Preview: Barnstaple Town v Falmouth Town

Falmouth Town will be hoping to regain their momentum following a stop-start couple of weeks when they visit Barnstaple Town in the Western League on Saturday (kick-off 3pm).

Andrew Westgarth’s side are without a defeat in their last eight league games, but four successive weather-related postponements have prevented them from extending that run.

A win at Mill Road on Saturday could see Town move above local rivals Helston Athletic into seventh, while sixth-placed Barnstaple could drop below Helston should they lose and the Blues win at home to Keynsham Town.

The two teams met in the reverse league fixture at Bickland Park only last month, with Falmouth triumphing 5-4 in a remarkable game. Westgarth’s side surrendered a 4-1 lead to seemingly settle for a 4-4 draw, only to rescue the points via Tom Annear’s stoppage-time penalty.

Town are also set to make the trip back to Barnstaple on Tuesday night for their rearranged Les Phillips Cup first round tie, which has already been postponed three times.

Opposition view

Barnstaple, who are managed by Craig Laird, are playing their first Western League campaign since 2016 after the Devonians finished bottom of the Southern League Division 1 South last term.

Their promotion in 2015/16, which was their second successive promotion after winning the Western League Division 1 the season before, ended a run of 67 consecutive campaigns in the Western League.

Barum then played four full seasons – plus two curtailed campaigns owing to covid – in the Southern League before their stay at Step 4 came to an end last term.

Laird’s men come into Saturday’s game having won both of their two Western League games since the reverse fixture at Bickland Park on December 10.

Barnstaple have scored 56 goals in all competitions this season, with Callum Laird leading the way with 13 strikes in 21 games, while Tor Swann is next with ten goals this term.

Westy’s words

“The stop couldn’t have come at a worse time for us in the sense of those three great wins [over Barnstaple, Saltash and Bridgwater]. Confidence was high and you couldn’t wait for that next game because you’re all chomping at the bit to get out there, whereas it definitely feels like we’ve had the brakes put on.

“That being said, I’ve got to praise the lads for the level of commitment they’ve shown training-wise: doing their own bits, the numbers we’ve had in training and just the effort and intensity. I can just really see it in their eyes and in their actions, it’s brilliant, it’s best I’ve seen probably since I’ve been here. Credit where credit’s due, the boys look hungry.

“Barnstaple have got a bit of history with Falmouth with Richard Gray, the successful Falmouth manager of the 70s who went on to manage Barnstaple. I grew up hearing about all these teams and these are the games I was really looking forward to at the start of the season: your Bridgwaters, your Barnstaples, the Bristol clubs, all new places to go.

“[The reverse fixture] certainly wasn’t good for the heart! Being 4-1 up and thinking we’re in absolute cruise control, if you’d left the game early and someone said to you that Falmouth won 5-4 you’d be forgiven for thinking they might be winding you up. It was a crazy game but it sparked us into going on that really good run.

“It’s fresh in their mind but they’ve bounced back in the greatest possible way: they’ve had two wins and two clean sheets, so whatever they felt they did wrong in the game against us, they’ve put that to bed.”

Last five games – Falmouth Town:
Jan 2: Falmouth Town 4-1 Bridgwater United (League)
Dec 26: Saltash United 1-3 Falmouth Town (League)
Dec 10: Falmouth Town 5-4 Barnstaple Town (League)
Dec 3: Torpoint Athletic 1-1 Falmouth Town (League)
Nov 19: Falmouth Town 2-1 Ashton & Backwell United (League)

Last five games – Wellington:

Jan 2: Barnstaple Town 2-0 Saltash United (League)
Dec 26: Ilfracombe Town 0-3 Barnstaple Town (League)
Dec 10: Falmouth Town 5-4 Barnstaple Town (League)
Dec 6: Buckland Athletic 4-1 Barnstaple Town (St Luke’s Cup)

Dec 3: Barnstaple Town 0-2 Helston Athletic (League)