Saturday 29th December 2018, 1500 Kick Off
Elburton Villa FC vs AFC St Austell
The Build Up
Weighing approximately 3kg more than when I last (pre-Christmas) delivered a blog entry, I visited Plainmoor on Boxing Day to take in Torquay United vs Truro City. However, having left my camera at home when I drove down to Cornwall, so it was, that it took until the 29th, and my fiancée arriving from Surrey with my kit, before I was actually able to get anything done. So, now weighing approximately 5kg more, I packed my camera – and said fiancée – into the car, and made the international journey across the Tamar to the land where they don’t do scones right.
Elburton Villa were formed in 1982, as a successor to the wonderfully named Elburton Red Triangle, who sound like they may have lost their name as part of a copyright battle with Laughing Cow cheese. I guess we’ll never know. Having been founder members of the South West Peninsula League (SWPL) back in 2007, The Villa stayed put – never finishing higher than 3rd – until 2016, when they were relegated to the Division One West. Two season followed at the Step Seven level, finishing 2nd and 3rd, before last season’s promotion application was accepted, and Elburton moved back to Step Six along with champions Milbrook.
Their visitors – AFC St Austell – were almost one hundred years older, having been established in 1890. Playing at Poltair Park, St Austell (or, Snozzel, to give the proper Cornish pronunciation) are one of the most famous and well supported clubs in Kernow. Averaging over 80 more than their nearest rivals, the Lillywhites mean of 238 is comfortably the largest across the South West Peninsula leagues. Indeed, with 445 attending their Boxing Day fixture against Sticker, only four Step Six attendances were higher nationally (including nearby Newquay) – an impressive feat given the grim weather in Cornwall on the 26th… Also a founding member of the SWPL, St Austell were also a founder of the precursor South Western League (SWL), and have taken each title once – the SWL in 1969, and the SWPL just a few years ago, in 2015.
With Elburton coming into the match in 13th, and St Austell in 4th, the table seemed to give a pretty strong indicator as to the likely outcome. However, with Boxing Day’s turkey pasties, Rattler and stale mince pies still sitting heavily, it was certainly all to play for.
Visiting this ground was a real throwback for me, as it’s only the second that I’ve visited which I’ve also played on, with Kimberley Stadium being the other. Despite the many trips out as a ropey goalkeeper/striker for the distinctly un-mighty Saltash Youth, I still managed to get lost, and it took much longer than it should to get to Haye Road. Haye Road itself is rather a long street, so if you’re arriving by car, definitely get the ground’s post code – don’t just plug in the street name and hope to find it…
Once I was there, however, we parked up and the future Mrs Roots-Tourist (it’s hyphenated as a surname) and I walked to the clubhouse. The Haye Road ground holds 2,000, and contains a decent amount of parking as well as (I think) four pitches, as it also hosts the club’s DJM sides. The senior area, with a café and bar, as well as a small covered seating area for (I think) 50 fans, is exactly what you’d expect for Step Six football – and is actually a lot better than the facilities I’ve seen at similar sized clubs.
At £5 each for entry, and with the total food bill running to £7.30 (hot dog, cheese burger, tea, Diet Coke as you’ve asked), it was really quite cheap. Under £20 for two people to visit, and the people at the ground – both home and away fans, were entirely welcoming.
The match kicked off bang on 1500, and Elburton Villa started as though they meant to rip the form book up. For the first five minutes, they were doing all the running, and threatening well, particularly down the right with Jed Smale and Josh Tattersall linking well.
However, St Austell grew into the game, and created the first half chance on six minutes, when a low ball from the right by Chris Reski was swept off the feet of Mark Goldsworthy by an alert Ryan Lowton. Five minutes later, with that warning unheeded, the visitors took the lead, when left-back Jack Calver got a deflected opener. With Neil Slatford winning a free kick wide right, despite a punch clear by the Villa ‘keeper, the ball was never fully away. And, when it dropped invitingly at the feet of the full-back, the former Argyle player opened his body up and shot to put St Austell ahead.
On 18 minutes, St Austell doubled their lead, and at this point it was no more than they deserved. Having weathered the decent start by The Villa, Damon Mulready’s side were now firmly in the ascendancy. This time, it was the ever-willing running of Mark Goldsworthy that created the opening. Having been set free by a pin-point pass, his touch took it away from Matt Thackeray who could do nothing (legal) to stop the striker, and instead gave away the penalty. Since joining from Helston in 2016, Goldworthy has been consistently impressive for the Lillywhites, and made no mistake with the penalty, to notch his 17th league goal of the season.
Two-nil to the visitors, and they showed no sign of letting up. More good play by the impressive Calver saw him beating Kirk Smith, and driving to the byline, before winning a corner. A good punch by Jack Dixon (one of many) was collected by Neil Slatford who did keep uppies at the edge of the box (the sort commentators say are disrespectful, but everyone really loves), before steadying himself and bending a shot just wide.
This isn’t to say that the match was one-side, and possession was generally fairly even – St Austell were just using it better. Elburton Villa were finding it harder to control the ball on a slick surface, and as a result were struggling to get their heads up as well in possession. This meant that when the away side had the ball, they were just able to use it that bit more effectively. That said, on a difficult afternoon, there were a fair few 15 yard first touches from both sides…
On 37 minutes, Josh Tattersall produced a moment of real quality for Elburton Villa, when he pulled out the sort of pass that genuinely made me forget to stop taking photos for a moment. His right footed slide-rule pass inside the full-back split the defence apart, and gave Jed Smale a great chance to cross. Which he did well, but the St Austell defence were well positioned to clear. This was also a hallmark of St Austell’s play, who were well-organised throughout.
I was of course roving with camera, which meant my lucky lady got to sit plum on her own, scranning down a pasty with increasing melancholy. I was concerned that this might not be an enjoyable experience for her, but shouldn’t have been worried. She was duly taken in by the visiting Lillywhites fan, and ended up (surprisingly) quite enjoying the occasion. It also meant she was ideally placed for the main moment of controversy, when St Austell’s Ollie Brokenshire (allegedly) punched Elburton Villa’s Tattersall in the stomach. Sadly, she wasn’t paying attention, so I’m still none the wiser as to what happened. The referee and linesman saw nothing, so nothing was given, but all I’ll say is I definitely heard something that sounded suspiciously like a hard part of the body being driven into a squishy part (stop giggling at the back).
There was still time for more first-half action, and on 40 minutes a mistakenly high line by Elburton allowed Goldsworthy to race through. Jack Dixon was out quickly but scuffed his clearance, meaning Goldsworthy had possession in space 35 yards out. He lofted it over the now retreating and most-definitely-panicking Dixon, plus Thackeray, but Lowton had taken up a good position, and the defender chested down and cleared, calm as a coma.
Three minutes later Goldsworthy had the ball in the net, when he nudged in the rebound from a Chris Reski shot. The former Argyle trainee skipped past a player neatly at the edge of the area, and looked to have judged his shot perfectly. However, it thudded against the base of the post, rebounding nicely to Goldsworthy. To be fair, the linesman ran past me, and was blatantly never in line with play, so couldn’t possibly have seen whether the #10 was offside or not, but let’s just say he was.
The half ended with St Austell two up, and it was a pretty fair lead. It was obvious that Elburton Villa needed to exert more pressure in the midfield, and to their credit they did. In the first five minutes of the second half, they looked like the dominant side, but once again, it was St Austell who struck first. And second.
On 56 minutes, Goldsworthy was slipped through, and clipped a shot into the net, but was again adjudged to be offside. Then, three minutes later, his strike partner, and apparently general naughty bastard, Ollie Brokenshire got his goal. A fine corner was driven into the back post, and Brokenshire got up well to head down and extend the Lillywhites’ lead to 3-0.
As the light went, the game got more stretched (not that I’m saying there’s causation, merely the two happened roughly at the same time) and both sides caused issues for their opposition defences. On 63 minutes, a top drawer 18 yard box scramble in the St Austell box saw pretty much every player involved trying to score and/or prevent a goal, before Kai Stone took the initiative and cleared things out with a solid fist. Having once played with a broken jaw when at Sticker, a few agricultural clearances are nothing to the Lillywhites number one.
Despite conceding again, Elburton Villa had really upped their performance in the second half, and I felt they definitely deserved a goal. On 65 minutes they came as close as they had when Tattersall forced a save from Stone, with a tricky shot from 30 yards which dipped just in front of the ‘keeper. Then, eight minutes later, they had their goal, through substitute Sam Tattersall. A good delivery by Jake Miller – who was spot-on with his set pieces all afternoon – was met by the head of Tattersall, who flicked a great header goalwards. Right in the corner, Stone had no chance, and the deficit was reduced by one.
This began a really impressive period for Elburton which ended with a second goal. A minute later, Tattersall’s (I assume?) brother, also threatened, when a flowing cross field move ended with the ball at his feet. He rode a tackle (which should have been a penalty), then beat another, before driving a right footed shot wide. A minute later, Tattersall Sierra was sent through, but this time Stone was out quickly to block the toe-poked effort and win his personal battle with the Tattersall family.
There was nothing he could do on 76 minutes though, when Miller got around the back of the St Austell defence and drove a low cross through the corridor of uncertainty. It beat everyone, except for Lee Coxon arriving at the back post, and he was the second substitute to get his name on the scoresheet as he slid the ball home.
On 80 minutes St Austell looked to re-establish themselves, and Reski hit a dipping volley on the bounce, which clipped the crossbar as it went over. Two minutes later, the scores were very nearly level. Once again, former Argyle midfielder Jake Miller drove in a cross, which was met by Lowton with a thumping header. He headed it so hard, his whole body folded at the waist, like some kind of 6’2 deck chair. Kai Stone made a fantastic save (which I unfortunately only captured in the form of a disembodied arm clawing the ball…) before Martin Watts, on as a sub, completed the clearance.
That was as good as it got for Elburton Villa, and right on the stroke of 90, St Austell reclaimed their two goal cushion. As a Villa midfielder was breaking, he overran the ball, allowing the Lillywhites to counter. As the ball was spread to their left side, top scorer Liam Eddy, who had come on a few minutes earlier, cut inside, and bent a right footed effort into the far corner to bag his 19th of the season and make it 4-2, killing off the game as a contest.
The Wash Up
In the end, the result you would have expected, but certainly a 90 minutes worth the watching. An end to end tussle between two committed sides, with some wonderfully blood-and-thunder tackling at times. Both teams had spells in charge, but St Austell always had the quality to pull them through.
Elburton drop a place as the result of this, coupled with Ivybridge beating Godolphin Atlantic 4-0 away. However, the SWPL has – as always – been heavily affected by postponements over the winter months, and The Villa’s true standing won’t be known until the “Games Played” column has evened out. With games in hand over some, and more played than others, it really could go either way. In terms of performances, I felt that Lowton and Miller looked good for Kevin Yetton’s side, though at times Miller could have stood to release the ball a little earlier. Their star man though was Josh Tattersall, who dictated most of the forward play from midfield.
All the true man of the match contenders were wearing white though, and it is they who have kept St Austell 4th in a hotly fought contest at the top of the table. With Falmouth, Exmouth and Tavistock all also picking up three points, there is no room for breaking stride in the race to challenge Plymouth Argyle Reserves for first place.
Some fine performances across the pitch from St Austell, but the two duking it out for MoM are Goldsworthy and Calver. On a different day Goldsworthy could have had a hat trick, but instead had to settle for a (well deserved) goal. Calver, though, gets my vote, with an all action performance from left back. Solid in the tackle, and with a good turn of pace, he was a positive presence at both ends of the pitch for the Lillywhites. These sort of displays will be vital if they are to win next week – when they visit one of my local sides Chertsey Town of the Combined Counties League Premier (Step Five) in the FA Vase Fourth Round. Having only lost once all season at a higher level, a trip the Curfews of Chertsey will be a tough test.