Fleetlands boss forced to ring changes for mouthwatering county cup clash with Paulsgrove

Ben Vassallo struck twice for Paulsgrove in a 7-0 midweek HPL win against Liss
Ben Vassallo struck twice for Paulsgrove in a 7-0 midweek HPL win against Liss
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FLEETLANDS boss Rich Bessey will have to ring the changes as he prepares to take on former club Paulsgrove in a mouthwatering county cup tie tomorrow.

The Gosport-based club have been drawn at home to their fellow Hampshire Premier League top flight heavyweights in the first round of the Hampshire Trophy - a tie neither club would have chosen.

Paulsgrove are currently third in the HPL, one point ahead of Fleetlands having played a game more. Both teams have scored 33 goals and both teams have conceded 12.

The Trophy replaces the Hampshire Intermediate Cup, which Paulsgrove won in 2017/18 - the same season they won the HPL as well - under the guidence of boss Steve Hird.

Fleetlands possess a host of last season’s Paulsgrove first teamers, and have brought in several players from Wessex League clubs in recent weeks.

But Bessey is tomorrow without those who have appeared in FA Vase and FA Cup ties this term as they are ineligible for the Trophy.

They include Brad Stone and Jamie Hall (both ex US Portsmouth), Sean Snelling (ex AFC Stoneham), Scott Hamilton (ex Fareham) and Luke Hird (ex Horndean).

In addition, top scorer Matt Andrews and midfielder Sam Martin are unavailable.

But skipper Tommy Woodward - one of the players signed from Paulsgrove in the summer - should feature against his former club.

‘I have got problems, but I have also got confidence in the squad,’ said Bessey.

‘I’ve brought in a few reserve players on merit this weekend.’

Paulsgrove enter tomorrow’s tie on the back of Tuesday’s 7-0 HPL win at Liss - the second this season they had beaten the north Hampshire side by that margin.

Ben Vassallo and sub Michael Jepson both scored twice with John Cripps, James Hird and Moulay Ousman also scoring.

Paulsgrove boss Wayne Grant said: ‘It’s definitely the tie of the round and it should be a cracking game.

‘We’ve played them already this season and drew 3-3.’

Paulsgrove would have won that game had Fleetlands keeper Derek Harding not saved a 90th minute penalty.

Paulsgrove have held the upper hand on Fleetlands in recent times, completing league doubles in the last two seasons.

Fleetlands’ last HPL win was a 5-2 success in November 2016 when Jack Morby and Jordan Whitley both struck twice.

But Grant admits Paulsgrove are rebuilding this term, including a handful of players who helped his reserve team win the Combination Reserve Cup last season.

‘We’re trying to bring young players through because they are the future of this club,’ he remarked.

‘I couldn’t blame the players who left here to join Fleetlands. They’ve got better facilities than we have.

‘At the moment we can’t progress because of our facilities.

‘We’re rebuilding this season - our ambition is a top five finish.’

Grant is away tomorrow, so his place in the dug-out will be taken by Paulsgrove chairman Wayne Johnson.