Wednesday 21st August 2019, 1930 Kick Off
Porthleven AFC vs Mousehole AFC
The Build Up
As regular readers will know, whenever I head back down to my family roots in Cornwall, I usually try to take in a South West Peninsula League match while I’m in the area. Now, whilst this was a slightly different trip (getting married and all) I certainly didn’t intend to let the fact I was technically on my honeymoon prevent me getting to some Step Six action.
The now legally appointed Mrs Grass Roots Tourist and I pitched up at a camp site on the Lizard, and whilst chatting to the owner, discovered that his son played up front for local side Porthleven, which helped us make the choice between their match and Helston Athletic vs Wendron United. Both Porthleven and Mousehole had made the transition from Step Seven to Step Six football over the summer – beneficiaries of the restructuring in nonleague football within Cornwall and Devon. After twelve seasons of a dual-county Step Six Division and then split Step Six, the administration have dispensed with the Step Seven leagues, and now simply run two Step Six leagues – Premier East, and Premier West. As a result, a number of teams found themselves promoted this season, including the Fishermen and the Seagulls, both of whom finished behind a James Lorenz-inspired Liskeard Athletic last season.
The restructuring hasn’t been without controversy, including the perceived disparity in quality between the East and West divisions, the placement of Cornish clubs Milbrook and Torpoint in the primarily Devon-based eastern league, and the seemingly larger gap between junior and senior football which could grow. However, clubs should face significantly reduced running costs, thanks to the disappearance of fixtures such as Penzance vs Honiton… Personally, I simply don’t think there are forty clubs of Step Six standard across Devon and Cornwall, and it could lead to very disparate divisions, but we shall see.
Formed in 1896, Porthleven became only the second Cornish club in history to reach the quarter finals of the FA Vase, when they were knocked out 2-0 by Taunton Town in 1997/98. Mousehole, by contrast, have never competed in that competition, though new manager Jake Ash did win it, with Truro City in 2007. The visitors, formed in 1922, have never played at Step Six before, but have a well-documented five-year plan for progression, which focuses heavily around youth promotion, both from the local area, and also the regeneration of players who have taken setbacks from professional clubs. Both sides had started the South West Peninsula League season well, acclimatising to the new division, and settling in behind favourites St Austell and Saltash United, both of whom boast 100% records.
After a gloriously sunny (read: sunburn-inducing) walk from Kynance Cove around Lizard Point, my wife and I drove to the picturesque fishing harbour of Porthleven, ready for the evening’s entertainment. Gala Parc has ample parking, and for only £2 you can park there for the whole day, enjoying the beautiful harbour, before heading to the football. That’s almost exactly what we did, heading down to Porthleven Fish & Chips for a typically Cornish pre-football snack – a small cod and chips costing £5.
Completing the local fare, once in the ground, a pasty (along with a Boost and a Diet Coke) cost £4.80, while a Fosters and Diet Coke at half time was ours for the princely sum of £2.80. You really can’t beat those Cornish prices. I’d move back here without a second’s hesitation, if it wasn’t for the five hour commute.
The ground itself holds 1,500, and meets the Step Six minimum requirement of 50 covered seats. It’s only £5 to get in, so two people can have an evening out, some food and a drink, for well under twenty quid. On top of that, with views out to the harbour church, and back over the rolling hillsides towards Breage, it’s a really picturesque ground.
The Seagulls had made the visit around Mount’s Bay for this match, and referee Liam Mankee got proceedings underway at 1930. If anyone can explain to me why the match was scheduled for 1930, as opposed to the more traditional 1945 I’d be interested – seems an anomaly to me? Anyhow, a quick chat with some Mousehole-affiliated individuals revealed that their squad had not been put together in the same way most Step Six squads are, with the likes of England C-capped Ben Harding and Steven Ziboth having joined in the last twelve months. Ziboth caught the eye almost immediately from kick off, whilst his darting runs from the ring were matched by the Parisien Amara Bakayoko on the other flank.
It’s fair to say the visitors started the brighter, with Paulo Sousa and Ziboth dovetailing well on the left wing. It was only ten minutes before Porthleven ‘keeper Martyn Webster was first forced into action, and only four minutes before until he was picking it out of the net. A low ball from the right was fizzed in by Mousehole, and Scottish centre forward Kieran Toland reacted first, nicking the ball past Webster. Toland looked impressive up front, the former FC Buffalo man providing a mobile focal point for the lively Mousehole forward line.
With 25 on the clock the Seagulls had still had all the play, with Porthleven unable to get the ball up the pitch to George Molcher and Dan Richardson. Every time they got the ball, the energetic pressing, marshalled by assistant-manager Ben Harding, forced them to concede possession. It seemed only a matter of time before Mousehole extended their lead, and so it proved – on 27 minutes, Bakayoko received the ball wide on the right for the visitors. The winger slowed right down, sucking in left-back Ed Timmins, before hitting the afterburners to sail past him. Cutting back onto his left foot, Bakayoko shot low, and put his side 2-0 up.
A minute later Porthleven showed that they still held a threat on the break, as Molcher crossed low for Richardson, but the ball was cleared by Jamie Devine. Then, with half an hour played Porthleven’s (admirable) insistence on trying to play out from the back almost cost them, as Toland latched onto a loose pass across the back four. He just beat Webster to the ball, and slipped a shot past him, against the post, getting taken out after the ball was gone for his troubles.
On 31 minutes, Mousehole had the ball in the net for a third time, when a header from Gerens James smashed into the net from a corner. However, the referee’s assistant adjudged that the corner had swung out before coming back in. Now is as good a time as any to point out that I felt Liam Mankee had a good game in the middle of the park, a point which bears making considering how often referees face criticism. With 33 played, Heyden Dark turned well in the box for Porthleven, and fired a shot goalwards, but it was well tipped over by former-Truro City ‘keeper Cory Harvey. His fine save, however, was completely overshadowed by one which followed 90 seconds later by Webster, when the Porthleven stopper worked miracles to deny Gerens James from around two metres out.
This save would prove crucial just before half-time, when George Molcher provided probably the key moment of the match. Mousehole had completely dominated proceedings, but when Molcher got on the end of a long ball by Dan Stidwell, he showed impressive strength to hold off the challenge of Mark Richards. Getting into the box, Molcher shot, and halved the deficit going into half-time.
At 2-0, you felt the match was as good as over, but by scoring just before the break, Porthleven showed they had enough threat on the break to keep things interesting. However, as the second half progressed, it became apparent that the hosts wouldn’t be content simply to hit Mousehole on the break. A tighter defensive effort in midfield kept Paulo Sousa and Billy Curtis pinned back a lot more, which meant it was easier for defenders to double up on Ziboth and Bakayoko, making Mousehole look much less effective going forward. At the same time, Porthleven themselves were growing into the match, working the hold up play off Molcher and Charlie Young a lot better, whilst Dan Richardson and Matt Fox were causing problems of their own in the wide positions. That said, it could all have been immaterial, as former Walsall academy midfielder Lezion Cela slammed the ball home on the volley on 48 minutes. However, the linesman had correctly flagged Cela as offside from James’ header.
James then headed over himself on 56 minutes – a striker who made his name by smashing goalscoring records in the Cornwall Combination League, James was less mobile than the rest of the attacking quartet, but showed some nice touches. On 59 minutes Porthleven – who were growing in strength – threatened, when Richardson forced Cory Harvey well out of his goal to clear. The game began to get a little more frenetic as it reached the two thirds point, with Cela forcing a comfortable save from Webster, shortly before Toland drew a better one.
One 70 minutes, Matt Fox almost levelled for Porthleven, after a break down the left. Fox was going from strength to strength as the match continued, causing problems for the increasingly immobile Mousehole defence. He, Young, Molcher and Richardson were interchanging well and pulling the opposite numbers out of position to great effect. On this occasion, Fox cut inside Curtis, and bent a shot goalwards, but it finished up just over the bar.
A few minutes later, Martyn Webster – one of eleven summer arrivals at Gala Parc – hit his one bum note of the night, when an awful goal kick went straight to Kieran Toland. He knocked the ball to James, who spread it to Ziboth, who pulled the trigger, beating Webster but not the post. It was an unfortunate moment for Webster, as he had been comfortable on the ball and made a number of good saves.
On 81 minutes Fox pulled a good save out of Cory Harvey after a mistake in midfield gifted him the ball, and then on 88 minutes Porthleven almost threw away all the work they had done to keep themselves in touching distance. The only way to describe what happened is that the hosts were pissing around with it at the back, and got themselves in all sorts of trouble, resulting in Bakayoko having the ball at his feet and room to run towards the left. He crossed low, but the defence sort of recovered, with an unidentified defender ignoring his goalkeeper’s instructions to leave it and instead slicing the ball onto the bar and over.
On 93 minutes, another good move by Porthleven resulted in a fantastic goalmouth clearance by (I think) Jamie Devine. A low cross was fizzed in from the right after the Fishermen had played it neatly across the pitch, and with Harvey out of the picture, Molcher shot at what looked like an empty net. From absolutely nowhere, Devine (he’s getting the credit) appeared and deflected the ball high, and over the crossbar.
Not to worry though – on 95 minutes, a rush of blood to the head saw Harvey rush out of his goal to meet a soft back pass when he probably didn’t need to, only to be beaten to it by a Porthleven forward. Harvey made contact with the man, the man went down, and in the fifth minute of three minutes’ stoppage time, Porthleven had a penalty. Up stepped Charlie Young, and – with aplomb – the former Helston man buried the spot-kick to even up the scores. It the was the last kick of the match (not the last touch, as Harvey got half a glove to it) and Porthleven had snatched a draw right at the death.
The Wash Up
The main take away from this match for me was how well both teams approached the match in terms of their desire to play football. Rarely was the ball pumped long, and – on a good quality pitch – both Mousehole and Porthleven looked to keep it on the deck and work it out of defence.
At times they got themselves in trouble for that approach, but that’s to be expected. England give the ball away and concede goals playing out from the back, though of course that’s a slightly false comparison, as neither of these sides have anyone as inattentive as John Stones playing. For two sides making the step up this season, I would fully expect both to be in the top half come the end of the season, and if Mousehole can avoid dropping off in the last half an hour as they did here, they should be competitive at the top.
For Porthleven, Ben Stidwell gave a solid captain’s performance, whilst George Molcher and particularly Matt Fox had impressive second halves. However, their best player on the night was Martyn Webster, who was responsible for keeping the scoreline low enough that his teammates were able to grab a point. As for Mousehole, in Ziboth, Harding, Toland and Bakayoko they will surely have some of the most talented players in the division, whilst Paulo Sousa was my man of the match on the night. Constantly roving down the left, his chemistry with Ziboth will only grow as the campaign continues, and they will cause everyone problems at this level.
To see any photos in more detail, simply click on the picture.
Any photographs or text produced on this website are copyrighted and remain the property of the author. If you wish to use any of this material, please contact me as I may be willing to give permission. If you would like to obtain copies of photos for use please contact me.