Tough start for AFC Portchester

AFC Portchester boss Graham Rix
AFC Portchester boss Graham Rix
Blu Boam in action against Bashley. Picture: Keith Woodland

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AFC Portchester have been handed the toughest of starts when the Wessex League premier division kicks off at the beginning of August.

The Royals will host pre-season favourites Sholing Sports, who have come down from the Southern League.

The visitors lost their place at the higher level because of ground grading problems and are likely to be leading contenders in the title race.

Graham Rix’s Portchester are also highly-fancied, though, after finishing third last year.

And it should make for a thrilling curtain-raiser at Wicor Rec.

Elsewhere, Horndean have been given a chance to gain revenge for their Russell-Cotes Cup final defeat at the hands of Blackfield & Langley.

The Watersiders visit Five Heads Park on the opening day, while Moneyfields also have home advantage against Andover Town.

Fareham Town travel to Hamworthy United and in division one Bob Brady takes his Services team to Ringwood Town.

The premier division will feature 21 teams – after Winchester City were given a late promotion into the Southern League following the withdrawal of Hellenic League outfit Flackwell Heath.

Apart from Sholing, the other top-flight newcomers are the newly-reformed Salisbury City and promoted pair Team Solent and Cowes Sports.

AFC Stoneham, from the Hampshire Premier League, and former Dorset Premier League side Portland come into division one.

AFC Portchester have also been handed a derby when they begin their defence of the Wessex League Cup.

The Royals beat Petersfield Town in extra-time to lift the trophy in May and have been drawn at home against Fareham Town in the first round of this season’s competition.

The winners of the tie will have host division one newcomers Alton Town, who have arrived from the Combined Counties League.

Moneyfields visit Bournemouth Poppies and United Services face a tricky tie at Hamworthy United.

FULL WESSEX LEAGUE CUP DRAW

Round One

Pewsey Vale v Brockenhurst, Bournemouth v Moneyfields, Alresford Town v East Cowes Victoria, AFC Portchester v Fareham Town, Sholing v Folland Sports, Hamworthy United v United Services, Blackfield & Langley v Team Solent.

Round TWO

Romsey Town v Hythe & Dibden, Amesbury Town v Christchurch, New Milton Town v Cowes Sports, Whitchurch United v Newport, Bemerton Heath Harlequins v Downton, Alresford Town / East Cowes Victoria v Pewsey Vale / Brockenhurst, AFC Stoneham v Ringwood Town, Blackfield & Langley / Team Solent v Hamworthy United / US Portsmouth, Totton & Eling v Fawley AFC, AFC Portchester / Fareham Town v Alton Town, Portland United v Horndean, Verwood Town v Lymington Town, Andover New Street v Andover Town, Sholing / Folland Sports v Laverstock & Ford, Bournemouth / Moneyfield v Tadley Calleva, Salisbury v Fleet Spurs