Manager Michael Birmingham gives his take on table-toppers Horndean's Wessex Premier title pursuit ahead of welcome return to competitive action against US Portsmouth

Horndean boss Michael Birmingham. Picture: Chris Moorhouse (jpns 100721-43)Horndean boss Michael Birmingham. Picture: Chris Moorhouse (jpns 100721-43)
Horndean boss Michael Birmingham. Picture: Chris Moorhouse (jpns 100721-43)
Horndean manager Michael Birmingham reckons his squad have 'punched well above their weight' after heading into 2022 top of the Wessex League Premier Division standings.

And the Deans boss insists his players and coaching staff are well aware that is the case as they find themselves at the summit having acquired 51 points from 23 league matches so far.

Horndean head into a meeting with PO postcode rivals US Portsmouth tomorrow night looking to start the new year on a bright note after some inconsistent results pre-Christmas.

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The Deans, who return to competitive action after a 19-day break when they host USP, have won two of their previous five Wessex Premier outings.

But they'll be looking to hit the ground running in 2022 when they welcome Tom Grice's side to Five Heads Park, although Birmingham still sees his team as the outsiders in what could be an enthralling title race in the second half of the campaign.

He said: ‘We’re punching well above our weight. We’re just there to enjoy it, whatever happens will happen.

‘There’s no divine right that just because we’re fortunate enough to be going into 2022 top of the table that we’re going to continue that form and get another 50 or 51 points. I’m not really bothered about all this ‘oh yeah you’re top of the table’.

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‘If people want to hype up Horndean, they can hype up Horndean, but in the four walls with my players, me and my backroom staff, we know we’re punching well above our weight, so let’s not forget that.’

US Portsmouth have signed AFC Portchester striker Lamin Jatta's brother, Yusupha Badjie, from Wessex Division One side Totton & Eling, who is likely to head straight into the squad to face Horndean.

And Grice, whose side will also be on the back of a 19-day break when the sides meet, is unaware what to expect from title-hopefuls Horndean.

He said: ‘I think there’s no good time to play Horndean, but you’ve got to look at what’s happened with them the past few games and confidence is probably not running as much as it was. Then again, it could be dangerous as they’re probably going to want to punish teams now.’

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