Parkway exit Devon St. Lukes Bowl

The future is bright despite exit from County Cup

By Mike Parrish

Parkway would travel to the Ian Moorcroft Stadium to face Tiverton Town in County Cup action. Parkway have enjoyed much success in the County Cup pre-covid, winning the competition in 2017/18 against Bideford and again reaching the final the following season, narrowly losing 2-1 to Exeter City at a rain swept Coach Road.

The County Cup can be perceived by many as a hinderance and a competition that doesn’t rank highly in objectives for the season with a host of clubs pulling out of the competition before a ball has been kicked.

This season, Plymouth Parkway have put a lot of emphasis on building a pathway between the academy set up and first team opportunities. Head coach Matt Cusack has championed this approach since being appointed into his role and the County Cup would be the perfect opportunity to showcase the hard work that has been progressing behind the scenes. Could the players of tomorrow showcase their abilities on a cold wet Wednesday night in Tiverton?

The overriding answer would be yes. The starting 11 would see four 16-year-olds included as Brandon Gavican, Taylor Davey and Callum Bleasdale make their Parkway debuts. Jake Smith and Tyler Coombes, who have warmed the bench throughout the season would be included, as would Argyle loanee Finley Craske. Alongside the youth would be a smattering of experience as first team players gained valuable game time minutes including Jordan Copp, Callum Rose, and Adam Carter. Rio Garside, a youngster himself and Mikey Williams would make up the starting 11.

Tiverton, who made a host of changes themselves would enjoy most of the possession throughout the evening and eventually progress to the Quarter Finals winning 3-1 on the night. For the youngsters in grey, it could be seen as a coming-of-age evening as they faced experienced Southern League players, Exeter City loanees and men. The experimental side would walk away exhausted but with their heads held high.

Parkway would enjoy early chances and neat patterns of play. Winger Bleasdale would be involved throughout the opening 20 minutes and would fire an effort just wide on 12 minutes. Town were industrious and looked to play down the flanks as Taylor Davey and Finley Craske, marshalled well by captain Callum Rose would cope well with the early pressure.

It would be Parkway who would take the lead with Rio Garside making it three goals in three games as the number 8 pinched the ball in the area and finished coolly, wheeling away to celebrate with the away support as the youngsters ran to join in. Tiverton responded well and aided by a wall of Yellow behind the away goal forced Tyler Coombes in the Parkway goal to showcase his abilities with a string of stunning saves, drawing applause from all four sides of the ground.

Despite leading 1-0, Parkway’s task got even more difficult on 35 minutes as captain Callum Rose would depart handing 16-year-old Ryan Geach his debut. The back line would now consist of three Under 17’s players and with encouragement and good instructions from the bench made it to the break and leading the cup tie.

Jack Crago would appear from the changing room replacing Mikey Williams at the break and he could have doubled the lead on 58 minutes as his curling effort looped over the bar. Tiverton always looked dangerous throughout the evening would make a few changes as the tiring Parkway youngsters slowly began to buckle. Just after the hour mark, the home side would be awarded a penalty as Louis Morrison levelled up proceedings on 63 minutes.

A yellow onslaught would follow but some valiant defending and world class goalkeeping would keep the Southern Premier League South side at bay till the 83rd minute as Exeter loanee Olaf Kozela would connect from a looping corner. Two minutes later, Tiverton would seal the cup tie as Kozela added his second with a cool finish from close range as Town booked their place in the quarter final.

Parkway’s new mantra of unity and togetherness was on show following the final whistle with a large contingent of the first team on hand to clap off their younger counterparts. Despite being given the night off, nearly all the first team regulars would show their support and encouragement to a group of youngsters who showed that they could mix it with experienced players on a cold wet Wednesday night in Tiverton.