Harvest aiming ‘to do a Fleetlands’ after having promotion to the Hampshire Premier League rubber stamped
After finishing their first full season in Division 1 South East in runners-up spot, the club have had their Senior Division place for 2022/23 rubber stamped.
They are one of four new teams in an enlarged 17-club top flight, along with QK Southampton, Andover New Street Swifts and Whitehill & Bordon.
On their fixture list will also be matches against Moneyfields Reserves, Paulsgrove, Denmead, Clanfield, Hayling and Locks Heath. Not bad for a club who were in the Mid-Solent League as recently as 2019/20.
As a result, Harvest’s reserves will switch from the Mid-Solent League to Division 1 East of the Hampshire Combination.
‘It makes us more attractive as a club,’ said boss Steve Harris of Harvest’s promotion. ‘We will be able to attract better players.
‘It’s good for the whole club, not just the first team. Instead of playing for the reserves at King George (council pitches in Cosham), you’ll be playing at better pitches with better facilities.’
Harris took over as Harvest boss from Ray Ogilvie in the autumn of 2020, and just a few weeks before the club’s debut HPL campaign was cut short due to the pandemic.
‘When I took over I was given a three-year plan to get into the (HPL) Premier Division,’ he recalled. ‘But we’ve done it in one.
‘Now we have to stabilise ourselves and become an established club.
‘I’d say most clubs in the Premier Division have aspirations of reaching the Wessex League. That’s where we want to go, but it’s years down the line.
‘We need to do what Fleetlands did. They became established in that league, improved their facilities, and then went up.
‘It’s exciting (going up). There’s a lot more games – 32 league games next season, we only had 18 last season.
‘We’ve been told we’ll be playing Saturday and midweek for the first few weeks, and we’ll be playing twice in three days over the August Bank Holiday weekend.
‘There will be no easy games, and that’s what you want. Last season we scored 10 or more goals three times. I’d rather win 2-1 in the last minute – like we did against Meon, that was a proper game – than win 12-1.’
Harris said he would have been happy if his 2021/22 squad had gone into next season with no new additions.
But fresh faces will arrive, and ex-Hayling United striker George Rough is the first of them. Rough scored seven times for Hayling in 2019/20 and six times last season.
He is reunited with his former Humbugs captain Elliot Spencer, while ex-Liss attacker Jay Kane is another with HPL top flight experience.
Harvest reserves, meanwhile, must play another waiting game with regards their final Mid-Solent League game of 2021/22.
An independent panel ruled they had to replay the game against Mob Albion after fielding four players who had appeared for the first team in the previous 21 days. They had been allowed to field two.
Harvest and Mob were supposed to replay at Front Lawn last Saturday, but the FA refused to sanction the fixture as no competitive games are allowed to take place in June.