‘He’s had to adapt his game – not many 23/24 year-olds can do that’ – boss Birmingham on his Horndean hat-trick hero Connor Duffin
Connor Duffin continued his phenomenal scoring run as Horndean extended their winning Wessex Premier Division streak to six games.
Duffin’s hat-trick helped the Deans defeat rock bottom Hythe & Dibden 4-0 at Five Heads Park to remain six points behind leaders Brockenhurst with three games in hand.
The midfielder-turned-striker has now struck 13 league and cup goals in 14 appearances this season, including six in his last three outings. Including last season’s tally, Duffin now has 26 goals in his last 27 competitive outings for the Deans.
He was Michael Birmingham’s first signing, from US Portsmouth as an 18-year-old, after the boss arrived in the summer of 2016.
A few games into 2017/18, Duffin suffered a ‘horrific’ tibia and fibia leg break against Sholing. Yet he returned to come off the bench in the final game of that season and net in a 7-0 home win over Newport IoW.
‘Connor had pins, rods and plates put in his leg,’ revealed Birmingham. ‘They weren’t removed until last year and you can see the difference. Before Connor was limping and we couldn’t understand why.
‘He’s a good lad, great in the changing room, really popular with everyone.
‘He’s had to change his game, adapt his game - not many 23/24 year-old players can do that, it’s something you normally do in your 30s.
‘Connor came to us as an attacking midfielder who loved to score goals. He’s only played as a central striker since his injury.
‘He’s a great outlet, and an honest boy - everything we do revolves around Connor.
‘I remember we went to Eastleigh swimming baths just months after his injury. He was running in the water to get himself fit - that sums up the character of Connor Duffin.’
Duffin could have had even more goals against Hythe, losing for the 13th league game running, as he missed a penalty and also another effort from just yards out.
He had got off the mark with a spot-kick after Tommy Tierney had been fouled, and completed his treble in the second half after being put through twice.
Zack Willett’s ‘excellent’ header, from a great Liam Kimber cross, had provided Horndean with a 2-0 interval lead - the former Paulsgrove striker’s 15th goal of the season.
‘I don’t think it will be long before Hythe get their first points on the board,’ said Birmingham.
‘We had to be professional and we got the job done, it was a big three points.’
For the manager, it was a third ‘fantastic’ win in eight days after Wessex League and Portsmouth Senior Cup wins against Baffins Milton Rovers.
Next up is a Wessex League Cup second round trip to Cams Alders to face Fareham Town on Tuesday. The winners are home again in the last 16, to Brockenhurst.