Martins hat-trick delivers another huge blow to Baffins Milton Rovers’ Wessex League promotion hopes

Duante Martins fired a first-half treble as Baffins Milton Rovers’ promotion hopes were delivered another hefty blow tonight.

By Simon Carter
Wednesday, 16th February 2022, 10:37 pm
Updated Wednesday, 16th February 2022, 10:40 pm
Craig McAllister, right, grabbed Baffins Milton Rovers' early leveller against AFC Stoneham tonight - but his side lost 3-2.
Craig McAllister, right, grabbed Baffins Milton Rovers' early leveller against AFC Stoneham tonight - but his side lost 3-2.

Martins’ three goals gave AFC Stoneham a 3-2 win at a windswept PMC Stadium - Baffins’ fifth defeat in a dire run of six Wessex League Premier Division fixtures.

Exactly three weeks ago, Shaun Wilkinson’s men were seven minutes away from taking over top spot. But they let slip a 4-3 lead at home to Fareham to crash 5-4.

This latest defeat leaves them nine points adrift of table-topping Hamworthy, having played two games more. And they also trail Horndean - currently in second place, the sole play-off position available - by eight points having played the same amount of matches.

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In all, Rovers have won just one of their last eight league games - against relegation-haunted Amesbury - and have banked five points out of a possible 24.

Wilkinson made three changes to the side beaten 2-0 at Horndean last weekend. Wingers George Britton and Oscar Johnston were recalled with Ellis Martin making his second start for the club at left-back.

Baffins made a horror, start, though, falling behind to Stoneham’s opening attack in only the second minute when Martins fired a low shot past Charlie Searle.

To their credit, Rovers hit back straight away and were level on four minutes.

Johnston played in the overlapping Martin and, after Britton’s far post header had been parried, Craig McAllister equalised from close range.

Johnston’s ninth minute shot swerved in the wind and was tipped over for a corner by James Parker-Trott.

Baffins - far more creative and lively than they were at Horndean last Saturday - were ahead on 20 minutes when midfielder Harry Sargeant arrived unmarked to head in a right-wing cross.

No sooner had Rovers taken the lead, however, they were forced into a defensive change - centre half Lee Molyneaux went off injured to be replaced by Stan Bridgman.

Bridgman went to right back with Jack Williamson moved inside to take Molyneaux’s spot alongside Ed Sanders.

Stoneham were level just after the half hour mark when Scott Hills launched a free-kick from just inside the Baffins half into the penalty area. The ball fell kindly to the unmarked Martins who calmly hooked his shot past Searle.

That took Martins to 19 league and cup goals for the season, and his 20th arrived just before the half-time whistle.

Callum Laycock must take huge credit, though, as it was his lovely through ball that enabled Martins to run on into space and, again, produce a cool finish. ‘Clinical’ was the one word you could use to describe Martins’ treble.

Wilkinson responded by making a half-time change, hooking off McAllister and injecting the greater pace of 20-goal top scorer Rudi Blankson.

As the wind continued to swirl around the ground, chances were fewer at both ends in the second half.

But there could still easily have been further goals.

Laycock’s shot was deflected onto the crossbar just after the hour mark before both sides wasted good one on one openings.

First, Britton played Blankson through but Parker-Trott saved the striker’s low shot with his legs at the expense of a corner.

It was to prove his side’s best chance of the half.

Wilkinson made his third change, putting on Harvey Welham for Sargeant and pushing Bridgman into midfield, going to three at the back.

Ollie Dennett - once of Hawks - should have made it 4-2 when going clean through after a rapid Stoneham break. But Searle stood up well and blocked with his body.

As Baffins searched for an equaliser, Williamson’s 25-yard shot wasn’t far away - unlike two Britton efforts which were well wide.

Blankson fired into the side netting in the five minutes of added time, but Stoneham held on to complete a Wessex double over Baffins.

Stoneham have enjoyed taking on PO postcode teams this season. They have also completed the double over Fareham - by a combined margin of 11-1 - beaten Horndean at Five Heads Park and knocked Moneyfields out of the FA Cup at Dover Road.

They had also taken a youthful Portsmouth XI to penalties in the Hampshire Senior Cup only last week.

Baffins: Searle, J Williamson, Martin, Sanders, Molyneaux, Sergeant, Britton, Cowan, Johnston, McAllister, Scutt. Subs used: Bridgman, Blankson, Welham.

Stoneham: Parker-Trott, Hills, Barnes, Bulpitt, Ockwell, Wiseman, Martins, Evans, Laycock, Penny, Dennett. Subs used: Blazicek.