WHEN Folland Sports visited Alresford Town in late November they came away licking their wounds after a 6-1 hiding.
But how times have changed.
As the pair prepare to meet again at Follands Park tomorrow, the Planemakers are matching the table-topping Magpies point for point as they close in on a third-placed finish in the Sydenhams Premier Division.
The two clubs boast an identical record over the last 14 games – a staggering 13 wins and a draw apiece.
“Alresford absolutely tore us apart at their place, but we’re massively looking forward to playing them again,” said Follands boss Danny Bowers.
“Every time they came forward at Alresford it was so scary it was unreal, but now we’re knocking five or six goals past teams ourselves.
“We’re in a different place now to when we last played them, but I can’t say the same for Alresford because they’re as strong as ever.
“They’re one of those sides that love to outscore people. It’s not like they’ve only conceded 20 goals this season, they’ve conceded 44, the same as we have, but they love getting forward.
“If the other team scores two, they’ll score four or five.”
Not so long ago Alresford were fighting a perennial relegation battle. But after a steady bedding-in period under co-managers Tim Cole and Danny Robinson, they spectacularly blossomed last season, winning an unprecedented hat-trick of cups and finishing league runners-up to Blackfield & Langley with 124 goals scored.
This season they are on course to beat that with 113 already netted in 36 games. And even without 49-goal marksman Warren Bentley, they still managed to upset title favourites Sholing 2-0 on Tuesday as they continued their defence of the SWL Cup.
A huge admirer of the Alresford way, Bowers said: “They’ve had the same group of players now for four or five years and what’s nice is that a lot of people expected them to be one-hit wonders last season, but they weren’t and they’ve grown in depth.
“Players could have left there for money but it shows what a good club they are and what good management they’ve got that they stuck together.
“Alresford don’t have a revolving door and we’re trying to learn a bit from that. “We’ve got a young side that we want to keep together and build on what we’ve done this season. There are exciting times ahead at Follands.
“Alresford have shown it’s not all about chucking money around, it’s about stability.
“They’ve been quite lucky with injuries but I notice they’re top of the fair play league and, while other clubs have masses of suspensions, they don’t.”
As far as very recent form goes, Follands have a slight edge tomorrow having strung together seven straight league wins since being held 1-1 at home by Whitchurch.
Until last Saturday the Magpies boasted 13 SWL victories on the spin, but they blotted their copybook with a 2-2 home draw against bogey side Horndean who had beaten them 2-1 at Five Heads Park in November.
“Looking at Horndean’s record against Alresford puts things into your mind about what sort of game to play tomorrow,” said Bowers.
“It could be real cagey, but they’re scoring for fun and so are we so it could be a goal feast.”