Baffins Milton Rovers take ‘massive’ step towards Hampshire Development League and cup double with victory over defending champions Horndean Red

Ryan Harfield struck early as Baffins Milton took a huge step towards a potential Hampshire Development League U18 double.

By Simon Carter
Wednesday, 23rd March 2022, 9:06 am
Ryan Harfield celebrates his early goal for Baffins against Horndean.

Picture: Keith Woodland
Ryan Harfield celebrates his early goal for Baffins against Horndean. Picture: Keith Woodland

The striker grabbed the only goal in the seventh minute as Baffins defeated defending East division champions and title rivals Horndean Red 1-0 at the PMC Stadium.

Baffins had another effort ruled out for a foul on the keeper while Horndean’s Marvin Meal hit the post towards the end of the first half.

In a close encounter, both teams ended with 10 men after Baffins’ Peter Hodgkins and Horndean’s Brandon McKinnon were dismissed for a second-half scuffle.

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The Horndean keeper is beaten by Ryan Harfield's early winner. Picture: Keith Woodland

Rovers are now just a point adrift of leaders Stoneham, but have four games in hand. Baffins are also three points ahead of Horndean Red, with a game in hand.

Both teams remain in with a league and cup double chance; Baffins are through to the League Cup final, where they face Gosport Borough, while Horndean Red have a Hampshire FA Cup final date with Winchester City Red to look forward to.

The third Baffins v Horndean Red fixture of 2021/22 was always likely to be a close affair. Baffins had won 2-1 in the league with Red winning 2-0 in the Hampshire Cup.

‘If we’re going to hand over the baton (of league winners), then Baffins would thoroughly deserve it - they’re a great side,’ said Red boss Jason Harris.

‘We’re not conceding the title, but I can’t see Baffins losing three games.

‘They remind me of ourselves last season.’

Baffins boss Mark Robinson said: ‘It was a scrappy game, but overall we deserved the three points. It was a massive win.’

Both Horndean and Baffins have been keen to give their U18s first team opportunities this season.

Deans boss Michael Birmingham fielded an entire youth team in several pre-Christmas cup ties, including a Portsmouth Senior Cup fixture against Baffins, who included a sprinkling of U18s themselves.

Horndean, in particular, have a fine record of seeing young players progress up the football pyramid - Tommy Leigh, Benny Read, Sam Smart.

Last season, midfielder Joe Adams was a member of Harris’ Hampshire Development title-winning squad.

After impressing in Sholing’s first team earlier this season, Adams last mont signed a professional contract with League One high-fliers Wigan.

‘That’s vindication for myself and my coaches, Neil Perkins and Dave Brownlie,’ said Harris. ‘We thought Joe was good enough to turn professional - he’s a special player.

‘My job is to make players ready for adult football.’

That is true, but Harris’ squad – who he has managed for over a decade – have also been perennial collectors of silverware.

Starting out at Pickwick Youth, the team were Portsmouth Youth League A division winners for seven years running, starting in 2013. They also lifted the Portsmouth Youth League Cup five times and were Hampshire Cup winners in 2016 and 2019.

Harris moved his squad over to Horndean in 2018 in a bid to give them a better chance of a pathway into a good standard of adult football.

Baffins host Moneyfields at the PMC Stadium this Sunday while leaders Stoneham face a Fleetlands side who last weekend picked up their first point of the season. After 14 successive losses, they drew 0-0 with Winchester City Black.