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.

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