RISING stars Romsey played some of their best football yet in dispatching higher-ranked opponents in a seven-goal Bypass Ground thriller, but it wasn't all plain sailing for Trevor Holmes' boys, especially off the pitch.

Defender Danny Belbin, who's made an excellent impression this season, has opted to return to his old stamping ground at Mottisfont, while keeper Mike Hookway dropped a settee on his foot on Sunday and is likely to be out of action until Christmas!

With Paul King missing through sickness, Romsey had to make several changes. Andy Fung returned wide on the right and Paul Smith was back up front, while the experienced Neil Croudson slotted into midfield alongside Andy Kemp. At the back, Matty Freemantle, a strapping central defender signed from Sunday football, took his place alongside Andy Foster, and Simon Woodley moved back as sweeper.

Between them a rather makeshift Romsey outfit played some excellent football.

They took the lead after 18 minutes at the end of a sweeping move. Kemp, prominent throughout, fed Smith on the left flank and dummied the return pass to allow Simon De'ath to fire crisply home from the edge of the box.

Wessex Division 1 side Cowes were being outplayed by their Division 2 hosts, who made it 2-nil ten minutes later at the end of a goalmouth siege. Eddie Carlin, Kemp and Croudson all had shots blocked before the ball fell to De'ath, who made no mistake with his finish.

Five minutes before the break Town were in dreamland when Smith was hauled down in the box and De'ath completed his hat-trick from the penalty spot. In the second half Cowes had their pride to play for, and soon pulled a goal back through Steve Quarmby's diving header. But Carlin and Fung continued to probe down the flanks, and before long Woodley crossed to the far post, where Smith rose like a salmon to head his side's fourth goal.

Halfway through the second half Phil McDonald pulled it back to 4-2 from the spot after the tiring Freemantle had conceded a penalty, and Hookway was caught off his line by an excellent Elliott Day chip ten minutes from time to make Romsey hearts flutter.

There was no further addition to the score in spite of several chances at both ends, but there was still time for Romsey sub Dean Constable to make his mark - in more ways than one.

He came within an ace of adding a fifth goal, but his shot was cleared off the line at the end of a mazy dribble. He then blotted his copybook by getting sent off for trampling on an opponent, but it was too late for the islanders to mount a concerted comeback, and Romsey saw out time without further alarms.