Groundhop 1881 – Cowes Sports FC

Wessex Football League, Division 1
Cowes Sports FC v Whitchurch United FC
Saturday, 2nd March 2013, 3pm
Westwood Park
Entrance £4, Programme £1
Distance 94 miles, Attendance 94
Sitting alone at the front of the stand at Westwood Park, there’s a small dark wooden case with brass trimmings. One would expect to find such a piece in Livingstone’s luggage however; this one is used as a ballot box.
At the turnstiles I’d been chuffed to be given a Man of the Match slip but, as goal-scorers generally dominate fan-lead democracy such voting also brings out the Meldrew in me. Staring at the case in the warm spring sun, I wondered if I would ever grow out of such idiosyncrasies.
Earlier as I waited in Southampton for the ferry to West Cowes, I’d found myself amongst Whitchurch players cheerfully comparing new day-glo football boots. In response I also found myself muttering involuntarily, “Jan Lohman wouldn’t wear them”, before our short journey to England’s largest island.
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Once inhabited by dinosaurs and Romans, the beautiful Isle of Wight is now more famous for sailing and music festivals but, nestled in amongst the landscape is a wonderful array of football clubs whose stadia played host to the 2011 Island Games. Cowes Sports FC is one such club.
Formerly Cowes FC in 1881, their first competitive game came in the 1886 Hants & Dorset Junior Cup. As founder members they won the double in the inaugural season of the Hampshire League, and every decade thereafter Cowes Sports have lifted trophies including 2012 Isle of Wight Senior Cup, when they also celebrated a century at Westwood Park.

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Like the welcome to the club, the stroll up from the ferry was a pleasant one, and after the impressive Aidan Bryan picked up his player of the month award, the partisan home support cheered on The Yachtsmen through a performance that would’ve given the Opta folk a headache.
130302 WLD1 Cowes Sports v Whitchurch United (84)wMissing a penalty in the early stages, Cowes were rampant throughout the first half without actually hitting the target. Whitchurch on the other hand managed to soak up all the pressure then deftly counter two minutes from halftime, when Sam Argent fired home their first shot of the match. Moments later Cowes’ Tom Dye turned awkwardly on the edge on the box and went down in agony. Play stopped as both physios offered treatment but, with no quick fix in sight, an ambulance was called and the ref blew for the interval.
130302 WLD1 Cowes Sports v Whitchurch United (60)wAddressing David Draper and myself who were discussing these three incidents, Cowes’ manager Richie Woodburn reminded us “You make your own luck in football.” Whilst this may have been true, clearly injury also plays its part. Cowes were again dominating play however the loss of Dye up front regrettably made them even less potent than before. On top of that the ref annoyingly waved his rule book, one linesman missed a clear offside, and Whitchurch continued an impressive shot-to-goal ratio.
At the final whistle, the 0-4 score line hardly reflected what we’d seen but in fairness, the visitors had taken their chances brilliantly and deserved to celebrate on their return. Thanking those about me for their hospitality, I too made my way back to the town but, arriving at the terminal I was interested to find said referee jovially holding court with the visiting team.
Talking openly of the game’s incidents he even raised the issue of only booking one of two players who “left the pitch without permission”. Brushing off Cowes’ complaints of this he justified his actions with a swagger, stating “It was different.” Suddenly I was back in Meldrew territory and before I could stop myself I’d replied “It was inconsistent.”
In the immediate silence, the ref disappeared into the terminal and Whitchurch turned back to their beer. Meanwhile, back up the hill the club bar was still busy with locals.
Still top of the table, Cowes is a wonderfully hospitable club, where first name terms are de rigueur, and when it comes to voting for man of the match they’re not afraid to offer the award purely on merit, to the visiting physio, for her attention to the injury. Leaving for home I was clear I’d witnessed not only an entertaining game but, also the great spirit of this footballing community. Congratulations Kelly Rutledge and bravo Cowes Sports.

130302 WLD1 Cowes Sports v Whitchurch United (109)   130302 WLD1 Cowes Sports v Whitchurch United (146)

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Initially appearing in this season’s Watford FC matchday programmes, consequently Groundhop 1881 reports will appear late on here. At the end of the journey, a book will be published telling the full story.
This entry was posted in 2012-2013, Groundhop 1881, Wessex Football League and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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