Two good reasons why there could be a new name added to the list of Wessex League champions this season
THERE are two good reasons why a new name could be added to the list of previous Wessex League winners this season.
And they both sat on the bench for 45 uncomfortable minutes at Alresford’s Arlebury Park on Tuesday evening as lower division underdogs US Portsmouth threatened a major Wessex League Cup shock.
But the tie changed when home boss Richard Luffman introduced Craig McAllister and Mike Gosney into the fray at the start of the second half with the visitors leading 1-0.
Within 10 minutes McAllister had headed Alresford level and Gosney completed the recovery with a 78th minute penalty.
It was Gosney’s seventh goal in 11 matches since arriving from Lymington Town (where he scored 24 times last season), while McAllister - Gosport’s player-manager last term - now has six in 16.
The latter, even at 39 years of age, remains a handful at Wessex League level - drawing on his huge footballing knowledge and nous.
A veteran of EFL experience with Exeter, Barnet and Rotherham, McAllister has also helped Crawley win the National League title and as recently as 2017/18 was playing in the fifth tier with Eastleigh.
Gosney, while never gracing the EFL, has years of Southern League experience with AFC Totton and Gosport. He helped both clubs reach Wembley finals - the FA Vase in 2007 and the FA Trophy in 2014 respectively.
Quality and experience are two ingredients all successful teams need, and in those two players Alresford certainly have that.
But they are not the only reason why Luffman has transformed Town from a side that finished 12th last season to one currently eight points clear at the top.
They travel to Horndean this weekend having won 11 of their 13 league games - they only won 15 in the whole of 2018/19.
Striker Craig Harding is the leading Wessex marksman with 13 league and cup strikes - a heartwarming story indeed as he has only returned to action this term after 18 months out with a serious back problem.
During that time, he resorted to crowdfunding on the internet in a bid to raise the necessary money for a back operation.
Town’s second top scorer is another new face this season - 10-goal Duarte Martins, who was rested for US Portsmouth’s visit.
Martins was playing two divisions lower last year for Hampshire Premier Leaguers Lyndhurst.
Luffman gave rare starts to centre half Lukas McCartney - once on QPR’s books - Jamie Johnston, Scott Munro and Sam Doswell against US.
He also handed a debut to Reading City’s dual signed keeper Jordi Wilson, but regular No 1 Jordi Valero will return at Horndean this weekend when Alresford will aim to avoid losing to Michael Birmingham’s men for the second time this term.
For the record, 19 clubs have won the Wessex League title since the competition started in 1986. Of those, only two are currently in the Premier - Portland (who won by a point in 2017 when Moneyfields had three deducted) and Bashley (who won the first three titles).
Of the previous winners, four no longer exist - Havant Town, AFC Lymington, Lymington & New Milton and Andover. At the other end of the scale, Eastleigh are now in the top flight of non-league football.