temporary stint to suggest he has a bright future in the game.

Midfield: Archie Haskayne (Evesham United)

Still only 20, former Worcester City and Gloucester City youth team player Haskayne has already impressed at Cheltenham Saracens, Slimbridge and now Evesham, where has been a regular starter for the past 18 months

A neat passer who rarely gives the ball away, Haskayne has been catching the eye of bigger clubs with his performances this season and has started to add goals, with three this term after a long wait for his first strike.

Both of his campaigns at the Jubilee Stadium have ended with play-offs and he will be hoping to earn his first taste of Southern League Premier Division football after missing out in the semi-finals last year.

Rated as one of the most promising young players in the area, Haskayne was with Swindon Village Bowmen between the ages of five and 15, captaining his youth team for a decade.

He also played rugby to a good standard, representing Matson for three seasons before football took over.

A bricklayer by trade, he was converted from centre-back to midfield by Gloucester City and then handed his first senior appearance at Saracens, under the management of Ryan Betteridge and Sean Bryan.

Midfield: Lorcan Sheehan (Cinderford Town)

After struggling for regular football at Evesham early in the season, Sheehan moved to North Leigh before re-joining Cinderford, who he helped win the title two years ago, in February.

He has been instrumental in the Foresters' strong finish under boss Paul Michael, coming through a hectic fixture programme with some excellent performances and a results to provide plenty of optimism for 2018/19.

Tewkesbury-based Sheehan spent time on the books of Cheltenham Town and Forest Green Rovers as a youngster before spells with Cheltenham Saracens and Bishop's Cleeve.

He is known for his touch, vision and passing ability and the way Cinderford are finishing this season suggests they could be a force next season, with Sheehan sure to be central to any potential promotion push.

Midfield: Michael Pook (Cirencester Town)

Former Cheltenham Town captain Pook has played for eight different teams since leaving Whaddon Road, but it is at current club Cirencester that he has enjoyed a renaissance.

He joined Cheltenham from Swindon Town in 2009, won players' player of the year in his first season and was made club captain at the age of 24.

Pook only scored nine Football League goals in his career and three of them came in an incredible six-minute spell at Burton Albion, where Mark Yates' Robins side recovered from 5-3 down in the 87th minute to win 6-5.

Since dropping out of the professional game, Pook has also played for Brackley Town, Maidenhead United, Forest Green, Oxford City, Hungerford Town, Chippenham Town and North Leigh.

He has spent the past five years working in a sales role for a company in Cirencester.

With his fitness improving as the season has worn on, his experience and composure on the ball have been a major factor in the Centurions' superb form in the second half of the campaign.

He gets the nod just ahead of fellow ex-Robin Adam Connolly to claim a midfield place in the select XI.

Forward: Marley Thomas (Slimbridge)

Slimbridge enjoyed a bright start to the campaign and that was partly down to their exceptional fitness levels after a gruelling pre-season, but Thomas was undoubtedly the star of the show.

The Swans fell away badly, with Thomas missing several weeks with injury, but when he has played regularly he has caused major problems for opposition defenders with his searing pace and clinical finishing.

He started out at Kidlington, breaking into the first team, who were in the Hellenic League Premier Division at the time, at the age of 16.

Thomas switched to Sharpness in the Northern Senior League before joining Shortwood United in 2014, switching to Slimbridge in the summer of 2016.

Wood made an approach to bring him back to Meadowbank a year later and he appeared for them in pre-season, but he decided to remain at Thornhill Park for a second season and he has been Freddy Ward's top performer in 2017/18, with Jack Twyman, Korey Pring and Dean Turner also deserving of a mention for their efforts.

Forward: Ben Whitehead (Cirencester Town)

Whitehead scored a brace in Cirencester Town's 3-0 win at Shortwood United on Saturday, ending the season with 47 goals, 43 of which have come in the league.

It is a remarkable return for the former Abindgon United, Swindon Supermarine, Banbury United, Wantage Town and Chippenham Town man, who was at Swindon Town from 15 to 18.

Whitehead, who works as a painter/decorator joined Cirencester from Didcot Town last summer.

His goal scoring exploits ensured Ciren were in contention for a play-off place until the bitter end, missing out on goal difference to Didcot.

Whitehead was the subject of several approaches during the season, but he agreed to stay on until at least the summer.

He is now sure to be in demand once again and was the first name on this (imaginary) team sheet, with Cinderford's Craig Norman and Shortwood's Will Hawes among the front man to narrowly miss out.

Forward: Adam Mann (Evesham United)

Mann's 24 goals and performances up front for Evesham earned him the club's player of the year award.

He has been with the club since January 2015 after initially impressing during a loan spell from Gloucester City.

Collicutt has brought in several front men this season, including Greg Peel, Aysa Corrick, Lewis Powell and Ethan Moore on loan.

But Mann has been performing at a consistently high standard, relishing the competition and keeping his place up front with a host of different strike partners.

Also previously on the books of Shortwood United, Mann is sure have a key role to play if Evesham are to dispose of Swindon Supermarine on Wednesday night and then claim promotion with a play-off final win over either Wimborne or Didcot on Bank Holiday Monday.

If they pull it off, there is no doubt Mann, who works as a roofer, could handle the step up to the Premier Division.

This entry was posted on 30 April 2018 at 13:45 and is filed under First Team | Miscellaneous. You can leave a response here.

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