Ciren Town see off Cindeford bid for Lee Smith
CIRENCESTER TOWN have seen off a predatory bid for their star striker Lee Smith on the eve on one of the biggest games in the club’s history.
Southern Premier League side Weymouth visit the Corinium Stadium on Saturday in a mouth-watering FA Cup Third Qualifying Round tie.
Victory would earn the club £7,500 in prize money and take them as far as they have ever gone in the competition.
But Smith will be in Saturday’s line-up having committed his future to the club.
“Cinderford made a seven-day approach for Lee and it did cast a shadow over what should be a great week for the club.
“But I have had a chat with Lee and he has assured me he is staying with Ciren for the remainder of the season.”
Smith’s form this season has been a revelation. Looking fitter and more enthusiastic than in years, he has scored 13 goals already this season, ten of them in the league where he is joint top of the goal-scoring charts.
He was on the scoresheet again in Cirencester’s 7-1 demolition of Didcot Town in the Preliminary Round replay of the FA Trophy on Tuesday night.
Despite dominating the game from the outset, it took 40 minutes for Town to break down the Railwaymen – Chris Holland scoring the opener – but then the floodgates opened.
In first-half stoppage time, the was a goal for Steve Davies, Smith’s strike partner who is also sparking interest among other clubs.
After a brief hiccup at the start of the second half when Matt Blenford pulled one back for Didcot, Town regained control rattling in five further goals from James Mortimer-Jones, Holland, Smith, Sam Collier and Sean Wood.
Just as pleasing for manager Hughes was the fact that the recently-injured pair Jon Beeden (back) and Ellis Dunton (shoulder) made second-half substitute appearances to prove their fitness ahead of Saturday.
Dunton had feared that he might be out of the game for up to four months, but an MRI scan revealed only slight ligament damage.
Dunton gave an insider’s view on the current Cirencester sequence – nine wins in a row not counting the County Cup defeat at Bristol Rovers where they were forced to put out a weakened team.
“I have been here for four years and I am enjoying it more than ever, said Dunton, who lives in Cirencester. “We have a tighter group of lads this season, and a much better team morale.”
The injury all-clear for Dunton is a double bonus because after being out of work for some time he is due to start a new roofing/labouring contract – something that would have been impossible with his arm in a sling.
Hughes, who has been able to add two new faces to the group in the past week, former Centurion Sean Wood (from Hungerford) and Ben Prictor (from Brimscombe), underlined the mood in the camp.
“They are a cheerful bunch who are enjoying their work,” he said. “They saw Didcot as another win and they want to keep it rolling.”
Former Ciren manager Neil Hards, who scouted AFC Portchester before Town’s win against them in the previous FA Cup round, has done the same job for Hughes on Weymouth.
“If we can win on Saturday that would be £20,000 in prize money for our cup runs, which is massive for us and half my yearly budget,” said Hughes.
“If Weymouth win, they are going to have to play very well.”