After 52 days without a football fixture, Island League champions Whitecroft & Barton began their pre-season campaign with a draw at Beatrice Avenue, home of Wessex League 1, East Cowes Vics, on Tuesday evening.

W&B have retained the same experienced squad that has won successive Island League championships over recent seasons, with the addition of former Newport goalkeeper, Andy Payne. With the retirement of former manager Steve Rayner, last season’s goalkeeper Gareth True has taken over Steve’s position in the dugout.

In a first half of few chances, W&B dominated a youthful East Cowes side who were left chasing shadows. The only clear scoring opportunity came in the 15th minute, when W&B centre forward, Josh Appell, dribbled past two Vics defenders before seeing his shot from an acute angle bounce off the crossbar.

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HT: Vics 0-0 W&B

The second half was a far more even and entertaining contest, with a young and fit Vics side retaining possession well and W&B attempting to punish their opponents on the counterattack. Josh Appell continued to be a thorn in the side of the Vics defence, shooting over the crossbar in the 54th and 56th minutes. It took until the 58th minute of the game for Vics to have a clear scoring opportunity, when it was Jimmi Burton’s turn to shoot over the crossbar. W&B were then unlucky not to take the lead when Appell first had a shot blocked by a one-handed save from Vics’ keeper, Steinborn-Busse, then a further shot was headed off the goal line by a Vics defender.

The game sprung to life in the 76th minute, when Vics were awarded a disputed penalty for handball and Jimmi Burton stepped up to send the ball past an outstretched Andy Payne (1-0). 2 minutes later, W&B had a penalty themselves when Jack East was fouled in the Vics penalty area and Matt Evans stepped up to dispatch the ball past Steinborn-Busse (1-1).

Vics then appeared to have secured a home victory when full back, Liam Newbold, took the ball on the left side of the penalty area before shooting the ball over a diving Andy Payne (2-1). However, Island champions, W&B, were to deny Vics their win with an Ash Gulliver goal in the 3rd minute of injury time after he latched on to a superb through ball from Graham Bast and sent the ball past Steinborn-Busse and into the roof of the net with the final kick of the game (2-2).

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FT: Vics 0-0 W&B

Vics: Steinborn-Busse, O West, Newbold, Gregory, A White, Hayward, Catania, Jones, Burton, Yates. Wright Subs: Berry, Snow, Shilson-Marsek, Woodford, Sullivan, Turner, Walsh
W&B: Payne, K Sainsbury, Martin, Bast, Ovnik, A Sainsbury, Evans, Rayner, Appell, East, Gulliver Subs: Lambert, Knowles, McEnery. Gifford

After the game, W&B manager, Gareth True, said:

“It was a very competitive match played in a good spirit. It was a good workout for the lads and gives us something to build on for our next game.”

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When asked who W&B’s main rivals were for the forthcoming Island League campaign, starting on 14th August, Gareth said: “Shanklin and possibly Brading and Oakfield.”

Vics assistant manager, Darren Arnold, said of his side’s prospects in Wessex League 1:

“We are trying to rebuild the club. We hope to finish in midtable and to have a shot at winning the Gold Cup.”

W&B face Vectis at Cowes Enterprise College on Saturday 24th July. They then play Newport at Smallbrook on Tuesday 27th July.

East Cowes Vics will travel across the Medina to play Cowes Sports for a friendly at Westwood Park on Saturday 24th July (game still to be confirmed). On Tuesday 27th July, they face Brading Town at Beatrice Avenue.

Tonight (Wednesday 21st July) Newport face Island League runners-up, Shanklin, at the County Ground. Shanklin are likely to prove tougher opponents than West Wight who they trounced 16-0 on Saturday. Kick-off is at 18:30.

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