Blues cruise into last eight
HELSTON ATHLETIC 2
Howlett 57, Eddy 77
CALLINGTON TOWN 1
After six weeks without a game Helston manager Sid Taylor may have felt a certain amount of trepidation going into Saturday’s Cornwall Senior Cup third round tie against Callington.
A heavy playing surface can take its toll on legs more used to gym sessions than competitive cup football, and the pitch at Kellaway Parc bore all the scars you might expect after more than a month of relentless rain.
On the surface it seemed lush and inviting, but turf kicked up during both sides’ warm up exercises revealed deep runnels of sopping mud.
And yes, Helston boast the Peninsula League division one west’s top scorers in Liam Eddy and Mark Goldsworthy, but even strikers with such voracious goalscoring appetites can find their cutting edge dulled by an extended spell on the sidelines. If there were nerves in the build up to the game, they were entirely justified.
Because like his players, Taylor is fiercely competitive. And though his focus remains on the league, at this late stage of the Senior Cup he has every right to keep one eye on the prize.
Of course, Bodmin Town's continuing involvement means no club can look further than the next round, but defeat against opposition from the same league would have been a bitter blow for Taylor - not least of all to his pride.
In the end he needn’t have worried.
Liam Eddy's winner with a little over ten minutes to play capped off what was, in the end, a convincing win for the Blues.
But it took a Callington goal and 40 minutes of relatively ugly football before Helston finally began to cycle up through the gears.
When they did, they had far too much power and pace for the visitors to cope with. But they were made to work hard for the win.
Lee Beer’s side took the lead with barely three minutes on the clock when striker Ryan Lucassi was afforded a yard of space on the edge of the box.
The Callington striker turned superbly, firing in the opener past a sprawling Martin Webster. The goal was met with a stunned silence from Helston supporters gathered in the biting cold under the clubhouse roof; and with good reason.
It was uncharacteristically sloppy from the Blues, and at that stage the worry was that December’s torpor might take more than 90 minutes to run off. Helston were disjointed in attack and alarmingly disorganised at the back.
But the spell of uncertainty was fleeting, and despite Lucassi and strike partner Andre Rodirov buzzing angrily around in front of Blues defenders Hugh Howlett and Jamie Thomson, the pair were able to swat away any subsequent threats on goal with relative ease.
Howlett grew in stature as the game wore on. Imperious at the back alongside captain Jamie Thomson, the pair bullied Lucassi out of the game and forced the impressive Rodirov to drop deep in order to receive the ball.
One superb sliding interception from Howlett ten minutes before half time cut out a Lucassi through ball for Rodirov which would have put the striker in on goal. The striker’s frustration was plain to see. And to hear.
As the first half lumbered to a close, Ben Stidwell had a chance to head the home side level. But after rising highest at the near post following a Thomson corner, his headed effort sailed over the crossbar.
After the break a rejuvenated Helston began to turn the screw, and any hopes Lee Beer’s side had of keeping the Blues at bay seemed to evaporate into the freezing January air.
Eddy and Goldsworthy began to link up well. Elsewhere Adlard and midfielder Aaron Collick began to find space in front of the Callington back four where previously there was none.
Tom Russell put in a typically confident and composed performance, providing Helston with a physical presence in midfiled that seemed to unsettle Callington.
The Blues began to purr like a high powered machine operating at its limits. So much so that there was an air of inevitability about the equaliser, even if when it came it owed as much to good fortune as it did tidy finishing.
A 57th minute Helston corner taken by Thomson seemed to catch the wind before drifting on to the crossbar. Callington’s defence stood transfixed as the high, looping rebound dropped to Howeltt on the edge of the box where the defender showed superb technique to keep his head over the ball and direct a volley into the top corner. Cue wild celebrations as a delighted - albeit slightly surprised - Howlett was mobbed by his team mates.
Suddenly it was all Helston. The number of blue shirts seemed to multiply well beyond eleven as under-pressure Callington were squeezed tightly into their own half. Lucassi and Rodrivov were reduced to bystanders.
In the 60th minute Eddy forced Callington keeper Jamie Blatchford to save bravely at his feet, before minutes later Goldsworthy drew an almost identical save from the keeper.
Callington were buckling as Helston probed for weak points in the visitors’ defence. In the 77th minute they found one.
Kirk Davies, on as a second half substitute, received the ball wide on the left. He looked up before delivering a languorous cross into the Callington box where Eddy was lurking two yards goal-side of marker Dan Jeffries.
The Helston striker flung himself at the ball, connecting with a deft, glancing header that skidded into the bottom corner, leaving Blatchford bereft.
Spurred into action Callington briefly came alive, and a sequence of corners right at the death had Helston supporters nervously checking watches. But Taylor’s side held on to book their place in the quarter finals.
And with their opponents in the next round either struggling Liskeard or inconsistent St Blazey, a spot in the semi-finals is surely tantalisingly close.