Reports, reaction and photos – how Fareham Town have given themselves a chance of creating FA Vase history this weekend
Fareham Town are aiming to make FA Vase history this weekend.
They travel to Devon to face Plymouth Parkway aiming to reach the last 32 of the tournament for the first time.
Pete Stiles’ men have so far won through three rounds to earn themselves a tough trip to face a Parkway side who were top of the Western League Premier when the season was curtailed.
Here, The News looks back at Fareham’s Vase progress so far ...
Fareham Town 3 Badshot Lea 3
(Fareham won 3-0 on pens)
2nd qualifying round, Oct 10
Reds manager Pete Stiles is a great believer in 'practice makes perfect' after his side beat 10-man Badshot Lea on penalties at Cams Alders.
Stiles made his players practice penalties two days before the tie and the move paid off.
The two sides were locked together at 3-3 after 90 minutes ahead of the penalty shoot-out.
Whilst Fareham - top of the Wessex League Premier at the time - converted their first three spot-kicks, their opponents failed to hit the net once.
'We knew there isn't any extra-time in the knock-out games so we practiced penalties at training just in case,' said Stiles.
'Obviously Badshot Lea didn't.
'I had five good penalty takers but in the end only had to use three of them.
'The players showed great character because it wasn't easy going into it having conceded in the final minute.
'It is quite easy to lose momentum going into the shoot-out when that happens
'We felt quite deflated and had to pick ourselves up.
'The players did that superbly.
'The important thing is that we are in the draw for the next round.
'We were nowhere near our best but sometimes it doesn't matter how you get there.'
After an even start Fareham were handed the initiative when the visitors were reduced to ten men.
Defender Adam New received a straight red card after a clash with Curt Robbins.
The Reds wasted little time in making their advantage count, taking the lead seven minutes later through Robbins.
On 28 minutes Josh Benfield extended the hosts' lead, poking home from close range.
A roller-coaster of a second half saw the visitors battling back despite being a man short.
They reduced the arrears at the start of the second period before Calum Benfield restored the home side’s two-goal lead.
Badshot Lea finished the stronger, levelling with two goals in the closing stages.
'For some reason we couldn't get going,' said Stiles.
'When opponents go down to ten men sometimes players can slip off the pace.
'If a couple of key players don't perform that can run through the team.'
Casey Bartlett-Scott, Robbins and Tom Settle all converted their penalties, while Badshot fired the first two over the bar before Dan Kempson saved their third effort.
Fareham Town 4 Roman Glass St George 1
First round, December 5
Pete Stiles spoke of his delight as Fareham returned to competitive action, following the November lockdown, with a convincing victory over their Bristol-based visitors
But the Reds boss admitted his side's margin of victory could have been even greater had they shown more composure in front of goal.
Curt Robbins struck either side of the break while efforts from the Benfield brothers - Josh and Callum - took Fareham into round two and a gruelling trek to the depths of Cornwall next weekend.
Stiles could not have asked for much more from his troops in what was their first competitive fixture since November 3 following the nationwide 'non-elite' football suspension.
Yet, he is hoping his side can become more clinical in front of goal as they get more minutes under their belts.
Stiles, pictured, said: 'I was very pleased with them, considering we’d trained once (since lockdown ended), I was quite pleased and our energy levels were good.
‘You could say a bit of the finishing (could have been better) but they’re not going to be as sharp as what they were when they’ve trained once in a month.
‘It was good to get that game out of the way.
‘We had a couple of people slightly tweak things where we haven’t had much of a training session before we’d played.'
Robbins was the provider for the first goal as his cross was headed home by Callum Benfield on 22 minutes.
Robbins got himself on the scoresheet, cleverly flicking home skipper Tom Settle's corner to double the hosts' advantage just before the break.
There was some nervousness in the home camp when Josh Williams made it 2-1 for the Bristol-based Western League outfit not long after the restart.
But Josh Benfield's stunner restored Fareham's two-goal advantage before Robbins' volley rounded off the scoring.
Helston Athletic 0 Fareham Town 2
Second round, December 12
Fareham boss Pete Stiles hailed the efforts of his players after equalling the club's best-ever run in the FA Vase in deepest Cornwall.
Goals in either half from Charlie Cooper and Archie Wilcox ensured the Reds ran out 2-0 victors over 10-man Helston to reach the third round.
It was a rare loss for Helston - last season they won 25 of their 26 South West Peninsula Premier West games, losing just once and scoring 100 goals. And this season they have suffered just one league defeat in 10 matches.
It's just the third time that Fareham - who were making a gruelling near 460-mile round trip to the west country - have progressed to the third round after runs to the last 64 in 2003-04 and 2004-05.
Stiles conceded the triumph at Helston, who play a level lower in the non-league pyramid, was far from their 'prettiest performance', but that did not bother him.
‘It was a really, really heavy pitch,’ he said.
‘The grass was ridiculously long so playing any pretty football was out of the question. We just had to get the job done which we did.
'I watched us in the warm-up and it was probably one of the worst warm-ups I’d ever seen.
'Our first-half performance wasn’t great but we dug in, did what we had to do and we were worthy winners in the end.
‘It is (a great achievement).
‘I didn’t realise it until it was said the other day (equalling club’s best run in the Vase).
‘They enjoyed it (the players) and let their hair down a bit on the way back but, fair play to them, they deserved it.'
Cooper slotted the visitors ahead after six minutes before Wilcox's header from a corner made sure of the victory on the hour.
Frustrations began to boil over for the hosts as the tie slipped away from them and Oli Brokes was shown a straight red card following a reckless tackle on Ethan Jones.
Stiles is under no illusions of the task Fareham now face if they are to reach the fourth round for the first time.
He believes his team could not have been dealt a more 'difficult draw' than the trip to Western Premier League heavyweights Plymouth Parkway.
Parkway were unbeaten in league action in 2020/21, winning 11 of their 13 games prior to the season being curtailed.
Stiles added: 'Records are there to be bettered or equalled and we’ve done that, but we’ve got a very difficult task next.
‘Parkway are a good side but we’re quite confident we can go there and win.
‘It would be good (making FA Vase history). But I don’t think we could have been given a more difficult draw and to have to go all the way back down there again - but I suppose it will seem like a relatively short trip compared to Helston.'
Parkway were 10 points clear at top of the Western League Premier - the same level of the pyramid as the Wessex Premier – when the league was paused in mid-December.
They had beaten third-placed Cribbs 5-0, fourth-placed Street 10-2 and fifth-placed Exmouth 2-0.
Parkway had also won 19 of their 23 Western League games in 2019/20 and were just three points behind leaders Tavistock with three games in hand when that season was null and voided.