Blake brace sinks Town
Blake (2), Charran
This was supposed to represent a line in the sand; the game where Falmouth Town finally dragged themselves out of the Slough of Despond, performed a sharp about-turn and silenced their detractors with a performance to be proud of.
And the omens were good: lambent autumn sunshine coupled with news that several players had returned from injury; a clarity and freshness to the air hinting that the day might just mark the beginning, rather than the end of an era.
Yes, a commendable midweek performance against league champions Bodmin Town had ended in defeat, but caretaker-manager Paul Murray’s side had shown enough over the ninety minutes to suggest that, despite reports to the contrary, Falmouth had already shaken off their post-Carey blues.
Club captain Mark Vercesi seemed to agree.
“Nice and fresh getting a new guy in,” he said before the game, “Paul’s really keen for the job. I think he’s putting himself in the picture, so the club are going to take a look at him, as well as him have a look at us.”
The visit of Witheridge, perennial underachievers and only a single place above Falmouth Town in the Carlsberg Peninsula premier league, provided Town with the perfect opportunity to breathe life back into their season.
But nine minutes in, when Withy forward Richard Blake glanced an innocuous header backwards from just inside the box, only for the ball to bobble lazily past Town ‘keeper Jason Chapman and into the far corner of the net, it was tempting to imagine one of the long shadows sliding across the Bickland Park turf belonged to Carey.
Because on this performance there’s no doubt his departure has hit Town’s players hard. This was a nervous Falmouth; a side lacking in self-belief.
Witheridge front-men Jordan Charran and Steve Eddy are certainly quick and skilful, but it’s difficult to believe they would ordinarily trouble such an experienced Falmouth back four, but trouble them they did.
Especially Charran, who caused panic early on with a series of crosses whipped in to the box from wide on the left that the home side were fortunate to scramble clear.
But Withy didn’t have it all their own way. Town were inelegant but effective in scrapping their way back into the game, and went close to equalising on the half hour mark when Glenn Squires cut inside a defender to rifle in a shot from eight yards out that keeper John Wannell did well to parry wide.
Lewis Caspell too was sporadically lively on the left for Falmouth, but too often passes went astray, the wrong decisions were made at crucial moments, and promising moves broke down in the final third as the home side struggled to inject any fluency into their game.
Even so, a goal hardly represented an insurmountable deficit, and had it stayed that way until the break Falmouth may have turned things around.
But when a driven through-ball just before half time caught the home side flat-footed, allowing Charran to race clear of his marker and dink a beautifully weighted chip over Chapman for Witheridge’s second, what was previously a molehill suddenly morphed into the north face of the Eiger.
To their credit, Falmouth continued to battle, and enjoyed a decent spell of possession just after the restart. Squires went close, then Caspell cut inside his marker on the edge of the box only to scuff a right-footed shot wide of the post.
Nathan McIntosh was full of running, drifting from wing to wing, Vercesi was tigerish in the tackle, and Caspell continued to show a willingness to bomb down the wing.
But as Carey noted several weeks ago, Falmouth still lack a big man up front to link it all together.
With ten minutes to go Witheridge capped another torrid afternoon for Town with their third of the game.
A quick counter attack saw Charran receive the ball on the right. He linked up with strike partner Eddy as Michael Newberry tried desperately to get back, Eddy played in Blake, and the stocky forward smashed a shot high into the roof of the Falmouth net.
“We had a look of impending doom about us,” said a deflated Paul Murray after the game, “we were looking like a beaten side.
“The loss against Penzance really hit the lads hard, but they reacted well in the Bodmin game although we still lost.
“I was hoping there would be some kind of caretaker-manager response, but it just didn’t happen.”
True enough. During Murray’s brief time in charge ‘it just didn’t happen’, and Falmouth’s directors evidently agreed, appointing the experienced Les Gilbert and Robbie Stevens on Monday.
But perhaps experience is what’s needed. There’s work to be done at Bickland Park, and for Gilbert and Stevens the work starts away at Tavistock on Saturday.
Falmouth Town: J. Chapman; J. Webb, J. Devine, M. Laity, M. Newberry; R. Pope, B. Wills, M. Vercesi (c), G. Squires; N. MacIntosh, L. Caspell. Subs: S. Winnan; C. Turner.