Barnes insists Fareham are gunning for glory

Fareham performance director Ben Barnes. Picture: Mick Young (14330-02)
Fareham performance director Ben Barnes. Picture: Mick Young (14330-02)
Niall Stott Picture: Neil Marshall

Fareham edge thriller at Havant

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Ben Barnes has refuted suggestions Fareham will play for a draw in their National League conference west relegation showdown with Isca on Sunday (2pm).

A point would see the Henry Cort outfit and their Exeter hosts survive – for now – and send Havant down, provided Merijn van Willigen’s side fail to produce a shock against league leaders Cardiff Met.

Fareham, who are currently bottom of the table, would then face the play-offs – meeting the corresponding sides from the east and north conferences as the survival fight continues.

The prospect of the play-offs is a daunting one but compared to the alternative of automatic relegation, it would be a welcome lifeline.

However, Barnes is adamant his side will not be heading to Devon looking to manufacture a draw.

The Fareham performance director said: ‘I don’t even know when the play-off dates are.

‘I’m not going down there to get a draw.

‘A draw would still put us in the play-off position and we want to get it done and dusted.

‘I’ve always played games to win them.

‘Whether it is a bit of kidology (from Havant) to suggest that and make sure we are up for a win, I don’t know.

‘But I don’t think it will rile the guys up at all.’

Few would have predicted a relegation battle for Fareham just five games ago.

When they defeated Havant in the south-coast derby, they moved 10 points clear of Isca.

But a run of five consecutive defeats has left the Henry Cort outfit staring down the barrel of the drop.

Barnes, however, is confident his team can reverse that form and claim a decisive victory in what promises to be an electric atmosphere.

He reckons his team’s ability to manage their emotions, stay focused and stick together will be crucial.

‘It is a cup final and we need all of our best performances of the season rolled into one game,’ said Barnes.

‘We have beaten Guildford, 5-1, Havant 5-2 and Cheltenham 3-0.

‘We know that we can go to places and get results.

‘We know we have to win at Isca.

‘There is going to be a partisan crowd, lots going on and high emotions for both teams.

‘We have just got to stay focused and stick together.

‘Relegation would be devastating.

‘The club have worked really hard to get where they are.

‘They have enjoyed being in the National League and want that to continue.’

While Fareham, Havant and Isca are all locked on 14 points – Guildford (16) and Cheltenham (17) are by no means safe in mid-table.

That means five teams will be nervously aiming to protect their status in one of the most thrilling climaxes to a conference west season yet.

Elsewhere, Fareham’s second string make the short trip to Barncroft Way tomorrow to face Havant II (11.30am).

The home side know victory will secure them the South League Hampshire/Surrey regional division one crown.

But third-placed Fareham could yet spoil the party.