STAGS SLIP TO FIRST DEFEAT SINCE OCTOBER
AFC Totton 1 Salisbury 3
By Sean McGlead
The Stags started yesterday in fifth position two points and two places behind Steve Claridges Salisbury. Totton slipped from second to fifth place after Saturdays postponement at Barnstaple, it was a situation that left Louis Langdown enormously frustrated as Salisbury, Swindon Supermarine and Bristol Manor Farm all took the opportunity to go above his side.
Salisbury are seen as the ‘big spenders’ of the Division and they will be expected to claim one of the automatic promotion places come the end of April. The Whites may have a few players out through injury at the moment, but their squad oozes quality, with the likes of Owen Howe up front for example. Howe is a player that the Totton fans know only to well, due to him scoring regularly against us over the years.
Stags boss Langdown was forced to make one change to his starting eleven, with Tony Lee suffering from the ankle injury sustained in our last home game with Bishops Cleeve. Lee was replaced by Nathaniel Sherborne. Robin Nicholls returned to the bench in place of Stuart Mott who has returned to the military.
Salisbury started the better of the two sides and they were awarded an early free kick out on the left-hand side, a few yards in from the corner flag, after a foul by Callum Chugg, When the ball came into the area from Lewis Benson it was headed out for a corner. This was followed by a half chance for the Whites, when Claudio Herbert came in to meet another cross from the left, but the ball was put out for a corner once more.
In the 7th minute a right-wing corner was taken by Lewis Benson. It was met by the head of Rhys Baggridge, who nodded the ball down into the 6-yard box where former Winchester City striker Stuart Green was lurking, and Green cleverly back heeled the ball into the Stags net despite have two Totton defenders close to him.
The Stags had been coming more into the game since the Salisbury goal in the 15th minute a long ball from Gunson was latched onto by Craig Feeney, but the Totton strikers attempted hook shot was off target. The Stags then forced a couple of free kicks that were taken by Jack Masterton, but his first one was headed out for a corner and his 2nd was cleared.
On the half hour mark the Stags were then awarded a penalty after what looked like some pulling and tugging in the box after the ball came in from a corner on the left. After a few protests from Salisbury Craig Feeney stepped up to take the kick and the Stags top scorer sent it straight down the middle and Charlie Searle saved comfortably.
Needless to say, the penalty miss came as a huge blow to the Stags and the visitors were visibly lifted. The Whites went down the other end and they were awarded a free kick after Callum Chugg pulled down Owen Howe. The resulting free kick was taken by Benson who forced Murphy to get down to his right and make a decent save.
The Stags retaliated by forcing a corner out on the right that was taken by Connor York. When it arrived in the box it was met with a glancing header from Chugg, but the ball went well wide of the right-hand post.
Then the visitors doubled their lead with a goal that would have frustrated the Totton management. The Stags had several opportunities to clear the ball after a bit of Salisbury pressure, before the ball finally fell to Benson who swept home from 16 yards.
Despite the obvious disappointment of conceding a 2nd goal Totton were awarded another free kick that was taken by Jack Masterton, the Stags midfielder floated the ball to the back post where Charlie Gunson headed down towards goal, but the ball was hooked away from close to the goal line.
Salisbury were presented with a chance to shoot at an unguarded goal after Murphy came out to the edge of the box to make a clearance, the ball went straight to Aaron Dawson whose first time shot from 30 yards went a few feet over the bar with Murphy desperately scrambling back.
Salisbury finished the half strongly with a couple of half chances before Claudio Herbert dispossessed Ian Oliver on the right and he put over a lovely cross that was met full on the volley by Green, but his shot whistled wide of the left-hand post.
The referee ‘not for the 1st time’ got in the way of a Stags clearance and diverted the ball into the path of Benson who lifted an effort towards goal, it caught a deflection on the way and Murphy was able to catch it pretty comfortably.
Half Time: AFC Totton 0 Salisbury 2
A foul by Sherborne earned him a yellow card, the incident sparked a bit of a push and shove session that lasted a minute or so before play could resume. In truth, apart from this incident not a lot had happened up until the visitors added a 3rd goal after 62 minutes.
There had been a concerted spell of pressure from the Whites that was eventually rewarded with a cracking goal from 20 yards for centre half Jacob Wannell, The Salisbury No 6’s shot flew past Murphy and into the top left-hand corner of the net. It was a cracking goal that all but secured the points for the visitors.
The Stags then had a decent half chance when some good play ended with Curtis Young crossing low for Feeney whose outstretched leg couldn’t quite make contact the ball, as it flew across the face of goal.
Ian Oliver put over a left-wing cross a few moments later that was met by Charlie Gunson, but the Stags No 11 could not get enough power on his header and Searle saved comfortably. Feeney then saw a shot go wide and Adekunle fired over as the stags pushed for a consolation goal.
Salisbury then created a couple of late chances with Baggridge heading wide from a Benson free kick and Herbert being denied by the legs of Murphy.
Then a minute into added time a ball was pumped into the Salisbury box where Stags sub Dave Allen went up to challenge Whites keeper Searle. Allen got to the ball just ahead of the keeper and headed it towards the right-hand side of the 6-yard box, where GUNSON met the ball with a downward header, nodding it past two Salisbury defenders who were stood on the goal line. It may have only been a consolation goal, but the Stags deserved it.
Full Time: AFC Totton 1 Salisbury 3
There was no denying that on the day Salisbury just had a bit more experience and know-how and they deserved the three points.
The result, though disappointing shouldn’t affect Louis Langdowns side too much. The Stags hadn’t lost a league game in over two months and that is a decent achievement. The key is to bounce back quickly and stay in amongst the play off challengers and I wouldn’t be a bit surprised to see us do just that.