Non-League Football: Price is right for Parsons

THE TOP two teams in the Beazer Homes League meet tomorrow in an encounter which could play a big part in deciding the destiny of the Premier Division title. A crowd of up to 3,000 is expected at Central Park, Sittingbourne, where the home side, the League leaders, entertain Cheltenham Town, two points adrift in second place with two games in hand.

Cheltenham will be seeking maximum points to regain top place as they endeavour to return to the GM Vauxhall Conference, from which they were relegated in 1992. Lindsay Parsons, once a stalwart at full-back for Bristol Rovers, has been in charge at the Gloucestershire club since January that year. After serious overspending by his predecessors, he has had to rely on a good youth policy to build a winning team.

'I will always give young lads a chance, and seven of my squad were my discoveries,' Parsons said yesterday. He was youth- team coach at Bristol Rovers and Cheltenham before being promoted to manager at Whaddon Road. Several League clubs are taking an interest in his proteges, in particular the defender, Matt Lovell (20), two midfielders - Lee Howells (23) and Simon Cooper (18) - and the striker, Chris Warren (18).

Another coveted player is the former Torquay striker, Jimmy Smith, 24, the Premier Division's top scorer last season. 'He's not the biggest lad, but he has a good football brain,' Parsons said.

Cheltenham cannot hope to emulate the purchasing power of wealthy Sittingbourne, but Parsons does not envy the Kent club. 'I don't begrudge them their money,' he said. 'Good luck to them.' Sittingbourne's most recent recruit, the former Margate striker, Martin Buglione, arrived from St Johnstone for pounds 10,000 - expenditure that most of their rivals could not dream of matching.

John Bird, the former manager of Hartlepool and York, has taken charge at Halifax Town, who have dismissed Peter Wragg after eight months as manager at The Shay.