The View from the Bar

There’s a lot going on in the world right now. Across Europe, millions are wondering what on earth is going on in the UK and whether we’ll be cutting ourselves adrift from the EU. In the Middle East it’s being claimed that ISIS have been territorially defeated, while in the U.S.A. the long-awaited Mueller Report into alleged collusion between the Trump election campaign and Russia has finally been submitted to attorney general William Barr, in all likelihood heralding a period of political upheaval unmatched since the mid-1970’s Watergate crisis that brought down Richard Nixon.
But today, I would imagine, the eyes of the world are on Westwood, where the very definition of the term ‘six pointer’ will be played out between Cowes and Bemerton. I fully expect the denizens of the main stand to be in uproar as they realise the entire structure has been turned over to the world’s media and transformed into a giant press box, and I’m pretty sure the rumours about Al Jazeera’s sporting correspondent hiring out the top floor of The Fountain Hotel and setting up a video-link to the ground, rather than being baffled by a thirty minute phone conversation with Bill Murray trying to organise press credentials, to be true.
Well, okay, maybe I’m exaggerating just a little, but for both Bemerton and Cowes there can be no doubting that today is a massive day. It’s not like everything hinges on this match – after this encounter both clubs still have four matches to play – but with our sides locked together on points, and an almost identical set of fixtures remaining, the opportunity to take a lead in the bid to beat the drop is a huge one. It’s pretty much a straight race to the line from here, and today we’ll find out who’s going to be fastest out of the blocks.
As excited as I am by the prospect, it’s with no little sense of trepidation. There have been plenty of memorable encounters with Bemerton over the years, and for those of a blue and white persuasion, not always memorable for the right reasons. Top of the list must be the incredible Wessex League Cup clash in 2011, when Bemerton somehow clung on to claim a 2-2 draw after 120 minutes, despite playing a fair portion of the game with only eight players, and much of extra time with only seven, after an ill-tempered display saw no less than four of their team shown red cards. The Cowes faithful had good reason for dismay as we failed to find the killer blow and the tie went to penalties, and you could hardly begrudge the visitors their wild celebrations as they claimed an unlikely 5-4 victory on spot-kicks.
It’s not all been doom and gloom though. Our first ever visit to Bemerton’s lovely Western Way ground in 1992 saw us take down our high-flying opponents 2-0 in the Russel Cotes Cup, and since then there have been several memorable victories, including a 5-1 away romp in 2015-16, and not forgetting the incredible 4-4 draw the teams played out here at Westwood in November 2007. The omens aren’t good this year though, with Bemerton already having come out on top twice, with a 1-0 F.A. Cup victory followed up by a 2-1 league win, both at their Salisbury home.
However things go today, and over the course of the rest of the season, it seems likely that one of our sides will be facing the drop into Wessex 1, and whichever way it turns out, I’ll be hoping for a speedy return for the unfortunate side.
So there we have it. You could say the season starts here, but I think that would be just a tad disrespectful to the players who have been pulling on the jersey and battling so valiantly throughout the campaign, and player-boss John McKie who has more than steadied the ship and led us into a fine run of home form. But it is a big one today, be under no illusions there, so get behind the boys, and let’s see what happens…
Enjoy the game.
Toby.

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