Path to the playoff final: Cinderford Town

Tuesday 23rd April 2024

The Hellenic League Premier Division playoff final between Royal Wootton Bassett Town and Cinderford Town is set to be full of intrigue, pitting two sides with contrasting fortunes and contrasting paths to the final against each other.

Bassett are the upstarts. Before last season they had never finished inside the top half of the Hellenic Premier. Now, after a season in which they have been remarkably consistent, grinding out result after result, they stand one game away from reaching the Southern League for the first time in club history.

Cinderford, on the other hand, are looking to get back to a league in which they spent more than a quarter of a century prior to relegation to the Hellenic League last season. In contrast to Bassett though, their path to the playoff final has had multiple twists and turns.

Read more on Cinderford's journey to the final here.


Relegated to the Hellenic League Premier Division after 27 consecutive years in the Southern League, Cinderford Town started the season hoping their stay at step five would be a short one. They now have the chance to guarantee just that - but their path to the playoff final has been an eventful one.

After an inconsistent opening half of the campaign, it took a strong finish to the campaign to put them in contention for the postseason. A late wobble - not helped by a relentless schedule in late March and April caused by multiple postponements - almost cost them. But a helping hand from Bassett helped the Foresters pip Slimbridge to the final playoff spot.

The Foresters began the season with a dramatic 3-3 draw away against Westfields before a big 5-1 home victory against Longlevens. But the Foresters then recorded just one point from the next available nine as they lost against Worcester City (2-4) and Pershore Town (1-2) and drew 0-0 at Hereford Lads Club.

A 4-2 triumph at Lydney Town snapped that run, but Cinderford then let a 2-1 half time lead slip as they lost by the odd goal in five at home against Hereford Pegasus.

Their inconsistent early season form continued as consecutive wins against Brimscombe and Thrupp (2-0) and Worcester Raiders (3-1) were followed by a goalless draw away at Tuffley and a 5-0 thrashing against Corsham at the end of September. Another high-scoring encounter with Westfields ended with a 4-3 victory but four days later Cinderford were well beaten at home by Fairford (1-3). A 3-0 triumph at Roman Glass was then followed by a 2-0 reverse at the hands of Slimbridge to leave the Foresters in 12th place.

The final weeks of 2023 began with a narrow 3-2 victory at Wantage before a 1-0 defeat at Fairford. Narrow victories against Highworth (2-1) and Lydney (3-2) then brought them just inside the top half at the season's halfway point. But they were still nine points off fifth (albeit with a couple games in hand).

Their strong run of form continued as they saw out the calendar year with a third straight win - this time against Mangotsfield (3-1). Then, after their draw with Bassett at the Sustain Stadium, Cinderford beat lowly Thornbury 3-1.

Cinderford missed a great chance to leapfrog Slimbridge though, falling to a 2-0 defeat as they remained on the outside of the playoff hunt.

However, four straight single goal wins against Longlevens (1-0), Pershore (2-1), Lads Club (1-0) and Pegasus (3-2) closed the gap on fifth place to four points even though Cinderford remained ninth.

A 3-1 reverse at the hands of Brimscombe at the start of March was then a setback. But Cinderford bounced back with a clinical run.

That began with a 1-1 home draw against Worcester Raiders before narrow wins against Tuffley (3-2), at Thornbury (2-1) and a crucial 3-1 triumph against fellow playoff chasers Roman Glass. Those results lifted Cinderford to sixth - and a 0-0 draw in a 'home' game against Corsham played at Gloucester City helped their cause.

Quickly though their fortunes changed as Bassett prevailed 1-0 in a fixture moved to Westfields' ground due to the effect the wet weather was having on Cinderford's ground. Highworth then brushed the Foresters aside 3-0.

With three games to go, Cinderford were five points behind Slimbridge with two games in hand. A 2-0 victory against Wantage closed the gap before Bassett's helping hand in their 2-1 win at Slimbridge left them needing one win from their final two games to qualify.

That came against Mangotsfield, with a single goal deciding it - and, much to the Foresters' relief, made immaterial the outcome of their final game against champions Worcester.

Fifth place was therefore Cinderford's - meaning a date with hot playoff favourites Corsham. The first half of their semi final ended goalless before Dale Evans opened the scoring early in the second half from a free kick. Evans would soon be dismissed. However, Cinderford kept Corsham at bay to seal passage to the final.

Last modified on Tuesday 23rd April 2024 at 10:00.