Shone confident Flackwell Heath fans will show up for cup final

Paul Shone is hopeful Flackwell Heath will take a fair few supporters to Leverstock Green FC on Thursday next week (May 12) for the club's Premier Division Cup final against Tring Athletic.

The Heathens set up their final showdown thanks to a 92nd minute strike from Fabian Driffill in Saturday's 2-1 win over Ardley United, while Tring Athletic saw off cup favourites Hadley after a penalty shootout.

Flackwell finished their Spartan South Midlands Premier Division campaign in sixth, level on points with fifth-placed Harpenden Town and 25 points above 13th placed Tring Athletic, however, a change of manager has seen Tring's performances improve of late.

Ayres' team probably head into the final as slight favourites, however, Shone doesn't expect there'll be much to choose between the sides who played out a goalless draw at Wilks Park in the final weeks of the season.

“Tring are a side we think highly of and regard well and their recent results have showed that,” said Shone.

“The boys will tick over; we've got two or three training sessions scheduled for them to keep the togetherness. At this stage of the season everyone is fit, so it's not about keeping up their fitness, but we need to keep them on their toes ahead of the final. We'll keep our tools nice and sharp ready for the Thursday.

“In recent weeks the following has been fantastic, and we've had more fans supporting us and coming to away games. Hopefully, we'll take a good chunk of fans over there, it's only half an hour away, Hemel Hempstead way, so it's not a million miles to go on a Thursday night.

“Hopefully, we'll get a few to cheer us on and also give them something to cheer about.”

Flackwell have made huge strides since manager Chris Ayres and Shone replaced Marcus Richardson in the dugout in October and they now have a great chance to round off an encouraging campaign by putting some silverware on the table.

Whatever happens next week though, Shone believes the future is bright for Flackwell Heath. He's hopeful of keeping the core of the squad together although he acknowledges that a club like Flackwell should also provide a platform for young players to move on to bigger and better things.

“We've gone in there and the boys have bought into what we and the club want,” he said.

“We're quite a young side but they're eager to learn and it's been a pleasure to coach them. There's a willingness there to want to do well so it makes our job a lot easier. They have a togetherness; they're friends and mates and it means something to them. If they're going to let someone down, you're letting your mates down, but that's not been the case with these players.

“Going forward hopefully we have only good things to come our way. We've lost two lads who have been part of the group since we've come in. James Keeley is stepping up to play in the National League South with Hungerford Town, so there's a platform there for the young players to do well with us and if the opportunity arises for them to move on, we won't stand in their way. If they're going on to bigger and better things, then that's what we want them to do. If they can stay with the club, and we do that as a group then great, but this opportunity has come up for James and he's moved on.

“Aiden (Higgs) is a different situation. He's moving to play full-time in New Zealand. Again, what a fantastic opportunity for a young kid to go out there, not just in terms of football but for his life skills as well. You never know what door is going to open off the back of this so go and make the most of it. Who knows what's ahead for him? Good luck to him.”

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