Injury-hit Whiteley Wanderers recover well to grab point in Hampshire Premier League trip to Harvest

Injury-hit Whiteley Wanderers recovered from two goals down to claim a Hampshire Premier League point at Harvest.

By Simon Carter
Monday, 29th November 2021, 2:33 pm
Updated Monday, 29th November 2021, 3:12 pm
Harvest (yellow) v Whiteley, Hampshire Premier League
Picture: Sam Stephenson
Harvest (yellow) v Whiteley, Hampshire Premier League Picture: Sam Stephenson

Striker Sonny Smith came off the bench to score on his debut and extend Wanderers’ unbeaten Division 1 South East run to five matches.

The game was only the second in charge for Alfie Norman after taking over from Steve Thomas as Whiteley boss.

Already without the services of numerous regulars - including strikers Aaron Lobb and Charlie Taylor - Norman watched his patched-up side suffer two more knocks inside the opening 15 minutes at Front Lawn.

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Harvest (yellow) v Whiteley, Hampshire Premier League Picture: Sam Stephenson

Central midfield pair Callum Jones and Alex Fitzgerald were forced off, with Smith - who played under Norman for City of Portsmouth Sunday League side AFC Trades last season - coming on for his first appearance.

Michael Granger and Logan Vickers put Harvest in control, but Chris Deveney hauled Wanderers back into contention and Smith levelled.

Whiteley could even have won it late on, but Deveney sent a last-minute header just over the bar.

Wanderers have won five of their opening seven league games and sit third in their debut HPL second tier campaign.

Harvest (yellow) v Whiteley, Hampshire Premier League Picture: Sam Stephenson

The reigning Southampton League champions have already won 3-2 at second-placed Upham and are four points behind them with two games in hand.

Norman is aiming high. ‘Definitely promotion,’ he remarked when asked what his ambitions were for 2021/22. ‘We’ve definitely got a promotion winning side, but due to injuries we haven’t been able to field our best side so far.’

The draw capped a frustrating month for a Harvest side who crashed out of three cups in November.

An 8-0 Portsmouth Senior Cup trouncing at Fareham Town was no surprise, but Hampshire Trophy and HPL Cup exits at Hartley Wintney Reserves and Headley - the latter after leading 2-0 - both hurt.

Harvest (yellow) v Whiteley, Hampshire Premier League Picture: Sam Stephenson

‘We should have won at Hartley, but didn’t,’ said boss Steve Harris. ‘Same at Headley and same against Whiteley. We should have won that game, we all know that. We should have put the game to bed, but didn’t.

‘There are no excuses. We have no-one to blame bar ourselves.’

Harvest will continue to play home games at Front Lawn this season, but their reserves will move into their new HQ at East Meon starting next weekend.

‘We are proud of the direction the club is going in,’ said Harris. ‘We don’t want to invite any side to play at East Meon if the ground isn’t up to county standard.

Harvest (yellow) v Whiteley, Hampshire Premier League Picture: Sam Stephenson

‘We want to get railings and dugouts up - we’ll only play there when the ground is ready.

‘We had to jump through hoops to get a ground good enough when we joined the Hampshire League … it’s frustrating to go to some grounds which haven’t got any railings and are virtually council pitches.

‘We could have had that by staying at Rugby Camp instead of paying out more than we need to (at Front Lawn).’

Harvest were desperate to find a ground on Portsea Island, but chairman Neil Blake told The News that wasn’t possible.

‘It’s frustrating,’ said Harris. ‘The ground at Langstone (near Baffins Milton Rovers FC) has railings. They should give that to an ambitious club.

‘I look at Moneyfields, Baffins, Fleetlands - that’s what we want, we want our own clubhouse and facilities.’

Harvest (yellow) v Whiteley, Hampshire Premier League Picture: Sam Stephenson

Whiteley could still have several regulars absent when they host HPL Senior side Sway in the third round of the Hampshire FA Trophy next Saturday.

But they should be stronger when they host the return league game with Harvest at Meadowside on Saturday, December 11.

QK Southampton, meanwhile, appear the team to beat in Division 1 SE. They racked up their eighth successive win with a 3-1 success at AFC Petersfield. Top scorer Krzysick Krysztofowicz took his tally to 23 in just 11 league and cup outings with one of the goals.