Helston manager Sid Taylor will have been happier than most to see the back of 2013 after a miserable start to the Blues’ season.
The warning signs were there back in August. A disrupted pre-season program followed by a rocky start to their league campaign left many claiming the wheels had finally come off.
Liam Eddy’s departure to Truro City in the summer left the Blues short of strike options, and so Taylor experimented with formations. But Dan Stidwell’s uneasy forward partnership with Mark Goldsworthy was more fractious than fruitful, and for a time Helston found themselves languishing in mid-table as Mousehole raced into what may yet prove an unassailable lead at the top of the league.
Striker Mark Goldsworthy may be on his way to St Austell
Perhaps it simply took time for the hangover from last season to lift. After all, Senior Cup final defeats are not easily forgotten, and Taylor will surely have cast an envious glance or two in the direction of last season’s division one west champions Godolphin, who seemed to instantly adapt to life in the premier division. It could so easily have been Helston.
But performances gradually improved. A 6-1 thrashing of St Dennis at the beginning of October, followed a week later by a hugely impressive four-goal away victory against Penryn proved turning points for Taylor’s side, and Helston enter the new year in good shape as far as their league position goes.
If the Blues do go up it’s unlikely it will be as champions. Wayne Quinn’s Mousehole have taken maximum points from their opening 15 games, and they sit 12 points clear of Helston with two games in hand. But given the infrastructure at Trungle Parc it’s unclear whether a title-winning Mousehole side would take promotion, which means second place could be enough.
Helston’s rivals are doing their best to help. Sticker’s summer swagger seems to have evaporated, and Penryn’s form oscillates wildly between the magnificent and the mediocre.
But influential centre back Hugh Howlett’s departure to Falmouth Town, and news this week that Goldsworthy could be on the verge of a move to St Austell may yet derail Helston’s promotion hopes.
Taylor will need to be canny in 2014 if he’s to bring premier division football to Kellaway Parc, with a new striker a priority.
But who would bet against him doing just that?
IT’S an oft-quoted fact, but one worth repeating: Porthleven are a young side.
How young? Well, even with 40-something Dennis Annear in the team the average age of their regular starting eleven is 24 years-old.
Porthleven’s first team are, in essence, a youth side playing in a senior league. It’s a point worth bearing in mind when you look at the division one west table.
Less well-known is that at times Porthleven are capable of playing some of the best football in the league.
In the Annear brothers, Jordan and Tom, they have two of division one west’s brightest prospects.
Youngster Liam Hunter is another of Porthleven's success stories this season
Full backs Liam Hunter and Chris Wormington, have established themselves as first team regulars; Jed McCardie has grown - both literally and figuratively - into his role as midfield enforcer, and new signing Chris Blango has already shown enough in his short time at the club to suggest he and strike partner Jordan Annear could form a formidable partnership in the coming months.
Indeed, it speaks volumes that at 24 years-old, centre half Dan Tarrant is the venerable statesman of the group. If Annear can keep this current crop of players together, there’s little doubt Port will be challenging for honours in the years to come.
But before that, there’s the small matter of this season to deal with first, and there’s no escaping the fact that Port have at times struggled.
Not least of all in the run up to Christmas. Porthleven last won way back in October when they registered an excellent home victory against Wadebridge.
Jordan Annear has established himself as one of division one west's deadliest strikers, despite his tender age
Barely a month later they were dumped out of both the Throgmorton and Senior Cups, thrashed 8-0 by Sticker in the league and thumped 4-1 by local rivals Helston on Boxing Day.
But Annear won’t be panicking. Earlier in the season the Porthleven boss went on record as saying he would be pleased with another mid-table finish. It’s likely that’s exactly what he’ll get.
And yet if Blango and Jordan Annear gel as a partnership, and if he can keep his side injury-free, Porthleven may just surprise a few people and nudge their way into the top ten.
Either way, the future at Gala Parc looks bright.