John Gorman’s Weekly Preview

The opening Saturday of the New Year and the FA Vase on the Agenda with our three Clubs remaining in the Competition all unfortunately drawn away from home. Hamworthy United have the longest and possibly the most difficult trip with a journey to Western League leaders Willand Rovers. Willand is the other side of Taunton and a couple of miles from Cullompton and the Rovers have taken fifty one points from a possible sixty in the first half of the season, Sholing also face Western League opposition with a visit to Cribbs on the outskirts of Bristol. This is the furthest the home side gave progressed in the Vase in their history but they are mid table in the League and Sholing’s experience should see them through. Baffins Milton Rovers enter rather more unknown territory with a trip to the side of the Thames and Greenwich to meet Cray Valley PM. The home side are fifth in the Southern Counties East League – better known in previous times as the Kent league – and ground share with Isthmian League side Greenwich Borough. The PM incidentally stands for Paper Mills.

There are also two further cup ties on the day before we reach the League Programme, both quarter finals. In the Sydenhams League Cup Lymington entertain Horndean and by a quirk in the fixtures the two sides have yet to meet in the League this season. The visitors have enjoyed the better season so far but Lymington proved their liking for Cup Competitions with their exploits in the FA Cup. The other tie is in the Portsmouth Senior Cup where Premier Division Fareham Town make the short journey to Hampshire Premier League leaders- and Champions – Paulsgrove. League positions suggests an away win but it will not be easy for the Creeksiders.

On to the League with Sholing and Amesbury Town leading the respective Divisions as we move in to 2019 and a curtailed Premier Division Programme because of the Vase ties. The weekend starts on Friday evening when Alresford welcome Hamble Club to Arlebury Park. The two Clubs are separated by just two points in the League table but the home side are enjoying better form at present having won their last three. With Sholing and Horndean employed elsewhere there is a chance for Portland to strengthen their second placing when Cowes make the long journey to The Grove. The home side have won ten of their last twelve matches and the “Yachtsmen” may find points hard to come by. Bournemouth, in fourth place and enjoying a successful season, have encountered a slight blip over the last three games and will be looking to get back to winning ways when Brockenhurst travel to Victoria Park having themselves only won one of their last five games. Tadley entertain Bashley and will remember that their own fine start to the season was ended by a four nil defeat in the Forest while the remaining three games all involve sides at the wrong end of the table. The resurgent Bemerton go to Hurn Bridge and the three points on offer will be very welcome to both Christchurch and themselves and it will be a similar situation at Test Park where Team Solent host Shaftesbury. The visitors recorded their first win in seven games last weekend but again the points are vital to both sides. Finally bottom place Andover New Street, in danger of being cast adrift, face AFC Portchester at Charlton with the visitors slowly evolving after a change of management.

The leading four Clubs in the First Division have opened a gap on the rest, though US Portsmouth are doing their best to narrow same, and this week sees two at home and two on the road. Leaders Amesbury, defeated only once in the League thus far, entertain the aforementioned US Portsmouth in what is the top game in the Division on the day and three points will serve either side well. AFC Stoneham, who have a better record than Amesbury in that they are still unbeaten have, on paper, an easier task as they host bottom place Andover Town. This is the reverse fixture from the opening day of the season when Stoneham won ten one and rather destroyed Andover’s illusion that life in Division One would be easier than promotion. Hythe and Dibden, perhaps with all respect the surprise side of the season to date, travel to East Cowes Vics who will be looking to to bounce back from last week’s defeat by Newport while Romsey make the short journey to Totton and Eling. The Millers have only gleaned one point from their last eight games and could face another difficult afternoon. Alton, with six wins in their last eight, visit Follands who by dint of some good results at home of late have climbed to a mid-table position and Newport are also at home with Whitchurch providing the opposition. The Island side will feel they should be higher in the table whilst Whitchurch tend to lose too many games by the odd goal. Verwood, in seventh spot, make the long haul to Petersfield who have lost five of their last six and two Clubs in need of points have home fixtures. New Milton host Fawley who have won three of their last five while Ringwood will be hoping to add to last week’s win when Laverstock and Ford visit Long Lane.

All to play for across the Board but good luck to our three Vase representatives