Pure Drama

Ludgvan 3 Bodmin Town 3 (after extra time). Bodmin won 5-3 on penalties.

Score after 90 minutes: 1-1

RGB Building Supplies Cornwall Senior Cup quarter-final

Cup Magic Moment: Difficult to pick just one after such an enthralling encounter but I loved Ludgvan’s celebrations when they got it back to 3-3; thoroughly enjoyed the enthusiasm of the youngsters behind the goal during the penalty shoot-out; and admired the sportsmanship of both sets of players and officials after the match following this really intense cup tie.

Shoot-out drama: Fans, photographers and enthusiastic youngsters gathered behind the goal to watch penalties after the match had finished level after extra time.
Shoot-out drama: Fans, photographers and enthusiastic youngsters gathered behind the goal to watch penalties after the match had finished level after extra time.

SINCE I set out on this cup football journey 18 months ago, I have occasionally lost focus and had a bit of a waffle. I’ve been distracted by the weather, by referees, by money matters, by the scenery and by my journeys to and from different footballing outposts in the far South West. Sometimes, it has felt as if the football has taken a bit of a back seat.

Not this time.

This was an absolute belter of a cup tie, played in a cracking atmosphere in front of a raucous crowd, with drama from the kick-off all the way through to the final spot-kick in the penalty shoot-out. The pace of events never dropped and you could not take your eyes off the action as the chances of a major cup shock, fell, rose, fell again, rose once more and were finally, cruelly, dashed.

This was exactly the sort of match that inspired me to focus on cup football. I love the drama, the immediacy, the emotional charge of knockout football. Winning is everything and, to win, you have to score, generally making games more open and exciting.

That has certainly been the case this season. I haven’t yet seen one dull game and the only one which finished 0-0 after 90 minutes – between Truro City and Forest Green Rovers in the FA Trophy – was of the highest quality, was intensely nerve-racking, and was settled by one superb strike in extra time.

I have seen goals galore, including an incredible 8-3 scoreline after extra time; I’ve seen a 6-2 cup shock in a monsoon; and last week I saw an absolute cracker between derby rivals Sticker and St Dennis which finished 4-3, settled by an injury-time penalty. But, in pure cup football terms, this was better than all of them.

Ludgvan, down in the west of Cornwall, are an ambitious club. They won the Cornwall Combination League last season but missed out on promotion to the Step 7 Carlsberg South West Peninsula League Division One West because of ground grading. They are aiming to put that right this time around.

Bodmin Town are the big fish in the Cornwall footballing pond at this level. Last season they won this competition, were crowned champions of the Peninsula League Premier Division and, of course, completed the treble by winning the Carlsberg South West Peninsula League Walter C Parson Funeral Directors League Cup. They are still in with a decent chance of defending all three of them this season.

So the scene was set for a proper cup collision between two top teams and it certainly attracted the interest of Cornwall’s footballing faithful. There were photographers and writers everywhere – indeed, I knew I was in the right place when I parked opposite Dave Deacon of Cornish Football magazine. I might not always know where I am going but I am confident that he does!

Close! Ludgvan hit the bar midway through the first half.
Close! Ludgvan hit the bar midway through the first half.

The set-up, with its community centre clubhouse, bar and balcony made a great first impression on this first-time visitor. I watched the opening ten minutes from that balcony, from where everything looked pristine, and then made my way down to pitch-level to get closer to the action. It wasn’t quite so pristine close up – the ground was wet and soft and mud was definitely on the menu.

On a day when cup clichés were to abound – blood and thunder, magic of the cup, giants and minnows, hearts broken, etc – I did hear one radio reporter describe the conditions as a “great leveller”. That’s probably true up to a point, but it is also a bit unfair on Ludgvan who, after a nervous start, showed real quality, gave as good as they got and almost pulled off just about the most unlikely cup shock the Duchy could possibly have seen this season.

Things could have been so different, to coin another cliché, if a 21st-minute rocket from the home side had found the back of the Bodmin net, rather than crashing against the crossbar. There were “oohs” and hands on head all around the park. But now there was real belief that a giant-killing could really happen.

That feeling was punctured a bit just before half-time when Bodmin finally took one of the many chances that both sides had created and so led at the break. Midway through the second half, that feeling was very much alive again when Ludgvan levelled. Game on.

By now, the locals were not so much getting restless as raucous. They were making a great noise and letting the higher-ranked side know that they didn’t think much of their efforts so far. It was great stuff.

As a relative newcomer to Cornwall – I have only been here for just over six years – I still have a lot to learn about this part of the world. I have spent a lot of my time in Falmouth and Truro, which are not always the most Cornish of towns due to the influx of visitors, students and incomers like me. Ludgvan, just a couple of miles up the road from Penzance, felt like “proper” Cornwall.

A couple of years ago, I made one of my irregular visits to a Rugby Union match, this time to watch Redruth. That was a passionate crowd, with its “Hellfire Corner” and Celtic fieriness. It was loud and proud there and it was loud and proud at Ludgvan. I loved it.

Not so close: This free-kick from Bodmin in white) flew well wide of the mark.
Not so close: This free-kick from Bodmin (in white) flew well wide of the mark.

Even when Bodmin scored twice in the first period of extra time, the home side’s fight never faltered. They pulled a goal back on 100 minutes and then thrashed home a cracker in the 108th minute to tie the game up and spark wild celebrations, with substitutes running on the pitch to embrace the scorer and everyone else then piling in. The crowd noise level was magnificent and, if any one moment this season is really going to embrace the joy and drama of cup football, that was it. Simply magic.

And all this for a £3 entry fee plus 50p for a cup of tea. Now that’s value for money.

Sadly, for lovers of a proper giant-killing, Bodmin’s extra quality finally shone through in the penalty shoot-out which eventually settled this quarter-final classic. They scored all five, Ludgvan missed one, and that was that. The cup tie, and Ludgvan’s run in the Senior Cup, were over.

However, the Combination side can be fiercely proud of their efforts and I, for one, hope they win their battle to earn promotion to the SWPL this season. They are a club and a side who would be a credit to the league.

Meanwhile, Bodmin’s relentless march to more silverware continues. It’s not always easy to like teams who win everything, but their sportsmanship and appreciation of Ludgvan’s efforts as the players left the pitch were a real credit to them. Once more, they are going to take some stopping this season.

But, to finish with a cliché which really sums up a classic day of cup football, I have to say: “Honestly, Brian, on the day, football was the real winner.” There’s no argument with that.

The view from on high: watching the opening exchanges of Ludgvan v Bodmin Town in the Cornwall Senior Cup from the clubhouse balcony.
The view from on high. Watching the opening exchanges of Ludgvan v Bodmin Town in the Cornwall Senior Cup from the clubhouse balcony.
Midfield action from the hard-fought Cornwall Senior Cup tie between Ludgvan in yellow) and Bodmin Town.
Midfield action from the hard-fought Cornwall Senior Cup tie between Ludgvan (in yellow) and Bodmin Town.
Another perfect penalty from Bodmin Town. They never missed in the shoot-out against Ludgvan as they maintained their defence of the Cornwall Senior Cup. They are now through to this seasons semi-finals.
Another perfect penalty from Bodmin Town. They never missed in the shoot-out against Ludgvan as they maintained their defence of the Cornwall Senior Cup. They are now through to this season’s semi-finals.
Looking towards the Ludgvan Community Centre end as the West Cornwall hosts took on holders Bodmin Town in the Cornwall Senior Cup.
Looking towards the Ludgvan Community Centre end as the West Cornwall hosts took on holders Bodmin Town in the Cornwall Senior Cup. This was the penalty that put Bodmin 2-1 up early in extra time. The drama, though, was far from over.

FOOTNOTE: If you have any comments on this article, or any others in this series of blogs, email me on thecupfootballblogger@hotmail.com, find me on Twitter, via @cupfootballblog, or find me on Facebook by searching for Peter Harlow. There are two of me on there – the one you want is the one with that hat.

 

The Legend Of Burngullow Park

Sticker 4 St Dennis 3

Durning-Lawrence Cornwall Charity Cup Quarter-Final

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Cup Magic Moment: The fact that the game beat the weather when all else around it was called off – and the fact that it then turned into a proper cup cracker.

Don't let this picture deceive you - the sun only made a late appearance in this Cornwall Charity Cup clash between Sticker (in yellow) and near-neighbours St Dennis. For most of the match, Burngullow Park was battered by Storm Doris.
Don’t let this picture deceive you – the sun only made a late appearance in this Cornwall Charity Cup clash between Sticker (in yellow) and near-neighbours St Dennis. For most of the match, Burngullow Park was battered by Storm Doris.

CORNWALL, that strange, isolated piece of granite tacked onto the end of Britain, with the fierce ocean pounding against its exposed shores, and the wind and rain sweeping across the bleak and lonely moors, is a land of myth and legends – many of them drunkenly thought up in the pub on long, dark nights after a hard day down the mine, in the quarry or on the farm.

There are The Hurlers, a group of standing stones on Bodmin Moor, which are said to be the remains of men who were turned to stone for playing games on a Sunday. (Rumours that Phil Hiscox, the secretary of the South West Peninsula League, was complicit in this act in order to persuade recalcitrant clubs that they really did have to play on Saturday and in midweek in order to get the season finished in time, are believed to be wide of the mark. Probably).

Then there’s Jan Tregeagle, a man so evil that his spirit is doomed to wander the Duchy trying to perform a series of hopeless tasks – such as emptying a bottomless moorland pool with a seashell with a hole in it – in order to keep him busy until Judgement Day. Many a Cornish football manager believes Tregeagle’s spirit lives on in the body of any given referee on any given Saturday.

Then there’s King Arthur in Tintagel, the panther-like Beast of Bodmin Moor, the beautiful but dangerous Mermaid of Zennor, the giant Cormoran, who is said to have built St Michael’s Mount before being killed by Jack the Giant Killer (there’s nothing quite like a good giant-killing) and, of course, those mischievous Cornish piskies – personified by the chippy centre-forward who chirrups throughout the match and generally gives defenders a bit of earache.

And now, to that pantheon of Cornish folk stories, can be added one with a happy ending – the legend of Burngullow Park. Listen to any Cornish football fan, sitting gloomily in the pub and nursing a pint of Tribute on a wet and dismal Friday night, and you will be bound to hear them say: “Well, if this bloody weather means our game gets called off, at least we can go to watch Sticker.”

“Why is that?” you might innocently ask the downbeat drinker.

“Because, legend has it, that there’s never a game called off at Burngullow Park.”

And he’s right. There never is.

Whenever miserable weather strikes Kernow’s exposed geography, matches start falling by the wayside at an alarming rate. Wind, rain, ice and, occasionally, snow see games called off from Launceston to Penzance, from Torpoint to Newquay, much to the dismay of Mr Hiscox, and the wandering football fan is left to ponder where he might get his weekend fix. But then there’s always Sticker. Games there are never off.

Whether it’s the lie of the land, the brilliance of the groundsmen, or a magic spell cast by a mythical Cornish god of the beautiful game who has a soft spot for this Clay Country club, matches at Burngullow Park are never called off.

Action from the Cornwall Charity Cup clash between Sticker in yellow) and St Dennis. Note the crowded stand in the background - shelter was at a premium for much of the game as Storm Doris did her worst.
Action from the Cornwall Charity Cup clash between Sticker (in yellow) and St Dennis. Note the crowded stand in the background – shelter was at a premium for much of the game as Storm Doris did her worst.

And that’s why, for the second weekend running, I found myself taking the St Austell road from Truro and heading out to this delightful club and its delightful ground. But this time, the Burngullow gods found themselves facing an onslaught from their mortal enemy – Doris.

Yes, Storm Doris The Ridiculously-Named, had wreaked her meteorological mayhem across Cornwall for 48 hours and games left on were becoming rarer than a Ross Poldark smile (he is a miserable sod). By 4pm on Friday, every game in the Carlsberg South West Peninsula League Premier Division was off and other leagues were down to the barest of bones.

But Sticker was still on. What’s more, they were at home to SWPL Division One West rivals St Dennis in what always promised to be a lively cup tie. Even on a day when Doris wasn’t doing her worst with matches elsewhere, this would still have been a fixture worth making an effort to see. It was an ideal choice for a cup football blogger.

The journey there turned out to be, literally, the calm before the storm. The rain had stopped, the wind had dropped and the winter sun was threatening an appearance. But, at 2pm, when the ref blew his whistle to get this tie started, the heavens opened. For about an hour, we had a full-on Doris deluge. It was truly horrible. The one area of cover, the small stand on the far side, was packed and there was nowhere left to go – apart from in the clubhouse, which is at one corner of the pitch.

I like to think that, normally, I would have braved it out in the rain but this time I had an excuse to run and hide – and I used it. You see, I had gone to the game with a friend and his football-crazy five-year-old boy and when they edged towards the shelter of the clubhouse, I rushed to join them. I blame them for my lack of hardiness. Well, that’s my story and I am sticking with it.

Much of the first half was watched through misted-up windows, standing on tiptoe to see around the others who had crowded into the lobby of the bar, and rushing from one vantage point to another as the action moved from window to window. It was quite tiring. And there was certainly no lack of action to see.

Sticker are a massive 21 points clear at the top of the league and were big, big favourites for this tie, but their determined neighbours hadn’t read the script and were soon 2-0 ahead. More giant-killing looked like it might be on the cards.

But Sticker are made of stern stuff and it was no real surprise to anyone when they pulled it back to 2-2. With the weather now easing, we ventured outside again – albeit not too far from the clubhouse just in case – and were able to witness the thrilling conclusion of what was turning into a cup epic without having to peer through obscured glass.

Wet, wet, wet - but Storm Doris couldn't stop the game going ahead at Sticker's Burngullow Park. Nothing ever does.
Wet, wet, wet – but Storm Doris couldn’t stop the game going ahead at Sticker’s Burngullow Park. Nothing ever does.

Doris had done her worst, and the pitch was cutting up badly (I heard one player say it was the worst he had known it in seven years) but the Burngullow footballing gods had finally prevailed and were serving up one of the best games of the season to the hardy football faithful.

St Dennis, who were putting in a fabulous performance which completely belied their lowly 13th place in the 18-team table, then stunned everyone in the ground by taking the lead again. 3-2 to the boys in light blue – was the shock really on again? Not if the home side had anything to do with it.

Sticker have within their ranks a young striker called Jack Bowyer, who is an absolute goal machine at this level. I pointed him out to my friend as the player to watch in this game. I am a gift to punditry.

Bowyer had scored both of Sticker’s goals at this point and, inevitably, it was the Sticky superstar who grabbed a late equaliser to complete his hat-trick, his sixth of this goal-laden season. So, with extra-time looming and us all wondering if the battered Burngullow pitch could take another 30 minutes of action, would there be a late winner?

In the 92nd minute, young Bowyer was through on goal again. This time, however, his route to goal was brought to a sudden stop by a hefty, and illegal, challenge by the St Dennis keeper. We were behind the goal by now and heard the “oomph” as his sliding challenge ended in a collision with the striker. Penalty! Up stepped Sticker sub Joel Cockings who kept his cool to roll home the spot-kick and win this classic encounter for the boys from Burngullow.

St Dennis can feel hard done by to not get something out of the game, and they can be proud of their battling performance. They were the beaten finalists in this competition last season and they came up against the big favourites to win it this year. The footballing gods were definitely not on their side in the end – maybe their battle with Doris had weakened them just too much.

But, in the end, Doris was defeated and the legend of Burngullow Park had another tale to add to its ever-growing story. Giants, piskies, kings and groundsmen – Cornish folklore is much more than just a myth.

The decisive moment: St Dennis goalkeeper Brett Allen dives one way, the ball goes the other and Sticker have won this Cornwall Charity Cup cracker with a last-minute penalty.
The decisive moment: St Dennis goalkeeper Brett Allen dives one way, the ball goes the other and Sticker have won this Cornwall Charity Cup cracker with a last-minute penalty.

FOOTNOTE: If you have any thoughts or comments on this blog, email me at thecupfootballblogger@hotmail.com, find me on Twitter, via @cupfootballblog, or go to Facebook and search for “Peter Harlow”. There are two of me on there. You want the one with the hat.

Plenty In Reserve

Sticker Reserves 0 Godolphin Atlantic Reserves 1

Bond Timber Cornwall Junior Cup quarter-final

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Cup Magic Moment: Two cash collections which showed the true nature of the football family. Read on for more details.

Sticker Reserves on the attack against their counterparts from Godolphin Atlantic in the last eight of the Cornwall Junior Cup.
Sticker Reserves on the attack against their counterparts from Godolphin Atlantic in the last eight of the Cornwall Junior Cup.

AS A MILLWALL supporter, I know what it’s like not to be popular, hence our plaintive cry of “No one likes us, we don’t care!” I am beginning to think you must get the same feeling sometimes when you are linked to Godolphin Atlantic.

The G Army are the abrasive new boys on the Cornish footballing block. They were only founded in 1980 and, already, their first team are in the Premier Division of the Carlsberg South West Peninsula League, Step 6 on the non-league ladder. They have made their name as renowned cup fighters as well, through their exploits in the Cornwall Senior Cup and, of course, the Carlsberg South West Peninsula League Walter C Parson Funeral Directors League Cup.

This season, however, the first team have fallen early in those knockout competitions, leaving the reserves to fly the cup football flag for the Newquay-based club. They are making a pretty decent job of it at the moment.

In contrast to Godolphin’s reputation as being spiky and a bit difficult, Sticker, nestled in the foothills of the Cornish china clay mining industry near St Austell, are a club everyone wants to love at the moment – and there’s plenty to like about them.

The ground is ever-improving, the clubhouse is neat and tidy, the natives are genuinely friendly, the setting is lovely and they play some impressive football. The first team is flying away at the top of the SWPL Division One West and looks likely to be joining Godolphin in the Premier Division next season. Meanwhile, Sticker Reserves ply their trade in the Duchy League Division One, where they look to be joined next season by Godolphin’s reserves, who are top of Division Two.

So, this last eight clash in the Cornwall Junior Cup was all set up as a naughty v nice clash, good v evil. So, would the good guys win or would the bad guys have their pound of flesh? Well, the plot turned out to be a bit more complicated than that.

 

Action from Burngullow Park as Sticker Reserves in yellow) entertained Godolphin Atlantic Reserves in the quarter-finals of the Cornwall Junior Cup.
Action from Burngullow Park as Sticker Reserves (in yellow) entertained Godolphin Atlantic Reserves in the quarter-finals of the Cornwall Junior Cup.

First of all, it was one up for the nice guys. Not on the pitch, but off it, and concerning events many miles away in the south-east Cornwall community of Millbrook.

The club there, from the same division as Sticker’s first team, had suddenly found themselves in huge financial difficulties. Reports said they owed about £30,000 but their most pressing problem was a gas bill for £9,000. Leaving aside the question of how any organisation can get itself into such a parlous position, a new committee had taken over the running of the club and appealed for help from local footballing people.

Cornwall – and bits of Devon – did itself proud. Clubs up and down the leagues made donations and had collections, including a bucket going around this game at Burngullow Park. There was no admission fee, just this fundraising effort for a fellow club in trouble. Fantastic stuff – and it worked as Millbrook have sorted their immediate problems and are now planning for a more secure future.

So one up to The Sticky for helping with that – although the G fans certainly put their hands in their pockets to help too. So, one up-ish, then. It just felt like a nice place to be.

And then, certainly early on in the game, Godolphin didn’t do themselves any favours in the popularity stakes. They were generally bigger and stronger than their hosts and looked set to bully them into submission. They were also a well-organised side, full of decent players, but seemed intent on taking a pretty robust approach to matters. It wasn’t too long before both benches were up in arms with some of the goings-on as the ref struggled to keep a lid on things. Feisty, I think, is the word.

I try to watch these games as a neutral but I felt myself beginning to side with home team as the visitors snarled and fought their way to first-half dominance.

And then I had a chat with G Army chairman Tania Semmens.

Preparing for kick-off in the Cornwall Junior Cup clash between Sticker Reserves in yellow) and Godolphin Atlantic Reserves.
Preparing for kick-off in the Cornwall Junior Cup clash between Sticker Reserves (in yellow) and Godolphin Atlantic Reserves.

It seems there is a softer side to these players and this club than it appears. She pointed out that one of their players, Callum, had been with the club for several years but, for personal reasons, had to move back to the Midlands recently. He was, however, desperate to play in this big cup tie, and they were desperate to get him out on the pitch.

And so, Tania told me, the players organised a collection for his train fare. Both first and second team players chipped in, as did the club and even a former player or two. They raised more than enough in no time at all and got him on that train to Newquay. While there, he stayed, for free, at the pub where the club was born and from where it is still run, the Godolphin Arms.

It meant their team-mate and friend could play in this big game and showed that, however spiky and difficult The G might sometimes appear, they have a real spirit and togetherness that a lot of clubs would envy.

That’s one back for the baddish guys.

Mind you, they still have that little chip on the shoulder which, as a Millwall fan, I recognise so well. Before this match, there was a lovely aerial picture of their ground on Twitter alongside a caption from Tania Semmens that said: “Not bad for a pub team.” I feel myself warming to them all the time.

I’m not sure that was a feeling reflected at Sticker on the day though. They were furious with some of the challenges flying in and angered by the aggressive attitude of their visitors. They did try to play some tidy passing football but also started to match fire with fire. The sinned-against nice guys indulged in a bit of sinning of their own. It all got a bit tasty and the line between good and bad became a bit more blurred.

Another ref would have produced a red card or two; he certainly would have done at a higher level of the game.

That’s not to say that this wasn’t a decent level of football, though. In fact, with a sizeable crowd and two benches much fuller with managers, coaches and substitutes than you often see higher up, this had all the feel and atmosphere of a full-on Peninsula League game. It felt and looked more like senior than junior football and, in amongst the nonsense, there was some very decent football on show.

I had written in my notebook before the game started: “There are few games in Cornwall today which will mean more to the players than this one – this really has the lure of the cup. The Junior Cup is a big deal for players at this level.” The level of commitment and desire on show proved how prescient I was. Hard-fought doesn’t even begin to cover it and the emotions at the end, of joy and despair, anger and elation, reinforced the reasons for starting this whole series of blogs in the first place. Cup football matters.

A natty line in officiating headwear. This lino saw out the full 90 minutes unlike his colleague who went off injured 15 minutes from the end.
A natty line in officiating headwear. This lino saw out the full 90 minutes unlike his colleague, who went off injured 15 minutes from the end.

The game itself was settled by a single goal, which came ten minutes before half-time. Godolphin had been troubling Sticker from corners right from the start and made the breakthrough when a flag-kick from their left flew straight into the net – the first goal I have seen like that since I started writing this blog.

Another first came 75 minutes into the match when one of the linesmen – sorry, referee’s assistants – had to go off injured. Flag duties at this level are often shared around, sometimes to reluctant young substitutes who seem to barely have the will or the energy to lift their flag above shoulder lever, but this was the first time I have seen one go off injured. It was probably a wise move as it saved him from the ear-bashing the remaining officials got at the end!

Sticker dominated the second half but created few clear-cut chances and Godolphin held on to claim their place in the last four.

So then, a victory for the bad guys? Maybe not in the end but, either way, the G Army won’t mind. Even if no one likes them, they don’t care.

Looking along the touchline to the clubhouse at Sticker AFCs Burngullow Park ground.
Looking along the touchline to the clubhouse at Sticker AFCs Burngullow Park ground.
The sign says it all.
The sign says it all.

If you have any comments on this blog, or any others in the series, email me at thecupfootballblogger@hotmail.com, find me on Twitter via @cupfootballblog, or search for Peter Harlow on Facebook. There’s two of me on there, you want the one with the hat.

 

Official Business

Carharrack 3 Torpoint Athletic 8 (after extra time)

RGB Building Supplies Cornwall Senior Cup Third Round

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Cup Magic Moment: The drama and uproar surrounding a couple of highly controversial decisions made by the officiating team. I probably shouldn’t have enjoyed that but I did.

Carharrack v Torpoint Athletic in the Third Round of the RGB Cornwall Senior Cup.
Carharrack v Torpoint Athletic in the Third Round of the RGB Cornwall Senior Cup.

IMAGINE that you are a player, fan or official of a lower league side and that you are 3-2 up going into injury time against a side playing two steps above you: a cup shock is very much on the cards.

You have been hanging on for dear life for the last 30 minutes of the 90 and you are so close to glory – you can smell it, almost taste it.

Then, with time almost up, the higher-ranked side launches one last effort to ruin your day. A forward goes down the right-wing, takes on a tired defender and then tries to cross the ball into a crowded and nervous penalty area. He takes a swing at it with his right foot, misses, and the ball hits his left foot and rolls over the byline for a goal-kick.

Cue relieved cheers and jeers from the lower league side’s fans and groans of disappointment from the supporters of the pre-match favourites. All this happens right under the nose of the linesman – who then points for a corner kick.

Disbelief, anger, surprise and bedlam all break out at once but the match officials stick to their guns, with the ref backing up his assistant. Everyone else in the ground might think it’s a goal-kick but they are adamant it is a corner and no amount of wide-eyed bemusement is going to change their minds.

Any self-respecting football fans knows what is going to happen next. The corner leads to an equaliser and then the higher division side romps to victory in extra-time. And that, dear reader, is exactly what the footballing fates conspired to make happen in a thumpingly good Cornwall Senior Cup tie on Saturday.

The home side were the lower ranked team on this occasion. Carharrack, in only their second season back in senior football, are flying high at the top of the Cornwall Combination and were looking to add to their season of success with a shock win over visitors Torpoint Athletic, who play two steps higher in the Carlsberg South West Peninsula League Premier Division.

For much of the match, the hosts looked likely to pull off the surprise, especially after they took a 3-1 lead just moments into the second half.

Looking towards the clubhouse as Carharrack (in red) took on Torpoint Athletic in the RGB Cornwall Senior Cup.
Looking towards the clubhouse as Carharrack (in red) took on Torpoint Athletic in the RGB Cornwall Senior Cup.

Torpoint, who, right from the off, looked to be a bit disenchanted and grumbly with the prospect of having to play on a sloping, muddy, cut-up pitch, seemed to be there for the taking. But, to their great credit, they threw extra players forward and simply battered their hosts for almost all of the second half.

It was no surprise to anyone when they pulled it back to 3-2 and it was then just a case of could Carharrack hold on? Well, they looked like they just might – until the linesman’s dramatic late intervention.

Despite Torpoint then going on to score five more goals for another seemingly emphatic Senior Cup success (to follow up remarkable 7-1 and 8-4 victories in the two previous rounds) there was really only one topic of conversation after the match: the officials.

The two sides had taken very different approaches to dealing with the ref and his linesmen right from the start. Torpoint, and their decent contingent of supporters, had gone straight into grumpy mode, contesting every decision and chuntering away all the time. Their bench had a running battle with the linesman (the other one) about where they could and couldn’t stand and they all gave the impression of not being happy to he there at all.

Carharrack, on the other hand, seemed determined to be positive, their manager always offering encouragement and keeping any criticisms of the officials to himself. Needless to say, both benches were singing a different tune at the end of the game though!

I had a bit of trouble with this halfway line flag, which kept blowing in my face. Both teams had trouble with flags on the day!
I had a bit of trouble with this halfway line flag, which kept blowing in my face. Both teams had trouble with flags on the day!

Despite a decade of watching football in the South West, I had never seen Torpoint in action and I was looking forward to seeing what sort of club they were. First impressions weren’t good.

However, their first real outburst of anger was understandable. After 19 minutes, and with the game still scoreless, they were convinced they had scored following a goalmouth scramble but the same linesman who was to play such a pivotal role right at the death ruled that the ball had not crossed the line.

Torpoint’s players, officials and fans went ballistic.

I was watching the game from the halfway line, between the two dug-outs and, from there, it certainly looked like a goal. The linesman, however, was much closer, had a much better view, and we couldn’t legitimately argue with him. It would have been interesting to have had the Premier League’s Goal Decision System in operation though!

That didn’t help Torpoint’s mood and nor did the fact that Carharrack went in front five minutes later with a lovely breakaway goal. But the visitors soon showed the fighting cup spirit that was to change my opinion of them by the end, equalising just three minutes later with a superb left-foot strike from the edge of the box.

The Carharrack players, however, were still thoroughly enjoying their football. They had been laughing and joking in the warm-up and while waiting for kick-off, and that relaxed but determined outlook seemed to be paying off as they scored either side of the break to open up a 3-1 lead. The shock was most definitely on.

But then came a change of attitude from Torpoint which, together with their superior fitness and quality, turned the tide of the tie. Substitutions were made, extra players were thrown forward and minds were focused on the task in hand rather than on complaining.

They pulled a goal back on 66 minutes and it seemed only a matter of time before the inevitable equaliser would come. No one expected that it would take a linesman’s controversial late intervention to help it happen.

But, uneven as the final scoreline might have ended up being, their can be no doubt that Torpoint eventually deserved to go through to the last eight of the competition. Carharrack were gallant and brave – and played some very decent football along the way – but they were overpowered in the end. They can complain about the unfortunate nature of their ultimate defeat but they could not have argued if Torpoint had won in normal time without the need for a late, large slice of cup controversy.

As for Torpoint, I wasn’t happy with them early on in the tie but they ended up showing that they were real cup fighters. I admire that, I admire that a lot.

But Saturday really only ended up being about one thing – the officiating. It’s not always a good thing to come away from a game talking about refs and linesmen and, as a neutral observer, you normally find that most complaints about them are unfounded.

On this occasion, though, I thought the lino got the two big decisions wrong. He was much closer to the action than me both times, and the angle I was viewing from wasn’t the best to see either incident, but they just looked wrong.

Still, the controversy added to the atmosphere and the sense of occasion and helped to create a really exciting cup tie. It was fun!

 

The Beautiful Game

Falling in love again: My favourite cup moment by far as Millwall celebrate completing their FA Cup giantkilling over Premier League Bournemouth. Come on you Lions!
Falling in love again: My favourite cup moment by far as Millwall celebrate completing their FA Cup giantkilling over Premier League Bournemouth. Come on you Lions!

DEAR FOOTBALL

I am a grumpy 53-year-old man who thought he was long past writing love letters to anyone (sorry dear) but I have fallen head over heels in love with the beautiful game again – thanks to Lions and Tigers.

What with Christmas and New Year and all that malarkey, I haven’t been able to get to too many games recently, but the last two I have been to have made me remember exactly why I have always, always loved you, football.

Before Christmas, I watched the White Tigers of Truro put in the bravest of brave performances before being undone by a sensational late strike in their FA Trophy replay against Forest Green Rovers.

And then, on FA Cup third round day, which is almost a Holy Day in the life of a cup football blogger, I saw my team, the mighty Lions of Millwall, hammer Premier League Bournemouth 3-0. I loved every minute of that.

I know, football, that like any longstanding love affair, we have had our ups and downs over the years but you know we will always be together even if you really, really annoy me sometimes.

But right now, right at this moment, everything in our footballing garden is rosy. Allow me to tell you exactly why.

Back on December 13 last year, there was a bonus game which I simply couldn’t resist. Three days earlier, Truro City, of the National League South, had caused a bit of an FA Trophy shock when they held National League promotion-chasers Forest Green Rovers to a draw up in deepest Gloucestershire and now they all headed to Cornwall to give it another go.

Now, I have said before, that I have struggled to have a fondness for Truro’s White Tigers, despite seeing several games there over the past few years. Sometimes, it just happens that way

As an impressionable young man, I moved way up north to Darlington and have been fond of The Quakers ever since.

They have had more than their share of troubles over the years since then, culminating in having to form a new club and not having anywhere to play in their hometown. Their return to a new home ground back in Darlington on Boxing Day was a wonderfully emotional moment for them and their supporters, and brought a lump to my throat too. Soft as, sometimes, soft as…

But I also spent 15 years living in Suffolk and working in the shadow of Portman Road, but never really took to Ipswich Town. Perhaps that was because I could get to Millwall much more easily than I could when I lived “oop north” but I just didn’t have any great feeling for them. Instead, I spent my time watching the likes of Woodbridge, Leiston and, especially, Lowestoft. Trawler Boys over Tractor Boys every time!

During my time in Devon, I became a fan of Exeter City and Okehampton Argyle but, since moving to Cornwall, I have not really taken to any one team in particular, especially not Truro, who seemed a bit out of step with the rest of the footballing community in the Duchy, probably because of their rapid rise through the leagues.

But, Truro, I fell in love with you last month. The White Tigers played with spirit and determination, and no little skill, against a team pushing for a place in the Football League. In two seasons of cup blogging, it was the first goalless 90 minutes I had seen but it was undoubtedly one of the best. The quality of the football was impressive, the combative spirit of the game commendable, and the feeling of a shock in the air grew minute by minute.

Only two things upset that in the end. First of all, Rovers scored a stunning winner in the 109th minute, Darren Carter striking home a superb effort from 20 yards out to end brave Truro’s cup shock dream. And, secondly, Forest Green’s kit was simply appalling. Lime green and dark blue-hooped shirts which were all lime green on the back; lime green shorts; and lime green and blue-hooped socks. Horrible, so horrible in fact that my phone camera refused to work properly. Quality control, I reckon. It was a crime against eyesight.

I came away from Treyew Road that night as a confirmed Truro City fan and very much in love with the beautiful game once more, and the beautiful cup game in particular.

That feeling of romance reborn was reaffirmed with metaphorical knobs on at the “not New any more” Den on FA Cup third round day when, as a Christmas present, I went to see Millwall with my Dad, my two brothers and two nephews. Now that’s what football is really all about.

It turned into one of those wonderful, wonderful days that I will be talking about and telling stories about for years and years to come (sorry dear, again).

We journeyed up from our homes in Cornwall, Devon and Herefordshire, arrived in plenty of time and even parked in the same spots we have been using for 30 years – and right next to each other!

Then we made the excited, ten-minute walk down to the ground together, chatting away happily and with no real thought of a possible cup shock ahead. Relaxed, friendly and happy. Lovely.

And then came the Bournemouth team news. Eddie Howe had made a full eleven changes to the side which had thrown away a 3-0 lead in their previous game to end up drawing 3-3 with Arsenal. The thought came into every Millwall fan’s head when that selection filtered through – Blimey, we could win this.

Now, Mr Howe is the flavour of the footballing world at the moment, but he got this horribly wrong. He tried afterwards to claim that his choice of starting line-up, which included four players who cost a combined £36 million between them, was not disrespectful to the greatest old cup competition in the world.

Yes it was.

It was also disrespectful to Millwall as it carried the implication that he felt he could beat us with whatever side he put out. Wrong.

And, although all of us supporters are now sadly accustomed to watching much-changed sides in the early rounds of cup competitions, this was a step too far. What must the Bournemouth fans have thought? Does their manager really believe that his mid-table side could still be relegated from the Premiership? It all smacked of a bizarre mixture of over-confidence and lack of confidence. You might turn out to be a great English manager of the future, Mr Howe, but you made a complete mess of things here. I hope you have learned your lesson. The FA Cup matters – don’t muck about with it.

Millwall most definitely weren’t mucking about. With an unchanged side for the fifth game running, we were simply superb right from the start; we were battling, disciplined, intelligent, passionate and just very, very good. It was no surprise when Steve Morison headed us ahead from a corner in the 25th minute.

Just that moment of celebration made the whole journey from the South West to the South East worthwhile all on its own, but there was so much more to come.

Firstly, Shaun Cummings, the most unlikely of goalscorers, made it 2-0 early in the second half. We then soaked up Bournemouth pressure, rode our luck a bit and even enjoyed the sight of them having a “goal” disallowed with six or seven minutes left. That could have put the cat among the pigeons.

But it didn’t and there was still the very best moment of a very joyous day to come. Four minutes into injury time, we broke away, the ball was played into Shane Ferguson on the edge of the box and he buried his left-foot cross-shot into the bottom corner of the net – into the goal from behind which we were watching.

It was an absolutely perfect moment and it sealed the biggest FA Cup win by a club from League One or lower over a top-flight club since the inception of the Premier League. That was the icing on a magnificent cup footballing cake.

So, football, it’s those kind of moments that make me understand why I will always love you – the joy, the excitement, the sense of sharing something special with people who matter to you. When I moan about you in the future, about overpaid players, over-hyped occasions, about diving, about referees, about it not being like it was in the old days, just remind me of these two games, of Lions and Tigers, remind me about the glory that lifts you out of the mundane into the magnificent, remind me of the sheer delight of it all.

Remind me of all of them and remind me that that is why I love you.

Yours always

THE CFB

FOOTNOTE 1: Just for the record, here are the details of these two games.

Truro City 0 Forest Green Rovers 1 (after extra time)

The Buildbase FA Trophy First Round replay

Tuesday, December 13, 2016.

Cup Magic Moment: The sheer determination and spirit of Truro City’s White Tigers.

Millwall 3 AFC Bournemouth 0

The Emirates FA Cup Third Round

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Cup Magic Moment: Everything, absolutely everything. It was the first time I had seen The Lions pull off a proper cup shock and I am still buzzing.

FOOTNOTE 2: If you have any comments to make about this, or any other blog in this series, email thecupfootballblogger@hotmail.com, find me on Twitter via @cupfootballblog, or on Facebook. Search for Peter Harlow. There are two of me on there. The one with the hat is the football account.

 

A Storm And A Teacup

Gerrans & St Mawes 6 Biscovey 2

KDM Developments Duchy Knockout Cup First Round

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Cup Magic Moment: Boundless enthusiasm from the home club and a special half-time cuppa.

Players doing their best to warm-up before the game between Gerrans St Mawes United and Biscovey. The weather was much worse than it looks in this picture. Horrible.
Players doing their best to warm-up before the game between Gerrans & St Mawes United and Biscovey. The weather was much worse than it looks in this picture. Horrible.

BEING a football fan is all about memories and moments, some good, some bad, some just a bit odd, and all of them adding to the rich fabric of stories that make up life itself.

Any game you watch, at whatever level, has the power to surprise and enthuse, to sadden and upset, to create those moments that live long in your soul long after the result is forgotten. It might be the best goal you have ever seen, the worst tackle, the funniest chant, the best pie, the worst pie, but every game has the potential to create memories.

Felixstowe v Sudbury on a cold Tuesday night in deepest Suffolk doesn’t sound like a thriller but a stunning 40-yard strike remains one of the best goals I have ever seen. Conversely, Millwall v Walsall at the old Den many years ago was such a terrible game that I still remember it. All that happened in the entire 90 minutes was that we, Millwall, had one shot, their keeper saved it, they broke from the rebound and scored at the other end. That was it, nothing else.

We spent more time trying to work out whether the number of l’s in the fixture was some sort of world record than we did watching the match itself (we decided that it must be).

I had thought that my memories of this game at St Mawes would be of getting to the match by ferry, which would have been a first for me. But the boat to and from Falmouth doesn’t run late enough at this time of year to be able to get back afterwards and so I ending up driving to the match as usual.

And then I thought that my main memory of the day would be the weather. It was horrible. Every now and then you get a game like this where the wind and the rain dominate proceedings and everyone’s glad when it’s all over and you can get back into the warm and the dry. But for some reason, games on days like that tend to live long in the memory.

A few seasons back, I watched a midweek match at Truro when they played Salisbury in similar conditions. But the sight and sound of ex-Millwall forward Barry Hayles being cheered on by the home crowd singing “No One Likes Us”, the quality of the football despite the downpour, and the fact that Truro snatched a point with a penalty right at the death, made it a truly memorable night.

That, and the fact that my jeans got so wet that they were basically destroyed and had to be thrown away.

Midfield action from the KDM Developments Duchy Cup tie between Gerrans St Mawes United red) and Biscovey.
Midfield action from the KDM Developments Duchy Cup tie between Gerrans & St Mawes United (in red and black) and Biscovey.

Gerrans & St Mawes’s ground is the wonderfully named Halwartha Park, but it is basically a wide open field on top of a hill – with almost no cover at all. On this particularly matchday, the driving rain never stopped, blown in on a strong and gusty breeze, and there was really nowhere to hide, although I did spend the second half huddled with half a dozen others in a covered passageway next to the clubhouse. It was more like a wind tunnel than a shelter, though.

I ended up soaked to the skin and, after the match, sat shivering for five minutes in my car, with the heating on full blast, until I felt fit enough to drive. It should have been a miserable experience.

But it wasn’t.

Because I had witnessed what football is all about at this level – the dedication, the enthusiasm and the passion for the game that is felt by players, officials, supporters and volunteers alike. They, we, do it all for the love of the game, and you really have to love it to bear it on weather-worn days like this.

That desire to make the most of the game, which is characteristic of so many people who give up their time to make football happen, was personified here by the GSM United manager, Andy.

As the game kicked off, with his Duchy League Division One side aiming to cause a cup upset against their Duchy Premier visitors, he walked around the pitch to where I was standing on the halfway line, and started to tell me all about his club.

Welcome to Halwartha Park. The sign needed updating!
Welcome to Halwartha Park. The sign needed updating!

Andy is a teacher at the local school and feels that the people of the Roseland, the peninsula on which the villages of Gerrans and St Mawes sit, can be very cut off at times: “There’s one road in and one road out.” Having played for the club since he was a youngster, he gave up the game at the age of 31 to take over the running of the team.

A couple of years later, though, he is still kicking every ball. He marched up and down the touchline, following the action and encouraging his players all the time; I never heard his voice raised in anger. That positive attitude and demeanour was very different to a lot of managers I have had the misfortune to hear ranting from the sidelines, and it made a refreshing change.

His players responded to it as well. Some of the football they produced belied the level at which they were playing, It certainly seemed to take Biscovey by surprise as they struggled to deal with the impressive home side’s speed and movement.

The key moment of the game came just before half-time. GSM were leading 3-1 but then the visitors, beaten semi-finalists in this cup competition last season, were awarded a penalty. Score this and they would be right back in the game.

Sadly for Biscovey, the spot-kick went wide and, just a few minutes into the second half, the home side had opened up a 5-1 lead and the tie was as good as over.

That soon became 6-1 and Biscovey were looking a very dejected bunch. But, to their credit, they fought hard to rediscover some cup spirit and played some of their best football of the match in the final 20 minutes, although the damage had been long done by then.

Looking towards the clubhouse at Halwartha Park, the home of Gerrans St Mawes United.
Looking towards the clubhouse at Halwartha Park, the home of Gerrans & St Mawes United.

And that special cuppa? Well, at half-time, as the volunteers who normally make the tea were away on holiday, Andy the manager organised a brew for me in between giving his team talk and setting up his side for the second half. Can you imagine Jose Mourinho doing that at Old Trafford for a drenched and shivering reporter?

Andy’s dedication and commitment, and that of all the players, officials and the few supporters who braved the elements to watch this cup upset, is just typical of non-league and lower league football. These people are all doing something they love and are helping others to indulge their passion for the game too.

Football, and football people, often get a bad press but I believe those who volunteer to help clubs at this level of the game are the real backbone of their communities, real local heroes who make a difference to the lives of people around them.

That’s the message I took away with me from Halwartha Park and that’s the memory that will live long with me whenever I look back at my day in the rain at Gerrans & St Mawes United.

FOOTNOTE: For the record, GSM’s goals came from a Sam Bullen hat-trick, plus a brace from Ben Ringrose and a strike from Dan Carne. I have culled this information from the local paper, the West Briton, as it was far too wet for me to contemplate taking any notes during the game itself!

FOOTNOTE 2: If you have any comments on this blog, email me at thecupfootballblogger@hotmail.com, find me on Twitter, via @cupfootballblog, or go to Facebook and search for Peter Harlow (there are two of me on there, the football one is the one with woolly hat picture!)

More midfield action from the KDM Developments Duchy Cup tie between Gerrans St Mawes United red) and Biscovey.
More midfield action from the KDM Developments Duchy Cup tie between Gerrans St Mawes United (red) and Biscovey.

 

 

 

Canny Port In A Storm (Of Goals)

Porthleven 4 Godolphin Atlantic 1

RGB Building Supplies Cornwall Senior Cup Second Round

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Cup Magic Moment: Another cup shock and a delightful knockout performance by the home side.

Its there! Porthleven in yellow) celebrate taking an early lead in the Cornwall Senior Cup against higher-ranked Godolphin Atlantic. It was a lead they never relinquished.
Its there! Porthleven (in yellow) celebrate taking an early lead in the Cornwall Senior Cup against higher-ranked Godolphin Atlantic. It was a lead they never relinquished.

SOMETIMES, the stars align to set up the perfect opportunity for a cup football blogger. Saturday was one such day.

Porthleven is one of my favourite Cornish towns, a place where we often go for a drink and an aimless wander around the delightful little harbour, which happens to be the southernmost port on the UK mainland.

The charms of the town extend to the ground. I have been to Gala Parc several times and have always loved it. It’s big, but nicely proportioned, there’s cover for when the weather forgets we are in picture postcard country and turns nasty, the natives are generally friendly and, best of all, you can watch the action while sitting comfortably on a park bench at the top of a grassy bank. It’s idyllic.

In fact, the only complaint I have about the ground is that I am never sure whether the bar in the clubhouse behind the goal is open to everyone or whether it’s just for club officials. I have hovered around it a few times but never felt sure about going in and getting a drink. Talking to other occasional spectators at this game, I know I am not the only one who is unsure about it. In the end, I normally solve the problem by going to get a cup of tea – I know I am allowed in the tea hut!

However, until this match, I had never been to a cup game at Gala. This was too good an opportunity to miss, especially as they were playing against renowned cup battlers Godolphin Atlantic, who have reached four cup finals in the past two seasons, winning one of them. The low point of their final appearances definitely came in this competition last campaign, when they were hammered 7-0 by all-conquering Bodmin Town, the biggest win in the Senior Cup final for more than a century.

They also lost to Bodmin in the final of last season’s Carlsberg South West Peninsula League Walter C Parson Funeral Directors League Cup – you knew I’d get that competition in somehow!

And I am going to mention it again now. You see, because of The G’s stunning cup record over the past two seasons, I have seen a lot of them in action but have always somehow managed to focus more on the opposition than them. Even this season, I saw them beat local rivals Newquay in a CSWPLWCPFD cup contest but was focused more on the trials and tribulations facing The Peppermints rather than Godolphin’s victory.

So this tie gave me the chance to go one of my favourite towns, visit a lovely ground, and give Godolphin another look and a bit more attention. Perfect.

The superb park bench seating arrangements at Porthleven's delightful Gala Parc ground.
The superb park bench seating arrangements at Porthleven’s delightful Gala Parc ground.

The matchday programme had an interesting article about 120 years of football at Porthleven and another about Vidal James, Mr Porthleven AFC, who has been involved with Port for an astonishing 62 years. Godolphin, by contrast, were only founded in 1980 and their rise through the ranks has seen some people get a bit sniffy about them, branding them one-generation wonders and expecting them to fade away some time fairly soon.

They deserve much more credit than that. Their cup exploits in the past couple of seasons alone should earn them more respect than that, not to mention the fact that they have become firmly established in the Peninsula League Premier Division. And their Godolphin Way ground is being improved all the time, with state-of-the-art dug-outs, floodlights and a new stand all added in the recent past.

No, this is a club that has come a long way in a short time and looks set to be a big part of the Cornish football scene for many years to come. It’s time everyone else got used to that.

They also play in an Argentina-type strip of pale blue and white and that always makes me think of my mum. She loves those colours. When I was a boy, we had a mascot from the 1978 World Cup, which was in pride of place on the kitchen windowsill, looking resplendent in that famous kit. We had to put a paper bag over him during the Falklands conflict.

That kit, though, is just another reason why I have a soft spot for the G-Army.

But they don’t always help themselves.

They can always be a bit spiky, both on and off the pitch. Although I think it’s done with tongue firmly in cheek, it has been known to wind up people from other clubs. And on Saturday, they weren’t just a bit spiky, they were properly grumpy and out of sorts throughout. Their cup fighting spirit went missing for most of the afternoon.

But that’s to take nothing away from the home side, who were simply superb.

Port belied their mid-table position in the Peninsula League Division One West by turning in a sparkling performance which, for most of the match, left their Premier Division opponents at sixes and sevens. And when Godolphin finally started piling on the pressure for the final twenty minutes, Port dug deep and battled hard to keep them out. They were impressive.

Their performance was also a bonus for the tea hut volunteers, as one of them explained at half-time. For a league game, they make chilli and rice for the players to enjoy after the match and that takes up most of their attention during the second 45 minutes. However, with this being a cup game with the possibility of extra time, they didn’t know when the players might want feeding and they didn’t want to risk ruining the chilli. So they settled for making burgers instead. That took less time and meant they could watch more of the second half. Result.

Looking towards the clubhouse end at Porthlevens delightful Gala Parc.
Looking towards the clubhouse end at Porthleven’s delightful Gala Parc.

However, there were moments during the second 45 that they would have been peering through the gloom to see the action at the far end. Port’s floodlights seem to have been an issue this season and they weren’t switched on for this game. The light faded rapidly during the second half and things weren’t helped by a dark cloud which sat over Gala Parc for much of it. There even appeared to be a call from the visiting sidelines to get the game stopped at one stage but the cloud lifted and the scene was brighter at the final whistle than it had been with 20 minutes to go.

Sadly for Godolphin, the gloom never really lifted for them all afternoon. They fell behind after just 12 minutes when failing to clear a corner and the tone was set for the rest of the game.

It was a fast-paced first half, with a gutsy Port playing some lovely football while The G looked disjointed, although they did come close to levelling matters when an effort rattled the bar. Just before the break, though, the cup shock looked to really be on when the home side, who were generally the smaller of the two teams, scored again from a corner. That summed up Godolphin’s performance, really.

For a few moments at the start of the second half it looked as if the shock might be off again as the visitors pulled a goal back but, just three minutes later, Porthleven restored their two-goal lead and it was back on.

By the 65th minute the “cupset” was virtually sealed as the lower division side made it 4-1, again from a corner. Godolphin did manage to dominate the remainder of the game but they could not find a goal to get their momentum going and the cup fighters of the past two seasons had been well and truly knocked out. Port had sailed through and, for me, had put in just about the best performance I had seen from any team this season.

A lovely town, a lovely ground and a big upset – yes, the cup football stars were well and truly aligned on this Cornish December day. Superb.

Looking towards the harbour end at Porthlevens lovely little Gala Parc ground.
Looking towards the harbour end at Porthleven’s lovely little Gala Parc ground.

FOOTNOTE 1: Godolphin’s cup week didn’t any get better on the following Wednesday night when they were dumped out of the Walter C Parson Cup, going down 4-0 to holders Bodmin in a repeat of last season’s final. It will be interesting to see how The G’s season goes from now on without the impetus and excitement of cup football. It’s a big test for them.

FOOTNOTE 2: This cup tie was played in the days following the horrific plane crash in Colombia which virtually wiped out Brazilian football team Chapecoense. A minute’s silence in memory of those killed was impeccably observed before the game, in common with scenes at grounds big and small across the country. That’s the football family at its very best and it was a privilege to be part of it.

FOOTNOTE 3: If you have any comments about this blog, email me at thecupfootballblogger@hotmail.com, find me on Twitter via @cupfootballblog, or on Facebook – search for Peter Harlow.

The beginnings of a cup upset. Porthleven in yellow) are about to take the lead against their higher-ranked opponents Godolphin Atlantic as this ball into the box isnt cleared. They never looked back. Note the proper photographer, Darren, getting a much closer look at the action.
The beginnings of a cup upset. Porthleven (in yellow) are about to take the lead against their higher-ranked opponents Godolphin Atlantic as this ball into the box isn’t cleared. They never looked back. Note the proper photographer, Darren, getting a much closer look at the action.

 

Man On A Mission

Truro City 6 Frome Town 1

The Buildbase FA Trophy Third Qualifying Round

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Cup Magic Moment: Being so pleased that this match, which was one of three I might have gone to, didn’t turn out to be a dreary goalless draw – especially as the other two games had a combined total of 18 goals!

Game over: The net bulges as "Rocky" Neal slots home a penalty to make it 3-0 to Truro City in their home FA Trophy clash with Frome Town. There was no way back for the visitors, who eventually went down 6-1.
Game over: The net bulges as “Rocky” Neal slots home a penalty to make it 3-0 to Truro City in their home FA Trophy clash with Frome Town. There was no way back for the visitors, who eventually went down 6-1.

WHEN I set out on this cup-only footballing odyssey a season and a half ago, my “mission” was to prove that there is always something extra special about knockout football, something that raises it above the regular drama of a run-of-the-mill league encounter.

Sometimes, that can be a bit of a hard sell.

We’ve all seen the small crowds at games in the early rounds of the FA Cup “proper” and the sparsely populated stands in the early stages of the League Cup, not to mention the much-derided Checkatrade Trophy (I said don’t mention that!) But now that lack of spectator passion for the early stages of cup competitions seems to have slipped even further down the footballing ladder.

Saturday’s encounter at Treyew Road, home of Truro City, was a case in point. Cornwall’s White Tigers, who are mid-table in the National League South, were drawn at home to Frome Town, who stood sixth in the Southern League Premier Division. In Football League terms, it was the equivalent of Bristol City v Peterborough United. Hmm.

Truro obviously thought it would be a hard sell, too, as admission prices had been reduced, down from £13 to a tenner. Now, you could argue that £13 is already a bit of a stiff ask for non-league football, especially on “Black Friday” weekend when, supposedly, no one has any money, but even the more reasonable £10 didn’t have the footballing folk of the far South West flocking to the game.

According to the National League’s official website, City’s average home gate this season is 376. On Saturday, there were just 269 paying customers. Well, the 107 who stayed away or went Christmas shopping instead, should be kicking themselves. They missed a glut of goals, City’s biggest win of the season and the sort of goalkeeping howler that you see about once a season and, provided it’s not your keeper who makes it, is always good for a laugh.

And they missed Truro taking a step closer to a Wembley final. OK, so that’s not a massively likely thing to happen but it is also not beyond the bounds of reasonable possibility. If they do make it all the way to the final, it will make this game a much more special “I was there moment” for those of us who saw it. That’s why you should always give a game a go – you never know where it might lead you. That’s where your spirit of footballing adventure should come in.

However, I felt my own adventurous spirit was lacking a bit on matchday. You see, I drive to Truro every day for work and doing it again at the weekend didn’t really appeal. My first choice of match had been St Dominic v Torpoint in the Cornwall Senior Cup. But, suffering as I was from a nasty dose of “man flu” (it’s horrible), I decided that the drive to that game was too much to contend with.

So I turned my attention to Lanner v AFC Bodmin in the Cornwall Junior Cup, which was much closer to home. But it looked like the ground might be in a field at the top of a hill with not much cover. I had never been there and, with my delicate health (!), I just couldn’t take the risk.

So I chickened out, put most of my spirit of adventure in a bottle at the back of the cupboard, and headed for the familiar setting of Treyew Road, where I have seen dozens of games over the years.

What happened next? Well, the defender didn't get the ball, Truro's Niall Thompson went down and the ref pointed to the spot. It was a stonewall penalty.
What happened next? Well, the defender didn’t get the ball, Truro’s Niall Thompson went down and the ref pointed to the spot. It was a stonewall penalty.

At first, it didn’t seem like a wise decision. The sparse crowd meant that there wasn’t a huge sense of occasion and the game itself took a while to kick into action. What if this turns into the first 0-0 I’ve seen while doing this blog, I wondered. What if the other games I could have gone to produced an amazing avalanche of goals? What if I had got it all wrong?

This enjoying yourself can be stressful at times.

Twitter wasn’t helping. Truro kicked off at 3pm, the other two games at 2pm, and I could soon see that they weren’t going to end goalless! What made it worse, was that St Dominic looked like they might pull off a cup shock against their higher-ranked visitors. As it happened, it finished 4-4 with Torpoint winning 8-4 after extra time. Eight-four!

The East v West clash in the Junior Cup also saw the goals flying in, Lanner eventually running out 4-2 winners against AFC Bodmin. This Truro game had a lot to live up to.

For the first 20 minutes, though, the goals didn’t come and the biggest point of interest for me was the presence of two New Zealanders in the White Tigers’ line-up. Truro might seem a long way south to the teams who have to visit it this season, but New Zealand is really stretching it!

So how have the brilliantly named Zane Sole and Erik Panzer ended up in deepest Cornwall? The link is Rory Fallon, the NZ international who is now City’s player-coach and who has plenty of South West links, including time spent at Plymouth Argyle. Sole and Panzer have now followed him to Treyew Road to try to make their names in the game. That is the proper spirit of footballing adventure. Imagine if Truro did manage to make it to Wembley and had three Kiwis in their ranks? That would definitely put the players and The White Tigers on the world footballing map.

The stands weren't exactly packed for Truro City's FA Trophy tie with Frome Town.
The stands weren’t exactly packed for Truro City’s FA Trophy tie with Frome Town.

All those sort of thoughts were a distant dream for the first 20 minutes or so, though, as Frome played the better football without ever really threatening and Truro struggled to find any rhythm at all. It looked ominously nil-nilish. Then, in the 25th minute, City’s Durrell Berry (another great name) burst into the Frome box, slowed down just enough for the chasing player to bundle into him, went over and the ref pointed to the spot. Niall Thompson slotted home the penalty and my fears of a goalless game were banished.

Frome, who had played some neat football up to that point, then showed they also had a decent capacity for self-destruction. Yes, it was a soft penalty but no amount of arguing was going to change the ref’s mind. Three minutes later they were still feeling sorry for themselves and lacked the concentration to mark a surprised Aaron Bentley, who neatly finished to make it 2-0.

The tie was over just minutes after the break when another penalty, this one much more obvious (especially as the trip happened right in front of me) made it 3-0, “Rocky” Neal the scorer this time. Adding to the list of great Truro names, River Allen soon made it 4-0 and he got the fifth just after that when a spectacular air shot just outside his box by Frome keeper Kyle Phillips left Allen clean through to roll the ball home. Oh how we laughed! Goalkeeping howlers can be so much fun for everyone else.

The visitors deserved something from the game and did manage to pull one goal back but this tie then drifted towards it’s already inevitable conclusion. There was still time for Bentley to get his second and City’s sixth to wrap up proceedings and that was that.

It probably won’t be a game that lives long in the memory of those hardy souls who were there but, if it does spark a proper cup run, then at least we can all say “I was there” when it all began. There’s always a little magic sprinkled about if you know where to look.

Action from the FA Trophy clash between Truro City in white) and Frome Town. The bar area behind the goal was one of the more populated parts of the ground!
Action from the FA Trophy clash between Truro City (in white) and Frome Town. The bar area behind the goal was one of the more populated parts of the ground!
The stands weren't exactly packed for Truro City's FA Trophy tie with Frome Town.
The stands weren’t exactly packed for Truro City’s FA Trophy tie with Frome Town.

FOOTNOTE: If you have any comments on this blog, email me at thecupfootballblogger.wordpress.com, find me on Twitter via @cupfootballblog, or search for “Peter Harlow” on Facebook.

 

 

 

Tre, Pol And Pen … (Well, Not Tre)

 

Polperro 4 Penzance 1

Durning Lawrence Cornwall Charity Cup First Round

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Cup Magic Moment: Actually getting to a game early for once, a seasonal debut for the woolly hat at the start of the second half, and the second cup shock in successive matches.

Low autumn sunlight shines on the action from the Cornwall Charity Cup clash between Polperro (green) and Penzance.
Low autumn sunlight shines on the action from the Cornwall Charity Cup clash between Polperro (green) and Penzance.

I ONCE caused a bit of an incident in a Polperro tearoom.

I was backpacking along the South Coast for a few weeks one summer and my bulky rucksack contained everything I needed for the adventure – including a sleeping bag and a tent. The bag was a bit big.

But one day, after a lovely wander in the summer heat, the lure of a gorgeous little tearoom by Polperro’s harbour was just too much to resist. I squeezed into a seat by the door, tucked my backpack in as far as it would go, and tried to look inconspicuous.

It didn’t work.

First, a lady with a baby in a buggy wanted to edge past and I had to squeeze myself in even further. Then another lady of a certain age gently brushed against the backpack and gave me a “look”. This was followed by some tutting.

I gulped down my scones, swigged my tea, and got out before things turned nasty. Phew!

That was thirty years ago. I thought that, by now, it might be safe to go back to Polperro and make my peace with this lovely little Cornish town. The opportunity to watch a cup football match at the same time just added to the feeling that it was time to return to the scene of the crime.

Well, near the scene of the crime anyway. Having got directions from Polperro AFC manager Matt Pengelly (can you imagine ringing up Arsene Wenger and asking the way to the Emirates?) I realised that I wouldn’t have to go down to the harbour at all as the club’s Killigarth ground is on the hill above it. My full redemption would have to wait a little while longer.

No need for a caption to this - oh, too late.
No need for a caption to this – oh, too late.

Polperro play in the Mortgage Advice Bureau East Cornwall League, step eight of the non-league pyramid, and are one of the 16 teams invited to play in this season’s Cornwall Charity Cup. They are their league’s sole representatives, alongside St Agnes and Ludgvan from the Cornwall Combination, also at step eight, and 13 teams from the Carlsberg South West Peninsula League Division One West.

That step seven competition is where Penzance ply their trade, and it’s not been a great season for them. When this match kicked off they were 17th out of the 18 teams in the table – a cup shock was definitely in the air.

Now, I have lived in Cornwall for six years, and have been to a fair few games in that time, but this was definitely the most Cornish encounter so far. Polperro v Penzance – how Cornish does that actually sound? There is an old rhyme that goes: “By Tre Pol and Pen, Shall ye know all Cornishmen”, reflecting the prevalence of those prefixes in names of places and people across the county.

Well, here we had the Pol (from the Cornish word meaning pond or lake, apparently) and Pen (that’s a headland or a hill) although there was a lack of Tre’s (settlement). I suppose two out of Tre ain’t bad.

So we had Cornwall, we had cups, we had memories of a much-loved holiday, but would we have a feast of footballing fun to go along with it all?

Early signs weren’t that promising. The entry fee was £2, to be paid into an honesty box that was sitting on the bar in the neat little clubhouse. I duly and dutifully paid my dues – bringing the grand total in the bucket at the time up to £4. I don’t think we were looking at breaking any attendance records!

Action from the Cornwall Charity Cup clash between Polperro (green) and Penzance. The white building is the clubhouse.
Action from the Cornwall Charity Cup clash between Polperro (green) and Penzance. The white building in the background is the clubhouse.

Still, the numbers did grow a bit as kick-off neared and then we were into the action and I soon wished my Dad was there to see it. As football fans, we all have little things that really niggle us about the game, whether it be people feigning injury, managers shouting at refs all the time, or even goalkeepers wearing tops that clash with those of their own side and/or the opposition. That last one really annoys me.

With my Dad, it’s foul throws.

He doesn’t like throw-ins taken from the wrong place and he doesn’t like them being taken incorrectly. You go to a game with him and he mentions it quite a lot. He would have liked this ref, though. He must have blown up for at least six foul throws in the first half alone – and was right to do so every time. I have never seen so many given in one match which just goes to show that, no matter what level of the game you are watching, there is always the capacity for something new and interesting to happen. Well, interesting to me…

For a while during the evenly contested first half, though, it did look like throw-ins might be the day’s major topic of conversation as neither side could find the way to goal. Penzance started well and it needed a top save by the home keeper to keep them out, but Polperro gradually got back into the game and it then needed a fine goalkeeping effort at the other end to keep it scoreless.

So, 0-0 at half-time and I was looking forward to a nice cup of warming tea at half-time – until I realised that the £2 I had put in the bucket at the start of the game had left me short of change and I couldn’t afford one. So I contented myself with swapping my baseball cap for my winter woolly hat and marching around to the other side of the ground to try to keep warm.

Goalmouth action from the Cornwall Charity Cup clash between Polperro (green) and Penzance.
Goalmouth action from the Cornwall Charity Cup clash between Polperro (green) and Penzance.

However, the action on the pitch at the start of the second half really did heat up quickly and warmed the cockles of our footballing hearts nicely – unless you were from Penzance. The home side took the lead on 49 minutes when a long clearance from the keeper started a quick, direct move which ended up with the ball being swept into the net. Ten minutes later, a headed goal made it 2-0 to Polperro and the shock was most definitely on.

Two minutes after that, the Polperro keeper launched another high ball from his own box, dropping out of the lowering sun towards the edge of the Penzance area. The ensuing havoc led to a hasty challenge, a penalty and the third goal. Now it seemed just a matter of how many Polperro would win by as Penzance started to bicker among themselves, the sure sign of a team low on confidence.

But the visitors deserve a lot of credit for getting themselves together after losing three goals in such quick succession and started to play some of their best football of the match. They were only denied a goal by a brilliant Polperro save but did pull one back in the 74th minute with a cross-cum-shot. So was the comeback on, would the cup shock not be the lower side beating the higher-ranked one but a side coming back from three down to force late excitement?

No.

Try as they might, Penzance could not a find a way through again and, with more and more players pushing upfield, they were caught out at the back for a final time four minutes from the end. It was 4-1 to Polperro and the cup shock was complete.

I think reporting on their football team pulling off a great win like that should see me forgiven by the tutting people of Polperro now, don’t you? Give it another thirty years and I might even make it back down to the harbour!

Action from the Cornwall Charity Cup clash between Polperro (green) and Penzance. The white building is the clubhouse.
Action from the Cornwall Charity Cup clash between Polperro (green) and Penzance. The white building is the clubhouse.

FOOTNOTE: If you have any comments on this blog, you can email me on thecupfootballblogger@hotmail.com, or get in touch on Twitter via @cupfootballblog. I am also on Facebook.

 

Park And Pride

Falmouth Dracaena Centre 1 Falmouth Town Thirds 0

Bond Timber Cornwall Junior Cup Second Round

Saturday, October 29, 2016.

Cup Magic Moment: A top-drawer goal to settle a hard-fought encounter. And some cracking long throws (more of that later).

There was definitely an autumn (or fall) feel to this Cornwall Junior Cup clash between Famouth Dracaena Centre (in yellow) and Falmouth Town Thirds.
There was definitely an autumn (or fall) feel to this Cornwall Junior Cup clash between Falmouth Dracaena Centre (in yellow) and Falmouth Town Thirds.

IN SPORTING parlance, the baseball World Series is often referred to as the Fall Classic. It was definitely a classic this year as the Chicago Cubs finally won the title for the first time in a gazillion years – which was a bit galling for fans, like me, of the beaten Cleveland Indians. Gutted.

Back on the football field, last season I tried to brand a Carlsberg South West Peninsula League Walter C Parson Funeral Directors League Cup tie between Falmouth Town and their near-neighbours Penryn Athletic as the Fal Classico – without a great deal of success.

So, on this final Saturday in October, I decided to combine the two names, or rather reclaim them for a different purpose.

If we accept that, sometimes, the Americans do things to the English language that are actually worth listening to, this really was a fall classic as two sides fought it out against a backdrop of colour-changing trees and fallen autumn leaves.

And the name Fal Classico was probably more apt for this encounter than last year’s. Falmouth and Penryn are two distinct towns, even if the border between them is sometimes blurred – it’s generally agreed to be just by Lidl’s. But these two teams are not only both from Falmouth, they both play in the same park, Dracaena Park to be exact.

Falmouth Dracaena Centre play on pitch number one while Town Thirds play their home games on pitch two. As local derbies go, this was very local indeed.

And it was also local to me; local enough, in fact, for me to walk to the game, the second time I have done that this season. For some reason, being able to walk to a match makes me feel quite smug. I would have felt even more smug (smugger?) if I had arrived at Dracaena without my coat, jumper and trousers being covered in bird poo. I was targeted by a gull just a couple of minutes from the ground and was still trying to clean it up and recover my equilibrium when I arrived.

Whenever you are poo-ed on by a bird, someone always tells you that it’s lucky. No it’s not. Whoever first came up with that thought deserves to be drowned in a bucket of the stuff. Or at least sentenced to a term of imprisonment at Guano-tanamo Bay (I’ll get my coat).

The state of my jumper after an encounter with a gull. No, I didn't feel lucky at all.
The state of my jumper after an encounter with a gull. No, I didn’t feel lucky.

On my cup footballing travels, I often end up in obscure and slightly out-of-the-way places, but not this time. Anyone who has ever been to Falmouth will know Dracaena Avenue and the park on it, even if they don’t realise how much football goes on there. It is the main road into town and gets its name from the type of palm trees which grow along it. So now you know.

You also need to know that this tie was a ripe choice for a cup shock. Town Thirds play in the Trelawny League Division Two while Falmouth DC, having dropped out of the Cornwall Combination a couple of years back, started at the bottom again and are now in Trelawny League Division Three.

And that’s DC as in Dracaena Centre, not as in District of Columbia. There was no Trump bigotry or errant Clinton emailing here, just a bigly contested derby and a result which both sides were prepared to accept at the final whistle. I think it’s also fair to say that the media coverage had no impact on the outcome of this contest.

So to the game itself. One of the undoubted highlights, and one of DC’s most unusual attacking options, was the number five’s long throws. In true Rory Delap style, he could hurl the ball from halfway inside the opposition half all the way to the penalty spot.

But what made it funny was the geography of the park. Dracaena is in a hilly setting, with steep banks around two sides of pitch number one. The thrower employed a long run-up before launching the ball and it was quite entertaining to see him run down the hill before letting it go. And also quite nerve-racking. Coming down the slope at that sort of speed, he could hurt himself if he fell over. Mind you, seeing him tumble would still be funny!

I wonder if it was a tactic – make the defence laugh at the absurdity of it all, thus losing concentration? If so, it didn’t work on the Town players who would obviously have seen it all before. They defended the throw-ins pretty well throughout.

High point. Watching from the hill behind the goal. Watching a Falmouth Dracaena Centre player running down the slope on the right to take long throws was most entertaining!
High point. Spectating from the hill behind the goal. Watching a Falmouth Dracaena Centre player running down the slope on the right to take long throws was most entertaining!

It actually took a simply superb strike to beat the visiting defence and settle this cup battle. Step forward Jack Froud. The DC man’s 25-yard right-footer on the half-hour flew into the top corner, giving the keeper absolutely no chance. It was a goal worthy of winning any game – and proved once again that, no matter what level of football you are watching, there is always the chance of something truly outstanding and memorable happening. I don’t think I will see a better struck goal all season.

Five minutes later, and Falmouth Thirds must have begun to realise that it wasn’t going to be their day. Having already missed one great chance to level, a second effort struck the post and stayed out. Heads were left shaking all round.

They could also have been reduced to ten men on the hour mark but the ref decided that a two-footed tackle only merited a yellow card rather than a red. A number of the DC players, including the victim, were furious at that decision, and I think I would have to agree with them. Certainly at a higher level of the game, the ref would have had little choice but to show the red card.

That was the only real flashpoint of what was a hard-fought but fairly contested derby clash. Town dominated the final 30 minutes but could not find an equaliser. There were chances and scrambles and DC breakaways but no more goals. The closest Town came was with their own long-distance effort which went oh so close to emulating Mr Froud’s match-winning effort. It drew a fantastic selection of oohs and aahs from those watching on the touchline but it couldn’t draw the game.

DC were through and had pulled off their cup shock on what was a thoroughly entertaining afternoon. A Fal Classico indeed.

They shall not pass. Falmouth DC, in yellow, were determined to hang on to their one-goal lead against neighbours Falmouth Town thirds.
They shall not pass. Falmouth DC, in yellow, were determined to hang on to their one-goal lead against neighbours Falmouth Town thirds.
Crowd scene.
Crowd scene.
Taking the high ground for a view of Falmouth Dracaena Centre v Falmouth Town Thirds in the Cornwall Junior Cup.
Taking the high ground for a view of Falmouth Dracaena Centre v Falmouth Town Thirds in the Cornwall Junior Cup.

FOOTNOTE: If you have any comments or thoughts on this article, email me at thecupfootballblogger@hotmail.com, find me on Twitter via @cupfootballblog, or Facebook via thecupfootballblogger