Ashton & Backwell have 'free hit' at Stonehouse Town says Thomas

Ashton & Backwell United before their FA Cup game with Alderley United.

Ashton & Backwell United before their FA Cup game with Alderley United, left to right, back row: Charlie Saunders, Miles Hardidge, Will Solari, Jason Radnedge, Lewis Coombes, Sam Thomas, Regan Solars, Brad Skidmore, Sam Price, Saul Jarrett, Joe Bishop and Chairman Mike Thomas. Front row: Connor Biggins, Connor Saunders, Bill Devoy, Cam Main and Joel Bayliss. - Credit: Charlie Cole

Ashton & Backwell United chairman Mike Thomas says his side have a “free hit” in their FA Vase first qualifying round match at Stonehouse Town.

The Stags reached their joint highest stage of the competition last year when they reached the first round, for the first time since 2013-14, before being knocked out at Cheddar.

And Thomas confirmed a deal is imminent for a new manager to replace Charlie Rich, who stepped down days before the start of the season.

Rich succeeded Stuart Jones at the helm, after the former Weston and Sheffield Wednesday goalkeeper moved to Bridgwater Town as first-team coach before being appointed as the new Hallen manger recently.

Despite not revealing the name of Rich’s successor, Thomas confirmed they should be in the dugout on Saturday to face the Magpies.

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“Next Saturday’s game is a little bit of a free hit, it’s the very first round of the FA Vase,” he said.

“We will hopefully have a new manager in the changing room and we know there will be playing reinforcements to follow because the players have responded well to Matt Southern as caretaker manager. They want a new leader, they are asking for someone they want to guide and take them forward and who will bring in a few more players.

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“They need support, help, they have put in an awful lot of physical effort even into these seven games and they need a little more competition, a bit more cover and quality and I think we will be ok in this division.

“Stonehouse might not know a lot about us, we won’t know a lot about them so it’s a day to be enjoyed on the back of a good couple of results and then we will get back to league action with the new manager and hopefully new faces.”

A&B earned their first ever Toolstation Western League Premier Division win, 3-2 at Clevedon Town last Saturday, after a 0-0 draw with Shepton Mallet on Bank Holiday Monday ended a run of five straight losses.

Thomas said the triumph was “naturally a relief” and “enjoyable”. 

He added: “It reflected the hard work the caretaker management and players have all put in, in the last six weeks of the season.

“We played in other games where we've deserved something out of it and not got points but for them to work hard and apply themselves and for the lads to step out of the reserves was fantastic.

“The 0-0 draw against Shepton Mallet was exactly the same where Shepton congratulated us and had no problem with us getting a draw. We deserved it.

“Saturday was a little bit different, we rode our luck without doubt in the first half. Clevedon missed a lot of chances but we scored three goals away from home and kept going. It made it a very enjoyable and Saturday evening.”

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