Watch out for AFC Portchester in Wessex League promotion fight

AFC Portchester won the Wessex League Cup last season
AFC Portchester won the Wessex League Cup last season
Horndean are aiming to make Cup progress at the second attempt

Deans must take second chance in Cup... Royals will be strong

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The Wessex League premier division looks stronger this season than for many years with the inclusion of Salisbury City and Sholing Sports.

Both these clubs will start as favourites to lift the title.

But Graham Rix’s AFC Portchester may have something to say on that.

The Royals finished third last season after an outstanding second half of the campaign which saw them suffer just two defeats.

They also lifted the Wessex League Cup for the first time with a 1-0 extra-time win over league champions Petersfield Town.

The Wicor Rec outfit have ambitions to progress into the Southern League and are sure to be among the leading contenders.

If new striker Jason Parish can make the step up from the Hampshire Premier League he could prove to be a key player.

Moneyfields are another side who can expect to be challenging at the top end of the league.

In the last 10 years the Copnor club have rarely finished outside the top six and Miles Rutherford will again field a competitive squad.

Up front he has the most potent strike force in the league with Steve Hutchings and Alfie Rutherford.

Rutherford Jnr is expected to start the season at Dover Road

But it will be no surprise if he moves to a higher level in the near future.

It is believed he has already signed joint-forms with Ryman League premier division side Bognor after making a couple of appearances as a triallist.

Blackfield & Langley tried to lure Hutchings away in the summer but the striker doesn’t want to move.

Rutherford has strengthened his defence by signing the vastly experienced Aaron Cook who has had spells with the Hawks, Gosport Borough, Salisbury City and Bremerton Heath Harlequins.

Horndean manager Dave Carter could finally see his side achieve their first top-10 premier division finish.

Carter’s team have always been capable of getting results against top sides, only to let themselves down against some of the lower opposition.

The Five Heads Park pitch and the weather will also play their part as Horndean will seek to maintain their traditional good start.

Meanwhile, Fareham Town look set for another season of struggle.

They have suffered the departure of manager Matt Parr on the eve of the campaign.

The Reds pulled off a great escape on the final day to avoid relegation last season.

With the league looking even stronger, they will do well to survive for a second time.

In division one, United Services will have to overcome their struggle for consistency.

They find it difficult to produce a consistent starting line-up.

If they can field their strongest team on a more regular basis then they are capable of challenging at the top of the division.