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The FA Cup had been running for 25 years before the first club from Cornwall graced this illustrious competition.
On the 6th October, 1906, Torpoint Association FC, formed almost 20 years earlier but only taking that moniker after amalgamating Torpoint Triumph FC in 1905, just a season prior to their FA Cup debut, set up to face Bristol based side Staple Hill in the 1st qualifying round of the competition. Playing in the Plymouth and District League Division One, Torpoint Association were facing a more senior Western League Division Two club, a club with a 10 campaign FA Cup pedigree, and a club who had appeared in the 1st Round ‘Proper’ just the season before (losing 7-2 at Manchester United).
Torpoint Association would have considered themselves to have done very well then to have held their visitors to a 1-1 draw and set up a replay at Staple Hill, but it was to get even better for this trailblazing Cornish club as they went on to win the replay 3-0 to set up a 2nd qualifying round trip to Radstock Town. Somerset based Radstock Town were also plying their trade in the Western League Division Two and this time proved too much for their junior opponents, although the 2-0 scoreline was nothing to be embarrassed about.
Torpoint Association would become Torpoint Athletic following the cessation of hostilities of The Great War, but it would be another 104 years before they competed in the FA Cup again, playing just three more times so far as members of the South West Peninsula League Premier Division, but never yet equalling that inaugural run to the 2nd qualifying round.
Torpoint were the first of 16 clubs from Cornwall to have appeared in the FA Cup with a total of 330 campaigns between them. The second club to make their FA Cup bow, coming seven years after Torpoint’s run, was St Austell FC, also representatives of the Plymouth and District League Division One. St Austell were drawn to travel to Yeovil Town of the more senior Somerset Senior League Division ‘A’ in the Extra Preliminary Round. This Yeovil Town was a forerunner to the current club amalgamating with Petters United after the First World War to form the current club.
However, St Austell proved too good for their higher league opponents winning the tie 2-0 before going on to thrash another Somerset Senior League Division ‘A’ club, Minehead, 7-1 in the preliminary round, a record win for the Cornish side in the competition. The Cup run would come to a shuddering halt in the next round losing 8-1 at Welton Rovers of the much higher Western League, which still stands as the club’s record FA Cup defeat. Along with many, many other clubs, St Austell withdrew from the following 1914/15 FA Cup competition due to the depletion of available players owing to mass enlisting of pals battalions to fight in The Great War.
St Austell would become a regular representative of Cornish Football in the FA Cup over the next 20 years or so, achieving a peak of reaching the 3rd qualifying round in the 1947-48 season when members of the Cornish Senior Cup League beating Western League Division One side Glastonbury 2-1 and Dartmouth United of Plymouth and District League Division One 5-2, before losing 2-1 at home to Street of Western League Division One. The Lilywhites have competed 29 times in the FA Cup, the last five seasons of which under the name AFC St Austell.
The 1925/26 saw two Cornish clubs compete in the FA Cup in the same season for the first time as the short-lived Newquay United FC entered for the first of two consecutive seasons. As was often the case in the early rounds of the FA Cup, if only two clubs entered from the same geographical region they would invariably be drawn against each other, and so it was for Newquay United who had to travel to fellow Plymouth and District League Division One side St Austell where they were beaten 3-1 in the Extra Preliminary Round. The following year they were exempted until the preliminary round where they were beaten 4-1 by another league opponent Green Waves (Plymouth). So two FA Cup campaigns and two defeats for Newquay United.
In 1924/25 season Truro City entered the FA Cup for the first time, being the only Cornish representative that season, and the first one following the end of the War. Unfortunately, the White Tigers suffered a heavy 6-0 defeat at fellow Plymouth and District League Division One club Green Waves (Plymouth), and the club wouldn’t appear again in the competition for another 25 years. They had had 30 campaigns prior to this season’s run to the 1st Round ‘Proper’ and had peaked at reaching the 3rd qualifying round three times in the last eight seasons as first a Southern League Premier Division club and then twice as members of the Conference/National League South.
The next Cornish club to try their hand in the FA Cup was Wadebridge Town who entered as members of the Plymouth and District League in 1930/31 season alongside St Austell. A 1-0 home win over Somerset based Westland Works of Western League Division Two (that club’s only FA Cup match) saw The Bridgers through to travel to the original Taunton Town FC plying their trade in the much higher Southern League Western Division. A 2-0 defeat to a club who would go on the make the 1st Round ‘Proper’ that season brought their inaugural run to an end.
The Bridgers would go on to appear in the FA Cup 34 more times reaching a best of the 3rd qualifying round four times, most latterly in the 1971/72 season whilst members of the South Western League. A 3-2 win at league opponents Saltash United in the 1st qualifying round was followed up by a 4-1 win at home to another, St Blazey, in the second. Devon based Bideford, soon to be crowned Western League champions at the end of the season, brought their run to an end winning 4-1 in the 3rd qualifying round.
The 1950/51 season saw five Cornish clubs compete in the FA Cup for the first time with both Newquay and St Blazey making their bow as members of the Cornish Senior Cup League. Newquay had the better debut of the two, but it would be St Blazey who would go on to have the better FA Cup record. Newquay thumped Weston-super-Mare St John’s 7-1 in the Extra Preliminary Round, their opponents being members of Bristol and District League Division One playing what would be their last FA Cup game, before despatching league opponents St Austell 3-0 and Western League Division Two outfit Ilfracombe Town 5-2 in the next two rounds. Western League Division One side Street would be the end of the Cup run for Newquay, losing 2-1 at home in the 2nd qualifying round, a round the Peppermints would appear in five more times without ever going ever further during their 23 FA Cup campaigns so far.
St Blazey on the other hand, scraped through their extra preliminary round tie against Exmouth Town of the Exeter and District League Premier Division. The sides drew 3-3 before St Blazey won the replay 4-1 bringing them a home tie against the aforementioned Ilfracombe Town who thumped them 6-0 at their own ground. St Blazey hold the record of most FA Cup campaigns of all Cornish clubs, appearing 61 times and coming ever so close to making the 1st Round ‘Proper’ in the 1998/99 season.
St Blazey were members of the South West League that year and the run began with a tight 3-2 win over Hellenic League Premier Division side EFC Cheltenham in the 1st qualifying round. This was followed up by a 3-1 win at Midland Football Alliance club Pershore Town and a 1-0 home win over Isthmian League Division Two club Barking FC, one half of the current Barking club formed in 2001 as a result of a merger with East Ham United. The Green and Black’s then hosted Camberley Town from Division Three of the Isthmian League who, like St Blazey, were trying to make the 1st Round ‘Proper’ of the FA Cup for the first time. However, it was the Surrey based club who triumphed with a 2-0 victory to make a little piece of history of their own.
Two seasons later six Cornish clubs appeared in the FA Cup for the first time as Penzance made their bow, the most westerly mainland side ever to compete in the FA Cup. A 3-1 defeat at fellow South Western League side St Blazey ended the Magpies’ inaugural FA Cup as soon as it began. Penzance wouldn’t win their first FA Cup match until their fourth attempt, and when they did eventually win they went all the way to the 3rd qualifying round for the first of two occasions in 1955/56 season. Three successive wins over fellow South Western League sides, Newquay 4-2, Truro City 3-1 and Bodmin Town 4-3, led the Magpies to a home tie against Bideford from Western League Division One. A credible 2-2 draw against the higher league side was followed by a 2-0 defeat in the replay. Twenty years later Penzance made the 3rd qualifying round again, the furthest they have been so far in their 27 campaigns.
Bodmin Town first entered the FA Cup in the 1954/55 season, one of an at-the-time record seven clubs from the county to compete in it that season. A debut 2-0 win at home to fellow South Western League club Wadebridge Town led to a 1st qualifying round tie at home to Minehead from Western League Division Two. An entertaining 3-3 draw was followed up by an equally entertaining 2-2 draw resulting in a third match to settle the tie, which the higher league side eventually won by the odd goal in five. Bodmin Town are still competing in the FA Cup, with 2017-18 being the Black and Ambers’ 17th appearance so far. To date the club’s best run took them to the 3rd qualifying round in 2011-12 season whilst members of South West Peninsula League Premier Division.
The run started with a high scoring 6-3 extra preliminary round victory over league opponents Falmouth Town in what is that club’s last FA Cup match to date. Next came a terrific 2-1 win at Western League Premier Division side Barnstaple Town, a 3-1 win at league opponents Tavistock Town and a 4-1 replay win over Yate Town from the Southern League Division One South and West after a 1-1 draw. Another 1-1 draw was obtained at home to Isthmian League Division One South outfit Godalming Town in the 3rd qualifying round before finally succumbing to a 5-1 defeat in the replay.
The next Cornish club to partake in the FA Cup for the first time occurred in the 1962-63 season, and what an impact they made. Falmouth Town had only been formed in 1949 abut were Champions of the South Western League when entering the FA Cup for the first time, but nothing could have predicted their debut Cup run. A 1-1 draw at home to Western League side Barnstaple Town might have expected to lead to defeat in the replay but The Ambers went on to win that match 3-1. A tight 1-0 home win over league opponents St Blazey in the next round still gave no indication of what was to come, and a 1-1 draw at home to Western League side Bideford in the next round would similarly have raised no eyebrows.
However, Falmouth Town won that 3rd qualifying round replay 3-0 to become the first Cornish side to make to within one round of the ‘Proper’ rounds of the FA Cup. They were drawn at home to Southern League Premier Division side Bath City, a club with regular appearances in the 1st Round ‘Proper’, but two goals by Peter Bennett created further history for the Cornish club as they won the tie 2-1 to make it through. The draw was kind, a home tie against a Football League club, albeit Oxford United who had established that membership just the season before. There was to be no giant-killing for the Cornish side as Jonny Penny hit a late goal in their 2-1 defeat, but history had already been made.
The 1960s, though, would prove to be a fruitful time for Falmouth Town in the FA Cup. A second successive 4th qualifying round appearance the next season would soon be bettered by a second appearance in the 1st Round ‘Proper’ (1967-68, a 5-2 defeat at League Division Three side Peterborough United), and then a third (1969-70, a 4-1 home defeat to the same club then of Football League Division Four). Until this 2017/18 season Falmouth Town had been the only club to make it so far in the competition.
Falmouth Town has the second highest number of FA Cup campaigns (46) of all Cornish clubs and has twice come close to once again emulating their record run (successively in 1975/76 and 1976/77 seasons). The only other Cornish club, aside from the already mentioned St Blazey, to come this close prior to this season is Saltash United, who only entered the FA Cup for the first time in the year after Falmouth’s last 1st Round ‘Proper’ appearance.
The Ashes’ debut FA Cup game resulted in a 3-1 win at fellow South Western League side Wadebridge Town before bowing out to Western League side Bideford 3-2 in the 2nd qualifying round. The club’s best FA Cup run to date occurred 17 years later whilst they were members of Western League Premier Division. The run started with a 3-0 win at league opponents Taunton Town in the 1st qualifying round. This was followed up by a 7-1 thrashing of Ottery St Mary of the lower Western League Division One, and then a 3-0 home win over Tiverton Town of the same lower division.
That win led to a trip to Isthmian Premier League side Farnborough Town and an opportunity to be the first Cornish club in 18 years to make the 1st Round ‘Proper’. Unfortunately it was not to be as the Hampshire club ran out 4-2 winners. Eleven years later St Blazey would see their similar hopes dashed by nearby Camberley Town, but now 20 years further on, those terrific FA Cup runs by Falmouth Town have finally been emulated by Truro City.
In those 38 years between Cornish representation in the 1st Round ‘Proper’, four other Cornish clubs have competed in the FA Cup to differing degrees of success. Penryn Athletic had one appearance in 2007/08 season, losing 3-2 at home to Hellenic League Premier Division side Slimbridge in their only FA Cup match to date. Launceston appeared in three successive seasons, starting a couple of years after Penryn, winning their first tie 3-0 at home to Sherborne Town of Western League Premier Division before losing 2-0 at home to Paulton Rovers of Southern League Division One South and West in the next round. Launceston has never made it beyond the preliminary round as yet.
Likewise Porthleven, who have competed in the FA Cup five times, successively from the 2002/03 season. However, a 1-0 home win over Wessex League Division One side Downton in 2004/05 is The Fishermen’s only FA Cup victory. Liskeard Athletic have had 13 FA Cup runs making the 3rd qualifying round on four separate occasions, most recently in the 1991/92 season whilst members of Western League Premier Division. A 3-2 win at South Western League club St Austell was followed by a 5-1 victory over Falmouth Town of the same league in the next round. However, league opponents Tiverton Town brought that run to an end with a 3-1 victory in the 3rd qualifying round.
So it is Truro City who have the opportunity to create Cornish football history. Only the second club from the county to make the 1st Round ‘Proper’ and only the second club from the county to face Football League opposition, in the shape of Charlton Athletic. As a club competing at the highest level a Cornish club has ever competed at, and after convincing wins over Wessex League Premier Division side AFC Portchester (2-0), Isthmian League Division One side AFC Sudbury (4-1), and fellow National League South club Hampton and Richmond Borough (2-0 away), they are well placed to create even more history for Cornwall by appearing in the 2nd Round of the FA Cup … and maybe even beyond that!
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