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Long wait is over for Crusaders

FA Cup trip to Truro heralds the start of Hungerford’s season

Ralph Webb


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Long wait is over for Crusaders

AFTER the longest pre-season in living memory, Hungerford Town finally kick off their 2020/21 campaign on Saturday.

The coronavirus outbreak and the subsequent delay to the National League South season means that the Crusaders have not kicked a ball in anger since March.

So manager Danny Robinson can’t wait for his first competitive match in charge – away to Truro City in the FA Cup second qualifying round.

Robinson, who replaced Ian Herring as manager back in May, has overseen no less than 14 pre-season friendlies, the latest a dramatic 3-3 draw at Gloucester City on Saturday.

But now the real business begins and Robinson said: “After all those friendlies, it will be great to have competitive football again.

“But we couldn’t have been handed a tougher draw.

“It’s a four-and-a-half hour coach trip to Truro, who were top of the Southern League before Covid came along.

“But we will go into the game full of confidence, we have done our homework on Truro and we are looking forward to getting started.”

Saturday’s game at National League North Gloucester proved the perfect warm-up for the campaign.

The Tigers have had a big cash injection, gone full-time and moved into a new ground.

So Hungerford performed superbly to come back from 3-0 down at half-time and score three goals in the final six minutes from Louis McGrory, Ralph Graham and Craig Fasanmade to clinch a draw.

Robinson said: “I was really pleased with the way we responded and showed a lot of character and heart.

“A lot of teams will underestimate Hungerford this season.

“I have put together a squad that does not fear anyone and we will battle to overcome everything that is put in our way.

“We have won 11, drawn two and lost just one of our pre-season games so confidence is high.”

Hungerford are due to kick off their National League South campaign at home to Chippenham Town next Tuesday – but supporters will still be banned from attending.

Off the field, Hungerford had been desperately hoping that the Government and Premier League can put together a package that will give EFL and National League clubs the backing to enable them to survive this season.

There were fears whether Crusaders and many other smaller clubs will be able to see out the campaign as the ban on supporters has cut off their income.

A deal was struck yesterday (Friday), and a National League statement said: "In recent weeks, The National League and The Football Association have been engaged with Government to address the revenue shortfall expected by member clubs caused by the pause to the safe return of spectators.

"The National League has now received confirmation of significant financial grant-aid support from the Government to compensate clubs for essential revenue lost from fans not returning in October, and has communicated with its member clubs to provide reassurance ahead of the season start.

"The 2020/21 National League season will now commence on 3 October as planned with clubs playing ‘behind closed doors’ in compliance with the elite sport protocols."

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