STAGS PRIDE INTACT DESPITE SAINTS LOSS
AFC Totton 1 Saints u23’s 4
When the draw was made for the Hampshire Senior Cup 3rd round before Christmas a number of us around the club were delighted that our boys would get a chance to pit their wits against a quality professional outfit. There are also some Saints fans amongst the Totton players and staff, so It was always going to be a nice occasion for them too.
Realistically, I don’t think anybody gave Totton a hope in this one, it was always going to be a case of coming out of the game with your heads held high, and I believe the players achieved that last night.
Totton boss Louis Langdown had only 13 players available for the game. He was without Dave Allen, who was nursing an injury sustained in Saturday’s hard-fought 1-0 win over Bristol Manor Farm, He was also without Connor York, Robin Nicholls, Liam Callaghan and Matt Bozier, so it’s perfectly reasonable to say that he had limited options for this game.
The Stags started very brightly indeed, knocking the ball around nicely and there were a few nice early touches from Silvano Obeng and Callum Chugg, Chugg nutmegged an opponent before putting a deep cross into the box that for e second or two caused a bit of uncertainty at the back for Saints, but they cleared their lines. However, within 30 seconds Totton stunned Saints with a goal to grace any level of football. A long ball forward by Mitchell Byrne was touched into the path of Adam McWilliam by Obeng around 35 yards out, and McWilliam hit a dipping shot that gave Saints keeper Tommy Scott no chance as it flew into the net.
There is a saying in football that sometimes you can score too early and Saints certainly reacted positively to going behind, Within three minutes they were level, when Kareron Ledwidge passed a ball into Enzo Robise from out on the left and Robise had his back to goal, he then passed the ball across to Dan Nlundulu just outside the box, and almost immediately Nlundulu returned the ball to Robise inside the box and Robise rolled the ball past Stags keeper ‘Aman’ into the far side of the net. It was a quality goal.
Saints were a joy to watch at times with their quick pass and move football and they were close to going ahead when Robise put an effort wide. Then another nice Saints move almost saw them go in front when a ball forward from Ledwidge was dummied by Nlundulu, allowing the ball to be picked up by Mickey Saunders, and Saunders then passed the ball out to his right where the impressive Will Ferry carried the ball forward a few yards before lifting the ball over ‘Aman’ and his shot touched the top of the crossbar and went over.
Totton had been on the back foot for the last 10 minutes, but they ventured forward on 12 minutes and McWilliam very nearly played in Craig Feeney, but the alert Scott rushed out of his goal to snuff out any possible danger.
Saints went back on the attack and the Stags were grateful to ‘Aman’ for denying Nlundulu, but they were not so fortunate a moment later when the excellent Callum Slattery put them ahead. Saints had a corner out on the left and Slattery took it short, playing the ball to Robise, he in turn returned it to Slattery, who shrugged off the attentions of Totton’s James Granger before firing into the far side of the net from the left of the box.
Within a minute Saints had increased their lead further when Slattery’s ball over the Totton defence was latched onto by Ferry and Ferry rounded ‘Aman’ and rolled the ball into an empty net. I have to admit that at this point that I feared for the Stags because this Saints side looked as if they were going to tear Totton apart, the quality of their football was fantastic at times.
Saints then saw a free kick from Slattery go just over the cross bar after a foul by McWilliam and they were close to getting in on the Totton goal again when Ferry’s intended ball to Nlundulu was cut out by ‘Aman’.
After a 20-minute spell of Saints domination Totton started to get back on the ball and they inched their way back into the game, Granger tried to emulate his teammate McWilliam by trying his luck from distance, but Grangers shot went over the bar.
Byrne did superbly well to get in a tackle on Nlundulu to prevent him from pulling the trigger, then ‘Aman’ made a decent save with his legs to deny Ferry.
In the 42nd minute came a lengthy stoppage to play when Granger went down after a challenge outside the Stags penalty box, Immediately two Southampton Physio’s raced onto the pitch along with the Stags physio, the quick response indicated that things did not look good for Granger. A stretcher appeared which confirmed that this could be a serious injury and then St Johns ambulance men entered the pitch and Granger was eventually wheeled away on a stretcher to a waiting ambulance. It was later confirmed by Stags boss Louis Langdown that Granger had an ankle dislocation and a leg break. You have to feel for Granger, who has not long returned after a lengthy injury lay off. Granger was replaced by former Saint Richard Bakary.
Half Time: AFC Totton 1 Saints U23’s 3
Just three minutes after the restart Saints increased their lead when Ferry cut the ball back into the path of Nlundulu and he picked a spot inside the right-hand post to place his shot. It was nearly five for Saints on 52 minutes when Robise flashed a shot against the post from the left of the box.
On 58 minutes Saints substitute Harlem Hale was denied by Stags keeper ‘Aman’,who beat away his effort, the chance came about after the Stags were caught in possession in their own half. Nlundulu then set up a chance for Saunders, who rolled his shot just wide.
I think that I can justifiably say that overall Totton did very well against their professional opponents, they kept a good shape and worked extremely hard to make things as difficult as they could for a talented Saints outfit. It wasn’t just their shape that was good without the ball, they confidently knocked the ball about at times and that isn’t easy to do against a quality side.
Having chatted to a few people after the game the impression I got was that considering the players Totton didn’t have available the Stags performed well. In normal circumstances you wouldn’t be able to find many positives after a 4-1 home defeat, but when you take into consideration the opponents and the quality that they have you CAN take positives out of this game.
I would just like to send best wishes to James Granger after his horrific injury that he sustained last night. I am sure everybody will join with me in wishing James a speedy recovery and let’s hope we see him running around in a Totton shirt as soon as is possible.
Full time: AFC Totton 1 Saints U23’s 4