DAN Jennings’ late winner planted the Cornish flag in the Walter C Parson Cup final as Liskeard Athletic beat Newton Abbot Spurs 2-1 in a dramatic semi-final at Erme Valley on Tuesday.
A feisty clash of the counties saw both sides reduced to 10 men, with Spurs forward James Moxon seeing red just before half-time and Liskeard’s Macauley Thorp joining him on the naughty step for the final 10 minutes.
Liskeard’s James Rowe opened the scoring in the first half and it took more than an hour for his goal to be equalled by Toby Pullman. Jennings netted the winner minutes later.
'It’s savage,’ said Newton Spurs boss Marc Revell. 'We got sucker-punched twice tonight.
'I think we were the better team for 70-75 minutes; the whole time we had one man less than them, we were the better team. It was a plan once we went dow to 10 men just to stay tight. I put four in midfield just so we have more people in midfield when we have 10 than when we had 11, so I think in some ways it suited us a little bit.
'They took their foot off the pedal and they couldn’t get a foothold in the game and then once we got that first goal, I thought there was only going to be one winner but we got carried away and were caught cold again. It’s disappointing but I’m not angry.’
It took 19 minutes for the Cornishmen to make the breakthrough. Harry Jeffrey, who had been finding all sorts of joy on the left flank, skipped through once again and teed a clever ball across the face of goal for Rowe to smash home on arrival.
Spurs reacted well but struggled to craft many opportunities as the Blues’ defence compacted well and frustrated the Devonian attack. The final action of the first half saw Spurs striker Moxon given his marching orders for a full-blooded challenge in the centre of the park.
'I can’t call it stupidity because I remember doing it in semi-finals and in big games myself,’ Revell said. ‘I said to James that my centre-forwards should not be that far back, making tackles at right-back.
'There’s other people on the pitch who should be doing that, but on the flip-side I’m not too mad at him for going and putting himself about because I know when James is putting himself about he feels like he is playing well, which he was.
'We were dominating up there and he was giving the centre-half problems but it just knocked the belief out of us a little bit. But you’ve got to suck it up and kick on, which we did; I think we were the better side after that.’
Drama began to unfold on 83 minutes. Thorp put his hand up to the face of one of the Spurs men and was given a straight red card, evening the playing field. Spurs were awarded a penalty, which Pullman coolly tucked into the bottom-left corner.
But, just three minutes later, Liskeard restored their lead through Jennings, who stroked an effort home across goal having been given freedom at the far post.
'Because we got the equaliser, I think we were so believing that we were going to go on and win it,’ Revell explained. ‘Then in my opinion, there was an offside in the ball over the top, which the guys in line said it was but it turned out it wasn’t and we were caught napping at the far stick.
'We put Owen [Green] on for Sam Hancox because I wanted Owen to push forward and play in more of an advanced wing position rather than right-back, and I think we maintained that when they caught us on the break, so maybe there was a little bit of naivety from us but I think they were as surprised they scored to go 2-1 up as I was.
'Sometimes,’ Revell continued, 'defeat in a semi-final is bigger than a win because you can get away with a win and then maybe you win the final and maybe you lose, but you still go there. This will be a massive part of our learning curve.
'All winning teams and all winning teams on their way to the top will lose a semi-final, and you see that everywhere. I said to my lads that we have to take heart from the performance; it’s disappointing to lose a semi-final but it will add to their character and long-term personality.’
Liskeard will meet Okehampton Argyle in the cup final on Saturday, May 13, in Launceston.