Westgarth ‘bitterly disappointed’ after FA Cup exit

Falmouth Town manager Andrew Westgarth admitted to being ‘in a little bit of shock’ after his side were dumped out of the Emirates FA Cup at the hands of local rivals Helston Athletic on Saturday.

Tom Moxham gave Town the lead midway through the first half of the preliminary round tie at Kellaway Park when his cross deceived Helston goalkeeper Cory Harvey and flew into the net, and it appeared, until very late on, that the left-back’s effort was going to be the difference between the teams.

Enter Blues striker Rikki Shepherd, who got on the end of Harvey’s long free-kick in the 85th minute and headed it past Ryan Barnes, before volleying home with his next chance two minutes later to stun the visitors and send the Blues through.

Helston are now the ones looking forward to a maiden appearance in the first qualifying round in two weeks’ time, with a shell shocked Town left wondering what might have been.

“I’m in a little bit of shock as to how we’ve lost that game of football,” Westgarth said after the game. “Until whatever minute it was, 85 or 86, it felt like there was only going to be one winner. We played some great stuff in the first half, we dominated the game, we’ve had chances which have probably now cost us. 

“From Cory [Harvey] kicking the ball from his 18-yard box it somehow managed to find the back of the net, and from then, which they’ve done all game, they’ve gone very direct and put under pressure, and it’s disappointing to concede the second right at the end.”

He continued: “[The players are] understandably disappointed. For large spells of the game we were the far better footballing side, we had better chances and I don’t think they had a shot on target until the goals, but that’s how football is won, in the boxes. It’s all well having the possession but you win games by scoring goals and that’s what they’ve done.

“I’m just bitterly disappointed. it’s such an occasion, the FA Cup, and we seem to be on a bit of a bad run over here at the minute.”

At 85 minutes it looked as if Town were closing in on victory and their place in the next round, only for two chances in two minutes to rescue a dramatic win for the hosts.

A long ball from Blues gloveman Cory Harvey found its way to Shepherd inside the box, who had space to nod it past Barnes and seemingly secure a replay at Bickland Park in midweek, only for the same man to get on the end of Tom Payne’s cross two minutes later and fire the hosts into Monday’s first qualifying round draw.

“It’s really disappointing but Rikki’s a top striker isn’t he, if you give him a chance he’ll bury it,” Westgarth said. “He is your ultimate fox in the box. You’ve got to give credit to them, they are what they are, very direct, very in your face and we’ve got to deal with that.”

Hindsight is a wonderful thing and Town will look back on a dominant first half. Jack Webber, on his 100th appearance for Town, twice came a matter of centimetres away with two strikes on the edge of the box, while Tim Nixon was denied from six yards by a vital block from a blue shirt.

Luke Brabyn, Cam Hutchison and Luke Barner also had good opportunities after the break, and while Westgarth and his side rued those missed chances, he was optimistic that his side’s performance over the first 85 minutes will stand Town in good stead for the remainder of the season.

“Games are won in the boxes and they scored two and we didn’t,” Westgarth said. “But we played some great football and I think if we play like that throughout the season we’ll be absolutely fine. We had some great performances out there today, but unfortunately we fell short.”