COMMITTED STAGS PULL OFF TROPHY SHOCK!
AFC Totton 3 Weston Super Mare 2
(After extra time)
If Ralph Hassenhuttl needs advice on how to get a reaction from his players after a hefty home defeat then he could do worse than talk to Louis Langdown and Adam Wilde!
When the Stags trudged off the pitch following their 6-0 home defeat to Thatcham Town, I thought to myself ‘How are Louis and Adam going to lift the squad after that shocker?’. Well I am not sure how they managed to change the mindset in just seven days but you know what? They managed it! The performance against a ‘VERY USEFUL’ Weston Super Mare was way beyond my expectations and I think it was way beyond what many other Totton fans were expecting.
Louis made seven changes to the side after the Thatcham Town defeat. In came Stuart Mott after he re-signed for the short term yesterday, in came Matt Bozier after injury, Pip Nolan returned, but at centre half as opposed to his normal midfield berth. Matt Hartmann also returned to the side, as did Alex Haynes, Top scorer Craig Feeney came back in after a foot injury and new signing James Granger made his debut. Matt Simm, dropped to the bench as did Liam Callaghan, Mitchell Byrne and Richard Bakary. Liam Farrugia returned to the 17 after a long absence and there was a place on the bench for the Stags 3rd new signing Polish goalkeeper Amadeusz Skrzynairz.
The wet and very windy conditions put some of the regular Totton fans off coming today and they will be ruing their decisions to stay at home because they missed a highly entertaining afternoon and those who made the effort to attend were rewarded for their efforts. The game was always going to be tricky for the players on a very wet but very playable pitch and an early slip by Pip Nolan nearly let in George Dowling but the Totton defence managed to surround him and scramble the ball clear.
There was an early chance for Weston when they forced a corner on the right and when they sent the ball into the area it seemed to hit Charlie Madden and roll just wide. It was already apparent that Totton were not going to let Weston settle, quickly closing them down and giving them very little time on the ball.
Totton had a half chance when Ollie Bradley put a ball over the top for Craig Feeney, who ‘almost’ got to it, but Seagulls keeper Luke Pernell came out quickly and just got something on the ball and the Stags were awarded a corner , when the corner came in it was half cleared, but Ollie Bradley was stood around the edge of the box and he headed the ball back towards goal but it went well wide for a goal kick.
On 16 minutes the visitors went in front after Stuart Mott seemed to slip as he tussled for the ball with tricky No 7 Joel Randall and Randall shrugged him off before shooting just inside the left hand post from about 8 yards.
Totton went back on the attack and Feeney was incredibly unlucky not to get his name on the score sheet when his shot come back off the woodwork,
Weston were looking a threat down their left in particular and they created another chance with Isaac Pearce pulling a save from Alex Cull and the rebound from James Waite was put over the bar.
Then Totton gave the ball away in midfield and this allowed the Seagulls to break and Dowling got clear and he sent in a shot that Cull pushed away.
Totton’s commitment was still there for all to see and they were starting to get back on the ball and they had a chance when Ollie Bradley got down the right and put in a low cross that evaded everybody except Matt Hartmann who received the ball with his back to goal, Hartmann turned and attempted to chip Purnell but Purnell managed to pluck the ball from the air.
Then on 33 minutes Totton were level. Matt Hartmann had a free kick just a few yards in front of the home dugout. Hartmann floated the ball into the box and the ball was cleared as far as Craig FEENEY who fired into the top left hand corner from 18 yards despite the best efforts of a defender on the goal line.
Totton were quickly pegged back by the Seagulls and the luck was with them when Randall got in a shot that hit the right hand post, but fortunately for the Stags the ball came straight back to Cull who was laid on the ground! Totton were throwing themselves at everything and no more so than when Mott timed a tackle to perfection to deny Randall, then Cull came to the rescue on 42 minutes to deny Nick McCootle after some lovely interplay between Randall and Pearce on the Weston left.
Just before half time Totton had a chance when a Hartmann free kick was cleared as far as Feeney but Feeney’s 20 yard shot went inches wide, there was time for one more chance and Cull came to the rescue to deny Waite in added time at the end of the 1st half.
Half time: AFC Totton 1 Weston Super Mare 1
Totton came out with the same level of commitment and they forced the 1st chance of the 2nd half when Feeney fired into the side netting following Bradley’s nod down into his path, the ball may have even shaved the Weston Post on its way.
Weston came straight back at Totton and Waite fired wide after being set up by Randall, who was a real handful on that left hand side.
Totton came back at Weston again and they were not far away from getting in after a fine Totton move ended with Bradley almost getting Feeney in on goal, but for an excellent last ditch tackle from Weston centre half Greg Tindle.
Cull came to Totton’s rescue when he saved an awkward deflected shot from Weston left back Scott Laird, the luck was with Totton again when Big Weston centre forward McCootle steamed forward after picking the ball up in midfield and he let fly with a shot that came flying back off the post straight into the path of Howe, whose follow up went over the bar. I think everybody in the ground was waiting for the net to bulge.
Totton were still closing down and working incredibly hard, but Weston had some real quality going forward so the Stags could not ease off. The woodwork came to the rescue again for the Stags when Waite’s shot was brilliantly tipped onto the top of the crossbar by Cull.
Totton then tried to get a late winner when Feeney got in a shot from around 20 yards that went into the side netting, Feeney went down for a couple of moments and needed treatment, fortunately he could resume. The Stags stood firm and saw out the 90 minutes but they had an energy sapping half an hour extra time in front of them.
Full time (90 minutes): AFC Totton 1 Weston Super Mare 1
Weston looked intent on forcing the initiative in the 1st few moments of extra time and Waite fired a shot into the side netting before substitute Ryan Jones slammed home from close range, putting the Seagulls back in front in the 93rd minute.
After a long grueling afternoon the legs must have been heavy and you wondered if the Stags could come again, but come again they did and how!
The incredible work rate never relented they still went at it like Trojans and just two minutes after going behind for a 2nd time they were level. They forced a corner on the right and Bozier floated the ball in to the near post and Substitute Liam FARRUGIA rose to nod home. Incredibly Totton had found another wind and they were not finished by any means because just before the end of the 1st period of extra time about 10 yards inside the Weston Half FARRUGIA looked up and spotted Purnell about 6 yards off his line and he lifted the ball towards goal perfectly and the ball dropped over Purnell and under the crossbar and the Stags were ahead for the 1st time in the game and what a goal it was!
End of 1st period of extra time: AFC Totton 3 Weston Super Mare 2
Totton keeper Alex Cull was called into action at the start of the 2nd period of extra time when Lairds deflected free kick was gathered by the young on loan Saints keeper.
There were many hero’s in the Totton side, in fact they all were and one of those hero’s Dave Allen had been terrific all afternoon and he put in a brilliantly timed tackle inside the box to stop Owen Howe who was about to pull the trigger. With Weston sending men forward in search of an equaliser Totton got in behind the Seagulls defence three times in quick succession, the 1st of those occasions came when Feeney was played in and he almost got to the ball before Purnell, but the Weston keeper just snuffed out the danger in time for the visitors, on the 2nd occasion Feeney was played through and he was clear one on One, normally you would put money on Feeney in that situation, but his attempt to put the ball past Purnell failed with the keeper doing well to save. On the 3rd occasion it was Feeney through again one on one and Feeney’s shot was saved yet again by Purnell. Following a couple of Totton players needing treatment the referee Greg Walker added on a couple of minutes which added to the tense finale. However, the Stags saw out the time brilliantly to claim an excellent win and a place in the 2nd qualifying round of the FA Trophy.
Full time (After extra time): AFC Totton 3 Weston super Mare 2
IF you were a neutral you would have loved this game, it had plenty of excitement and it was a terrific cup tie. BOTH sides deserve credit. Weston have undoubted quality, especially going forward and they will be cussing their luck with the woodwork coming to the Stags rescue a couple of times and Cull made some excellent saves. However, the Stags had plenty of moments in the game too and as I said in the opening paragraphs Totton’s work rate was unbelievable from the very 1st minute to the very last. The conditions made it hard for both sides, but it all added to the drama. The Stags supporters were over the moon with the commitment shown by their side this afternoon, each and every player can be very proud of their efforts today, after last week it was a great way to bounce back.