Groundsman Ward in running for leading honour yet again

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Forest Green's Stewart Ward has been shortlisted for the Football Conference's Groundsman of the Year award for the second year running.

Ward - one of only five up for the big prize - finished third in last year's awards and is the only shortlisted groundsman from 2012 to be shortlisted again in 2013.

The New Lawn curator, who arrived at the club in August 2010, was up against groundsmen from all 68 clubs in the Blue Square Bet Premier, North and South divisions.

Ward said: "It is a great honour to be shortlisted again this year.

"This is the top award for groundsmen in the non-League game and there are lots of great playing surfaces around the country that we were up against.

"The conditions haven't been easy for any groundsman this season.

"It's been a long, cold winter with buckets of rain, and our stadium sits at the third-highest altitude of any stadium in the country, which only intensifies those conditions.

"It is well known that we are working towards a completely organic, eco-friendly pitch at Forest Green, using natural organic fertilisers rather than energy intensive nitrogen-based fertilisers.

"That means there are no short cuts, no quick injections, and we have to work really hard at maintaining a top surface in a completely organic way.

"The manager David Hockaday wants the team to play a quick passing game, and that means he wants a slick surface that supports that style but which is strong and healthy enough to still do the job at the business end of the season. It's been tough considering all the challenges we have faced this campaign, but I think we've done as good a job as anybody and we will continue to improve with every new season."

Football Conference 2013 Groundsman of the Year shortlist: Stewart Ward (Forest Green Rovers), Mike Phillips (Grimsby Town), Graham Gould (Staines Town), Steve Ollerenshaw (Chester), Daniel Hunter (Boreham Wood).

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