West of the Fields

St Buryan v Camborne School of Mines, Trelawny League Premier Division

A place can get a bad name. St Buryan, a village midway between Penzance and Lands End, surrounded by the ancient landscape of West Penwith, is perhaps most renowned, among cineastes at least, for being Straw Dogs country. It was the location for Sam Peckinpah’s infamous 1971 film about redneck locals turning violently against outsiders, and if you know the film you can’t help but feel a shiver the first time you drive into the village and see the churchyard. Peckinpah’s follow-up about a psychopathic Mining League clogger gone rogue sadly never made it past development.

Founded in 1934, the village football club had its heyday in the 1950s with a series of Hannaford Cup wins. Until recently a Junior Cup Final appearance in 1980 was the club’s most notable achievement.

When Ian Hall took over as team manager in 2003 the club were in the third division of the old Mining League. After immediate back-to-back promotions the club went on to become a force in the Mining League and entered the new Trelawny League in the Premier Division, where they’ve remained since. Ian considers the Trelawny Premier a tougher challenge than the old league. “Back in the day, when the Junior Cup was done on East and West sections, if you met somebody from the old Falmouth-Helston League it was always a tough game. So you can imagine, when they took the top eight teams from both leagues and put them together it became a very competitive league.”

The highlight of Ian’s tenure was undoubtedly winning the Junior Cup in 2010. He remembers the day fondly. “It was a massive, massive achievement. I always said we were among the teams who could win it, but to actually go through and win it at Treyew Road… an absolutely amazing day. Our planning, the way we prepared… it’s one of the things that I’ll never forget.”

Yet today the club find their Trelawny Premier status under threat. With two games to play they need a point to stay up.  “It’s been a tough season for us”, says Ian. “It’s very unlike a St Buryan team not to be there or thereabouts, fighting for trophies.”

He sees the main reason for this season’s struggle as that common occurrence at this level, a mass flight of players. “Last year we lost numerous players to St Just. They went to play at a higher standard. When you’re doing well as a side you’ve always got people who’ll be fishing around and trying to pick up some of your better players. We’ve had a good core of young players. They were reserve team players but we’ve had to put them in at the deep end. And it’s been a tough year for them. A lot of them are only 16, 17 years old, and this is a very competitive league, but some of them have learned quickly.”

There’s certainly a fighting spirit about the team. Earlier this season I watched them put in a tenacious performance to take a point away from champions Mawnan, and Ian puts their current position down partly to a lack of consistency. “We’ve been competitive in a lot of games but for whatever reason we’ve thrown points away, drawn games we should have won.”

Off the pitch the club is ticking over steadily and without fuss. “Mawnan are a club we always aspire to be like. They’re a properly well-run club with a good committee. And we’ve got a good committee, too. Nothing’s done shabbily here. We’ve got a good band of supporters, a nice clubhouse, a good groundsman. I still think we’re good enough to stay in this league”.

Today’s opponents are last season’s champions, Camborne School of Mines, and Ian’s aware that even though CSM have nothing to play for his side will be in for a hard game. “They’re a tough, tough team. Some outstanding players. Some of the best players I’ve ever seen in this league.”

After both teams ask the ref if they can kick off early so they can get home in time to watch the Cup Final, the first half is pretty even. Buryan have most of the possession and territory, and show plenty of effort on a hot day,  but are unable to create any clear chances. It’s only towards the end of the half that CSM manage to start stringing their passes together.

After the break CSM start to look more of a threat, keeping a good shape and moving the ball nicely. As the second half progresses CSM start to take control as Buryan perhaps start to feel the effect of their effort in the heat. A few tasty challenges are going in and CSM are winning a lot of fouls, but still they can’t break Buryan down. And then the killer. With a couple of minutes to go a low CSM shot from the edge of the area works its way through a crowd of players and into the Buryan net. Buryan have nothing left. Having fought so hard for the point they needed they finish the game with nothing. They’re left with one more game, a midweek away fixture at St Agnes, and one more chance to get that point.

Spoiler: they won convincingly at St Agnes, so won’t be heading south anytime soon.

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