By Connor Steel
FAREHAM TOWN picked up their opening league success since early December as they travelled to the Isle of Wight on Saturday, beating struggling Cowes Sports 2-1 in the Wessex Premier. It proved to be a valuable away win for the Creeksiders who had multiple opportunities throughout the match but were forced to rely on a last minute clincher from Curt Robbins to secure all three points; the game going ahead at Westwood Park following two pitch inspections as cold weather affected non-league football action across the Southern area.
In sunny but freezing temperatures it was Cowes who started brighter and they created the first chance after eight minutes; Jon McKie and Fin Phillips linking up with great passing that ended in the latter’s effort drifting wide of the post. In response Fareham slowly gained control as Josh Benfield turned his marker at pace and drove over the crossbar after eleven minutes; another chance coming just moments later when a deep throw found Moz Dench whose effort was deflected out with the home keeper Ed Hatt seemingly unable to recover.
Another visiting opportunity came on seventeen minutes as Ethan Jones found Ronan Gallaway whose well flicked shot was cleared off the goalline by a defender; Charlie Cooper having his own effort saved brilliantly by the diving Hatt following great work from Mark Smith in the middle. But it was not just one way traffic with the half hour approaching as Cowes threatened an opener on the counter attack; a deep pass finding McKie who skewed his bouncing effort harmlessly wide under pressure whilst Ollie West headed over the crossbar.
The visitors finally took advantage of their opportunities on thirty-three minutes when Jack Nicholas collected a sideways pass in midfield; advancing towards goal and sending a swirling effort into the bottom right corner from thirty yards out. He could have doubled his tally straight from the restart with a similarly placed shot that came off the post before Kieran Clark forced a brilliant stop from Hatt at his near side; Cowes creating a final chance before half time as McKie threaded through Jez Conway who fired straight at the visiting goalkeeper.
Unfortunately an injury meant Nicholas was substituted at the interval with Fareham immediately attacking to double their advantage from the kick-off; Josh Benfield working enough space down the left to send his effort curling inches wide from twenty-five yards out within three minutes. Their next opening arrived on 53 minutes as Cooper floated a low delivery past the onrushing debutant Matt Pates before Galloway headed straight at Hatt from a corner after Casey Bartlett-Scott’s angled drive was blocked at source by defender Jake Watson.
Substitutions followed for both sides after the hour mark with the visitors remaining in control of play; Cooper and Pates both going close alongside multiple set-pieces that were cleared neatly by Cowes defenders. This gave the hosts some confidence and they made this count on sixty-nine minutes through their equaliser as a throw-in from the right found Phillips; the attacker unleashing a first time effort that beat Fareham goalkeeper Luke Deacon for pace before it nestled inside the corner and sent a majority of Westwood Park into raptures.
From this point it was obvious that the next goal would win the match and Fareham looked likelier to clinch it within the final twenty minutes; substitute Brandon Jewell almost running through the Cowes defence before being closed down and Jake Wright’s cross being headed wide by a diving Jones at the back sticks. But with floodlights beaming and a draw looking on the cards the Creeksiders sealed all three points in added time; a throw-in finding Robbins with a lovely flicked pass and the midfielder sent his effort home from five yards out.
Combined with weather related postponements and other results on Saturday the three points help Fareham rise to 11th in the table after nineteen games; the success proving their first since beating Hythe & Dibden on December 3 and only the second away victory from the 2022-23 campaign to date. They will be very hopeful that this win can kickstart the inconsistent league season as they face 3 games in ten days; hosting Andover New Street on Tuesday and Horndean next weekend before travelling to play Bournemouth Poppies (31/01).
PICTURED BY ISLAND ECHO: A Fareham midfielder tries to halt the run of John McKie on Isle of Wight; the Creeksiders recording only second away success of league campaign after a run of weather postponements.