We're all for cup draws that pair you with a team you wouldn't normally meet. And it's fair to say that Cove are a good example...
Photo: © Sandy B (cc-by-sa/2.0)

We’re all for cup draws that pair you with a team you wouldn’t normally meet. And it’s fair to say that Cove Football Club are a pretty good example of that; a side from Hampshire that we reckon you won’t know much about. And that goes for older Boro’ fans who were around at the time when our paths somehow came together. But don’t worry – that’s why we’re here; to give you the lowdown on one of our less familiar opponents over the years.

Who are Cove Football Club?

This story goes back a long way. Formed in 1897, the Wasps are the result of a group of friends playing on fields behind the local pub. But it takes a long time for that story to get going. A huge chunk of their history was spent in the Surrey Leagues. Mind you, they did deliver a fair amount of success over the years in those competitions. And this continued in the Hampshire Leagues; making the move across in 1973.

The Wasps won the Division Four title in their first campaign, before claiming the Division Three championship soon after. It wasn’t long ’til they were riding high in Division Two too.  Two too? Desmond? Never mind. The cost of travel, however, was starting to bite. With a league programme taking them to Portsmouth and Southampton before the M3 came into being, it was a big ask. In 1980, therefore, they joined the Combined Counties League.

Why do we know the Wasps?

For most of the 1980s, the Wasps struggled in the Combined Counties League – though they did win the League Cup. It’s a trophy, after all. But an opportunity came about at the end of the decade to join the Isthmian League. And the 1990-1 season saw them playing at the same level as us for the first time. Well, they were Division Two South. We were in the North. So, it wasn’t the league that brought us together. It was the League Cup.

Stevenage Borough met Cove in the 1991-2 Diadora League Cup

What is our record against them?

After marching to the 1990-1 Division Two North title, the 1991-2 season saw us back in Division One for the first time since ’88. We had a bit of a rude awakening at Yeading on the first day of the campaign. But back-to-back league wins got us quickly back on track before the Wasps travelled to us at the end of August for our Diadora League Cup clash.

The Wasps, on the other hand, were placed in Division Three after the North and South split had been ended that summer. We were now two divisions – not one – apart. And it showed on the day. Mickey Nunn, Shaun Marshall, and Jimmy Hughes scored the goals that sealed our path through. But a missed penalty at 1-0 could’ve changed the direction of the game. Boro’ took the warning on board and stepped it up in the second half.

A missed penalty at 1-0 could've changed the direction of the game

Cove: Boro’s Record

Our head-to-head: P 1 — W 1 — D 0 — L 0 — F 3 — A 0 — Pts n/a — WR 100%
Our last tango: Stevenage Borough 3-0 Cove, 26 August 1991

What happened to them?

The two of us went our separate ways after that; the Wasps finishing their 1991-2 Division Three campaign in sixth and 15 points shy of promotion. Next year, they’d go one better – coming fifth and just three points from promotion. But the club weren’t able to kick on from this and, within two seasons, they finished bottom of the Isthmian League. After one more season in the competition (19th), growing costs forced them to pull out from the league.

Ever since, the Wasps have been competing in the Combined Counties League yet again. Looking at their record since the mid-1990s, there are some startling numbers in there too. They’ve conceded more than 100 goals in seven separate seasons; including their ill-fated 2015-6 campaign that saw them relegated from the Premier Division. It happened again in their 2016-7 Division One season too.

There was also the hugely successful 2000-1 season too! But the most recent years have been tough to bear. In their last four completed seasons up until the point we wrote this in May 2021, the Wasps had either finished bottom or second bottom. Covid-19 then had its say on what we could and couldn’t do; forcing two successive Combined Counties League campaigns to end early. Can the Wasps return strong when football at that level resumes?

With thanks to the Stevenage Football Archive.

• WANT TO KNOW MORE? – Cove club profile

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