Huge selection headaches for Horndean boss Birmingham after 14 goals and two clean sheets in two cup wins in four days
Horndean boss Michael Birmingham has some big selection headaches ahead of a Wessex Premier home clash with lowly Christchurch.
An ultra-impressive four-day period saw the Deans hammer divisional rivals Hamble 9-0 in the FA Vase and then hand out a 5-0 drubbing to Division 1 leaders Newport IoW in the Wessex League Cup.
Birmingham named two different starting XIs and in midweek ended the cup tie with six 17-year-olds on the pitch.
‘I said I would pick the squad (for Christchurch) based on what I saw last Saturday and on Tuesday,’ he revealed. ‘Well, we’ve scored 14 goals and kept two clean sheets - that makes it very difficult for me! But it’s a great problem to have.’
Teen trio Lewis Mees, Zak Brownline and Evan Harris all started against Newport with Mackenzie Morgan, Laurence Cooper and Brandon McKinnon introduced from the bench after half-time.
‘The youngsters were outstanding - they stood up toe-to-toe against a strong Newport side, they were very brave. Zak Brownlie was absolutely phenomenal.
‘The youngsters are hungry and they want to learn. Some played against the Navy (in the Hampshire Senior Cup the previous Thursday) and the mistakes they made weren’t made again.
‘We can’t compete financially with Portchester, Moneyfields and Baffins so what we’re trying to do is bring through a conveyor belt of young players.
‘I think Baffins are going the same way, Wilky (Baffins boss Shaun Wilkinson) has got a good under-18s side. I wouldn’t be surprised if our under-18s played Baffins U18s in the Portsmouth Senior Cup (next month).’
Birmingham continued: ‘I’m very happy. We’ve got a big squad but we’ve got a strong squad.
‘In recent years we’ve probably had a good 11 or 13, but now we’re much stronger after that.’
Birmingham also praised his more experienced players who started against Newport.
‘Liam Kimber, Tommy Tierney, Chad Field and George Burgess - their attitude was absolutely top drawer helping the youngsters,’ he remarked.
Former Pompey Academy defender Field is on a season-long loan from Bognor Regis, where he helped the Rocks reach the FA Trophy semi-final five years ago.
‘He had an ACL operation just before Covid hit,’ explained Birmingham. ‘Jack Pearce offered him to us and we’re helping him with minutes and with his rehab.
‘We want Chad to get back to where he belongs - he’s a good player.’
Christchurch rack up at Five Heads Park this weekend having lost seven of their eight Premier games so far.
Their sole win was a 6-0 drubbing of Amesbury - ex-Dorchester striker Eder Batista hitting a hat-trick - but last weekend they were caned 7-1 at home by Fareham.
Veteran midfielder Jamie Gleeson and striker River Smith, two others with Southern League experience, were also pinpointed by Birmingham as threats.
The Christchurch game is Horndean’s sixth successive home fixture across four different competitions. Next Saturday they have a seventh - an attractive FA Vase second qualifying round tie against current Wessex Premier table-toppers Brockenhurst.
*One of Fareham Town’s summer recruits has left Cams Alders.
Midfielder Dave Parker had joined the Reds after his Naval commitments had taken him from the north east to the south coast.
Parker started three games for Fareham, scoring once, but boss Pete Stiles said he won’t be looking to replace him.
Stiles has struggled at times for player availability this season, and admits he has fielded players who could have done with a rest.
But his numbers are starting to improve with defenders Ross Kidson and Gary Moody and midfielder Ben Rowthorn now back in contention.
Stiles’ only long-term injury concerns are Connor Messenbird and Tom Settle.
Messenbird could be out for the season with an ACL injury and Settle (knee injury) could be back around Christmas time.
Fareham have rattled up 24 goals in winning their last four Wessex Premier games. All those wins have come against clubs in the bottom five - Hythe & Dibden (7-0 and 8-0), Hamble (2-0) and Christchurch (7-1).
The Reds bid for a fifth league success at home to an Alton side who have only conceded eight goals in five games - three of which came in the curtain-raiser with US Portsmouth.
The two teams meet again at Cams Alders next Tuesday in the Hampshire Senior Cup.