No excuses as AFC Telford prepare for road trip

Gavin Cowan stresses his AFC Telford United side have ‘no excuses’ to not deliver a performance at Blyth Spartans tomorrow.

Telford manager Gavin Cowan
Telford manager Gavin Cowan

The Bucks are aiming to build on their stunning opening-night National League North victory over Brackley Town and face the 450-mile round trip to Northumberland, writes Lewis Cox.

Telford players and key staff will make the 10-hour round trip to and from Croft Park tomorrow, but Cowan is ready to hear about travel excuses.

“We just have to regulate them physically and mentally as well. I enjoy that word at the moment. Just keeping them topped up,” Cowan said.

“This group can take a lot more responsibility than previous groups. So our job is just to make sure we regulate them and make sure they are as best prepared to travel tomorrow.

“We’re so lucky to have Longmynd Travel coaches that you could live on they’re so luxurious.

“It’s nice for the lads to get on them and have a bit of downtime and really prepare for games. It’s not like the old days of knees around your ears and no tables.”

Telford’s squad will stock up on food from LIL BiteZ – the healthy food-on-the-move service courtesy of defender Zak Lilly’s business, for the mammoth journey.

Covid regulations mean the limited number who travel to Blyth must wear facemasks and maintain social distancing throughout.

Football operations manager Luke Shelley is working overtime to ensure the club abide by the rules.

Telford face a total of around 900 miles in the trip to Blyth and next Tuesday night’s FA Cup third qualifying round journey to Suffolk step three outfit Leiston.

“You can say it’s unfortunate,” Cowan said of the Cup draw. “But if we go and get two wins then I don’t care how far we’ve got to go and travel to be honest! Let’s go and make the journey worth it.

“There’s no excuses with me, it’s how you can overcome problems to find solutions.”

The Bucks are missing left wing-back Brendon Daniels (hamstring), with Henry Cowans again expected to fill in on the right and Lee Vaughan switching across.

Cowan, whose side lost 3-1 at Croft Park last September, insists picking up positive results at far-flung locations can be key.

“I can definitely tell you there has been leagues won and lost – more so won – on these type of trips,” he added. “When you win you can imagine the coach is a good place to be. When you don’t it’s good time for reflection.

“At the moment it’s very early, one game, one win – we’re striving for two in two. It’ll be very tough, Blyth won’t roll over and let it happen.”

Unlike previous years, Telford will not travel to the North East today and stay overnight.

“It’s a nice thing to do,” the boss added. “We’ve always been very fortunate with the chairman, who has been very supportive and if we can do it then he’ll do it. That’s the relationship me and Andy have.

“I’ll always push and ask and if we can’t do it I don’t need an explanation, he’s the governor and I trust the people above me to make the decision knowing their intentions are best.

“If financially we could’ve gone, and from a safety perspective, he would’ve given me the green light but in the current climate it’s very difficult to do that. If we had the choice we would’ve but we have to abide by regulations.”

While Cowan’s side were flying to an eye-catching 3-0 success in the first game of the new league season, former Hartlepool defender Michael Nelson’s Blyth lost 4-0 at Guiseley.

The Spartans were cut adrift second-bottom by the time last season ended due to the pandemic. Legendary forward Robbie Dale retired this summer.

Cowan said: “It’s a long season. It was a great win for us the other night but there’s another 41 games to go.

“I’m hoping we’re going to continue the good form from our first game and put ourselves in the mix. That’s the pressure we have to put ourselves under.

“We’re very focused and concentrating on what we are doing.”

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