Locks Heath boss Fuge believes his pre-season Hampshire Premier League title aim is already mission impossible
Locks Heath boss Dave Fuge feels his pre-season aim is already mission impossible - just eight games into the Hampshire Premier League season.
Fuge was targeting the title after an impressive 2020/21 campaign that saw his new-look Locks side second in the table when action was curtailed in December. When football eventually returned in April, Locks also reached a post-lockdown cup final, narrowly losing to Bush Hill.
With virtually the same squad staying loyal, and new players added, Fuge was confident of attempting to repeat his Senior Division title-winning feat of 2012/13.
But Locks have suffered hideous problems with player availability and find themselves 11 points adrift of 100 per cent table-toppers Moneyfields Reserves.
After eight successive away games, Locks welcome Lee Mould’s leaders this coming weekend for the opening home fixture.
Fuge believes he will be watching the champions-elect emerge from the visitors’ changing room on Saturday.
‘I’m sure Moneyfields will run away with it,’ he remarked. ‘They have a Wessex League standard reserve side. That’s frustrating for the other clubs (in the HPL) but great for them.
‘I don’t think they will drop many points.
‘Our aim was to win the league, but I don’t think we’ll be able to keep up with Moneyfields.
‘I’m still confident we can finish in the top three and availability should be better from this weekend.’
Only keeper Joe Hunt departed Locks in the close season; against that, Fuge brought in Owen Craig (Moneyfields), Kian Hampshire (Clanfield), Steve Hawley (Fareham United), Jake Callaghan and Jack Maunder (Army).
Trying to field a settled side, though, has been tough. ‘We must have had about 12 or 13 players unavailable every week,’ said Fuge. ‘I’ve never known anything like it, but I know other clubs have had the same problems.’
Locks conceded a very late leveller in their opening game against Fleetlands, while dominated the chances in a 1-0 loss at Paulsgrove.
It was defeats at Colden Common and Hayling United, though, that have really hurt Locks’ title chances, even at this embryonic stage of the season.
‘When we played at Colden Common we had four of the back five making their debuts, and at Hayling we had to plug holes, as we had six or seven missing, and it showed.
‘It’s a Godsend that we’ve got a reserve team this season or we would really have struggled.’
Jamie Hall (2), Jordan Whiteley, Connor Johnson and sub Jake Bull netted in a 5-1 weekend victory at Overton.