Traco Athletic made the long 127 mile all-round trip to the Isle of Wight on Saturday, and returned with a win, sailing through to Round Three of the Hampshire County Cup.
The “Traco boys” were officially on tour for this one, as everyone was in good spirits, despite an early wake-up and departure. Departing from their headquarters, that is the Aldershot Traco Club, we started our descent south via the M3 before dropping further south beyond Winchester and our last stop for the first chunk of the journey being Southampton docks. This is where we would await an 11am drive-on ferry to take us over to the island that Dean had somewhat unbelievably asked – weeks in advance – if he needed a passport to get through customs and immigration! From reading that, you’re probably already chuckling to yourselves… That is no match to the dry humour of Joe Chuter, Andy Franklin and not forgetting chauffeur for the day, Reece Wilson. As quiet as he usually is, Connor (aka “George”) Burley, was an instrumental part of the car journey to and from, and whose song choices consisted of “ohhh yes!” With all the sing songs, witty (but very, very dry) banter and bird watching, it made for a very enjoyable day out.
Prior to kick-off, there was a finely observed minute silence in honour of the passing of Jake Stephens’ dad.
Getting down to the actual football, Traco had an early chance to take the lead, and kick off their cup dream in emphatic style. A seemingly dead ball was picked up on by “Capitano”, Leon Jelly, whose attack was brought to a dramatic halt by the East Cowes shot-stopper, which drew the subsequent spot kick. There was disbelief across the faces of every single man and woman inside the ground next, as Macauley Pond was the man elected to step up, only for his penalty to stray just a yard wide of the left hand post (cue a tonne of memes that will never allow Mac to forget this day!).
The 19th minute marked the afternoon’s opener, which fell to East Cowes. 8 burst down the near left flank before escaping Burley and in what was a very scrappy finish, spotted the gap and firing it home into the bottom right beyond the low-diving Gittoes.
It was a hands-on-head moment in the minutes which followed, when a Lucern corner bounced around in the area and fell out to Chuter, who let fly and looked to have grabbed the equaliser, but was – at the last moment – hacked off the line in some desperate last ditch defending from the home side.
The visitors found their equaliser. A Reece Wilson lofted pass reached Jelly, who slipped it wide and just in front of the run of Dean Lucern, whose blistering shot whistled past the goalkeeper.
As the first half drew to a close, Traco’s 7th chance saw Wilson’s chance sail agonizingly inches wide of the target.
Neither were able to find that perfect finish; a long ball over the top created an opportunity for East Cowes’ 8, who couldn’t quite keep it down and smashed it high over the bar.
However, and with 16 minutes left on the clock, the away side found the winning formula. A corner wipped into the danger zone fell to Benjamin, who got an ever so slight touch to it to bump it into the path of Jelly, whose screaming half-volley flew home.
Traco were through to the next round and it was important, in the closing stages, to keep it tight at the back and not to be complacent in the dying moments – we held on and saw out the win! A night out ‘on the town’ (slight sarcasm there) followed as the celebrations continued into the night. It finished: East Cowes Victoria Athletic 1, Traco Athletic 2.