EAST CORNWALL PREMIER LEAGUE REVIEW OF THE SEASON
BY DAVE POTHAM
Torpoint made it three Premier Division titles in a row to finish in front of Callington Town and St Dominick while in Division One Plymouth Parkway ran away with the title in front of Bodmin Town, who have now withdrawn from the league.
Pensilva saw off Saltash United to win the SWAZ Teamwear League Cup while St Dominick beat Torpoint Athletic on penalty kicks to win the Fred Binks Premier Division Cup.
Parkway made it a league and cup double when they beat Bodmin Town to win the Roy Radford Division One Cup.
The Callies’ second string ended the season in a superb second place defying all logic as many of the team came through the Duchy League under manager Rod Pethick.
Callington chairman Andrew Long said: ‘When we started the season, with so many Duchy players stepping up to the East Cornwall Premier League, our original target was to secure survival in the league but the performance of our young players has exceeded all expectations and we finished a magnificent runners-up to league winners Torpoint Athletic.
‘It is hard to pinpoint individual players with so many having excellent seasons but the likes of Jamie Rowlands, Kieran Prescott, Ryan Corey and Ollie Turner have been great examples of young players raising their game to new standards.
‘After a great start we ran into a dip of form but the performance in the run in once again showed what these players can achieve and the second place finish at the end of the season was an excellent return for the work our young side have put in and we look forward to pushing for more honours in the coming season.’
Looe manager Wes Garaghan reflected on their first season back in the ECPL, saying: ‘Culminating in being crowned champions of the Duchy Premier Division and securing promotion to the East Cornwall First Division and Senior football for the first time in over 40 years was huge.’
Looe lost several players at the end of last season, to work commitments, university and retirement, but apart from this the playing personnel from last term had remained.
The season on the whole has been a fantastic experience and a great success, which has resulted in a third place finish in a competitive league, which may yet result in promotion, albeit this will not be confirmed until the league’s AGM.
Garaghan said: ‘They have continued to play good attacking football and for the most part have got what they deserved out on the pitch, although we continue to learn the sterner code of discipline applied by the referees.
‘From a player point of view we have continued to see the development of some of our younger talents and also appreciate watching seasoned veterans continue to ply their trade.
‘In particular it was great to see Steven Gowing complete a 15th consecutive season for the club and also watch Matt Barton roll back the years and enjoy a magnificent season leading Looe’s attack, scoring a very respectable 28 goals.’
Garaghan continued: ‘One highlight of the season would be the cup victory over local rivals Polperro in a truly wonderful game of football, which saw Looe fight back from 3-0 down at half time, to win the game in extra time.
‘We look forward to home and away fixtures against them next year if we get promoted.
‘In the background the club are also embarking on an energetic fund raising campaign with a view to refurbishing our changing facilities and eventually levelling the pitch in what are exciting times for the club.
‘We look forward to a short break from football to re charge our batteries before embarking on a vigorous pre-season and hopefully another successful season in senior football.’
ST STEPHENS BOROUGH
St Stephens Borough can look back on a season which almost saw the club fold.
The club had a decent season the previous year but all the players left apart from Dominic Cabello and goalkeeper Ali Greensides.
On top of this the manager at that time – Barry Bunworth – had said he wasn’t going to continue as manager.
New manager Kev McCann said: ‘The club was on the verge of folding when Julian Chenery approached Saltash Youth committee to see if there was anything we could do to keep them going, so Kev Roberts (Saltash youth secretary) and Viv Gale (Saltash youth chairman) approached me to see if I would manage them, try to rebuild the team and setting me a target of keeping St Stephens Borough in the Premier League.
‘I accepted the challenge with my first job trying to get enough players to enter the side to the ECPL.
‘I bought in a couple of experienced players but 90% of the side was filled with 16 to 18 year olds straight out of youth football with no experience of men’s football whatsoever.’
McCann added: ’Obviously it showed early season asd apart from a 3-3 draw against Liskeard in our first game and a 1-0 away win against Launceston aside – we were getting hammered every week. I tried to get these lads organised and a formation sorted that would best suit them.
‘By December we were becoming more competitive, results started to turn and we actually were top of the form table in January/February after stringing five wins together back to back including a fabulous comeback against Redruth United in the senior cup – coming from 2-0 down with five minutes to go to winning 4-2 in extra time which then earned us a game against SWPL leaders Saltash United’s firsts in the next round going down 4-0.’
McCann went on: ’Results for the next couple of months evened out but more importantly it gained us enough points that would eventually see us safe from relegation.
‘We ended our season very poorly, losing our last seven games.
‘In conclusion, when you consider that we didn’t have a team, manager or any real hope two months before the start of the season, I consider what we did as a success by staying in this league against huge obstacles all season – all achieved with a team that ended up having an average age over the year of just 19.
‘Next season we will be looking to improve again with all these lads, with a year under their belts now, committing themselves to me already with our target of being in the top half or even higher whilst still building the club as a whole.’
It has been a difficult season both off and on the field for Millbrook whose off field financial problems saw the club almost fold.
Grantham said: I was asked to get involved with Millbrook at the start of season 2016-17. Plans being to get youth/children’s football back at Millbrook along with a young men’s team in East Cornwall One on the basis of growing for the future.
Being honest, we are slightly disappointed with the final league position but taking everything into account it at this stage it is acceptable.
After cleaning and decorating the clubhouse, acquiring a new landlord and with the help of the first team management revamping the main stand we could focus on the season.
Due to a management change, myself and Roger were requested to run the second team unfortunately the players had already missed all the necessary pre-season training. Hence not fitness ready.’
Adding: ’There were a number of distractions: Millbrook internal politics had an adverse effect on the second team, Players being called up to the first team only when the first team were short, sit on the bench for long periods and then return to the second team the following week and young players finding work with inconsistent work schedules = changing the team on a weekly basis.’
Grantham continued: ’Millbrook is quite rightly back in the hands of local people and now have what they set out to achieve as we anticipated this time last year.
‘The second team players and management have a strong bond which was never broken and are staying together next season in the East Cornwall Premier League, these players along with some good well established experienced players will hopefully reach the levels of expectation.’
An excellent end of season run of just one defeat from their final 11 games saw Saltash finish in a respectable seventh place.
The Ashes also finished runners-up to Pensilva in the SWAZ Teamwear League Cup and were semi-finalists in the Fred Binks Premier Division Cup.
Second string manager Stuart Manuel said: ’We achieved our aim, which was to stay up. In the league we have been consistently inconsistent.
‘We have had problems with injuries which haven’t helped, especially with such a young squad. I believe we are a match for most teams on our day, as the tw cup runs have shown.
‘In all we are reasonably satisfied with the season but can’t help feeling that with a little luck could have finished a couple of places higher. I’m sure with a season under there belt we can push on next season.’
Polperro can reflect on a fairly steady season, despite some personnel changes and injuries.
Matt Pengelly said: ’The highlights of the season being, of course, the 4-1 win over SWPL Penzance in the Charity Cup, followed by a brilliant performance against high-flying Penryn, only being beaten 2-1 by an 117th minute breakaway goal, after dominating the game.
‘Other notable wins over Hayle (Cornwall Seniot Cup) and St Dominick to round off the season in an excellent fifth place.’
He added: ’Despite both having nagging groin injuries, causing them to miss numerous games, captain Dave Gilbert rolled back the years with 14 goals from midfield and Robbie Spencer managed 23, only topped by striker Andy Cordner with 24. Defender Sam Lane also weighed in with an impressive 10.
‘We will be looking to build on this for next season with some new arrivals this summer.’
By and large this has been an excellent season for St Dominick who missed out on second place in the Premier Division by losing their final league match of the season at Polperro.
The season did though end on a happy note as they managed to see off Torpoint Athletic on penalty kicks to win the ECPL Fred Binks Premier Division Cup.
This was an excellent reward for long serving St Dominick Secretary Ken Harvey who was able to lift the cup – their first since joining the league in the 2008/9 season.
Harvey said: ’It has been a hard road and it wasn’t helped by having to sometimes scratch around for a team when players dropped out.
‘To come second in the league and to win the Premier Division cup is a terrific achievement.’
Harvey has a job on his hands as manager Andrew Moon has stood down due to work commitments which leaves the club needing a new manager.
The club had issued a provisional decision to withdraw from the league as the club searches for the manager but will have to wait until the AGM before making a final decision.
Outgoing Pensilva manager Tony Rogers can look back on a first season in the top flight with prode as not only did they finish in a highly creditable ninth place but also won the SWAZ Teamwear league cup.
Rogers said: ’We have had an inconsistent season in the league finishing mid table is probably a fair reflection on pur season as we have had some excellent wins but some really poor defeats.’
He added: ’Certainly our highlight of the season was winning the SWAZ Teamwear cup especially after some fantastic results in the first and second rounds beating Torpoint and Bere Alston on their own grounds respectively.’
It has been a difficult season for Lanreath, who dropped from sixth to eighth in the league but by and large by satisfied with their season as a whole.
Long-serving Lanreath stalwart Andy Collins said: ’I think our season could be rounded up in two games, away to Roche and home to Plymouth Parkway. Inconsistent isn’t the word.
‘How is it possible to go away to Roche ,who aren’t great, and lose 4-2, and a couple of weeks later play Parkway at home and be the first team to take points off them for the season, drawing 4- 4?
‘Consistency seems very hard to achieve for us, it doesn’t help that a player who was supposed to retire at the end of last season (Paul Haddock), had to play a third of our fixtures as it seems to be common policy these days to let your manager know that you can’t play on a Saturday morning.’
Torpoint Athletic once again proved to be the top team in the ECPL by winning the Premier Division title for the third successive season – their seventh in the last 10 seasons.
Unfortunately they couldn’t retain the Fred Binks Premier Division Cup, going down on penalty kicks to St Dominick.
Manager Simon King said: ‘To follow Carl Curtis and Dean Cardew was always going to be a challenge with the level they had placed the bar and I think the club expectations were unknown.
‘But Andy Harris and I had discussed what our goals were and our expectations of ourselves and how we were going to achieve those goals. That was to win the treble, it had to be.
‘Naturally with a new management team this meant some fall out of personnel and we lost several key players including the previous captain, a few highly experienced players which had been the main spine of the previous regime.
‘That said, we wanted to bring in our own players which we felt could strengthen our squad.
‘We highlighted several key targets and brought in Luke Doddridge and Ashley O’Rouke from Saltash, several players from Plymouth including Ryan O’Hea, promoted some of our Duchy youngsters, Dan Pethick, a class act and someone we really wanted whilst retaining some of the previous squad who had enjoyed previous success.
‘We purposely selected our pre-season to include huge challenges and teams who were expected to beat us and were two or three divisions above the ECPL standard and our pre season went very well.’
He added: ‘Our season hasn’t all been smooth running, in fact far from it where we have had to be dynamic and make some tough decisions.
‘We lost Andy Harris, who was a very experienced and well decorated player and also joint manager, also three or four other players including Dan Pethick, again a major setback.
‘However, we always had the strategy to develop and improve and were looking at other clubs best players and looking for areas where we could improve us as a squad.
‘Current players Mike Roberts and Darren Hicks were appointed to support myself for a period of time, eventually securing permanent positions as not only senior players but to hold a joint management post supporting me.
‘It must be said that keeping this in house and having the likes of Ian Stephens and Ricky Cardew to call upon if necessary was great to have that sort of experience but upon reflection the league win has made it even more sweeter with our achievements to be honest.
‘In terms of results to go through the season with only two defeats and one draw was simply the league winning performance.
‘We have proven that we have the best defence in the league conceding 29 goals with the best overall goal difference of 67 and points tally of 76, a great record.
‘The biggest disappointment was losing Ashley O’Rouke to an horrific double leg break against his home town club, Saltash, in the replay of the Fred Binks Cup.
‘We also lost Stuart Clark to a broken hand in the same game.
‘The future is very bright and pre-season plans are already under way with targeting of player to again improve the fantastic champion winning side. Long may it continue.’