Bishops Cleeve manager Stephen Cleal has praised his sides’ character after beating Bitton 5-4 on penalties in their GFA Challenge Trophy Semi Final, having surrendered a 3-1 lead during the 90 minutes.
Their victory comes after two Bitton strikes in the final 15 minutes took the game to a shootout, before former Gloucester City forward Aysa Corrick missed the crucial penalty.
After the game, Cleal praised his side for recovering from the mistakes to make the County Cup final at the end of April.
“We were on top early on but couldn’t get the breakthrough and their keeper has pulled off a good save despite us going up the slope and then another individual error costs us and we find ourselves a goal down!
The next five/ten minutes they were on top but we defended well and got a deserved equaliser right on the stroke of half time. Five minutes into the second half and were in control and 3-1 up but again missed chances and errors saw them peg us back to 3-3 but to show the character we did to recover from the mistakes is massive and we were deserved winners.”
With the departure of Brad Martin and Joe Bates up front and goalkeeper Lewis Clayton in recent weeks, it has been all change for Cleeve, but Cleal expects their to be a high level of competition for places with a cup final now on the horizon.
“Realistically competition for places should always be there but we’re down to bare bones at the moment with one or two carrying knocks and we had suspensions and unavailability last night to contend with – but hopefully what that will do is keep training interesting and we should see a high intensity, which can only be a good thing!”
The cup final comes after Cleeve’s final 7 league games, a run in that sees the Mitres’ title challenge still exist, despite it fading due to the consistency of their rivals. But with 1st vs 2nd in the Hellenic League this weekend in Brimscombe vs Wantage, Bishops Cleeve have a chance to close the gap when they take on Lydney Town in a local derby on Tuesday night.
Ahead of a weekend off, Cleal has called for his side to build on their current momentum and fire on all cylinders in the run in.
“What will be will be in the league really. We’re in a good position but so are Wantage, Brimscombe and Brackley – we will be fighting for every point and we would have taken a lot from last night’s game I hope.
Hopefully if we play with the high intensity like I told the boys after the game on Saturday and play closer to the 100% that we are capable of rather than the 50% we have been lately, then I am sure we will be there or there abouts come the final table.”
Bishops Cleeve will be taking on Western League side Cribbs in the GFA County Cup final after Cribbs beat Gloucestershire County League side Henbury 6-2 in the other semi final on Tuesday night.
The final will be played on Thursday 25th April at the GFA’s Almondsbury HQ with a 19:30 kick off.
Check out this weekend’s fixtures in and around the county right here