‘If we want to do something, these are the games we have to be winning’ – Baffins boss targeting healthy Wessex League points haul by early October

Baffins Milton Rovers boss Shaun Wilkinson is targeting a healthy points haul prior to a tough-looking October fixture list.

By Simon Carter
Thursday, 26th August 2021, 12:18 pm
Former Hawks and Gosport defender Lee Molyneaux is among the experienced players Baffins have signed since 2020/21 was curtailed. Picture: Martyn White.
Former Hawks and Gosport defender Lee Molyneaux is among the experienced players Baffins have signed since 2020/21 was curtailed. Picture: Martyn White.

Rovers have made a promising start to the Wessex Premier campaign with wins against Moneyfields and Bournemouth Poppies following a 2-2 curtain-raiser stalemate at Fareham.

Now the fixture list has handed them successive league games against Christchurch (home), Portland (home), Alresford (away), US Portsmouth (away), Cowes (home) and Amesbury (away).

That is followed by an October schedule containing Premier games against Horndean, Shaftesbury, Portchester, Stoneham and Bashley.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

‘We’ve made a good start but that’s all it is - a start,’ said Wilkinson.

‘We’ve got to be targeting five wins in the next six games. We want to make sure we get enough points on the board early on.

‘If want to do something this season, these are the games we have to be winning.’

Baffins’ squad looks a lot stronger than it did this time 12 months ago, and the manager remarked: ‘We always said we were targeting our second season.

‘We have brought in players with experience - Lee Molyneaux, Ed Sanders, Alex Przespolewski and now Jason Parish. That’s the spine of the team.

‘We’ve got a nice blend at the moment.’

Baffins, with 10 changes, also progressed in the Hampshire Senior Cup on Tuesday with a 2-1 win at a Brockenhurst side who fielded seven of the starting XI that had won at Moneyfields at the weekend.

Wilkinson handed first competitive starts to two 16-year-olds - goalkeeper Bailey Neal and left wing-back Ethan Gee - while another, striker Liam Brewer, was a second half sub in the New Forest.

All three were part of a former Fleur De Lys youth team that played under the Baffins umbrella for the first time in 2020/21 at under-16 level.

It was a successful debut campaign as well - runaway champions Baffins winning all 14 of their Portsmouth Youth League fixtures.

‘We have to handle them carefully,’ said Wilkinson, who admitted other teens could get a chance in future county cup, Wessex League Cup and Portsmouth Senior Cup ties.

Gee put Baffins ahead and Billy Connor doubled the advantage before the break. Brock pulled one back late on but Rovers progressed and will now host two divisions higher Hartley Wintney next month.

Baffins would have changed the entire starting XI in midweek from the one that lost 4-2 to higher tier Sholing in last weekend’s FA Cup tie.

But Charlie Williamson, who was due to be a sub at Brock, started after Jamie White was a late withdrawal.

Christchurch, this weekend’s visitors to the PMC Stadium, boasted the best Wessex Premier record over the two pandemic-ruined seasons on a points-per-game basis.

They were offered the chance to step up to the Southern League as part of the FA’s restructuring of the pyramid, but declined.

That led to Priory boss Ollie Cherrett tending his resignation and the break-up of the squad. Of the 14 players who appeared in an FA Vase fourth round tie at US Portsmouth in mid-April, none remain - and seven have followed Cherrett to his new club, Shaftesbury. Two others have signed for Hamworthy.

Including cup ties, Christchurch have lost all six games they’ve played in 2021/22 and Wilkinson admitted: ‘They will be a dangerous side - they’ll get a reaction at some point.’

Baffins select from a full squad with the exceptions of Josh Warren (illness), Fuzz Kanjanda (injury) and Rhys Lloyd (away).