Fareham plan works a treat as super sub Benfield takes advantage of ‘comical’ Baffins Milton Rovers defending in Wessex League thriller

Fareham Town boss Pete Stiles’ plan worked a treat as his side stunned Wessex League title-chasers Baffins Milton Rovers last night.

By Simon Carter
Thursday, 27th January 2022, 11:19 am
Josh Benfield struck twice in the thrilling win against Baffins Milton Rovers last night. Picture: Vernon Nash
Josh Benfield struck twice in the thrilling win against Baffins Milton Rovers last night. Picture: Vernon Nash

In one of the most entertaining games of the local non-league season, Reds sub Josh Benfield scored twice in a minute late on to clinch a stunning 5-4 success at The PMC Stadium.

Baffins would have jumped above Horndean into top spot in the Premier Division had they triumphed.

Benfield had started last weekend’s 3-3 draw on Alton’s 3G pitch but was on the bench last night due to a slight groin problem.

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‘It was always the plan to give Gary Austin 60 minutes to work their defence,’ said Stiles. ‘Then we could bring Josh on against tired legs on a boggy pitch.

‘It worked well - Josh looked really lively.’

Fareham had led 2-1 at half-time but Baffins hit back to take a 3-2 lead with two goals in a minute just after the hour mark from sub Rudi Blankson and Jason Parish.

Stiles blamed himself for that, as he had left skipper Gary Moody on despite the centre half carrying a dead leg.

‘Garry only played to do a job marking Craig McAllister,’ Stiles revealed.

‘When they took McAllister off at half-time I should have taken Garry off. I blame myself for not taking him off quicker.’

Both Baffins’ two quick goals came with balls through the middle for Blankson and Parish to latch onto.

In addition to replacing Moody, Stiles was forced into another defensive change when right back Archie Wilcox went off with cramp.

Utility player Dan Bennett ended up partnering Ross Kidson at centre half.

‘Dan’s a brilliant player,’ said Stiles. ‘In the time I’ve known him, he’s said the only position I’ve never played him is left midfield.’

Baffins boss Shaun Wilkinson, meanwhile, blamed Sunday League-type defending for what was only his side’s fourth league defeat of the season.

Pre-match, he had spoken on Fareham’s inconsistencies - describing the Reds as ‘Barcelona’ on their best days and ‘The Nags Head’ on their worst.

‘The Nags Head, that was us last night,’ Wilkinson stated. ‘The game was far too open for my liking.

‘To score four goals at home and still lose is not good enough. The defending was comical.

‘The lads at the back have been outstanding this season but here you wouldn’t have thought they’d ever played together.

‘The communication, the decision making - it didn’t happen.’

Stiles quipped: ‘We said (to Baffins) afterwards ‘we’re just going down the Nags Head for a pint!’

Fareham have now put five past leaders Horndean and third-placed Baffins this season. They also drew 3-3 with Hamworthy, the only side to score more than twice against the Hammers in league or cup action since August 2020. Fareham also missed a penalty that day!