Saturday, November 9

RGB Cornwall Senior Cup (second-round)

Saltash United 8

PROLIFIC striker Ryan Richards scored four times as Launceston were blown away by the competition favourites at Kimberley Stadium on Saturday, writes David Harrison.

The Clarets had suffered a 6-2 defeat on the same ground in South West Peninsula League Premier West back in August, and was always likely to provide a severe test for Gary Jeffery’s squad and so it proved.

Making their first appearance since last month’s win over Holsworthy, the Clarets were without defensive stalwart and skipper Josh McCabe, as well as regular front men Ruben Kane and Tom Ellacott.

Free-scoring Saltash, with 13 wins from 15 league games, included former Pennygillam men Callum Martindale, Chris Menhenick and Reece Thomson, as well as the influential Dan Hart who switched from Launceston last month.

The Kimberley surface had been subject to a morning inspection but, despite being predictably heavy after recent incessant rain, was perfectly playable.

On a bitterly cold showery afternoon, the game opened in explosive fashion. Ashes striker Ryan Richards, already with 29 goals to his name this season, took just seven minutes to reach the 30 mark. The prolific marksman capitalised on some hesitant Launceston defending to score a simple goal from close range.

However the Clarets responded immediately, in the best possible fashion. An innocuous-looking cross from the right caused chaos in the home defence. Pat Riddell reacted fastest to ram home the loose ball and make it 1-1 inside the opening ten minutes.

The home team dominated possession but the Clarets created a series of half-chances in an entertaining opening period. Charley Skilton fired over from 20 yards, while Morgan Parsonage saw a well-struck drive fly narrowly wide.

Callum O’Brien put the Ashes back in front on 21 minutes and the home side were well on top by the break, with Launceston keeper Archie Walsh doing well to help limit the half-time deficit to just a single goal.

The pressure increased as the second-half opened, with Sam Farrant reacting quickly to poke home from close range and give the home side breathing space.

Saltash stepped up the intensity, demonstrating the incisive finishing that will inevitably see them collect silverware at the end of the season.

Richards made it 4-1 on the hour before completing his fourth hat-trick in the last five games with an excellent turn and precise finish into the far corner, well beyond the helpless Walsh.

Thomson, who is developing into an excellent target man, soon added a sixth goal, with an unchallenged near-post header, before Launceston struck back with a second goal of their own. Jack Lee ran unchallenged into the penalty area and his half-hit effort beat home keeper Ryan Rickard and had just enough power to cross the line and roll into the net.

The surface was cutting up badly by this stage but Riddell ploughed his way upfield, only to see his effort blocked. That was a brief respite however, as Thomson made it 7-2 before David Barker completed the scoring with an unstoppable effort from the far angle of the penalty area. That was the best strike of the day and represented the 100th competitive goal recorded by Saltash in just their 21st game.

On this form the Ashes, with the excellent Dan Hart pulling the strings in midfield, deserve to be playing Western League football next season. Meanwhile Launceston’s season will not be defined by results against the likes of Saltash and more realistic targets lie ahead.