Their historic FA Cup run may well be over but manager James French believes that the experience can be the start of something bigger for Hellenic League club Longlevens.
The Levens bowed out of the competition with a 5-1 away defeat at Farnborough on Saturday, just two weeks after competing in the competition for the first time in their sixty two year history.
On that day a victory over Bedfont and Feltham provided another notable landmark for French and the Gloucestershire based club.
Although victory over Farnborough may have been a step too far, French insisted that there will be “more days like this” for the Levens, who became the first club to be the focus of the ‘Non-League Daily TeamSnap Search for a Giantkiller feature’.
He said “I think it is just the start for us.
“We have got to this level and there will be more days like this for Longlevens.
“We are now at the level where, hopefully, every year we can have this kind of success and compete against these teams and these names every year.
“We have put our little club in this part of Gloucestershire on the map and I think it is all positive for us”
Although preparations for their big game went well during the week, the same could not be said for the Levens’ matchday preparations.
An issue with their team bus caused a late arrival at Farnborough’s Cherrywood Road home, meaning French and his coaching staff only had around half an hour to put their players through their warm-up.
A request to delay kick off was rejected but French paid tribute to his players for their reaction to the issues on what he called “a fantastic day for the club”
“We had issues on the way to Farnborough with the bus overheating and that meant we didn’t arrive until quarter past two” French explained.
“We were an hour behind schedule and we asked for a delayed kick off but they wouldn’t do that so we just had to get on with it and prepare as best we could.
“I thought the way we started, especially on the back of the journey, we were excellent and we were really, really disappointed to be two goals down.
“We actually played some good stuff and we went into half time because of a deflected shot and a penalty decision that looked a yard outside of the area.
“The major disappointment for me was a crazy five minute spell after half time where we were still in the changing rooms mentally and conceded two goals.
“That killed the game but it was still a fantastic day for the club”
All of the players in the Longlevens squad have made the journey up through the leagues with the club who that currently play in the Hellenic League’s top tier.
So as if the challenge of facing a strong Farnborough side wasn’t tough enough, they also had to contend with a new addition to the opposition line-up.
And it was a face that French was familiar with.
During his playing career the Levens boss played for Bristol Rovers and one of his former team mates at the Memorial Ground was in the Farnborough side on Satruday.
Experienced striker Jamie Cureton joined the Evo-Stik Southern League Division One Central club just two weeks ago and provided a stern test for French’s players.
However, the Levens’ boss was proud to see his defenders cope with Cureton and his
strike partner Dennis Oli.
“None of our players have come from higher leagues, they are a group of players that have come through with the club and have been on this journey with us” he said.
There are now playing at the top of their game to be at this level.
Now to play against Jamie Cureton, someone I played with at Bristol Rovers back in the day, was great for them.
He scored a penalty late in the game but the defenders coped with him and Dennis (Oli) very well. They are both fantastic players and combine very well but we did well against them”
For now the dreams of another FA Cup run will be put aside, but that hasn’t stopped French targeting a successful season.
Longlevens return to Hellenic League action on Saturday as they host Ascot United.
Last season saw the Levens finish mid-table in their first season in the league’s top division and now French is hopeful that they can continue their trend of improving every season by finishing in the top six, with an FA Vase run thrown into the mix.
“Year-on-year the aim has always been to improve on the previous season.
“Obviously the FA Cup prize money helps when you are working with no budget and things are tight when it comes to things like paying for referees.
“You have to cover costs like programme printing and hospitality, they don’t come cheap so the money will help and keep us afloat.
“But it will also help us progress as a club.
“Luckily in my time at the club we have managed to do that. We finished tenth last season and now we are looking to finish in the top six, which we realise will be really tough to do.
“There is a lot of spending power in our league but maybe an FA Vase run would be great too so we have that to come.
“A Vase run and a higher finish in the Hellenic League has to be our target now”
Their run may well be over in the FA Cup, but this could be the start of a bright future for James French and Longlevens AFC.
The Non-League Daily ‘TeamSnap Search for a Giantkiller’ will now focus on Farnborough, as they travel to Andover Town in the First Qualifying Round on Saturday 3rd September.