Baffins Milton Rovers' big shot against in-form AFC Stoneham after 'blowing Wessex Premier title race wide open'

Baffins Milton Rovers celebrate Harry Sargeant's equaliser in the weekend win over Hamworthy. Picture: Neil MarshallBaffins Milton Rovers celebrate Harry Sargeant's equaliser in the weekend win over Hamworthy. Picture: Neil Marshall
Baffins Milton Rovers celebrate Harry Sargeant's equaliser in the weekend win over Hamworthy. Picture: Neil Marshall
Shaun Wilkinson challenged Baffins Milton Rovers to further showcase their Wessex League Premier Division title credentials with two crucial home games coming up.

Fourth-placed Baffins entertain place-below AFC Stoneham at the PMC Stadium tonight prior to 10th-placed Alresford's visit on Saturday.

Wilkinson felt his side 'blew the title race wide open' after inflicting a first Wessex Premier defeat of the season on Hamworthy at the weekend.

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And the Baffins boss says it's down to his squad to show ‘how far they want to go’ this season.

At present, the top six in the division are separated by just 10 points while seventh-placed Shaftesbury are 14 points off leaders Brockenhurst but have at least two games in hand on the six sides above them.

After beating Hamworthy on Saturday, Baffins host an in-form Stoneham side, who are unbeaten in their last 11 Wessex Premier outings. Remarkably, they have won 10 of those and would have won the 11th had Alex Haynes not bagged an injury-time leveller for leaders Brockenhurst on November 27!

Wilkinson, whose side could move up a place to third with a win, says these are the matches his troops must look at taking maximum points from if they are to be serious challengers come the end of the season.

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He said: ‘We’ve obviously put three wins together, which is nice, but you need to capitalise on your home games and we’ve got another two now.

‘If we come out the next two games with two wins then we are serious contenders.

‘I did say to the lads before the game (against Hamworthy) - it’s not a defining moment of our season because we’re under no pressure to be up there - but if we come out of these next three games with a good amount of points we’re right in the frame.

‘It’s how far they want to go, it’s down to them.

‘They really are a tight-knit group this year, they’re really playing for each other, they’re working for each other and the togetherness and team spirit is the best I’ve seen it.’

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Wilkinson believes there is a perfect blend within his squad with young prospects such as teenagers Rhys Lloyd and Stan Bridgman - both 18 - along with Ethan Gee, just 17, prospering under the guidance of more experienced players such as Lee Molyneaux, Jason Parish and Ed Sanders.

One of Stoneham’s 10 successive league wins was a 3-0 Stoneham Lane victory over Baffins in October.

Ex-Fareham, Portchester and US Portsmouth striker Callum Laycock was on target that day, and he is the Purples’ leading marksman this season with 14 league and cup strikers.

Duarte Martins (13) and Scott Hills (12) are other proven goal threats at Wessex Premier level, while ex-Horndean and Portchester midfielder Jake Thomson has netted 10 times in 2021/22.

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Stoneham are protecting the last remaining unbeaten away record in the Wessex Premier, having won six and drawn four times on their travels so far.

Their only losses in 19 league matches were home defeats to Cowes and Hamble Club.

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