Sticker AFC 3 Penryn Athletic 1
The Durning Lawrence Charity Cup Final
Played at Godolphin Way, Newquay, the home of Godolphin Atlantic FC.
Wednesday, May 10, 2017
Cup Magic Moment: Jack Bowyer’s lob for Sticker’s third goal. Real quality.
TWO years ago, I went to my first Cornish cup final. Having not long moved to Penryn, I decided to go along to the Charity Cup final to see the team from my new hometown take on St Dennis.
And, not long after the final whistle, this blog was born.
You see, the boys from Penryn had travelled to the final at Treyew Road, the home of Truro City, with high hopes after a decent season in the league but, despite playing the best football for large parts of the game, they were beaten by a more decisive St Dennis side.
As the teams waited for the presentation of the cup and the medals, I looked at the expressions on the faces of the players. St Dennis, naturally, were jubilant. They were wreathed in smiles and were dancing around, the energy of success bursting from every pore of their being.
Penryn, on the other hand, were exhausted, shocked and dismayed. They all looked as if they would rather be anywhere else than sitting on the grass, watching their conquerors start to party.
Those looks on the players’ faces – the joy and the misery – crystallised something in my mind that I had always thought but never quite so clearly: cup football is the heart of the game, it really matters, it is the purest form of football.
You don’t have to be the best side, you just have to win. Pundits and media types might go to games in order to wax lyrical about formations and flicks and artistic fulfilment but fans know what football is really about – winning. Sure, lovely football and glorious goals are a joy to any spectator, but the beautiful game is a whole lot more beautiful when your team wins.
And in cup games you get an instant reward for your success – either a place in the next round or a trophy. For the loser, there is no second chance, no shot at redemption in the next game. Defeated is defeated. You are out of the competition.
So, why would someone like me who goes to most games in Cornwall as a neutral, become so fixated with knockout football? Because it is more exciting than just another league game, because someone has to score to win, because teams do throw caution to the wind. Because, all in all, it is a better spectacle. In two seasons and almost 70 games I have only seen one goalless draw – teams have to go for it at some stage if they want to progress.
And, to be fair, that 0-0 was probably the highest quality of football I have seen in Cornwall as Truro City held Forest Green Rovers (a Football League team for next season, remember) in a Treyew Road cracker. And the evening didn’t finish without a goal as it went to extra time and was settled by an absolutely glorious long-range strike from the high-flying visitors.
So, when Penryn found themselves in the Cornwall Charity Cup final for the second time in three years, it seemed the perfect way for me to finish off the second season of my cup football odyssey by watching them take on Sticker at the Newquay home of Godolphin Atlantic. Part of me would be the neutral blogger and part of me would be a fan. I wanted to see Penryn win.
Now, that’s nothing against Sticker, which is a super little club that is on the up and up. They cruised to the Carlsberg South West Peninsula League Division One West title, losing just once and winning 29 of their 34 league games, always try to play good football and are always welcoming and friendly. I like them a lot – but still wanted Penryn to win.
I had seen Sticker almost lose earlier on in this competition but they showed great resilience to finally overcome a battling St Dennis side 4-3 in the quarter-final and they were big favourites to complete a trophy double against a Penryn side who had finished fifth in the same division.
So, could Penryn upset the form book, could they add winners’ medals to the losers’ ones they had collected two seasons ago? Could they make it a night to remember for those of us who wanted them to pull off a proper cup shock?
The final kicked off at 7.30pm. By 7.35pm, they were 2-0 down.
The first goal came inside two minutes and, by then, there had already been a delay in the action as Sticker had to move a Cornwall FA banner in order to be able to take a corner! When they finally did take it, Penryn made a right royal hash of clearing it and The Sticky’s Joel Cockings turned the ball in for the opener.
OK, the main thing for Penryn now was to stay calm and not get overwhelmed. In the fifth minute, they gave away a penalty for handball.
It was a controversial decision and Penryn complained about it long and hard. For what it’s worth, I think it probably wasn’t handball but the player had moved his shoulder and body towards the ball, giving the ref a decision to make. It was another clumsy bit of defending and they paid the ultimate football price as the penalty was calmly converted.
What would Penryn’s tactics be now? How would they try to get back into the game? Well, by trying to get the match abandoned due to a lack of footballs seemed to be their choice. Godolphin Way is a ground which is improving all the time but it is completely hemmed in by houses and, time and again, Penryn’s clearances flew into neighbouring gardens.
So hemmed in is it that, when I took a photo or two, my phone wanted to tag me as being at Tregarthen Guesthouse. For a man who has told his wife he is going to the football, that could all end up in a bit of an unfortunate misunderstanding!
The missing balls didn’t seem too much of a problem originally as the first couple to find their way out of the ground were quickly retrieved and returned. But then more and more balls disappeared and, as some youngsters climbed a fence to try to get them back, came the cry that all boys who have ever played football in the street will know all about: “Get out of my garden!” We were not getting our ball back.
This went from being humorous to being concerning and then a bit embarrassing as play eventually ground to a halt for a good two or three minutes. Thankfully, a supply of footballs was secured, some were retrieved and we managed to get through the rest of the game without any more major worries. It would have been the most unusual abandonment of a cup final you could imagine – although one of our street games about 45 years ago was ended in sudden style when a wayward shot smashed the milk bottles on the doorstep of the most miserable neighbour on our street and we all scattered. It was probably the only game we ever played in which the final whistle wasn’t one of the players’ mums loudly announcing: “Get in here now, your tea is ready.”
Thirty-three minutes into this final, many in the 200-plus crowd would have been wondering about going home for their own tea as Sticker’s prolific forward Jack Bowyer had put the favourites 3-0 up by then with an absolutely sublime lob over stranded Penryn keeper Chris Symons. This was my last cup game of the season and that was a stunning way to mark it. Great goal.
Penryn did play better after the break as they finally found their feet in the game and started to find one another’s feet with some neat passing. They duly pulled a goal back midway through the half and tried to apply more and more pressure, but Sticker always looked dangerous on the break and, in truth, the result was never much in doubt.
So, once again, it was the boys from my hometown who were left with long faces and losers’ medals while Sticker, who had had much to celebrate already this season, were heading for another trophy-winning party. Once again, the joy and dismay was there for all to see. Cup football, even when I lose, I love it.
And Sticker won’t be in this competition next season as their promotion takes them too high in the pyramid to enter – maybe it will be third time lucky for the boys from Penryn? If it is, I aim to be there to see it.
FOOTNOTE 1: The Durning Lawrence Charity Cup raises money for a good cause in Cornwall each season. For 2016-17, the beneficiary was FLEET – which stands for Front Line Emergency Equipment. The group helps to raise money for defibrillators, one of which has been donated to Cornwall FA for use at grounds around The Duchy.
FOOTNOTE 2: If you have any thoughts or comments about this blog, email me on firstname.lastname@example.org, find me on Twitter via @cupfootballblog, or search for “Peter Harlow” on Facebook. There are two of me on there – for football-related stuff you want the one with the hat.