Boss Dane Bunney praised the character shown by his Saltash United side as they made the last four of the Cornwall Senior Cup with a 2-1 win over Helston Athletic, writes Gareth Davies.
An incident packed game at Kimberley, played out in front of a healthy attendance of 224, saw Craig Veal put the Blues ahead inside the first 15 minutes. Before the break, Sam Farrant fired a sumptuous free-kick past teenage visiting custodian Leo Summers to restore parity. Summers’ opposite number Ryan Rickard then denied Stuart Bowker twice in the final throws of the first half.
The second stanza burst into life on 58 minutes when Charlie Elkington was adjudged to have handled in the Helston box but Bowker’s tame penalty was easily gathered by Rickard.
And just as extra-time was starting to loom, Saltash scored a penalty of their own through Callum Martindale with referee Lee Swabey ruling that Elkington’s cross had struck the hand of Reece Shanley.
“It just shows the character of the side,” Bunney told Cornwall Sports Media when reflecting on the match at full-time. “I know every team has players missing at the moment and I know Steve (Massey, Helston manager) did a newspaper interview where he’s bemoaning his missing players but we had missing players as well.
“That is the nature of life at the moment, but for the boys that were here, after going a goal down, I thought we were the better side. We passed the ball really well in the first half and the character to come back was excellent.
“We had some great outstanding performances today and Rickard’s was definitely one. Reece Thomson was fantastic in the middle of the pitch and Callum Martindale was excellent as well. We had many heroes out there today, players like Henry Wilson and Sam Farrant playing out of position because lads like Dave Barker were unavailable.”
The game will be forever known as one where the outcome of two penalties were very different and ultimately paved the way for one team to progress, and the other to crash out of Cornwall’s premier knock-out competition.
Both calls from Swabey, a referee with Football League experience, seemed correct with Bunney sharing the populist view.
He added: “I think (Helston’s) penalty definitely was because Charlie’s arm was up high and I think ours was although it might have been a bit soft. That’s football as we put ours away and they didn’t.”
The pre-match build-up was dominated by talk of a grudge match involving Bunney and his opposite number Steve Massey, with a frosty relationship between the pair disintegrating further over the transfer of Orlando Anker from Newquay to Helston, after Saltash had also registered an interest.
Bunney once again reiterated that the only prize his side had eyes on was a semi-final spot with the Kimberley chief backing his side to prevail regardless of who they are paired with when the draw is made tomorrow (Monday).
“We are going to celebrate the win and we’re through to a semi-final,” he enthused. “It is another semi-final in this competition and that was the target – it was never about Dane Bunney v Steve Massey. It was always about getting into the semi-final, no matter what we do and the boys did that.
“We will play anyone and you have to be like that when you get to a semi-final. The prize after that is the Easter Monday game and we are the highest ranked side and we will take anyone on.”
Bunney also hoped that this win over a Cornish and Western League rival could prove to be something of a springboard for the rest of the campaign, which has been affected by a spate of recent postponements.
“It has been so stop-start since November so hopefully we can get a good run of games going in the league,” he revealed. “We can get some momentum in terms of our fixtures and hopefully that will reflect in our performances going forward.”
[Featured image: Colin Bradbury / Cornwall Sports Media]