Locks Heath hoping to avoid another ‘nightmare’ in ‘pivotal’ Hampshire Premier League clash with title rivals Denmead

Locks Heath boss Dave Fuge insists the Hampshire Premier League title race is facing a ‘pivotal’ moment in the season.

Ryan Bath (red) has scored three hat-tricks in his last four Hampshire Premier League Senior Division starts.

Picture: Keith Woodland
Ryan Bath (red) has scored three hat-tricks in his last four Hampshire Premier League Senior Division starts. Picture: Keith Woodland

Third-placed Locks trail Senior Division leaders Moneyfields by 12 points, but have three games in hand and the knowledge that the table-toppers are now fielding younger sides following a player exodus to Clanfield.

Locks are also six points behind second-placed Denmead, but can halve that gap with victory over them this coming Saturday. And with Moneyfields travelling to Denmead the following weekend, the picture could look a bit clearer by Christmas.

Fuge’s side romped to a 5-0 home win over Liphook last weekend with Ryan Bath firing his third hat-trick in his last four league games.

Bath, who only made two starts for the team in 2020/21, now has 22 league and cup goals in only 10 starts plus four off the bench this season. That’s four more than Kelvin Robinson, who was in hot form for Fleetlands prior to a move to Wessex Leaguers Hamble Club.

Chay Dugan and Sean Snelling also netted as Locks scored all five goals against Liphook in the first half to avenge last month’s surprise 3-1 loss to them.

Fuge is hoping for better luck against Denmead this weekend than when the teams met last month.

Locks went into that crucial game on November 20 minus their main three strikers - Bath, Jordan Whiteley and Ben Chambers. All three were unavailable.

They then lost two centre halves - Snelling and Dave Dunkley - to injury in the warm-up.

New strike signing Ryan Lock suffered a hamstring injury within five minutes of the kick off and a third centre half, Shane Kent, was sent off late on in the first half.

Kent had also been dismissed in the first half of a Russell Cotes Cup tie at Andover New Street four days earlier, with Locks holding out to win 1-0. Against Denmead, though, they suffered a 2-1 defeat.

‘It was a nightmare of a day,’ recalled Fuge. ‘Losing three strikers and three defenders, I thought we would get pumped 5-0, so to only lose 2-1 … I was proud of the players.

‘It was just so frustrating, it was the worse luck we could have had.’

Bath will face Denmead in the rematch but Whiteley is injured and Chambers likely to be on rugby duty for Havant.

With the local 2020/21 rugby season cancelled by Covid, Chambers was free to play for Locks in Fuge’s first season back at the club. He responded with 12 goals in 18 appearances, but this season has been limited to just four early-season outings (which included a four-goal haul at Lyndhurst).

In his absence, Fuge has signed the prolific Adam Clark from neighbouring Warsash Wasps. Clark struck 30 times in 27 starts for the Southampton League club - 17 goals last season and 13 this term - and made an impressive debut for Locks on November 27.

Clark scored once and also provided three assists in a 6-1 HPL win against Overton.

Summing up the HPL title race, Fuge said: ‘Moneyfields and Denmead aren’t dropping many points. This weekend’s game is a pivotal one.

‘I know Moneyfields have lost players but they could still bring one or two Wessex Premier players in. They’re not going to finish mid-table, they’ll still be top two.’

Colden Common, meanwhile, could consider the title race a four-horse affair. Their nine-match winning streak was recently halted in a 2-2 draw with Denmead, but they are just three points behind Locks with two games in hand.