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AFC Telford v Blyth Spartans: FA Trophy agony behind Bucks

AFC Telford United are heading into tomorrow’s encounter with Blyth Spartans on the back of arguably their best result of the season.

Ryan Barnett in action against Bradford PA
Ryan Barnett in action against Bradford PA

Last Saturday, excitement levels among Bucks fans were the highest they had been in many years, writes Joe Edwards.

Gavin Cowan’s side were hosting Leyton Orient at a packed-out New Bucks Head in an FA Trophy semi-final, with just a 1-0 deficit from the first leg standing in the way of a trip to Wembley.

Telford fought valiantly amid a special atmosphere, but it was not enough.

Orient’s nous saw them through to a 2-1 victory and dreams of going to the national stadium were quashed.

So to then travel up north just three days later and beat Bradford Park Avenue – a fellow National League North play-off contender – spoke volumes of the immense character of Cowan and his players.

It was a display which further convinced many that the Bucks will succeed in their play-off quest, but Cowan knows the next game is always the most important, so focus is firmly on Blyth – and righting a wrong in the process.

Cowan’s charges went up to Northumberland back in September and were undone by Daniel Maguire’s strike as they fell to a 1-0 defeat.

“The Bradford game was a great showing from the lads, character-wise,” said Cowan.

“We made a big decision after the Trophy game on Saturday just put it to one side and say ‘what’s done is done’.

“There isn’t time to reflect on the special journey we went on in the competition and the disappointment in not reaching Wembley as we have the league to focus on.

“There’ll be a chance to reflect on it at the end of the season, but we can’t think about it now.

“We moved on very quickly, and I never doubted the lads would get themselves going again. Now we’ve got Blyth, and they were very good at their place, but we were pretty poor at the same time.

“On their day, Blyth are a match for anyone in this division, so we know we’ll have to be on our mettle to get the result.”

Cowan is going into the clash with a couple of decisions to make selection-wise.

Perhaps the biggest one is over who he will put between the sticks.

Andy Wycherley was the man who was so essential in their run to the Trophy semis and played in Tuesday’s triumph.

But his inclusion at Horsfall Stadium was a given as Josef Bursik was on international duty with England Under-19s.

They may have been unsuccessful in their bid to reach this summer’s Euros, but Stoke loanee Bursik comes back fully match-sharp having played all three games for them over the past week.

“Josef’s coming back match-fit and full of confidence, I’m sure,” said Cowan.

“It gives me a tough decision going into Saturday and it’s one we’ll assess as we approach the game.”

Cowan is also hoping left-wing-back Steph Morley will be back in action soon – if not tomorrow – after a hamstring issue.

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