CLEE Hill United boss Wayne Whitbread says his side are licking their lips at the chance of tackling higher-league opposition Church Stretton in cup action.

Herefordshire Premier Division leaders and reigning champions United host West Midlands Division Two high-fliers Stretton in round two of the Shropshire Challenge Cup on Saturday.

Financial constraints have put Clee Hill off applying to join the West Midlands League but Whitbread is relishing the chance to pit his wits against a team at that level.

He said: “It’s going to be a massive test for us as Stretton are probably the highest-ranked team in the competition going on their league standing.

“It’s good to test yourselves against teams from higher leagues – we don’t know what the step up in class will be but we will find out. I’m optimistic that if the lads play well, we will have a chance.

“We played Stretton when we were both in the Shropshire League a few years ago and we won one game each that season but they, like us, have probably got a totally different side now.”

Both sides go into the game on the back of postponements last weekend as Stretton’s clash with promotion rivals AFC Bentley and United’s game with Malvern Town Reserves were rained off.

Whitbread added: “It’s going to be a big challenge but the lads will be up for it and it will be good to see where we are – not playing this week hasn’t helped us but Stretton are in the same boat.”

United’s manager has not completely discounted the notion of Clee Hill moving up into the West Midlands set-up in future but explained there are reasons they have not done so already.

“The club would fancy it,” added Whitbread. “But the expenses to run a club in that league, the ground grading you need, is just beyond us.

“We could do it financially for two seasons but then it drains everything out of the club. We are very lucky to have great support but we would need to double the amount of money we get in.”

Stretton boss Scott Peever, meanwhile, is expecting Hill to provide a stern test, adding: “We’ve played them many times - it’s always been a good battle and I expect no different this weekend.

“I’d say it was a banana skin but they are going so well it wouldn’t necessarily be an upset if they won.

“It’s difficult to judge the difference in standard unless you are playing teams week in, week out but from personal experience I don’t think there’s a great deal in it.

“We’ve played Shrewsbury Juniors, who are top three in the Shropshire League, in cups and if the Herefordshire League is a similar level, then Clee Hill would be competitive in our league.”