Former Fleur De Lys juniors loving life at Baffins Milton Rovers

Baffins v Fareham. Picture: Stuart MartinBaffins v Fareham. Picture: Stuart Martin
Baffins v Fareham. Picture: Stuart Martin
Baffins Milton Rovers Under-18s have enjoyed a superb start to the season.

Mark Robinson’s side are joint top of the Hampshire Development Under-18 East Division after five wins in their opening six matches.

A number of the squad have also been handed opportunities to impress by first team manager Shaun Wilkinson in the Wessex League and a variety of cups. Along with Horndean’s Michael Birmingham, he has been the biggest advocate among local step 5 bosses of giving youth a chance.

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Baffins Under-18s’ latest win was a 6-0 drubbing of Fareham Town at The PMC Stadium, which followed on from a 16-0 hammering of Fleetlands and an 8-2 romp at AFC Stoneham.

The squad - comprising mainly 16 and 17 year olds - are in their first season at Under-18 level. In 2020/21 they won all 14 games en route to winning the Portsmouth Youth League’s Under-16 A Division title - only conceding five goals (and three of those were in a 6-3 victory over Moneyfields).

Robinson had brought most of the squad over from Fleur De Lys, where they had played up to Under-15 level. He started coaching his own son, Lewis, when he was six at FDL.

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‘A lot of the players have been together for five or six years now,’ he remarked.

‘It’s been brilliant considering the (first team) opportunities the lads have had at such an early stage.

‘It’s nice that Shaun (Wilkinson) thinks highly of the lads.’

Six of the starting XI against Fareham on Sunday have played for Baffins’ first team in recent weeks - keeper Bailey Neil, Liam Brewer, Owen Pelham, Harvey Welham, Oscar Deans and Harrison Cable. A seventh, Kian Murphy, came off the bench.

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The day before he kept a clean sheet against Fareham, Neil - just 16 - had made his Wessex League debut at Amesbury.

Midfielder Ethan Gee, who didn’t play at the weekend due to injury, is another who can expect first team chances if he maintains his progress. ‘We’re a good team but Ethan brings something else - he gives the team good balance,’ said Robinson.

A handful of Baffins players were included in the recent 4-4 Portsmouth Senior Cup draw against what was Horndean’s Under-18 Red team - the side that sit above Rovers in the Hampshire Development table on goal difference (but with a game in hand).

Midfielders Pelham and Welham - formerly of the Pompey Academy - both impressed at Five Heads Park that night, with Pelham netting twice in the first half.

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Pelham - another who is only 16 - is new to Baffins this season, having started his 11-a-side career at Eastleigh before spending last season at AFC Portchester.

Robinson feels the two league games against Horndean Reds could be title deciders.

Reds have won all five games so far - striker Evan Harris netting 10 times in all - while Baffins’ sole loss was 2-1 to Winchester Black in a game where they were leading prior to a red card for Peter Hodgkins.

Baffins don’t play for a few weeks due to Clanfield having pulled out of the league and Hampshire Cup opponents Bemerton having folded. On the horizon after that, in early December, is the first of two league meetings with Horndean Reds.

Eric Kerage netted twice in the win against Fareham with further goals coming from Brewer, Deans and Robinson.