Man On A Mission

Truro City 6 Frome Town 1

The Buildbase FA Trophy Third Qualifying Round

Saturday, November 26, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This enjoying yourself can be stressful at times.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Tre, Pol And Pen … (Well, Not Tre)

 

Polperro 4 Penzance 1

Durning Lawrence Cornwall Charity Cup First Round

Saturday, November 5, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

It didn’t work.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

With my Dad, it’s foul throws.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No.

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

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

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

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

 

Park And Pride

Falmouth Dracaena Centre 1 Falmouth Town Thirds 0

Bond Timber Cornwall Junior Cup Second Round

Saturday, October 29, 2016.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Traveller’s Tale (or what I didn’t do on my holidays)

A crowded clubhouse terrace at Helston Athletic's first-ever home tie in the FA Vase, a 2-1 home defeat to Team Solent.
A crowded clubhouse terrace at Helston Athletic’s first-ever home tie in the FA Vase, a 2-1 home defeat to Team Solent.
Some of the crowd at Mount Wise for the Carlsberg South West Peninsula League Walter C Parson Funeral Directors League Cup derby clash between Newquay and Godolphin Atlantic.
Some of the crowd at Mount Wise for the Carlsberg South West Peninsula League Walter C Parson Funeral Directors League Cup derby clash between Newquay and Godolphin Atlantic.

I HAVE a confession to make.

I have been on holiday and have neglected my duties as Britain’s Number One blogger about cup football (a title awarded to me by the voices in my head).

Worse than that, while I was away in Portugal I didn’t even go to a football match. Many dedicated followers of the beautiful game will shake their soccer-stuffed heads in despair. Oh the shame, the shame.

Even worse, there was a game I could have gone to but I didn’t. There were several reasons for this. Firstly, it was a league game not a cup tie. Secondly, I discovered that it was on while reading an English language magazine at the wonderfully named Restaurant Abstracto in Tavira, in The Algarve. Thankfully, the food was more solidly traditional than the name of the eaterie might suggest and the red wine was going down well too. So I was happy where I was.

And thirdly, and most crucially, I only discovered the fixture two days after it had taken place. I will do a lot to get to a game, but time travel is beyond me.

But actual travel isn’t and this blog is the story of a couple of footballing journeys – beginning with one which should earn me some grudging respect from those who might be doubting my football-watching dedication.

You see, I still made it to Helston at 3pm on a Saturday afternoon despite our delayed flight not landing at Bristol until 2am that day. I think that’s a decent effort to have the energy to get to Kellaway Park for kick-off and I think it also counts as my longest matchday journey since the blog began. I am having that – my blog, my rules.

But it was an occasion worth making an effort to get back for. You see, this was Helston Athletic’s first-ever home tie in the FA Vase.

Action from Helston Athletic v Team Solent in the first-ever FA Vase game to be played at Kellaway Park.
Action from Helston Athletic (in blue)  v Team Solent in the first-ever FA Vase game to be played at Kellaway Park.

The Blues have made tremendous strides on and off the pitch over the past few seasons, from the Cornwall Combination, to the Carlsberg South West Peninsula League Division One West, to the SWPL Premier. When I first visited Kellaway, there was nothing around the ground and everything felt a bit bare. Now there is a fence around the pitch and around the ground, a stand, an ever-improving clubhouse and kitchen and a general feeling of steady progress. The only thing that never changes is that it is always cold!

Every time I go to the ground, though, it feels like a real occasion, from the first-ever cup match under floodlights, a Carlsberg South West Peninsula League Walter C Parson Funeral Directors League Cup tie against local rivals Falmouth, to being part of a huge crowd at a nationally organised ground hop last season, to the biggest occasion so far – a home tie in the FA Vase.

This is the first season that Helston have been in the competition and they began with an impressive Second Qualifying Round away win at fellow Step Six side Portishead, from the Toolstation Western League Division One. All they wanted after that was a home draw in the First Round Proper, and they got that with the visit of Team Solent, from the Step Five competition that is the Sydenhams Wessex League Premier Division.

A decent crowd of 141 rocked up to enjoy a little bit of Cornish football history, many of the local football writers and photographers were there to record the event for posterity, and the air was thick with expectancy. Sadly for the home fans, Helston’s players didn’t really turn up in the first half and looked overawed as they were overrun by the Southampton side.

Action from Helston Athletic v Team Solent in the first-ever FA Vase game to be played at Kellaway Park.
Action from Helston Athletic v Team Solent in the first-ever FA Vase game to be played at Kellaway Park.

If it hadn’t been for home keeper Barrie-John Wyatt the game would have been over long before half-time. As it was, he was only beaten once before the break, and that by a 25-yard screamer. He conceded a second soon after the interval but then The Blues made a better fist of things and were given hope thanks to a goal by young sub Mattie Buchan. Yet the comeback never fully materialised and Helston’s first adventure in the Vase was over.

So, can they add another new experience for a cup football blogger next season? Well, qualifying for the FA Cup is their aim. That would be a cup journey that really would be worth following.

My journey to Newquay’s Mount Wise ground, on the Saturday before I went on holiday, felt like a very long one indeed. For one thing, it was a ground I had been intending to visit for a while but had never managed to do so. I grew up in London and have never been to the Tower of London. My parents lived in Norfolk for many years and we always planned to take a boat trip to see the seals. We never did. Getting to Mount Wise was beginning to take on that sort of “good intentions never realised” mystique.

Action from the local derby between Newquay in red and white) and town rivals Godolphin Atlantic in the Carlsberg South West Peninsula League Walter C Parson Funeral Directors League Cup.
Action from the local derby between Newquay (in red and white) and town rivals Godolphin Atlantic in the Carlsberg South West Peninsula League Walter C Parson Funeral Directors League Cup.

But the local derby against Godolphin Atlantic was too good a chance to miss. Not only was it a cross-town derby, it was also the traditional club (Newquay) against the new boys in town (Godolphin). And it was in the Carlsberg South West Peninsula League Walter C Parson Funeral Directors League Cup. I never tire of that title.

So I set out on the 30-minute trip from home – and still nearly didn’t get there. For one thing, I always get lost in Newquay and, although I had a vague idea about where the ground was, I wasn’t entirely sure and my research was a bit uncertain. In the end, I had to ask. And I had to ask at an expensive petrol station where not only did I pay more than I wanted to for fuel (I was running out, I had no choice), I also had to go to a cashpoint which I got charged for using. Again, I had no choice because I had no change and I didn’t think Newquay would accept a debit card deal on the gate.

And then I couldn’t find anywhere to park and so missed the first couple of minutes of the match. I hate doing that and had to get an early cup of tea to calm my fraught nerves. What a journey!

Newquay is a club living on its nerves at the moment, too, and is in a state of disarray on the pitch. In their league game prior to this match, they had lost 9-0 to Bodmin Town. Last season, I had seen their reserve side lose in the semi-finals of the Combination League Cup to Carharrack. On this particular Saturday, they couldn’t even raise a side to fulfil a league fixture against the same opponents. It’s a sad state of affairs for such a noble old club.

Theres no mistaking whose ground this is.
There’s no mistaking whose ground this is (if you can read the big sign in the distance, that is).

Their pain is not being helped by the rise and rise of neighbours Godolphin Atlantic, who have proved to be renowned cup fighters in the past couple of seasons and whose progress is in sharp contrast to the decline in Newquay’s fortunes. They both ply their trade in the SWPL Premier, with Atlantic comfortably in the top half and The Peppermints bottom of the pile without a win all season. I feel for them.

Mount Wise is a lovely old ground, with the feel of a proper football tradition, and one which deserves to see better than is currently being served up by the home side. But, to be fair to them on this occasion, they put up a decent fight against their noisy neighbours despite having to field yet another depleted eleven.

It actually took Godolphin 34 minutes to open the scoring but they soon made it 2-0 and we all felt the floodgates would open. Somehow they didn’t. Newquay had their first effort on goal in the 48th minute, which was tipped over for a corner, but Atlantic soon stretched their lead to three. There was still more than half an hour left but the G-Men contrived not to score again, missing chance after chance after chance. Newquay’s brave resistance deserves praise but, really, Godolphin could have won by any score.

This should have been the tie of the round but, with the home side struggling so much, the edge to the contest had gone. In fact, Atlantic barely celebrated their goals and will have ended up disappointed with themselves not to have won by more.

It is sad to see an old club like Newquay in such trouble and I wish them well for the future.

On the plus side, my journey back home was smoother than a smooth thing. Every cloud, eh? Every cloud.

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

Newquay AFC 0 Godolphin Atlantic 3

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Carlsberg South West Peninsula League Walter C Parson Funeral Directors League Cup Second Round

Cup Magic Moment: Discovering it was still 0-0 when I got there late after a fraught journey. I hate missing the kick-off.

Action from the local derby between Newquay in red and white) and town rivals Godolphin Atlantic in the Carlsberg South West Peninsula League Walter C Parson Funeral Directors League Cup.
Action from the local derby between Newquay (in red and white) and town rivals Godolphin Atlantic in the Carlsberg South West Peninsula League Walter C Parson Funeral Directors League Cup.

Helston Athletic 1 Team Solent 2

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Buildbase FA Vase First Round Proper

Cup Magic Moment: Mattie Buchan’s goal, the first-ever in a home FA Vase match for Helston. And the whole occasion generally, really.

Action from Helston Athletic v Team Solent in the first-ever FA Vase game to be played at Kellaway Park.
Action from Helston Athletic v Team Solent in the first-ever FA Vase game to be played at Kellaway Park.
An arty shot through the goal nets at Newquays super little Mount Wise ground. I had a moment.
An arty shot through the goal nets at Newquay’s super little Mount Wise ground. I had a moment.

FOOTNOTE 2: If you have any comment on this or any other blog in this series please contact me via email at thecupfootballblogger@hotmail.com, on Twitter via @cupfootballblog, or on Facebook, via thecupfootballblogger.

 

 

 

 

Penryn’s Party Pooped

Penryn Athletic 1 Launceston 2

RGB Cornwall Senior Cup First Round

Saturday. October 8, 2016

Cup magic moment: A lovely piece of humour in the heat of a tight cup battle. A Penryn midfielder headed a more or less free header from a Launceston goal-kick straight out of play. Obviously frustrated, he yelled at his team-mates: “Time, time, tell me time.” A couple of seconds later, into the silence as the ball was being retrieved for the throw-in, came the gentle call from somewhere within the home side’s ranks: “Time.” Well, we thought it was funny on our side of the pitch.

Action from the Cornwall Senior Cup tie between Penryn in red and black) and Launceston. Yes, it really was this sunny in October.
Action from the Cornwall Senior Cup tie between Penryn (in red and black) and Launceston. Yes, it really was this sunny in October.

I MADE a promise to myself at the start of this season. I vowed that, rather than just sticking to matches close to home, I would try to spread my wings a bit wider for this campaign, to search out new grounds, to seek new competitions, to boldly go where no cup football blogger has gone before.

So, on this particular Saturday, I ignored all of that and walked twenty minutes up the road to see my hometown club in action.

To be fair to me, there was a good reason. Penryn has been a town “en fete” this year, with 2016 marking 800 years since the granting of the town’s charter. My fellow townsfolk, as a general rule, don’t need much excuse for a party, and this year there has been just one excuse after another for dancing in the streets.

We have had a proper Bake Off competition with a real Bake Off competitor; we have had a Burger of the Burgher of the Borough competition where the maker of the best burger became a burgher of the borough; we have had a revived old-fashioned May Day festival, complete with maypole and funny hats; we have also had a “Mock Mayor” elected for the first time in more than 120 years, which seemed to involve people in strange clothes parading through town and a lot of rotten veg being thrown; there was a truly stunning son et lumiere show telling the story of the town; and, on the day of this match, we had the “Kemeneth” festival, which involved stalls and music and acting in the streets, plus lots of bands in a big tent in a field in the evening.

All of these were accompanied by much feasting and quaffing of ale, not to mention the occasional Cornish maid dressed in a wench costume. Why would I want to leave town?

Let there be music - Penryn party people.
Let there be music – Penryn party people.

With the Borough boys at home in a cup game, it seemed too good an opportunity to miss. So I wandered through the stalls and the music in the morning, walked up to the football and back in the afternoon, and then spent the evening in the music tent. That was even close enough to home for me to walk back and make myself a nice cup of tea between acts. Hardcore.

It was also a big day for footballing reasons. Penryn had been managed for nine years by Steve Jewell but he had decided that now was the time to step down to look after his growing business. He had guided the Rynners to several top four finishes in the Carlsberg South West Peninsula League Division One West, as well as to the final of the Cornwall Charity Cup, so would be a hard act to follow.

Paul Murray was the man handed that task and I felt it would be interesting to see how he fared at the start of a new era. And it was also a good opportunity to see a possible cup upset. Visitors Launceston play in the Peninsula League Premier and would not have been fancying their tough trip to Kernick Park.

So they were all good reasons for going to the game. But the main reason was that it was an absolutely glorious day for football, with the October sunshine bathing the ground in beautiful autumn light. Even this blogger’s ubiquitous hat was nowhere in sight – so I managed to get a slightly sunburnt head (There’s always a downside).

A sunshine silhouette in October. Its art you know.
A sunshine silhouette in October. It’s art you know.

Now, I have made a point when doing this blog of being strictly neutral, or at least trying to be. This time, I didn’t even bother to try. Although I have a lot of time for Launceston, and have enjoyed several games there over the years, I was a definite Rynner this time. Come on the Borough!

Steve Jewell always had his side playing tidy football, trying to pass their way out of trouble before using their pace and power in attack. Paul Murray looks set to continue that approach but, as a nervous Penryn fan, can I ask him to ask his players not to play pretty passes IN THEIR OWN PENALTY AREA!! It gives me palpitations.

Mind you, my own touch was in good nick, probably inspired by Penryn’s neat style. My first of no less than six touches in the first half (yes, I was counting) was the perfect trap of a high, spinning ball. Rolling back the years!

In action actually on the pitch, the first half was a tense and tight affair, more intriguing than thrilling, and with no discernible difference in standard between the two sides.

The big incident came in the 34th minute when I felt a Launceston player was very lucky to stay on the pitch when he only saw yellow rather than red after a reckless challenge in midfield. It’s amazing what being a supporter rather than a neutral observer can make to your judgement!

Action from the Cornwall Senior Cup tie between Penryn in red and black) and Launceston.
Action from the Cornwall Senior Cup tie between Penryn (in red and black) and Launceston.

A five-minute spell midway through the second half saw the real key passage of play in this tie. Launceston took the lead in the 69th minute when a low ball from the left was guided in, and they doubled their lead in the 74th minute when they broke away after Penryn had lost the ball from their own throw-in midway through the Launceston half.

The Premier Division side had been better after the break, with their subs making a real impact. The Clarets’ management team deserves lots of credit for making changes that made a difference.

Mind you, they had to endure a nervy final few moments after Penryn pulled a goal back with a free header from a corner in the 86th minute. The home side huffed and puffed after that, and put Launceston under severe pressure, but the equaliser wouldn’t come and Penryn’s Senior Cup party was over.

All very upsetting for a Borough fan, so I had to spend the rest of the evening drowning my sorrows while gently bopping along to some lively festival tunes. That was great fun. Let’s hope it’s not another 800 years before Penryn’s party people get to strut their funky stuff again. Somehow, I don’t think it will be!

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

All you need to know at the entrance to Kernick.
All you need to know at the entrance to Kernick.
Penryn - just a random shot of my hometown. It has been one long party here this year.
Penryn – just a random shot of my hometown. It has been one long party here this year.

 

 

 

 

 

West Side(s) Story

AFC St Austell 2 Street FC 3

Buildbase FA Vase Second Qualifying Round

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Cup magic moment: The drama of the final 15 minutes. Three goals, two full-on goalmouth scrambles and, for the final five minutes, the St Austell keeper spending more time in the opposition’s penalty area than his own.

Action from the Buildbase FA Vase clash between St Austell white shirts) and Street at Poltair Park. The Somerset visitors won 3-2.
Action from the Buildbase FA Vase clash between St Austell (white shirts) and Street at Poltair Park. The Somerset visitors won 3-2.

THE FA CUP has, quite rightly in my opinion, been given the epithet of “the greatest cup competition in the world”. And, for me, the knockout contest that has taken the title of best, er, title, is undoubtedly the Carlsberg South West Peninsula League Walter C Parson Funeral Directors League Cup.

But there is something extra special, an extra intensity, an extra edge, an extra focus to the FA Vase. Or the Buildbase FA Vase as we should call it this season.

It’s the one competition where the proverbial butcher, baker or candlestick-maker (do we have them any more?) can genuinely dream of a day in the Wembley sun; a chance for boots that have ploughed through hard, muddy, bumpy, uneven pitches up and down the forgotten footballing highways of England to actually feel the lush perfection of the game’s most famous oasis of green – the ultimate field of dreams.

Almost 600 clubs from Steps Five, Six and Seven of the Non-League pyramid set out on the glory trail this season, and every one of them would have had the same thought: “This could be our year.” And it really could. Every club that begins a Vase campaign has a genuine chance to reach the final. The likes of Street and St Austell are never going to reach the FA Cup final but they could make the Vase showpiece.

Two seasons ago, St Austell almost did.

The Cornish cup battlers made it all the way to the semi-finals before going down on aggregate to Glossop North End, who then lost 2-1 to North Shields in the final. It was a run which caught the imagination of Cornwall’s footballing public; many local rivalries were put aside in order to cheer on St Austell as the chance of a trip to Wembley loomed larger and larger.

Ok, so in the end, it proved a step too far, but it kept the town and the county abuzz with football fever for months. That’s never a bad thing.

Sadly, they haven’t been able to recapture that glorious cup spirit since. In the second round in the following season they came up against Salisbury, one of those big teams who occasionally fall on hard times and find themselves low enough down to play in the Vase. Not surprisingly, the Wiltshire side won 4-0. It might all have been within the rules but, it felt, in the words of Poldark’s man Jud: “T’aint right, t’aint fair, t’aint proper.” (Having mentioned Poldark, does that mean I can justifiably use a picture of Demelza? Hot flush over, back to the blogging).

St Austell ping a corner into the box in their FA Vase clash with Street.
St Austell ping a corner into the box in their FA Vase clash with Street.

Then, this season, St Austell were drawn at home to Street in the second qualifying round. Although that meant the Step Six hosts would be entertaining visitors from Step Five, it wouldn’t be too much of a surprise if the Cornish side got through and momentum started to build again, would it?

Well, these two have history. Very recent cup history.

You see, on the opening day of this very season, these two met at Poltair Park in the FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round, drawing 2-2, before the Somerset side won the midweek replay 3-0. So revenge was in the St Austell air.

As was the same undercurrent of feeling that always exists when a Peninsula League side takes on a team from the Western League. Does the national league structure, which puts the Peninsula Premier at Step Six and the Western Premier at Step Five, really do justice to the standard of football being played down here? Sometimes it feels as if there is a bit of a chip on Cornish shoulders about that – probably quite rightly.

So who would be best in the west on Saturday, which gang would be singing the loudest at the end of this West Side(s) Story? It was The Lillywhites v The Cobblers. I wonder if Leonard Bernstein ever pitched that as an idea instead of Jets v Sharks when he was writing the music? Hmm.

And, to be honest, both sides were a bit toothless in the first half. The main things that grabbed my attention in the opening 45 minutes were the fact that the two skippers swapped club pennants at the coin toss, which I found touchingly old-fashioned, and that there were ball boys alongside the pitch, saving me from any more embarrassing ball-retrieval moments (see previous blogs for details).

Shots on target? This is not the sort of sign you'll get to see at many football clubs!
Shots on target? This is not the sort of sign you’ll get to see at many football clubs!

The action on the pitch was competitive, scrappy and argumentative. The only real moment of drama came in the 38th minute when the Street keeper handled just outside the penalty area but was given only a yellow card. That sparked a lively discussion among supporters as to whether or not it should have been red and how the rules had changed for this season.

My opinion? I thought the keeper was a bit unlucky that his momentum took him just outside the box, but I thought he was a bit lucky to stay on the pitch as he gained a clear advantage by his actions. I now have splinters in my bum from sitting on the fence. OK, yellow, yellow, I’ll vote yellow. Well, a bit orange…

Thankfully, there was enough going on after the break to keep us all occupied and involved in the action rather than in a debate. St Austell hit the post on 48 minutes but found themselves a goal down 10 minutes later, Street scoring from the penalty spot after a defender’s daft handball from a corner.

The Poltair Park crowd really came to life on 68 minutes when the home side brought on a sub with one of the best names in local football – Tornado Bello. His appearance went down a storm (sorry) but it looked as if home hopes were going to be blown away (sorry again) just three minutes later when the neatest piece of football in the game so far saw Street net a delightful second.

So, 2-0. Game over? Oh no, it soon became very much game on.

On 79 minutes, The Lillywhites produced their own slick and easy-on-the-eye move to pull a goal back. A minute later, they were level and the 186 paying souls were making a good noise. The momentum had swung. Er, no it hadn’t. On 82 minutes, Street got away and the The Cobblers were back in front again. Three goals in three minutes. That was fun.

And the drama didn’t end there. St Austell battered the visitors’ goal, leading to two almighty goalmouth scrambles, the like of which I hadn’t seen since I was a seven-year-old playing with my mates in the street. But, despite the efforts of joint-player-manager-goalkeeper-cum-extra-forward Jason Chapman, who abandoned his own penalty area to go up the other end for two or three corners and free-kicks, the home side could not find the equaliser which would have taken us into extra-time.

At the final whistle, St Austell were gutted that they were down and out, while Street’s players and fans were bouncing and singing. There’s a long way to go in the competition, but The Cobblers from Somerset could still make it all the way to Wembley. There’s no reason why not.

A post-match huddle from St Austell as they contemplate the end of their FA Vase dreams for another season.
A post-match huddle from St Austell as they contemplate the end of their FA Vase dreams for another season.
Action from the Buildbase FA Vase clash between St Austell white shirts) and Street at Poltair Park. The Somerset visitors won 3-2.
Action from the Buildbase FA Vase clash between St Austell (white shirts) and Street at Poltair Park. The Somerset visitors won 3-2.
Action from the Buildbase FA Vase clash between St Austell white shirts) and Street at Poltair Park. The Somerset visitors won 3-2.
Action from the Buildbase FA Vase clash between St Austell (white shirts) and Street at Poltair Park. The Somerset visitors won 3-2.

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

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).