ISUZU FA TROPHY, FIRST ROUND PROPER
Tuesday 31 October 2023 | Snows Stadium, Totton | Att: 344
LAST-GASP HALLETT HEADER SEES TOTTON THROUGH TO HOST HAVANT
AFC TOTTON 2
Scott Rendell 73mins; Luke Hallett 90+1mins
MERTHYR TOWN 1
Ricardo Rees 15mins
LUKE HALLETT’S STOPPAGE-TIME HEADER made the difference at a rainswept Snows Stadium on Tuesday night, as AFC Totton overcame Merthyr Town in their re-arranged Isuzu FA Trophy First Round match to line up a Second Round tie at the same venue with Havant & Waterlooville on Saturday 18 November.
After both being substituted early-on in last week’s 7-1 mauling of Didcot Town, neither Benny Read nor Matty Burrows made the starting line-up to face The Martyrs. Read was named on the bench, with Charlie Kennedy coming in at right-back, while Burrows was left out to continue his recuperation, with Ethan Taylor returning from suspension.
1. Lewis NOICE
5. Charlie KENNEDY
6. Luke HALLETT
15. Sam MAGRI
3. Jordan RAGGUETTE
7. Joseph OASTLER
8. Adam TOMASSO
17. Leon MALONEY
9. Scott RENDELL (Capt.)
10. Ethan TAYLOR
12. Jordan CHIEDOZIE
2. Benny READ
13. Nico TROJANOWSKI
14. Lewis BROWN
16. Alfie STANLEY
18. Sa-Sean LUTUMBA
19. Owen PELHAM
20. Zach EARLEY
WELCOME TO SUNNY SOUTHAMPTON: Players from AFC Totton and Merthyr Town meet and greet one another prior to their Isuzu FA Trophy First Round tie at the Snows Stadium.
Despite continued heavy rain since the originally scheduled encounter was postponed on Saturday, the pitch successfully passed a mid-afternoon inspection and The Martyrs made the 155-mile journey from South Wales. Adorned in their away kit of fluo yellow shirts, navy blue shorts and yellow socks, the visitors had an early effort on goal when Gethan Hill received possession just outside the left corner of the Totton penalty area to check infield on his right foot and unleash an angled shot that had Lewis Noice diving to his right to make a save at his near post.
Totton carved out an opportunity to take an early lead when Ethan Taylor got to Jordan Ragguette’s long pass down the left flank before it could cross the byline. Taylor’s cross to the near post was met by the unmarked Scott Rendell, leaping like the proverbial salmon; his connection was firm but his header soared narrowly over.
Leon Maloney had a low cross-shot turned away by Merthyr Town goalkeeper Jaimie Cogman, after stealing into the box from the right-hand side. Then, the visitors quickly countered with a move that swept from the middle of the pitch to the left and back into the middle, where Kieran Evans’ had time to shift the ball on to his left foot and let fly from 20 yards but Noice was well-positioned to gather the shot into his arms.
Totton were soon on the attack, again. Maloney’s pass to inside-left enabled Taylor to round the ‘keeper but he was pushed too far wide in the process to shoot, so from the byline he chipped the ball to the far post where Maloney’s shot was blocked. From the resulting right-wing corner, the ball was knocked down to the edge of area and Taylor struck left-footed to bring a save out of Cogman.
Merthyr broke the deadlock in the 15th minute. An attack down the right wing brought Lewys Twamley into the game. With two defenders blocking his path to goal, he dinked the ball over the top of them and as the ball bounced up to the right of the near post, Hill beat his marker to nod down into the centre for Ricardo REES to squeeze his low shot between Noice’s outstretched right hand and the inside of the far post.
Sam Magri made a crucial defensive header in front of the Totton dug-out, preventing Twamley from scampering away down the wing from full-back Joe Keeping’s searching pass. Then, Magri had to chase back to dispossess Hill as he threatened to get away.
Appropriately for All Hallows’ Eve, the corner of the ground closest to the Calmore Roundabout suddenly descended into darkness when four of the floodlights went out, although the interruption was remedied within a minute (it was later revealed that the person responsible for switching off the floodlights around the MUGA pitch located behind the SFS Stand had accidentally flipped the wrong switch).
A well-timed sliding tackle by Maloney in midfield put The Stags on the front foot. The ball was gathered by Jordan Chiedozie close to the right-wing corner flag, and he gave it back to Maloney on the edge of the area, but the attacking midfielder was crowded out on the edge of the Merthyr area before he could get his shot away.
Totton were caught upfield by the counter-attacking Martyrs, with Hill running on to a long ball near the Totton dug-out with Magri struggling to catch him. Spotting Noice was some way off his line, Hill tried to chip the ball over him but Totton’s No.1 jumped and, with his right hand, swatted it away for a corner, which The Stags managed to defend without incident.
Gethan Hill received the ball in an advanced position but with his back to goal, he didn’t appear to realise how much time and space he had. Fortunately for the home side, Magri was alert to the danger and was able to muscle him off the ball and recycle it into Totton possession. Then, as Merthyr came forward again, a touch off the top of Magri’s head almost put Rees in through the centre until Noice appeared in the D on the edge of his area to bash the ball upfield.
SHOT'S ON: Ethan Taylor gets into the Merthyr penalty area from the Totton left.
Taylor raced on to a through-ball down the left and fired in a low cross that flashed just out of reach of Chiedozie. Then, midfielder Aneurin Livermore was beaten in the air by Adam Tomasso in the centre-circle and, trying to retrieve the ball, fouled Maloney to earn himself the game’s first yellow card.
Charlie Kennedy’s high, looping cross from deep on the right dropped beyond the far post where Rendell beat his man to head across goal, but Cogman took it comfortably. Merthyr tried to exploit the gap behind Kennedy but the bounce of the ball off the wet surface aided Totton, as the ball skidded away from the yellow-shirted player on the far touchline.
Incisive passes along the ground from first Rendell and then Chiedozie presented Taylor with an opening at inside-left, which was quickly shut down but at the expense of a corner. The cross from Maloney was punched one-handed by Cogman and the ball fell to Magri, who took a touch when the situation called for a first-time shot, and he was crowded out by defenders. Maloney got it back and forced another corner on the other flank. Taylor crossed to the near post, where the ball was smothered wide for another corner, which Taylor again sent to the near post where Merthyr managed to get it away, looking for Hill on the counter-attack, again, but Magri snuffed out the chance by seeing the ball safely back to goalkeeper Noice.
Ragguette’s attacking ambitions from his left-back berth were undermined by a slip on the wet surface. Then, Joe Oastler made an important intervention to take the ball away from a Merthyr forward as he struggled to bring it under control.
A combination of Oastler and Chiedozie remedied a heavy touch from Maloney to keep Totton’s next attack alive. When the ball was centred from the right, it came to Taylor on the edge of the area but his left-footed swipe went narrowly wide of the right-hand upright.
Taylor’s raid down the left resulted in another corner. Maloney crossed to the edge of the six-yard box, Merthyr skipper Liam Angel getting his head to it before anyone in all-white could divert it over the goal line. Then, Magri stayed forward to receive a high diagonal from Ragguette on the right side of the penalty area. He brought it down and smashed the ball low across the box, with both Rendell and Taylor stretching but failing to make a meaningful contact.
Totton were building up a head of steam just as the half-time break was approaching. Taylor and Ragguette linked up on the left, with the latter’s low curling cross being diverted for a corner. Again, Maloney’s high cross was met by a single fist from Cogman, the ball dropping to Magri who fired it back into a crowded box. The ball popped back out to the left via Rendell; Maloney took a touch and tried to curl a shot into the top-right corner but his effort was high and wide of the target.
A prolonged period of Totton possession worked the ball out to Maloney on the right, and he set off on a driving diagonal run infield that took him past three players screening at the edge of the Merthyr box. He poked the ball wide to Taylor to the left of the D, who fired wide to the right.
Maloney beat Jaimie Cogman to Rendell’s angled through-ball only to find himself running out of pitch at the left-wing byline, shortly before the Referee blew the half-time whistle.
AFC TOTTON 0
MERTHYR TOWN 1
Neither side made any changes during the interval and The Stags got the second half underway, attacking the end where the current construction site will soon give rise to a new Aldi supermarket and plentiful car park.
Taylor fired over the crossbar from 20 yards, having received the ball from Magri’s halfway-line header, returning a Cogman goal-kick back the way it came. Then, a long ball put Taylor in at inside-right. With his path to goal blocked, he laid it back, slightly further wide to Maloney, who stung the goalkeeper’s palms with a well-struck effort, Cogman having to dive to his right to push the ball away from the far bottom corner of his net. Ragguette followed up but couldn’t hit the target.
Merthyr were being pinned back into their own half, and once again Maloney received the ball on the right-hand side. He twisted and turned away from his man to whip in a cross. Chiedozie ran under its flight at the near post as it fell at the edge of the six-yard box; Rendell arrived to apply a side-foot finish but Jaimie Cogman somehow managed to get his right hand to it before diving on the loose ball.
MY BALL: The Martyrs' goalkeeper Jaimie Cogman claims the ball close to his goal line.
As the rain descending upon the Snows Stadium abated, Twamley struck a shot over the Totton bar from outside the box, after Merthyr had built an attack down their left-hand side. Then, Taylor, who sat out the 7-1 win over Didcot Town with a suspension, was shown the yellow card for a foul in the centre-circle on the Merthyr No.3 Tom Handley.
Chiedozie dropped deep to bring the ball under control inside his own half before turning and releasing Taylor to take on his full-back on the left wing and work his way into the penalty area. With Cogman narrowing the shooting angle, Taylor slipped the ball infield into the path of the on-rushing Adam Tomasso, but the midfielder couldn’t dig the ball out of his feet quickly enough before the Merthyr ‘keeper was on him and the shot flew harmlessly wide.
Lewys Twamley continued to offer the visitor’s biggest threat, weaving his way into the right corner of the Totton box before hitting a left-footed shot that Noice had to dive to his right to save, keeping hold of the ball to deny Hill any fruitful scraps.
Taylor’s pace and cross forced a corner off Livermore on the Totton left. Maloney crossed high to the near post and Taylor jumped to flick it on. The ball fell to Scott Rendell, who looked certain to equalise but scuffed his shot straight at the grateful Cogman, to the disbelief of home fans around the ground.
Poor distribution from the back by a tiring Merthyr defence presented the ball back to Totton. Rendell slipped Tomasso in as he dashed into the inside-left channel. With open space between him and the Merthyr goalkeeper, the midfielder, who struck two from outside the penalty area against Swindon Supermarine, couldn’t find the power to beat Cogman.
The Stags fans could sense their team were knocking on the door, with Merthyr Town becoming increasingly stretched at the back. A free-kick from deep on the right produced another corner for the home side. This time, Maloney’s cross came back to him and when he centred again, it was knocked out as far as Magri beyond the right-hand post. He lobbed it into the middle and Cogman claimed it.
Merthyr made one of their increasingly rare forays forward, Twamley again cutting in from the right before looping his left-foot effort wide of the far post. Then, Rendell went down on the sodden turf, clutching his face after a collision.
Totton temporarily lost their shape, leaving central midfield unpopulated to grant Gethan Hill the freedom of Hampshire as he turned to instigate another Merthyr attack, but they failed to capitalise when they tried to play their way through the Totton defence. Then, Ragguette was well-positioned to head clear from the Totton left after Hallett was outnumbered by Hill and Rees on the right to send in a high cross.
Only an impeccably-timed sliding tackle in his own penalty area by Alex John prevented Taylor bearing down on goal through the middle from Rendell’s flick on. Then, when Totton got the ball into the box again, the teenaged defender Joe Keeping suddenly appearing from nowhere to deflect Jordan Chiedozie’s goalbound effort up and over the bar at the top-left corner, with Cogman already having dived to the bottom-right. It was beginning to look like one of those nights.
That proved to be Chiedozie’s final contribution, with Benny Read’s introduction from the bench signalling a tactical re-shuffle from Totton boss Jimmy Ball. Then on 73 minutes, the increasingly influential Joe Oastler intercepted midway inside his own half to bring an abrupt end to a lengthy passage of Merthyr Town possession. Totton worked the ball to the left for Taylor to race down the side of the penalty area and stand a cross into the middle, over the head of the first defender and dropping nicely on to the right instep of Scott RENDELL who volleyed across Cogman and inside the left-hand post to level the cup-tie at one each.
HALF-A-CENTURY AND COUNTING: Scott Rendell's 51st AFC Totton goal put The Stags on level terms with Merthyr Town in the FA Trophy First Round tie at the Snows Stadium.
Having equalised, Totton now had the bit between their teeth and went hunting for a winning goal to avoid a penalty shoot-out and book their place in the Second Round. Callum Ryan-Phillips had to intervene to stop Magri’s pass releasing Taylor down the left. Then, with the rain having recommenced, Luke Hallett’s high diagonal from right to left had Taylor challenging and knocking the ball down for Tomasso, making another of those late runs from midfield. But again, the Totton No.8 hit his shot straight at the fortunate Cogman in the Merthyr goal.
Benny Read’s introduction into the game had injected new urgency and direction to The Stags’ attacking intentions. He stepped forward to intercept a loose pass inside his own half and set off on a forward run, feeding Maloney on the right, who curled in a cross that had Rendell sliding full-length in the box, fractionally missing the ball as it escaped to the far side.
Totton opened up the Merthyr defence again, when Kennedy joined Maloney on a right-wing attack and fed the ball along the ground to the near post area. Rendell was tightly marked but he managed to back-heel it towards the far post where Tomasso and Cogman raced at the ball from opposite sides, the goalkeeper getting there just in time.
Both sides then made substitutions; Alfie Stanley coming on to replace Kennedy for Totton with about 13 minutes to go. Hill dwelled on the ball midway inside the Totton half, giving Maloney the chance to tackle back and dispossess him. Read was quickly despatched on a right-wing raid, earning a corner on that side. Taylor’s high cross went over the ruck of players in the middle, was headed back across and knocked down to Oastler on the edge of the area, who watched it on to his right boot but could only lash it over the crossbar.
Play was halted while Jaimie Cogman, or rather his football boot, received attention from the Merthyr physiotherapist. When play resumed, Merthyr intially soaked up some Totton pressure before launching a counter-attack down the right. Twamley brought the ball infield with the home defence in sixes and sevens. He tried to pick out a teammate in the middle but Read nipped in to block the cross and Magri was able to clear upfield.
Read and Maloney exchanged passes to progress through a tightly-packed right-wing corner area, before the latter’s low cross was fired wide of the near post by a tightly-marked Rendell. Then, Ragguette came within inches of giving AFC Totton the lead when he and Tomasso played a one-two on the left and he sent in a cross that deflected off a defender to wrong-foot Cogman, the goalkeeper rendered a spectator as the ball struck the foot of his near post and bounced behind.
A flurry of corners followed as one cross after another was knocked behind or deflected wide by Merthyr defenders. One corner was headed back to Maloney on the left, who tried to recreate his worldie strike against Didcot from last week, only to send the ball high and wide.
Cogman delayed play a bit longer, taking off his goalkeeping gloves to tie his bootlaces, possibly playing for a penalty shoot-out, much to audible annoyance of the home fans. Maloney went down in the box under a challenge, as he tried to latch on to Stanley’s pass. The Referee wasn’t interested. Then, Ryan-Phillips deflected wide from Stanley’s follow-up.
Maloney took the corner from the right. Cogman punched from under his crossbar and when the ball fell to Read, his shot was smothered by the over-worked Merthyr defence.
Totton kept coming, though. Taylor, on the right wing, tried to help Stanley into a shooting position in the centre, but his pass was too strong, causing the former Dorchester Town striker to skip around a defender near the D and spread play to the left for Ragguette. His cross was met at the far post by Read, whose volley was charged down at close quarters. Maloney picked up the loose ball and from his cross, Taylor’s glancing header flew just wide of the left-hand post.
Five minutes of stoppage time separated the two teams from a potential penalty shoot-out. A push in front of AFC Totton’s dug-out gave Taylor the chance to deliver quality service into the penalty area - and he did not disappoint. Lofting an in-swinging floater beyond the penalty spot, the winger put the ball on a plate for the incoming Luke HALLETT to punch his header past Cogman and into the back of the net.
NICE WEATHER FOR DUCKS: The AFC Totton players celebrate Luke Hallett's late, late winner that takes them through to a Second Round meeting at home to Havant & Waterlooville.
Merthyr tried to rally but when Read intercepted a poor pass and exchanged passes with Maloney to scamper into the inside-right channel, his low cross eluded everyone to trickle across the open goalmouth and wide at the far side. Then, Maloney drew a free-kick in the same place as the one from which Totton had just scored. Oastler kicked the ball away and was booked for his troubles, despite his protestations that he didn’t hear the whistle.
Totton ended the game with Rendell, Read and Maloney playing keep-ball by the right-wing corner flag before the Referee called time. AFC Totton will be at home to Havant & Waterlooville in the Second Round of the Isuzu FA Trophy on Saturday 18 November.
Next Up: AFC TOTTON vs HUNGERFORD TOWN
Southern League Premier Division South | Matchday#13 | Snows Stadium, Totton | Saturday 04 November 2023 | Kick-Off at 3:00pm | Save money by purchasing tickets online in advance.
By Ben Rochey-Adams
Images courtesy of Pat FitzGerald