Cleethorpes Town: Double trophy winners await verdict on promotion target
CLEETHORPES Town's promotion dream is being backed by North East Lincolnshire Council.
The Owls have applied for Baris Northern Counties East League (NCEL) status after securing a Lincolnshire League and Challenge Cup double.
Since manager Andy Liddle's appointment in late October 2010, Cleethorpes have lost just two matches – one of those defeats coming from a penalty shootout.
But despite that record, promotion is in the balance because the Lincolnshire League missed out on being awarded step seven status by the Football Association.
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Applicants from four step seven 'feeder leagues' are to be given priority for NCEL status – ahead of Cleethorpes.
But the Owls haven't given up – and the council is behind them.
"We are working with Cleethorpes Town on their application to the Northern Counties East League," said Councillor Mick Burnett, portfolio holder for health, wellbeing, tourism and leisure.
"It would be an amazing achievement for sport and football development in North East Lincolnshire to have supported two local clubs to progress to that level so quickly after the facility has been developed.
"The Football Association are keen that we support Cleethorpes Town to develop and grow as they are one of the county's FA Charter Standard Community Clubs, demonstrating high standards of quality in the way they operate and manage their club."
Cleethorpes sought promotion to the league that hosted Grimsby Borough and Louth Town last year, but were denied because the council wouldn't give the Owls permission to play home their fixtures at Bradley Community Stadium.
It was feared the young pitch could have been irreparably damaged hosting Cleethorpes' games in addition to those played by Borough.
The Owls require the use of the council-owned Bradley venue in the NCEL because the league's rules include the requirement for all clubs' grounds to have floodlights.
The Linden Homes Club, Cleethorpes' current home, and Lucarly's, their base last season, do not meet the criteria.
But that issue has now been resolved. Councillor Burnett confirmed: "Our groundskeeper is now satisfied that the pitch is mature enough to host a groundshare agreement."
A fresh obstacle emerged this season, however, when the Lincolnshire League failed to attain step seven status following an FA restructuring of regional football.
The reason was that some clubs' changing facilities didn't meet the FA's required standards – an issue the Lincolnshire League is now working hard to correct with a view to achieving the status as soon as possible, a spokesperson has said.
The NCEL has confirmed that aside from Cleethorpes, seven clubs – all from feeder leagues – have applied to join the league next season.
Two of the applicants – Athersley Recreation and Knaresborough Town – have finished in the top two positions of their current leagues and are therefore likely to be accepted into the NCEL. The rest of the Cleethorpes' rival applicants are from one league – the Central Midlands Supreme Division – and the highest-placed of those was Pinxton, in third.
Normal promotion at step seven is two-up, two-down, subject to clubs dropping out, but the constitution of the NCEL, which currently operates two divisions of 20 teams, allows for 44. For Cleethorpes to be promoted, they need the NCEL to welcome more than two new teams, and hope their winning form and club structure will earn them the nod in this instance.
However, the controversial expulsion and relegation of NCEL Division One champions and President's Cup winners Handsworth, caused by ground issues and subject to a potential appeal, is set to boost their cause by opening up another place.
The club has been interviewed by the NCEL and is expected to discover their promotion fate on May 30.