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!
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.
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.
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.
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