Bodmin Town 3, Saltash United 2
IF you can't beat them, join them, so the saying goes.
And that was just what flying winger Neil Slateford did, with the end result being two goals and a man of the match performance in Monday's rain-drenched Cornwall Senior Cup final at Newquay.
A year ago Slateford was down in the dumps after playing in the St Austell side which threw away a 2-0 lead in the 2011 cup final to lose 3-2 to Bodmin.
What a difference a year makes. On Monday evening he was celebrating with the rest of the Bodmin squad after playing a crucial role in a hard-earned win over Saltash.
Slateford swept Bodmin into a sixth minute lead with a tremendous low strike and fired what turned out to be the winner nine minutes into the second half with another powerfully drilled shot.
In between the goals he kept his feet as well as anybody on a Mount Wise playing surface which was close to being waterlogged in the second half.
At times players on both sides looked as though they were running through treacle as they battled the rain and the howling gale which swirled around the ground. Trying to play football in those conditions was almost impossible, and both teams deserve credit.
But it was Slateford who caught the eye most as Bodmin completed their third successive Senior Cup triumph under manager Darren Gilbert.
The holders started strongly and should have had a penalty in the second minute when Danny O'Hagan was hauled down. A linesman put his flag across his chest immediately but referee George Pattison either ignored or didn't see his assistant's signal and raced to the other end of the pitch as Saltash broke clear.
Only when play stopped for a Saltash free kick was Mr Pattison persuaded by the Bodmin players to consult his linesman, who was still standing at the other end of the pitch with his flag across his chest.
The referee's decision was final on this occasion, however, as he over-ruled the flag man.
But it took only four more minutes for Bodmin to break the deadlock as Slateford cut in from the right wing and fired a left foot shot across Saltash keeper Ben Elphick into the far corner of the net.
Five minutes later Slateford set up Sam Matthews with an open goal opportunity but the midfield man directed his header wide from six yards, and as Bodmin continued to dominate, Elphick was relieved to see the ball fly inches wide after a Shane Krac shot had slipped through his fingers.
But with their first attack of any note, Saltash equalised in the 25th minute with an excellent finish from Aaron Cusack after a run along the right from Luke Doddridge. They were only level for eight minutes, as Bodmin were awarded a penalty when the unfortunate right back Dan Bennett slipped over in an attempt to clear and his arm prevented the ball reaching Matthews.
Chris Luxton, who had missed a spot kick three days earlier against Camelford, made no mistake with this one, drilling it to Elphick's right.
Bodmin seemed to be in control and were restricting Saltash to only brief glimpses of their penalty area but the Ashes went into half-time level after Ross Saint, a hat-trick hero against Liskeard on Good Friday, lashed home from close range with the Bodmin defence caught napping.
For a moment Bodmin lost their discipline, with an argument breaking out between goalkeeper Kevin Miller and striker Danny O'Hagan, and not for the first time in recent games, the Bodmin dressing room would have been lively during the break.
But peace was restored by the time the second half started and within nine minutes Bodmin were back in front, for the third time, with Slateford's classy finish in awful conditions.
And Bodmin should have been awarded a penalty in the 62nd minute when Ashes keeper Elphick dived in front of Huw Morgan, sending the defender crashing to the ground, but the referee waved play on. It was not one of Mr Pattison's better days.
Saltash seemed lifted by that escape and had a spell where they tested Miller several times with awkward to deal with crosses, but they couldn't force another equaliser.
Indeed Bodmin finished on top and that man Slateford was involved in the final significant action, producing a superb volley from 18 yards which deflected off substitute Adam Carter into the net.
But Carter was ruled offside and Bodmin were left to see out the remaining four minutes before they lifted the coveted trophy again.
Saltash provided stern, hard-working opposition, but on a day when conditions were certainly a leveller, Bodmin were deserved winners.