John Dent’s task after taking over as Falmouth Town manager in the wake of Robbie Stephens’s sacking was straightforward enough: keep Falmouth in the Peninsula League’s premier division.
But like most things involving Town in recent years, the job has proven anything but straightforward.
Player departures, a squad lacking in depth and quality, and a club riddled with debt put the brakes on any grand plans to restore Town to their former glory. Little wonder the outgoing manager described the job as a “poisoned chalice.”
Falmouth Town captain Tom Whipp has his jersey tugged by an Ivybridge player
Four months later, having won only two games all season, Town remain mired in a relegation battle with Liskeard, Cullompton and Elmore at the foot of the table. On paper the situation heading into 2014 appears dire. If Dent’s side are to retain their premier division status it’s crucial that they pick up points in January.
But to condemn Town’s players for under-performing this season would be unfair.
In the run up to Christmas Falmouth’s new-look side faced nine of the league’s top ten teams and suffered a not entirely unexpected run of morale-sapping defeats as a result.
And yet amongst those results were performances to give Falmouth supporters real hope for the new year.
Bodmin were made to look distinctly ordinary during their 2-0 win at Bickland Park in October, and league leaders Witheridge were made to work hard for their 2-0 victory at the end of November. There’s a real sense that Town are due a big win.
It may come sooner than the club’s many doubters think.
Elmore, Liskeard and Cullompton Rangers are all scheduled to visit Bickland Park in the coming weeks, and Dent is confident his side will add to their tally of victories before long.
“A lot of people are putting us down at the moment,” Dent told the Packet, “but we’ve had a tough run of fixtures, and now we’re set to play some teams who are around us in the league.
“Our second half of the season is nowhere near as hard as the first and I’m confident we can start picking up some points.”
With Newquay on 20 points in 14th spot, finishing 16th would represent real progress for Town.
But if those all-important points don’t materialise this month, alarm bells will surely start to sound.
Greg Hobbs was understandably angered by reports that top scorer Kayne Trevaskis’s departure to Falmouth Town just before the turn of the year left Steve Jewell’s Penryn Athletic side without a recognised striker.
Hobbs was the forgotten man at Kernick Road, his first team chances limited until Falmouth Town manager John Dent managed to convince Trevaskis to make the move to Bickland Park.
Trevaskis spent barely 100 minutes on the pitch for Falmouth before moving to Perranporth last month, having failed to find the back of the net in an amber and black shirt.
Penryn winger Kevin Lawrence in action against Porthleven
In his absence Hobbs has flourished, taking his tally for the season to 11 and helping Penryn to fourth spot in division one west - within striking distance of third placed Helston Athletic and second placed Sticker.
And yet despite some excellent results this season, questions remain over Penryn’s consistency - or lack of it - and their apparent inability to kill games off.
Alongside their eight wins Penryn have drawn six of their opening 18 matches - more than any other club in the division. If a draw against in-form Sticker at the back end of November was commendable, similar results against struggling sides like Vospers Oak Villa, Perranporth and Penzance were by contrast disappointing.
More worrying for Jewell was the way his side’s form tapered off dramatically towards the end of the year. Results during November and December suggested in no uncertain terms that Penryn were losing steam.
An unconvincing 3-1 victory at home against Foxhole Stars in mid-December brought to an end a five game streak without a league win, but by Jewell’s own admission Penryn looked flat, jaded, in need of a break.
Penryn defender Russell May has cemented his place in the first team this season
Then down came the rain, and the ordinarily crowded holiday fixture schedule was thinned out to nothing.
It’s now almost a month since Penryn last played a game, and they more than most may have benefitted from the unexpected hiatus.
That Penryn have the talent to mount a title challenge is not in doubt. There’s a real sense of solidity about their defence, their midfield is laced with young talent and perfectly complimented by the guile and experience of veterans like Dale Band and Sean Johnston.
But Hobbs may need help up front if they are to avoid falling short. Jewell will no doubt look to address the problem of a second striker sooner rather than later. Penryn’s season may just rest on whether he’s succesful.