Horndean bid to end Hamworthy’s unbeaten Wessex League home record – but boss Birmingham misses trip through suspension

Horndean boss Michael Birmingham serves the second of a three-match stadium ban at Wessex League Premier Division title favourites Hamworthy this weekend.

By Simon Carter
Thursday, 17th March 2022, 2:56 pm
Ash Howes (Horndean, red) in action during his side's home loss to Hamworthy earlier this season. The return fixture takes place in Dorset this Saturday. Picture: Martyn White
Ash Howes (Horndean, red) in action during his side's home loss to Hamworthy earlier this season. The return fixture takes place in Dorset this Saturday. Picture: Martyn White

Birmingham was handed the punishment by the Hampshire FA after being sent off at the end of last month’s league defeat at Blackfield.

He sat out Tuesday’s shock 2-1 loss at lowly Hythe & Dibden and will also miss the lengthy trip to Portland on March 26.

‘I got sent off for telling the truth,’ stated Birmingham. ‘Football’s the only sport where that can happen.’

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He is the second local Wessex Premier manager to be given a three-game stadium ban in recent weeks, following on from Moneyfields’ Glenn Turnbull.

Horndean travel to Hamworthy on the back of successive losses to Shaftesbury and Hythe that have hugely dented their hopes of a top two finish.

The Deans are seven points adrift of the Hammers and two adrift of second-placed Shaftesbury, having played two games more than both the top two.

Birmingham has watched a video of the Hythe defeat. ‘The three points seemed to mean more to Hythe in trying to avoid relegation than it did to Horndean in closing the gap on the top boys,’ was his verdict.

‘Our egos will be bruised, our egos will be dented, and teams have been laughing at us. Now we’ve got the other extreme in going to a Hamworthy side who will win the league and rightly so.

‘They don’t win games by five or six because they don’t need do, they don’t concede many goals. You don’t have to be Albert Einstein or Stephen Hawking to know if you keep clean sheets you’re going to end up with more points.

‘We’re scoring goals at the moment but we’re also conceding them and winning zero.’

Birmingham is delighted that Hamworthy continue to fly the Wessex League flag, having reached the semi-finals of the FA Vase.

They are bidding to become only the fourth WL club to lift the silverware after Wimborne (1992), Winchester (2004) and Sholing (2014). In addition, AFC Totton reached the 2007 final.

Birmingham said: ‘I’ve heard some people saying they want Hamworthy to lose in the Vase semis. I can’t understand that. Are you really that jealous? If you think that you shouldn’t be in football.

‘I hope they get to the final and they play Littlehampton.’

Horndean are aiming to inflict a first home league loss on Hamworthy this season.

Tim Sills’ side have a stunning County Ground record in 2021/22 with 14 wins and two draws in league action, scoring 50 goals and conceding just six.

The Hammers have lost just one of their 33 league games so far, and are 14 unbeaten since a 2-1 defeat at Baffins in December. That run includes a 2-1 win at Horndean in January.

Meanwhile, Birmingham is already tipping AFC Portchester to win next season’s Wessex League title.

The Royals have won 10 of their last 16 league games and Birmingham said: ‘When Sholing romped to the title (in 2018/19) they ended the previous season well and just carried that momentum through.

‘Portchester can do the same. If I was the Wessex League, I’d take the trophy to the engravers and save myself a return trip by asking for ‘Hamworthy’ this year and ‘Portchester’ next year!’

Birmingham knows his Wessex history. Sholing won seven of their last eight games in 2017/18, drawing the other, before romping to the title the season after by a staggering 31-point margin.

‘Dave (Carter, Portchester boss) hasn’t pressed the panic button this season, he’s taken his time and added strength in depth. He has his players’ trust and they play for him.’

Horndean will have to make at least one change this weekend as centre half Luke Dempsey begins a three-game ban following his red card for violent conduct against Shaftesbury.

Birmingham said: ‘I can’t comment. I’ve already got myself in trouble for my comments at Blackfield. If you want a comment on the referee (v Shaftesbury), I’ll just say ‘no comment’.’