Honours even between Fareham and Baffins as appetite is whetted for the remaining 29 PO postcode Wessex Premier derbies in 2021/22
Honours were even at Cams Alders in the first of the 30 PO postcode Wessex League Premier Division derbies in 2021/22.
New-look Baffins Milton Rovers twice came from behind to claim a 2-2 draw in an entertaining game against Fareham Town watched by a healthy crowd of 264.
The Reds created the better chances and generally played the nicer football, but Rovers were good value for a point.
It would certainly have been harsh on either side to have lost a curtain-raiser which only whetted the appetite for the remaining 29 PO postcode derbies.
Baffins handed a Wessex League debut to six players - keeper Konrad Syzmaniak, centre halves Ed Sanders and Lee Molyneaux, left back Taff Kanjanda, midfielder Harry Sargeant and striker Alex Przezolewski.
Fareham started with three debutants - centre half Ross Kidson, left back McKenzie Hill and central midfielder Dave Parker.
The early exchanges lacked clear openings, with Charlie Cooper on Fareham’s right flank seeing a lot of the ball.
It was from that side that Josh Benfield had the game’s first real chance, an angled drive from just outside the six-yard box that Syzmaniak dived to fingertip away.
The keeper then got down low to smother a Parker shot after a Cooper cross was only cleared to the edge of the penalty area.
Referee Justin Leonard awarded Baffins a free-kick around 25 yards out on 36 minutes but, despite the decision going his side’s way, Molyneaux talked himself into a 10-minute visit to the sin bin.
Baffins captain James Cowan was close to breaking the deadlock, his set-piece clipping the top of Dan Kempson’s bar.
Fareham took the lead during Molyneaux’s needless absence four minutes before the break. And it came from another right-wing cross which Kidson rose to nod in at the back post. Had Baffins not had to reorganise in defence, the goal might never have been conceded.
As it was, the visitors were back on level terms eight minutes into the second half thanks to a fierce drive from Miles Everett.
Parity lasted less than a minute, though, before Cooper’s low 25-yarder through a crowded goalmouth seemed to go through Syzmaniak’s grasp. Again from Baffins’ viewpoint, it was a poor goal to let in.
Undaunted, Baffins hit back again.
No sooner had assistant boss Danny Thompson - standing in while manager Shaun Wilkinson served the second of a four-game stadium ban - sent on subs Rudi Blankson and Billy Connor on 63 minutes, then his side were level.
Tommy Scutt was left unmarked in the centre of the goalmouth to head in from 10 yards, Kempson getting fingers to the ball but only able to divert it onto a post and into the net.
Fareham were almost back in front straight away for the second time, Sanders booting a Calum Benfield effort off the line in what was turning out to be a pulsating second half.
The excitement continued when the hosts were inches away from taking the lead for the third time on 69 minutes.
Centre half Ethan Jones controlled a pass beautifully before swivelling to fire a 25-yard volley that flew past Syzmaniak only to crash against the underside of the bar before being hacked clear. Had it gone on, Jones would have had a ‘goal of the season’ contender barely 70 minutes into the opening game.
What few chances there were after that fell Fareham’s way, with Calum Benfield firing over from 25 yards and Ash Tattersall’s 35-yard injury time daisy cutter being deflected just wide for a corner.
Fareham: Kempson, Tattersall, Hill (Austin, 74), Robbins, Jones, Kidson, Cooper, Parker (Bennett, 64), Woods (Kessack, 88), C Benfield, J Benfield.
Baffins: Syzmaniak, Williamson, Kanjanda (Burgess, 90), Molyneaux, Sanders, Sergeant, Cowan, Dart (Connor, 63), Przesolewski, Everett (Blankson, 63), Scutt.