Barnes: Fareham are the underdogs

John Grice returns for Fareham this weekend. ''Picture: Sarah Standing
John Grice returns for Fareham this weekend. ''Picture: Sarah Standing
Katie Spooner is aiming high for City of Portsmouth Ladies. Picture: Keith Woodland

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Ben Barnes insists Fareham are the underdogs against National League conference west leaders Team Bath Buccaneers on Sunday (1.30pm).

Fareham lie fourth in the table but go into the clash full of confidence following the 5-3 win over Barford Tigers last week.

Bath, meanwhile, are top of the division and hold a six-point lead over second-placed Cardiff & Met.

The Henry Cort side are relishing the chance to test themselves against a team who are top of the table and Barnes insists the pressure is on the visitors to take maximum points.

‘There is a real excitement in the group for the game against Bath,’ said the Fareham performance director.

‘Bath are quite rightly the team to beat at the moment being top of the league and we will be the underdogs going into the match.

‘We have improved a great deal this season and who better than to see how we are getting on than against the best team.

‘There are friends and former team-mates in both camps so it will be a game where both teams know a lot about each other.’

In the Bath ranks will be former Fareham captain Shaun Baker, while Rob Wilson also played for the Buccaneers while he was university.

Fareham lost 3-1 in the reverse fixture but showed great fighting spirit against last season’s runners-up that will stand them in good stead this time around.

Barnes’ side are still aiming to finish in the top three and are just two points behind Birmingham University.

However, Barnes is under no illusions of the tough task ahead of his side.

‘It will be great to maintain our push for a top-three finish and we know how dangerous Bath are going forward so we need to be on our best form,’ he said.

‘They are under more pressure than us, for certain, as they need to keep winning with Cardiff breathing down their necks.

‘The friendships will be put to one side for the 70 minutes as we are desperate to win, too.’

Fareham have yet to put in a consistent performance against the top teams in the league and Barnes is well aware of that fact.

He said: ‘We haven’t put two halves of hockey together.

‘We need to try to get the quality of hockey, both attacking and defending, and we need to start doing that against the big teams.’

It will be the first time since November Fareham have played at Henry Cort.

That day they demolished bottom-side Whitchurch 8-0.

James Seager is still out with a broken finger but John Grice is back in for Tom Larcombe.

Elsewhere, Fareham II host Hamble Old Boys tomorrow at 10am, fresh from their 7-1 victory over Yateley in South League Hampshire/Surrey division one last weekend.

South Clubs’ Women’s League division 3B takes a break, so Fareham have time to regroup following their defeat to Horsham in their last match.