PORTHLEVEN enjoyed a memorable run to the quarter-finals of the FA Vase back in the 1997/98 season.

Their run was the best in the club’s history, matching that of local rivals Falmouth Town 11 years earlier, but it was almost over before it really began, finding themselves 2-1 down in their qualifying round tie at Crediton.

George Torrance put the Fishermen in front at the break in Devon before goals from Darren Clifford and Rob McGaghey turned the tie on its head by the hour.

Staring at an ignominious first-round exit, Port levelled the scores via Martin Gritton’s cracking first-time effort into the roof of the net.

They had chances to win the tie late on, but it would not matter as the Fishermen would score four times in the additional 30 minutes.

Gritton restored Port’s lead on 103 minutes before Dave Waters scored from the spot two minutes later.

Substitute Paul Baron put the result beyond doubt after the break before Keith Rule completed Crediton’s misery in the final minute.

The drama continued in their first round tie at Swindon Supermarine, with Porthleven rescuing a replay thanks to Walters’ injury-time strike, his effort deceiving the goalkeeper to cancel out Damon Yorkos’ first-half penalty.

It was all back to Gala Parc just four days later for the replay, and with a second tie at Paulton Rovers up for grabs, it was Port who prevailed thanks to the one of the luckiest goals they were ever likely to score.

Porthleven made a dream start with a one-two between Gritton and Charlie Legg allowing the latter to drill the ball into the back of the net after three minutes.

Supermarine began to show their credentials and dominated play later on, with the equaliser finally coming on 65 minutes through Vinny Parker.

With extra time looming, Supermarine went on an attack only to be thwarted by the linesman’s flag, with visiting goalkeeper Paul Stevens’ reaction to the decision earning him an early bath.

Port made the extra man count in fortuitous circumstances with just three minutes left of the additional 30, when Dave Chambers’ strike struck Legg in the chest and rebounded into the net from close range to decide the tie.

A daunting trip to Western League side Paulton Rovers followed, but the two-division gap was brushed to one side thanks to a stunning hat-trick from Gritton, who enabled Port to pull off the shock of the round with a 4-2 victory.

Port took the lead early on with a goal out of nothing as Legg found the net from 25 yards.

Lee Gould soon levelled, but Gritton restored the lead just before the break with his first strike after being teed up by Legg, with that same link allowing Gritton to score again with a fine chip with 15 minutes to go.

Gritton made the tie safe and completed his hat-trick a minute later when he drilled a shot past the home ‘keeper, and while the shellshocked hosts pulled another back late on, it was not going to stop the Fishermen from marching into the third round.

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Goalmouth action during Porthleven’s victory at home to Arlesey Town

Standing in the way of what would be Porthleven’s most significant victory in their history was Spartan South Midlands League side Arlesey Town, and the 1994/95 Vase winners immediately piled on the pressure, scoring twice inside the first 17 minutes at Gala Parc through Bryan Seago and Andy Paris.

But somehow, when the Fishermen had to dig deep and show character and resolve, they managed to stem the flow of attacks and pull a goal back shortly before the break via Waters’ spectacular strike from well outside the box.

Gala Parc erupted eight minutes into the second half when Porthleven equalised from a Chris Long header from Waters’ corner, before Gritton raced to meet Gary Penhaligon’s long goal kick and lobbed the visiting ‘keeper and complete the comeback in the 63rd minute.

Arlesey made changed to try and rescue the game but Port’s stout defence stood form as they completed a tremendous victory.

United Counties League side Stotfold Town lay in wait in the fourth round, and while the Bedfordshire side were fancied to dispose of the Cornish club, they reckoned without the fighting spirit of the Fishermen.

Porthleven shook the home side with the opening goal in the 34th minute, with another long kick from Penhaligon being headed on by Legg to Gritton to sweep into the net.

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Martin Gritton’s last-minute winner at Stotfold Town

The home side were on terms just nine minutes later, however, after Gritton was adjudged to have handled a shot in his own box, with Dave Drury firing the spot-kick past Penhaligon.

With a crowd off 600 packed into Gala Parc there was no shortage of atmosphere, and the majority of those were in raptures in the final minute of the 90, when Mark Hope’s free kick was controlled in the box by that man Gritton, who smashed the ball into the roof of the net.

That result proved the club’s biggest ever – for another couple of weeks anyway.

The fifth round tie, played before a crowd of well over 1,000 at their Gala Parc home, provided an occasion few will ever forget as the village side saw off hot favourites Hucknall Town to claim the club’s biggest victory in their history.

Unbeaten since early September, the Nottinghamshire side were never superior and, on the day, could have had no complaints about the result, which was decided by a single goal from in-form Gritton in the dying minutes of extra time.

Porthleven played the game at a very high pace and that never allowed Hucknall to settle into any sort of pattern but could not find the goal to send them into the last eight.

They had the chance to do so three minutes from tie when they were given a penalty after Legg was sent sprawling, but his kick was brilliantly saved by the visiting ‘keeper.

Into extra time they went, and with time almost up and a replay looming, Legg raced to the byline and sent in a low cross to Gritton, who bundled the ball into the net off his thigh to spark wild celebrations in Gala Parc.

“Today’s result is a dream come true for Porthleven Football Club,” said secretary Vidal James after the match.

“It’s certainly the best day in the club’s history and certainly the greatest day in my 40 years with the club.”

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Porthleven’s heroes celebrate their epic Vase victory over Nottinghamshire side Hucknall Town

With a date at Wembley just two rounds away at this point, Porthleven made the trip to Western League club Taunton Town.

For 85 minutes they were very much in the game, trailing 1-0 after Mark Cutler hit a fine shot past Penhaligon on 13 minutes, but as they gambled in a bid to snatch an equaliser, they inevitably left one hole too many at the back, with Cutler seizing the chance to fire in the clincher and bring the Fishermen’s fairytale run to an end.

It brought the curtain down on one of the most romantic cup runs in the history of the competition, but one that will be remembered for a long time to come.