COVE'S long-term dream of passing Ryman League ground regulations received the ultimate blow when their stand sensationally caught fire and burnt to the ground on Saturday morning.

Fire crews had to be air-lifted onto the pitch at the club's Squirrel Lane ground just after 11.30am on Saturday morning to put out a blazing inferno which all but gutted the stand on the far side of the ground.

They were there for over an hour fighting the blaze, which is not thought to have been started suspiciously and ended up wrecking a section of the stand measuring 75 metres by ten metres.

For club directors, this marks another low point in what's been a nightmare last 12 months. After the loss of their entire first team squad and directors, and the sudden death of chairman Dave Wylie, the club had hoped that their fortunes had changed, especially when Chick Botley, Trevor Norris and Ian Savage were appointed to lead from the front as the management team.

Now they have a big clear-up job on their hands in time for the opening game of the season against Feltham on August 17, while fund-raising projects will have to start afresh.

New manager Botley said: "This is a drastic set-back just before the start of the season and the club directors are looking into this accident."

Picture by Paul Barrett.