Falmouth Town under-18s manager Dave Turner was ‘incredibly proud’ of his side after they gave Torquay United a major scare in their FA Youth Cup tie on Monday night.
Town had so far seen off Ilfracombe Town and Elburton Villa in the brand-new under-18 team’s FA Youth Cup debut campaign, but Torquay ultimately proved to be a step too far as they fell to a 3-1 defeat in front of a superb crowd at Bickland Park.
Gulls forward Jayden Gilbert put the National League side, who sit four divisions above Town, in front early on in the second qualifying round tie when his 20-yard free-kick crept in off the inside of goalkeeper Toby Fletcher’s left post.
But the hosts were back on terms before the break when Oliver Pickup, who has featured for the first team on several occasions this season, burst through the visiting defence and coolly lifted the ball past Torquay gloveman Lloyd Marshall.
The second half was a fairly even affair with both sides looking to take the lead, but it was Torquay who regained the initiative shortly after the hour when a quick corner caught Town out, with the delivery being prodded over the line at the back post.
Town pushed for a leveller with Cameron McCabe coming close on two occasions before Jasper Turner had a fierce, long-range effort saved by Marshall, but Isaac McCue fired in a third deep into stoppage time to finally confirm the Gulls’ progression.
“I’m incredibly proud of the players, the performance and the character the boys have shown,” Turner said at full-time. “They’ve matched a National League under-18 team for the duration of the game and it’s only when we changed things at the end and started to chase things a little that the deficit has grown a little.
“I don’t think 3-1 is a fair reflection of the game, to be fair, so the boys should be exceptionally proud of themselves.”
He added: “There’s no doubt throughout the team that there is resilience and belief in themselves and each other and I’m exceptionally proud of them.
“Having coached a lot of them all the way through youth football or managed against some of the boys, it’s been an absolute pleasure to bring the group together from the beginning of the season.
“Hopefully some of the boys will stay with the adult teams here, because I think they’ve really grown through the cup run and there’s a lot of momentum they can take into their adult football from here on in, and hopefully Town can benefit.”
The young Town side were cheered on by a healthy crowd at Bickland Park, with many of the F-Troop that support the first team so passionately choosing to lend their support to what may become the next generation of Town players.
The under-18s team was created at the start of the season as a way of bringing players through to adult football and ultimately the first team, and Turner is hoping that Monday night’s experience will give the youngsters a taste of what could be to come.
“That’s the goal for all the boys, to be here with the first team, that’s the logic behind creating the under-18s team, especially now with the first team in the Western League,” Turner said. “There is genuinely a pathway for boys that are motivated and driven and want to improve at Town and hopefully with the way we’re joining things up with the under-18s and the St Piran League team there is a real, genuine pathway for the lads to go through.
“Oli [Pickup] is a perfect example, he has had a lot of Western League game time this season and Jasper [Turner] had bits and pieces at the back end of last season with the first team, so that pathway is genuinely there.”