based in Farnborough I was only going to be 30 minutes from the airport and perfectly in time to welcome my family home. I have to say, I was tempted to check out how life in Step 3 was for Royston Town, who were playing at Farnborough. However, I eventually chose the Combined Counties Division One clash between Cove and Fleet Spurs.
A note of praise for Rushmoor Borough Council at this point, if indeed it is they who are responsible for road signs in Farnborough. Upon getting into the town and, bearing in mind that I had not been to a game in this town before, I was very pleasantly surprised to see signposts for many of the local sports clubs, Farnborough FC, Farnborough Rugby Club and, more importantly Cove FC. I don't think, in five years of hopping around non-league grounds, have I seen signposts pointing the way to a Step 6 football club. If I had a cap I would doff it to the person who sanctioned this. I wonder if it would improve attendances if all local councils followed suit?
The home of Cove FC is Oak Farm, situated down a single track lane, Squirrel Lane, just to the North of the town and Farnborough Airport, home of the famous air show. The football ground has several pitches, including a 4G pitch, and is adjacent to Farnborough Rugby Club and the Tennis Club. There is a small(ish) car park outside the clubhouse with the option for additional parking inside the actual football ground.
The ground features covered standing and seating areas, the main stand being the Ron Brown Stand, all of which are on the far side from the clubhouse, car park and entrance. The dugouts are situated either side of the entrance to the playing surface, in front of the clubhouse.
Cove have been on something of a downward spiral in the last couple of years but are hoping that this season will be a turning point. Relegation from the Combined Counties Premier in 2015-16 was followed by a second from bottom finish in Division One last year. However, they were reprieved from a second consecutive relegation by the fact that Dorking folded at the end of the season.
Fleet, meanwhile, finished 16th of 21 in the Wessex League Division One last term but transferred into the Combined Counties League in the summer. Both teams started the season with entertaining games, Fleet beating Raynes Park 3-2 whilst Cove fought out a 3-3 draw at Cobham.
As is often the case though, despite not looking likely, it was the away side who created the first real chance on 28 minutes. The ball fell to striker Sam Knowles, the Fleet number 10, inside the penalty area, but he wasted the opportunity when he possibly should have done better.
Within two minutes he was made to pay for his profligacy. Cove sprang a very quick break down their right flank. The ball was flashed across goal and the onrushing Owusu Osei powered the ball home to make it 1-0.
HT Cove 1 Fleet Spurs 0. A very scrappy first half. Not that much in the way of goalmouth action. The pace of the breakaway and delivery of the cross for Cove's goal was the high-point of the half.
Five minutes into the second half Cove came within inches of increasing their lead. A free-kick from out on the right-wing was floated into the Fleet area, Cove's number 4 rose and powered his header against the bar and away to safety.
Maybe that was the wake-up call that Fleet needed? They certainly appeared to up their game from this point and were beginning to show a lot more attacking intent than in the first half.
Just before the hour mark Fleet produced their best and possibly the game's best move so far. A series of interplay and one-touch passes saw them carve open the home defence but the resulting effort from 18 yards was just too high. It was, however, a very promising sign for Fleet and seemed to further galvanise their efforts. So much so that, on 63 minutes, they were awarded a penalty. Sam Knowles stepped up and made amends for his first-half miss by slotting the ball home. 1-1.
Although you couldn't say that Cove were on the ropes at this point, the pendulum had certainly swung in favour of Fleet. They could and really should have been 2-1 up on 69 minutes. A speculative shot from distance looked destined for the top corner without the intervention of Cove's keeper. He got a hand to the ball and diverted it against the crossbar. The ball dropped straight to the feet of the Fleet number 10 Knowles, unmarked in the six yard box, only for the striker to, somehow, put the ball wide of the mark.
It was a massive let off for Cove who then endeavoured to respond themselves.
The referee immediately pointed to the spot despite vociferous complaints from the Fleet team who clearly thought it was a 50/50 challenge for the ball. Felix Laing, also wearing number 10, stepped up but smashed the spot-kick against the bar. Still 1-1 and it was proving to be a bad night to be wearing the number 10 shirt on either side.
It made me smile when I saw that the Fleet Spurs website had posted a thank you message to their crossbar.
The number 10 curse was highlighted five minutes from time when Knowles was put clean through but, instead of sliding the ball past the keeper, he elected to go around him giving the stopper the opportunity to grab the ball, which he duly did. Another chance, and this time the last one of the game, went begging.
FT Cove 1 Fleet Spurs 1. Both sides had plenty of chances to win the game but ultimately paid the price for some wasteful finishing. On the balance of play a draw was probably the fairest result.
Ground No. 132
Programme: Included in entrance fee