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Friday 27th March 2015 ko 19.30

Isle of Wight DFA Senior (Gold) Cup Quarter-Final

EAST COWES VICTORIA AFC 2 (Gregory 59 Craig 90) Thompson sent off 78 (2nd booking)

EAST COWES SPORTS 2 (Tyler 11 Robjoint 76)

AET East Cowes Sports won 6-5 on penalties

Att 82

Entry £3

Programme 50p

It’s probably now common knowledge that we tried to get a Wessex League groundhop up and running, but a few weeks ago I had to end the project. While there was support from many quarters a final meeting in Totton convinced me that there wasn’t enough enthusiasm where it mattered to make it work. A real shame, as many people put a lot of effort into the project, and I was very taken by the carload of officials from the 3 Wessex League clubs Newport (IW), Cowes Sports, and East Cowes Vics who took the time and expense to take the ferry over to hear what I had to say. When it was all over I felt rather bruised by the encounter, so was heartened when several clubs contacted me to commiserate and invite me to their grounds.

 One of those officials was Darren Dyer secretary at East Cowes, so I marked my card and when the club opted to play its Senior Cup tie on a Friday I needed no further excuse to park up (£8.10 – ouch!) at the Town Quay in Southampton and catch the £23.50 return on the Red Jet to Cowes. It isn’t cheap, but it is quick and convenient and it allowed me the time to have a meal at an excellent sit-down chippy before catching the chain-ferry (known locally as the “Floating Bridge”) over the River Medina over to East Cowes.

From there it’s around a 20 minute walk up to Beatrice Avenue but I’m indebted to Darren who gave me a lift up the ground! It’s a ground full of character with its signature stand and scratching shed, and the bar was doing a roaring trade, helped no doubt by the England game on the TV!

Victoria are certainly well named, the ground is part of the Crown estate and in the area of owned by Osbourne House, home to Queen Victoria, but while the ground is well worth a visit, and the club a joy to deal with their problems are all on the field. They’re rock bottom of the Wessex League with just 5 points and whilst they’re unlikely to be relegated, Darren’s programme notes made it clear that they saw this competition as means of restoring confidence amongst a young side, and winning a trophy is never a bad thing, especially when it’s reckoned to be one of the world’s most valuable, being made of solid gold!

The problem with that aim was the opponents! With Sports playing a mere 200 yards away, and in the lsle-of-Wight League, there was local bragging rights as well as the incentive to claim the scalp of a team from a higher league too! Sports made the better start and Vics were fortunate to be only one down at half-time. However they rallied in the second half only to concede again, and then force extra-time with virtually the last kick of the game.

Vics had lost Jack Thompson along the way to two bookings, the first a rather pointless bout of dissent, but extra-time failed as it usually does, to provide a winner, so it was left to the lottery of penalties (and in the end sudden-death penalties at that!) to decide the tie. The fatal error was made by Vics’ Ji Nash whose penalty hit the crossbar, to make a bad season worse for my gallant and friendly hosts.

I dashed back to the quay, and finally caught the 23.15 boat back to Southampton. I had a few minutes to consider my night and my part how I came to be in East Cowes. I’m sure the clubs who were interested in the hop will look for Friday and other “unusual” kick-off times as a means of boosting income, I greatly enjoyed this Friday night trip, but a few days later as I write this, I still wish I could have done more for them. Darren and his club deserve only the very best.