Wendron United 2 Falmouth Town 1
Carlsberg South West Peninsula League Walter C Parson Funeral Directors League Cup First Round
Saturday, September 17, 2016
Cup magic moment: A cup shock, at last a proper cup shock. After a year and a bit of watching knockout football, this was the first proper cup upset I had seen. Well done, Wendron (and commiserations to Falmouth Town, a club for which I have a lot of time).
I NEED to put some voices in your head. Well, just one voice. An unfeasibly deep, slightly husky, slightly over-excited, slightly scary voice. A film trailer voice. And then imagine that voice growling the following sentence:
“IT’S BACK, AND IT’S BIGGER AND BETTER THAN EVER”.
Well, actually, I don’t think it is bigger, I think it is much the same size as last season. And who can say whether it will be better, as it has only just started. But one thing is for sure, it IS back.
What is, I hear you cry? (That must be the voices in my head).
Well, it’s the Non League football competition with simply the best name I have ever heard and which has been a mainstay of my footballing adventure over the past 13 months. Yes, you all know what it is. It’s The Carlsberg South West Peninsula League Walter C Parson Funeral Directors League Cup. Whoo hoo!
What’s more, this was a tie between two teams which have played a big part in my cup odyssey so far, Wendron United, from Division One West of the Peninsula League, and their near-neighbours Falmouth Town from that competition’s Premier Division.
Their two grounds are just over five miles apart but there is a much greater distance between the histories of these two clubs.
Wendron are the new boys on the block. This year, the club is celebrating a mere 30 years in existence but it has packed a lot into that short time. It has a burgeoning youth set-up – from under-8s upwards – and many a local player has taken their first tentative footballing steps on the pitches at the ever-improving Underlane set-up.
The first team were in the Peninsula League once before, playing at Step Seven, but then had to drop down to the Cornwall Combination. Now they are back in Division One West, currently sitting third in the table. The future looks bright for The ‘Dron.
For Falmouth, a lot of their future has been in the past, so to speak. They are, to coin an over-used footballing term, the sleeping giants of Cornish football. They won the old South Western League no less than 14 times and have had some of the biggest cup moments in Cornwall’s football history.
They have reached the First Round Proper of the FA Cup three times, losing 2-1 at home to Oxford United in the 1962-63 season,going down 5-2 at Peterborough United in 1967-68, and then being defeated 4-1 when they hosted the same opposition in 1969-70. (Thank you, Football Club History Database, fchd.info, and Mike Truscott).
For the past few seasons, however, they haven’t been much of a force at all, rattling around in their big old Bickland Park ground, with not many supporters there and the team going nowhere fast.
All that, though, has started to change in the past couple of campaigns under the guidance of player-manager Andrew Westgarth. They finished just outside the top ten last season and, at the time of writing, are sitting in sixth spot. A couple of weeks ago, I went in disguise to a league match and saw them put in a very mature and astute performance in a 4-1 win over Plymouth Argyle Reserves. I was impressed.
So everything was set for an intriguing clash on Saturday – old v new, Step Seven v Step Six, a local derby. And all in my favourite cup competition. There were lots of cup games I could have gone to on Saturday but this fixture stood out a mile. I was prepared to get over-excited at Underlane.
You could tell it was a big game because they sold out of programmes. That was annoying for me and slightly annoying for the club because they could have sold more, but it did show the attraction of the fixture.
There was even a former AC Milan (youth) player in the Falmouth line-up, Marcello Jones. How many of them do you normally get to see in a local league cup match?
Have I over-hyped it enough yet? The movie trailer voice in my head needs to calm down a bit.
Well, for the first few minutes, it appeared that neither side had read the script as the higher-ranked, white-shirted visitors started the stronger. Incidentally, does anyone know why Falmouth, who usually play in yellow and black, felt the need to change strip against their red-and-blue-striped hosts? I know professional clubs now have “home” and “away” kits rather than “change” kits, something which really irritates me as it is done purely for the money, but that can’t have filtered down to Step Six can it? I sincerely hope not.
Then, after nine minutes, came the first twist in the tale. The home side broke forward, an effort on goal was parried and the follow-up was tapped in for the opener. Game on.
Soon after, a second Wendron “goal” was disallowed for offside. I was 100 yards away at the other end so I can’t tell you what sort of decision that was but I can tell you that I had my customary embarrassing “ball retrieval” moment not long afterwards. A Falmouth shot went wide and I jogged about ten yards to get the ball. I tried kicking it back to the ‘Dron keeper but it hit the barrier and ended up further away than when I started. I had to go to get it again but threw it back this time. Fortunately, the goalie saw the funny side of my ineptitude.
I must find more sensible places to watch from in future.
While I recovered my composure, Falmouth also recovered theirs and forced home an equaliser from a corner in the 31st minute. It had been coming.
But Wendron produced another twist after 36 minutes. Centre-forward Mike O’Neill produced some neat footwork in midfield to set up another home attack, and then produced more twinkled-toed precision to round the keeper and put the cup shock back on track. It brought to mind the phrase so beloved of footballing pundits everywhere when describing a clever piece of play on the ground by a player whose head is closer to the clouds – “He’s got good feet for a big man.”
His feet were not quite so good right on the stroke of half-time when he raced clear but blasted over with just the keeper to beat. He had another great chance in the 69th minute when he rounded the keeper but his effort hit the post and was eventually scrambled away for a corner.
Would those two incidents prove to be turning points in the story of this cup thriller, would they be key to the final outcome? No. The crucial moment in this footballing tale came in the 74th minute. Falmouth were awarded a penalty for a trip just inside the box but the home keeper dived to his right to push away the resultant spot-kick and the home crowd let rip the biggest roar of the day.
Falmouth pushed on to the end, with a series of corners and free-kicks leading to a series of goalmouth scrambles, and there were even 11 minutes of added time following two long injury delays, but most of us in the ground now knew how this script would end – Falmouth’s chance had gone and Wendron would enjoy a happy ending.
This was a cracking cup story. I am looking forward to some exciting sequels in the months to come.
*This is the tagline from the 1996 film Fargo. Wendron is not in the middle of nowhere – but there’s not a lot around it!
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