THE favourites for the Isle of Wight Gold Cup — Cowes Sports — almost snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, but in a dramatic twist, they retained the trophy with a win on penalties over great rivals Newport.

COWES SPORTS 1, NEWPORT 1 (Cowes win 6-5 on penalties)

A 700-plus crowd came along expecting a pulsating final and perhaps plenty of goals, but it was an often nervy affair in which the defences were very much on top.

Isle of Wight County Press:

The Yachtsmen were camped inside Port's half in the opening 45 minutes, with the yellows going into the match with a clear game plan of trying to soak up pressure and trying to hit Cowes on the break.

Newport, marshalled superbly at the back by skipper, Marty McDonough, throughout, were well organised — protecting their keeper, Leon Pitman, brilliantly in the first half.

Only a swiveled shot by John McKie, straight at the keeper, posed any danger.

Port, on the other hand, posed no threat going forward and it finished goalless at half-time.

The second half was a different story.

Cowes began the second period on the front foot — and almost took a deserved lead a minute in, when ex-Newport favourite, Connor Kelly, put in a fizzing ball across the penalty box, which was somehow deflected agonisingly wide.

Isle of Wight County Press:

The game followed almost the same path as the first thereafter, with Newport looking more of a threat going forward, following the early second half introduction of Joe Craig.

It was one of their rare forays going forward that saw the dynamic of the final suddenly turn on the hour.

A superb ball forward by Craig fell nicely into the path of Joe Butcher, who was hauled down by Ollie West just outside the penalty box.

There was a debate between officials as to whether West was the last man — but eventually Liam White showed the Cowes defender a straight red card.

Game on!

Isle of Wight County Press:

The ten men of Cowes still looked as strong going forward, however, with George Carter-Knight unlucky to see his superb curled effort sail just over the crossbar.

A McKie piledriver followed, which warmed Pitman's hands, but easily saved.

For all the world, it looked like substitute Carter-Knight had more or less sealed it when he superbly finished another low cross by Kelly into the near post with 11 minutes to go.

Newport had not tested Ed Hatt, who was a virtual spectator the entire game.

But in the final minute of five minutes of added on time, the unthinkable happened for Cowes — Newport's equaliser, from nowhere.

Isle of Wight County Press:

A melee in the Yachtsmen's box resulted in a stabbed shot being well saved by Hatt, but it fell into the path of Henry West who gleefully tapped it in to wild celebrations.

Seconds later, the referee blew up for full time and, with two of the Yachtsmen's principal penalty takers substituted — John McKie and Scott McFarlane — Newport looked in with a great chance of causing an upset.

And it was looking like Steve Brougham, in his last game in first team charge, would bow out on a huge high, when the normally reliable Butcher stepped up to take the penalty to win it — but Hatt saved, to extend the shoot out.

Eventually, it was Jimmy Mumford who stepped up for Cowes to put them in dreamland, to retain the Gold Cup, 6-5 on penalties.