SOUTHERN LEAGUE PREMIER DIVISION SOUTH - Matchday#13
Saturday 04 November 2023 | Snows Stadium, Totton | Att: 1,337
STAGS FALL SHORT AFTER GIVING THEMSELVES MOUTAIN TO CLIMB
AFC TOTTON 1
Scott Rendell 78mins
HUNGERFORD TOWN 2
Adulai Smabú 42mins; Elis Watts 54mins
AFC TOTTON FELL to their fourth league defeat of the season at the hands of Hungerford Town in the Southern League Premier Division South encounter at the Snows Stadium on Saturday afternoon (04 November 2023). The Stags conceded goals either side of half-time in a match that, despite a spirited second-half fightback during which Scott Rendell headed his 16th goal of the campaign, they were unable to salvage.
Benny Read returned to Totton’s starting line-up after overcoming a recent foot injury. Adam Tomasso dropped to the bench to make way in an otherwise unchanged side from the one that fought back to beat Merthyr Town in Tuesday night’s rearranged Isuzu FA Trophy First Round tie.
1. Lewis NOICE
2. Benny READ
6. Luke HALLETT
5. Charlie KENNEDY
15. Sam MAGRI
3. Jordan RAGGUETTE
7. Joseph OASTLER
17. Leon MALONEY
10. Ethan TAYLOR
9. Scott RENDELL (Capt.)
12. Jordan CHIEDOZIE
8. Adam TOMASSO
13. Nico TROJANOWSKI
14. Lewis BROWN
16. Alfie STANLEY
20. Owen PELHAM
LEST WE FORGET: Totton's Veterans graced the Snows Stadium turf to lead AFC Totton supporters in a short service of remembrance prior to the match against Hungerford Town.
Sterling work from AFC Totton’s ground staff enabled the Snows Stadium pitch to pass its 10:30am inspection, despite several days of intense rain. With The Stags on the road at Merthyr Town over the Remembrance Day weekend next week, a group of local Veterans were invited on to the pitch to form a Guard of Honour while MC Denis Bundy led the congregation with the reading of the Eulogy, before a bugler played The Last Post and everybody in the ground observed two minutes of silence.
Totton came into the game buoyed by their impressive Tuesday night display, while The Crusaders of Hungerford Town were looking to extend their recent unbeaten run to five matches in all competitions. The visitors kicked off, wearing an all-fluo yellow kit while their hosts were in their traditional blue and white home strip.
An early cross from Conor McDonagh gave Joseph Shepherd an early sight of goal but he directed his header wide. Then, within a minute, Scott Rendell’s headed knock on put Ethan Taylor in down the left side of the penalty area to supply Jordan Chiedozie with a low cross that he shot wide under pressure.
Jordan Ragguette’s left-wing throw-in found Rendell, who centred for Chiedozie on the edge of the Hungerford area. Two defenders blocked his route to goal so he spread the play further to the right with a low pass to Leon Maloney, who took a touch and drove a low cross-shot that was deflected wide for the game’s first corner. Hungerford defended it well, before going up the other end of the pitch where Elis Watts drifted infield from the right flank on to his left foot to lay on a shooting chance for Ramarni Medford-Smith, whose effort was deflected wide for a corner on the Hungerford left. The delivery reached Totton six-yard box but Rendell was well-positioned to flick the ball away off the top of his head.
I WANNA HOLD YOUR HAND: Leon Maloney gets up close and personal with a Hungerford defender Ramarni Medford-S,ith during the Southern League Premier Division South encounter.
Hungerford’s Jack Wright used the slickness of the wet surface to good effect by sliding to intercept Ragguette’s pass from deep that threatened to put Rendell clear through the middle. Totton’s talismanic centre-forward did get a clear sight of goal from a long kick by Lewis Noice, stealing in behind the defence to strike at the target only for goalkeeper Ryan Clarke to slide out quickly to block with his legs. From the rebound, the ball bounced up and struck Medford-Smith on the hand, prompting appeals for a penalty, not least from Rendell with both arms raised in optimistic pleading, but the Referee decided it was a case of ball-to-hand and waved play on.
Elis Watts struck a fierce effort from distance, which Luke Hallett bravely blocked by throwing himself to the ground and repelling the ball with his back, in a defensive move that clearly caused him some pain, though he was able to continue without stoppage.
Taylor got the better of two defenders on the Totton left to deliver a low cross into the Hungerford box. The ball was turned away at the near post but only as far as Joe Oastler, who fed Benny Read, pushing forward from right-back, and his low cross was also hacked away. When Totton came forward again, Hallett’s pass enabled Read to skip away from his man down the right flank and encroach upon the Hungerford penalty area, before laying the ball infield to Taylor who was quickly surrounded by two bright yellow shirts and dispossessed.
LURKING WITH INTENT: Totton skipper Scott Rendell hides behind a defender.
The ponytailed figure of McDonagh fired over the Totton crossbar on the turn, when the ball popped up from a left-wing cross that was deflected by Hallett. Then Watts continued to test Ragguette’s defensive concentration, darting down the right-hand side and crossing right-footed to force Sam Magri into an important intervention at the near post.
Hungerford enjoyed a long period of possession and worked the ball to their right wing, from where Shepherd sent in a high cross that Lewis Noice had to stretch to push away from his top-right corner before remonstrating with his teammates for allowing the opposition so much room in which to play. From the corner, Noice was able to grab the ball to his chest despite being under pressure.
A pass from Maloney on the right enabled Taylor to sting the goalkeeper’s palms with a well-struck effort from just outside the area. Then, central defender Matthew Berry-Hargreaves did well to get his head to the ball before Rendell could nod home at the far post from a high looping cross by Chiedozie.
Ragguette and Taylor combined down the Totton left, before the latter’s high delivery was brought down by Chiedozie. He played Read in down the right, whose trickery saw him wriggle free of two defenders before he laid the ball back for Oastler to cross to the far post. Clarke jumped to catch but fumbled the ball inside his six-yard box, but to his relief there were yellow shirts nearby and he was able to fall on the ball at the second attempt.
A strong tackle by Oastler sent the ball into the feet of Chiedozie, who turned to find himself in possession during a developing four-on-four situation. His pass to Maloney on the right-hand side was too hard when the better option was arguably a short pass infield to Rendell; the ball bobbled out of play and the chance evaporated.
FLYING FORWARD: Jordan Chiedozie leads an attack for The Stags.
Charlie Kennedy was brought down in full-flight on the edge of the Hungerford area. Maloney took the free-kick, clipping the head of one of the players in the wall, leading to a left-wing corner. Maloney took it and Oastler connected with a header, that was blocked at close quarters before the visitors cleared. Ragguette retrieved the ball and sent it back into the middle, where Taylor tried to control but he was crowded out by a cluster of yellow shirts.
Abdulai Sambú earned himself a yellow card for a foul on Ragguette close the halfway line. Maloney’s high delivery into the box again had Clarke flapping at thin air, but once again he was able to correct himself by diving on the loose ball before Totton could take advantage.
A nudge in the back of Rendell by ex-Stag Jack Alexander gave Maloney another chance to provide service into the box, from midway inside Hungerford’s half of the pitch. Oastler got his head to it, earning a corner via a deflection. Taylor took it and Magri headed back across the box, but Hungerford dealt with it and sprung forward on the counter-attack. McDonagh got the ball forward to Medford-Smith, who fed the ball into the run of Sambú towards the inside-right channel. Read appeared to have the situation under control but as he slid in to challenge, he collided with the incoming Lewis Noice, and when the ball popped loose out from under them, Abdulai SAMBÚ reacted quickest to convert from a tight angle close to the right-wing byline.
Taylor had to scamper back into his defensive third to stop Hungerford captain Rhys Tyler exploiting an opening down the visitor’s right wing. Then, during four minutes of first-half stoppage time, Hungerford won a corner on their right, which Magri headed clear at the far post from a Watts cross.
Sambú managed to force another corner with a deflected shot just before half-time. Noice punched the cross away and Chiedozie completed the clearance by hooking the ball over his own head at the edge of the area, before the Referee signalled the end of the first half.
AFC TOTTON 0
HUNGERFORD TOWN 1
Totton began the second half, with neither side having made any changes to personnel during the interval. Ragguette had two early chances to cross from the left, the first blocked at the byline as he stretched to get the ball into the box, and the second from a deeper position when his delivery was too long. At the other end, a high cross from the right went over Noice and required the intervention of Benny Read to head off his goal line, with Magri helping to complete the clearance.
A clever back-heel from Rendell at the right-wing touchline directed the ball into the feet of Chiedozie, whose cross picked out Taylor at the far post. The winger tried to improvise a left-footed volley, which he couldn’t keep down, when the chance may have required a stooping header.
SEND IN THE BIG GUNS: Luke Hallett, Sam Magri and Joe Oastler all come up from the back for an AFC Totton corner against Hungerford Town at the Snows Stadium.
A Totton attack down the right flank was stopped in its tracks when Read’s one-two with Maloney was interrupted. Hungerford quickly switched the play to the opposite flank to present Watts with a shooting chance, which he directed wide across goal.
With his team a goal behind, captain Scott Rendell led from the front, chasing down Ryan Clarke in the Hungerford goal to try and force an error. When Totton regained possession, Ragguette crossed from deep towards the right-hand post, where Read connected with a shot that was charged down by a defender right in front of him. From the resulting corner on the Totton right, Maloney’s cross dropped into a pocket of space between players near the penalty spot and Hungerford were able to clear.
Ethan Taylor survived a “Hand-ball!” shout from the Hungerford Town contingent, as he chased back to close down a developing opportunity for the visitors in the inside-left channel.
Ragguette forced another corner for the home side after latching on to Rendell’s quickly-taken free-kick. But Maloney’s cross was poor and Hungerford easily cleared, Kennedy having to produce a strong sliding tackle close to the halfway line to prevent The Crusaders breaking away. But from the consequent throw-in, McDonagh received the ball to feet and shrugged off his marker with a sharp turn, creating space for himself on the left wing to measure his curling cross to Elis WATTS on the far side, who had time to take the ball under control and fire beyond Lewis Noice to double Hungerford’s advantage.
The Stags tried to hit back straight away, with Read, Maloney and Chiedozie building the play down the right wing before Chiedozie whipped in a cross that had Taylor leaping high to meet with a firm header, which soared high and wide to the right.
BULLET HEADER: Ethan Taylor takes flight to direct his header at the Hungerford Town goal.
McDonagh’s snapshot from distance was comfortably claimed by Lewis Noice, who is once again showing his support for Movember with an audacious 1970s-style moustache. Jimmy Ball decided it was time for a change, sending on combative midfielder Adam Tomasso and livewire striker Alfie Stanley in place of Read and Chiedozie.
Hallett won a defensive header in front of the Hungerford dug-out, leaving Sam writhing on the ground having taken a whack in the back, for which the game was halted while he received treatment. When play resumed, Totton shifted the ball to the left where Ragguette rode a challenge before crossing towards Rendell, who couldn’t reach it.
Totton stepped up the pressure on the Hungerford defence, with Kennedy winning a corner on the right. Sam Magri met Maloney’s cross with a header which Clarke punched off his goal line, before his defenders cleared.
Rhys Tyler took Jordan Ragguette down as the Totton left-back charged down the wing. Tyler appeared to have hurt his finger in the challenge, and to add insult to injury, he was shown the yellow card for the foul. Maloney put the ball into the box where it was knocked down for Rendell to strike, his effort striking Jack Wright and looping over the crossbar, Wright receiving several pats on the back from his grateful teammates. Maloney’s corner was headed away and Taylor earned praise from the Totton fans for darting across to the touchline and sliding in to prevent a Hungerford counter.
Maloney and Hallett both tried to deliver crosses into the box from deep positions but without success. Then, Magri directed the ball to Stanley on the right wing, who crossed to the near post where Ethan Taylor jumped for it amid two defenders. Taylor landed awkwardly and it became clear within a few moments that he would play no further part in the game. As The Stags’ No.10 was helped off the pitch, AFC Bournemouth loanee midfielder Lewis Brown was sent on for his AFC Totton debut.
WHOOPSY-DAISY: The Crusaders' goalkeeper Ryan Clarke grasps at thin air while Scott Rendell tries to steal in behind him.
Sam Magri was the next to require treatment from the Totton physio Andrew Hanley, after taking an accidental elbow in the face from Shepherd. Kennedy and Maloney tried to combat the unhelpful stoppages by injecting greater urgency into the home side’s play with a swift one-two down the right wing. Their efforts were repelled by the Hungerford defence. But then a quick interchange of short, sharp passes between Tomasso, Oastler and Maloney in front of the AFC Totton dug-out on 78 minutes created space for Maloney to bend a cross into the middle that Scott RENDELL met with a full-length diving header, arrowing the ball into the bottom-right corner beyond the grasp of Ryan Clarke’s outstretched left-hand.
Totton were quickly back in possession with Hungerford falling back to reinforce their defensive third. Central defender Luke Hallett was by now operating as a makeshift centre-forward, playing in the role he regularly occupied in his younger days.
Hungerford manager Danny Robinson made two changes, bringing his two forwards Conor McDonagh and Abdulai Sambú off to send on the fresh legs of Slavis Spasov and Fabio Lopes. Spasov introduced himself straight into the action by bustling between two defenders and drawing a foul from Tomasso, who was subsequently shown the yellow card. Spasov took the free-kick himself, bending it around the right of the wall to force Noice into a smart save low to his left.
Ragguette found Magri on the left-hand side, whose in-swinging cross gave Hallett a free header from 9 yards, but the last-gasp hero of Tuesday night’s FA Trophy success glanced his attempt wide of the right-hand upright before dropping his head to his hands in recognition of a golden opportunity to equalise spurned. Then, Rendell dropped deep to control Oastler’s long pass on his chest before turning to slip the ball to Stanley on the left. He clipped the ball into the box, but fractionally too long for Hallett to connect.
Oastler took a painful knock to the face, winning an aerial challenge but connecting with the back of his opponents head. Play continued with the ball coming back to Noice, who sent it long. Kennedy had to tussle for possession and as the ball popped loose in midfield, Maloney pounced on it only to be brought down by a reckless challenge from Hungerford substitute Bradley Hooper, for which he received the yellow card. Maloney sent the ball high towards the left-hand post, where Magri charged in to connect with a header that Clarke tipped over the crossbar. Magri collided with the advertising hoarding, which appeared to distract the Referee who awarded the visitors a spurious goal-kick.
The electronic board indicated there would be seven minutes of stoppage time. Magri, now joining Hallett in the auxiliary centre-forward role, headed down a long ball from Oastler to allow Hallett to shoot, a defender managing to get his body in the way. Fabio Lopes was then booked for kicking the ball away, as time for a potential Totton equaliser was slowly ebbing away.
An Alfie Stanley cross from the right brought an acrobatic clearance from one defender. Then, another thrust himself in the way to block Stanley as he briefly got in at the right post to strike on goal.
When Hungerford won a free-kick just inside their own half, they opted for the rugby-style tactic of kicking the ball out of touch for yardage rather than trying to exploit an opportunity to wrap up the result. Totton were now playing old-fashioned long ball football, desperately lumping the ball forward to try and force something. A Maloney corner from the left fell to Oastler in the box, but he couldn’t dig the ball out from under his feet quickly enough to get a meaningful shot away. The ball came to Stanley on the left of a central ruck of players; he chipped it towards Hallett and when a defender blocked, Maloney blasted the rebound over the top, before the Referee’s full-time whistle brought a frustrating afternoon for The Stags to a close.
Next Up: MERTHYR TOWN vs AFC TOTTON
Southern League Premier Division South | Matchday#14 | Penydarren Park, Merthyr Tydfil CF47 | Saturday 11 November 2023 | Kick-Off at 3:00pm
By Ben Rochey-Adams
Images courtesy of Craig Hobbs Photography