Horndean and AFC Portchester set for mouthwatering Wessex League title race finale

Either Horndean (white) or AFC Portchester will be crowned Wessex League Premier champions on Tuesday. Picture by Nathan LipshamEither Horndean (white) or AFC Portchester will be crowned Wessex League Premier champions on Tuesday. Picture by Nathan Lipsham
Either Horndean (white) or AFC Portchester will be crowned Wessex League Premier champions on Tuesday. Picture by Nathan Lipsham
The 21st winner of the Wessex League top flight title will be crowned on Tuesday.

And for only the third time in the league’s 35-season history - pandemic-wrecked campaigns not included - there will be a PO postcode champion.

Havant Town were the first, back in 1990/91, while Gosport Borough took the title on goal difference from AFC Totton in 2006/07.

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Now either Horndean or AFC Portchester will claim the title for the first time in their history and, with it, the sole automatic promotion place into the Southern League.

These are the main final-day permutations:

1 - Horndean will be champions if they better Portchester’s result - the Deans host Portland and the Royals visit Bemerton;

2 - Horndean will be champions, on goal difference, if they lose and Portchester draw;

3 - Portchester will be champions if they win and Horndean fail to win.

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The runner-up will also be promoted if they win a one-off play-off game against a current step 4 club this coming Saturday.

While Horndean are virtually guaranteed a top two finish due to their superior goal difference, Portchy could finish fourth if they lose to Bemerton and Stoneham beat rock bottom Alresford.

If Portchy draw, Stoneham will pip them for second place if they can win by more than one goal. If Portchy draw and Stoneham only win by one goal, the Royals will finish second by virtue of scoring more goals.

It will be incredibly hard luck on whoever out of Horndean or Portchester doesn’t win the title.

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Both clubs have some of the best stats across the entire 16 divisions that make up the ninth tier of English football.

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As it stands, Horndean (125) are the highest scorers in those divisions with the Royals (115) fourth best. Bemerton (120) and Southern Combination Leaguers Newhaven (119) are second and third in that list.

Only Combined Counties League pair Ascot United (102) and Raynes Park (96 with one game remaining) and Hellenic League champs Cribbs (100) have banked more points than the Deans.

No club in the top nine tiers of English football can better Horndean’s superb goal difference of plus 104.

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And only Cribbs (15) and Anstey Nomads (United Counties League, 19) have conceded fewer than the Deans’ 21 goals in 37 fixtures.

As mentioned, Portchester could finish fourth. Yet, going into the last game, their points-per-game average of 2.54 is better than 14 of the previous 21 Wessex Premier champions.

And their goals scored per game ratio (3.10) is better than 13 of the previous 21 champions.

Horndean will enter the final day as obvious favourites. While Portchester go to a Bemerton side just two points behind them, the Deans host a Portland side 48 points adrift of them in 11th place.

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It shouldn’t be a doddle, though - Portland have actually picked up more points in their last 10 games (22) than Portchester (20) so are in good form.

The Dorset club have won seven, drawn one and only lost to Portchy and Bemerton - and last Tuesday’s 3-0 loss at Moon Park was goalless after 80 minutes.

Deans’ 49-goal top scorer Zack Willett missed last weekend’s 2-1 home loss to Bemerton that ensured any title-winning champagne was kept on ice.

But after having an injection in a foot injury, he is expected to be available for a night that could go down in Horndean history.