The stormy conditions predicted by HM Met Office didn’t materialise, thankfully, but there was a steady drizzle throughout this excellent cup fixture at Bickleigh Royal Marines Camp, Plymouth – despite a warm welcome by the hosts, Plymouth Parkway, writes Nick Miles
Willand arrived without Nick Merriam who was injured at Sidmouth last week. Despite that performance and result, the players were under no illusions about the scale of the task at Plymouth Parkway. This was the oppositions second season together as under 18s and there was much to learn by the improvement of the Parkway performance in the second half today. Defending the Guard Room End, and sporting their new kit, Willand settled quickly and were actually ahead on 6 minutes. Parkway failed to deal with a bouncing ball in their area and when it fell to Jordan Armstrong, he lashed it high into the net from 8 yards. Parkway generally passed the ball very well but could not penetrate the Rovers rear-guard, especially down the flanks. Anthony Ansell marshalled the tall Parkway centreforward and Alex Wright made some crucial interceptions. A few set-pieces were well dealt with by Jez Cross and his defenders too. At the other end, Armstrong came mighty close to doubling the advantage as did Reece Kingdom (twice) who had an excellent game and Joey Vittles. Dan Hayfield and Ash Matthews moved the ball around well and helped maintain a good tempo when on the attack. Macca Broom had to leave the pitch after 35′ with a dislocated finger and was replaced by Cas Aplin who slotted in well. After the break, having been good value for their lead, Willand were reminded about lapses in concentration as after just 22 seconds, Parkway were level. From the kick-off, Rovers lost the ball and when they had a chance to get control again, Jez Cross’ throw out was intercepted and the ball returned over his head – 1-1. A hard lesson but invaluable if the players learn from it. This early equaliser gave the home team a big boost and they deservedly went ahead 8′ later when, following a disputed throw-in, the ball was played across the face of the area and from 20 yards, a good shot was deflected past Cross for 2-1. It remained a close game though, and even when Parkway’s 3rd went in, Willand would not lie down. Late on JJ was inches away from connecting to Aplin’s searching cross but having pushed up for a consolation goal, the team conceded a 4th at the final whistle.
So Plymouth Parkway through to the next round and good luck to them – they are a good footballing side, and a good team to learn from. For Willand, it was a good performance with lots to learn again (we wouldn’t have it any other way!) and lots of positives – especially from the first half. Tom Roberts and Tim Miles played very well again and Sam Warren gave a valuable contribution. Although he certainly didn’t lose Willand the game, it is to be hoped that the referee has had better days when decisions have been applied more consistently for both teams than they were at times today.