BISHOPS Castle player-manager Dan Dawson has set his players a target of retaining their league title and lifting a cup this season – but their options narrowed in knockout terms, with Saturday’s cup defeat to Church Stretton.

The injured player-boss was unstinting in his criticism of his team as they crashed out of the Shropshire Senior Challenge Cup at the second round stage, losing 4-1 to their West Midlands League Division Two visitors.

“We started poor,” said Dawson, “first half, we were really poor, we couldn’t get on the ball and couldn’t play, they pegged us back.”

A second-half penalty from Mark Griffiths provided no consolation with the hosts three down at half time and four adrift early in the second half.

“We lost the game before half-time, which was a shame,” added Dawson, “we’ve got close to the final, reaching the semis a couple of years ago, so we wanted a decent run.”

The Bishops Castle boss refused to read any wider significance into a match between his fifth-tier Welsh side and representatives from the 12th level of the English game, pointing out he was without four first-teamers and had only three defenders on the bench as a result – none too helpful when chasing a four-goal deficit.

Midfield debutant Omer Bozdag offered a silver lining though, with a polished display, and Dawson is hopeful of having recent signing Ben Edwards back in the engine room for the visit of Meifod on Saturday.

Montgomeryshire Football League leaders Forden went nine points clear of third-placed Bishops Castle by burying Maesyrhandir 9-1 at the weekend, but Dawson insists the title will be fought out between his men and the team sitting second.

“It will be between us and Guilsfield [Reserves] really, we lost to them at the beginning of the season so we need to beat them at their place. We haven’t played Forden in the league yet and they haven’t played Guilsfield, but we played Forden in a pre-season challenge game because they had won their league and we had won ours, and we beat them four or five-two.

“We are aiming for the title, you can’t settle for anything else really.”

Ludlow booked their place in the third round of the Shropshire Cup – with the draw to be made tonight – after a 4-2 win at Division Two rivals Rock Rovers at the weekend.

But there will now be frustrating wait for joint managers Chris Waldron and Christian Leech, whose Ludlow team are without a fixture until a week on Saturday, when they return to action at third-placed Gornal Colts.

With Ludlow already having played fewer games than the four teams above them, the joint bosses will have a keen on Saturday’s fixtures, particularly the game between leaders FC Darlaston and Gornal.