SAM Wilson bagged all four goals as Winchester City marked the first anniversary of their ‘rebirth’ with a resounding 4-0 win over Totton & Eling.
It was the first time the 19-year-old West End-based striker had ever hit a hat-trick in senior men’s football, let alone score four!
And it will have come as a timely confidence boost to the former Eastleigh youngster who, having returned to the Stoneham Lane club last summer, couldn’t get the game time he craved among the Spiftires’ galaxy of former Football League stars.
With the weight of relegation worries now lifted off their shoulders, T&E gave as good as they got in an eagerly contested first half punctuated with some tasty tackles from both sides.
But skipper Adam Lowther’s 18th-minute challenge on Adam ‘Taz’ Roberts proved a game changer with the referee pointing to the spot and Wilson stepping up to sink his first of the game.
The second arrived just after the half-hour with City forward Darryl Phillips finding Danny King who duly crossed for Wilson to bundle home from close range.
Despite losing skipper and defensive king pin Leigh Mills to an ankle injury at half-time, Winchester pretty much dominated after the break and Wilson completed his treble on 69 minutes when T&E goalkeeper Kevin O’Rourke dropped his flicked header and the razor-sharp No10 duly tapped in the loose ball.
But Wilson’s pick of the bunch had yet to come as, just four minutes later, the Barton Peveril student cleverly outfoxed his marker and burst through to beat the exposed O’Rourke one-on-one. So highly was Wilson rated as a youngster that he attracted the attention of Premier League outfit Fulham and scored twice for the south Londoners in an academy game on his 17th birthday.
But having initially left Eastleigh under Ian Baird’s reign, he failed to settle at either Gosport Borough or Poole Town before being given another chance by current Spitfires boss Richard Hill last summer. With game time at a premium, he had a spell on loan with Fleet Town and finally took leave of the Silverlake when he signed for Winchester last month.
Despite the frustration of being consigned to the Spitfires’ bench, Wilson believes he learned a lot from the Conference South title favourites.
“Just training with people like Macca (Craig McAllister) and Stuart Fleetwood was good for me,” he said.
“Richard Hill also taught me a lot, to be fair. It’s very professional at Eastleigh and Richard runs the team well. He’s doing a really good job there and I can understand why they didn’t play me when they were pushing for the title.
“I was happy to come to Winchester and get a chance to play football. They’re a really good group of lads here and Hardsy (manager Neil Hards) has given me a chance which is all I really needed.
“I’ve got no plans yet for next season, but we’ll see what comes up and what’s best for me.”
While Wilson’s goal rush has come too late to propel Winchester into the Sydenhams Premier top-two this season, one look at their spruced-up Denplan City Ground HQ leaves no doubt about the club’s ambition.
Under the guidance of chairman Paul Murray and director of football Dave Malone, some £30,000 has been pumped into fencing the ground off, tarmacing the perimeter, erecting a new covered standing area, building a new turnstile block and installing outdoor toilets.
The facilities have been inspected and City are awaiting the award of level ‘D’ grading by the FA which would take them all the way through to Southern Premier standard.
That would be no small achievement considering that, this time last year, the ground was decrepit and the club was swimming in debt and in dire threat of closing.
“It’s a year this week that the new committee took over. We’ve got a long way to go, but at least we’ve taken the first step,” said ex-Eastleigh chairman Murray.”
The Mayor of Winchester, Councillor Ernie Jeffs and his wife Barbara were invited along as guests of honour on Saturday.
They cut a celebratory cake in the clubhouse afterwards to mark new-look City’s first birthday.