St George's Park - Newport (IW) FC

Newport (IW) 4-0 Alresford Town
03/08/13 - Wessex Premier League
Att: 133

"FOOTBALL IS BACK... For those of you who support shit teams" was a line that appeared on my Twitter timeline on Friday night. While I can see where the guy was coming from I felt quite cheated that I support Aston Villa and I still had a two week wait for the season to get started for me. My plans for the opening day consisted of putting on a losing coupon and watching Soccer Saturday in a pub, but on Saturday morning a window of opportunity opened up to tick a new ground off the list to kick the season off.

I was staying in the New Forest for a couple of days and on Saturday it was suggested that we had a day on the Isle of Wight. Some quick thinking and a quick look on the internet revealed that Newport (Isle of Wight) were playing at home that afternoon so I made sure I made my way to St George's Park to take in some Wessex Premier League football.

After getting a bus into Newport the ground was relatively easy to find from the town centre, being just a ten minute walk away from the bus station. The walk was made much more pleasant by the fact that the weather was superb and it all made a very picturesque setting as I approached the ground which was surrounded by plenty of trees and greenery. 

Newport have played football on the island for 125 years having been founded in 1888 and were founder members of the Isle of Wight league in 1898, winning the title four times before becoming members of the Hampshire League in 1927. Newport won the Hampshire Cup in 1961 and 1966 but they were relegated from the Hampshire League Division One in 1969. In the mid-eighties the club became founder members of the Wessex League but after just two seasons they were promoted to the Southern League and in 2000/01 they earned promotion to the Southern Premier League, but were relegated after just one season at that level.

Three seasons later the club were struggling and found themselves in administration. The club was kept alive thanks to the efforts of the Save Newport FC Action Group who appointed a new board of directors from the Supporters' Trust. In 2004/05 the club competed in the Isthmian League, but with the club struggling off the pitch again the club were relegated to the Wessex League in 2007/08. Since returning to the Wessex League the club have performed steadily, making good use of their youth structure which is seeing players come through to the first team. The club finished in a creditable sixth place last season and a return to the Southern League remains the club's ambition.

Their opponents Alresford Town had a very successful campaign last season, finishing 2nd in the league with a tally of 89 points which would normally be enough to take the title. They also defied the odds by lifting the Hampshire Senior Cup, beating League sides Aldershot and Bournemouth enroute to lifting the trophy which is rarely won by a team from step five of the non-league ladder. They managed to keep the majority of their squad together from the previous campaign and are strongly fancied for promotion this time around.

As kick off approached there was a healthy crowd inside St George's Park - A ground that I was impressed with compared to other grounds I've been to at this level. There's a good sized Main Stand on one side as well as covered terraces on the other three sides and with a capacity of 4,000 it could comfortably host football at a higher level. The record crowd is 3,112 for a pre-season friendly against Portsmouth.

The teams emerged from the tunnel in glorious sunshine and after all of the pre-match pleasantries a new season kicked off. It took just four minutes for the first goal to go in as Jake Younie's shot from six yards was adjudged to have crossed the line to give Newport a dream start. It was one way traffic as Newport dominated the early exchanges, leading to Alresford to to make a substitution after just 23 minutes. The tactical change saw the visitors come back into the match and create a few chances of their own but it was the home side who doubled their lead on 36 minutes with a well taken goal by Tom McInnes. Newport were in command as the half time whistle sounded.

Alresford made a bright start to the second half as they looked for a way back into the game and they came close on several occasions, but just after the hour mark Newport made the game safe when a long ranged effort was parried by the goalkeeper into the path of Matt Evans who made it 3-0. This goal put an end to Alresford's revival and Newport had chances to extend their lead further before they finally rounded off the scoring in the 84th minute when Tom McInnes headed home his second goal of the afternoon.

It was a fantastic start to the new season for Newport who emphatically despatched of one of the promotion favourites in front of a very healthy crowd of 133 on a wonderfully warm afternoon on the Isle of Wight.

After the match we headed back to the bus station and went back to the ferry port where we got some dinner before heading back across to the mainland after a very enjoyable day on the island. It's not a ground I had ever really considered visiting but I'm glad that I did, I think non-league football is made for afternoons like this and it was an excellent way to kick off the 2013/14 season. Newport (IW) is a trip that I would thoroughly recommend to anyone.

Football is back!

Rear of the Main Stand

Teams line up

A new season kicks off

Panoramic view of St George's Park

Waiting to go home