JASON Bristow wants his team to give Basingstoke Town’s long-suffering supporters something to sing about at Fratton Park as they look to win the Hampshire Senior Cup.
The Camrose-based club travel to Portsmouth to take on Conference South rivals Havant and Waterlooville in the cup final on Monday night (kick-off 7.30pm).
A large number of supporters from Havant are expected to make the short trip to Fratton Park, but Basingstoke manager Bristow, right, believes that the travelling Town fans can give his players a big boost by making their presence felt.
“I’m sure there will be a great atmosphere, and hopefully we can play our part in that,” he said.
“It is on Havant’s doorstep so I expect them to have a lot of support, but I think we will have a good following down there as well.
“There are not many better sets of supporters than ours at this level. It’s important that we start well and give them something to sing about, because they could make us feel like the home side.”
Bristow admits that his side will go into the final as underdogs, but says that a victory over Havant is overdue.
The Camrose club have struggled against their Hampshire rivals over the course of the season, failing to win any of the four previous meetings between the sides, scoring just one goal in the process.
On top of that, while Havant finished sixth in the final Conference South standings, agonisingly short of the play-off places, Basingstoke ended the season a disappointing 14th in the table.
“I think they will go into the game expecting to win, but we were only second best in one of the games against them,” Bristow said.
“All of the others were very even, so we can take a bit of confidence from that – and it is about time that we got a victory over them.
“We were well beaten 4-1 in the first game but the FA Trophy fixture at the Camrose was very even and ended 0-0. We were the better side in the replay and unfortunate to lose 1-0, while we had chances to win the league game at the Camrose but couldn’t take them and a mistake at the back cost us.”
With the exception of goalkeeper Louis Wells and defender David Ray, Bristow has a fully-fit squad to pick from.
He cannot select on-loan midfielder Matt Partridge, but strikers Nicholas Bignall and Liam Enver-Marum are eligible, giving the Town boss a moral dilemma.
Both ended the season in fine form, with Enver-Marum finding the net six times in seven starts and Bignall firing in a hat-trick on the final day of the season. However, neither joined the club in time to play any part in the run to the final.
Bristow said: “There is part of you that thinks you should stick with the players who got the club to the final, but we want to give ourselves the best chance we can of winning, so we have to pick our best 11.”
Whatever team he picks though, Bristow is certain that the final will be a great occasion.
“To win the cup and finish on a high is important but a final at Fratton Park is something to look forward to for players and fans alike,” he said. “Hopefully, it will be an exciting game.”
Visit basingstoke gazette.co.uk/sport for live text coverage from Fratton Park on Monday.