Non League Daily

BLOG: All to play for at the 'business end of the season' in Cornwall

English football has arrived at what pundits are contractually obliged to call ‘the business end of the season.’ And that applies as much to the south western extremities of England as to the rest of the country writes NLD's South West writer Colin Bradbury

There were two main footballing points of interest for those of a Cornish persuasion last weekend. The first was whether AFC St Austell of the South West Peninsula League could overcome a two goal deficit from the first leg of the FA Vase semi final against the North West County Premier League’s Glossop North End to claim a place at Wembley.

The second concerned Truro City, Cornwall’s highest ranked team lying third in the Evo Stick Premier South, where a win against Dunstable Town would consolidate their position in the play off places.

While my primary loyalty lies with Truro City, you’d need a heart of stone to live in Cornwall and not to be caught up in the excitement of St Austell’s FA Vase adventure, which had reached the semi-final stage. I’d been to the quarter final on the last day of February where, in torrential rain and roared on by 1,600 spectators at their tiny Poltair Park ground, St Austell came from behind to beat Ascot (one step above them in the non-league pyramid) 3-2. Confirmation, if any was needed, that consuming Sky's Premier League 'package' from your sofa is no substitute for experiencing live football.

The semi final was a different matter though. In the first, home, leg on March 21st, St Austell seemed crushed by the weight of local expectations and the visceral desire of the 2,000 strong crowd for the fairy tale to continue. In the event they were dismantled by a brutally efficient Glossop North End, and were lucky to escape with a 2-0 defeat.

The second, away, leg last Saturday in Derbyshire was always going to be a long haul, both literally and in footballing terms. In the event, despite Glossop being reduced to ten men after just six minutes, St Austell couldn’t find the net until the 91st minute and were unable to get the second goal which would have taken the tie to extra time.

So heartbreak in the end, but St Austell’s cup run created a huge amount of local interest and the challenge now will be to see whether they can translate the near capacity crowds for the Vase games into bigger attendances in the long term.

Truro City won the FA Vase themselves in 2007, in the process becoming the first step 6 club to lift the trophy. By 2011, multiple promotions had taken the club into the Conference South, only for an all too familiar non-league story to unfold with the collapse of the business empire of the owner who had bankrolled Truro's ambitions. City were relegated and were hours away from extinction when, in 2012, two local businessmen stepped in to rescue the club.

Fast forward to the end of March 2015 and City are in the running for promotion back to the Conference South. Needing to finish in the top five to secure a play-off place, Truro have an eight point cushion over sixth place Hungerford Town.

Truro’s ranks have been denuded with the suspension of two key defenders – Arran Pugh and Rob Farkins – and the recall of two on-loan players to their parent clubs. Moving in the other direction, Plymouth Argyle loanee River Allen (that’s nominative determinism right there, folks – the river that flows through Truro is called, yes, the Allen) made his home debut.

Having taken 45 out of a possible 60 points since the beginning of December, Truro would have hoped for a win on Saturday against Dunstable Town, lying 14th in the table and with little left to play for this season.

In the event, it was a bit of a damp squib - actually more windy than damp as a gale force wind rendered any attempts to play the ball more than six inches off the ground futile – and Truro were forced to settle for their first goalless draw of the season.

The good news was that five of the other top eight teams also drew, leaving the overall table little changed.

As fate would have it, Truro’s next two games – both at home – are against the teams either side of them in the table.

On Easter Monday, Weymouth, 2 points behind Truro in fourth place, come to Treyew Road and five days later the visitors are second place Corby Town in a match with an added edge.

The game is a controversial (at least as far as Corby is concerned) replay of the original January fixture in Truro. That match was abandoned in the 85th minute due to floodlight failure as the visitors led 2-1. The FA ruling that the match should be replayed in its entirety means another 600 mile round trip to Cornwall for the Northamptonshire team, and they are likely to arrive in a very bad mood. Should make for a spicy encounter.

Colin Bradbury
Non-League Daily
South West Football Writer

TABLES, FIXTURES, Results, Team News & MORE