The View from the Bar 

There goes the 100% record then. Heheh. I opened this column on Saturday with reference to our consistent start to the season, but it wasn’t a bad way to lose it, truth be told…

I’m not sure many (any?) of us were expecting that when we arrived at Westwood on Saturday, even more-so after Portland took a 25th minute lead. It was frustrating at the time, since after a fairly even opening we’d been getting well on top prior to the visitors finding the net. I think more than a few folk could be excused for thinking ‘here we go again’, but the lads dug in and were back in control (of the balance of play) almost immediately, and were rewarded with an equaliser from Jez Conway in the 35th minute. Almost from the second he smashed the ball into the net you could feel the waves of confidence flooding through the side.

And so hopes were high(ish) as we emerged for the second half, but there was still plenty to do. But Jez was leading the line with bravery and aplomb, and his second goal typified this, stretching to steer Jimmy’s cross into the net before clattering into the post (and helpfully getting buried under a pile of team-mates as he tried to recover from the collision). Lewis Wright then added a third with a Rooney-esque free-kick, and it was clear that the game had well and truly turned our way.

It was, of course, fantastic to welcome John McKie back to action, and it’s fair to say he made his mark with a six-minute hat-trick, but I’m almost sorry he came on, since the eleven out there had already turned the game around and put us in a winning position – make no mistake, they deserve all the plaudits for that. That said, it was great to see John back, and he looked as hungry and sharp as I’ve ever seen him – his fourth goal on 89 minutes was as good-a finish as you’ll see at this level. I was in direct line as he swung his foot and you knew it was in almost before he’d even connected. Magic stuff.

Definitely a performance to cherish, but it’s a shame so many regulars missed this for one reason or another. It seems strange saying this given the gate of 149, but it’s testament to the support we’ve had this year that this felt like (and was) one of our smallest gates. It really wouldn’t take much to get our average up over 200, so get working on your pals and get them up here for a game – fifteen quid to watch a prem game from an empty stadium? You can have a game here in the flesh, a programme, golden goal ticket, a couple of pints and a burger for the same price – well worth remembering (and pointing out). That said, I’d pay £15 for a pay-per-view visit to Westwood, if I couldn’t make it to a game, so who am I to judge?

  As the goals flowed, one Westwood regular asked me “when was the last time we scored seven then?” Almost before he’d finished asking the query needed updating to eight, but hey, one thing at a time. So, the first question was pretty easy, since we hit seven in beating Verwood 7-3 in the F.A. Vase last year. And if you’re not concerned with exactitude, we found the net nine times at Fareham in a crazy League Cup match in 2018. But if it’s exactly eight you’re after (and perhaps as importantly, in front of the Westwood crowd), we have to go back to the 2012-13 season when we managed it twice, beating Laverstock & Ford 8-0 in the league, then Shanklin 8-1 in the Gold Cup. So there you go, question answered. It’s a good job he didn’t also enquire as to our record defeat in recent years, as tonight’s visitors might have something to say about that (whisper it quietly, but there was that bizarre 12-2 score-line in the league cup in 2017…)

Anyway, enough of matters past, now we have a very tough match in prospect with the visit of Portchester. Props, as ever, to their boss Mick Caitlin, who not only has put together one of the best Wessex League squads in recent memory, but also exhibits probably the best taste in music of any SWL manager I can recall, as typified by his enthusiasm for IW boys Plastic Mermaids. Which reminds me, we really must get a new CD player sorted for pre-match tunes. Anyone got one knocking around?

Enjoy the game, thanks for your support, and as always, stay safe.

             Toby.

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