This weekend saw Longlevens’ history making Second Round FA Vase tie against Falmouth Town. And whilst they may have lost 3-2 after extra time, it was a day that the club can look back on with pride. Our man Ryan Butler travelled down and stayed overnight in Plymouth with the squad and he decided to write a recount of his experience.
Over the course of the last year or so I haven’t slept great. Broken sleep and waking up in the middle of the night have become ever so frequent and Saturday morning was no different.
Half 4 in the morning and all I could hear was the sound of rain circulating around my head, along with inner monologues saying “surely, there is absolutely no way this is going to be on today!”
We had been keeping an eye on the weather in Falmouth over the course of the last week and when their league fixture against Penzance was postponed on Wednesday night I was sure this game was going to be called off too. I was even more convinced when I began to see the number of games being called off in the South West Peninsula League as early as Friday afternoon and it started to feel like when not if the game would be postponed.
Longlevens manager Craig Martin was up and about, obviously too excited to sleep – or just extremely busy, either way he kindly picked me up and we went to meet the players at Levens’ Longford Lane club house.
Being from an area of the country where rugby doesn’t really matter meant I nearly forgot that the World Cup Final was about to kick off at nine, but there were a few of the locals in the club house eagerly awaiting the big match….as was I but mine was due to kick off six hours later.
One by one the guys arrived and after a gruelling hour to await an outcome to Falmouth’s early morning pitch inspection, we loaded up and hit the road.
As you can imagine, most of the guys had the rugby on their mobile devices and watched as England were humbled on their big day in Japan and all bar the proud Welshman Logan Roach weren’t happy with the late Halloween horror show they were seeing.
Of course there will be a number of you wondering where I was sat on the coach and you’ll be pleased to know that I sat slap, bang, right in the middle – close to the manager and coaches, whilst not distancing myself from the group…this wasn’t my first rodeo.
Well that’s a lie. I have never gone on a lads holiday or been away with a bunch of footballers before – so I guess I can tick it off the bucket list?
As we got further south, through Devon and onto Cornwall the rain got worse and at points was horrific. Surely we were getting Punk’d and the game was going to be off? BBC weather was telling us it was 90% chance of rain for goodness sake.
Arriving in Falmouth was bizarre. We were greeted by about a hundred of the town’s finest, all stood outside of their social club with their yellow and black scarves chanting “Champions of Cornwall, we know what we are!” Was I impressed? Being honest, I was more impressed that the 4G was working on my phone and that broadband had managed to find it’s way to the South West coast.
After emptying the bus it became apparent that Craig Martin looked worried. “Nervous mate?” I asked. “I think I’ve left my bag in Gloucester…” Martin was going to have to go out in Plymouth in his Longlevens tracksuit! What a club man!
Whenever I head to a new ground I like to sit in the stand and just soak it all up. It may seem crazy, but it’s an insight into my mindset and how seriously I take what Kelsey and I do and that is that I like to sit there looking out on the pitch and imagine the difference scenarios that potentially could be about to play out in front of my eyes.
So I sat there, thinking about Longlevens winning, thinking about Longlevens losing, thinking about the commentary and was I ready to do what I do? But mainly what I did was think about how lucky I am to be in the position I’m in and get the opportunity to spend my Saturday’s watching and commentating on football.
In the game itself, I thought Longlevens were exceptional. There have been times where I have seen them on a cold Wednesday night or a wet Saturday afternoon and they haven’t turned up, but there have been a number of times where I have seen them win when all hope was gone.
Just before the break Will Emery was fouled about 25 yards from goal and instantly I leaned forward. It had the feeling straight away that it was a huge moment. On commentary I said “this is going one of three places. Into the stand, into the wall or into the back of the net” and the next thing I knew, O’Connor had blasted his side in front…from a broadcasting perspective, delighted with that.
At the break Levens were winning and as someone who has spent so much of his time over the last three years watching Gloucestershire football, I was over the moon!
I then became ecstatic when just after the break Harry Emmett swept in a second and suddenly we were all in dreamland! From the players, to the bench, all the way to a guy from Reading sat amongst the native Cornish folk of Falmouth.
Again I seemed to get it right on commentary. I called that if Falmouth were to get one then I’ve seen Longlevens too many times to know that a second could easily follow. But I had faith.
Credit to Falmouth though for what can only be described as a stunning comeback. It really was. Scoring a penalty under pressure of nearly 500 of their own fans hoping and praying for a lifeline took guts. Then the viral equaliser brought scenes of jubilation for the hosts and to be honest there was only one winner from that moment.
It was a weird post-match experience. We got a round of applause from the locals as we arrived into the social club and as we left, something that almost felt unwarranted to some respect. We were all united though by our love of football and Craig Martin showed his class by arriving to a crowded bar singing “2-0 and you f***ed it up” a chant that would have been echoing through his players during extra time, as the hosts smelled blood.
Next came the coach back up to Plymouth, where I would accompany the team on a night out and share a hotel room with Martin and being honest….I wasn’t sure which I was most nervous about.
There was a brief stop for Martin to buy himself an outfit for the evening’s excursions and luckily George at ASDA had him covered…as the below image will testify.
Of course, I won’t go into too much detail about the night out – but as someone who hates going to clubs I ended up going to the casino with an unnamed player after a couple of hours, whilst the others headed to the clubs.
The night ended with Martin and I enjoying a Co-Op pre-packed sandwich each in bed and him telling me what he had learned from the day, about me, about his team and about himself…cue minutes later him admitting that the two players he didn’t know the whereabouts of were two younger players, including the Chairman’s son…
Overall I’d like to thank Martin and the rest of the Longlevens guys for a great weekend and despite the heartbreaking manner of the defeat, they did themselves, us here at Severn Sport and everyone in Gloucestershire proud in their history making FA Vase run.
“Plymouth away, completed it mate.”
Special thanks to Matt Friday (@MattFri94) who has kindly allowed us to use photos from the game in this post. Please follow him on Twitter to see all of his content in the South West.
Also credit to Tom Dix who drove the coach there and back and provided an excellent service throughout!