Westgarth ‘immensely proud’ of players despite first league loss

Falmouth Town manager Andrew Westgarth says he is ‘immensely proud’ of his team despite suffering their first defeat of the South West Peninsula League season on Saturday.

Two goals from Liam Eddy and a header from returning former Falmouth skipper Joe Cooper secured victory for Phil Lafferty’s St Blazey at Bickland Park as Town’s unblemished 20-game winning run since the start of the season finally came to an end.

Luke Brabyn had put the hosts in front at a wet and windy Bickland Park, but Eddy’s strike late in the first half got the Green and Blacks back on terms before the interval.

The visitors, who put six goals past Bodmin Town last time out, got their noses in front early in the second period thanks to a familiar face, with Cooper nodding home from Callum Kenny’s free-kick.

SWPL top-scorer Brabyn restored parity for Town midway through the half with his 21st of an impressive league campaign, but a penalty box scramble following a free-kick handed Eddy a tap-in from a yard out to strike what would prove to be the decisive blow with ten minutes to go as Town were finally brought to their knees.

“I’m obviously disappointed to lose the game, first and foremost, but to be honest I was proud of the boys,” Westgarth said at full-time. “I thought for large spells of the game we did really well. The second half was an absolute battle and you can see the state of the pitch… it was difficult to play on it.

“The first goal was a deflection, the second goal was a free header and the third goal was a goalmouth scramble, but that being said, we’ve had a few chances and huffed and puffed. There was a big chance we were going to lose at some point, it’s disappointing it happened to be today [Saturday].

“If you look at the conditions today it wasn’t a great game to play football in, but I thought in large spells of the first half we looked really good; in the second half I thought they got into it a bit more. [Olly] Brokenshire got more into the game, and give Liam [Eddy] his dues, goalscorers score goals. They get in the right areas – a goalmouth scramble at the end and he gets a tap-in from about a yard.

“I said to the boys after the game that I’m immensely proud of them. To do what we’ve done and the run we’ve been on [is fantastic]. It’s disappointing [to lose today] but we can be proud of our efforts.”

He added: “You look at St Blazey today, they’ve brought down a massive crowd – Falmouth Town v St Blazey is always a big game and it just shows what it meant to both clubs. I think from a neutral’s point of view it was probably a great game to watch because you didn’t know which way it was going to go, and like I said it was just disappointing that we happened to be on the wrong side of it.”

One of the biggest talking points surrounding the game was the first return to Bickland Park for former Town captain Cooper, and he marked the occasion by scoring St Blazey’s second goal.

Cooper enjoyed a prosperous seven-year spell at Town, leading the side to success in both the Walter C Parson League Cup and Cornwall Senior Cup, but there was no room for sentiment on Saturday with the experienced centre-half, who was also celebrating his birthday, nodding Callum Kenny’s free-kick past former team-mate Ryan Barnes early in the second half.

“Everyone knows what Coops is about,” Westgarth said. “I thought Coops was Coops, [he was] really respectful, he loves this club. You can’t blame him [for scoring]. He puts on that Blazey shirt, he’s got to give everything for that football club.

“It was just written in the stars: it’s his birthday, at the Packet End, Coops scores. I’m just glad it wasn’t the winner, because that would have been hard to take!”

Westgarth admitted his frustration not only with Cooper’s goal but with all three of the goals his side shipped on Saturday, with the Town chief feeling all three could have been prevented.

“All three of our goals I was really disappointed with,” he said. “[We were] backing off for the first goal, Coops’ one was really disappointing as we normally do that to other teams – and I wouldn’t even say it was a well-worked move, it was just a ball straight into the box.

“The last one was really disappointing to concede. We didn’t really need to give away the foul [for the free-kick] and it’s hit about four or five people and just landed for Liam [Eddy].”

While Eddy’s pair of strikes and Cooper’s header ultimately told the tale of the game, it could so easily have been a different story had Town taken more of their own chances.

Jack Bray-Evans sent a diving header over the crossbar early on and Jack Webber and Tim Nixon also missed the target with separate efforts in the opening stanza.

Luke Barner passed up two excellent opportunities early in the second half, with one seemingly destined to cross the line until it got caught up in the muddy surface, but Westgarth admitted it was ‘hard to be disappointed’ with his players’ efforts.

“I thought we played some good stuff, it was hard to be disappointed with the guys,” he said. “I quite often speak about big moments in big games and unfortunately they just had the bigger moments.

“We did miss a few chances: Jack’s [Bray-Evans] missed a header, Barner’s missed one just before half-time, we’ve had a couple of half-chances and free-kicks over the bar. You can’t be too critical although we have missed a lot of chances, but you’ve got to give credit to St Blazey. I thought they worked hard, Olly Brokenshire came into the game really well in the second half and Liam [Eddy] was a constant threat.”