Cowes Sports v Hamworthy United
Sydenhams Premier League (Saturday 4th August 2018)
The Hammers could have hoped for better than opening their league campaign with a trip to the Island, competing with the extra traffic caused by the Cowes Regatta Week and the searing heat. On the playing side, a complete change in the management team in the close season, and with it a large turnover of players, had suggested positive vibes in the "friendlies" but was now put to its first real test.
United had effectively already done their warm up toiling up the steep hill from the ferry port to the ground, and it was soon clear after kick-off they were facing another uphill battle. The Yachtsmen were certainly passing the ball better and looking fitter than the strangely hesitant Hammers. The home side duly edged in front on 18 minutes. John McKie turned superbly into space after picking up an excellent through ball from Finley Phillips before beating Tom Rees at his far post with a low crisp shot. It took almost 40 minutes for the visitors to pose their first real threat. An excellent move involving many players ended with Darren Watts' charge on goal, but Sports' last man Aidan Bryan, making his 450th Cowes' appearance, did enough to stave off the danger, although he did appear to tug Watts’s shirt. The referee though decided to take no action. However, in a cruel twist, play immediately switched to the other end, with Ji Nash found in space by yet another fine long ball by Phillips. Nash then rifled the ball into the nearside roof of the net, giving Rees no chance to save. United came close to reducing the arrears on the stroke of half time, Ollie Davis heading Watts' well crafted cross from the bye-line against the bar, before the ball was cleared. On another day, a Hammers' player might have knocked in the rebound, but it characterized United's day that so many second balls fell conveniently to the opposition. Although two down at the interval, the Hammers were just starting to threaten and an early second half goal could still spark a recovery.
United however never really looked like getting back into the match after the restart. They looked thread-bare up front, tending to over hit long balls, and shooting wildly from range when there were perhaps better options, and their numerous crosses were food and drink to Cowes' stopper Ed Hatt. Meanwhile, the young Cowes' team continued to outwit United's defence for pace, with the visitors' midfield also looking rather porous at times. Still in search of a goal, United moved from 4-3-2-1 to a more attach minded 4-4-2 on the hour, with Nathan Walker partnering River Smith up front, and substitute Nathaniel Peprah-Annan shoring up the defence. In truth, little changed, and the one further goal that did come again befell a blue and white striped shirt. On 70 minutes Randall lost a tussle for a ball on the bye-line with Cowes' man Jimmy Wykes. Wykes then played in Nash who was in acres of space in the six yard box, and had no trouble tapping the ball home past the exposed Rees. Cowes won the game on the day fair and square, but the Hammers will surely bounce back. The first game of the season is often hard to judge, due to unavailable players etc. United can at least take heart from some strong defending shown by substitute Peprah-Annan, and an inspired goalkeeping performance by Rees, keeping the score at bay with several fine saves. Both teams should also be commended for playing in the right spirit in difficult conditions. The referee, always consistent in his decisions, and was not required to issue any cards (yellow or red) or lecture either dug-out.
Hamworthy United: T Rees, D Randall, R Watkins, S Wright (B Randall 85), N Walker (c), C Senior, O Davis (J Filkins 70), J Gleeson, R Smith, D Watts (N Peprah-Annan), E Hodge
Unused Subs: S Cooper (gkp), O Nicholson