Preview: Falmouth Town v Launceston

Falmouth Town are bidding to reach the first round proper of the FA Vase for the fifth season in a row when they host Launceston in the second qualifying round on Saturday (kick-off 3pm).

Town welcome their east Cornwall opponents, who currently sit bottom of the South West Peninsula League Premier West table, to Bickland Park off the back of finally earning their first Western League point away from home last weekend, when Tim Nixon’s goal rescued a 1-1 draw at Keynsham Town.

While Town have struggled on the road, a goalless draw with Helston Athletic in their last home fixture on September 7 extended their unbeaten start to the season at Bickland Park to six games in all competitions (four wins, two draws).

One of those four wins was a 3-1 triumph over Launceston’s SWPL colleagues St Austell on August 27, with goals from Nixon, Tom Annear and Charlie Edney securing Town’s passage into the second qualifying round.

That victory earned Town a handy £550 in prize money, with Andrew Westgarth’s side now seeking the £725 on offer for defeating the Clarets, but a spot in the next round and a boost in confidence amid a tough league run is at the front of the Town chief’s mind.

“It’s nice to be back at Bickland on a Saturday, it’s felt like a long time,” Westgarth said. “I think we’ve only played one game on Saturday since Clevedon [on August 13] and that was St Austell [in the previous round]. It’s great to be back at Bickland, I’m really looking forward to that. Nothing beats a cup game at Bickland.

“Cup football has always been really important to us as a group. It can definitely keep your season alive, it galvanises the group and there are special moments in cup football. [The Vase] is a competition we want to do well in and it is a welcome distraction from the league as we’re on a bit of a tough run, so it’s a chance to get some confidence and hopefully a win.”

It has been a difficult start to the 2022/23 campaign for Launceston, who are rooted to the foot of the SWPL Premier West table with only two points to their name from their first 11 games of the season.

Price inherited a large rebuilding job when he took over from former boss Dan Hart in the summer, with the former Watford left-back turning to young, local players to build a team for the town, rather than relying on players from across the border.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the new-look Clarets squad is taking a bit of time to gel, with the east Cornwall outfit – who received a bye to the second qualifying round of the Vase – scoring just three goals as they lost their first seven games of the season, before Price’s side got off the mark with successive draws at Sticker and at home to Bodmin Town earlier this month.

“I heard their manager on the [Cornish soccer] podcast the other week and he came across as a good guy.” Westgarth said. “We’ve been in their situation before when you’re playing against so-called bigger sides and teams can raise their game, so we’re under no illusions that it’s going to be a tough game regardless of their league position. 

“When teams arrive down at Bickland Park they up their game at the best of times, especially in a Vase game, so we’ve got to be professional with how we approach the game and how we conduct ourselves.”

Last five games – Falmouth Town:

Sep 17: Keynsham Town 1-1 Falmouth Town (League)
Sep 7: Falmouth Town 0-0 Helston Athletic (League)
Sep 3: Mousehole 3-2 Falmouth Town (League)
Aug 29: Ashton & Backwell United 1-0 Falmouth Town (League)
Aug 27: Falmouth Town 3-1 St Austell (FA Vase)

Last five games – Launceston:

Sep 21: Liskeard Athletic 5-1 Launceston (League)
Sep 17: Launceston 0-4 Wadebridge Town (League)
Sep 13: Launceston 3-3 Bodmin Town (League)
Sep 3: Sticker 2-2 Launceston (League)
Aug 27: Wendron United 3-0 Launceston (League)