Preview: Helston Athletic v Falmouth Town

Falmouth Town will renew their rivalry with Helston Athletic on Saturday when they travel to Kellaway Park for their Emirates FA Cup preliminary round tie (kick-off 3pm).

The two local rivals have not faced each other for nearly two years but are now getting set to meet in the world’s most famous cup competition for the very first time.

A depleted Town side pulled off a stunning 2-1 win over Saltash United in the extra preliminary round thanks to goals from James Swan and Alex Wharton, with the Bickland Park outfit making a memorable return to the competition after 11 years away.

The Blues, now managed by Matt Cusack, triumphed by the same score at Western League colleagues Street and are now looking forward to staging the first-ever men’s FA Cup game at their Kellaway Park home.

Both teams come into the game off the back of some encouraging Western League results, with Town recording back-to-back wins at home to Clevedon Town (4-0) and Torpoint Athletic (3-1), while Helston defeated Wellington by the odd goal in five before taking a very handy point at Saltash United.

The winners of Saturday’s tie will join the likes of Truro City in the first qualifying round on Saturday, September 3 and pocket £1,444, while the losers will collect £481. If the game is level after 90 minutes, the tie will be replayed at Bickland Park on either Tuesday or Wednesday night.

“[We’ve had] two good performances so we hope we can build on that and take it into Saturday but we know it’ll be a tough fixture,” Town coach Charlie Davis said. “Every fixture at the moment is a difficult one but that’s what we want it to be, so we’ve got to relish it and enjoy it.”

Although they haven’t met since the curtailed 2020/21 campaign, Falmouth and Helston have enjoyed a healthy rivalry in recent seasons, with the teams having met 16 times since the Blues joined the old South West Peninsula League Premier in 2015/16. Town have the slight edge overall, winning nine times to Helston’s seven, with not a single draw recorded among those 16 meetings.

Helston have had the edge in league meetings, winning six of the 11 SWPL matches they contested between 2015 and 2020, including the last five. Cups, however, have been a happy hunting ground for Andrew Westgarth’s side, who have won four out of their five cup ties in that period.

The more recent history – 2018/19 onwards – makes for even more interesting reading. While Helston have triumphed in all five league meetings since then, Town have prevailed in all three cup ties. However, the history book goes out of the window come 3pm on Saturday.

“We haven’t had a fixture against Helston now for a little while,” Davis said. “We’ve been in different leagues so we haven’t played them for those fixtures either, so it’ll certainly have that cup feel to it and have that energy about the occasion. 

“We know it’s going to be a difficult game, it’s always going to be difficult going to your local rivals. They’re a good new side, [they’ve got] a new manager that will want to do well as well and they have a newly-assembled team, they’ve made some good signings so we know what will be expected of us if we are to get anything out of that game. 

“It’ll be a great occasion. I know there’s supporters buses and things being prepared for the journey over, so it should be a cracker.”

Last four games (Helston)

Aug 16: Saltash United 1-1 Helston Athletic (League)
Aug 13: Helston Athletic 3-2 Wellington (League)
Aug 6: Street 1-2 Helston Athletic (FA Cup)
Jul 30: Helston Athletic 0-4 Bridgwater United (League)

Last five games (Falmouth)

Aug 17: Falmouth Town 3-1 Torpoint Athletic (League)
Aug 13: Falmouth Town 4-0 Clevedon Town (League)
Aug 6: Falmouth Town 2-1 Saltash United (FA Cup)
Aug 2: Millbrook 3-1 Falmouth Town (League)
Jul 30: Falmouth Town 2-2 Wellington (League)