Wessex League Cup 2nd Round
County Ground, Hamworthy
Match Rating: 3
Staying in Bournemouth for a few days, I chose this game as it was the closest one to base at a ground I had not previously visited. The ground may have been relatively unremarkable, considering the real gems that are around in the Wessex League, but the game certainly was as memorable as it was surprising.
The County Ground is located just over Poole Bridge westwards from Poole, and after passing through the car park, spectators enter through a breeze block turnstile building in one corner of the ground. Just beyond the entrance corner there is a metallic stand in club colours with terrace steps behind one end, whilst to the other side of the corner is the clubhouse and tea bar hatch. Straddling the half way line is quite an old low stand offering four rows of bench seating. Considerable development took place here over the summer, with the landlords, the Dorset County FA, organising the installation of a 3G pitch, new green mesh fencing of varying heights surrounding the pitch, as does a smart black tarmac path. The ground is certainly not a picture of beauty, with grey perimeter fencing dominating with a fairly industrial background behind. The programme was rather disappointing, with 8 pages of information and stats relevant to this evening’s game interwoven inside a colour, glossy shell. But it did cover the essential information.
Neither of this evening's teams have had a great start to their seasons, with Hamworthy picking up just two draws and three defeats from their five league games so far, while Cowes have picked up a win and two draws from their opening eight league games. Both teams lost their games 2-5 on Saturday – Hamworthy losing at Brislington in the FA Cup whilst Cowes lost at home to Fawley in the league.
On a mild, sunny autumnal evening, thus match actually started quite evenly. Hamworthy looked the better team, but Cowes also looked dangerous on their occasional break. On 7 minutes, the Cowes keeper was injured saving a shot and was immediately replaced, but after they then had two food chances to open the scoring, it was the home side that did. The substitute Cowes keeper parried a powerful shot, but on the rebound the ball was headed into the net by Steve Smith. Hamworthy doubled their lead within a minute. A Cowes defender tried to shepherd the ball over the by-line but was dispossessed by Hamworthy's Steve Flynn – perhaps rather fortunately not being penalised for a foul in the process – and he dribbled the ball a few places to a better position to strike the ball low into the net. The home team made it three on 40 minutes, when the ball was floated in from a free kick into the area and Flynn headed it past the keeper’s dive. The outcome was put beyond all realistic doubt just a minute later, when a cross was swung in from the right and Connor Phillips headed it across the keeper and inside the far post.
So there was little left for the islanders to play for, and things got even worse for them in the second half as they completely lost the midfield battle. Hamworthy scored their fifth on 48 minutes. The keeper saved a shot following a corner and although he seemed to gather the ball, it eventually squirmed away and Smith tapped the ball into the net. Cowes did continue to occasionally threaten on the break, but Hamworthy scored their sixth on 74 minutes. The ball was whipped in and was met with a glanced header by Smith to seal his hat-trick. On 80 minutes, the home side scored their seventh when Flynn tapped in for his hat-trick following a couple of blocked shots, and their eighth followed on 86 minutes, when the ball was played diagonally towards the penalty spot and with the keeper’s in no-mans-land, Matt Kemble headed the ball into the net.
So it was Hamworthy who very comfortably progressed to the next round of the cup, and this may be the kick start their hitherto sluggish season needed. As for Cowes, their trip back to the island would surely feel like a very long one, and unless there were availability issues for their players tonight, it seems sure that they will have a hard battle to remain in the Wessex League Premier Division next season.