'If you finish above Horndean this season, you win the league' - boss Shaun Wilkinson's claim ahead of Baffins Milton Rovers' crunch Wessex Premier clash
Baffins Milton Rovers manager Shaun Wilkinson believes his side are coming up against a Horndean team who are one of the favourites to lift the Wessex League Premier Division this season.
And he feels Baffins' eagerly anticipated showdown with the Deans at the PMC Stadium on Saturday will offer an insight into how far his men can go in the division this term.
Second-placed Rovers welcome a Horndean side sitting just a point and place below them in the Wessex Premier with both clubs having played nine matches so far.
For Baffins, it'll provide them a fixture against team currently in the top-six for just the second time this term after an opening-day 2-2 draw at fourth-placed Fareham Town.
Boss Wilkinson admitted his troops have defeated clubs he would 'expect' them to in the league so far - but he feels a win against Horndean would put down a real marker.
In-form Baffins have won all five Wessex Premier matches at the PMC Stadium so far, conceding just once, while only themselves and Hamworthy remain unbeaten.
But Horndean are undefeated in their previous four league fixtures and have lost just once in nine games this season.
Wilkinson is aware just how good Baffins will have to be to defeat the Deans, but is relishing doing battle with a fellow in-form team.
He said: ‘I’ve said it from the beginning, in my opinion, Horndean are the local favourites.
‘They’re there or thereabouts every season, they’re an established side and Michael (Birmingham) has been there a while now, they know exactly how to win games at this level and he’s got a side to do that.
‘When you speak to people and they say, ‘oh Baffins have had the easiest start,’ obviously we’ve beaten Moneyfields, we drew with Fareham, we went to Alresford and drew and the teams we’ve played against and we’ve won - I’ve expected to beat those teams.
‘When you do play teams like that you need to put points on the board, which we have done, this is a good for me to see how far we are or how far we can go this season because they are, without a doubt, one of the favourites for the title this season. If you finish above Horndean this season, you win the league, that’s my opinion, I rate them that highly – I’ve seen them a few times this season and they do nothing but impress me each time.’
Wilkinson believes there could be an added bite to the fixture with former Baffins boss Steve Leigh, who he replaced at the PMC Stadium in May 2020, now on the coaching staff at Horndean.
While Wilkinson feels there could be a few players at the Deans determined to prove a point after swapping Baffins for Five Heads Park having been deemed 'not good enough' by the current Rovers boss.
Wilkinson said: ‘There’s history between the two clubs, the ex-manager of Baffins (Steve Leigh) is there (at Horndean) on the coaching staff. One of the ex-coaches is there on the coaching staff, there are six players there who I deemed not to be good enough for Baffins so they’re going to be out to prove a point.’
Baffins remain with out striker Jason Parish (hamstring), Fuzz Kanjanda, Josh Warren and Billy Connor (groin) for the crunch Horndean meeting.