Basingstoke Town v Tiverton Town
Pitching In Southern League Premier Division South
The Winklebury Sports Complex . 3pm
THE opening day 2-2 draw with Basingstoke seems almost a lifetime ago. There was little to choose between the sides on that day, as has proved in how they have fared since.
Basingstoke have points on the board, 31 of them, and are seven points above Tiverton in the Pitching In Southern League Premier Division South table. However, if the Yellows’ could conjure up victory today, then, with four games in hand, the Hampshire side would be in their sights - only four points would then separate the two teams. A reverse result would leave Tivvy with perhaps too much catching-up to do.
The Yellows did not do themselves justice last weekend, but the focus has to be on the next game. Manager Leigh Robinson has imposed an attractive style of the beautiful game on his players, improved fitness, and instilled a good team spirit.
What Tiverton have not done in a while is make a statement by being ruthless. The manager has done a good job, though, in making Yellows more competitive and in how he has steered the team to a better place.
Basingstoke boss Dan Brownlie has masterminded a bit of a renaissance in the past few campaigns, after Stoke were relegated from Premier Division South in the 2018-19 season., regaining membership following promotion from the Isthmian South Central Division last term.
They are looking to secure their place in the league for the 2024-25 season so there will be a keenness to prevent the Yellows from closing the gap. They took a step closer to safety with a 2-1 away victory over Hanwell last Saturday.
Winger Danny Rowe has been in fine goalscoring form this term with 23 appearances having yielded ten goals. The former Leicester City and QPR youth academy player has represented Braintree, Hemel Hempstead and Oxford City in the level above and was playing his football for Hampton & Richmond Borough last term.
Cultured right-back Marcus Johnson-Schuster also has National League South experience - his previous clubs include Hemel Hempstead, Oxford City and Braintree and he is a mainstay in Stoke’s defence in this campaign.
Forwards Paul Hodges and Liam Ferdinand are top performers at this level, too. Hodges has served Woking and Farnborough with distinction, and Ferdinand, who scored 25 goals in 52 games for Met Police, will also be a dangerous proposition.
The Yellows will unfortunately be missing the injured Jerry Lawrence and the unwell Dylan Jones. However, Matt Britton re-joins the squad in a playing capacity and right-back Aamir Daniels joins the cause on a work experience loan from Exeter City.
Leigh Robinson, Ben Gerring and the team will have every intention of getting a positive result in Hampshire.