Saturday, 6 August 2022

Cowes Sports - Westwood Park

Cowes Sports Football Club
Reynolds Close
Isle of Wight
PO31 7NT

01983 718 277 (clubhouse)

Ground Number: 1096
Saturday 6th August 2022
Cowes Sports 1-0 Hamble 
FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round


The club is one of the oldest on the Isle Of Wight, having been established in 1881. A merger with Whites Sports came about in the early 1980s to give the club its present name. They were originally known as Cowes and played Friendly and Cup games up until 1896 when they joined the Hampshire League. They joined the Southern League D2 South West in 1898 where they were champions in their first season, winning all ten games. However, this was not enough for the Southern League and they were forced to play a 'test match' against Thames Ironworks (forerunners to West Ham United) which they lost 3-1. But in a second match, they defeated RA Portsmouth 4-1 to earn promotion. It was all for nothing as they were unable to complete the season at the higher level, and their record was expunged. A long spell in the Hampshire League followed and although they won Division 1 seven times and Division 2 once. They finished bottom of Division 2 in 1984, btthe '90s saw an improvement. The tail end of the '80s saw them promoted to Division 1 and in 1994, they were champions, earning promotion to the Wessex League. 1998 was a good season, with Cowes Sports finishing 6th in the top tier, their record finish to date. They've had a couple of spells back in Division 1 (now the second tier) but have generally remained in the Premier Division, albeit the lower half.

The club has reached the FA Cup 4th Qualifying Round on a number of occasions, although the first couple of times were by default. They last got there in 1963 - beating Alton Town, Andover and Basingstoke Town prior to a narrow 1-0 defeat at renowned giantkillers Yeovil Town.They played briefly in the FA Trophy but have been mainstays in the FA Vase for a fair while now. Their best run came during the 1999/2000 season when they beat Portfield, Bracknell Town, Epsom & Ewell, Banstead Athetic and Tilbury before their run came to a shuddering stop with a 7-0 loss to Taunton Town in the 5th Round. Local cup honours include nine Hampshire Senior Cups, a Hampshire League Cup and 20 Isle Of Wight Senior Cups. A number of ex professionals have played for the club and these include Lee Bradbury, James Hayter and Jamie Lawrence. Former player Marc Burrows scored footballs fastest ever goal whilst at the club, In a record time of 2.5 seconds in a reserve team match against Eastleigh in 2004. He sadly died of cancer just five years after that goal at the tragically young age of 30.

The town of Cowes is located on the north of the Isle Of Wight and has a population of just under 15,000. A smaller town, East Cowes is located just across the river. The two towns are linked by the Cowes Floating Bridge, a chain ferry. Cowes has been seen as a home for international yacht racing since the founding of the Royal Yacht Squadron in 1815. It gives its name to the world's oldest regular regatta, Cowes Week, which occurs annually in the first week of August. Later, powerboat races are held. Notable residents include actor Jeremy Irons and gardener Alan Titchmarsh.


When the Wycombe Wanderers fixtures came out this season, I was pleased that we had been scheduled away games on the first four rounds of the FA Cup. These are my favourite rounds, but for what seems like an eternity, we have had home games scheduled on each of these, making going to games tricky. Granted, the 1st and 2nd Qualifying rounds had tempting revisits to Fleetwood Town & Derby County on them but with me reserving it for mainly groundhopping, most of the teams I needed would have exited the competition by then. It was just about the only bit of luck I'd had with the fixtures with home games being scheduled on most of the Groundhop UK events meaning that I'd have to forfeit my ticket for that game or miss out. I think that I'll be missing one home game for this reason for the Scottish Hop but I wanted to minimise wasting money. Another drawback was that work had 'forced' me to book my entire year's holiday by the end of May so I had to 'book blind' without knowing the fixtures. This had also worked out poorly with home games scheduled on most of my weekends off.

Back to more positive thoughts, I had a wealth of FA Cup games to choose from and initially planned to go to Market Drayton Town on Friday night. However, a far closer and easier game at Wick had come up which would work out better for a potentially early start on Saturday. The exclusion of most of the step 6 teams meant fewer interesting ties but there were still a few great days out. There were 35 possibilities in all, but it was hard trying to whittle them down. I decided to exclude the nearest as they were doable midweek and the furthest due to cost and time factors. I'd have loved to have got in a double with the help of a BBC live game but they had chosen not to cover the Extra Preliminary Round last year and it appeared to be the same this time round too. I'd wanted to visit the Isle Of Wight for a while and so Cowes Sports v Hamble Club seemed like a good choice despite it being an all-Wessex Premier clash. I was hoping to have fellow hopper Colin come along as it would give me company and also save on the ferry. But as ever, he was not very communicative, either with me letting me know what he thought of the suggestion, nor coming up with any of his own.

I was delighted when I won tickets for me and Colin thanks to the 'My Road To Wembley' account, they were really helpful in setting things up. I'd been to Wick on Friday and got back at a reasonable time. However, the night's sleep was not the greatest and it was a marker of things to come. It went OK, parking at Colin's and meeting him at 8.15. It went OK, parking at Colin's and meeting him at 8.15. We got to the station in good time although there was a vague message on the Red Funnel Twitter account saying that a sailing had been cancelled without giving any specific detail. I's not even travelled on the service and already I was getting annoyed at the shabby service they offer with constant cancellations and delays. I then got a shock when I went to book my London to Southampton ticket when I discovered that it had gone up £11 on the day. They never pull that scam when going from Wycombe, I've always just walked up and got my tickets from the machine. At least the Trainline app was pleasant to use and I was able to book E-Tickets at the ridiculous price of £33.10, even with a Network Railcard discount. It would have been an even more ludicrous £50 had I not had my railcard. I was beginning to wish that I'd just gone from Wycombe and certainly it will be something to consider in future.
The train was very busy too, with the Chiltern not running due to engineering works. We changed at Finchley Road onto the Jubilee and had a reasonably decent trip to Waterloo. The train to Weymouth via Southampton was packed again with a little brat crying for most of the journey. The phone signal was also utter bobbins and I found it tricky to get things done. Contrary to the price, complimentary champagne was not included. Even so, we got to Southampton at 11.25 and took the 15-minute walk to the Standing Order Wetherspoons. I'd chosen here due to the lack of places in Cowes and it was a wise choice. I had Southern Fried Chicken Strips, Jack Daniels BBQ Sauce and chips along with a pint of Black Dragon for £8.50. Everything was spot on and I was feeling more upbeat about the day. We left at 12.10 and it was only a ten minute walk to the terminal. The queue was a long one but we got chatting to some nice people who originally came from Penn after recognising our Wycombe gear. True to form, the ferry was late leaving and we got off at 1, twenty minutes late. They apologised for the 'slight delay due to passenger numbers' although a lot of the staff were on strike due to poor treatment and so that should have been no shock. Other than that, it was a fairly pleasant journey with aeroplane-style seats, though I'd like to have gone outside. There was of course the obligatory screaming child which seems to infest every walk of life.

We were on the Island around 13:15. My first stop had been planned to be the Vectis Tavern, but that was closed. The place of Cowes was pretty compact but that had the plus point of everything being close together. It was only a few minutes walk to the Lifecraft, a very decent beer shop where I picked up three small bottles of Grazed Knee cider, all different varieties made on the Isle Of Wight. One of these was consumed walking to the ground which was 15 minutes away and it helped me cool down in hot weather. We were at the ground at 1.45, one of the first there. I got the programme and a golden goal ticket and picked up my tickets. It was all very nice and friendly and a lovely ground full of character. The bar was pleasant but had a limited selection so I went out to the stand. My other two bottles were consumed there. One of what I presume were the original dugouts was commandeered by myself and Colin as our own private box and although the view wasn't amazing, it was a great thing to have space to ourselves.

The game kicked off early at 14:57. Hamble were well on top in the first twenty but Cowes had the better chance on the break. The game died a death a bit and it got very scrappy. On 64 minutes, Cowes Sports made the breakthrough on 64 minutes, bundling home a shot from close range. This gave them the initiative and they didn't look like losing from there on. The hosts lost a man, the substitute #15 seeing red for what looked like a bad tackle and a couple of incidents caused minor flare-ups. The bald headed Cowes Sports coach gave the lino a bit of stick, unhappy with his decisions. He probably wouldn't have been too amused when Cowes lost another player for a second booking but despite their numerical advantage, Hamble rarely threatened. I had been hoping for a replay to go to but I was pleased for Cowes who had been good hosts. I'd missed the golden goal by a couple of minutes but it had been a decent day overall.

After the game, we headed back to the port and stopped at Sainsbury's to get some drinks and snacks for the journey. We were at the waiting point 35 minutes in advance of the scheduled time but of course it was late. We had about as much hope as asylum seekers crossing the Channel in a dinghy with this shoddy mickey mouse service. Finally, twenty five minutes late, it turned up. We'd had the referee from the game on our boat and he was a nice bloke. As was a person involved with Hamble. Other results had not gone our way. Wycombe had lost 3-0 at Bolton in what appeared to be a poor performance. My local team, Holmer Green had been relegated from the Spartan South Midlands Premier last season but had been thumped 5-1 at home to Lutterworth Athletic in their first game back at the lower level. The staff on the ferry were great, making up for the poor management. We were back at 6.45 and I'd hoped to have my blog up but was thwarted due to slow upload. I eventually started to finalise it on the train journey back home and aimed to be back by 11.

THE STANDING ORDER WETHERSPOONS: Great service and choice in a pleasant environment.
THE LIFECRAFT: Saved the day with chilled cider and super service.
ROAD TO WEMBLEY TWITTER: Provided me with tickets and a great Twitter account to follow.
COWES SPORTS: Great hosts
FOOTBALL PEOPLE: Very friendly and good to talk to.

SOUTH WESTERN RAILWAY: One of the few companies that charge more for a return on the day.
REDJET: Farcical service, consistently late due to them treating staff badly.
PARENTS WITH SCREAMING KIDS: Just leave it at home if it won't behave please, I'll have enough of that tomorrow. Maybe get a dog instead, far nicer with strangers.



WESTWOOD PARK is a lovely stadium in a location that it's well worth making an effort to visit. All of the covered accommodation is on one side and this includes a cavernous stand with bench seats that could hold around 250 at a push. There are also the two old dugouts at the front which you can use if you fancy a bit of privacy. Aside this is a more modern covered area of flat standing for around 50. The rest of the ground is open to the elements but is very pleasant. There are basic food (nothing hot) and drink facilities but if you fancy a wider selection, Cowes itself is only 15 minutes walk away. The Lifecraft beer shop is an excellent place with a wide range.

Friday, 5 August 2022

Wick - Crabtree Park

Crabtree Park
Coomes Way
West Sussex
BN17 7LP

01903 713535

Ground Number 1095
Friday 5th August 2022
Wick 3-0 Mile Oak
Southern Combination D1


The club was originally established back in 1892. They played in local leagues at first, most notably the West Sussex League but in 1964 they made the step up to the Sussex County League. A 5th place finish in Division 2 was a good season and they'd remain there until 1982 when they were crowned champions. Despite a credible 7th place finish in their Division 1 debut, they'd only last three seasons before going back down. However, they bounced back straight away as champions, returning to Division 1 in 1986. This time their stay in the top tier was more successful and they were champions in 1990 and 1994. Wick would return to Division 2 between 2003 and 2005 and then again in 2011. During this second spell, they briefly merged with local side Barnham to become Wick and Barnham United. During this time they finished 3rd in Division 2 in 2014 and this was good enough for promotion to the newly formed Southern Combination Premier (in effect the old Sussex County D1). They finished second-bottom in 2017 and were relegated to the Southern Combination Division 1 where they remain to this day. 

The club made their FA Cup bow in 1980 but it was the following year that they enjoyed their greatest run. A 4-1 win at fellow Sussex League side Arundel was a giant killing in itself as they were in the league above at the time. An even more notable scalp came in the next round as they beat Isthmian Premier side Woking 2-1. Their run came to an end at another Isthmian League side as Farnborough Town triumphed 3-0 following a 2-2 draw in the 2nd Qualifying Round. The 1998/99 season saw their best FA Vase run as they beat Hialsham Town, Tilbury, Cheshunt & Sidley United prior to a 5-0 defeat to Vauxhall Motors in the 4th Round. Local cup wins include the Sussex Senior Challenge Cup in 1993, the John O'Hara League Challenge Cup in 1988 & 1997 and the Sussex Royal Ulster Rifles Charity Cup in 1990, 1998 & 1999. Wick was originally a village in it's own right near Littlehampton but is now counted as part of the town. Littlehampton Town Council is the parish authority for the Town of Littlehampton, including Wick and Toddington which has a population of approximately 30,000.


Since my last blog at Newhall United, it had been a mixed time. It had turned out that the bit of concrete in the middle of the road I had hit had once been a traffic island complete with lampost and bollard, but was now just a lump of concrete in the middle of the road. I was hoping that it would just be two new tyres but the guy that fitted them had told me that the front wheel had been buckled and I needed a new one. This was purchased for £75 on eBay, complete with a good tyre so it wasn't as bad as it could have been. I was also going to get my car checked over and the balancing and alignment done, so I was hoping that there would be no further bad news. In the end, though, I'd lost confidence in the car though as it was still very rattly. Hence I opted to bring the date for upgrading my car to now rather than next May. I got myself a reasonable deal on a Kia Rio including a decent trade-in price for my old car. It had under 13,000 miles on the clock and no doubt I'll be doubling that in the first year. Aside from that, work was a bit of a slog with it being very busy due to school holidays, but at least that had the knock-on effect of quicker journey times.

As ever though, football was the saviour. I'd gone to Chesham United v Wycombe Wanderers on Friday. It had basically been one team of trialists against another with Chesham winning 4-2 but that wasn't important. The Meadow is always a nice place to visit and it was good to bump into a few familiar faces. This included Giles who does a great job volunteering for the club and runs a great club shop. I bought a few old programmes and pennants and was pleased to give £7 to the supporters club in return. Saturday was even better with me back in the old routine for Wycombe v Burton. A lot of walking, a great pub and takeaway and meeting up with mates. It was all capped off by a great 3-0 win for the team, with us blowing them away in the opening half hour. Finally, on Tuesday I was hoping for a walk up my local club, Holmer Green. They aren't the greatest at communicating on Twitter - my query at whether the game was on got a 'like' and no reply, so I was relying on visitors Sheerwater providing info. They did in the end, though they weren't advertising the game on their Twitter. It was on, despite my doubts and I saw the visitors cruise to a 4-0 win.

I picked my car up on Thursday and there were still a few hoops to jump through switching insurance and breakdown cover. It was all helped by a few ciders as I'd opted not to drink after the Wick game. I was overall happy with my new car, though the Sat Nav was a bit basic. I took a look at my old cars and saw that the Peugeot 207 that I ditched in 2015 (due to a dodgy gearbox) was still going strong 80,000 miles later. On reflection, I wish I'd have kept that as the next two cars were inferior but what's done is done. It wasn't too bad at work on Friday and I had around 40 minutes of rest when I came home, before setting out to meet Colin just after 4. He was a few minutes late as he had fallen asleep on the bus and had woken up a couple of miles down the road. It was not a great journey down, with tons of traffic. The school holidays were handy for work but it didn't appear to have diluted the traffic on the M25 and around Guildford. The rather basic sat nav on my car did an OK job but it wasn't as good as Google Maps.

We got there at 6.45 and so didn't have time to go to a takeaway. I paid £6 to get in plus £1 for a decent programme. I realised that I'd forgotten my Irn-Bru so I got a can of Fanta from the tea bar, a bit marked up at £1.20. However, the sausage roll and chips were great value at £3.50, though being cooked to order they took 15 minutes. They were very decent though and worth the wait. We were able to watch the game from the tea bar anyway and Wick started on top. It was an excellent long-range effort that opened the scoring on 17 minutes by David Crouch. On 28 minutes the same player got his second, a low shot from inside the area although the visiting keeper got a glove on it. There were quite a few meaty tackles and a couple of men went in the sin bin for what appeared to be dissent. Mile Oak came into it later in the half and hit the post just before halftime. However, the second half saw the hosts dominate and they confirmed their win in the last minute when substitute Joshua Irish lifted the ball over the keeper from a tight angle. 66 were in attendance on a pleasant evening. We left just before 9 and aside from getting stuck behind a slow-moving tractor for a while, it was a good journey with me dropping Colin off at 10:40 and getting home myself ten minutes later.


CRABTREE PARK is a nice setup for the level. There's an attractive seated stand holding around 100, mainly with padded seats. Opposite is a small area of cover holding around 50 standing. The rest of the ground is open. The car park is pretty small at the ground and street parking is limited. In terms of food and drink, there's a decent tea bar at the ground which offers decent food at good value. There are also a few takeaways within a ten-minute walk. I did not try the bar but it looks a decent place with sports TV, plus you can watch the game from an elevated position as it's upstairs.