PENISTONE Church gained a huge win in their promotion bid and are due to host a Sheffield Cup semi-final on Wednesday against Stocksbridge Park Steels managed by their former boss Ian Richards.

Richards is from Penistone and was Church manager from 2009 to 2021, assisted by brother Duncan, taking them from the County Senior League up two levels to the NCEL Premier while winning the League Cup. He left for nearby Stocksbridge who play in the division above, Northern Premier League, and are currently battling relegation having reached the play-offs last year.

Richards said: “It’s exciting to be playing in a semi-final and the added element is it is at my old club. I think it will be a mixed reception.

“I would like to think people remember we had huge success there, transformed the club and left a legacy which they are continuing now.

“In nearly every game they have eight players I recruited or developed.

“But the way I left wasn’t ideal, it happened very quickly because Stocksbridge needed it to.

“Some people were disappointed. Everyone is entitled to their opinion.

“There will be some negativity and tongue in cheek banter which is no problem. That’s why we love football.

“It’s my hometown club, they gave me my first step into management which has allowed me to be successful.

“It will positive to go back but, after kick-off, I will just be focused on getting Stockbridge into the final. Friendships go to one side for 90 minutes.”

Richards, who is vice principle at Penistone Grammar School, knows Church – who he once took to the Sheffield Cup final – will be tough opponents. He said: “When we were there, we made sure the home ground was really difficult to play at for away teams.

“Church had an excellent win at the weekend so it will be a very tough game.

“We lost the cup final 4-3 extra-time to Aquaforce two weeks before they folded. We went to three other semi-finals too.”

Penistone manager Stephen Lenthall said: “It’s nice to have Stocksbridge coming to our ground in the senior competition.

“We know we’re not favourites. They are in a higher league. I don’t look at their position or their results.

“We just need to focus on the game.

“It’s nice to have no pressure. It’s all on them. It will be a great night for both clubs, the support will be class.

“It will be an emotional night with Richo coming back to Penistone – for some of the players and staff.

“We look forward to welcoming him back but hopefully we get into the final.

“We have a big league game at Tadcaster first and we’re looking forward to both.”

Church won 5-2 at home to second-placed Campion on Saturday.

The visitors took an early lead but Nathan Keightley levelled with a penalty then put Church in front.

Campion equalised before the break but Keightley completed his hat-trick just after the break then, after Josh Brown made it 4-2, he netted his fourth late on.

Penistone are seventh in the Premier Division, with 46 points from 27 games – four points off the play-off places with games in hand on those above.