By Connor Steel
But it could have been worse for the Creeksiders as they missed several key opportunities including a penalty, but Archie Wilcox popped up with a 90th minute equaliser for Pete Stiles to seal a late point, stretching their unbeaten run to four games in all competitions since the start of this month.
On an autumnal evening, it was the Yachtsmen who started the brighter from an even start, seeing much of the ball and creating a chance after nine minutes. James Wykes advanced down the left wing and found Darren Williams, who headed against the back of a Fareham defender from six yards out with his flicked effort. In response the Creeksiders saw their first opening moments later as Dan Bennett found Ryan Mackney via a deflection with the midfielder’s low effort well saved by Ed Hatt in the Cowes goal.
Charlie Cooper then set up Callum Benfield to head into the side netting on 16 minutes, while good work between Simon Woods and Ben Rowthorn saw the latter’s shot drift wide of the post with time to spare; the attacker’s shot slightly rushed. But Fareham didn’t rue these missed chances, taking the lead on 23 minutes as neat incisive passing found Rowthorn in space, him setting up Benfield to fire home into the bottom right corner to give Town a 1-0 lead.
Undeterred by falling behind, the hosts went straight into the attack, getting a leveller on 27 minutes. It all started when Gareth Bricknell’s low shot was deflected for a corner down the left, with Aedan Coode’s delivery reaching Williams at the near post who smashed home a half volley. Jack Barsdell then went close to putting Cowes ahead on 29 minutes before an injury to Town keeper Jon Webb caused concern. But he managed to play on after landing difficultly after coming out to close the attack outside the box.
The last 10 minutes before the break saw two chances for Fareham to take the lead, firstly seeing Rowthorn fire over the bar with an ambitious 25-yarder on 41 minutes. Simon Woods then went closer moments later as his shot dipped slightly but landed on the roof of the net with Hatt scrambling back. In truth though both sides seemed settled to reach the break unscathed with the referee blowing for half time after a period of stoppage time; the scores locked at one-all after a high intensity opening 45 minutes.
Cowes were dealt an injury blow after the interval as Darren Williams suffered a knee problem and was quickly replaced by Jack Barsdell, before Hatt was forced in a brilliant one handed save from Woods and Cooper’s rebound effort was cleared off the line by Jake Watson on 52 minutes. Moments later the hosts nearly took the lead as Fareham keeper Webb denied an effort from the substitute Barsdell before he was booked for a needless tackle on the half way line. Jack Breed then saw a shot deflected for a corner that resulted in Archie Wilcox heading over from eight yards under pressure as the game reached the hour mark.
Substitutes caused a lull in proceedings but seemed to spring into life with 20 minutes left to play, the referee showing two red cards in a matter of moments. After connecting with a cross from Aedan Coode to fire over the crossbar, Barsdell was sent off the pitch for Cowes as another late challenge resulted in a second yellow card; ending a 25-minute spell by the substitute that nobody seemed to appeal from either bench. When play had restarted Fareham midfielder Mackensie Hill was shown a straight card on 74 minutes to level the sides again, with the referee deeming the challenge on Jez Conway reckless and sending him back to the changing room.
Cowes took the lead in the 78th minute, arguably against the run of play, as Scott McFarlane raced after a loose ball and played into the feet of Ji Nash, whose turn past Gary Moody created the space for a low shot that hit the back of the net with 12 minutes left. It was a goal that sent a 212-strong crowd into raptures, but this home support weren’t pleased with the referee on 83 minutes thanks to two decisions. The first of which saw Moody apparently took a swipe at Nash at the corner, before the hosts were denied a penalty as the striker tumbled inside the box.
Neither appeal was successful and the booking of the home attacker only raised tensions. But worse was to come for Cowes fans. After chances for McFarlane and Nash to seal the deal at 3-1, the Creeksiders won a penalty in stoppage time as Ryan Mackney was tripped in the box much to the loud appeals of the home bench. Archie Wilcox took the penalty which was saved brilliantly down low by Hatt in the Cowes goal for a corner, with home joy and relief ended seconds later when the defender redeemed himself by heading into the corner in the 93rd minute to clinch a late Fareham point – breaking the hosts’ hearts in the process.
This single point means that Fareham have slipped down to seventh in the Wessex League Premier after 14 games so far this campaign. The Creeksiders will now play Shaftesbury at home on Saturday afternoon with a 3pm kick-off before travelling to Brockenhurst for a League Cup tie next Tuesday. Another away trip will quickly follow on November 6 as Fareham travel to US Portsmouth at the Victory Stadium, hoping to secure the double over their local rivals. Attentions will soon turn to the next FA Vase encounter after Fareham were drawn against Abbey Rangers with this tie expected to be played on November 20.
PICTURED: Fareham playing Cowes in February 2020. Photograph by Paul Proctor