US Portsmouth will leap to the top of the Wessex League Division 1 table if they can beat free-scoring Bemerton tonight.
Glenn Turnbull’s young side leapt up to third after Josh Hazell headed a late winner at Folland at the weekend.
But Bemerton will be a totally different proposition, with Gosport Borough legend Justin Bennett leading their attack.
Bennett fired his fourth Wessex hat-trick of the season on Saturday as the Salisbury-based club took over top spot with a 5-2 caning of Whitchurch.
Turnbull, in his first season after taking over from Pete Fuge and Paul Braithwaite, can’t wait for tonight’s encounter at the Victory Stadium.
‘It will be a good test to see where we’re at,’ he said.
‘We don’t pay any of our players, and I thought if there was a reason why we might not be up around the top that would be it.
‘We’ve got a mainly young side who have got great character and belief and they don’t know when they’re beaten. Equally, there’s not a lot of experience there.
‘But we have a great spirit on and off the pitch.
‘We brought in a few players in the summer with a point to prove, to go with the spine of the team who’ve been here a few years.’
Turnbull signed defenders Harry Birmingham and Tom Cain in the summer, and they have formed a good central defensive unit - though Birmingham is suspended tonight.
Attacking midfielder James Franklyn decided to stay at US after spending part of pre-season with Chichester City, while Turnbull has recently added the experience of midfielder Louis Castles.
‘There’s a real collective spirit about us,’ said the manager, whose team have finished fourth twice and fifth twice in the last five Wessex second tier seasons.
‘We’ve only lost one game and that was at Hythe who are also up there towards the top. For 75 minutes I genuinely felt we were the better side and deserved at least a point.
‘This is such a close league - we could go top if we win but equally if we lose we could drop a few places.’
That is true, as the top seven clubs are separated by just four points.
‘The top four clubs are going up this season, but it’s going to be a fight for those four spots. There’s Bemerton and Hythe but also Newport, Whitchurch, Andover.
‘It’s going to be so tight.’
US are protecting a 100 per cent home league record this season, having scored 18 goals in their four wins.