Saltash ‘100 per cent’ deserved their FA Cup extra-preliminary round victory over fierce local rivals Plymouth Parkway on Tuesday evening, says United’s rookie boss Dane Bunney, writes Gareth Davies.

In front of a socially distanced sell-out crowd of 300 at Bolitho Park, the Ashes prevailed 5-4 on penalties after the match finished all square at 1-1 after 90 minutes. Parkway had the lion’s share of possession and chances inside the opening exchanges, but Saltash, with Bunney taking charge of his first match after previous Kimberley incumbent Matt Cusack left for Parkway, gradually grew into the match.
They opened the scoring just shy of the half hour mark through Fletcher Williams and had chances to extend their advantage which were passed up. After the break, Parkway upped the ante and equalised on 65 minutes through Mikey Williams.
They then threw everything at the Ashes’ rear guard but couldn’t find a way past visiting gloveman Ryan Rickard and the game went to penalties.
Crucially, Rickard kept out Matt Wright’s effort – Parkways only indiscretion – and with Saltash holding their nerve, their skipper Dave Barker fired past Kyle Moore to send the visitors into raptures. Saltash will bag £1,125 in prize money for their cup upset and they will face Southern League outfit Paulton Rovers in the next round.
“I’m really proud of my players and the shift they put in was incredible,” enthused Bunney when speaking to The Indy. “It was a real team performance and I don’t mean 1-11, I mean 1-18 because the lads on the bench really contributed. I had a couple of sleepless nights deciding what team to put out, but when I named the team at 3.00pm on the day of the game, there wasn’t one bit of negativity and the lads who were on the bench said they would be ready if they were called upon.
“I thought we 100 per cent deserved to go through and Parkway didn’t do enough. They are fortunate that it went to penalties as when we were 1-0 up, we had a spell either side of the first and last 15 minutes, that we had chances to extend our lead.”
Hobbs, meanwhile, saw the match very differently and he felt that his should have gone through.
Also speaking to The Indy, he said: “Saltash were very fortunate to get the win as for 70 minutes, we were by far the stronger team. We threw everything including the kitchen sink at them the last half hour, but they rode their luck with us hitting the woodwork four or five times in the game. Sometimes, in football, you don’t always get what you deserve and, on this occasion, we didn’t by a penalty shoot-out, but listen, good luck to them in the next round we wish them well.”
If the match itself wasn’t intriguing enough, there was further spice added when Bunney revealed that Parkway had lodged a seven-day approach for midfielder Reece Thomson on Tuesday. The Saltash boss was furious and labelled Parkway’s actions as ‘distasteful’, while Hobbs says that all players should be encouraged to play at the highest level. Despite the approach, Thomson, who didn’t play in the FA Cup match because of the Devonians’ interest, is understood to have opted against a move east of the Tamar.
“Parkway thought it was reasonable conduct to put in seven days for one of our players (Thomson) at lunchtime before the game,” Bunney fumed. “Matt Cusack then thought it was reasonable conduct to speak to him on the phone at 3.00 pm and this turned his head so I had to remove him from the squad. As you can imagine, that threw a spanner in the works for us and we found it all very distasteful.”
Again, Hobbs disagreed with his Saltash counterpart and gave his differing view on the approach for Thomson: “Most managers would encourage (moving to a higher level) rather than discouraging it and always leave a door open if it didn’t work out,” he added. “Dane may learn to offer that in the future when he becomes a bit more experienced at being a number one; you should never hold a player back from having ambition and trying to improve and play at the highest level that they can, for as long as they can.”

This article first appeared in the Independent. To get the latest articles when they appear, buy the print edition every Sunday or subscribe to our online edition HERE.