Fareham Town manager Pete Stiles' selection dilemma for visit to play on AFC Stoneham's 3G playing surface
Fareham Town boss Pete Stiles admitted he'll have to tailor his team selection for their Wessex League Premier Division trip to face AFC Stoneham on a 3G surface.
Stiles revealed how he plans to lean towards picking younger members of his squad rather than run the risk of his more experienced players potentially picking up injuries on the artificial pitch.
Stoneham play their home fixtures out of the Hampshire FA Stoneham Lane Football Complex – one of four synthetic grounds currently in the Wessex Premier – Alton, Hamworthy United and Shaftesbury possess the other three.
Traditionalist Stiles insisted he's not a fan of 3G pitches, but understands why clubs operating within the non-league pyramid opt to go down the route of installing them.
The Fareham boss said: ‘There’s a massive advantage playing on a 3G surface, I don’t care what you say, if you play week-in, week-out on them - we can’t even get to train on one, let alone play on one.
‘I still don’t like them, I don’t think they’re right, I like football played on a bit of grass with a bit of mud – that’s how it should be.’
Fareham have not played a first team fixture on 3G since a 2-0 Portsmouth Senior Cup win at US Portsmouth Reserves in February 2020. That same season, they lost league matches at Stoneham and Hamworthy and also exited the Russell Cotes Cup at Alton.
‘We’re going to go there (Stoneham), we’re confident,’ said Stiles. ‘Youngsters love 3G, they like it, whereas I’ve got players who if I play them on it they’re out for four weeks - your older ones.
‘I’ve just got to be careful what side I put out but I’ve got to put out a side to make sure we go there and win. We’re not going there to camp out or anything, we’re going to win.’
Fareham head to Stoneham full of confidence and are the Wessex Premier's top scorers.
The third-placed Reds have hit an incredible 42 goals in just 10 league outings this season - and have netted 53 times in all competitions.
But Stiles is wary of coming up against a Stoneham side sure to be hurting from a midweek home defeat to Hamble.
He said: ‘There’s lots of indifferent results (in the Wessex Premier), I saw Stoneham got beat by Hamble, so they’re not going to be happy losing that game.
‘They haven’t started off as strong as everyone would think, whether they’ve got injuries or things just aren’t quite right, but we’ve got to go there - they’ll certainly be worried about our goal threat that’s for sure.’
Unlike some clubs, Fareham’s ‘goal threat’ comes from a wide variety of sources. Remarkably, nine players have already scored three or more goals this season – a list topped by midfielders Charlie Cooper (8) and Curt Robbins (7).
Elsewhere, Horndean have seven players with three or more goals in 2021/22, Baffins five, Moneyfields and AFC Portchester three apiece and US Portsmouth just the one (Joe Johnson).
Stoneham’s main goal threat could come from eight-goal Duarte Martins while Callum Laycock – once of Fareham – has four goals this term. A second ex-Reds player, defender Ronan Galloway, could face his former club this weekend.