‘Binfield could win big’ – Flackwell boss believes US Portsmouth’s Wembley dream will be shattered at the final hurdle
The manager of the latest team dumped out of the FA Vase by underdogs US Portsmouth has tipped Binfield to shatter their Wembley dream.
Marcus Richardson, boss of Binfield’s Hellenic Premier League rivals, believes the Berkshire side will be ‘too good’ for USP in their Victory Stadium semi-final tomorrow.
Richardson watched on as his Flackwell side were beaten 2-0 in last Saturday’s Vase quarter-final on Portsea Island.
He told the Football in Berkshire website: 'With no disrespect to US Portsmouth, I think Binfield will beat them and they could beat them big,
'There is a lot of experience in the Binfield side, they have some very good players and I think they will be too good for US.
'I really hope Binfield will make the final as I have a lot of respect for them for what they have achieved over the last two years.
'Obviously, I hoped we (Flackwell) would have won the league this season, but over the course of the last two seasons Binfield have looked like the best team in the league.'
Richardson also bizarrely questioned the size of the goalposts at the Victory Stadium.
'When I normally go to the goals I stretch my hand up to touch the crossbar, but down there my hand was going over the bar,’ he stated.
'We have a lot of pace in our side and there wasn’t always enough space for them. But we still looked threatening every time we attacked and created enough chances to have won the game. On another day, it could have been 6-2.
‘The pitch down there is on the small side and that should suit Binfield more than it did us.'
The USP defence kept a host of prolific strikers quiet when they visited Tavistock a fortnight ago.
In order to keep their Wembley dream alive, they will almost certainly have to do the same again when Binfield visit.
Tavistock boasted three strikers - Jack Crago, Josh Grant and Liam Prynn - who had netted 93 goals between them in the last two pandemic-scarred step 5 campaigns.
Binfield also possess some big goal threats.
Captain Sean Moore netted 25 times in 31 league and cup appearances last season, and his double in last weekend’s 5-0 Vase quarter-final thumping of Long Eaton took this term’s tally to 13 in 15 matches.
Josh Helmore was The Moles’ top scorer last season with 26 goals in just 29 appearances, including an FA Cup first qualifying round winner against USP.
He missed the first half of 2020/21 through injury but has returned for the post-lockdown Vase ties, scoring twice in the 2-2 fourth round draw at Fakenham.
Oliver Harris has netted seven times in 15 outings this term, but the biggest threat to US could be a striker brought in from the higher divisions purely to help Binfield progress in the Vase.
Liam Ferdinand spent the first half of this season playing in step 3 for Harrow Borough in the Southern League Premier South - the same division as Gosport Borough and three levels higher in the pyramid than US play in Wessex 1.
Ferdinand, who has played for Binfield before, starred against Long Eaton with a hat-trick as Binfield finally found their Vase form.
In three of the previous four rounds, the Hellenic League Premier side had required heroics from goalkeeper Chris Grace to win penalty shoot-outs against Newhaven, Fakenham - who play at step 6 level, the same as US - and Hadley.
Binfield will arrive on Portsea Island having only lost one game in 2020/21 - and that to higher division Whyteleafe in an FA Cup qualifying round tie in September.
Prior to that, they had thumped higher tier AFC Totton - who play in the same Southern League Division 1 South division as Moneyfields - 5-1 in Berkshire.
In league action, Binfield are unbeaten in 19 Hellenic matches, a run stretching back to November 2019.
This season, before curtailment, they had won five and drawn two of their seven games. They trailed Flackwell Heath - who US beat last weekend in the last eight - by a point but had beaten the Heathens 2-1.
Binfield had also secured a 2-0 victory over Westfields, the Hereford-based club US have close ties with and who didn’t lose a single one of their 26 Hellenic Premier games in 2019/20.
Grace will be in goal against US with David Hancock and Elliott Legg at right back and left back respectively. Both were signed from step 4 club Bracknell last summer, where Hancock was skipper.
Player-boss Jamie McClurg, a central midfielder who played for Slough Town in the Southern League Premier Division, is a key man for Binfield. Defensive midfielder George Short was alongside him at Long Eaton, but picked up a second booking of the tournament and could be replaced by Jack Broome.
Joel Valentin and Harris could be the wide midfielders with Moore and Ferdinand up front in an expected 4-4-2 system, against US’ favoured 3-5-2 formation.
Berkshire-based non-league football writer Tom Canning has watched Binfield regularly over the past two seasons.
He is a big fan of the club. ‘They have an absolutely fabulous team on the pitch and are brilliantly run off it,’ he said.
‘It’s one of those clubs that when you go there you realise why you love non-league football. The people there deserve everything they get.
‘I find it hard to believe anybody will stop them in this competition. I’m not surprised they’ve gone so deep in it.
‘Going forward is where their strength is. They have pacy forwards, and they have forwards capable of scoring poacher’s goals.
‘I don’t know if they’re going to thank me for building them up so much!’
Canning believes Binfield’s main ‘weakness’ could be over-confidence in the wake of hammering fellow step 5 club Long Eaton.
‘US Portsmouth beat Flackwell and they are a very good side as well, so it would be naive to suggest it will be straight-forward for Binfield,’ he continued.
‘No side will be short of inspiration, but Binfield will have to keep their feet on the ground following on from their incredible 5-0 win.’