FT: Plymouth Parkway 2 (Carter 15, Williams 33)
Willand Rovers 1 (Worbey 65)
For their 55th and final match of the season in all competitions, Parkway travelled to the home of Sherborne Town for the final of the Les Phillips League Cup where they faced League Champions Willand Rovers. It was appropriate and probably unusual that the top 2 teams in the league should meet in the final. Being their first season in the league Parkway had done remarkably well to reach the final, with 5 victories, 3 away and 2 at home, all midweek games. As a well established Western League side, Willand had reached the final 7 times previously winning it on 3 occasions, the last in 2014/15. With the sides each having won their respective home league matches, a close encounter was envisaged and that’s how it turned out. Not surprisingly a sizeable number of supporters from both clubs were in the good natured and expectant crowd of 428. With the exception of suspended captain Shane Krac and the cup tied Les Afful, Parkway had their full squad available notwithstanding one or two carrying minor injuries. Just one change was made from last Monday’s narrow 2-1 defeat to a strong Exeter City side in the final of the Devon Challenge Cup with Adam Carter coming in up front for Jordan Annear who was on the bench. On a well grassed pitch with at times an unpredictable bounce, the game got off to a cagey start with both sides feeling their way into the game. Parkway created the first chance on 6 minutes when a smart move through midfield saw Mikey Williams put Ryan Lane in on goal only to poke his shot just over on the stretch from around 8 yards. Parkway gradually began to dominate possession linking well in midfield and looking to exploit the flanks. Parkway created another chance on 13 minutes when the increasingly influential Jamie Lowry found Williams on the left flank whose cross saw a decent effort from Tiegan Rosenquest blocked. Parkway continued to threaten moving the ball around well and retaining possession forcing Willand on to the defensive. A corner on 14 minutes saw a powerful header from captain for the day Rob Farkins cleared off the line by some resolute defending. With the pressure mounting, Parkway took the lead on 15 minutes. A long ball to Williams wide on the right saw Willand keeper Mike Searle charge outside his area with Williams winning the aerial challenge and the ball dropping to the supporting Lowry who showed excellent awareness by immediately driving the ball into the 18 yard area where top scorer, the predatory Adam Carter reacted quickest by volleying the ball home on the turn from around 12 yards. A quality finish. On 19 minutes Willand were forced to replace the experienced Craig Duff, who appeared to have taken a knock, with Ben Bickle. Willand began to force their way back into the game looking sharp along their left flank with Parkway defending solidly. On 19 minutes a Willand corner resulted in a header flashing just over the bar before they almost equalised on 19 minutes. A free kick centrally some 25 yards out was crashed against the bar by Brett Worbey just beating the outstretched fingers of Kyle Moore in the Parkway goal. Willand continued to have a period in the ascendancy with another counter attack down the right requiring some last ditch defending by Farkins. The game was developing into a tight tussle in a compact midfield with the outstanding Lowry looking calm and controlled in possession, the pacey Lane and Rosenquest making strong forward runs and the tireless Christian Pople continually breaking up play and closing the space in front of the well organised Parkway back four. Willand continued to compete strongly and defend well but it was Parkway who doubled their lead on 33 minutes. A free kick from around half way on the left saw the astute Lowry quickly fire a fine 50 yard diagonal ball wide to the right where the irrepressible Williams took an excellent first touch, cut inside his marker, drive towards goal and curl a superb left foot shot from just inside the 18 yard area into the far corner past a despairing Searle. A quality goal. As Parkway regained control, Willand’s Josh Searle picked up the game’s first yellow card on 35 minutes with Lane seeing his shot from 18 yards well saved by Mike Searle shortly afterwards. With Parkway continuing to look dangerous Searle was called into action again on 40 minutes when a neat move saw Carter show strength and control by setting up Williams whose shot was parried by the keeper. More good play down the right by Rosenquest saw him get to the by line and put in a telling cross which was headed just wide by Carter. The final action of the half saw a short free kick from Jordan Trott tapped to Lowry who fired just over from 25 yards. A tight first half with Parkway generally having the upper hand, creating the clearer chances and scoring two quality goals with Willand working hard, defending well, having a period on top during the middle period of the half but not doing enough to unduly test Moore. As expected, Willand started the second half strongly with Pople picking up an early yellow card for a tug on a Willand player in midfield. Willand’s top scorer Luke Mortimore, who had had a quiet first half, was coming into the game more and on 53 minutes broke free on the right only to see his powerful goalbound strike well blocked at close range. On 56 minutes Willand sent on experienced striker Dean Stamp for Bradley Ausden. With Willand now dictating the play and pace, having much more possession and forcing Parkway to defend in numbers, they pulled a goal back on 62 minutes. An unnecessary free kick conceded by Parkway just on the edge of the D saw Worbey step up again and this time rifle a superb effort high into the net giving Moore no chance. A quality free kick. Willand continued to dominate play as they gained the initiative with Parkway putting men behind the ball and now being restricted to counter attacks. On 71 minutes another Willand free kick forced Moore to make a smothering save low down with Parkway now coming under pressure but managing to hold firm. Mortimore was the next to receive a yellow card after a nasty challenge on the impressive Nick Milton. On 74 minutes the tireless Adam Carter who had put in an excellent shift causing Willand numerous problems with his strength and tenacity was replaced in attack by the fresh legs of Annear. Willand’s Angus Wilson was the next to be yellow carded as play became more frantic with Willand pushing hard for an equaliser. Parkway now playing on the break saw a Trott free kick on 77 minutes pushed away by Searle with the follow up shot from Rosenquest also well saved. With Parkway now under pressure and Willand looking the stronger and controlling midfield, an excellent effort from the dangerous Worbey was superbly saved by Moore. With the game entering the final 10 minutes, Willand who have been renowned all season for scoring late goals, continued to force the pace but the Parkway defence, well marshalled by Farkins, held firm. With Parkway now looking to run the clock down and manage the game to it’s end, long balls were being played into the channels with Annear running hard, showing good pace and looking to retain the ball in the final third. Despite Willand throwing men forward, Parkway continued to compete strongly and defend doggedly with Willand having a couple of close range scrambles somehow cleared to safety. Two late yellow cards the first for dissent for Willand’s Luke Alden followed by Parkway’s Aaron Bentley for delaying his throw in broke up play and slowed the pace of the game as Willand continued to threaten. With 5 minutes of added time being signalled, Parkway managed to hold firm and see the game out and despite Willand continuing on the attack they were unable to find an equaliser which could have taken the game to extra time. As expected the game was a close encounter from two evenly matched sides played in a pretty good spirit despite what was at stake for both sides. Parkway were the better side in the first half showing more creativity, carving out the more chances, exploiting their attacking qualities and scoring two fine goals. The second half saw Willand generally in the ascendancy, having the better of possession but being thwarted by Parkway showing the other side of their game with their strong defensive qualities and organisation coming to the fore.
To take the destination of the league title to the final game, reach 2 cup finals in their first ever season at this level (step 5), Parkway’s performance and victory was a fitting end to the season and a just reward for the management, players and all the dedicated, unpaid volunteers behind the scenes who have all worked so hard to realise the club’s stated ambitions at the start of the season. Everyone should be very proud of their achievements.
Credit should also be given to the efforts of all concerned at Sherborne Town for their excellent organisation and hospitality in hosting the final in their first class facilities. Well done to them all.
Although the season has finished on the pitch it has not quite finished off it. With the ongoing restructuring of the leagues nationally by the FA, a decision is now awaited as to whether Parkway will remain in the Western League or be promoted to the Evo-Stik Southern League Division 1 South (step 4) for next season. It is understood that decision should be forthcoming in the next few days and once known no doubt planning will start for next season. No close season off the field!
It is hoped that those seeing these reports in whatever medium have enjoyed reading them as much as your correspondent has enjoyed scribbling a few notes down now and then, guessing a bit now and then, cuffing it a bit now and then and finally tapping away at a keyboard now and then! Only 4 matches out of the 55 have been missed, 1 for a family function in Suffolk, 1 for a ship’s reunion in Southport and the other 2 for a mid-season winter break in the Caribbean!
For those who may be remotely interested, the away matches in all competitions have seen the club rack up just short of 7,000 miles, that’s around 5 whole days (120 hours) on the road, up and down the A38/M5/M4/A303 etc etc. Some midweek away trips have seen players and supporters leave Plymouth around 4 pm and not arrive back until well after midnight with most Saturday departures leaving around 1030 arriving back around 8.30 pm. That’s some commitment.
Unlike many others at the club, your correspondent will now take a welcome sabbatical for a couple of months before hopefully returning refreshed in July with pen recharged, pencils sharpened and a few scraps of paper ready to go again in whatever league the club find themselves in. Enjoy your break.