Catlin desperate for title-chasing AFC Portchester to return to home comforts

Mick Catlin is looking forward to AFC Portchester's mouth-watering Wessex Premier Division clash against Horndean at the Crest Finance Stadium (3pm).

Thursday, 19th December 2019, 2:02 pm
Updated Thursday, 19th December 2019, 4:23 pm
Horndean's Sam Hookey, left, and Joe Bye during Portchester's 3-0 Wessex win in March 2016. Deans have won the next seven league meetings between the two teams. Picture: Paul Jacobs.

He is predicting a bumper crowd and a cracking contest between two sides pushing for the top.

'We have got a few things going on at the club afterwards so we are keen to get the game on,' said Catlin.

'There should be a decent gate because there hasn't been a lot of local football recently because of the weather.

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'We have not had a home game since Denmead and that was over a month ago.’

It was on November 6 that the Royals faced Denmead in the Portsmouth Senior Cup, with their last home league game coming on October 29 against neighbours Fareham.

Portchester’s last five Wessex games have all been away, and they have won four of them to leap up to third spot and cut the gap on leaders Alresford to seven points with three games in hand.

'Horndean are a good side and beat us twice last season,’ Catlin added.

'Last season was a great one for them, finishing as runners-up (to runaway champions Sholing).

'They have been the top local side in the Wessex for the last few years.

'If we are going to win the league this season then we will need to take that mantle away from them.

'Being at home it is a game that we must be looking to win.

'We have played on the last two Saturdays and come away with a couple of 1-0 away wins.

'If we are to overcome Horndean then we must maintain our defensive solidity.

'We know they are a big threat going forward.'

Catlin has virtually a full strength squad to choose from he aims to prevent Horndean from chalking up an eighth successive Wessex victory against the Royals.

The only long term absentee is Josh Warren, who needs surgery on his heel, while top scorer Dan Wooden and Nathan Paxton are expected to return.

'With the pitch likely to be heavy it might not be the quality of football that wins it,' said Catlin.

'It will all come down to heart, desire and who wants it the most.'

Horndean manager Michael Birmingham is of the same mindset.

'I will be needing blood, sweat and tears from my team,' he declared.

'It will be all about rolling your sleeves up and being prepared to get muddy.

'That is what grassroots football should be about anyway.

'Whatever side Portchester put out will be quality.

'They are on a good run at the moment with two successive clean sheets.

'All I want is for my players to be proud of their performance when they walk off.'