STAGS PUT ON A PROFESSIONAL DISPLAY
Melksham Town 0 AFC Totton 3
On paper the Stags trip to play Melksham Town yesterday looked a very tricky fixture, with the Wiltshiremen one place above the Stags and three points better off in the table.
When we arrived at Melksham’s Oakfield Stadium we were greeted with the news that their manager Kieran Baggs had resigned on Friday and as a result a number of their players had also left the club. Unfortunately, for Melksham they were only able to field ten players for the Stags visit, which made it a very tricky situation not only for Town and their temporary manager Luke Ballinger, but also for Totton boss Louis Langdown. Langdown found himself and his side in a no win situation. The game had gone from being a very tricky league fixture to a potential banana skin and this meant he had to ensure that their was no complacency within the squad and he had to ensure that his players went about their jobs in a professional manner and came away with the three points. If they didn’t in these circumstances, then it would look a little embarrassing.
In terms of the players available for Totton, the Stags boss was still without new addition Adam McWilliam who was suffering from the injury he sustained in the 5-0 win over Barnstaple last week and Jason Brookes who is suffering with Flu.
Stuart Green did recover from the injury he suffered last week and Callum Chugg was well enough to return to the squad after recovering from the foot injury that he picked up at Bristol Manor Farm. The Stags were also boosted by the return of Jack Masterton who had recovered from Flu.
Totton set about their hosts from the off with a half chance for Green in the first few minutes. In fact Green was looking very lively in those early exchanges.
As expected the Stags continued to take the game to Melksham and Jack Smith saw a header over from a corner before they took a 21st minute lead through Craig FEENEY, who netted his 20th goal of the season with a firm header from Eddie Perretts cross.
Chances then followed for Feeney twice,who on both occasions turned and shot at goal inside the box, and on both occasions they were off target. In between those chances Ollie Bradley had a shot saved by Melksham keeper Sam Thomson and Robin Nicholls had a deflected shot go just wide.
On 27 minutes though, the Stags doubled their lead when a Jack Masterton corner was swung into the box and Justin Bennett and Dave ALLEN both came thundering in alongside each other and it was Allen whose header flew into the net to earn the club captain his 1st goal of the season.
As far as Totton were concerned they were doing everything you could ask of them, they were controlled, measured and not showing any signs of the pressure that had been heaped on them by the expectations that they should be able beat ten men. As we all know sometimes that is easier said than done!
Melksham were defending deep and making it as hard as they could for Totton, However, you felt that with a 2-0 lead something would have to go drastically wrong for Totton not to come away with the three points.
Further chances followed with Feeney swiping over from 25 yards and Green doing likewise. Bennett had a header blocked close in following Eddie Perretts cross from the right. Then Feeney had a deflected shot saved and another shot over after a driving run from midfield.
Half Time: Melksham Town 0 AFC totton 3
The 2nd half saw Totton continue to go at Melksham who were still sitting deep. However, the pressure continued and Alex Haynes headed over from Greens cross. The next attack saw Totton go 3-0 up when, Masterton’s corner was only half punched away by Thomson and the ball landed at the feet of GREEN who shot at goal and the ball hit Thomson’s arm and bounced up into his net.
Another Totton corner this time saw Smith send in a thumping header that Thomson did superbly well to tip over his crossbar. Totton then had another shot wide from Feeney, then Green crossed for Bennett who was bending backwards to head over. Bennett then wasted another opportunity for the Stags.
By 70 minutes Totton had made three substitutions with James Matthews coming on for Nicholls, Papa coming on for Green and Callum Chugg coming on for Alex Haynes.
One of those subs ‘Papa’ set up Bennett for another shot at goal and he could only drag his shot wide, then a few minutes later Bennett hit the woodwork from inside the box. Bennett then headed wide from Bradley’s cross, before Perrett’s lovely curling shot from 25 yard hit the right hand post.
You could just sense that the changes to the Totton side had an affect on their passing and they started letting a few balls go astray, and this seemed to give the home side a little encouragement and this saw a shot well off target from temporary player manager Ballinger, before Feeney squandered another chance after being set up by Chugg.
A slip by Totton’s Perrett then let the home side in on goal and Jordan Croad was one on one with Murphy, but Murphy got a touch to the ball and despite Croads best efforts to force the loose ball home Totton kept him at bay.
Bennett wasted another chance for Totton in the dying moments before Dan Broom sent in a shot that was well wide for the hosts.
Full time: Melksham Town 0 AFC Totton 3
So it was job done as far as Louis Langdown was concerned. The one disappointment from a Totton point of view was the amount of chances we wasted, if we had been clinical in front of goal we could have run up a pretty big score today.
As far as Melksham go, you had to feel sorry for them. to only have ten players available at this level is a massive shame. The fact everything happened on Friday didn’t leave them enough time to get players signed on for today’s game.
The crowd of 404 gave the Melksham players a terrific ovation at the end of the game. Showing that despite the goings on of the previous 24 hours, the fans and the club were standing together.
The facilities at the Oakfield stadium were fantastic. The pitch was terrific the bar was the best I have seen in the Southern League, the food was excellent and well priced too.
As a visitor I was very impressed by their set up. I can see them climbing the leagues in the future and they have plenty of space to develop the ground if needed.
As for the Stags next up its a home game with 4th placed Cirencester Town next Saturday at 3pm.