A Lot Can Happen In The Middle Of Nowhere*

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).

Falmouth Town white shirts) clear a corner in their Carlsberg South West Peninsula League Walter C Parson Funeral Directors League Cup clash.
Falmouth Town (white shirts) clear a corner in their Carlsberg South West Peninsula League Walter C Parson Funeral Directors League Cup clash away at Wendron United.

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.

The Wendron forward on the right of the picture looks certain to score having rounded the Falmouth Town keeper but this effort came back off the post and was eventually scrambled clear.
The Wendron forward on the right of the picture looks certain to score having rounded the Falmouth Town keeper but his effort came back off the post and was eventually scrambled clear.

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.

2016 is a special anniversary year for Wendron FC.
2016 is a special anniversary year for Wendron United.

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!

Carlsberg South West Peninsula League Walter C Parson Funeral Directors League Cup action from Wendron dark shirts) v Falmouth Town. The home side pulled off a shock cup victory.
Carlsberg South West Peninsula League Walter C Parson Funeral Directors League Cup action from Wendron (dark shirts) v Falmouth Town. The home side pulled off a shock cup victory.
Wendron dark shirts) defending a corner in their Carlsberg South West Peninsula League Walter C Parson Funeral Directors League Cup clash with neighbours Falmouth Town.
Wendron (dark shirts) defending a corner in their Carlsberg South West Peninsula League Walter C Parson Funeral Directors League Cup clash with neighbours Falmouth Town.
Carlsberg South West Peninsula League Walter C Parson Funeral Directors League Cup action from Wendron dark shirts) v Falmouth Town. The home side pulled off a shock cup victory.
Carlsberg South West Peninsula League Walter C Parson Funeral Directors League Cup action from Wendron (dark shirts) v Falmouth Town. The home side pulled off a shock cup victory.

NOTE: If you have any comments on this piece, email me on thecupfootballblogger@hotmail.com, find me on Twitter, via @cupfootblog, or on Facebook, via thecupfootballblogger.

 

 

A Shot In The Dark

Perranporth Reserves 2 St Agnes Reserves 2

St Agnes Reserves won 4-3 on penalties

(Although it might have been 3-2, I sort of lost count while trying to get a picture).

Trelawny League, Division One League Cup

Monday, September 5, 2016

Cup magic moment: In 41 cup matches last season, I did not see one penalty shoot-out. In only my second game of this campaign I was finally treated to the painful entertainment of sport’s toughest tie-break. And the St Agnes keeper’s superb save from the very first spot-kick was the real highlight of the night.

Despair for the Perranporth keeper as he looks at the ball in the back of the net. The St Agnes penalty scorer turns away having put away his spot-kick.
Despair for the Perranporth keeper as he looks at the ball in the back of the net. The St Agnes penalty scorer turns away having put away his spot-kick.

SOMETIMES, the search for a cup game, especially this early in the season, gets a bit – well, let’s just say that it can take you down some of football’s less well-trodden highways and byways.

Yes, there have already been games in the FA Cup (Cornwall has only one team left in that competition, Truro City, who haven’t played in it yet this season but who have been drawn away to Winchester in the next round) as well as the League Cup, sorry EFL Cup, and the much-derided EFL Trophy, sorry Checkatrade Trophy.

But there hasn’t been a great deal of cup action in the Duchy yet. And that’s why I found myself in Perranporth on a Monday night after work.

Now, let me say straightaway, that I have nothing against visiting Perranporth and their tidy little Ponsmere Valley ground. I have been there a couple of times before and have always liked it.

Once, I was the entire Okehampton Argyle away support there. That was a couple of seasons back when the Dartmoor club was forced to play a season in the Carlsberg South West Peninsula League Division One West as there was a preponderance of Devon sides across the competition.

When I first moved to the South West, about ten years ago, I lived in Okehampton and they became my team. I have never seen them win away (I haven’t seen them win much at home, either) and that sad record didn’t change on that day. Oke lost.

Since then, both the teams on display in that match have dropped down a division, Oke to the Devon & Exeter League for this campaign and Perranporth a couple of seasons back to the Cornwall Combination. So my Monday night excursion to the Cornish north coast must be for a game in the Combination League Cup then, I hear you cry.

Er, no.

I stepped down even further to see Perran’s reserves take on the second string from their near-neighbours St Agnes in the Trelawny League’s Division One League Cup First Round.

The Combination is Step 8 on the non-league ladder with the Trelawny Premier at Step 9, the highest level of so-called “junior” football. I suppose that makes Trelawny Division One Step 10. If a team playing at this level this season was to win 13 consecutive promotions, they could be playing Manchester United in the Premier League in about 2030!

Monday night cup football: Early action from Perranporth reserves dark shirts) and St Agnes reserves in the Trelawny Leagues League Cup.
Monday night cup football: Early action from Perranporth Reserves (dark shirts) and St Agnes Reserves in the Trelawny League’s League Cup.

So I wasn’t expecting the highest quality of football but what I got was proper cup drama. I have only been to two cup games so far this campaign and they have both been real crackers.

And the referee has managed to get heavily involved both times as well. In the FA Cup game at Bodmin which kicked off my season, three players were red-carded. There were no sendings-off this time but there were at least five yellow cards, all of them, I believe, for dissent, and the first three of them all to Perranporth players and all in the same incident. I can safely say I have never seen anything quite like that before.

But perhaps something like that just might have been expected. Just before kick-off, I overheard one of the Aggies’ players being told: “Keep your mouth shut, this ref is card-happy.” They proved to be wise words, and ones which the visitors heeded until two of them managed to talk themselves into the book in the final ten minutes. Will players never learn?

So to the game itself. The first contender for my cup magic moment came midway through the first half. The Perran keeper made a really good save from a header but, about a minute later, he was beaten by a deflected effort which gave Aggies the lead. That meant that my run of not seeing a goalless draw in a cup match would extend to at least 43 games. That’s definitely a bit magical.

Four minutes into the second half and the visitors were 2-0 up and it looked like the contest might be over. I should have known better, though. This is cup football, after all, and the only thing predictable about that is that it is unpredictable. Just before the hour mark, Perranporth pulled a goal back. Before that, St Agnes had hit the bar twice and, just after the home side’s opener, the visitors were convinced that they had scored a third but the ref ruled that the ball didn’t go over the line.

Neat and tidy Ponsmere Valley might be, but there’s no goal-line technology here!

The crowd.
The crowd.

With five minutes to go, that decision came back to haunt the visitors as the home side levelled. Even then, St Agnes had time to hit the bar again before the final whistle went. Had they blown their chance? Were the cup football gods frowning on the Saints? Well, the gods would have had to have had pretty good eyesight as the light was rapidly fading – there was a lovely sunset over the town – and there were no floodlights to alleviate the rapidly descending gloom.

So, with the scores level after 90 minutes, there was no time for extra-time and, to my delight, we went straight to penalties. I had been waiting for a shootout for over a year. It felt like it was a box that needed ticking and now I could. That was certainly a magic moment.

Sad but true.

In an over-excited blogging mood, I moved to the end of the ground where the spot-kicks were being taken and spent my time trying to get a decent picture of the drama on my phone. In among concentrating on that, I lost count of the score. When I got home, I was convinced St Agnes had triumphed 4-3 but the league’s official website said it was 3-2. I still think I am right but it’s not often you come home from a game and are not entirely certain of the score.

It turned out to be a cup footballing night where a lot of unusual things occurred – the triple booking, the penalties, the lack of light. It just goes to show that you never know what might happen at any given game you go to, and that’s why I love it. That’s why we all love it.

I might have wandered off football’s beaten track a little bit on Monday night, but it’s a game I will remember for lots of reasons. I just need to nail down the actual score now…

No trip to Perranporth's Ponsmere Valley would be complete without this picture at the entrance to the car park.
No trip to Perranporth’s Ponsmere Valley would be complete without a picture of this at the entrance to the car park.
Monday night cup football: Early action from Perranporth reserves dark shirts) and St Agnes reserves in the Trelawny Leagues League Cup.
Action from Perranporth Reserves (dark shirts) and St Agnes Reserves in the Trelawny League Division One League Cup.
Watching from the halfway line as penalty shoot-out goes on.
Watching from the halfway line as the penalty shoot-out goes on.
The penalty shoot-out.
The penalty shoot-out.

*If you have any comments about this blog, email me at thecupfootballblogger@hotmail.com, search for @cupfootballblog on Twitter or thecupfootballblogger on Facebook.

GUEST BLOG: The Blogger’s Brother’s Bit About Barcelona

Barcelona 3 Sevilla 0 (aggregate 5-0)

Spanish Super Cup 2nd leg

Wednesday, August 17 (and Thursday, August 18), 2016

WHILE my cup football so far this season has consisted of watching Bodmin and Bideford, my brother and his beloved had a bee in their bonnet about being at Barcelona. So off they bounced to a big match. Here’s his bit about Barca. It better not be better than my blogging!

Cup magic moment: Watching Lionel Messi play live. (Tracy’s would be finally getting a cab for the rest of the journey back to the hotel).

Barcelona's Nou Camp stadium in the build-up to the second leg of the Spanish Super Cup. It's a bit bigger than Bodmin town!
Barcelona’s Nou Camp stadium in the build-up to the second leg of the Spanish Super Cup. It’s a bit bigger than Bodmin Town!

ON A HOT and balmy summer’s night, with a temperature still well above 20 degrees, a T-shirt and vest proved to be one layer too many. Shorts were definitely the right idea but maybe I should have swapped my trainers for flip-flops.

I’m obviously not talking about a game in the UK, instead I’m talking about the Nou Camp in Barcelona. A crowd of nearly 72,000, made up of dedicated fans and summer visitors, had come to see Barça play Sevilla in the second leg of the Spanish Super Cup.

As I sat with my wife, Tracy, waiting for the game to kick off, I couldn’t help wondering whether this was truly a cup game considering there were only two teams in the competition from the start and it was a two-legged affair. I was further confused by the fact that, in the plus column, this was the second leg so the cup tie would be concluded tonight but, in the negative column, and from a neutral’s point of view, was the fact that Barça were already 2-0 up from the first leg.

If you add into the mix that the whole stadium was an alcohol-free zone (which, on a hot day when a cold beer would definitely be top of my list, was not a good thing), the refreshments were very “American” offerings of popcorn and hot dogs, the bloke behind us clapped like a seal almost every 30 seconds and there were large blocks of empty seats in the top tier, it made for a very surreal occasion.

And to top that off, the match kicked off at the incredibly bizarre time of 23:00. Yes, 23:00! Which meant that the first and second halves kicked off on different days.

I later discovered that this had something to do with the fact that Champions League qualifiers were taking place earlier in the evening and the day after, and this was the only way of ensuring the tie was completed without conflicting with these matches and by the date required.

And so to the game itself. For the first nine minutes Sevilla moved the ball quickly and attacked in numbers but, despite the fact that they got through the Barça defence several times, forcing them to concede corners on three occasions, they couldn’t find the back of the net.

In the 10th minute, a neat through ball by the Argentinian Mr Messi himself, found Turkish striker Arda Turan (just Arda on the back of his shirt) running into the box and he hit a sweet left-footed shot past the keeper into the bottom right-hand corner. 1-0 Barcelona, 3-0 on aggregate, game almost certainly won there and then.

That early Barça goal really changed the tempo of the game, which Sevilla had dictated up until then. Now Barça just played touchy, touchy football and not at a great pace, which meant, for the neutral, that the game already seemed to have lost its competitive edge. Things may have got more interesting had Vicente Iborra managed to convert a penalty that Sevilla were awarded on 31 minutes for a dubious handball decision against Barça’s Samuel Umtiti, but the effort was saved comfortably by Bravo diving away to his right.

Sevilla also managed to hit the post in first-half stoppage time (still Wednesday at this point), but that was the last play of the half.

After a short search for the aforementioned hot dog and soft drinks, we sat back down to watch the second half (now being played on Thursday) and were instantly rewarded by Arda’s second goal, a lovely right-foot shot from outside the box into the top left corner. 2-0 Barça, 4-0 on aggregate.

Although Arda’s effort was superbly executed, he had way too much time to pick his spot and it was at this point that Tracy started questioning me about why no one was tackling at all. “Not sure,” was my reply. “I know it doesn’t seem very competitive but I think this is how most top leagues play these days.”

The game drifted on and it was no surprise when Barça scored again in the 55th minute. The only surprise was that the goal was scored by Mr Messi with his head, back-pedalling to loop a Lucas Digne cross back the way it had come and into the bottom corner, leaving the Sevilla keeper no chance.

Lionel Messi might be the best player in the world but even he his prone to the odd dodgy haircut. Blond. What was he thinking?
Lionel Messi might be the best player in the world but even he is prone to the odd dodgy haircut. Blond. What was he thinking?

And that was it really. Several substitutions later, and with Barça down to ten men because Mascherano had to limp off after 80 minutes, the final whistle sounded and the experience we had been looking forward to had ended. 4-0 Barça, 5-0 on aggregate.

As surreal as it was, there were two things that stuck out the most on the night. First was the realisation that, no matter how often you see him on the TV, you really have to see him play first-hand to understand just how sublime and clever a player Lionel Messi really is.

Despite the fact that his one and only free-kick effort on goal was poor (in fact, the Sevilla wall did its job really well), he commanded the game from the moment Barça went one up. He also brought out another good question from Tracy, who asked me: “Where does Messi play?” My answer was: “Well, I think he is a winger but he plays wherever he wants,” which is exactly what he did for 90 minutes.

The second thing is that you should keep an eye out for Lucas Digne, a young French wing-back who joined Barça from PSG this summer after being on loan to AS Roma last season. His speed, energy, first touch, vision and decision-making was fantastic, and the fact that he stood out in a team like Barça must mean he is something special. I’m convinced we’ll see and hear more of him in the future.

It was a great thing to experience football at this level and to see probably the best team in the world play. Barça continue to be an incredibly successful team and this Spanish Super Cup victory completed the collection of domestic trophies that they have won under coach Luis Enrique Martinez.

The Nou Camp, or Camp Nou as the Catalans call it, is a huge stadium with a perfect playing surface but I’m not exaggerating when I say that the concourse and the facilities are very plain indeed. It’s definitely not Wembley, but I would definitely go back.

And then there were the travel arrangements.

Native Barça fans probably knew the best way to and from the ground but, for the tourist, this was not so easy. Getting to the ground was straightforward enough as we caught a cab from our hotel just off Las Ramblas, but getting back was different.

Barry the blogger's brother and his wife Tracy all smiles at the Nou Camp - although they couldn't get a proper drink.
Barry the blogger’s brother and his wife Tracy all smiles at the Nou Camp – although they couldn’t get a proper drink.

Despite the fact that our hotel concierge had assured us that there would be plenty of cabs available after the game, we just had to be patient and expect a wait, and the fact that we left as soon as the final whistle sounded, there were no available cabs to be found. We were sent in three different directions by different members of the Guardia, but still no luck.

Coupled with the fact that the Metro system had closed for reasons that I just don’t understand, in the end I decided the best option, considering that it was now gone 01:00, was to start walking in the direction of our hotel in the hope we could intercept a cab on the way. Three and a half kilometres later, no available cab had appeared but we were within striking distance of our destination according to my map, which had been used by many other tourists who were trying to find their own ways back using their own shanks’s ponies.

Unfortunately, that was the point when my wife realised her flip-flops, which up to that moment seemed have been a better decision than my trainers, were not ideal walking shoes, and so we walked into a random hotel and got the kind night receptionist to call us a cab.

The fact that it took longer for the cab to arrive – at gone 02:00 –  than it would have taken us to complete the walk home is kind of irrelevant but is one that I continue to make.

It’s An Ill Wind…

Bodmin Town 1 Bideford AFC 2

FA Cup preliminary round replay

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Cup Magic Moment: Jake Ash’s lovely headed goal for Bodmin. It was the first goal of my cup season and I was delighted it was such a good one.

And we're off. Kickoff in my first cup game of the new season as Bodmin (in yellow) took on Bideford in an FA Cup preliminary round replay.
And we’re off. Kick-off in my first cup game of the new season as Bodmin (in yellow) took on Bideford in an FA Cup preliminary round replay.

FEISTY. Now that’s an interesting word. It seems to mean lots of different things to lots of different people.

Apparently it comes from an old English insult about farting dogs. I wonder how many people who describe themselves as feisty, meaning sparky and independent and generally a pain in the backside, know that?

The online version of the Oxford English Dictionary gives two definitions, one being the “lively, determined and courageous” version above and the other being “touchy and aggressive”. In the footballing world, when a match is described as feisty, the second definition is definitely the one that applies.

I think it is easily the best word to use to sum up this FA Cup replay at Bodmin’s Priory Park. It certainly wasn’t a farting dog of a cup tie,  as it was a real thriller, but touchy and aggressive it definitely was.

Step 6 Bodmin played most of the original tie up in North Devon with only ten men, having had a player sent off early on, but they still held out for a draw with their Step 4 opponents. So a cup shock was on the cards when the two sides headed for Cornwall to go again.

One of the big questions in the build-up, though, was whether a victory for Bodmin really would be a shock. After all, they won three trophies last season, including the Carlsberg South West Peninsula League title and the Walter C Parson Funeral Directors League Cup (hooray!), while Bideford suffered relegation to the Southern League’s Division One South and West.

And, before the first game, Bideford boss Sean Joyce had stirred the pot by saying that only geography prevented Bodmin from moving up through the football pyramid (an argument that has been doing the rounds in this part of the world for a while now) and he claimed the Cornish side had a bigger budget than his Devon charges.

Bodmin certainly had acquired a keeper from Bideford in the close season and, in all honesty, nobody at either game expected there to be much between the sides.

The sky that night: The Bodmin v Bideford cup clash will take some beating this season, as will this remarkable sky.
The sky that night: The Bodmin v Bideford cup clash will take some beating this season, as will this remarkable sky.

But, whatever they expected, they were certainly expectant. There were enough people there (the crowd was more than 200) to mean that I had to queue up to get in. OK, so there’s only one entrance to Bodmin’s Priory Park ground but, to me, having to line up to get in showed the draw of the FA Cup, even at this unseemingly early stage of the season.

Perhaps what we didn’t expect was just how feisty the tie would be. Two bookings in the first four minutes set the tone and we all sagely predicted then that the game wouldn’t end with 22 players on the pitch. The fact we only ended with 19 was a bit of a shock though.

So who do we blame for this rash of red cards? Well, perhaps an over-fussy referee should shoulder some of it but, to be fair, he set out his stall early on and none of his cards were absolute howlers. You could make a case that he was technically correct every time.

Perhaps he should have been concerned more with the spirit of the law rather than the letter but, once the players knew what he was like, perhaps they should have adjusted their game too. After all, going off your feet in the tackle is generally frowned upon now anyway and giving the ref the chance to give you a card, especially when he was dishing them out so liberally, was more than a bit daft.

So did all this controversy spoil the game? Not at all – it was a real humdinger of a cup tie, with chances galore at each end and the result in doubt right until the end. A proper cup cracker, especially in the first half.

The first red card came on 25 minutes, Bodmin again being reduced to ten after a mistimed tackle on the halfway line resulted in a second yellow. That was, I think, the fifth yellow of the game – an average of one every five minutes! The sixth one came just before the break, and the home side were convinced the Bideford challenge should have resulted in a red. Cue big row. As I said, feisty.

In among the mayhem, some football did break out, with the ten men of Cornwall taking the lead on 43 minutes when a lovely passing move ended in a sweet header into the net by Jake Ash. The quality of that goal was definitely better than your average Step 6 strike.

Action from the all-action FA Cup tie at Priory Park between Bodmin and Bideford.
Action from the all-action FA Cup tie at Priory Park between Bodmin and Bideford.

Another big moment, which was missed by most as the action-packed half flew by, was my first touch of the season, a deft piece of control with my left foot as the ball went out of play and rolled under the fence I was leaning on. The players missed it too as they were too busy arguing whose throw it was. Gutted.

I also got a second touch a little later, which wasn’t quite so neat as the ball bounced of my supposedly stronger right foot – well, ankle – but I recovered it well and didn’t hold up the game. That’s probably the closest I’ll ever get to FA Cup glory!

I’d made a rookie mistake earlier on by not taking a jacket – Cornish evenings are rarely as warm as you might hope – and I made another at half-time when I patted an errant ball back to the Bideford subs with my left hand while texting with my right, thus tweaking my shoulder. I definitely should have done more pre-season training.

Thankfully, the players were much fitter than me and the second-half action continued at a furious pace. And I do mean furious. Bideford were reduced to ten just before the hour mark, again for two yellows, but then equalised on 77 minutes after a sustained spell of pressure.

With five minutes to go, the Devon visitors took the lead after a dreadful Bodmin back-pass but then suffered a second red on 89 minutes, giving the home side renewed hope. And we almost had the drama of extra-time and, possibly, penalties, but Bodmin hit the bar with their final chance of the game, which came six minutes into injury-time, and Bideford held out for a stunning victory.

Whenever you go to a football match you hope it’s going to be exciting, memorable, even a thriller, and definitely not a farty dog of a game. This was no dog, it really was a cup classic.

The rest of this cup football season has a lot to live up to.

NB: If you have any comments about this blog you can find me on Twitter (@cupfootballblog), on Facebook (thecupfootballblogger) or via email (thecupfootballblogger@hotmail.com).

Lies, Damned Lies And Goalless Draws

Where it all began ... Saltash v St Austell in the FA Cup in the first game of my cup footballing season. Wembley seemed a long way from here.
Where it all began … Saltash v St Austell in the FA Cup in the first game of my cup footballing season.

IT MADE be hard for the younger generation to believe, but there was a time when football wasn’t awash with statistics and mathematical analysis. All that mattered was the number of goals you scored, the number you let in, and whether that meant you were in the next round of the cup or moving up the league table.

The most complicated it got was trying to work out your goal average, which was the rule used to split teams tied on points before the advent of the much simpler goal difference. Nowadays you only have to do taking away rather than long division.

Of course, there was the “away goals count double” rule which always had the potential to thoroughly confuse. Did it count before extra-time? Did it count in the League Cup semi-finals? If you lost 3-2 away did that mean you actually won?

No, football was a simple game, a beautiful game, and that’s why it was the world’s most popular game. Why change it?

And then there came an idea that, instead of having penalty shoot-outs – or “kicks from the penalty mark”, as the official FA rules would have it – drawn matches should be decided on the number of corners each side earned. But football fans everywhere shook their heads at the silliness of it all. Not only did it seem a bit artificial, it also meant some poor soul would have to keep count of the corners. Who could be bothered to do that?

Well, as it turned out, poor, put-upon local newspaper reporters could. Or, rather, they had to. Someone decided that what match reports really needed was a bright graphic with the teams and bookings and scorers and … er, how are we going to fill it? I know, count the corners.

So, cub reporters, would-be reporters, volunteers and the terminally dull were all sent off to matches, not to watch the game, not to feel the joy and despair of athletic contest, not to thrill in the excitement, the skill, the drama, but to count corners and free-kicks and generally miss the point altogether.

Actually what happened was that these auditors of footballing facts often did get caught up in the unfolding story on the pitch and lost count or forgot to count. In the early days, there were a lot of what we should think of as “estimated” figures. They made them up.

But the statistical cat was out of the mathematical bag and there was no going back. Now we have whole companies and whole TV channels (yes, I mean you Sky Sports News HQ) making a living from counting and measuring everything that happens on a football pitch, somehow taking away the soul of the game.

I have just seen the aforementioned channel going through how many minutes of football every player chosen for Euro 2016 has already played this season, presumably to try to prove that England are too tired to succeed. The poor dears, being paid all that money to play football all the time. Terrible for them, terrible.

I did get grim satisfaction from the fact that all it really proved was that it didn’t really prove anything as a large proportion of the players in the tournament, from any number of countries, played in England so they should all be as tired as each other. So, no, tiredness will not be an excuse for Roy’s Boys.

Where will this obsession with statistics end? Will the average waistline of each starting XI soon be used to determine who are favourites for a particular clash? Will the number of lace-holes in each pair of boots be compared to decide who has the competitive edge? Lacing-up experts are waiting for their phones to ring as I type.

Will Sky and BT Sport soon be rolling out the glossmeters (yes, they really exist) to see who has the shiniest shirts? Just how silly will it get?

Mousehole's players support their fans after lifting the Cornwall Charity Cup.
What my season was all about – the joy of cup football. Here, Mousehole celebrate their triumph in the final of the Cornwall Charity Cup.

Still, if you can’t beat them, join them. So here’s my statistical analysis of my first football season of exclusively following cup football. Just imagine a pretty presenter in a TV studio reading out numbers on a screen which you can read for yourself anyway and you’ll get the point.

My season started with an FA Cup tie at Saltash on August 15, 2015, which St Austell won 4-0, and ended at Wembley Stadium on Sunday, May 29, 2016, when Millwall were beaten 3-1 by Barnsley in the League One play-off final.

In total, I saw 41 cup matches in 18 different competitions, with 11 home wins, 16 away wins, three draws and 11 matches played at neutral venues. All the games I saw were in Cornwall apart from trips to Roman Glass St George for an FA Vase tie, Plymouth Argyle for a Johnstone Paints Trophy thriller against Millwall which The Lions won 5-3, and, of course, Wembley.

And I made a second trip to Plymouth, this time to Devonport High School for Boys to see a quarter-final in the wonderfully-named Optimus PM Plymouth & West Devon Combination League Marshall Motors SW Premier Cup.

It had been moved to the plastic pitch at the school to cope with the fixture congestion caused by the wettest of wet winters and was a really good battle which ended The Windmill 2 Bar Sol Ona 3. The winners have now been absorbed into their neighbours, Plymouth Parkway, making them the only club I have seen this season who won’t be about for the next campaign.

Incidentally, anyone who has read this blog at any time this season, will know that my favourite name for a competition is the Carlsberg South West Peninsula League Walter C Parson Funeral Directors League Cup. OK, that’s not a statistic but I had to get it in somehow!

And so to the most important statistics of all – goals. I saw an amazing 171 of them in those 41 games, an average of 4.17 per game. The biggest win, and the highest scoring game, was an 8-1 win for Helston Athletic Reserves at Penryn Reserves in the Jolly’s Cornwall Combination League Cup quarter-final. Matt Buchan scored seven goals in that match, all in the second half, the most I saw any player score throughout the season.

But the really amazing fact, the statistic that really stands out, is that, in those 41 games, I didn’t see a single goalless draw. And there were just two that only finished 1-0. I am truly the goals master!

I have had a fabulous season of watching cup football, of watching the highs and the lows, the glory and the gloom. I have had my belief that cup football is the real spirit of the game, the real heart of it, thoroughly and delightfully confirmed. It has been an absolute joy. Cup football is truly number one – and that’s the only stat you really need to know.

View from the posh seats: Wembley stadium an hour before kick-off in the League One play-off final between Millwall and Barnsley.
Wembley Stadium was the venue for my final cup game of the season, the League One play-off final between Millwall and Barnsley. This picture was taken from the Millwall end an hour before kick-off. We still had hope then.

 

 

 

 

Taking It Personally

View from the posh seats: Wembley stadium an hour before kick-off in the League One play-off final between Millwall and Barnsley.
View from the posh seats: Wembley stadium an hour before kick-off in the League One play-off final between Millwall and Barnsley.

THIS has been a hard blog to write. Or, to be more accurate, it has been a hard one to get started, to get my head around.

I have had a fabulous season following cup football across Cornwall and, occasionally, beyond. I have loved visiting different grounds and towns, seeing games in different competitions, meeting the people to whom those particular matches mean so much.

With one or two notable exceptions – mainly when watching Bodmin Town in the FA Vase and Millwall in the Johnstone Paints Trophy – I have been determinedly neutral, enjoying the football for the occasion, not for the result.

But, in cup football, the result is what it is all about. It’s about winning and losing, about going through or going home, about being in or being out (one for the referendum fans, there). That’s what I love about it, the winner-take-all nature of it, the immediacy of it, the simplicity of it. It doesn’t matter about who deserves to win, it just matters about who does.

All season, I have been blithely writing about the agony and ecstasy, taking photographs of winning teams, smiling at their singing, avoiding eye contact with the defeated and just enjoying the nature of their shared triumphs and disasters. But I haven’t felt it, I haven’t felt the ecstasy, I haven’t suffered the agony.

I have now.

And, for me, it was agony, a bittersweet final whistle to my first season of writing about, and immersing myself in, the unending ups and downs of knockout football.

When I set out on this cup journey, at Saltash back in August 2015, I had my own dreams of Wembley, the ultimate home of cup finals, the ultimate goal for a cup football blogger. And, for a while, I had three different routes to North London seemingly opening up in front of me.

I used to love going to the old Wembley with its iconic Twin Towers, but now the arch at the new stadium has achieved the same status.
I used to love going to the old Wembley with its iconic Twin Towers, but now the arch at the new stadium has achieved the same status.

One of them was via Bodmin Town, the most successful team in Cornwall at Step 6, who had high hopes of a glorious run in the FA Vase. The previous season had seen their big Cornish rivals, St Austell, come within a whisker of a day out at the home of football before finally being edged out in the semi-finals. Could the Priory Park boys go one step further and give me the final fixture I craved?

No. They were beaten at home on a pudding of a pitch by Ipswich Wanderers and had to settle instead for the “domestic” treble of Carlsberg South West Peninsula League Premier Division title, Cornwall Senior Cup and, of course, the CSWPL Walter C Parson Funeral Directors League Cup. Whoo hoo! (As I write this, the draw for the 2016-17 version is taking place. Bodmin will be away to Vospers Oak Villa or Galmpton United in the second round. You can see the full draw online at http://www.swpleague.co.uk/cups/league-cup).

A second, less likely, route was via Truro City in the FA Trophy. The White Tigers had previously been to Wembley in the FA Vase, but were now plying their trade in the National League South and so were up against the big boys of non-league in the FA Trophy. Well, they got further than ever before but the road to Wembley hit a dead end in Macclesfield on a Tuesday night. We’ve all been there.

And so my best chance of a day out at Wembley was with the club closest to my heart, the mighty Lions of Millwall. And, after beating Plymouth Argyle 5-3 in the Johnstone Paints Trophy in a Home Park goal-fest, I came to genuinely believe that ‘Wall would make it all the way to Wembley.

Stupid boy.

We came unstuck in a two-legged semi-final with Oxford United and that seemed to be that. Finishing my first season as cup football blogger at Wembley had become the impossible dream. Well, I thought, there’s always next season. And then, all of a sudden, there was this season again.

Amazingly, Millwall went on a superb run in League One, shot up the table, even had an outside chance of automatic promotion on the final day, and then happily settled for a place in the play-offs.

A few weeks before, I had ummed and ahhed over whether play-offs counted as cup football but, having watched Truro City take on Maidstone United in the National League South final four, I decided that, if it looks like cup football, feels like cup football, and hurts like cup football, then it must be cup football. And so Millwall were suddenly, astonishingly, just one round away from a Wembley final.

At half-time in the first leg of the semi-final, we (no more Mr Neutral) were 3-1 up at Bradford and thoughts were already turning to the outside chance of getting tickets. Not long after the end of the second leg, I was on the phone to my brother who had been on the phone to my Uncle Bill, who is a season-ticket holder, and dreams became reality. I had a ticket for a cup final at Wembley! Magnificent.

Battered and bruised, a bit like my footballing soul, my Wembley ticket shows the pain of a tough day on the train and the Tube.
Battered and bruised, a bit like my footballing soul, my Wembley ticket shows the pain of a tough day at the stadium, on the train and on the Tube.

Now, I have always loved Wembley, both old and new. As a youngster living in South London, we used to go up there for almost every England international. The magic of the venue’s history, the glory of the iconic Twin Towers, the sheer atmosphere of the stadium, was always utterly engrossing and charming, even when there were only 27,000 of us there to watch Ian Rush turn Phil Neal inside out and then outside in again as Wales came to visit.

But there were glorious games and glorious names, from Glenn Hoddle’s England debut, to Zico starring for Brazil, to Germany’s man mountain Gunter Netzer, to Paul Gascoigne sending the whole crowd the wrong way with one stepover, to a young and brilliant Maradona. It was a footballing privilege to see them all.

I even saw Millwall there, in the 1999 Auto Windscreens Shield final v Wigan. Not that we had been starved of success, but there were almost 50,000 Lions’ fans there that day. We lost 1-0 to a 93rd minute goal. Gutted.

I hated it when the old Wembley closed and I believed that the new stadium would never reclaim its former glory. Then there was the magnificent Millennium Stadium, in Cardiff, which threatened to steal its mantle as THE stadium. I loved it, and even saw Millwall in an FA Cup final there. Now that was unexpected. Obviously, we lost again, but this time we lost to a Manchester United team featuring the likes of Ronaldo and Ruud van Nistelrooy, not a Wigan team featuring nobody I can remember.

Then, incredibly, amazingly, wonderfully, Millwall made it to a final at the new Wembley. Even more amazingly, the new stadium was simply fantastic, with awesome views from wherever you were watching, that fabulous and newly iconic arch, and the most powerful hand-dryers I have ever found in any loo anywhere. It was, and is, such a brilliant place for football. We were playing Scunthorpe in the League One play-off final and, guess what, we lost again, this time 3-2 in a thriller. Although, ask any Millwall fan, and they will tell you that Gary Alexander’s wonder strike from many a mile out was the best goal yet scored at the new Wembley and was worth the price of admission alone.

There was no such sentimental feeling when we returned the following year, this time against Swindon Town. This time it was all about winning, it was all about proper cup football. A first-half goal from our Captain Fantastic, Paul Robinson, coupled with Charlie Austin missing a golden chance for the Robins, meant that finally – finally – we had won at Wembley.

And then, just over a week ago, we had the chance to win there again (I had missed our FA Cup semi-final defeat to those pesky Wiganers a couple of seasons ago). This time it was the League One play-off final (yet again) against Barnsley. This time, I wasn’t a neutral blogger. This time,  I was a Lion through and through. This time, I would feel the agony or the ecstasy. This time, there was no hiding, no gently observing, no sitting on the fence. This time, I really meant it. This time, would it be our time? Would it?

Well, we had a good first 55 seconds.

A ball out to the wing saw Shane Ferguson crudely hacked down and, from the free-kick, we headed just wide. Ohhh, we said, with hands on our heads and hope in our hearts. A minute later, we were a goal down. Twenty minutes later it was 2-0. Barnsley were going up.

But this is cup football and you never know, do you? In a league game, it might be a case of shutting up shop and trying to avoid a heavy defeat. In cup football, 2-0 or 5-0 makes no difference; winning is winning, losing is losing and nothing else matters.

Then, amid the agony, there was a moment of sheer bloody ecstasy as centre-half Mark Beevers turned into a world-class centre-forward, shielding the ball from his marker, turning sharply, and lashing the ball high into the net. Goal!! We are back in this. Come on!!

Sadly, that was as good as it got. We huffed and puffed but never really hurt the Tykes and, with less than 15 minutes left, we forgot to defend a corner, our keeper forgot how to jump, and Barnsley headed in a simple third. There was no way back from that. Gutted, simply gutted.

But, in among the agony, there was a bittersweet ecstasy. My first cup football season HAD ended in a day out at Wembley, at the home of cup football, at the home of football itself. It was more than I could have genuinely hoped for when I headed off towards Saltash ten months ago.

Just need to go back next season and see The Lions win this time!

You know you are in the posh seats when there is a cupholder for your beer. Just wish I had a pint now, after watching Millwalls performance.
You know you are in the posh seats when there is a cupholder for your beer. Just wish I had had a pint now, after watching Millwall’s performance.

FOOTNOTE: If you have any comments about this blog, find me on Facebook, at thecupfootballblogger, get in touch on Twitter, via @cupfootballblog, or email me at thecupfootballblogger@hotmail.com

 

 

 

A Festival Of Finals

That winning feeling: Mabe players celebrate their Russell Hall Cup final win over Falmouth thirds.
That winning feeling: Mabe players celebrate their Russell Hall Cup final win over Falmouth thirds.

EAT your heart out Wembley Stadium. Yes, you might be the cup mecca of English football and you might have hosted a double-header of non-league’s biggest games on Sunday, but I can go one better than that. Well, two or three better, in fact.

Forget your Morpeth Towns (4-1 winners over Hereford FC in the FA Vase final) and your FC Halifaxes (1-0 winners over Grimsby Town in the FA Trophy final) the place to be on Sunday was another footballing W – not Wembley, but Wendron.

Yep, the Underlane home of the Carlsberg South West Peninsula League Division One West side was the home to FIVE cup finals on Sunday. Yes, five. Now that’s a proper festival of  fantastic knockout football.

It all began at 10.15am with a West Cornwall Sunday League cup final between Wendron and Troon. The hosts lifted the trophy by winning 5-3. I got there too late to watch that (even a dedicated blogger needs a lie-in sometimes) but it set the tone for a day of goals, excitement, agony and ecstasy.

Attention then turned to the Trelawny League, which is a goldmine of football for a cup fan like me. It is for amateur teams in the western part of the Duchy and boasts 75 sides in six divisions. But, better than that, it runs no fewer than eight cup competitions. Eight! I am sure some teams end up playing more cup games than league games every season.

Sunday saw the finals of four of those cups, using two pitches at Underlane. At 1pm we had the Dunn Cup final between St Keverne and West Cornwall, and the Russell Hall Cup clash between Mabe and Falmouth Town Thirds. The Dunn Cup is for teams in the Trelawny Premier, while the Russell Hall Cup is contested by teams in Division Three.

In fact, as far as I can see, every one of the six divisions has its own cup competition, plus there is the Percy Stephens Cup for the whole league and the Arthur Pearce Cup which, I think, is for reserve and third teams, but I stand to be corrected.

The scheduled 3pm kick-offs saw Lanner take on Division Two rivals Helston Athletic Thirds in the Lockhart Cup, while Falmouth Dracaena Centre faced Probus Reserves in the Division Four Jubilee Cup showdown.

 

Another one for album as Helston Athletic thirds hold aloft the Lockhart Cup.
Another one for the album as Helston Athletic thirds hold aloft the Lockhart Cup.

So, faced with this plethora of final football, what was a poor, overwhelmed blogger to do? I decided just to concentrate on one game at a time – but which games to concentrate on? Well, I had already seen a Dunn Cup clash earlier in the season when West Cornwall won 5-0 at Troon so, at 1pm, I decided to concentrate on the Mabe v Falmouth clash in the Russell Hall final.

At 3pm, I plumped for Lanner v Helston in the Lockhart Cup. I had seen a Jubilee Cup game a few months ago when Probus Reserves won 4-3 at Frogpool and Cusgarne Reserves. I had only ended up at that tie because just about every other game had been rained off but I thoroughly enjoyed it. However, the lure of a different cup competition on Sunday was too much to resist.

I knew I was going to be in for a fun finals day when I arrived at the ground and was promptly directed to park in an adjoining field. In my experience, there’s always a sense of occasion, a feeling of a special event, when you have to park in a field. And with the countryside in this lovely rural setting putting on its very best Cornish colours, the whole thing had the feel of a music festival about. The atmosphere was humming.

Underlane is one of my favourite grounds and was looking better than ever, especially as the main stand, now with a roof full of solar panels, had been completed since I was last there and now stretched all the way along one touchline. An impressive sight for a club at Step 7 of the non-league pyramid.

Mind you, solar wasn’t the only renewable energy on show down that side of the pitch. As I was to discover later in the afternoon, the stand also acted as a pretty effective wind tunnel, making me pretty pleased to have brought an extra layer of clothing as I shivered through the Lockhart Cup final. It all looked decidedly warmer than it felt!

But I didn’t start my day on the first team pitch. No, like any self-respecting festivalgoer, I eschewed the delights of the main stage and went to watch the much cooler band playing on the small stage out the back, the one that only the real fans know about. I felt suitably smug.

The acts in the spotlight here were local derby rivals Falmouth Town and Mabe and the music theme was thrust to the fore once again as I realised that the Mabe centre-half, instantly recognisable from his team-mates by virtue of wearing a shirt from a completely different kit, was none other than “Damo”, star of local pub band The Pistoleros.

The Lanner keeper retrieves the ball from the back of the net after his fumble handed Helston Athletic thirds and early lead in the Lockhart Cup final.
The Lanner keeper retrieves the ball from the back of the net after his fumble handed Helston Athletic thirds an early lead in the Lockhart Cup final.

He was certainly the lead singer here, orchestrating his team’s efforts right from the start and being vocal throughout. Mind you, he was nearly upstaged by his team’s coach on the sidelines who came out with one of the best lines of the season as Mabe defended a corner. Feeling the need to pass on some guidance to his charges, he yelled: “Watch this runner! Watch that runner!” Heartfelt, perhaps, but not actually that helpful.

In all fairness, though, Mabe didn’t need much help. They were 3-0 up in less than 30 minutes and it looked like the real drama would be whether we would we run out of footballs before the 90 minutes was up as clearance after clearance after wayward shot found its way over the surrounding hedges and into the fields beyond. There was a lot of climbing and clambering over fences and foliage to get them back. After my efforts earlier this season at Illogan RBL, when I couldn’t get back over a wall after a ball-retrieval exercise, I declined to join in.

Blue-shirted Mabe were 1-0 up after 12 minutes with a solo effort reminiscent of Anthony Stokes’ opener for Hibs in the Scottish Cup final the day before. Basically, the forward just ran towards goal with the ball and then slid it home as the defenders kept backing off and backing off. Players of the quality found in Falmouth Town Thirds might have some excuse for such dozy defending. I am not sure the same applies to the highly paid professionals of Glasgow Rangers.

A free header after 16 minutes made it 2-0 and then a lob over the advancing keeper made it 3-0 on 28 minutes. I had already seen a few one-sided finals this season and this Russell Hall Cup showdown appeared to be heading in much the same direction. Falmouth did pull a goal back soon after but, by half-time, they had conceded again and Mabe were 4-1 up.

Action from the Russell Hall Cup final between Mabe (in blue) and Falmouth Town Thirds. This match was played on the reserve team pitch at Wendron United's Underlane home.
Action from the Russell Hall Cup final between Mabe (in blue) and Falmouth Town Thirds. This match was played on the reserve team pitch at Wendron United’s Underlane home.

Twelve minutes after the break and it was all over. A penalty made it 5-1 and there was no way back from that. The spot-kick decision, given for a scything tackle, was a pretty straightforward one for the young ref, 17-year-old Rowan Clarke, but he had the courage to give it at a key moment in a cup final. If Falmouth had scored next it would have been game on. In fact, he was calm and controlled throughout the 90 minutes and I thought he had an excellent game. If he can put up with the routine abuse suffered by all refs, normally handed out by people who should know a lot better, he could go far in the game. Good luck to him.

With just over 20 minutes to go, Falmouth did pull a goal back but it was too little, too late and all that was left was to watch the cup presentation, listen to the tuneless singing of a triumphant football team, and try to avoid being splashed with any of the various forms of alcohol being sprayed around before heading off to the next game.

As it happened, kick-off on the main pitch for the Lockhart Cup final was delayed as the Dunn Cup final between West Cornwall and St Keverne finished 2-2 and headed into extra time. The blue-clad Helston players stood, watched and waited from behind one goal while those in the red and black of Lanner gathered behind the other. It looked like they might have a very long wait for their game until West Cornwall grabbed a late winner, thus avoiding the need for a penalty shoot-out.

Their cup celebrations had an extra special emotion to them as they held aloft the framed shirt of former player Dave Curnow, a 20-year-old who had survived being one of the youngest British soldiers to serve in Afghanistan only to be murdered in an attack by drunken thugs on the streets of Redruth as he returned home after a night out.

That put the triumph and despair felt at football finals into sharp perspective.

Looking from the solar panel-covered main stand at Wendron towards the overflow car park in a field during the Trelawny League Finals Day.
Looking from the solar panel-covered main stand at Wendron towards the overflow car park in a field during the Trelawny League Finals Day.

But there was still footballing agony and ecstasy to be meted out as the remaining two cup finals on the day finally kicked off, both almost an hour later than scheduled. With just 11 minutes gone in the Lockhart Cup final, it was the Lanner keeper feeling the agony as he fumbled a free-kick and saw the rebound bundled in for Helston’s opener. And all the signs were that it was going to be another one-sided affair as Helston doubled their lead on 28 minutes when a shot which might have been a cross flew in at the near post.

Lanner looked defeated and dispirited but survived another goalmouth scramble to get to half-time only 2-0 down and then more than held their own after the break without ever looking likely to mount a meaningful comeback. In the end, the only goal of the second half went to Helston, a solo effort as the game went into injury time wrapping up a 3-0 cup final victory. Cue the celebrations, the singing, the dancing, the delight and despair. It was the third time I had seen it that day and it still never gets boring.

I saw it for a fourth time as I scooted around to the top pitch to see Probus celebrate their 3-1 Jubilee Cup triumph over Falmouth DC. In fact, it was a double celebration as they were also presented with the league championship trophy at the same time. There were cups everywhere at Wendron on Sunday!

And that was it, the finals day was over. As at any festival, there is always one tune that sticks in your head, one that you can’t shake. As I headed back to the parking field to find my car, it wasn’t really a song that I was humming but a chant. As each of the winners went up to collect their trophies there was a repeated chorus from the defeated of “Three cheers for (insert team name here).”

It was fabulous sportsmanship on a fabulous day of football played in a fabulous setting and it all left me wondering: “I wonder who the main acts will be at next year’s festival of finals?” Coming back to do it all over again – now that is a fabulous thought.

EXTRA, EXTRA, READ ALL ABOUT IT: Wendron wasn’t the only place to be to watch cup final football in Cornwall on Sunday. The Kernick Road ground of my hometown team Penryn, just four miles from Wendron’s Underlane, hosted the Jolly’s Cornwall Combination League Supplementary Cup final between Holmans and Hayle. I saw Holmans beat RNAS Culdrose 3-1 in a preliminary round tie in March and they completed their cup journey with a resounding 3-0 success this time.

And the seventh Cornish final I know of on Sunday was the Cornwall Women’s FA Cup clash between Charlestown Ladies, who I saw beat Callington 3-0 in the semi-final, and Newquay Ladies. The final was played at St Agnes and Charlestown completed the league and cup double with a 2-1 triumph.

Double winners Probus Reserves were handed both the Trelawny League Division Four trophy and the Jubilee Cup as they completed the double with a win over Falmouth Dracaena Centre in the cup final.
Double winners Probus Reserves were handed both the Trelawny League Division Four trophy and the Jubilee Cup as they completed the double with a win over Falmouth Dracaena Centre in the cup final.
Action from the Russell Hall Cup final between Mabe (in blue) and Falmouth Town Thirds. This match was played on the reserve team pitch at Wendron United's Underlane home.
Action from the Russell Hall Cup final between Mabe (in blue) and Falmouth Town Thirds. This match was played on the reserve team pitch at Wendron United’s Underlane home.

 

Action from the Lockhart Cup final between Lanner (in red and black) and Helston Athletic Thirds.
Action from the Lockhart Cup final between Lanner (in red and black) and Helston Athletic Thirds.
The lovely view over Cornish countryside from the reserve team pitch at Wendron United.
The lovely view over Cornish countryside from the reserve team pitch at Wendron United.
"Three cheers for Helston." Superb sportsmanship from Lanner as the Helston players line up to collect their Lockhart Cup winners' medals.
“Three cheers for Helston.” Superb sportsmanship from Lanner as the Helston players line up to collect their Lockhart Cup winners’ medals.
Action from the Lockhart Cup final between Lanner (in red and black) and Helston Athletic Thirds. This was played on the main pitch at Wendron and it wasn't as warm as this photo makes it look!
Action from the Lockhart Cup final between Lanner (in red and black) and Helston Athletic Thirds. This was played on the main pitch at Wendron and it wasn’t as warm as this photo makes it look!
Say cheese. Everyone wants your picture when you have just won the cup.
Say cheese. Everyone wants your picture when you have just won the cup.
The impressive new main stand at Wendron United. The roof is covered in solar panels and the stand itself serves as a pretty good wind tunnel!
The impressive new main stand at Wendron United. The roof is covered in solar panels and the stand itself serves as a pretty good wind tunnel!

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

Their Name’s On The Cup

One for the sponsors as Bodmin Town celebrate winning the Carlsberg South West Peninsula League Walter C Parson Funeral Directors Cup.
One for the sponsors as Bodmin Town celebrate winning the Carlsberg South West Peninsula League Walter C Parson Funeral Directors League Cup.

THIS was it, this was the big one. The day had arrived for the game I had been looking forward to all season, the final of what has undoubtedly been my favourite competition of the entire cup football season.

Yes, it was Bodmin Town v Godolphin Atlantic in the final of the – wait for it, wait for it – Carlsberg South West Peninsula League Walter C Parson Funeral Directors League Cup.

Whoo hoo!!

OK, Blogger, calm down, calm down.

As anyone who has ever read my blog will know, I just love the name of this tournament. Non-league competitions across the country have some fabulous names, names that go on and on, names that fail dismally to trip off the tongue, but this one just flows. Saying it out loud to friends and family has become something of a minor party piece of mine (I do go to some very sad parties).

When I was a youngster, names in football were much simpler. There was the Football League (which sensibly went from Divisions One to Four), the FA Cup and the League Cup. If you were feeling exotic there was the European Cup or even, once every four years, the World Cup. Good, simple, solid names. Things started to get a bit more complicated if you wanted to talk about the European Cup Winners’ Cup cup final but that was a tough as it got.

There weren’t even names on shirts, just the team badge on the front and the numbers 1 to 11 on the back. Everyone played 4-4-2 and we all knew who played where, who marked who and whose job was what. Mind you, if you missed the announcement of the team line-ups, you didn’t really know who the players where. A bit like lots of non-league games nowadays actually.

Then, in 1976, everything changed. Derek Dougan, who had been a star player with Wolverhampton Wanderers, was the manager at Kettering Town, and signed a sponsorship deal with Kettering Tyres to have their name emblazoned on the front of the team’s shirts.

It’s fair to say that it caused a bit of a kerfuffle. The FA didn’t like it and the shirt was banned. But the door had been opened and it was soon the norm to have a sponsor’s name writ large across footballing chests.

Bodmin (in yellow) on the attack against Godolphin Atlantic in the final of the Carlsberg South West Peninsula League Walter C Parson Funeral Directors Cup. The game was played at Launceston's Pennygillam ground.
Bodmin (in yellow) on the attack against Godolphin Atlantic in the final of the Carlsberg South West Peninsula League Walter C Parson Funeral Directors League Cup. The game was played at Launceston’s Pennygillam ground.

Nowadays, everything is sponsored, from shirts to shorts to training tops to boots to the very grounds the game is played at, and then to all the competitions that the teams play in. I am not always happy about that. Do you remember when Arsenal played at Highbury not the Emirates and Manchester City played at Maine Road not the Etihad? What is an Etihad anyway?

That’s the downside of modern commercial involvement in the beautiful game. The upside is that you get the chance to have wonderful tournament names such as the Carlsberg South West Peninsula League Walter C Parson Funeral Directors League Cup.

Surprisingly though, that wasn’t the name on everyone’s lips in the build-up to the game. No, what everyone was talking about was the Cornwall Senior Cup (sponsored by Macsalvors Crane Hire, just so you know). That was because these two teams had met in the final of that just a few weeks ago, and it hadn’t been pretty. True, Godolphin were under-strength but nobody expected Bodmin’s margin of victory to be quite so comprehensive as it turned out to be.

Not only did the Priory Park side triumph 7-0, the biggest win in the final for more than 100 years, but since then they had gone on to win the Peninsula League title, thus completing the double. Now, they were gunning for their third treble in five years. Could the G-Men possibly resist?

There were some clues that they could. For a start, they were the holders of this cup, having beaten Plymouth Parkway in the final last year. And, although they were thumped in the Senior Cup final, that was their second appearance in the final in consecutive seasons, having lost to St Austell the year before. So this was their fourth cup final in two seasons and they had finished fifth in the league. Godolphin are not a bad side and are cup fighters. There were some hopeful signs.

Godolphin Atlantics players wait to get their runners-up trophies after losing to Bodmin Town in the final of the Carlsberg South West Peninsula League Walter C Parson Funeral Directors Cup.
Godolphin Atlantic’s players wait to get their runners-up trophies after losing to Bodmin Town in the final of the Carlsberg South West Peninsula League Walter C Parson Funeral Directors League Cup.

I cheered myself up with those thoughts (I was still a neutral but wanted to see a better game) and my mood lightened further when, having paid my £5 to get in, I was given a free Walter C Parson pen. Result! My mood darkened again when the pen wouldn’t work. It would have been somehow fitting, somehow complete, if I could have made my notes about the final of the competition with the best name in football while using a pen bearing that very name. (I know, little things please little minds. Oh, by the way, the pen is working properly now).

There was a crowd of more than 300 at Launceston’s Pennygillam ground for this encounter but they were generally pensive and quiet. A few days before, the fans of Mousehole and St Dennis had been delightfully raucous as their teams met in the final of the Cornwall Charity Cup, but the spectators on Saturday were a worried bunch. Most of us feared another horribly one-sided encounter while Bodmin’s followers perhaps feared that it wouldn’t be.

There had been much better atmospheres at games I had seen in earlier rounds of the CSWPLWCPFD League Cup, notably when Falmouth beat local rivals 2-1 in the first round, in what I am determined to call the “Fal Classico” and then again in the second round, when Helston Athletic beat Falmouth 3-1 in the first cup tie ever played under the new floodlights at Kellaway Park.

And, with 19 minutes gone in the final, the mood of trepidation grew as The G keeper spilled a cross and Bodmin tapped in the opener. Were the floodgates about to open again?

No, they weren’t.

Godolphin dug in, gradually became the better side and, eight minutes into the second half, they equalised. Now we had a proper cup final on our hands.

Twelve minutes later, the crowd really came to life when Godolphin produced a great cross and header and Bodmin keeper Scott Corderoy pulled off a stunning save to push the ball over the bar. He was only in the side because of an injury to regular goalie Kevin Miller and he was to play the biggest part of anyone in the game.

Ten minutes from time, he made another good stop just moments after Godolphin keeper Shaun Semmens had redeemed himself for his earlier error with a superb stop of his own.

Then, with five minutes left, came the big moment in the game. Corderoy looked to have blotted his copybook when he was second to the ball as a Atlantic goalscorer Phil Lowry burst through again and the ref had no hesitation in pointing to the spot. But the Bodmin goalkeeping hero-turned-villain turned into a hero again as he superbly saved Ross Fallens’ spot-kick.

That took the game into extra-time and the treble-chasers took control again. They were the better side throughout the extra thirty minutes, although it took them until early in the second-half of the added period to finally make the breakthrough. A header made it 2-1 and that would have been a fair reflection of what had been a much, much better game than we feared it might be. As it was, Bodmin added two more in the final few minutes to give the final scoreline a much more lopsided look than Godolphin deserved.

This was as good as it got for Godolphin Atlantic as they celebrate their equaliser in the Carlsberg South West Peninsula League Walter C Parson Funeral Directors Cup final. Bodmin went on to win 4-1 after extra time.
This was as good as it got for Godolphin Atlantic as they celebrate their equaliser in the Carlsberg South West Peninsula League Walter C Parson Funeral Directors League Cup final. Bodmin went on to win 4-1 after extra time.

Then it was the turn of the gentlemen from Walter C Parson to have their moment in the spotlight as they handed out the medals and the trophy. The G-Men left the pitch in despondent mood while the boys from Bodmin revelled in their trophy success. Winning never gets boring.

And we should all save a cheer for those firms, those sponsors, who put their hands in their pockets to keep football at this level alive and kicking. Especially if they bring to us competitions with such great names as the Carlsberg South West Peninsula League Walter C Parson Funeral Directors League Cup.

Celebrating in champagne-style for Bodmin Town after their extra-time win over Godolphin Atlantic in the final of the Carlsberg South West Peninsula League Walter C Parson Funeral Directors Cup.
Celebrating in champagne-style for Bodmin Town after their extra-time win over Godolphin Atlantic in the final of the Carlsberg South West Peninsula League Walter C Parson Funeral Directors League Cup.

 

Action from the Carlsberg South West Peninsula League Walter C Parson Funeral Directors Cup final at Launcestons Pennygillam ground. Godolphin Atlantic in blue) are on the attack here but they were beaten 4-1 after extra-time by Bodmin Town who completed a treble-winning trophy season in the process.
Action from the Carlsberg South West Peninsula League Walter C Parson Funeral Directors League Cup final at Launceston’s Pennygillam ground. Godolphin Atlantic (in blue) are on the attack here but they were beaten 4-1 after extra-time by Bodmin Town who completed a treble-winning trophy season in the process.

FOOTNOTE: If you have any comments or questions about this blog, email me on thecupfootballblogger@hotmail.com, or message me on Facebook, at thecupfootballblogger, on via Twitter, on @cupfootballblog

The Cup That Keeps On Giving

Mousehole's players support their fans after lifting the Cornwall Charity Cup.
Mousehole’s players support their fans after lifting the Cornwall Charity Cup.

I OWE the Durning Lawrence Cornwall Charity Cup a great debt of gratitude. It was watching the final of this competition last season which set me on the way to doing this cup blog this season.

I can pinpoint exactly the moment that night when I thought a season of watching cup football would be a good idea. It was after the Penryn players had received their losers’ medals but then had to stand around and watch St Dennis lift the trophy. The Rynners looked thoroughly dismayed and downcast and you could see that they couldn’t wait to get off the pitch and be alone with their misery.

In contrast, The Saints were dancing and singing, faces wreathed in unstoppable smiles, hearts hoping that the celebrations would never end.

“You don’t get emotions like that at the end of your average league game,” I thought. “I wonder what it’s like to see that sort of cup excitement every week?” And thus the blog was born.

So what was the answer to the question I had posed myself? It was: “OK, not every cup game ends in that amount of excitement but it has been great fun watching knock-out games all season – a real breath of footballing fresh air. I have loved it.”

Thank you, Cornwall Charity Cup, for putting me on the path to a campaign that has rekindled and reaffirmed my love for the beautiful game.

I felt it would be rude, therefore, not to rock up to this year’s final, which was played at Bodmin’s Priory Park ground and which featured last year’s winners St Dennis against their Carlsberg South West Peninsula League Division One West rivals Mousehole.

The Seagulls of Mousehole, from the far west of Cornwall, have had a superb season, winning the league title and enjoying great runs in the Carlsberg South West Peninsula League Walter C Parson Funeral Directors Cup – reaching the semi-final – and the Cornwall Senior Cup, in which they made the last 16.

I have been to their ever-improving Trungle Parc ground twice this season, seeing them beat Appledore 4-0 in the WCP Cup and then losing to eventual Premier Division champions Bodmin Town by 2-0 in the Senior Cup. I spent a happy half-time at the Appledore game chatting to Mousehole chairman Tim Richardson over a cup of tea and a doughnut. It was clear that he had worked hard, along with lots of others, to transform the fortunes and outlook of a club that had been going nowhere fast for a while.

Action from the Cornwall Charity Cup final between St Dennis in blue) and Mousehole. The match was played at Priory Park, Bodmin.
Action from the Cornwall Charity Cup final between St Dennis (in blue) and Mousehole. The match was played at Priory Park, Bodmin.

He was just one of the numerous dedicated, committed and passionate people I have met this season who are the real driving force behind so many clubs at this level. They are the people who make things happen, who fret and worry and wonder about finances and facilities, who prepare the pitch, who make the tea, who write the programme. They give the players the chance to play, they give the fans teams to cheer, they give people like me the chance to indulge our own enthusiasms.

They are the heart and soul of football and they have made my journey around cup games this season an absolute joy. I thank them all.

Mousehole are a great example of that positivity. With ground improvements, success on the field, and a superb atmosphere throughout the whole, tightly-knit club, it is clear that The Seagulls are on the up.

So, in their own way, are St Dennis. They have easily finished in the top half of the table this season – albeit 30 or more points behind the champions – and have improved their own facilities. It’s a solid base and the future for The Saints from Cornwall’s Clay Country looks to be a bright one.

Wednesday night’s cup final was the first chance I had had to see them in action since winning this trophy last season but, sadly for them, they didn’t cover themselves in glory this time. Mousehole were chasing the league and cup double and were backed by a raucous following who had made their way up the A30 to Priory Park. It only took nine minutes for those fans to start partying as the green-and-whites slid home the opener. St Dennis were never able to hit back.

The benches and supporters look on as Mousehole and St Dennis battled it out to win the Cornwall Charity Cup final. Mousehole won 5-0.
The benches and supporters look on as Mousehole and St Dennis battle it out in the Cornwall Charity Cup final. Mousehole won 5-0.

It was 3-0 by half-time and The Saints had lost their composure and seemed to be devoid of belief. They did their best to belie that feeling in the early part of the second half when they had their best spell of the match, but a ball over the top in 67th minute led to the fourth goal, which finally undid their resistance and ended any faint hopes of a comeback.

Mousehole have been the class act at this Step 7 level in Cornwall all season and it was fitting that they should have the final word on this night, too, rounding off an emphatic victory with a fifth goal.

The match wasn’t a great spectacle if you were a St Dennis fan – or a neutral – but the Mousehole massive lapped it up. And, at the final whistle, this time it was St Dennis’s turn to stand glum-faced and watch the celebrations of others. They got off the pitch as soon as politeness could allow while Mousehole’s players and fans were still celebrating 15 minutes later as I started my own drive home. That doesn’t happen at the end of your run-of-the-mill league game. The Seagulls’ spirits were soaring. Ah, the joy of cup football. I love it.

ADDED EXTRA: Mousehole weren’t the only big winners on the night. This competition is an invitation tournament for clubs from Step 7 and below and is run by the Cornwall FA, which chooses the sixteen teams to take part. The whole idea of the event, other than giving cup football fans like me something else to enjoy, is to raise money for the county FA’s chosen charity. This year, that was the Cornish Heart Unit Fund and a cheque for £500 was presented to that good cause at half-time.

A cheque for £500 was handed to the Cornish Heart Unit fund at half-time in the Cornwall Charity Cup final.
A cheque for £500 was handed to the Cornish Heart Unit Fund at half-time in the Cornwall Charity Cup final.

Football gets a bad press a lot of the time, with people critical of everything from over-paid Premier League players to bad behaviour on and off  the pitch at all levels (which is a real problem at the moment) but it is still the most popular sport in the country, it is still a game that we all love, and it is heartwarming when it does things like this. Football’s contribution to the communities in which it is played doesn’t get the credit it deserves, so well done Cornwall FA for this competition and this charity contribution. It’s just another in a long line of reasons why this season has been so enjoyable. Great stuff.

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

There was plenty to cheer about for the Mousehole supporters as their side beat St Dennis in the final of the Cornwall Charity Cup.
There was plenty to cheer about for the Mousehole supporters as their side beat St Dennis in the final of the Cornwall Charity Cup.

Play-off poser

Truro City line up a free-kick in the second-half of their National League South play-off semi-final with Maidstone United. They failed to make this effort count and lost 2-0 on the night.
Truro City line up a free-kick in the second-half of their National League South play-off semi-final with Maidstone United. They failed to make this effort count and lost 2-0 on the night.

AS I left Treyew Road, the home of Truro City, on Wednesday night, the place was abuzz with questions. Had we done enough to go through? Can we overcome the deficit? What will the weekend bring?

These were the thoughts going through the minds of the supporters of the White Tigers and their visitors from Maidstone United. But a very different question was rattling around in my head.

Had I just been to a cup game or not?

You see, we had all just watched the first leg of a National League South promotion play-off semi-final which had finished Truro 0 Maidstone 2.

You could make a good case for it being the biggest game of football played in Cornwall in many a long year, maybe even since Falmouth played Oxford United in the First Round of the FA Cup back in 1962.

You could also argue that it was the biggest game played in Cornwall this season although, sadly, it clashed with the other “biggest game in Cornwall this season” as Bodmin took on local rivals St Austell in what was effectively a title decider in the Carlsberg South West Peninsula League Premier Division. That finished Bodmin 3 St Austell 2, meaning that the Priory Park club were crowned champions for the fifth time in nine years.

Yes, you could argue lots of things about the game at Truro but could you argue it was a cup game?

I asked that question on Twitter and the general response was, it’s knock-out football so it is cup football. But the official Twitter feed of Dulwich Hamlet, beaten finalists in the Ryman League play-offs, said that they felt they had missed out by not having a decent cup run this season and that a play-off final didn’t count.

I want play-off games to be thought of as cup football as, if the Mighty Lions of Millwall make it through to the League One final, I’d like to end the first season of this blog with a day out at Wembley. From Saltash, where it all started back in August, via the likes of Troon, St Just and Devonport High School, all the way to the home of football – now that would be some cup journey. So, yes, I want it to be a cup game.

It certainly felt like a cup game, a special cup game, in the build-up. From the moment I walked out of my front door to begin the journey to the ground, it felt like something out of the ordinary. There was something extra, something more intense, in the air. I had butterflies.

That feeling got even stronger as I approached the ground. There were cars everywhere. The club car park was full, the overflow parking at nearby County Hall was filling up and there were vehicles parked all the way along the grass verges outside the ground. There are often one or two but on Wednesday night there were dozens. The traffic wardens could have had a field day.

Then there were the queues to get in, 20 or so people in two lines waiting to pay their money. For half-an-hour before kick-off at a non-league game, that’s pretty unusual. I have been to plenty of games this season where the entire attendance wasn’t as high as the number of people waiting to get into Treyew Road at 7.15 on Wednesday night. In the end, the crowd was just over 1,000, more than double the White Tigers’ average for this season.

So it was a pretty special occasion. But was it a cup game?

The fact that it was a first leg encounter only added to my pondering. I am not sure I like two-legged ties. For me, the joy of cup football is the immediacy of it, the fact that it is winner takes all, the fact that, if you are losing, you have no real option but to throw the kitchen sink at it in order to have a chance to progress. But a two-legged tie means that there are all sorts of questions unanswered at the end of the first 90 minutes.

First-half action from the National League South play-off semi-final between Truro City in red) and Maidstone. The Kent side won 2-0.
First-half action from the National League South play-off semi-final between Truro City (in red) and Maidstone. The Kent side won 2-0.

Back in 1999, I saw Millwall beat Walsall 1-0 in the first leg of the Auto Windscreens Shield Southern Area final, with a place at Wembley at stake. What do you do after a result like that? Do you celebrate winning? Do you worry that you didn’t win by enough? Is it a good result or a bad result? It’s all a bit unsatisfactory.

Conversely, second legs can be thrilling as great comebacks are made, late winners are scored, fortunes ebb and flow. Just ask Liverpool and Atletico Madrid fans this week what they think of two-legged clashes – they will love them. For me, second legs are proper do-or-die cup ties. And, as you can’t have second legs without first ones, then I am definitely coming down on the side of play-off games being cup games.

But, having considered all of that, having thought about it, I just needed one more piece of evidence to finally convince me, to finally seal the case. Step forward Steve Tully, the manager of Truro City.

Now, I have an admission to make about Mr Tully. When I first moved to the South West, I lived in Devon, not Cornwall, and used to go to watch Exeter City, where he played full-back. It’s fair to say, I wasn’t his biggest fan. Having once been called the best full-back in London’s Southern Area Sunday League by a very perceptive referee, I had a pretty high opinion of my own defensive abilities. I was never convinced of those of Mr Tully and wasn’t reluctant to share this opinion with those around me on The Big Bank at St James Park.

The fact that he had a career in professional football while I had to pay to play is probably a better reflection of our respective abilities, however, as is the fact that he has just led Truro to their highest league finish ever, while I had to pay £12 to get in to watch, plus £2.50 for a programme. But that was £2.50 well spent as I finally garnered the evidence I wanted, and it came from the manager’s notes. I quote: “I expect that tonight’s game will have everything. It’s knockout, cup football and anything can happen.”

Thank you, Steve Tully, you have gone right up in my estimation.

Looking from the new covered grandstand at Truro City's Treyew Road ground towards the clubhouse end before the National League South play-off semi-final against Maidstone. The visitors won 2-0.
Looking from the new covered grandstand at Truro City’s Treyew Road ground towards the clubhouse end before the National League South play-off semi-final against Maidstone. The visitors won 2-0.

And so what of the game itself, which I watched from the new covered stand – which is just the old uncovered stand with a roof bolted on. Oh the joys of ground grading.

Well, for a lot of the night, there wasn’t much of a big cup tie atmosphere. The home fans were tense and nervous as Maidstone dominated and, if it hadn’t have been for the singing and dancing visiting fans, it would have been almost silent. The Kent side beat Truro home and away in the regular season and Cornwall’s finest found it hard to deal with their powerful, direct approach. It was like watching Stoke City of a couple of seasons ago as, whenever The Stones had a throw-on in the Truro half, Alex Flisher launched it into the box a la Rory Delap, and City found it tough to cope with.

The first goal, after 26 minutes, came from that source. Truro failed to clear the initial danger and Joe Healy took full advantage to lash home a wonderful bicycle kick. A lot of people down the years have been critical of the direct approach, bemoaning it as lacking skill and style. I’ve always liked it, I’ve always liked the idea of making the most of what you’ve got in order to try to win the game. And no one in Treyew Road on Wednesday night could deny that Healy’s strike was skillful and stylish.

The second goal, 11 minutes into the second half, wasn’t a thing of beauty, Flisher taking full advantage of some calamitous City defending to make it 2-0, that goal being almost as ridiculous as the finish for the first was sublime.

Truro, though, played much better in the second half than they did before the break and came close to reducing the deficit in the final seconds when Matt Wright’s effort hit the bar. How important will that moment be in the tie? How much difference could it have made? They were just two of the questions left hanging in the air after the match. But I have now answered the one that was bothering me.

Yep, play-off football is most definitely cup football.

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

Watching the Truro City v Maidstone National League South play-off semi-final at the Cornish sides Treyew Road ground.
Watching the Truro City v Maidstone National League South play-off semi-final at the Cornish side’s Treyew Road ground.