So, after a three year break we’re back to Gold Cup action on the Island, and a very welcome return it is too. The last time Westwood hosted a match in the IW Senior Cup was nearly three years ago to the day, on the 2nd April 2019 when we squeaked through 2-1 in a quarter-final against Pan Sports. And our last match in the Gold Cup came three weeks later, when Whitecroft & Barton put us out of the competition with a victory on penalties at St. Georges Park – also our last ever game at Newport’s former home. One to forget all-round, that was. And the winners of tonight’s game can look forward to a semi-final against… Whitecroft & Barton. Gulp…
West Wight will be no pushovers tonight though, that’s for sure. They secured a comprehensive victory over our Reserves here at Westwood three days ago and so will be confident of a good result tonight – a keenly contested game is pretty-much assured. Many’s the time our sides have crossed swords over the years, in the league back in our Hants League days (where they – and the talismanic Robbie Dye – were as often as not a significant thorn in our side), and more recently in cup clashes. The aforementioned Mr Dye loomed so large over us that he even featured on the cover of the short-lived but much-loved Cowes fanzine ‘99% of Gargoyles Look Like Pete Groves’, back when Island football seemed to be packed with personalities.
It was a real shame tonight’s tie had to be switched from their Camp Road home – it’s a few years since we’ve had the pleasure of a trip out there (along with the traditional getting lost on the way to the ground – I’m fairly certain the geography of Freshwater moves around every few months, just to confuse occasional visitors). You’re always guaranteed a warm welcome out there though. Proper nice club.
With our Premier Division status assured a couple of weeks ago, many eyes have now turned to the Division 1 promotion race, and wonderings on the likelihood of Newport making it back to the Wessex top tier. The title – and single automatic promotion spot – looks like Bemerton’s for the taking, although in-form Follands seem determined to take it right to the wire. The second promotion spot will this year be decided via play-offs, with the teams placed second to fifth competing in one-legged semi’s and final (the fixtures, not the method of play, for all you smart-alecks) to see who else will come up. Newport currently sit third, seven points clear of sixth spot, so look assured of a play-off berth. It’ll be interesting to see how it develops from here…
Just four league games left for our First Team this season too, with tricky-looking trips to Horndean, Fareham and Alton preceding a final day home fixture against already-relegated Hythe & Dibden. Hopes are slim of achieving an aggregate victory over Horndean after their impressive display here at Westwood earlier in the season, but I reckon there’s still a few more points to be had this campaign. Hopefully Hythe don’t come to Westwood demob happy on 16th April, as it would be nice to end the season with a win. It’s been a bit of a topsy-turvy season, all-told, but Max and the side have done incredibly well in difficult circumstances and deserve a good send-off into the summer months, so make sure you’re here and bring a pal or two along for our last home game of the season.
As has become traditional around-about this time of year, I’ve been taking stock of the programme collection and there’s still a few gaps to fill from recent seasons. If you can help out with any of the below programmes there’s definitely my eternal gratitude (and almost certainly a pint or two) in it for you:
21-22 Away at Christchurch, Bournemouth, Bashley
19-20 Home to Fleet, Fareham, Portchester Away at Tadley Calleva
18-19 Away at Horndean, Alresford (league), Alresford (HSC)
17-18 Home to Bemerton Away to Bracknell (FAC), Horndean, Team Solent, Hamble Club, Bemerton, Lymington, Sholing, Shaftesbury
But back to matters on the pitch, and tonight’s game. It’s a step towards lifting the most valuable trophy in British footballTM, and nothing can be taken for granted when local pride is at stake, so be sure to get behind the lads and give them your encouragement. And win or lose, enjoy the game.