Baffins Milton Rovers using US Portsmouth as inspiration as they aim to repeat 2018 FA Cup debut victory

Baffins Milton Rovers return to the scene of their FA Cup debut this weekend knowing a cup run would ‘go a long way towards helping the club.’

By Simon Carter
Thursday, 5th August 2021, 3:03 pm
Former Hawks and Gosport striker Alex Przesolewski made his competitive Baffins debut at Fareham in midweek. Picture Martyn White.
Former Hawks and Gosport striker Alex Przesolewski made his competitive Baffins debut at Fareham in midweek. Picture Martyn White.

Baffins triumphed 3-1 at then Wessex League Premier rivals Tadley in an extra preliminary qualifying round tie in August 2018 thanks to goals from Ashton Leigh, Blu Boam and Max Davies.

In four seasons of trying, Rovers have yet to reach the first qualifying round, but assistant boss Danny Thompson is aware of the financial benefits should they achieve it this season.

Rovers start their fifth FA Cup campaign at Tadley on Saturday, with their hosts having now switched to the Combined Counties League.

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Clubs will bank £2,569 just by winning through the first two qualifying rounds of the FA Cup. Compare that to the FA Vase, where earnings total £2,775 if clubs win through the first FOUR rounds.

If Baffins can repeat their 2018 result, they will host higher tier Sholing in the preliminary qualifying round on August 21.

Thompson said: ‘The club is still growing off the pitch.

‘The chairman (Steve Cripps) has done a fantastic job in getting it to where it is, and there’s plans for a clubhouse extension and new changing rooms.

‘If we could get through two or three qualifying rounds that would go a long way towards helping the club.

‘You saw what US Portsmouth did last season, that was an amazing achievement. It shows what can happen if you have a bit of luck, and a bit of belief.’

Thompson will again take charge at Tadley, with boss Shaun Wilkinsonserving the third of a four-match stadium ban.

The second of those games was Baffins’ 2-2 draw at Fareham in Tuesday’s Wessex Premier opener, the visitors twice coming from behind in an entertaining affair.

‘It was just disappointing to concede the goals we did - a free header at the far post and then we switched off from a short corner.

‘But credit to the lads for digging in. We would have settled for a point beforehand.

‘I played in the Wessex for most of my career and this season is going to be one of the toughest for some time.

‘We have strengthened this season and, no disrespect to anyone, but the team we had last season would probably have lost Tuesday’s game (at Fareham).

‘We should be looking for top six, that’s our ambition - we’ve got a shoestring budget compared to some of the local clubs.

Midfielder Oscar Johnston could return to the squad this weekend after missing the Fareham game through self-isolation.

Boam, meanwhile, has signed on for Baffins in 2021/22 but is currently unavailable. ‘He’s started a new job,’ said Thompson. ‘Blu is part of the furniture here - hopefully we’ll see him at some point.’

Thompson was pleased with the competitive debut of former Hawks, Gosport, Winchester and Petersfield striker Alex Przesolewski at Cams Alders.

With Baffins lacking a target man figure, he told Wilkinson he was keen to return to the Wessex Premier after Rovers had played a pre-season friendly against Newport IoW, where the striker played in 2020//21.

‘He gives us a focal point,’ said Thompson, who worked with the player during his time as assistant manager at Gosport. ‘He’s got great experience and tactical nous. He’ll be able to bring the likes of Callum Dart, Tommy Scutt and Billy Connor into play.’

Baffins and their Premier Division rivals will all be aiming to become only the fourth Wessex League club to ever reach the FA Cup fourth qualifying round (after AFC Lymington, Romsey and Thatcham).

To do so, they will need to win through five rounds.